Thursday, July 26, 2012

Things you can do in Amsterdam but not in Bangkok

Bangkok to Amsterdam!

Walk several blocks without breaking into a sweat...

Ride on the canal without having to cover your face for fear of being splashed by toxic water! 

See the city transformed into a beautiful museum when the sun comes out in the summer!

 Ride your bike down bike paths without being killed by crazy Motorcycle taxi guys...

Sit in the park under the shade of tree and not have to be chilled down by the mall next door.

Additional bonuses:

Eat fresh bread and goat cheese at almost every restaurant...

Admire good looking blonde people cycling in high heels and/or business suits....

Drink a good glass of wine that costs less than 4 euros...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lancing the boil

haven't talked that much about therapy in my blog but I am in it and I am a fan. Today I had a very painful session but I feel great. I feel like I lanced a 33 year old boil. I feel a little raw but some how happy and optimistic. Thanks to my great shrink!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Buddhist ceremony for the deceased

Today, the building I live in had a ceremony to mark the passing of Ms. Eileen Kenwood, the elderly lady who died so terribly at the beginning of the month. For more information on Thai ceremonies, you can go here

Sunday, July 08, 2012

4th of July: Bangkok Style

I think I've always celebrated the 4th of July (or Independence Day), no matter where I am. Now for most of my life that meant living on a US Military base (where of course you celebrate), living in South Carolina, or Washington DC (where how can you NOT celebrate? Its the nation's capitol!)
I know I sponsored a barbecue one year in Amsterdam at the Vondelpark where I made potato salad. One memorable year, I went with my sister to Iowa where I managed to offend my cousins by writing about the pie auction
Last year at this time, I was in Bangkok and knew about 20 people (mostly Americans) and I invited them all over to my friend Carol's house for the 4th of July. We celebrated it, as you do overseas, on the following weekend. Last year we called it the "Ambivalent Americans and the Coalition of the Willing" and we served Oscar Myers hotdogs (or weiners as my dad called them), hamburgers, my dad's famous potato salad, and jello. We had lots of beer and wine and partied out on the front porch with Bruce Springsteen and other "American" tunes playing from my iPod. It was a rousing success as it continued on throughout the massive rain storm and all the neighbors came to play and there were kids and drinking and dancing.

This year, I know only 2 people still in Bangkok - one American. The 4th of July was a Wednesday and I met two more on Independence Day at a wine bar where we ate tapas and got to know each other. So, in order to make sure my American citizenship was not taken away from me for forgetting to show sufficient patriotism, I went to the American Chamber of Commerce Fourth of July picnic at the KIT school with 3 of my American friends in Bangkok. In some ways, this celebration was more American than any of my previous 4th of July parties! Below are some of the snapshots I took. 

There were four or five different bands that played- mostly roots rock and classic rock (including Jump! by Van Halen and It's my life by Bon Jovi) but also some great bluesy rock. The bands were inevitably filled with middle aged to straight on OLD men with young 20s looking drummers. It was hot and humid and since its rainy season here - overcast but still hot. Nothing says 4th of July like sweating your ass off sitting outside in the sun. 

One of my favorite parts was the ability to take your photos with Barack Obama and Michelle Obama which I took advantage of...

Many different corporations had bought or sponsored games and boothes. Considering how many old men were there, it was heartening to see that many of the international hospitals were sponsoring activities.

There was a chili cook off and you could purchase Singha beer or Thai wine or coca-cola. 

There was a children's section with face painting and popcorn and clowns making balloon animals. There was a bouncy castle, a bucking bronco, and a climbing wall. There was tug-of-war, egg toss, a pie eating contest, and other classic American picnic games. 
There was even Apple Pie!

Old Man sang the American Anthem and Little Girl sang the Thai anthem.

It was a great mix of Americans and Thais. Lots of bi-racial kids running around with very very old white fathers and young-ish mothers. But also some young American teens who got very drunk and ruined the pie eating contest.  Just like America! 

They played the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, and the US Ambassador was there. Speeches were made, we all got a bit teary during the national anthem and I marveled at just how young the marine color guard was. I thought about how happy I was that they were stationed in Bangkok and not Afghanistan but how they probably felt a bit annoyed about it and consoled themselves with the bar girls. 

So on this 4th of July as I feel a bit blue and wondering where I am going with my life, I thought about my "traditional" 4th of July growing up. Often one of the families that we were friends with would have a picnic. I grew up in a two culture household although it was British and American rather than Thai and American. But me and the other bi-cultural kids would run around in the heat, playing games, getting into fights, and sometimes swimming in a pool while the parents got drunk, cooked hotdogs, and hung out. And because I grew up in a military family, we always got out the flag and sang the national anthem. And I was taught to stand very straight and tall and put my hand over my heart. 

So when I stood there alone during the national anthem and sang, I felt like I was going back in time to all those summers in South Carolina and then in Washington DC where we celebrated our life in the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave". And I got a bit nostalgic and felt a little bit of love and pride in my country (which is an unusual occurence). For all its problems, I still love the USA.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Life of a Consultant

So I'm officially not "unemployed" - I'm a consultant. That means I don't have to go to meetings! I don't have to get involved in office politics, I don't have to sit in a cubicle! I can start at 11am and work at midnight if I want. Its really great.

So here are a few snapshots from the past four months as a consultant:

Discussing masculinities and gender-based violence in Saigon with my co-consultant Piotr!

My office mate, Simon Le Bon. He's pretty talkative but also provides a stress relief break unlike other officemates I have had!

My office supplies - that's a lime soda, not a gin and tonic.
But that's a gin and tonic - necessary for conference calls on Skype.

The view from my cubicle is often very nice - a bit nicer than the grey 60s building at the UN office in Bangkok!
This is the normal view - Bangkok skyline!

Our meeting rooms are all over the place. This one is in Saigon. 

The light of god shines down on me when I am reading... (ha ha) But office breaks seem to involve playing with my iPhone.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

and something a bit more upbeat

My friend Clay "Fumbata" wrote me a song. Its so awesome... he'll write you one too if you send him a clip of some sound and an image...

Here's mine. I think its awesome and I want to share it with you...

Another Long Silence

Another long silence from me and some writer's block. It's partially because I've been traveling and had a lot of friends in town since the end of April. I had a rough time in Papua New Guinea but it was good for me - found some things out about myself and came to some good healthy realizations.  And then I got to see a lot of friends and family which is fantastic - my sister came to visit me for two weeks, my friends Clay and Elli came to visit, I saw a friend from Amsterdam - Jim and then one from MSF - Tirana.... all good. I love having guests and I love having people stay with me in my apartment. But when they leave, I get sad and feel lonely. 

Tomorrow its the 4th of July - America's Independence Day - somehow this is making me homesick. Last year at this time, I had been in Bangkok for less than six months and I was able to pull together a 4th of July barbecue with about 20 people. This year, I know 2 people in town. Everyone else has either moved or is gone. That feels pretty sad.  But that is the nature of this transitory field I'm in and a big city like Bangkok. I can go out and meet people but I am sometimes overwhelmed by trying to make new friends. And social media feels like a crutch sometimes - I can stay in touch with my friends from all over the world but sometimes there is no substitute for just sitting across from someone and chatting. About nothing - about everything - and laughing. Or crying. As need be.

I'm now a consultant which means I work from home which I both love and is making me a little nuts. I love the freedom of not having to put on my "happy face" and go to the office but I miss copy machines and printers and inane chit chat in the hallway! I try to create routines so I am out and about but I get thrown off when I travel.

So two things happened this past week that threw me a bit... I had a big break through in therapy which is scary and exciting but leaves me feeling weak and scared.

And then when things were getting okay, I had the misfortune of seeing a terrible accident. In my apartment building, we have a big swimming pool on the 3rd floor. My balcony looks down on it. I like to come out on the balcony and treat it like my living room. I also like looking over the rail down at any swimmers below. I woke up from a nap on Sunday and saw a bunch of people down on the deck below - many in uniform and almost all of them Thai. At first I thought they were having some sort of ceremony or meeting. Then as I looked at the pool, I noticed a wheelchair lying in the shallow end. I had a horrible feeling about this and remembered this old 91 year old lovely American woman I met when I toured the building back in February of last year. I hope she's okay, I thought. And then my eye caught something else in the pool - her body, floating in the opposite corner facedown. It was such a horrible shock. And the police were all there investigating it but there was nothing anyone could do. And her body stayed there in the pool for over an hour. I have always been kind of sensitive and emotional. And this week I have been feeling even more so than ever. I was overcome by horror and sadness about this horrible lonely death. She was old. Yes. She was going to die eventually. But how terrible for everyone involved.

So... anyway, not feeling like I'm very bouncy or good company right now. But I think things are on the up for me. I'm going to Europe for a month and will get to spend some more time in Paris, a city that I have always loved. I'll see friends in Amsterdam, Berlin, and Hamburg. And then I get to come back to the tropics and live in Asia. So I know that my life is good... I'm grateful for the freedom, the love I have from people around the world, and for being able to live in such a delicious culinary world capitol. And I'll get through this rough patch.

This is meandering but I wanted to put something out there. Hopefully my next post will be about my exploits in Papua New Guinea, seeing my old friend in Ho Chi Minh City, and meeting fabulous French men in Paris. We'll see. xoxox