February 22, 2003 - Asian Variety: Tales of an Expat in Thailand By Don Bott

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Thailand: Peace Corps Thailand: The Peace Corps in Thailand: February 22, 2003 - Asian Variety: Tales of an Expat in Thailand By Don Bott

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 6:21 pm: Edit Post

Tales of an Expat in Thailand By Don Bott

Tales of an Expat in Thailand By Don Bott

Tales of an Expat in Thailand
By Don Bott

home angelfever

Chapter six:Return

I would have strenuously objected to being so classified, through all the symptoms were there: irresistible craving, long periods of sobriety interspersed with binges I couldn't recall, and frequent tears of selfpity. That evening when Buggsy poured me into a taxi three blocks from the hotel was no exception. He said I was drunk and crying, but I don't remember.

By the time Oi returned to our apartment early Saturday morning, I'd slept myself into a monumental hangover. She didn't react as I hoped when I told her that I planned to quit and go back to the USA. Rather than tearful protestations, she agreed that a change in my life was needed but questioned whether the return I planned was going to help.

She echoed my own words that now that my mother was dead there was nothing to go back to, and added that in Thailand I'd begun to carve out a career as a competent English teacher, at least. In her opinion, I was even pretty good at it, she teased, trying to lift me out of my bleak mood.

"Okay, what would you do if you were in my shoes?," I asked, knowing that a couple of weeks before we'd covered the "in my shoes" idiom and that Oi loved to show off.

"Pattern two conditional: if I were you I'd stop drinking and smoking," she jibed, and I laughed. "Seriously, I think I'd ask Peace Corps for another assignment for the short time you've left. That was what I did after announcing the indefinite suspension of my Sunday afternoon private class. Both acts were greeted with relief.

Those teenage scions of wealth were planning to revolt, anyway, and to cancel the class whether or not I acceded. Two of them had already joined the ranks of students who'd unilaterally declared indefinite school holidays, and the boys -- even the cross-dresser -- were regulars in jungle warfare sessions given every Saturday by people from the Pattani United Liberation Organization. They'd branded me a tool of the Establishment but felt more obligation toward me than to their bill paying parents. My students were glad to see me go voluntarily.

Peace Corps debated whether or not to pull out of Thailand in an emergency conference Saturday night, and State Dept. suggested we get out of Bangkok but maintain our upcountry posts. The ex- astronaut reported this was easy, since there'd been half a dozen Bangkok resignations that very morning and he was happy to approve my transfer to Srinakharinwirot University, Songkla, to replace a new PC vol who'd just walked off the job there Friday night. I asked why.

"He was a Viet Nam vet, and so maybe wasn't playing with a full deck," Don said. When one of the older students in his twilight class suggested that war was to make the world safe for capitalism rather than democracy, the teacher let loose a stream of profanity which included the fact that he'd been shot at by "you gooks" enough. He was even then at 30,000 feet somewhere above the Pacific, Isle laughed.

Such war stories have no place, I agreed with the Director. The piddling ping of that ricochet Friday seemed small as I remembered the ex-astronaut had also been an assault chopper pilot in the early stages of that unpopular conflict. Being baptized by fire linked the vet, Isle, me, and millions of others in an exclusive fraternity we'd paid our dues to but could expect no special consideration for or from. We had to forget it.

Oi helped me pack my trunk, suitcase, and dufflebag, and there was a fishing rod and reel I planned to handcarry on the train Tuesday. She was glad I was going, and predicted that I'd be able to get in a lot of fishing and thinking the four months remaining. Maybe so, I muttered.

On the train I met Phil Slade, a PC volunteer in forestry who was returning to his site in the middle of a rubbertree plantation owned by a Malaysian lady named Henrietta. Before I got out of my mind drunk and passed out for the night, Phil described conservation techniques being practiced with the help of an international team of workers that included him, and time and again bragged that his PC assignment was the best of all possible postings.

I asked him how corruption of the government ministry affected his job, and he retorted that it failed to reach "back in the boonies". His Thai colleagues were either idealists who'd requested such a station or rebels who'd rubbed a politically appointed superior the wrong way and as punishment had been transferred. A few had drinking problems, Slade said as he pointedly stared at my umpteenth glass of Mekong and soda.

At first the young forester had matched me drink for drink, since he also liked the national tipple better than scotch and water that wealthy Thai men favored. He was soon left behind, which should have been a signal that my boozing was no longer social, if I hadn't been asleep at the switch.

The next morning I looked in vain for the PC colleague through the half dozen second class sleepers and the snack car. As I napped the afternoon away I speculated he'd detrained at some junction in the middle of the night and was going to take a "milk run" train to his exact destination, rather than rent a taxi at Hatjai.

The Peace Corps, though frugal with our living and housing allowance, was sensible about transportation. Though we could have been required to ride the "big red" buses that the upcountry Vols initially used to get to their sites, we were authorized 2nd class sleeper trains for long distances, chartered automobiles when necessary, and planes on the rare occasions we had to leave the country.

The ideal was that we live according to the style of middleclass Thais. Though my excessive whoring and boozing was deplorable to medical administrators and despicable for colleagues like Karen and Phil, for most comrades it was only par for the Thai or farang course, a no longer young man having his last fling.

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By Mike Callahan (fl-71-3-107-22.dhcp.sprint-hsd.net - on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 11:38 am: Edit Post

Don Bott : Was in Bangkok Oct 2006 with my wife. Tried to find you. Even hired a detective. Where are you? Bugsy from DTEC and the RS hotel.'73-'75.

By John Brown ( on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 4:55 pm: Edit Post

Don't know you Don, but you sound like my kind of vol. Excess drinking and womanizing was fun. Had my Karen and Phils around to.80-82 Salone

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