Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kotee's Back from Iraq

It was a very pleasant surprise to see Kotee helping out at the Thai Kitchen the other night. He's part of the Thai Kitchen 'family' who have finished school and worked at the restaurant under the guidance of Sommai and Orathai and Ben. This is a traditional Thai/Lao 'social service' model that gets no funds from government. Over the years, Sommai and Ben's four sons have worked in the family restaurant, learning lots of skills - running the cash register, good social skills dealing with lots of different customers, gaining lots of 'uncles' and 'aunts' among the customers of a wide range of professions and political persuasions. In addition to their own four sons, there have always been 'cousins' - sometimes kids who were having trouble at home or at school - who were brought into the family to finish school, have a job, and be with a family that set high standards of good behavior. And in return Anchorage has had a great Thai restaurant for over 20 years, plus the positive spillover effect for their landlord, their suppliers, and the school system. And don't worry Paul, they are all here legally.

Among these family members is Kotee. When he finished high school he joined the army and worked it out so he got stationed at Fort Rich. He's been in Iraq for the last 14 months. His main job was electronics support - communications, radios, night vision, optics... His stories were full of jargon and I had to ask him to stop and explain often. He was in a FOB (Forward Operating Base) in Iskandiriayh most of the time. They had a huge power plant right nearby that supplied power for much of Iraq. The pollution was awful and people downwind seemed to have an unusual number of physical ailments. But they could use the smoke as their windsock. He said the area is also known as the triangle of death.

He said his laptop kept him sane. He could go into his shared room (when he described it it sounded like one of those tiny Japanese hotel rooms, but it was air conditioned) and watch dvd's etc. But sometimes internet was closed down, when they were on "Rivercity." He explained that meant someone had died and all communication out was shut down until the family was officially notified. He showed us a video he made of his life in Iraq. He was in the thick of things, saw vehicles, buildings, and people blown up, but seems to have come home physically and mentally ok. He's back in Anchorage til early next summer when he goes to Fort Lewis where he's been assigned after reenlisting for five years.

He's a great guy and we were very happy to see him back and healthy.


  1. Thanks for the advice. Finally I figured it and gottit on my other blogs and pride of place tonight "sushibar" haha!

    Do you reckon they put a sign on the camera (please don't take this off the belt it's meant to go round?)

    if you did something like that in this country someone would make off with it!

  2. Hey - What do you think of 'MACES'?
    It's a plan that gives the new Palin PPT surplus tax to Alaskans!


  3. How is it that I have never heard of the Thai Kitchen? Where is it located? We are HUGE Thai food fans.

    Regarding the military jargon: yeah, when my brothers returned I couldn't understand a word.

    Glad this soldier is safe! Hopefully, mentally he will be ok, too.

  4. rcm - they serve brown rice if you ask for it. what a great place. what a great article about Kotee's safe return. Praise the Lord!

  5. Gledwood posted a link to a video that someone made by putting the video camera on the conveyor belt in a sushi bar in Tokyo - it went around the restaurant with the sushi including into the kitchen. Great idea, cute video.

    Anon, MACES? Google didn't find me anything except the maces warriors used in the past. Explain please.

    RCM - There is absolutely no objectivity when I talk about the Thai Kitchen. This was the first Thai restaurant in Anchorage. It opened in the mid 80s as four tables and a kitchen stove in the back of an Express Market. Over the years they kept adding tables and the market kept shrinking and the stove grew. It's at 3405 E. Tudor next to the bingo in the mall just south of the UAA dorms.

  6. He came over here so he could serve our country-- his parents brought him here and let him go in with their blessing. We are not worthy to have him!

    I met a restaurant owner who, when I was arguing with my dad about wearing leg warmers over my pants, his dad escaped prison (he was in for having helped the Americans during the war) and he escaped Laos via the Mekong River and bribed guards so that he could get his parents and I think 8 brothers and sisters over here. That year we were both 12 years old.

    How do they learn our language? How do they get over what would be insurmountable biases, language barriers, and not even being able to blend in with us, where we would crumble if we landed in their country? I have no end of respect for these people. Thanks for another great post!

  7. Great. Thanks for the info. We will have to try it out. As an ESL teacher I cannot believe I have never heard of it. Thanks for correcting my ignorance.


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