Music Festivals – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

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We are at River Hawk Music Festival in Live Oak, Florida and we are embarking on our first official music festival. Coming from Naples, Florida a community where women shop for sport and who neither care nor need to know … Continue reading

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7 reasons selling fair trade can increase sales

7 Reasons to sell Fair Trade

So you are a business owner, and you must consider several different factors when making a decision on what products to cary in your store: cost, marketability, need, space, brand, creative edge etc..

Now, there is one more thing to consider, where are your products coming from? Why do you care? Because more and more, your customers are going to be looking to do more conscious buying. As you watch the market shares of Whole Foods rise, you know that consumers are becoming more aware of their bodies, the planet, and yes…what they are buying.

You can get in front of this conscious movement and give your store one more reason for your customers to buy from you, instead of your neighbor, who is still thinking about how to get more people in the door. The following is a list of reasons to consider selling FAIR TRADE products:
It is an excellent selling point that is not going away.

It is a win win for you and for the person/ cooperative making the items you are selling.

People need to feel good about what they do, and what they buy. You will give them this opportunity.

Fair Trade gives you a story. People love a story and when they know that what they just bought actually can change a life, it makes them more enthusiastic about it.

When people feel good about something they talk about it. When they talk about the products they are buying from you, they are talking about you.

You can have peace of mind that what you are selling is contributing to the world instead of exploiting the people in it.

Its good Karma!

 

Discover how this adventure led my husband and I to start an online fair trade business:

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Buying Fair Trade is a bit like Being a Vegetarian

Buying Fair Trade is a bit like Being a Vegetarian

It all comes down to consciousness really. Ten years ago, when I was married to an Argentinian bodybuilder, I thought we HAD to eat meat at every meal just to stay alive. The word protein was so often drilled into my head that I had a panic attack every time there was not a turkey slice to accompany my 1/2 of an apple snack. Now I know differently. Now, I understand more about what animals must endure so that we are pleasantly plump, and perfectly indulgent at most our meals. I can see now, how much rainforest must be destroyed just to house the cows I was eating. I can see how because of our ego centrism as a developed country, that a large part of the world food shortage is due to our need to eat meat, and that with all the land needed to graze cattle, we could feed 100 times the amount of people with that same space in grain. But it took me years to see this. To believe this and to care.

Fair Trade is a bit like this too. We hear about sweat shops, and women being exploited, we know that it is out there, just like we know about factory farming, but until you see it with your own eyes, it is hard to really make a commitment to change. This, was my gift. Traveling in Nepal, and living in Thailand really opened my eyes to the real people who live everyday without running water, or who must send their kids, or worse sell their kids off to the city to survive on their own because they can not afford to feed them. This is what I saw with my own eyes as we walked the streets, and listened to the stories of the families my friend sponsors each year. This is why I believe in Fair Trade. I see how it empowers women to believe in themselves. It helps them develop hope where previously non existed. Many of us can not understand this because when we want something we just go buy it, even if it is on credit. But that does not exist in most of the world.

So, you must decide when your time has come to go Fair Trade. Maybe not today, but maybe someday. Someday, we must take a hard look at what power we really have and how we could use that power so that everyone benefits, not just big corporations. When we don’t care about anything but price, people suffer, women are exploited, and large corporations just sit back and laugh. They don’t care about you, or the people who they use. You can make a difference. Buy consciously, think about the power you have, and use your influence for the betterment of us all.

I welcome any thoughts you have on this matter. Please feel free to comment in the box below.

If you would like to see our Fair Trade blog, and read some of our funny stories of our adventures in Thailand, then go to: filosophyonline.com or visit our online store at filosophyonline.com/store

Fair Trade Changes Lives

Meeting with a family sponsored by the Nepal Project

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Fair Trade Tips from the Trenches

I have discovered that having a Fair Trade business has its ups and downs. After living in Thailand for over 9 months, I began to develop relationships with the artisans that made the jewelry and bags that I was bringing home with me. I came to know the people behind the orders not just as “my suppliers” but rather as striving and struggling men and women who are not that different from me. As I got to know Kay, one of the girls that makes my jewelry, I came to learn she was going to college, running a coffee shop out of the front of her home and doing what ever it took to make ends meet. She was bright and eager to do business. And, she could use the internet. Many vendors you will meet on the streets in Chiang Mai, Thailand have a business card, but they don’t speak English, and they can’t do email. That makes it very difficult when it comes time for reordering. So, Kay met all the requirements we needed to be a viable “supplier” for us when we returned.

It was only days before we were to ship our products home and we had been waiting and waiting for Kay to complete our order. We decided to meet in the market, half way between my house and hers. And when she pulled out the order, it was not what we wanted. Shocked and a bit disappointed we told her that it was not made correctly like we had discussed. But we knew there was nothing we could do about it. Admittedly, she stated that her friend who helps her to make the bracelets did not understand what she wanted and this was all she could do.

My husband and I wanted to say, “this is not ok” and blah..blah..blah with our American business retinue. But we were in Thailand, and Kay was not upset. She was not defensive, nor was she worried. She did her best, and this was what came of it. She explained it all to us in as clear of English as she could muster, all the while smiling that this was all she had.

We quickly changed our tune and decided that this is what would be, with no need to argue or make her wrong. This…we discovered is part of the good and the bad of dealing directly with an artisan from another country. Sometimes language gets in the way. Sometimes the artists run out of certain items that were necessary to make your product. Sometimes they just don’t understand that pink does not go with red.

Here are a few tips that have proven invaluable when buying directly from an artisan in another country:
Send pictures via email. This helps break the language barriers and helps them with color combinations.
Give yourself plenty of time to have your order made. Most orders take at least a month to make and then you must factor shipping in.
Adjust your American business mind to the culture in which you are dealing. If you send an email, wait a week before expecting to hear from them. They are not in a hurry and are not Iphone obsessed like we are.
Be as specific as possible. When I say specific, I mean to the dot. (You must even tell them how you want your tags tied on). They follow well, but common sense is sometimes not so common.

IF you follow these guidelines, you may reduce your frustration when it comes to order time. But plan on being a bit more flexible than you might have previously been accustomed. That is just life in Thailand, its not personal, its just their way.

If you want to read some of our funny stories about our life in Thailand, then visit our blog at filosophyonline.com or our store at filsosophyonline.com/store

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Thai Style is not Thai!

Last night was our first night “on the town.” We went to a cool little joint called the North Gate jazz co-op. It was primarily an American-gone-Thai place that had a great energy. There were only a few tourists, and a few Thais. It was comprised mostly of the people who left their lives at least a few years ago, and have made Thailand their “home.” You know someone like this when you see him because there is a certain dirty, hippy in really comfortable, baggy clothes, look to them, with maybe a dread lock or two, and some cool coconut or wood jewelry dangling from a lock of hair or maybe tied around their bicep.
Manny and I were laughing yesterday at this because for the past few weeks we have been asking ourselves, what is the “Thai style?” You know what I mean, maybe there is a certain trendy fashion you at least see young people wear, or perhaps a certain style that flows through most of the designs. Nope! Not here. Really, Thai people have no style. Now this is not a put down, I rather like it because there is absolutely no pressure to look or dress in any particular way whatsoever. This suits me great since I sold all my clothes in the garage sale and literally came here with about 5 shirts and 5 pants. There is however, an invented Thai style made by the Americans that is quite nice. This is the “what Thai’s should look like if they were really cool and had a style”look. This is the dirty-baggy-comfort clothes I am talking about. Don’t get me wrong, it works, and they definitely “look” like they are from somewhere cool like Thailand, only Thai people don’t where these clothes.
The older generation of Thai people wear the average-run-of-the-mill plaid or patterned button down shirt that you might find in K-Mart or a Goodwill store with polyester pants and plastic open toes sandals, and the young people (given that they are not prostitutes) might have on some jean shorts, t-shirts, or any other non descript outfit on. Their dress is so unnoticeable that I actually had to look at pictures to try to remember what it is they do wear.
Now, the Americans gone Thai…that’s another story. They are the coolest cats in town because they have managed to find fashion beyond the Night Bazaar indicating their familiarity with some “secret hot spots” for shopping that the rest of the tourists in Chiang Mai are not privy to. And yet, in spite of their Thailandish fashion sense, there is something missing in them, like energy. What I mean is that the foreigners who are here, are not working here. That would just be insane. So, they are either retired, or they have some sort of internet-based business that they can conduct with very little time or effort. The resultant effect is that people just have time to “be.”
This is a totally new concept for me. Pursuing hobbies, reading for hours, walking around without any purpose, is a revolutionary experience. And here, there are lots of people doing that so you never feel weird joining them. Imagine in the states, you ask someone what they were doing for the day, and they told you, “I have nothing to do today.” That would almost be unheard of. Well, here that is totally possible. People eat out at every meal, pay someone to clean their home and do their laundry, pay one bill to their land lord, and well, I guess that is it. No stress, no worries, and no problems.
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The challenge of a haircut in Thailand

Our first haircuts in Thailand
Today we decided we needed our hair cut. We set off on the scooter and drove through our neighborhood. There were several places that indicated “haircut” but oh…they looked scary. We have a beautiful house at the end of a little street, but we live in a “neighborhood.” Yes, you know what I mean. Not a neighborhood like “the hood,” our neighborhood is more like a community neighborhood. The streets are lined with road side carts of food, and pork legs and chicken bodies dangle from hooks behind glass. It is on this road that you can dine at the little “mom and pop” restaurant and where you can sit on small plastic chairs in the dirt and share your meal with the flies and the dogs. There are also small “grocery” stores that look like large closets with someone in the back on a couch watching TV. All this is normal and fine if you are hungry or need a bottle of water, but this is not fine when you are looking for a place to get your hair cut.
Think of how scary it is when you go to a new salon for the first time. At least for me, I worry they will cut too much or do some “new look” that they think will be so great! So, picture the feelings we had today as we passed one “hair salon” after the next of small, dirty rooms, with old ladies sitting on the floor, watching the time go by.
We thought we might go downtown where at least we had a chance of a decent haircut, but along the path, we found a place that looked promising. The first place we stopped, the ladies were young, the blowdryers looked modern, and it seemed appealing enough for us to want to stop. But when we got off the scooter and pointed to both of us while making a cutting gesture with our fingers, the ladies indicated that they would not cut Manny’s hair. Not quite sure why, we got back on the scooter in search for another.
Soon after, we found another place that met a similar criteria. Again, we asked with our pictionary expertise, “can you cut both our hair?” Again, the girls responded to Manny, “No.” Confused, that perhaps this was a cultural thing, a man emerged from the salon and indicated to Manny to go two doors down. So he went there, and I stayed.
Not knowing if I would come out with a “bob” or my hair spiked, I forged on open to whatever would come. Now, these girls spoke NO English whatsoever. Most people know a few words, and in the end we get by. But here, I was on my own. Surprisingly, the girl washed my hair with the attention of an acupuncturist. She shampooed me twice, conditioned me twice, massaged my scalp for 20 minutes, rubbed my temples, my eyes, my neck and completely relaxed me. After that was done, I was escorted back to the bench while I watched the other two stylists “tag team” the woman in the chair getting blow dried. Two blowers, two brushes, they pulled and blowed this girl until her hair was as straight as a piece of straw and as shiny and smooth as silk. My worries began to fade.
I could see they were looking at me, wanting to make me feel more comfortable, but did not know what to say, so using the little bit of Thai that I have learned so far, I asked, “Man sa we lat?” (I am thinking this means what is your name?). But, the woman just looked at me funny and then pointed next door and said, “XY&^#$.” Not understanding that response, I tried to correct my accent a bit and really stretch out the words and let my mouth open as I said, MAAAN SAAAAA WEEEE LAAAAT? (This is how they do it, they really draw out their A’s.) Again, confused she really looked at me as though I had two heads. Checking my memory to be sure I was saying it right I was sure I was saying it close enough, and then it hit me. That was not “What is your name,” that was “vegetarian.” All of a sudden I busted into laughter at my own mistake. I shook my head and tried to make an erase sign (but was not really sure how to do that one so I just repeatedly made my hand flat and moved it back and forth trying to erase our confusing conversation and start over.) Then I asked, “con chu a ry?” Ah, yes! She indicated with her eyes. And she responded “Da.” Ok!! “Da!” I repeated. Then I pointed to myself, “Katie.”
When she finished with the other woman, she motioned for me to sit in her chair. I gathered up the ends of my hair and brought my fingers to the very edge motioning for her to just cut the tips. Smiling, she nods and I think we are both crystal clear. She combs my hair out, and all of a sudden before I can say, “Wait! That is too much!” Wack! She cuts about a full inch off the end. Resigned that it is too late now, I let her go, hoping her idea is better than mine. Snip, snip, snip, she cuts all the ends and then before we can “discuss this further,” she grabs my hair about 3 inches up from the end and holds it at an angle and WACK!!! I gasped as I thought she was giving me a full on layer job. But, I don’t see any hair fall, and I realize she is just texturizing my ends. I almost had a heart attack. Again, I let her go, and keep my mouth closed, not wanting to confuse her or stop her in mid cut. I kept on smiling while hoping that soon, her creativity would be over. It was. She blew dried my hair beautifully, and it was the first time since arriving to Chiang Mai that I really feel pretty. All in all, once again, it turned out ok.
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Giving up our American pleasures in Thailand

We are trying to stick to our $1.50 meals as often as we can. It is sort of a little game that we play, trying to eat every meal for $30 THB each. ($1.00 USD = $33 THB or Thai Bat). This is totally possible unless we get naughty and try to find junk food. This country does not eat junk food. You can’t really see it anywhere. We go hunting for it when we get a craving and OHHH do we pay. Today after our $50 THB lunch that included: sum tam (not sure if this is spelled right, but this is how we think it is pronounced) which is green papaya salad with green beans, tomatoes, peanuts, lime, sugar, chilies, & fish sauce, and (this is the other dish) a mixed vegetable and rice plate, plus one bag of cut papaya & one bag of green mangoes with sugar, salt and chili to sprinkle on top. We devoured that with enthusiasm and wanted something naughty.
We set off to find some coffee and something sweet. We heard of “the best bakery in town” that had wheat bread, so off we went to find it. There behind the glass display case was a slice of apple pie, and a beautiful piece of apple strudel. We ordered 2 Lattes, one apple pie, and one strudel and we paid $8.00USD. HOLY CRAP!!! We decided after that little treat that we were going to have to forget our American cravings and try to adjust to Thai snacks consisting of dried fish on a stick, and fresh fruit.

To see how this adventure landed us with a Fair Trade Business exporting handicrafts from Thailand, visit filosophyonline.com/store. We would love to hear from you, so leave a comment, or follow our blog. There are many more stories to come… READ OUR BLOG

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Thai Culture and the necessary adjustments

We are starting to get adjusted to the city. Actually, now that we are over the shock of leaving beautiful Naples, we are actually really starting to see a lot of charm in this city. There are many quaint cafes, with lots of foliage and rustic wood seating. Each day we are finding more nature and areas with green. The temples are magical and so very peaceful, that at least if you needed to get away, you could escape into the quiet of the temples and all sanity would be restored.
In spite of the fact that we still do not have a place to live, we have made some progress: We have gone on our first long walk (2 hours), we have rented a scooter, and we have found a temple that gives Buddhist Meditation talks on Sunday afternoons in English. We also met a son and dad pair that also teach Buddhist Meditation (The quick, quick path). I think it is funny that every time I talk with someone about their lineage of Buddhism, they all, including me, say it is the quick path. And my question is…if it is so quick, then why ain’t I enlightened yet? :)
The other day when we were on that long walk, we started to get really thirsty. All along the road you see cart after cart of food and drinks, so it would not be so hard to believe that as we were walking along the road, we saw a business that had a table in front with 2 coconuts, 2 pigs heads, and some other stuff on it. So we told the shop owner we wanted to buy the coconuts. Imagine, all this in English with Thai people looking at us trying to decipher our Chinese to their ears. The guy kind of looked at Manny funny and was not sure what he was asking. Manny pointed, “THE COCONUTS…..WE WANT TO DRINK THEM” and then makes a motion of drinking and pointing (an activity we have gotten quite good at). So the man points to the shrine on the table, which was side ways from the side walk so we did not realize that these were offerings, and Manny was asking to drink them. We walked away laughing our heads off thinking how weird that must have been for that man to have people want to come and drink your offerings.
All in all, we are really starting to enjoy ourselves. We did a little workout on our patio yesterday, jumping, and squatting, and bouncing up and down from the benches. I think the man watching us from across the river might have thought we were a little crazy, but we had fun. And today, FINALLY, I went running. I could not take it anymore. I was starting to get like a kid with ADHD. I was talking fast, and getting really pushy. I even got sent to my quarters to give Manny some time to work on his web site so that I did not annoy him to death. So today, when we went walking, I said that is it, we are running! And running we did.
There is only one small issue I have when I run. I know it is kind of personal, but I thought I might share it for the sake of a good laugh for you all. Well, my problem is this… I can never go to the bathroom right when I wake up. I always need to jog a bit to get everything moving. Now this is not a problem at home because I can plan my runs around the Starbucks on Central, or the First Watch on Banyon Blvd. But today was a whole new experience. When I got to the point where I knew it was my time, the only restaurant open at 6:30 am was this little humble joint on the side of the road.
Purposefully, I walked in prostrating to the girl standing there, and said toilette? She then said, x!@H*%^. And I responded, bathroom? Not really waiting for her response, I started scoping the place for the bathroom. She exclaims XH$#@*&! and I see someone is in there. So I wait….and I wait..until the urge is starting to subside a bit. Finally, the man comes out of the bathroom and I go in only to find a hole in the floor with a cement square in front of it, filled with water and a large pot (like a huge flower pot) also filled with water, with a small bucket in it. I assessed the possibilities here, and what I would have to do in order to make this possible, and then just turned around and walked out.
These are some of the small challenges here in Thailand. That and the fact that we keep getting lost on the scooter. But it is good because we keep getting lost in the same way, so at least we are getting familiar with a new section of town. We just call it, ‘the way we get lost’ area. Actually, it seems to have some really cool places that I am sure we will check out soon.
Until Then…stay away from the coconuts with straws in them.
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Joining a gym in Chaing Mai, Thailand

Finding a gym was not so difficult. Actually, quite the opposite. Here in Chiang Mai there are not really gyms like we have in the states. I think it is mostly because Thai people do not really work out, so there would not be much of a local market for it. So what the hotels do is they sell memberships to their gyms and people in the community can work out in them. These gyms are located in all the 5 star hotels, and being there is like the fanciest day at any amazing spa you could dream of. By buying a membership to one of these gyms, you can work out, swim in the magnificent pools and use their lounge areas like a guest. Well this is exactly what we have done.
To describe this hotel is difficult, but I will try. First the entire place is massive, like a palace. All the decorating is in teak wood and there are streams and ponds with lotus flowers floating everywhere. Outside there is a large square pool that only has 3 walls. The forth side, the side closest to the river, appears to be flowing into the river. This is an infinite pool. It is not chlorinated, it is ozone filtered, like filtered water. Walking down the stairs from the pool, to the gym, there is a massive stone wall, with water flowing down like a waterfall. The grass is perfectly manicured with little bronze statues of children playing on it. Everywhere you look there is beauty.
After swimming in the pool, we laid in the sun a while. The enormous trees were raining beautiful white flowers. They would be on the ground for a moment, then a man would come by and sweep them up.
When we finished we went into the open air lounge area over looking the river where we could connect to the internet and work for a while. Here we felt the cool breeze coming from the water and the soft sounds of the Polynesian music playing in the background. At the Ratilana hotel, almost all the workers speak English. We are asked if we would like something to drink. But, we decline as our neighbor Jake, an English guy who teaches Science class at a local school told us, “everything is really expensive! When I ordered a drink there the other day, I thought it would be kind of expensive, like $80THB ($2.75), but it was like $180THB! ($5.20).” So, we took heed and did not order a thing. But we enjoyed the lovely work area that we will be using from now on to do our really serious thinking.

If you want to know where this whole adventure landed us, go to our blog at: filosophyonline.com or our Fair Trade Store at: Filosophyonline.com/store

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Modern US home in Thailand for $330 per month

The price of everything is really astronomically inexpensive compared to what we pay in the states. We have been searching for houses all week. We found two that we really like. One is like a tree house with dark teak wood construction. It is a one room house, up on stilts, with a bathroom upstairs, and a “kitchen” downstairs. Really, this is just a room with a small fridge in it. In the bathroom, the ceiling above the shower has an open ceiling (Thai skylights). And the furniture consists of 1 bed. But all around this beautiful little bungalow, are amazing trees and plants, and flowers. There are rock gardens and fountains and it is a writer’s paradise. The place is really beautiful. I only have 2 concerns: The first is the mosquitoes. Basically there is a space between the roof line and the walls, second, with the walls open, the AC will not be very effective. (We will have to buy an AC unit.) The owner did say she (which was really a he) would talk to her husband and see if they could enclose the roof to keep mosquitoes out and AC in. The price here was $303 dollars but for sure we will end up spending more to be comfortable.
The other place was a brand new house, just like in the states, with new everything including the mattress all for $333.00. It was perfect. It is only about 10 minutes from the city and is in a quiet area. All good things. But there is a part of us that is trying to have a different experience here in Thailand. And, this house just seems too much like home. I don’t know that I will feel as inspired there as I might in the little jungle bungalow. But then again, I don’t know if I will be able to concentrate if I am being eaten by mosquitoes. These are the items of the day to ponder and so I thought I might share them with you. Until next time…

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