I’m sorry, the country you’ve reached is closed for a holiday…

So last week we had two days off for Songkran.  Actually, many people had three.  And then Monday of this week was still a holiday for many people, so traffic was still quite light.  And then Wednesday was election day for the Senate, which resulted in another day or half-day off for most people.


Add to that single day holidays on May 1st (Monday) and May 5th (Friday) plus two additional holidays in June to celebrate HM the King’s 60th anniversary on the throne, and we’ve just more holidays than you can shake a stick at.  Which would be considered a very rude thing to do, by the way.


The thing I always point out to my fellow students when they ask about my plans for whatever holiday we’re having this week, is that the US doesn’t observe those holidays so I get to spend my day working from home anyhow.  But maybe on one of the May holidays Tawn and I can take a three day weekend and go somewhere.  Luang Prabong (in Laos) or Myanmar (Burma) both are possibilities.


Sign Pollution


One of the most amazing things of this week was the proliferation of campaign signs leading up to the Senate elections on Wednesday.  I wish I had a clear picture that really captured the mess.  A little bit of scale: for the 18 Senate seats in the Bangkok metropolitan area there were something like at least 100 candidates. 


Their supporters would post placards with their candidate’s visage and number (names are too complex, I guess, so you just have to vote for the candidate by their number?) on bamboo stakes along the side of the road.  But the supporters didn’t have much restraint, so if there was a placard here, there had best be another one in the next fifteen feet or so.  The result, huge clusters of signs that in any given block would number in the hundreds. 


A thunderstorm and downpour in the early part of the week left many of the signs battered and bruised, but the very next day supporters were out to post new placards.


Thankfully, the night after the election the city came through with their own crews I trashed most of the signs, at least on the main roads.  So Thursday morning the walk to school was mostly clutter-free.


The election results?  Well, that’s another long story as the opposition parties claim that the Senate race should be voided as the lower house will likely be dissolved in the next few months after constitutional reforms are made.  But I’m not going to touch that with a ten foot bamboo pole.


 


Lunch with Paul and Nicha


In my summary of last weekend’s fun and excitement, I neglected to write anything about our lunch with Paul and Nicha.  Here’s a picture and then we can talk a bit about them.  This will require a bit of explanation, exposition and back-story so please bear with me.


One of Tawn’s many aunts (his father’s older sister) lives in Los Angeles and has for decades and decades.  For whatever reasons, possibly just because she lives outside Thailand, she is one of the more liberal members of the family.


While Tawn was living in the US (wow, I almost wrote “here” but it is “there” isn’t it?) he stayed in touch with his aunt pretty regularly and she invited us to come down and visit her family.  So when we took a trip to Los Angeles we made it a point to spend an afternoon and evening down in the Irvine area visiting Khun Ouraiwan and Dr. Surapol*, who have three sons (Peter, Paul, and Don) all of whom were born in the US.


*keep in mind that “Khun” is a general polite title for those older than you and, in keeping with Thai custom, people are addressed and refered to by their first name.


They were incredibly welcoming .  We had dinner at a great Chinese seafood restaurant, etc. etc.  Afterwards, Khun Ouraiwan insisted that if I was back down in LA even without Tawn, that I should give them a call and visit.


In fact, she would call Tawn from time to time on our home phone.  One time when I answered, she didn’t introduce herself and instead launched into the following dialogue:


Khun Ouraiwan: “Hello Chris… do you know who this is?”


Chris: “Um, I’m sorry, who is this?”


O: “I know you…  Don’t you remember me?”


This continued for several seconds and I got close to just hanging up when Khun Ouraiwan finally said, “It’s Tawn’s aunt!”


Anyhow, they are welcoming people and served as sort of a “buffer” for us in dealing with Tawn’s family.  Maybe buffer isn’t the best word.  But after our visit she called Tawn’s mother and I’m sure other members of the family and provided some positive PR for us, which I’m sure helped in the long upwards struggle to become integrated with that side of the family. 


So a few months after our visit to LA, Tawn received a call from his cousin Paul – who it should be noted had not been around for our dinner with his parents – who said that he and his Thai wife Nicha would be in San Francisco for the weekend and wanted to meet us for dinner.


We met up with Paul and Nicha at Timo’s, a now-defunct Spanish tapas restaurant in the Mission district, and they greeted us like long lost friends.  I guess that Khun Ouraiwan had thoroughly briefed them as they had extensive background on us!  In either case, it was really nice that they were so welcoming.


Paul and Nicha moved to Bangkok about a year and a half ago and we had lunch with them on a previous visit.  When Tawn saw them last shortly before I moved here, he promised that we’d call and see them regularly.  Last week while having lunch at Central Food Loft, we ran into Paul and there was no excuses to be made.  So we made plans for lunch on Saturday.


Thanks for bearing with the back story.


So we met on Saturday at Baan Kanita, a fancy Thai restaurant on Thanon Sathorn near the Banyan Tree and Sukothai hotels.  As it was Songkran weekend, the restaurant was largely empty and we enjoyed very attentive service.  The food was great.  And it was fun to get reconnected with Paul and Nicha.  Paul’s working as a VP at Central Department Stores and Nicha (who goes by the nickname Neung – Thai for “one”) is working with Standard Chartered Bank.


I’ve told Tawn that it is especially important to me that we stay in touch with Paul and Nicha as they are really the only connection we have as a couple to Tawn’s family.  And, I think as we move into the future, we’ll need those connections.


 

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