Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Getting There..Being There

Taking the taxi to the opening dinner of the Friends of Thailand 50 Year of peace Corps in Thailand may not have been the best way to get there. It took an hour, and until we were in sight of the hotel from across the river, it was bumper to bumper crawl all the way. This at 6 pm in a city where most people work 8-4. The problem would be solved pretty easily by training and installing traffic cops at the hundred or so key intersections, and synchronizing the traffic lights. Part of the problem is years ago the city took outn all the suicide rondabouts and replaced them with exactly the same traffic pattern, but in a traffic light controlled format. So imagine traffic coming from 5 directions trying to cross and merge.

Tonight's event is not at that hard to reach hotel, it's a reception at the residence of the US ambassador to Thailand, not very far from my hotel. Which is why I am amazed they picked such an isolated hotel for the reunion. More on that later.

I allowed an hour and a half, and we got there in 1:03. Had a great conversation with the driver, more Thai practice. He had refused to use the meter, but the price he asked for was reasonable for that much traffic, so he got a tip.

Entering the ballroom lobby next to the dinner place, the first people I saw were my dearest friend (the only other on fro my PC group) Nancie, and the head of our training, 6'8" Pete. He's tough to miss in a crowd. The biggest changes with him are his formerly bright red hair is now salt and pepper, and he is built more like a basketball guard than a track star. Still charming and handsome. Nancie always looks beautiful and glowing. The reason they were out in the lobby (with 28 other PCVs) is they had won the golden ticket to be in th group photo with the princess on Friday, and one of the royal protocol people was there to pose them and practice the bowing and scraping which goes along with a royal visitation. I would have liked to be in the photo, but not at that "cost". I expect to be able to take photos of th princess if I go to the event Friday morning at th foreign ministry.

After they were done, we went in to dinner, it was a buffet of all kinds of yummy Thai food. Nancie and I sat together with one fellow from Group 2 (1963, I think) and several from Group 47 (I was in 51)  who overlapped us th first year. We had met them briefly during one of thee combined language brush-up camps, probably at our half-way mark. I remembered their names, but not them. Two of those folks have been living in Bangkok, one man who recently retired here, and a woman who is married to someone whose company sends him to live in far off lands for a few years at a time. They have a house in Half Moon Bay which she is not sure they will ever get to live in.

There was a lot of table hopping, especially to the  PC staff table, where someone who had been in the PC office when we were there (she was about 20 at the time) was sitting. she has just retired from PC. She looks like she is in her 30s, and her daughter looks about 15, but is probably 25. Nancie is a world-famous cookbook writer, her first three being brilliant books on Thai food and culture with recipes not just listed, but also explained. She has kept in touch much better than me.

The formalities were cut to a minimum because of all the late arrivals from the bad traffic (normally it takes 30 minutes to taxi there from anywhere in the city) but what they had was great - a slide show with a sample of photos from every group from the past 50 years, set to classical Thai music. She used a bunch of photos I took, including a classic one of Nancie and her pal Chaz mugging for the camera during a lunch break at language training. Chaz had just found me on FB last weekend. Paul, one of th group 47 people, said he knew Chaz a little, they had served in the same small town in a small province way up on the Lao border.

Lots of stuff to talk about. As things were wrapping up, I saw a great photo op - at the current PC staff table behind ours, two Thai women were huddled around a tablet being held by the very first Thai-American to serve on the Thailand PV staff (he's very tall and looks like a cross between Tiger Woods and Barak Obama). I told them in Thai that in my day we didn't have this technology, and that started a conversation, mostly in Thai, of about 10 minutes. They said I spoke Thai so well they thought I would be "an inspiration"  for the volunteers when I go to the PC office open house later this week. I asked if they still used the "Silent Way" teaching method, they said no. hich pretty much explains why volunteers are having trouble learning Thai.

Later, Paul, his wife, Nancie and I went to the 24 hour cafe downstairs and chatted will almost midnight, when I had to grab a cab back to my hotel. The trip back took 20 minutes, another interesting conversation. Another big tip. He used the meter when I asked him to, which makes big points with me. Except for the airport trip, the meter price barely covers the cost of the ride. Most taxi drivers insist on negotiating a fare, or just surprising the unwary tourist with some large number. In this case the meter showed 95 Baht (about $3) for a trip the hotel taxi charges $20 for, and the on-the-street negotiated price is between $5 and $7. The trip is about equal to a drive from San Francisco's Pacific Heights to the Oakland hills.

Back at the hotel, dropped off the camera & knapsack, then went across the street and hd an excellent bowl of "sen-yai" wide noodle soup with won ton, unidentified meat balls, scallions and assorted Thai spices. Nom nom. Took a quick tour of the bars, decided what I really needed was a banana split, so back to the hotel cafe for that, and then to bed.

This morning I copied yesterday's photos to the PC, will upload most of them (only about 50) to Flickr.

Right now it is pouring rain so hard I can't see more than a block away, and  just heard some thunder. Time to get dressed, and go downstairs to take photos. My windows are all rained on.
Tags: friends of thailand, peace corps, thailand travel

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