The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Heat
02.02.2010 - 06.02.2010
In case you were wondering, (not) I've decided to describe our most recent travels while they are still fresh, and then I will return to our teaching experience in China and travels to other parts of Asia.
We are on the road again, or rather we have just returned from an 11 week jaunt to Southeast Asia. At the suggestion of so many of our Burmese refugee English students, including our favorite monks, we began this latest excursion with a visit to their troubled country.
Our first stop, Bangkok. Khao San Road and surrounds remain largely unchanged, still a throwback to the 60's. Sitting here by the small pool at New Siam 2, the place feels very familiar after five or six previous visits.
I am reading The Forever War, about Iraq and Afganistan, and am reminded how US soldiers came here for R@R from Vietnam. Now it is mostly young backpackers and families resting up in between their travels. Iraq is too far away for these new soldiers, but with the cheap street food, Thai prostitutes, cluster bombs and phosphorus, jihadis instead of gooks, the sense of historical deja vu is nearly complete. The only thing missing is the napalm, but you don't need that in the desert. The jaunty disco music in the background rounds out the picture. Fuck You, Fuck You, very, very much. I kid you not.
In our bathroom the sign reads: To Flash Toilet Push Handle Until Finish.
On the the street the sign reads: Fooking Good Food, Fooking Good Song, Fooking Good Beer, Fooking Nice People.
After a couple of semi-comatose days recovering from the 26 hour flight, we took a long taxi ride to the only Burmese Monastery in Bangkok, which just happens to be run by the nephew of my English student, the Sayadow or head monk, here in Rensselaer.
He has a boyish, infectious energy, just like his Uncle, and was quite pleased to see us, especially as we had agreed to sponsor him for a visit to the US. Also there was an ex-professor of ethnobiology, Dr Myint, who seemed quite knowledgeable about many things, and who spoke English well. He said he had a wife and daughter in Yangon and was planning to return in a few days. Another gentlemen, with even better English told us he had been living in Thailand for 10 years, but was hoping to gain political asylum in Copenhagen.
In typical Burmese fashion, they fed us a huge meal, though I ate little, already having some stomach problems adjusting to the food.
The beds at New Siam were much harder than I remembered, or was I just getting older?