Peace Corps
Thai 27
UPDATE August 2010

41 years ago we ended our training in Hawaii and started our adventure in Thailand

Barbara Theobald Waldscmidt
I had an incredible trip to Southeast Asia last August. I went to VietNam and Cambodia on a tour with Overseas Adventure Travel. There were so many extraordinary moments during my trip, but at the top of my list was my reunion with my former student, Sa-ard, who lived with Steve and me in Lampang forty years ago. You may remember Sa-ard. He turned up at our house on the campus of Galayanee Girls School one day in his monk's robes, wanting to learn English. His parents were rice farmers, and the only way he could go to school was by becoming a monk. Eventually he left the monkhood and lived with us. We sent him to secondary school at a Christian school in Lampang because he was too old to go to the schools where we taught. I have never in my forty years of teaching had a student who loved learning and worked as hard as Sa-ard. We lost contact with him when we returned to the US. I hadn't heard anything more about Sa-ard until Steve died. Steve had been lving in Singapore for a number of years before his death and had reunited with Sa-ard. When Steve's sister contacted me about Steve's death, she gave me Sa-ard's e-mail address. We kept in contact for a while but again lost touch. Flashforward to last spring when I signed up for the OAT trip which included an overnight stay in Bangkok. I contacted everyone I could think of to see if anyone could help me locate Sa-ard. Thanks to Hugh Leong who located Sa-ard living in Chiengmai. Sa-ard FLEW (remember he was a poor farm boy) to meet me. We recognized each other immediately in the hotel lobby, grabbed hands and just stood their sobbing. Sa-rd was never the "typical" Thai male! Over and over again, he thanked me for changing his life, starting him on a journey which has led him from teaching English in a secondary school, to being the head of teaching English in northern Thailand, to being the representative of Longman's Publishers for Southeast Asia, and to being a part-time professor at Chiengmai University in international business and establishing his own consulting firm. In Sa-ard, I saw the real power of the Peace Corps. It was a very humbling experience. I was so proud of what he had accomplished!
Susie Becker Cooper
I was in Tajikistan from January through March, serving as a long-term international election observer, again for the OSCE/ODIHR (Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe/Office of Democratic Institutions & Human Rights) (it's a mouthful...) I was paired with a very nice guy from Finland, and together with our local interpreter and driver, we were posted in the southwestern part of the country, very close to both the Uzbek and Afghan borders. It was fascinating to experience another country in Central Asia. Tajikistan was the poorest of the former Soviet Socialist Republics. It is still struggling, and trying to diversify from the previous cotton monoculture,, now raising a variety of vegetables (carrots, cabbage, onions, etc.) as well as nuts - walnuts, pistachios, etc. The elections were judged as not meeting international standards, which was not unexpected. People were most gracious and welcoming to us, and we had a great time, trekking, going to local sauna, getting to know the market, and traveling throughout the region to meet with local officials, political parties, and electoral officials. Though it was cold when we arrived, the predominate color was brown - with range upon range of barren and very rugged hills. When the snow arrived, it transformed the landscape into a winter wonderland, and was beautiful clinging to branches. By the time we left, the bitter cold was gone, and the earth had begun to green. Hardest part was having electricity (and thus heat) only a few hours daily. We froze much of the time. But great memories and many stories!

About a week ago, I deployed to New Orleans, then to Mobile, and am now posted in the Florida panhandle, with my partner who is from North Carolina. We are here as representatives of the Dept. of Homeland Security, in support of the "Unified Command" and the Coast Guard (which is the lead Federal agency) in connection with the Deep Water Horizon oil "spill." Don't know how long we'll be here. Some of our colleagues are working in Louisiana and some in Mississippi and Alabama, and there are others elsewhere in the FL Panhandle. So far there is no oil here, but there are a lot of preparations in case that happens. Lots of fear here and some anger, but not as much as in areas already impacted by oil. Today we saw "boom" being unloaded and set up. Working 7 days a week 8 AM - 6 PM - so I have to stop and hit the hay

Mona Melanson
I’ve been hard at work as an independent HR consultant in San Diego for the past three years.
San Diego still has great weather and plenty of wonderful places to hike and walk along the coast or inland canyons and hills in addition to Balboa park, the zoo and wild animal park.
As part of being an HR consultant, I’ve had to become a lot more tech savvy about websites, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media. Through different social media I’ve been able to reconnect with many former colleagues from different places and countries where I’ve worked that I had lost touch with mostly due to the changes of addresses I’ve had over the years.

A couple of weeks ago something wonderful happened to me on FaceBook. For the first time ever, one of my former students from Thailand contacted me. She was only a student of mine for the first year that I taught so she wasn’t sure I would remember her. Of course, I did because she was one of the very best students and I missed her when she moved away.
She told me that after high school she went to Thamassart University and for a couple of years was a volunteer teacher near the Burmese border. She earned her MBA in the U.S., married a Thai she met here and for a while they lived in the U.S. At some point they went back to Thailand for a some years to raise their four kids. They returned to the U.S. a few years ago and live in the Seattle area.
She wrote me that her second oldest son is applying to the Peace Corps! He was the one who found me on Facebook and encouraged her to contact me.
I was very touched when she wrote me that she still has the stamp I gave her as a “teacher reward” as she called it of the first man walking on the moon, (Neil Armstrong). My mother was very good about sending me letters with lots of commerative stamps on them. I remember giving those out to students who did the best on quizzes and tests; the Post Man who rode a bicycle to the school to deliver letters and packages to me; and my fellow teachers. I gave all of my stamps away so I was amazed and pleased to learn that she still has her stamp.
It’s been thrilling to reconnect with her after so many years and learn about her life and family. Now even more than before I am a big fan of social media and all the reconnecting I’ve been able to do because of all of it. In particular, I’d like to thank Ernie Geefay and Kevin Wheeler for their help and guidance along the technology and social media learning curve. You both helped me learn how to take better pictures with my Brownie Starflash (remember those?) back in our PC training days and now with the latest social media tools, thank you again and you still rock!

Maureen O'Brien
Maureen writes: Theikdi (husband) and I have recently returned from an excellent 2-week visit to Thailand.
Although our 8 days in Ubon were thoroughly enjoyable, especially our visit to Wat Nong Pah Pong and our 2 visits to Wat Pah Nanachat, we've concluded that Ubon isn't suitable for us as a retirement place.
Something for which I was grateful was the sense of ease and comfort that I felt throughout our time in Thailand, even in Bangkok. Bangkok, in fact, was a pleasant surprise.
We stayed with an old friend of Theikdi's, who lives in the Don Muaeng area.
Our greatest pleasure in Bangkok, besides seeing friends, was the excellent local market near Theikdi's friend's condominium. At first, we thought that we were going to be limited to Tesco and Big C. Another thing I was grateful for, and surprised at, was how quickly survival Thai returned to me.
We had no problem at all doing what we needed to do in our travels. Disappointing, but not at all surprising after all these years, was the fact that I've retained essentially nothing, in terms of vocabulary and even slightly complicated grammar, beyond survival Thai. Thai language studies will be a priority.

Paul Hobelman
Paul Hobelmann writes:Today I did Thai interpretation for a court case. I enjoy putting my skills to good use helping people--they have a hard time finding good interpreters in Wichita. Several Thais were listening in, and one of they congratulated me on doing a good job at the end of the day.

Dan Curry
We just got back from a trip to Kuala Lumpur as guests of the Malaysian government. I gave lectures and workshops on various aspects of filmmaking. We had time for a side trip to Bangkok to visit Hua's family. It was sad to see some of the destruction which caused the redshirts to be viewed in a dim light... especially because they tried to lob a rocket into Wat Prakaow, but fortunately missed. People are also upset about the damage to the tourist industry which will take years to recover.

Here are 3 links to articles about the current Thai political turmoil which were published in the Seattle Times. The articles were written by Darryl Johnson (RPCV Thailand 1963-65 and US Ambassador to Thailand 2001-4), who also is currently serving on the board for Friends of Thailand

2006-The surprising fall of Thailand's Thaksin
2009-Roots of the Crisis in Thailand

2010-Thailand demonstrations expose deep divisions


  Updates Made in May



I am sure we have all been following the reports of what is going on in Thailand. So much has changed since we were there. I still would love to go visit and see for myself but not this year. I am going with a friend on a two week tour of China, including Beijing, Shanghai, the Great Wall of course, the Terra Cotta warriors, etc. I will be going in late September and am eager to be off but am waiting on my passport which had to be renewed as China insists that your passport be good for a six month period beyond your stay. Then we must apply for visas. Nothing much else is happening in my life. Just square dancing, maintaining friendships, seeing off a good friend who went to teach English In Oman and had the horror story from hell about her very long trip getting there and the customs agent who took a dislike to her and her little companion dog. But she is finally settled in Ibri, a three hour taxi ride from Muscat where she will finish out the term and then decide if she wishes to return in September for another year. It is 100 degreees F at 10:30 PM so she doesn't go out much except to let the dog do his duty--he is actually the one who doesn't want to stay out and apparently dislikes anybody in long robes.


Well, we are under a state of emergency, but haven't seen anything up here yet. I wouldn't want to be in Bangkok though. I wrote about it on my blog a while back . We are keeping our head down.
I've started a new business. It's called eBooks in Thailand. Here is my website. I am hoping to present eBooks by people writing about Thailand. If you look at the Authors Page you'll see my business plan. It really started out with me trying to sell my own book Retired Life in Thailand. Let me know If anyone in our group is interested in publishing something about Thailand (or buying my book).

Janice Oldroyd

I've been following the situation in Bangkok with a certain amount of distress, thinking of people I k
now who live in the heart of the city. It's hard to watch, isn't it? Clark and I keep rocking along, wishing we could retire but knowing we can't with the stock market sliding again. So we keep our desks cluttered with stuff.
Clark continues to get to travel with the alumni travel program. I get to go sometimes, too.
I continue to work with CU undergraduate international affairs majors. My greatest pleasure is talking to them about Peace Corps. We have had a daughter-in-law living with us for the past year as she finished her undergraduate degree at CU Denver.
Our son started med school in California in August 09 and left his wife and dog with us until she finished school. It was fun and the house seems very empty right now, but we'll get used to it.
Our other son and wife stay busy with jobs as public school teachers - a tough profession these days. Their 2 and a half year old is the love of our lives. We see her about once a week, which is great fun. Our daughter fell in love with a Peace Corps recruit a month before he left for training in Mozambique. Since she got laid off from her design job in March, she took the opportunity to take a 3-month visit to Africa. I keep wondering what the Peace Corps Mozambique office thinks about a live-in girlfriend! She is having the time of her life, dealing with occasional water and electricity outages, and new adventures by the day. I call it "Peace Corps Lite." Her boyfriend was trained to teach chemistry, but when he arrived at his site, he found out he was actually going to teach physics and TEFL. Some things never change!

Bob Blau
(We) Definitely at night (41 years ago). They herded us onto a bus. That was when I started to appreciate that we weren't in Kansas ... or any of those other states ... anymore. Not like any bus I'd ever been on in America. And when we got out of the airport, the smells hit. And still too dark to have seen anything clearly.

Derek P. Brereton

Yes, when we arrived Bangkok was hot and dark, and I was bleary

My book, Campsteading: Family, Place, and Experience at Squam Lake, New Hampshire, has just been issued in paperback by Routledge. Here's some pictures of the log cabin we built from scratch in Sharon Hollow, Michigan.

Susan Auer

41 years ago: I remember it was a hot night. I remember the condensation on the windows of the VIP room at the airport. Kevin Delany was there to greet us and the welcomed me by my name. I thought Bangkok smelled like boiled hot dogs.

This year we've been busy remodeling bathrooms, I feel like I've been operating as contractor. I know all the plumbing, tile and granite stores in the area. I think our 2-week tandem bike trips have regrettably come to an end. My body can't take the extended pressure riding causes anymore. Steve's thinking scooters now, I prefer the thought of a little convertible sports car for touring Europe. Steve plans to retire next year and wants to get into photography and volunteer work. I still want more time for my mixed media art, but 2 grandchildren, Megan 4 and Kevin 1, have been taking priority. Of course I've been following the news from Thailand. I keep wondering what precautions the PCVs , especially in Bangkok, are taking. Hard to believe this is our peace loving Thailand. -Susan

Dewleen Baker

As always, I continue to work at my job, which at this point is focused more on research than on clinical care. I am heading up a large prospective study to look at risk and resilience factors for combat stress injuries, in particular, PTSD in a large group of active duty Marines, as well overseeing as a number of related projects. This is all highly engaging but leaves less time than I would like for travel, hiking and other pursuits. I continue to live in the same home in San Diego and to enjoy the city. I helped to put together my daughter's wedding last summer and had a great time doing so, learning how to make boutonnairs and bridal bouquets in the process, which I thoroughly enjoyed (who knows -- I may have a second avocation after retirement). She is now living in Berkelely with my new son in law and my grandpuppy, enjoying her Ph.D. program in English at UC Berkeley. Otherwise, much of my time since has been spent with helping my parents, who are now elderly and getting a bit frail.

Lou Parisien

I am retired from teaching since 2003. I still work two days a week at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport for Customs/Border Protection, meeting incoming international flights. I keep up my language skills greeting people from all over the world. It’s a job I enjoy and I hope to continue for a long time.
My wife, Barb, has been retired from teaching since 2005. She is an artist/gardener/writer/volunteer and goes to more meetings than I would ever want to attend.
We get away from our Minnesota winter for a week in Tucson each February. Here’s a picture of us hiking in Saguaro State Park. Our two boys live in Portland Oregon where they bought a house together. We will visit them in July and plan on meeting them in Hawaii at the end of September. It will be my first time back since Peace Corps.
Our boys traveled together to Thailand and Laos last February. I guess they got the bug after hearing about that part of the world from me as they grew up. They had a great time.
Our son, Mark, has a landscape design and installation company in Portland - Michael’s latest film venture, “I Love You, Too,” is on YouTube. Nothing new. We’re active and enjoy good health. Can’t ask for more.

Steve Tripp

I Visited Chiang Mai last November to attend a conference. Stayed at the Holiday Inn near the river. It was cool and pleasant.
I Met Hugh Leong and we drove randomly north of Chiang Mai up a very good mountain road.

We Stopped at the Queen’s Botanical Gardens and the at Proud Phufah “Hip” resort. Very nice and free wifi too.
I’m heading back in September (providing Thailand doesn’t fall off the map) to look at at possible retirement condos. I’m now in the Holiday Inn at Narita airport (Tokyo) on my way home from a conference in Penang, Malaysia. Ate far too much, including the 30% off super –buffet at the Shangri-La Hotel (or Shang-gorilla as we say in Japan). Quite warm and muggy, but Penang is interesting as usual and booming with oodles of skyscraping condos and new roads, bridges, and shopping centers. Met a friend who’s living (very cheaply) on a boat at the government marina ($100/month, free electricity=constant air conditioning). I could do that!

Ernie Geefay
Dim and I just finished playing tour guide and host to 7 of her old Thai college classmates (Chiang Mai University class of 1971). We met them in Vancouver and took them to Victoria, Seattle, Yosemite, Hearst Castle, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe. Many of them spent 2 months at our house in El Dorado Hills. It was lots of fun
Topic #1 of every discussion was the street fighting going on in Bangkok. Most of them are supporters of the current government. To hear them talk about the "Red Shirts" you would think they were taking about some foreign invaders instead of their own Thai countrymen. So strange to see Thailand so divided this way.
Kevin Wheeler and I continue to be active in Fordecusa. This year we had a Thai dinner and raffle and raised about $8000 to buy bicycles for poor Thai children who have to walk a long way to get to school. We are planning another dinner in September and maybe a Thai cooking demonstration to raise more money.
After 40 years we still have deep connections to Thailand. Dim and I are still planning on retiring in Hua HIn, Thailand. The question is: when?

Maureen O'brien


Theikdi and I have recently returned from an excellent 2-week visit to Thailand. Our 8 days in Ubon were thoroughly enjoyable, especially our visit to Wat Nong Pah Pong and our 2 visits to Wat Pah Nanachat

Something for which I was grateful was the sense of ease and comfort that I felt throughout our time in Thailand, even in Bangkok. Bangkok, in fact, was a pleasant surprise. We stayed with an old friend of Theikdi's, who lives in the Don Muaeng area. Our greatest pleasure in Bangkok, besides seeing friends, was the excellent local market near Theikdi's friend's condominium. At first, we thought that we were going to be limited to Tesco and Big C.
Another thing I was grateful for, and surprised at, was how quickly survival Thai returned to me. We had no problem at all doing what we needed to do in our travels. Disappointing, but not at all surprising after all these years, was the fact that I've retained essentially nothing, in terms of vocabulary and even slightly complicated grammar, beyond survival Thai. Thai language studies will be a priority.

Mike Schmicker
I'm Still working at Navatek during the day and writing on the side at night and on weekends. I’m working on a film treatment based on the life of a famous Italian medium who reputedly levitated tables and conjured up spirits of the dead in dimly-lit séance rooms all across Europe at the end of the 19th century. Meanwhile, one of my Red Room blogs ("Draft Bait (9) Hemingway, Maugham and Me") dealing with my Peace Corps experience in Thailand during the Vietnam War was published not too long ago in the anthology FIRST OF THE YEAR 2009. The American Book Review gave the anthology some good pub: "Arresting, fractious...At once contrarian, ambitiously inclusive and wide-ranging, First of the Year has attracted an extended crew of intelligent, passionate, polemical writers..."
I’m now up on Facebook, and am linked with some of the old Thai 27 gang. Obviously watching the Thai situation very closely. As most of our group knows, I’m currently banned from Thailand for lese-majeste, following an article I wrote for the Asian Wall Street Journal in December 1982 questioning the suitability of the Crown Prince to succeed King Bumibhol, and speculating on the future of the Thai monarchy should Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn ascend to the throne. But I wish Thailand and the Thai people only the best in these difficult days. If anyone gets out to Hawaii, make sure to call me and we’ll have lunch, dinner or just coffee if their time is limited. It would be fun to see some of the old gang again. Mike
Rachel Baker I live in Oakland now with my partner, Martin, but still keep up contacts with friends and family in San Jose. Recently we attended the May opening festival of the newly renovated Oakland Museum, for which Martin contributed narration in dialects for various historical sections (San Francisco, the gold rush, immigrants). We will have a booth on Farmer's Market and street festival days selling jewelry and hats this summer, finish another movie, submit a one-act to the SF theatre festival and generally enjoy ourselves! I also still work as a special needs caregiver and we still plan runs to LA and Mexico for auditions and fishing vacations.

Mike Billington
I'm rather deeply involved in the crisis in Thailand, although as a result I'm certainly not welcome there any longer, or at least until this feudal monarchical structure is eliminated. I'm sending you A few things I've published on the situation -
the first an overview from several weeks ago,
the second a short report on the Government's move to overt fascism.
I'm finishing an article for the next EIR on the way that the British-backed government rejected the effort by Hillary and Kurt Campbell to stop the carnage, leading to the insane assault of May 19.
I'll send it to you in a few days. By the way, the Thai Embassy is organizing something for former Thai PC - if you haven't heard from them, give a call to Nuchjaree Klongsungsorn at the Embassy (202-298-4794) who is organizing it. My best --- Mike