I spent my first year in Thailand in Loei, a town of 15,000
surrounded by hills (mountains to the Thais), a one hour taxi ride
east of Udorn, a five hour bus ride to Khon Kaen. It was as isolated
as you could get, which is what I had asked for. But to my amazement
I did not connect with my Thai peers and became very lonely over
the ensuing six months. I gave notice that I would see out my first
year and do the summer job lined up for me and then I would go home.
However, I did not go home because I fell in love with southern
Thailand, all the green rice paddies and palm trees and white sandy
beaches. I did my summer job on Phuket and wrote to say I would
stay if they could find a position for me in southern Thailand amongst
all the greenery. In Loei once the monsoons stopped the land dried
out and although it got cold for a while it was the dryness that
got to me. You couldn’t see the sun for a couple of months,
except as a red ball in the sky through a dusty red haze.
I spent my second year in Nakorn Srithammarat teaching
in the girls’ school there and teaching English at night to
adults. Thus I was able to make some friends my own age and have
a bit of a social life. I shared housing with a fellow teacher,
Phii Saay, and a young student who did housework and cooked the
meals for us. Life was good. We had movies to go to, even a weekend
beach party (co-ed no less), and an AUA ball for all the night students.
When I left the Peace Corps, I made a quick side trip to Laos and
went to a refugee camp where I met some American nurses who simply
amazed me. For a while I toyed with going to nursing school when
I got home because I was so in awe of what they were doing.
I flew from Bangkok to Nepal, met up with a guy
I had seen at a party to check with him about going to the Greek
Islands; however, he was going to go trekking for two weeks and
I was meeting my mother in England in June so I felt I had no time
to waste waiting in Katmandu for him to be done trekking so I fell
in with an English gal and some others and boarded a converted laundry
truck to take an overland voyage run by some Brits doing this for
We saw northern India, the Swat Valley in northern
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey where I bailed out in Istanbul
to fly to England because it was already June by then and my mother
was waiting to introduce me to my grandparents in south Wales.
I spent two months in England checking out my roots before returning
to the States. It was a good course of action as England was actually
quite primitive compared to the USA but of course much more in the
modern age than Thailand.
I went about getting a teaching credential from California based
on my experience teaching in Thailand and the coursework I had finished
while at San Francisco State. I was given a secondary credential
which wasn’t exactly what I had bargained for. I went back
to clerical for a bit, then tried to break into preschool teaching,
then back to clerical, then to substitute teaching, then back to
clerical as secretary for the American Language Institute.
I got into graduate school to earn
an M.A. in English with an emphasis on teaching English as a Second
Language and teaching writing. When I graduated, I gave up my half
time secretarial position, kept my adult ed classes, taught first
in Heald College’s ESL program for the summer, and then taught
at San Francisco State one term in the fall of 1979. I took a full
time position at the American English Institute at the University
of Oregon in January 1980. This lasted over two years, but as one
of the last to be hired I was one of the first to be let go when
the world economy dipped and dried up the source of many of our
students—Japan. I was never able to return to TEF/SL though
I interviewed throughout the state.
I had bought a house in Eugene and didn’t
want to leave this great little community. Following the lead of
an ex-Peace Corps volunteer Sue Laks I went to work eventually for
the state, going from welfare assistance worker to case manager.
In the meantime during the 70’s I was introduced
to folk dancing by one of my fellow clerical workers and grad students.
I loved it. When I came to Eugene, I found a folk dance community
here but in the mid-80’s one of my co-workers introduced me
to modern square dancing. Eventually I met my husband who belonged
to the same club I joined. We later married after a fairly long
courtship (I had to do a lot of persuading). We were however only
married two years when he died suddenly due to heart disease.
Two years after my husband died my right eye which
was my only good eye at the time (my left eye had blown itself out
in 1972 with a retinal hemorrhage and then a retinal detachment)
began to go on me. I had two small hemorrhages in the fall of 1995
and then a bigger one started in the August of 1996; by November
I was legally blind. I continued to work for two more years once
I discovered that life wasn’t coming to an end, but the strain
on my back trying to lean into the computer screen to do my job
began to take its toll. I felt I was unable to do the job well as
I was and so I left state employment taking disability retirement.
I never intended to remain on disability but I have.
I have continued to square dance up to the advanced
level and most of my friends are square dancers too. I began to
serve the club on the executive board back in the 90’s and
took over as newsletter editor for several years finding that a
really fun outlet for some of my energy and talent. However, when
I had to take over as president of the club, I found doing both
was just too time consuming so right now I am just president (a
job no one else wanted).
I garden a good part of the year, maintaining both
my yard and my mother’s as she lives two doors away from me.
If anyone comes to Springfield or Eugene or is
passing through along the I-5 corridor please look me up. I have
spare bedrooms, so it would be no problem if you wanted to stay
over and see the sights. You would have to put up with my dog Tashi
who might try to lick you to death (actually he is fairly well behaved).
I would love to hear from others and swap stories.
Gaynor Hintz (Turner)