Peace Corps
Thai 27
Ernie Geefay and Family (L-R) Cathy, Dim, "Billie Jean", Ernie (2003)

I started out teaching TEFL at Hor Wang school just north of Bangkok. At the time I lived in a house on Soi Aree Sumphan Saam with Mike Schmuecker, Sam Sorich and Jim Barber from our group. I wasn't adjusting to the culture well. Despite being in Bangkok, a big metropolitan city with lots of western influence, It was rather lonely at first. I didn't have very many Thai friends because of the language barrier. On top of that I didn't like teaching kids. I wasn't a very good disciplinarian when the kids got out of hand.

I decided to quit Peace Corps after less than a year of teaching. I guess Peace Corps figured they had a lot invested in my training so they offered me a job working with a group of volunteers traveling around Thailand giving TEFL training seminars to teachers from "teacher training colleges". We spent three month's at a time in Songkla, Phitsanulok and Chaingmai. I found teaching adults much more to my liking and I liked seeing different parts of Thailand.

After that program ended I joined Mike Schmuecker and Dan Curry, another volunteer from a later the Bangkok municipality near Democracy Monument...working on educational television programs for kids...a sort of poor man's Sesame Street.

When my two year tour was up I decided to re-enlist. I really liked living in Thailand by then and I enjoyed working in television.. Mike Schmucker and Dan curry left. Bob O'Keefe, from a later group, took their place. Our offices were moved across the river to Thonburi where Bob and I spent the next two years working on TV programs.

I found the job to be fascinating, creative and fun. Plus my Thai coworkers were about my age and by that time my language skills were good enough to be able to enjoy their company. We hung out a lot at work and went on trips together on weekends.

One of those young people I met was Dim, my future wife, who also worked for the municipality writing scripts for their Social Studies programs. At the time we were just good friends. She helped me out in my English programs and became one of the characters on the show.

By the end of my fourth year in Thailand I was totally adjusted to living in Thailand. Thailand had finally become "home". I liked my job in television and I enjoyed the people I worked with so much I even considered staying for another two years.

However, I realized that I couldn't make a career out of being a Peace Corps volunteer so I made plans to return.

At that time my parents were living in San Jose, so I went to live with them and enrolled in San Jose State.
I recall the culture shock I got trying to readjust to life in America after living in Thailand for four years.
Eventually I readjusted...and got a Television. (1973-75) .

I landed a job at a small television station in Salinas California and worked there for 8 years as a commercial photographer. (1976-1983). I didn't have a car and got around town on a bike. I was in pretty good shape back then. I saved up money and put a down payment on a small house.

During that time I began corresponding with Dim. I hadn't seen her in 6 years. She was still living in Bangkok but the Educational Television programs we had worked on had long since been cancelled; she was working as a teacher by that time. We wrote back and forth over a short period. One thing led to another and she came to the U.S. and we ended up getting married in 1979.




Our daughter, Cathy, was born in 1981.

In 1983 I got another job as a creative director (writing TV commercials) at station KCRA and we moved to Sacramento, California. It was an enjoyable job and I worked there 5 years.

In 1989 I was offered a good job with a national advertising firm DDBNeedham. I took it, but after 6 months I knew it wasn't for me. I hated sitting behind a desk all day banging out scripts.

So, I decided to go into business for myself. I quit DDBNeedham and set up shop in one of my bedrooms, bought a fax machine and began looking for corporate and commercial clients who were interested in doing videos and commercials. We had just bought a new house in Folsom and things were really tight for the first year or so. So Dim took up child caring to help make ends meet for the first two years.. We both really enjoyed having little toddlers running around the house.

Business grew and we felt confident enough to move again, this time to El Dorado Hills.

In 1998 with the advent of computer editing, we were able lease the cameras, lights ,computers and software that allowed us to become a really "independent' production company. The business is small enough that I don't have to hire too many people and can still be involved in the productions.

I've been on my own for 17 years now. ( I have a stable of regular accounts and new ones come in by word of mouth.
Our daughter, who just graduated from college, works for us now too.

The Peace Corps experience was one of the best jobs I ever had . I've always said that got a lot more out of the Peace Corps than I ever put in; Besides a wife, a career, a chance to live in a foreign country, and many fond memories, the Peace Corps help shape the way I look at things.. I always imagine that I might return to Thailand as a volunteer when I get ready to retire.

I've been back to Thailand many times starting back in 1985. A lot has changed. Most of those tall building we used as landmarks are now dwarfed by even taller skyscrapers. Bangkok has a skytrain, an underground system , and lots of freeways crisscrossing the city. They've torn down some of old buildings, like the house Mike, Sam and I use to live in on Soi Aree and the Siam Intercontinental Hotel. And Peace Corps headquarter off of Petchburi Road is now a shipping company.
When we arrived in Thailand in 1969 Bangkok had a population of 3.2 million people. In 2005 there were 8.1 million people living there. It's disappointing not being able to recognize much of anything except the old monuments.

But when you wander down the small side streets and alleys, you can still catch the flavor of the Thailand we use to know.