Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Getting There

With the torrential morning rains and what I expected to be flooding and traffic snarls, at 5 pm I paid the exorbitant 300 Baht ($9.50) fare to go to the US Ambassador's residence, expecting it to take an hour. We were there in 18 minutes. A couple of others had miscalculated the same way, but with our printed invitations and passports and being on The List, the half dozen embassy people at the gate let us in - doors were not supposed to open till 6. At the house, a very classy woman who was in charge of protocol for the event suggested it would be better to go back to the road, cross the street and park myself in an air conditioned coffee shop (there were several to choose from) until 6. So I headed back up the long driveway, and as I reached the gate an elderly American lady was coming in, who introduced herself as Emily. "Ketudat?" I asked. Yes indeed, this is the woman from Peace Corps Group 1 who worked at my first PC posting in Bangkok in 1975. She had married a Thai man, and was in charge of all things materiele  for the place I was assigned to. I thanked her profusely for all her help back then. She said it was a long time ago.

When I told her I'd been turned away temporarily, she decided to take the same advice, but she was going to walk way down the block to the pedestrian overpass instead of trusting the crosswalk. Unfortunately, I did not see her again that evening.

There were already a few people at the coffee shop I chose, it turned out they are all current volunteers. And after a while the place was filled with them. Absolutely wonderful people, all ages but mostly fresh out of college. They have mostly been assigned to community development work "here's a list of 12,654 projects which your village may have a need for, pick one and go for it" is how one of them described it.

A little after 6 someone noticed what time it was and we all headed over. I got waved through, since I was already checked in. Same classy woman met me at the entrance and pointed me to the coat rack. No need to actually wear the suit jacket I'd had made special.

There were lots of servers with (non-iced) drinks, canapes, tiny munchy items, and they were everywhere. From the entrance we passed through a large covered terrace, and then to a lawn with a "just in case it rains" tent. There was also one small air conditioned room set up as a small art gallery, which had a poster board with a lot of old Peace corps photos.

I talked a lot. Too much. Listened a lot too, took a few photos. The US ambassador to Thailand is a hot redhead. There were a couple of other power redheads there - very interesting. She had been a volunteer in Thailand (funny, her bio on the embassy site does not even hint at that) and when the short session of formalities began she greeted us in Thai. More than just "welcome". Then we heard a fairly dull welcome talk from an assistant PC director. I think they are between directors at the moment. And a couple of the new volunteers (a clean cut young couple right out of the 1961 yearbook) MC'ed for three musical acts. First up was a FOB young man with a crew cut in a light salmon shirt and matching tie, who was going to sing something completely in Thai. which he did, but he not only sang in Thai lyrics, he sang in the Thai falsetto and chose a song with a 100 mph patter at the bridge. Twice. Lots of applause and  cat calls. By now, though, most of the 300+ people had gone back to their conversations, so the woman who sang something simpler in halting Thai who could not be heard even with the microphone, and the woman who sang Moon River in Thai could not be heard 3 feet away. Very sad.

Back to mixing, talked to someone who was retired and living in Bangkok, who was stolen from me by the ambassador after she introduced him as a former ambassador to Thailand and close personal friend. Wow.

And another person was from DC, a former volunteer, she now runs an organization which matches engineers and scientists with policy makers. Of course they are only interested in PhDs.

Some of the art work on the walls was quite beautiful, especially two oils on canvas by a Seattle painter. Jose something.

As promised, they started kicking us out enough before 8:30 to have the place cleared by then. It took a while to find my jacket, there are no labels on it and there wasn't much light. But the material is unique and it it. By the time only one jacket was left, it was clear that one RPCV was leaving without his jacket. Welcome to Thailand. 

I joined the small mob heading for the Skytrain station. No need to wait for a taxi, it was only 2 blocks and 345 stair steps to the station, and only one stop from mine. Virtually free because i still have 15 trips left on my pass card. The train was totally packed, but for one stop it was bearable.

On the way back to the hotel I bought 2 more kilos of longans. I could eat those all day. Ate some while I processed the photos and uploaded them to Flickr.

I was hungry and not too tired, so i changed (my shirt was soaked) and went across the street for some noodle soup, took a tour around a few bars (soda water for me - booze just puts me to sleep), bought a package of sliced mango and went back to the hotel. It was about 2 am. I had decided wearing the shirt and tie once was enough, and was not going to get up for the 8 am Big Event, which was going to be the classic Asian panoply of speeches in a crowded, hot, humid hall. I'll be dressed casually for the 4 pm Peace Corps office open house instead. I really want to talk to those volunteers and staff some more.

I woke up  at 4 am feeling woozy and disoriented. Checked my Hgl - it was 68. Way too low. Not enough food, too much exercise. Good thing I'd bought those longans. Watched bad late night TV and chomped about 2/3 kilo of that very sweet fruit.  By 4:30 I was well enough to go back to sleep. My phone rang at 8 am, I ignored it. Rang again, I looked, unknown number. It was probably someone wanting to know why I wasn't at the Big event. Voicemail failed, probably because I never set it up, and tex essage failed saying I was out of memory. Cleared  lot of crap out of the phone and went back to sleep till 9:30. Got up, did my morning stuff, went downstairs for breakfast and read some more Hugo nominees on the Kindle.

Bought some more wi-fi time ($3/hr) and back to the room to catch up on FB & email. Apparently my big sister in Israel phone my 2nd sister in Baltimore asking why I had not returned her email messages. Probably because she hasn't written any in months.

Thai song singer
He sang the Thai patter  song

Delicious server. Are those jello shots?
Delicious server. Are those Jello shots?

Madame ambassador is on the right


Power redheads on the right. I forget if the woman next to the ambassador is a former Peace Corps country director or ambassador.

New volunteers by the "just in case' tent

Tags: peace corps, thailand

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