Friday, December 16, 2016

Helping rural communities advance

Geoffrey Longfellow of the Thailand Sustainable Development Foundation has a few ideas for letting all Thais prosper

Bangkok Post, 15 Dec 2016. 

Geoffrey Longfellow, director of special projects for the Thailand Sustainable Development Foundation (TSDF), knows a thing or two about the mindset of the rural folks he works closely with to promote the philosophy of sustainability as taught by King Rama the whole article

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

40th Anniversary

Parichart and I will probably be going to Thailand in late 2016 or early 2017 to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Since 2017 will also be the 40th anniversary of our Peace Corps training, is anyone else interested in a reunion? Lawrence has suggested we all meet in Chiang Mai, where he has a beautiful home.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kathleen's Photos

Kathleen has sent a number of photos that have been added at the end of the photo index.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

Happy New Year Everybody,

Do you know how to say “doorknob” in Thai? (I don’t.) Just finished reading Peter Hessler’s article in the current New Yorker, The Peace Corps’s brightest hope, and his blog from March where he responds to Nicholas Kristof's question about doorknobs and the mission of the Peace Corps. Interesting reading for us aging former PCVs.

In our personal news of the year department, the highlight was surely our 16-day trip to Turkey for Harris & Seher's wedding celebration. To clarify: they were married in 2009 in a civil ceremony in New Haven, but this August Seher's parents gave them a fantastic party on the banks of the Bosphorus.

Before and after the celebration we took advantage of our chance to tour around western Turkey. (Too) many pictures if you are interested. It was sure interesting traveling around the country knowing only a few phrases of Turkish. Mostly we were able to find people who understood English, but nearly everybody we met was helpful.

One example, we will never forget. After we got off the ferry on our way from Istanbul to Bursa, we knew we had to get on a bus for the rest of the trip. There were a number of buses with different signs, so we showed somebody the address of our hotel, and they directed us onto a bus. The bus took us to a train station on the outskirts of Bursa (a fairly large city with a population of 1.8 million). Again we were confused which platform to go to and which train to take. A guard indicated to go up the stairs to a platform, and we started looking for somebody to ask which train. The first young lady we asked obviously didn't speak English and just looked away. That was probably the only time we got that kind of reaction. Next we asked a young couple sitting on a bench. They clearly understood our question, but the only verbal response we got from the guy was, "No English." But he took our printout with the hotel information, conferred with his wife or girlfriend, made a call on his cell phone, and then indicated for us to follow them onto a certain train. There was a route map on the wall of the train, and he indicated we would get off at the 5th stop. Very good. We understood that, and were happy that he got us on the right train. More talking with his partner in Turkish, another phone call, and shortly we were at the 5th stop. He kissed his partner, and got up with us. I tried to indicate that it was all right, we could take it from here, but he seemed to be insisting he would get off with us. Hard to convince him it was unnecessary when we couldn't speak the same language. So, he lead us to a bus stop and started asking people questions, apparently asking which bus we should take. After a while a bus stopped, and he spoke with the driver. Then he lead us across the intersection to another bus stop. After a while another bus came. He stepped up on the bus, spoke with the driver, and did something with a card at the front of the bus. Then he got off and indicated for us to get on the bus. In my best Turkish, I said, "Thank you very, very, very much." I wished I had something to give him, but didn't think money would be appropriate and didn't have anything else at the ready. Eventually I realized he had even paid for us with a magnetic card because we saw others entering the bus only used their cards, no cash. After about 15 minutes, the driver left us off right in front of the hotel.

What was the guy's name? Where did he live? What did he do? Why was he so helpful? I wish I knew. One thing I do know is we will always remember his kindness. In our xenophobic age where people protest against building an Islamic Center two blocks away from the World Trade Center site (in a former Burlington Coat Factory!), when "Christian ministers" threaten to burn Korans, when the word Islam is mostly tied to the word terrorist, we will remember the warmth and generosity we received in a 99% Muslim country. (And, we will also remember all the people who unsuccessfully tried with wonderful creativity to sell us Turkish carpets :-)

Back to the present, we are happily finishing up our 7th year in Tennessee. The mountains and lakes are as enchanting as ever. We've had a lot of snow this December. I've taken the opportunity 3 times in the last 3 weeks to drive to nearby Roan Mt. (elev. 6300') for cross-country skiing. Still doing a little computer work here and there for companies in NY and volunteer web design for a few organizations. That leaves us plenty of time for meditation, reading and being outdoors in the mountains.

And, finally, one more link from the past that I discovered browsing around the Friends of Thailand web site. This has been up for a while, so you may have already seen it. Can you recognize the guy in this photo?

Click to read the rest of the story.

Best wishes for 2011,

Peter & Parichart

PS Doorknob = ลูกบิด but we had to look it up. Parichart couldn't remember either

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine’s Day Message from Kathleen

I Peace Corps

Up ahead in the distance I saw a shimmering light…

My reference point of early Peace Corps experience is ‘Hotel California’. In March of 1977, that was a #1 hit song which along with various other themes considered destiny; and in its faded status amongst San Francisco hotels, Hotel California was where we bivouacked in anticipation of departure to Thailand. Now in 2010: 33 years have passed and having joined Peace Corps at 33 years of age, I can’t help but notice the symmetry of Peace Corps at the heart of my lifetime.

What I received via Peace Corps can’t be quantified, it’s so vast; and what I gave back is so small that it’s equally immeasurable. Much richness came from the members of Group 58. I believe our common sharing in time and space on the Peace Corps path forged an eternal bond with each other as well as with the country in which we served. There was a healthy dissonance in our Group that yielded harmony: I didn’t observe this in other Groups at the time. I think we are special…when we meet we are kin and the country is home. How nice it would be today to see you in passing and find out how you’ve been. [By the way, I discovered why I’m so quirky and that’s because I was born in the year of the Monkey: it’s my nature to find almost everything a source of fun. Sorry.] So today we would no doubt find ourselves laughing over some Peace Corps moment that we alone would understand.

What stellar good fortune allowed me to make the acquaintance of Thailand? In 1977, I needed to look on a map to find it. Some among us found absolutely extraordinary ways to devote themselves to Thailand’s development even in ’77—80. I admire the ‘pioneers’ of Peace Corps who had few resources other than President Kennedy’s vision; our Group as ‘mid-century’ Volunteers broadened and refined those contributions; now, with the deluge of resources that can be accessed via www technology there seem to be few impediments to today’s achievements by Volunteers. Incredibly, such sizable projects still fall within Peace Corps’ original goals: So long Board of Directors/Hello Peace Corps Volunteer. And what good luck we share in that we have the opportunity to maintain our own Group 58 weblog.

Coming home in 2001, I found all of life rather difficult and I thought what if I had NOT joined Peace Corps and worked overseas: a mainstream career, a home purchased when prices were affordable, a community of close knit friends… And then recently, I read that a book entitled, A Round-Heeled Woman* was re-written as a stage play, a working production in San Francisco was en route to New York City, etc. I got it into my head that I had to read this hilarious, happy-go-lucky autobiography by an independent, avant-garde female adventurer of my same age. Merging with the author’s point of view, I found that I was reading about my own home town, my neighborhood, my circumstances, my affinities, my reactions to society… As I completed my self-imposed reading assignment, I realized that the author was an incarnation of who I might have been had I not joined the Peace Corps. Not a reader’s reverie…a nightmare.

It is easy to remember Peace Corps days. Apparently that’s true for others—people say, thus and so happened and it reminded me of Peace Corps—which signals whatever the risk the unknown implies, it’s going to be OK. When we landed in Hong Kong, Chuck Hobbie took a few of us aside and told us to be certain to look after Jane that evening. On the elevator up to our rooms, Jane dropped her Braille typewriter on my foot; and later we found out that Chuck had taken a few of the Group to the Bottoms Up Club…

Peace Corps is like The Hotel California:

You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave

KH, February 14th 2010

*[Please, this is not a recommended book…the content came as a revelation to me, but would be an unlikely fit with any member of our Group: A 66 year old woman placed an ad in the New York Times Review of Books personals column expressing her desire for liaisons with men and offered her capacity to discuss Anthony Trollope should the subject be of mutual interest. A thin but popular book was the result of her experiences. And, my advice, don’t see the play either.]