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.

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