Friday, September 1, 2017

The Experiment in International Living.... where it all began

Expect the Unexpected was not a haphazard choice for my blog.  It was one of the first things I learned in February of 1974 while traveling to Denmark with The Experiment in International Living.  A semester abroad was unusual in the 70s, but clearly spoke to the 20 students from across the USA that were part of my group.  I can't speak highly enough about The Experiment and my experience, but that is not the story, simply the background for an amazing reunion and continued world exploration.

A little background on The Experiment

A naive, and very young 19 year old, this was my first trip to Europe.  When our flight was rerouted to Liege due to an airline strike, Lori and I found each other.... and our love for Europe!

Yes, we sat on a sidewalk eating fresh bread and drinking wine (probably out of the bottle).

After 3 weeks of intensive language instruction in Copenhagen, we ventured to Askov where we took classes and mingled with Danish students.

Askov is about 54 km due east of Esbjerg. (in the center of the peninsula)

I met Peter, probably at one of the late night beer socials, and it didn't take me long to fall madly in love. From Askov, I went to Odense to live with my Danish family, and then had several weeks to work on my independent study. I spent as much time as I could with Peter.

Peter and me in Askov.  A little grainy; before the days of digital cameras!

Our plan was for Peter to come to the United States while I finished my college career.  Of course, we would live happily ever after!!!

Plans have a way of falling apart.  After living with me in Natick, moving to Lori's apartment in Boston, then moving to Keene, Peter returned to Denmark.

Life went on.  I graduated from college,  moved to the North Shore, got married a few years later, had two children, divorced, and moved again.  At this point I was nearing retirement.

As I was checking my email at school one day, I was very surprised to see something from a "Peter Langdal".  I only knew one, and that had been 40 (yes, 40) years ago.  He asked if I had studied in Denmark in the 70s, and remembered a "Peter Langdal".  Of course I did!  We emailed back and forth, he asked about Lori, and we shared stories of the past years.  Through Peter, I reconnected with Lori.

Over the next few years, we sporadically updated each other.  Peter has two daughters he seems very close to, and a wonderful wife.  Unfortunately, Annie (his wife)succumbed to cancer a few years ago.  Lori has two children, her son living in Europe, and her daughter in NYC.  Her partner, Kenneth, is a successful artist.

In February (the depths of winter), I discovered an amazingly low fare (on Norwegian) to Copenhagen.  Peter and I had discussed visiting each other, and this was too good to pass up.   After being assured my visit would be welcome, I booked an extended stay in September.  I don't know about Peter, but I certainly went back in forth about the prudence of this decision!

Meanwhile, Peter booked a flight to NYC to stay with Lori in July.  Realizing it might be good to see each other before spending 16 days together, I found a $5 MegaBus trip!  Although there were more than butterflies rolling around in my stomach while I waited for Peter to arrive, it took no more than 10 minutes to pick up our friendships where we had left off.

My stay in NYC was far too short, but in just a few days...... 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Only miss the sun when it starts to snow…..

2 days……  yikes! this year has flown by.  And, as I count the days, I've been making a mental list of the things I'll miss the most…. and a few that I won't miss.

Love this photo…   I'll miss soi dogs

In the winter (yes there is a "cold" season), the street dogs all wear t-shirts.  David made a good point when he said, so do they dress themselves, or do they help each other put the t-shirt on?

Thai does not translate to English easily.  As a result, signs are very amusing….


Riding on the back of David's motorcycle.  helmet less. side saddle. 
 I seriously want to buy myself a little motorbike when I get home!

The fresh fruit stand just outside of school.  They always give me new fruits to try, and make sure they pick out the freshest ones when I buy something.
 (they also steered me clear of the expensive California oranges).

and mangosteens…

My "alternative" restaurant…. 7-11.  
Who knew they had such good food???

Ham and cheese sandwiches (or croissants) that they heat up for you

Gyozas… pork dumplings…. again they heat them up.  Look at that little pork face on the package!

Chocolate lava cake (a recent find).

I will not miss anything fish/squid flavored. 
 C'mon those of you who've lived in Thailand… you know what I'm talking about!

something else I will miss….
My other go-to restaurant…. the "30 baht place".
It's now actually gone up to 35 baht, but we never had the heart to change its name.

My little Thai friends….

Woonsai from Saigon (the restaurant)

Ice, the little girl who lives down the soi.
She repeats everything I say with perfect pronunciation!
Hello….. hello
You look very pretty today….. you look very pretty today
Is this your dog?…… is this your dog?
You get the idea.

Namfon, who told me I have a beautiful smile.
(it takes one to know one)

Cheap flights on Air Asia….

and hotels that you don't have to book ahead.
Even in Bangkok, you can get a good room for $40.

Taxi rides that seldom cost more than 40 baht…. 
(unless you're in Bangkok)

Taking a songtheaw for 10 baht to save money….

And elephants…. I LOVE elephants!

Khao niaow mamuang  (mango and sticky rice)

But I won't really miss just plain rice….

or the Thai variation of sandwiches….
corn and salad cream, and imitation crab meat with greens.

It will be hard to live without Vietnamese coffee ...

and Saigon (the restaurant owned by Woonsai's family)  where I get my fix!

9 baht cones at Dairy Queen…. a daily indulgence
(okay, so I've stepped it up to the small caramel and cookie Blizzard)

I will miss the quirky Thai sense of humor…

Saw this one in the SK mall.

I won't miss having to buy bottled water everywhere in Thailand.
Is it true that you can really drink water from the tap in America?

I'll miss the generosity of a wonderful group of women who threw me an impromptu birthday party even though they'd only known me for 24 hours.

My adopted family

This is the ultimate example of Thai hospitality… my family knew me only from blood work I had done when I began teaching.  The two daughters go to Benchama, but they are in AP, not EP.
They saw me walking to school, and began offering me rides.  So, every morning they pick me up in the morning for school, and on Fridays they take me out to dinner.
Oh, and give me fresh eggs from their chickens.

The world would do well with more of this type of generosity!

My dentist, Dr. M and his wife, Kate.
It will be worth a trip back to Ubon just to have my dental work done!

I can hardly bear to think of not seeing my very wonderful friends from Take A Break.
To make things less painful, I bought extra brownies when I went today (which will last less than 24 hours).  Little did I know, they snuck in extras, and some banana muffins as well <3

I think I might miss binge-watching current American TV shows on my computer
(without even paying HBO!)
But then again, maybe I'll be able to watch them as they air.
Or, maybe I'll have other things to do rather than watch TV.

I won't miss "squat toilets"….

but I will miss this addition… 
it's like taking a shower whenever you use the toilet!

I won't miss skin whitening cosmetics

But I'm not sure what I'll do without Kua's beauty advice
(other than the criticism of tanned skin)

John and Lamnao have always been there to keep me from losing my mind.
Ya, life is not perfect every day!  And while in Ubon, I became a Chelsea fan.

I no longer remember what it is like to survive temperatures that dip below 80 F.
And of course, a climate like this
makes for a bountiful supply of the most beautiful flowers, year round.


and I won't miss the panic of filling out purple books at the end of the term!

I will miss the absolute respect teachers receive in Thailand.  Lertluck tells me teachers are among the 3 most important people: mothers, fathers, and teachers.

Students "waii" to their teachers as a sign of respect, whenever they see them.

Every one of my classes starts with the class leader saying, "stand up, please".  When the students are standing, the say, "Good morning, teacher Elsa."  They remain standing until I give them a signal to be seated.  Now, they may talk throughout class, and try to use their cell phones, but it's always an awesome start to class.

I will miss my students terribly!
I have grown to love them all.  I love the laughter and fun that is so natural to them.  I love their generosity.  I love the fact that there are "no filters"!

To Benchama's best….

Camp… being Camp

morning meeting

M-3 (now M-4) in front of the old building.

Playing games about cooperation…  they could teach others a lot about that topic! 

English Camp at Sirindhorn Dam

Malaysia and Singapore trip in January.

Lisa and Khim were good teachers, but I never did master Thai dance.

Calvin (red jacket) is clearly thinking about a futbol match.

M114, one of my math classes.

Some of the more serious girls from M115!

Probably checking to see if I had finished correcting finals.

These students know how to make a teacher feel appreciated.
They love fun and a good time!

Just looking at these pictures makes me want to cry.

And Edgar, in back of the students…. 
One of the best science teachers I have ever encountered, and a wonderful human being.

Being serenaded from the EP building to our going away party.
Talented students….

and Thai dancing.

Far too many student memories to include here, so I'll move on….

My director, Lertluck Tangpanit. We talk about the things we have in common; not just our age, but teaching at the same school we began our careers in, and the feeling of looking forward to retirement!

and…. I'm not sure if I could have pulled off an entire year without my surrogate son, David.  Thanks, David!

and so, the clock is ticking.

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos and memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth it was worth it all the while

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right
I hope you had the time of your life.

Thank you Thailand!