At reconnect training in Supan Buri, I learned how to become a better volunteer and cleaned up some of my language skills.
That’s the summary of the sessions I sat through Monday through Saturday. The rest is the fun stuff.
Good, cheap Thai food across the street
My first day in Supan Buri I found the restaurant I’d be eating at for the next two weeks. I served the same dishes any other Thai restaurant served, but the main waiter was cool and knew a little English. He was in his early forties, smoked while he worked and had photos of him and his wife on the wall with their arms around each other – quite risqué by Thai standards. By the third or fourth time I visited, he knew my order: fried with pork and an egg on top.
“You’re what Grammy Hall would call ‘a real Jew’”
I finally have it. If I were to have one movie in my possession over the next two years, it would be Annie Hall and it currently sits in my computer. Myself, Erin, Dev, Josh and Tracy watched it together on a large TV. I plugged in a flash drive with the movie and I watched my first movie on a TV since last January. That movie never gets old.
“The National Review? What, are you dating a right-wing rock star?”
“My grammy didn’t give gifts. She was too busy being raped by Cossacks.”
“They (Los Angeles) don’t throw away their garbage. They turn it into TV shows.”
A trip to Tesco-Lotus, a.k.a. The Wal-Mart of Thailand
I feel for Erin. She has five big strikes against her in Thai society: she’s young, she’s a woman, she’s white, she’s attractive, and she’s very tall. All five of these characteristics make her stick out more than the average foreigner and I saw the proof as we strolled through Tesco-Lotus. Rarely did we pass a group of people who didn’t turn their heads and stare at my 6-foot-2 lady friend. Erin does her best to take it in stride by occasionally staring right back at the Thais, sometimes crossing her eyes at the children and now and then surprising them by speaking Thai to them.
She’s white, tall, beautiful AND she speaks Thai! (At this point the onlooker’s head explodes)
When we got on our song-teeo (glorified pickup truck with tall topper) to leave, a group of teenage girls kept staring at us. This time I took the initiative and spoke some random Thai phrases to them. Their giggling increased and then quickly stopped, as well as their stares, when I pointed my camera at them.
This is how you celebrate our nation’s independence
Peace Corps Thailand group 123 knows how to celebrate Independence Day. It started with a parade around the hotel parking lot with most volunteers dressed as various figures in American history. Josh was George Washington, Mark was Abraham Lincoln, Tammy was the Golden Gate Bridge and Dev, with his Indian blood, walked in the parade with no costume and announced, “I’m an immigrant!” In returning to the hotel, the Thai instructors had a surprise for us. They’d practiced all week and did a wonderful job with their rendition of the national anthem.
Then there was dinner with no rice in sight. We had a classic Fourth of July spread of hamburgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, cookies, soda, fresh bread and cheese. Yes, when we were planning this event the week before, everyone was very excited to hear we’d be eating hamburgers but all 63 volunteer erupted in cheers when we learned we’d each get a slice of cheese. It’s the little things.
After dinner, there was the pageant. Every volunteer was to dress up as patriotic as possible and then the hosts Christine Duffy and Ashley Dress would read their pageantry answer we’d filled out previously. The questions were one of the following:
– If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why.
– If you could invite one person to a dinner party, who would it be and why.
– If you could be on the cover of any magazine, what would it be and why.
I can’t say I dressed up too much aside from my Minnesota Twins shirt, but thanks to Erin Lubeck, I did grab the attention of many people for the next week (and still going) with my blue painted toenails. Why not? The Fourth of July only comes around once a year and I’ll (probably) only experience two of them in Thailand.
I did a cartwheel onto the stage as Christine read my wish to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated sliding head-first into third base just out of the reach of Alex Rodriguez’s tag after a triple in the gap at Target Field in Game 4 of the American League Championship series to help complete a sweep of the New York Yankees and go on to the World Series.
After the pageant, the party began. Paul had the fantastic idea to put a baseball game on the screen. I plugged my computer into the system and soon we were watching last year’s All-Star game. Well, the dance party had begun by now. Dan, Kelly and myself were dancing, but we kept our eyes on the game.
When the Michael Jackson songs came on, I made sure to hit the dance floor and thoroughly embarrass Erin with my wicked moves that were described by Dan as “more exercise than dancing.” The rhythm I don’t have I make up for in coordination … or so I tell myself.
Game 7 of the 1991 World Series relived
Why was I in suspense? This game happened almost 20 years ago and I’ve watched it over and over since. I was in suspense because I was watching it with people who had never seen it and they were in suspense. Tracy didn’t even know the outcome and Dan, a Braves fan, didn’t know how it ended. The beer flowed like wine and the scoreless matchup between John Smoltz and Jack Morris extended farther and farther. When the famous eighth inning struck, the shouting could be heard throughout the third floor of the hotel.
Dan kept telling me to shut up whenever I was hinting at what was about to happen. He didn’t want to know. It was his first time seeing the greatest game in baseball history. The shouts began when Terry Pendleton almost struck out with no out and Lonnie Smith on first base. They reached a crescendo when Pendleton doubled to left-center field and Smith was unable to score on the hit-and-run thanks to a decoy play by Chuck Knoblauch and Greg Gagne. I rewound the video and we watched it over and over. Tracy and Dan both needed to see exactly what happened.
I told Dan not to worry. His Braves still had runners on second and third with no out. They could still pull it off.
But they didn’t pull it off. The Twins won 1-0 in the 10th inning (again!) and Dan left my room in disgust. It was glorious.
What else happened over reconnect? I ate a lot of pizza, drank a good amount of Heineken, was asked repeatedly by women to take my shirt off, talked literature with Dev and Josh, and tried not to sleep through a few morning sessions and enjoyed every second of it.