Family and Friends

The one thing that can be said after spending time away from family and friends is how much more you appreciate their company when they are in your presence.  To have this scenario play out for us on two separate continents makes it a difficult burden to bear as we have to sacrifice the pleasure of being with some to the joy of being with others at any given time.  This first week back in Thailand has gone by quickly, but not without wanting to know how things are going on back home.  This first week also has been a constant reminder of the many family and friends that we have returned to, some in unexpected ways.

I have spent my entire time in Bangkok away from Jet’s family in Phitsanulok (a 4 hour drive north) so I have only had hours with Jet, Ben, and Jet’s mother since our arrival.  I had hoped to visit Phitsanulok this weekend to be with them all, but I received a unique invitation to serve on a panel discussion here in Bangkok on Friday afternoon which will prevent me from travelling.  This is compounded by the fact that Jet will not be there as she is leaving with friends for a few days in Hong Kong, so spending just over a day in Phitsanulok would not be worth the work I could get done staying around here.  Instead, I will travel to Phitsanulok the following weekend and enjoy the few days we have left.  I speak to Jet on the phone several times a day and surprisingly with Ben too.  Ben never liked to talk on the phone back in the US (though no matter how hard I tried), but Ben will talk on the phone with me more than he talks when I see him in person.  Jet said that Ben still insists speaking only in English, though we know that he can speak and understand Thai, so many people cannot understand him.  Jet also said that the warm weather has been bad for Ben and that he has broken out in a rash.  That and the mosquito bites he has gotten make it sound like Ben is in rough shape, but he sounds like he is having a blast when I speak to him on the phone.

Since I am without family, I can reflect on the friends that I have here in Bangkok.  In what was a surprise to me earlier last week, my good friend Father Bipin is still here.  When I taught at the Hua Mak campus two years ago I first met Father Bipin as he was just starting his master’s thesis.  This week he defends his thesis and on July 6, two days after we leave, Father Bipin will return home to India.  There is a certain symmetry to this relationship and I consider him a dear friend.  I have also spent an extended amount of time with Sup, my friend from back when I first started the Ph.D. program at UW-Milwaukee.  We have gone running several times together and have had dinner together twice.  I did my first evening run with Sup last night and what a difference it is running in the evening than the early morning.  There is not much life happening at 5:00am and only a handful of people working out.  At 6:00pm, there were tons of people jogging, playing soccer, playing badminton, doing aerobics, and just walking around.  There were literally thousands of people everywhere and was a side of Thailand that I had never seen before.  With the World Cup going on, there were several cinema-sized TV screens set-up and live TV broadcasts and telecasts.  It was truly a wonderful experience being around so many people, it reminded me of Summerfest back in Milwaukee which I will be missing again this summer.  As for other friends, there have been a few familiar faces that have approached me, from faculty members to former students, and it is always a surprise to wonder who will be the next familiar face I see.  To illustrate this point, there are dozens of security people around the university (and all universities in Thailand) that are there primarily to direct traffic.  Even though I can’t speak Thai and they can’t speak English, I have gotten to know several of the security guards.  They will stop and give me a formal salute and greeting, which they often do for faculty that pass by, but they always do it with tremendous vigor and professionalism when I pass – probably because they know I appreciate it so much.  Anyways, last week I ran into a female security guard that was stationed at the building I stayed at two years ago.  She almost jumped out of her boots when she saw me and greeted me with an excessive amount of excitement.  She started speaking Thai very quickly to me, but only realized after about 20 seconds that I still could not speak Thai.  With that, she asked about Ben and I showed her a recent picture, and we went our separate ways.  I have forgotten about some of the simple relationships like that I have made while over here, but meeting her then and thinking about that exchange now brought a smile to my face.  It is difficult to leave family and friends back home, but returning to some familiar faces in Thailand makes the sacrifice worthwhile.

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2 Responses to “Family and Friends”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    It is good to hear that you are adjusting to your new schedule. I do not envy your hours. I know that I would be exhausted. We’ll miss you this weekend – I think Janette’s family, Sam & Bodhi, Dad and us are all going to get together on Saturday. It is suppose to be hot – I think 80’s. We are looking forward to when you do get back here so that we can have some family gatherings around a lake with you.
    Don’t get too dehydrated on those runs 🙂
    Stay Safe!

  2. Linda & Donald Says:

    Andy & Jet, You have called so many times to check on me while I was in the hospital and after I came home. I appreciate all the calls and caring even though there were lots of times that I did not feel up to talking.

    We are glad to report that as of my report yesterday, my white cells are finally back in the normal range. In one week, my count went from 1.7 to 5.4. Praise God! We couldn’t believe it at first. I said “are you sure?” The doctor had said all along that it would do that. The bone marrow was always working, but as with everything else I do, it was slow. A couple of the other counts are slightly below normal, but are sill coming up.

    Donald is happy I think mainly because I can go grocery shopping and do most of the cooking and cleaning!

    I hope the remainder of your trip goes well. It’s good to hear from you all.

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