Saturday, March 31, 2007

Almost Home ~ Seattle

One last stop before Anchorage.






Passing by Ranier















Banking over downtown.











Cherry trees at UW.













And finally at the dog park.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Thai Designer


Pranee Sullivan was someone we met at the breakfast buffet at the IBIS hotel in Bangkok. She's a Thai married to an American, living in a small northern town in Japan. We found her delightful and enjoyed having breakfast with her. Her website Exclusive Thai Decor needs some updating, but it's a starting point for someone who wants some Thai accents in their house or office.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

LA Changing Houses


We've made it to LA. Staying at my mom's before stopping in Seattle to see the kids on the way home next week.Took my; camera on today's run and here are some pictures of how this 1950's subdivision is changing as the old houses are being remodeled or totally demolished and replaced.
First a few of the houses that are basically like they they were built. But imagine the trees as little saplings. And yes, we are getting really blue sky for the first time since we left.

























































And here are the newer versions. Note - this is a hilly neighborhood, so the ones that look like they are tilting are my fault with the shots.








Monday, March 26, 2007

Peace Corps Thailand 45th Anniversary Part 2

Here are a few pictures of the 45th Anniversary of Peace Corps Thailand.




This picture was taken Saturday night at the Peace Corps office. This is the same building that has been the office since the 80s near Krung Thai Bridge. But where you used to be able to freely wander in and out, now the entrance is blocked by a small security building you need to go through. There is also a recently completed new building that houses, among other things, a library, computers and internet access, and showers for visiting volunteers.





The ceremonial parts were held at the Erawan Hotel which is now a very fancy Hyatt Grand. Back in the day, as I recall, it was an elegant old dowager of a two story hotel with a wonderful restaurant at the swimming pool that was reasonable enough that even Peace Corps volunteers could occasionally eat lunch there.


Joe Hye, as you can tell from his yellow jacket, is one of the new Group 119 inductees. He's from St. Louis and headed for Trang Province.






Jim Lehman was the only other Group 19 member (my group). Of course, for anyone who knows Jim, it is redundant to say "here is Jim talking.' I don't remember all the posts Jim has had since Peace Corps, but he worked for Peace Corps or AID most of his career, including being Director of Nepal and Sri Lanka. He was the volunteer in Maesod and has agreed to help Somprasong get a Peace Corps volunteer for his school in Umphang, which is down the road from Maesod.








Pam was a teacher volunteer in the 60s and went on to teach at Cal State Sacramento for 30 years.




John Robertson is the new volunteer from Anchorage.




We've been experimenting with Joan's new digital audio recorder and so I didn't write everyone's name down. But I discovered that I pushed the record/pause button instead of the record button for a few of these. So I don't have all the names. This guy is from Group 117 and is getting ready to head home.





Learning to Bow and Curtsy for the Princess

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, from what I am told, takes after her father the highly revered King of Thailand, and longest reigning monarch in the world now. She tirelessly does good works for the poor and represents the monarchy and Thailand. She attended the Peace Corps Anniversary directly after landing in Bangkok from a ceremonial trip to Egypt. While many Americans may see the details of all the protocol as rather archaic, the King and Queen have really been a critical element of Thai national identity. They have worked very hard over his 60 years as King to improve the lot of Thailand, including those people most often overlooked. Nearly all Thais have a very strong respect for the King and would take any slights of the royal family as a great offense.



Part of the instructions before the Princess arrived at the 45th Anniversary celebration of Peace Corps Thailand on March 23, 2007 in Bangkok's Erawan Hotel.

Friday, March 23, 2007

45th Anniversary Peace Corps Thailand

We're back in Bangkok at the Royal River Hotel, with a 9th floor view of the River. Spent this afternoon at the Erawan Hotel where HRM Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the opening of the anniversary and the induction of Thai Group 119. Since I was in group 19, this had a special meaning for me too. I got to talk with a number of the new volunteers, with some who are just finishing, and a number of Returned Peace Corps volunteers, including Jim Lehman, the only other person from my group. Jim lives in Bangkok now.

There were formalities - we all had to learn when and how to bow when the Princess came in. But it was, overall, a happy occasion. The Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke about how his life was changed by Peace Corps volunteers in his town. The representative of the new group, Scott, stood up and did his whole speech is exquisite Thai. Doris, who was sitting one person over from me, and was in Thai 2 or 3 and a legend when I arrived because of her excellent Thai, sputtered when he was done, "No one can speak that well in three months." His vowels, his consonants, his tones, were right on and crystal clear. I learned from another volunteer later that he was a linguist and had written his master thesis on how to learn languages. I'm not sure I have it all accurate, but he did an incredible job. And he did it in front of 40 or so former Thai Peace Corps Volunteers, as well as the Ambassador.

Later there was a reception at the Ambassador's Residence.

Joan didn't feel well when it was time to go - headachy and nauseous. I told her she didn't have to go. She didn't. I had her new recorder with me and recorded the event and maybe we'll start our first podcast when we get back. Also some interviews with former PCVs, new ones, current ones, and old PC director and a Thai official who hired PCVs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mekong Cruise Part 2

Dinner in Pak Bang after the first day of boating with the Tosas and Nellie, the French nurse.











The main street of Pak Bang the next morning early before getting on the second boat for the rest of the trip to Huey Xai, on the Lao side of the Mekong.











In the Pak Bang market before getting on the boat.











A boat along the river.












We stopped several times at villages to unload cargo. Here we just stopped at the rocks. People came down from the village and carried things up to the village. Most of the stuff was from China, everything from rings to put pots over a fire to huge bags of noodles.






On the left side of the boat is Laos, on the right side is Thailand, since the border is in the middle of the Mekong.






Sunset before reaching Huey Xai.

Mekong

Our boat, #77, from Luang Prabang to Pak Bang.


The slow boat up the Mekong was a great way to slow down and relax. We went into another world. We'd been warned we have that there were backless wooden benches on the boat. We went early and got seats. Actually all the seats had backs, and the wooden ones had cushions. We were early enough to get regular tour bus type upholstered seats. Very comfortable. The dominant feature of the trip - as has been most of the time in Thailand, but particularly in Laos - has been the
smoke from the slash and burn agriculture of the hill tribes. The river was shrouded in thick smoke as you can see in the pictures. But we were in sparsely populated areas and just slowly went up the river. There were people here and there on the shore fishing, panning for gold, in boats, with their water buffalo, in villages. There were lots of interesting rock formations. And time just slowed down as we spent two ten hour days - with a break overnight in a small
village full of guest houses to accommodate the boat passengers.



















Monday, March 19, 2007

Some People We've Met In Laos





Here are some folks we met in Laos.

Jamie and Patrick are two Canadians from Vancouver who claim that some friends left before we came and that was why there were so many empty beer bottles at their table.



This is Enrica, one of the Italians we met at the Vientiane Airport who works in Guangzhou, China. We stayed at the Sayo Guest House in Luang Prabang and learned a lot about the textile industry in China, about Turin and Italy. There's a darker picture of Enrica and Cristina on Phousi Hill at sunset. Cristina is also an Italian working in China - Frank, you should contact her. Her Chinese is very good. She's in Beijing. I don't seem to have another picture of her.




We met Thong Souk on our bike ride in Luang Prabang. When we were about to give up on finding the grave of the French explorer, we stopped at a little shop (See the mother and son in a previous post). Thong spoke pretty good English for a guy in a small village outside of LP. He took me over to see the school and then to see his house.






Phonesvan is the Laotion educator I wrote about in a previous post. We taped some of our conversation with her about her work to help kids in the LP area get better education. She's the U of Hawaii graduate.




Here are two more Vancouver guys. These two are law students at University of British Columbia on a semester exchange at Hong Kong University. We met them at the vegie buffet table in Luang Prabang






Tetsugi and Machiko Tosa are two young Japanese we met at the airport in Vientiane and did things with them until yesterday - including the two days in the slow boat up the Mekong. He's a plumber and she was a cell phone salesperson. They quit their jobs and have finished their first month of traveling. After SE Asia and India and Nepal, they want to go to Peru! We hope they'll find their way to Alaska.







This woman was weaving in shop at the weaving village of Ban Panom when we were on our bike ride in Luang Prabang. There was something about her - we connected and bought several scarves she had woven.







Edwin and Yvonne are biking. They've been thru Cambodia and Laos. We were on the slow boat up the Mekong with them. They work in Rotterdam for a social service agency that builds and maintains housing for the poor.


This monk is training at the Wat across the street from our Guest House in Luang Prabang. The Wat has money from UNESCO and New Zealand to train monks in the various skills - wood carving, sculpting, painting, etc. necessary to maintain the temples in the area. At the work table there was also a farang monk. He had gone to Luang Prabang when he was 16 and studying at the international school in Bangkok - about the same time I was teaching in Kamphaengphet. His kids have all grown up and now he's become a monk here in Luang Prabang. My monk friend was delighted to be able to talk to a foreigner in Thai, but we weren't able to talk too long.