Peace Corps
Thai 27
1969
 
Gay Turner

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 their living.

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)