Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mornings in Lumpini

If I had realized how much interesting stuff happened in Lumpini Park in the mornings, I could have had an entire series of blog posts.  Of course that would require I log in more often and actually write, but my laziness is another story altogether.

So, of the crazy/weird/cool things I've witnessed while running in Lumpini Park in the morning, here are some of the highlights:
  • Hundreds of people doing tai chi.  I mean literally hundreds.  Groups all over the park, doing their best to keep it serene.  I have no doubt most of them could easily kick my trash.
  • Hands down the gnarliest tai chi folks out there are the group of ladies who use the folding fans.  Wicked awesome to hear them snap those fans open and shut.  They move so gracefully, it's truly amazing to watch.
  • Not to be outdone, the dozens of folks doing high-energy aerobics near the Rama VI statue at the southwest corner of the park.  I've actually seen these groups in many cities around Thailand, and I always find them interesting.  You've got the Energizer Bunny leading the exercise, and maybe half a dozen people who can match their pace.  And you've got a few others barely moving at all.  And of course there are the guys there trying to pick up chicks, but don't want to sweat while doing it.
  • Various political rallies--People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD, also known as "yellow-shirt") were out this morning.  Last Friday night (channeling Katy Perry, anyone?) another group was talking against constitutional amendments.  Lots of railing against the current government, while the vendors hawk their wares--including some of my favorite street foods (grilled pork, fried chicken, and sticky rice)--but no hints of violence or taking over major intersections and paralyzing parts of the city.
  • Guys practicing their golf swings by hitting ice cubes into the lake.  Literally the coolest thing I've seen at Lumpini.  Get it?  Coolest...
  • Drum lines and marching band practice.  Well, I think they were a marching band, but truth be told, the weren't marching.  They were just kind of...sitting and playing.
  • Ninjas on bicycles.  I get why people cover themselves from head to toe with spandex, I understand that Thais don't want to get dark skin.  But why on earth would you wear all black while riding a bicycle at 10:30 in the morning?  It's HOT, people!

Of course the wildest thing has been this crazy American who runs around the park with no shoes on...

This Is a LIttle Overdue--Hello, Bangkok. Didja Miss Me?

So, a few folks have realized that I've been back in Bangkok for a few weeks.  I suppose I should explain why, so that the three people who read my blog know.

As most people who know us already know, our family spent two years in Thailand while I was working at the US Embassy in Bangkok.  Last July we returned to the United States, and we're happily settled back into life in America with it's wicked good potable tap water, variable seasons, and Five Guys hamburgers.

Now a series of events beginning in November conspired to pull me back to Thailand for a temporary assignment.  Unfortunately, the woman who took my place at the Embassy required medical attention in the United States, and as the doctors helped her get better, it took longer than they had expected.  It led to the Embassy asking if my office could spare me for 6-10 weeks to cover my old position while my colleague got all squared away.

I suppose at some point I should question the security of my position back home if they were willing to let me come here for over a month...

Anywho, before my office and the Embassy squared everything away I made sure I had Mali's permission to come out, and bada-bing-bada-boom!  Here I am.  I've been here now for five weeks, and this is actually my final week in Bangkok.  My replacement is back in country, all healed up and actually ready to jump right back into the thick of it and do the job she was brought here to do.

It's been good being here.  Since I was asked to do my old job, I was able to step right in and contribute immediately.  Two days after getting here I went back to Thailand's southernmost provinces to talk with folks about the long-running insurgency there, just like I used to.  I've been to two political rallies, just like I used to do.  And I've had plenty of meetings with lots of folks to gather information for the Ambassador and other Department folks back in Washington.  It's also been fun to get people's reactions when they see me--a lot of, "Hey, I thought you left!" comments from both Americans and Thais at the Embassy.  Good times.

The best part is that I've lost weight (about 15 pounds so far) and I feel more fit than when I left America.  Part of that has been due to the CrossFit program the Embassy Marines are running on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons--there's a lot to be said for sharing the (temporary) misery of pushing your physical limits with a bunch of other folks.  I've also been getting some miles of running in, including a wonderful seven-mile run in Vientiane, Laos.  I've also been able to catch up on movies and explore downtown Bangkok a little more than I was able when we lived here--we lived about 17 miles north of the Embassy, so I didn't hang out downtown very much.

All that said, I'm ready to go home and hug my kids and kiss my wife again.  I've missed them terribly.  And under extreme duress, I might even confess that I've missed my seminary students.  But don't tell them that.  Besides, it's ridiculously hot here, still.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Wife Would Say I'm Crazy, I'd Say I Just Accepted a Challenge

This evening I wandered up to our old neighborhood to look for some stuff for Mali and to play some soccer.  Successful on the first agenda item, not so much on the second.  I should have known better--today was a Buddhist holiday, so the school was closed, and past experience is that when the school is closed, the guys don't show up to play soccer.

Oh, I forgot to mention--I'm back in Bangkok on a temporary assignment, so Mali and the kids are back in Virginia without me.  I should blog about why I'm here and what I've done.  Later.

But back to my immediate situation.  No soccer.  I was totally bummed, because I loves to play me some soccer.  But there I was, all dressed up with nobody there to play.  What to do, what to do.  I had to get home, but I also wanted to get some exercise (I'm supposed to be running the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Washington DC next week).  My options were:

A) Hail a taxi and have it take me to the train station.  That's the sensible solution, that's the thing that Mali would prefer I do.
B) Run to the train station.  It's only about 10 miles.

Naturally, I went with Option B.  Ten miles, with a backpack that weighed roughly eight pounds.  In Thailand.  It was awesome.

And for the record, Mali did say I was crazy when I told her what I did.  She also asked me to not tell her when I do things like that.  Man, I love that woman!