Small World

Our flights to Thailand were rather uneventful, which I suppose is a good thing.  We flew on Nippon Airlines (ANA) for the first time and it was a stark contrast to the flights we took the past two years with Cathay Pacific and Korean Airlines, respectively.  The airplanes appeared to be half the size of flights we previously took and then nearly half of the seats were business class.  Another difference was the service – barely any kids movies for Ben to watch the entire flight and getting anything from the flight attendants (e.g., snacks, desserts, toys for Ben, etc.) was challenging.  The big surprise was during our layover at Narita airport.  I met up with Jet as she sat down for a meal at a table in an airport restaurant with a new Thai friend that she just met.  As I approached her, I recognized the two people that just happened to be sitting next to them; Robert Setaputra and his wife Julie.  Robert was a fellow Ph.D. student and his wife a masters student at UW-Milwaukee.  Small world.

So what has happened so far since we arrived?  Well, we picked up our bags and headed out of the airport by around 12:30am.  Jet and Ben left with her Mom and friend (“Wow”) to her Mother’s condo while Sup drove me to the ABAC (Assumption University) Hua Mak campus so that I could get my room.  The room is on the 14th floor of the same building I stayed at 2 years ago and the layout, look-and-feel is exactly the same.  I have Internet access as I did two years ago and is the one thing I wished I had staying at the condo I lived in last year.  The accommodations are just fine with me even though it is a huge contrast from the luxury of last year’s condo, but the big issue I am facing now is that the air conditioner is not working.  With very hot days and evenings ahead of me, this must be resolved soon.  It has been difficult getting into a new sleeping routine tonight with the room being so warm.

At 7:00am, I left on a chartered van to the MBA freshman orientation at the Hilton resort in Hua Hin, which is about a 2.5 hour drive south from Bangkok.   The events for the orientation were similar to those from last year, with the highlight being the Bai-Sri (“Bi See”) ceremony.  I met several other ABAC faculty before the ceremony, which was appreciated because I have always found it to be difficult to connect with faculty over here because they are always on the move or schedules just don’t match up.  Instead of “hitting the town” during the break we had before dinner, I stayed behind and slept in the hotel room while Jet, Ben, Jet’s Mom, and “Wow” ventured out.  After dinner, we visited the local bazaar for a little shopping and then called it a day.  I woke up early the next morning (Sunday) and watched the sunrise and enjoyed the lovely weather on the beach.  Once everyone else woke up, we spent the morning playing at the beach, swimming in the hotel pools, and eating breakfast until we left.  On the way back to Bangkok, we stopped at Maruekkhathaiyawan Palace in Hua Hin, which was the summer palace of the former king of Thailand in the 1920’s.  Not long after we arrived at Jet’s Mom’s condo, I headed off via taxi to my room at the ABAC Hua Mak campus.  Since I needed some living essentials (e.g., toothpaste, shampoo, soap, etc.), I walked over to the Big-C (like a Wal-Mart) for some shopping.  There was a Big-C almost right next to the condo I stayed at last year, but is about a 30 minute walk from my accommodations this year, so this gave me time to relax and enjoy the bustling end of the weekend.

With this trip, I will have lived or visited Thailand for the fifth time and a cumulative total of around 10 months.  There have been a few changes I have noted in my short time here so far during my current visit.  First, I almost feel as if I am on a timer.  Since I will only be here until July 4 (1 month), I know with everything I have scheduled, this will be a very quick visit.  This is the first time also that the flight to Thailand (about 19-20 hours in the air) seemed to go by as if it were a 4 hour flight to Vegas.  In addition, now being in Bangkok, eating the food, riding in taxi’s, and walking around, the experience is really not foreign to me this trip as it has been in previous trips.  It is almost as if it is like taking a day trip to Chicago – not everything is as familiar as home, but there are no surprises or at least anything happening around me that has surprised me.  This really is becoming a small world.

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