Interviewed May, 1999
I was born in 1963 and my father was a pastor at a small church in Limerick, Maine. Then, in 1967 we moved to Kansas for a year. My parents were in seminary training for missionary work. In 1968, that’s the year we moved to Thailand. I was 5. In 1972, we moved back to the United States. The arrangement with the mission group is that every fifth year my parents were to come back for a home assignment. During their time here, they would travel around the United States speaking to groups and raising money to support the mission. So, in 1973 we moved back to Thailand again. My parents were traveling and we lived in Wayne, Maine. That year, my parents bought a house in Wayne and when we were in Thailand they rented it out to various people. So every time we came back, we were in Wayne while my parents traveled. My grandparents were near by so they could babysit when needed. Basically, we did that back and forth until I went to college in 1981. 1 was in the United States when I was in fourth grade and again when I was a freshman in high school and then I came back to go to college.
My dad was from upstate New York and one of his hobbies is researching our family genealogy. He’s traced our family back quite far. Back to England. He’s done some of that for my mom’s family. The Gage family that he has been able to trace back is related to General Thomas Gage who fought in the Revolutionary War on the British side. My mom’s family, my great‑grandmother was an Adams and she was adopted by the Adam’s family. lt is not a blood connection but a name connection. That’s the John Adam’s side. My ethnic background is mostly English. My other great grandmother was a Whitman. She is directly related to Walt Whitman. Walt Whitman was her great uncle.
I was really lucky because my grandparents lived to relatively old ages. I got to know a lot of them before they died. I had great grandparents when I was little. My mom’s side of the family has a history of longevity. I guess that’s good. When I was in the fourth grade, my gr eat grandfather was still alive. He was in his eighties. He was my mom’s grandfather on her dad’s side. He came to visit one day. He took us out on the ice in his car on Maranacook lake. He went down the lake as fast as he could and he put the brakes on and he would spin. He kept doing that all afternoon and he was eighty years old. He was having a great time. I remember that about him.
Both sides of my family, my grandparents came from very religious backgrounds. My grandmother was BAPTIST, very very Baptist. You didn’t play cards, you didn’t go dancing, besides the drinking and all the other stuff. She was a very strict Baptist. That was my dad’s side. My mother’s side, they were from the Christian Missionary Alliance Church. That’s the one in Winthrop across the street near the school. They helped to start that church. Again, no dancing , it was very strict. I think as the years went on, they kind of mellowed a lot. I could see that it wasn’t as important to them. My mom’s mother and father had many, many foster children living in their home throughout the years. I have an adopted uncle and two adopted aunts. Maybe that’s where my brother gets his selflessness. They were always doing things for other people and never for themselves.
My grandfather was a boat builder. Down the street from the Winthrop grade school is Reedcraft boat company. It is a big barn with a sign on it. That was his before he sold it. He was quite well known in the boat world for the boats he built. But again, he was the kind of person who never really asked for enough money for his work. He was quite a craftsman but he never made a lot of money. He could have made a lot of money with his boats. He didn’t do it for the money. It was an art for him. He made wooden speed boats. My uncle has one of his boats. They still live in Winthrop. His wife’s family runs Robert’s funeral home. They have one of grandpa’s boats. My great aunt and uncle who live in Massachusetts have one of his boats. There’s a couple of people on Maranacook lake who still have his boats.
They had a house right on the lake and grandpa could tell by the sound of the motor going by who’s boat that was. If it was his boat or somebody else’s boat what kind of engine it had by the sound it made. It just always fascinated me that he could do that. He would let us come in. Each plank of wood is screwed in and where the screws are is a little hole. He would make little pieces of wood and he would glue in little pieces of wood over each screw on the whole boat so it wouldn’t show. It was painstaking work, filling all those holes. He put fiberglass over it to protect the wood. When he was doing that, he had hair that stood up straight, white, white hair that stood up straight. He could never make it lay down unless he greased it or something. He would come out of the boat shop with a paper bag on his head. He was quite a character. He was the kind of person whose hands were permanently dirty. They did come to visit us in Thailand. Because they were there for three or four weeks and he wasn’t working on his boat, I think that was the only time I remember his hands actually got clean.
My dad is very tall. He was an only child for most of his life. His brother was killed as he stepped off a school bus. He is very quiet, reserved and he has a very deep voice. He was always kind of scary. He was never harsh with us. He was when he needed to be. He is a very gentle person by nature. He is very thoughtful in the sense that he thinks a lot about what he is going to do before he does it. He was always scary to me when I was little because of his size and his deep voice.
My mom is very much the organizer in the family. She’s the one who makes things happen. I think you could say she wears the pants in the family. She kept things organized and not in a overt way made the decisions but she definitely influenced them a lot. She is a very strong personality. She is very controlling but not in a negative way.
They are both people who like to be involved in different activities, volunteer work and goodwill type stuff and music. They are both very musical. Their differences is that my mom is more assertive and my dad is more laid back and quiet. My mom is more extroverted, we definitely know how she feels about something.
There are points in my life when I said to myself that I am never going to be like my mother. But I find now that I as get older I am more like my mother than I used to think I’d ever want to be. It’s not a bad thing. I can be very laid back but I can also be assertive. I do like to plan ahead and have a system of how I want to see things happen but I can also make decisions quickly. I don’t have to stew about things like my dad does. I think in that way I have drawn on their good qualities. On the other side, I have a quick temper. I’m kind of like my mom. My dad is real cool. It takes a lot to make him mad.
1963 was the year that Kennedy was shot. It was also the year that they went to the moon or something like that. I am the second child in the family. I have an older brother. He’s eighteen months older than me. I always told my parents that I must have been a mistake because of the timing. The night I was born there was a terrible, terrible ice storm. That’s the night my dad had to drive my mother to the hospital. They made it OK to the hospital.
I was the calm child. Nobody had to fuss with me much because I was so calm and quiet. My mother told me that I sang at the curtains in the kitchen. She said I would coo and talk and sing. I was so entertained just looking at the curtains.
As for most siblings, for a time , we didn’t get along very well. Especially my brother and I. We are only eighteen months apart. We were always at each other. My sister and I got along, though. Then when I was eight, we adopted my sister Missy. When I was thirteen, we adopted my brother Ben. There’s a big age difference there. Missy was kind of like getting a new doll. She was so tiny and cute and you get to play with her. We often took care of babies that other people were coming to Thailand to adopt. We had lots of babies in our house. We were kind of like a transition family. Once we got to take care of twins. They were so cute and they still send us Christmas cards. They are all grown up and in college. There were always lots of kids in the family.
My brother was a hand full and he was accident prone, too. We never really got along. I don’t know if it was because we were so close in age or if it was that sibling rivalry. We are very close and we care a lot about each other but we get on each others nerves. Maybe, it is a good thing he lives in another country. We are not alike. He and his wife are very religious. They are also into reading all these self help books and being perfect. It is like with their son, every little thing is like, he rolled over and now he’s not rolling over and now I am really worried. Maybe we should teach him sign language because we don’t want him to be frustrated so he can communicate. Poor kid is only six months old. They just worry about every little thing. I am more laid back than they are. I am not a selfless person the way my brother is. He did volunteer work in Ethiopia to help the starving Ethiopians. I would never do that. Not that I don’t care. I just couldn’t do that kind of work. I could help in a different way. He wouldn’t have the patience to work with one of the students at school.
I remember the house we lived in. It was an old house. In old houses, they have really steep stairways. I remember that the stairways were very steep and we used to like to sit on the top stairway and go bump, bump, bump down the stairway. We had a babysitter who was in the youth group from the church my parents worked in. Being in the sixties, she was kind of a flower child. She wore blue eye shadow and I thought it was blue peanut butter. Mommy, why does she wear blue peanut butter on her eyes? We would watch King Kong on TV when she came over.
When I was a little older than that, about three. Our neighbor liked to hunt. He had gotten a deer and he asked if he could hang it up in my parents garage. They said, oh sure, no problem. I remember, we had a door from the kitchen that went into the garage. I remember opening the kitchen to go into the garage and there was this gutted , skinned, bloody deer hanging there. It just scared me to death. Ever since then I just oooo. It just gave me the creeps.
The most significant event in my life before I was twelve was moving to Thailand. I remember it was a big change. It affected everybody in our family. We were learning a new language and a new culture. We were living in a new climate. That was something to get used to at first. The food. Also, the fact that we didn’t have grandparents any more. There was kind of an extended family because all the other missionaries were aunt this and uncle that. We had an extended family in a different sense.
People always ask, what was it like growing up in Thailand. I don’t know because I don’t have anything to compare it to other than the years we were back in the United States. When we were here in the States, we watched a whole lot more TV because it was in English. In Thailand, you watch TV, you have to watch it in Thai which is fine because we all spoke Thai. There are still TV shows that I remember from a kid, Thai TV shows and Thai ads. When we get together we sing our little Thai advertisement diddies.
As an effect, I think in the United States, we have a very closed society. Even though we have a lot of different cultures within our own country, we are very closed. There are not very many Americans that know very much about Hispanics or the Black culture or the whatever culture. We are very closed off people. We are not very much aware what else is out there in the world. I think part of that is because as a country , we are kind of isolated. Being such a large country, we are kind of isolated. Whereas in Thailand, even though it is about the size of Texas. In comparison , it is a
pretty small country. You can’t help in knowing the other cultures. You are not that far away from those other people. Because I went to an International school, it was English speaking and we had American textbooks and so forth but I had in a class of 92 there were 60 nationalities represented. You can not help but know someone else’s culture. Some of the people I went to school with were German, some were English, some were Australian, some were Arab, Indian, all kinds of different cultures. Even within Thailand, there are pockets of different ethnic groups. My dad worked with the Chinese mostly. There were also the Indian people and of course the Thai people. Even within our own missionary society, we had Australians, we had Swedish, German and American . So within our missionary society, we learned about other people’s cultures. I can remember when we first started getting missionaries from the Australian Baptist society. Their accent was different and they used different words for flashlight and cookies. It was fun getting to know them and the differences they had. As far as its effect on me, it has made me much more worldly aware, much more accepting of people’s cultural differences. I find that now that I have been living in Maine for the last ten years, I’ll go to Boston or somewhere like that where there are all those different cultures and I am in culture shock all over again. I’ve been out of it for so long and I’ve been isolated for so long.
When we first moved to Thailand, we lived on a small street directly behind the American Embassy. There were some nice old style houses. My mom really loved them because they were the old style made out of teak. The floors were old and just from people walking on them , they were all polished and shiny. At that time, we didn’t have neighbors who were English speaking. They were all Thai neighbors. Because both of my parents were working and going to language school to learn Thai, they hired a woman to work for them. She did cooking and then there was a woman who did washing and there was another person who did the lawn. So we were cared for by these Thai people. One of the women had two young children. One was my age and one was my younger sister’s age. So we learned Thai by playing with them. It was basically what you hear about in stories. You would point to something and they would tell us the Thai words. I can remember them pointing to a flower and telling me the word and I would repeat it. We kids actually learned Thai faster than my parents who were in language school. Partly because we were young and partly because we had the need to use the language to play with these other kids. We lived in various places in the city, in Bangkok. Another house we live in, we didn’t have very many neighbors. For one year, we lived outside of Bangkok while my dad was director of a Christian Academy. It was on the Eastern coast of the Gulf of Siam. It was a boarding school for the kids from the city. It was fifth through tenth grade. We would go over to the girls’ dorm and play with the kids in the girls’ dorm and that was fun. We were playing with Thai friends. Of course, we had friends who were missionaries who were our age. But we usually only saw them on the weekends or Sunday at church or at school. We didn’t live in a separate community for missionaries.
Having a white Christmas is no big deal to me. We spent Christmas at the beach. I love to go to the beach for Christmas. Christmas was important because that was the time we escaped from the city for two weeks. It was just us at the beach. That’s still my favorite thing to do as a family is go to the beach. Walk along the sand and whatever. Birthdays were important. We make a bigger deal of birthdays in our family than some people.
In Thailand, most of their holidays were religious holidays. We didn’t celebrate their holidays because they were religious. My parents did allow us to participate in some of them. The Thai New Year happens to occur in April, around the thirteenth or so. They spend a lot of time throwing water at each other. It also happens to be in the middle of hot season so we always had fun doing that. Squirt guns were big. There is also a holiday around our Thanksgiving where they make these little boats. It is to appease the spirits of the water and they make these boats out of banana leaves.
They float them down the rivers with candles floating on them and they have incense on them at night. My parents allowed us to do that. Not that we were going to pray to the god of the water but just because it was fun to make and it looked pretty. But we really didn’t celebrate any Thai holidays other than that. When you go to movie theater in Thailand before the movie begins, they show the picture of the king and everybody stands for the national anthem. But of course, that is for respect for their country. It would be disrespectful not to stand. He really was a good person so I had no problem with that. We learned the Thai national anthem .
I have two adopted siblings. I think I can pretty easily say we are unbiased. Both siblings are Thai. My brother Ben is mentally handicapped as well as physically handicapped. In spending a lot of time in the school in Thailand where my mom worked, left me pretty at ease with handicapped people. That’s a whole another culture there.
We used to go to the government orphanage to volunteer. My sister and I would play with the kids and my mom and some of the other ladies would hold the babies who otherwise wouldn’t get held. I don’t remember exactly what precipitated it but they were putting all these children into either an institution or foster families and my parents volunteered to be a foster family. We got Ben. He was abandoned. He only had one eye. Thai people believe that if there is something physically wrong with you then you are demoned possesed or something like that. We later learned that his mother was an unwed college student who just really didn’t have time for a child. He was nine months old. He was a foster child first, and after having him for a few months, my parents who wanted another child anyway decided that they would try and adopt him which they did. He developed normally for the first two years and then it was like a light switch. They don’t know what happened or why it happened but he was diagnosed as being autistic. He has also been tested and he has significant delays and speech problems. There weren’t any schools or classrooms for kids like Ben . Because of that my mom started a play group which grew into a small program, which grew into a school.
I went to kindergarten at Mrs. Thamthai’s kindergarten. It was the next street
over from where we lived. The lady that worked for us, did the cooking and cleaning, she would walk me to the kindergarten. Then, she would come and get me and we would walk home. Mrs. Thamthai was an American woman who was married to a Thai physician. He was from this rather wealthy family and they had this big house and a big compound and they built a special building to put the kindergarten in. She always wore bright red lipstick. It was great. I really enjoyed kindergarten. It was just a kindergarten. It wasn’t just Americans. It was probably open to any English speaking people. My best memories of school was that I was always into the musical performances put on by the school. I really enjoyed that. I also belonged to a group called the Young Internationals and we sang and choreographed popular music and performed in different places. Different hotels in the city would hire us to perform at special events. We always performed at the Oriental Hotel at Thanksgiving time. They had a big buffet. Other years, they did make trips to Hong Kong. That happened after I was in the group, when my sister was in the group. We were never really involved in sports but we were involved in music. I used to play the violin. I haven’t picked it up since I left high school.
At the time, I didn’t really know there was a war going on. I knew there was fighting but I didn’t really understand because I was young. It probably ended by the time I was in eighth grade. The Americans were being pulled out. Our school had two campuses for a long time because there were so many students. There were so many students because of the great numbers of American service people that were stationed in Thailand. After those people were pulled out, of course the population of the school shrunk so we moved back to one campus. I can remember not understanding why some people could go to the PX and we couldn’t. Why they could have oreos and we couldn’t.
When I was in fifth grade, my father was the director of a Christian Academy outside of Bangkok. We lived down on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Siam in a small town. I do remember hearing planes going over. It is really close to Cambodia so I remember hearing planes. You could hear exploding things going on. But I never really understood what was going on. I knew something was happening. We never really discussed what the Vietnam War was about. I really didn’t learn about that until afterwards. It’s like I feel about a lot of things. Who makes the United States the police of the world? What makes it our problem?
After that there was a lot of hard feelings towards Americans in Thailand especially among the college student population. There were a lot of uprisings and demonstrations against Americans. There were times when we were not to leave the house. There were curfews. Because our house was directly behind the American Embassy, it was kind of dangerous at times. There was a demonstration where they burned flags and people were killed. People that knew us, the people in the Thai Christian community , knew what we were about and that we were not trying to force our opinions, actions, or religions on anybody. But just meeting someone on the street, you were an American , you would never just advertise that. I don’t know if you are familiar with the book, The Ugly American , but that’s how we are perceived. We come across as if we know it all and our way is the right way, and do it my way, and your way is no good because you are not American. I think we need to put aside our own opinions and see how somebody else is thinking and feeling and accepting their culture. Just because it is different, it doesn’t mean that it is wrong.
When I was in high school is when all the refugees were escaping from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos and coming into Thailand. At that time, one of my dad’s positions was helping the people in the refugee camps find places to live. He was helping to organize the camps themselves. He helped to organize a way for people to get out of the country because the Thai people didn’t want them there. Thailand was flooded with people. It was probably how the Native Americans felt about the
colonists. Get out of here. The youth group from our church couldn’t do fund raising because the community you would be tapping was so small and the Thai people weren’t going to give money towards supporting the refugees . The United Nations and the Canadian government did do a lot of relief stuff. They would send the stuff to Thailand but there was no way to distribute it. Canada actually sent a lot of cheese and so we distributed that. Asians don’t eat cheese. The refugees thought it was soap and when they tried to use it to lather their bodies and it wouldn’t lather of course. They threw it away.
So we made up care packages for refugees. We did go to the refugee camps and helped set up tents and feed people. The hardest thing I did was to help this man who probably was a farmer and very strong. Thai people are very old fashioned. The men are the strong and the women are the weak. I was the one who carried him to the place where they were feeding people. That was really something I’ll never forget helping that man because he was so appreciative but he had lost face, too. He was ashamed. He was Cambodian. He was so thin, it was like lifting a doll. He was like a skeleton. There was incident while I was probably in the tenth grade. If you are in the Mormon religion, it is your responsibility to do a year of missionary work. Missionary work can be somewhere in the United States or in a foreign country. There were lots of Mormons. You always knew they were Mormons because they wore black pants, white shirts and a necktie and they walk around in pairs. We called them the morons which wasn’t very nice. You could always spot them. They had their little bibles and whatever they were carrying around with them. There was an incident where a
couple of Mormons were on a sightseeing trip and still dressed in their little Mormon outfit. They climbed up on the shoulder of a Buddha image to have their picture taken. In the Thai culture, you do not touch people above the shoulder and the head is very sacred. You don’t point your feet at people. That was a big taboo. They were deported. It was like these Americans have no respect. You have to prove all over again that those people did that and that doesn’t mean that I am going to do that. So we were always taught to be very respectful of the Thai culture.
I didn’t really date much until I was a junior in high school. Not that I wasn’t allowed to. There just wasn’t anybody special. When I was a junior, I met this guy who had just come to Bangkok. His parents were transferred there. He had his senior year there and it was just wonderful. He doted on me. He was just a great guy. He had grown up in Venezuala so we could kind of relate. He spoke Spanish and I spoke Thai . We just enjoyed doing the same things. He was in the Young Internationals and the plays. We enjoyed doing the same things. The worst part was the Dear John letter when he went off to college. I dated a couple of guys in college before I met my jerk.
(1981) That was probably one of the hardest years of my life since I had never been away from home in my life. Not even for a camp or anything, It was really hard to go half way around the world. We could call home but it was really difficult because Thailand didn’t have the technology and it was very expensive. Nowadays, it is pretty cheap to call overseas because technology is better. My parents came back in 1982 for a year and then they went back to Thailand. They were gone for four years and then they were back again.
I never really went to camp or anything because we never had that. I did go on a trip with a group from school to Northern Thailand. We had to go overnight on the train. We were there for a couple of days. But my first trip away from home was when I came back to go to college. I flew back to the United States by myself. I was eighteen. I ended up in the Los Angeles airport. It was like a city in itself. Then, I flew on to Maine, where I stayed for a couple of weeks before going to my college which was in West Virginia.
During my sophomore year in college, I became a resident assistant on a floor
in a dorm. It is unbelievable the baggage some people carry around with them. As the resident assistant , you are expected to listen to people. There was this one girl who had a horrible life. I felt really bad for her. I got caught up in trying to make her feel better. I didn’t really know how to do that. It ended up that I had to say. I’m sorry but I can’t help you. You do need help and this person can help you. I don’t have the skill to help you. That was a big learning experience. Knowing that there is only so much that I can do.
I ended up getting married when I was twenty years old. Which was a big mistake. I think it was mostly because the guy that I married was older and seemed really secure and I needed that. He was a jerk. Got rid of that one. That’s when I moved to Maine. The year I worked in Winthrop was right after I got divorced.
During my first year of teaching, I had a student. His name was Ronnie. He’s in West Virginia so nobody here knows him. I was teaching in Core, West Virginia. It was very well known that if you were a black person you didn’t go through Core, West Virginia or you would be shot. It was very racist. I was a first year teacher and Ronnie didn’t know how to read in fourth grade. I was doing my best to teach him. In a parent conference, I was trying to explain to the parents that this needed to be done and this needed to be done. The parents said, ” Well, if it is good enough for me it is good enough for my kid. I don’t need that.” I was like, oh my gosh. He always had an odor to him. I learned that his home had no running water. One day he came to school and he had red hair. I said, Ronnie what happened? He said, I washed my hair. Prior to that, it was a completely different color. That’s how dirty he was. That was an education. There are people who just choose to be that way. You don’t have to in a third world country to be poor.
From the experience with Ronnie, I learned that I can just do the best that I can for him while he is with me. Hope for the best. You can’t fix everything which I have a tendency to want to do. From my experience being married before, I learned that I am a valuable human being and I have a brain and I can think for myself. I don’t need another person to make me who I am. I am who I am just by myself. That’s who I am. I am trying to be the best person I am. So, take it or leave it.
I never really did much dating until after my divorce. Then came the wild times. But that was after I met Tracy too. You know what kind of influence she can be. We shared a house. I lived one year with my parents. Then when they went back to Thailand, Tracy and I shared my parents house. Boy, those were the good old days. We are really close friends. You know what’s really funny. The year I worked at Winthrop, I really didn’t have much to do with her. She had third graders and I had first graders. We really didn’t get to know each other until after she moved in. I knew that she was single and I just invited her. Now, it is like we have known each other our whole lives. That means a lot to me because I don’t keep in touch with anybody from high school. Any of my friends that I had in high school that were kindred spirits, I have no idea where they even are. Everybody scattered. My sister and I got on the internet and we looked up the International School of Bangkok website. The have listings from people from different classes but there is nobody listed from the class of 1981. 1 think that’s really sad but then I was thinking. The internet didn’t exist back then. Maybe those people just aren’t computer savvy.
It’s all Mary O’Brien’s fault. When I first started working here, she’s the kind of person who takes all the new people under her wing. It wasn’t until April and she invited me to a party at her house. April Fools Day party. You were suppose to dress up in a goofy outfit. Go and play goofy games. I didn’t really want to go. I said I would go. So I went. There was this guy there who drove me nuts. He kept coming on to me. I can’t sit by this person. So I went and sat by this other guy and who was just really quiet. He was having a good time but he seemed quiet. I wish I hadn’t sat next to him because he was a nerd. And that was my husband! The second one I had sat by. I really didn’t even like him at first. But he was really nice. He was friendly. He just wanted to be friends. That was important to me. He didn’t want anything else except to be friends. He was very persistent. He asked me out. How about this night, how about that night? Finally, I just said, OK. He took me to the Railroad Square Cinema and the following morning , he called me and he invited me out to breakfast. From there, we ended up doing things together. Not very regularly but just off and on. He was just a good friend. He was just a good buddy. I called him and asked him if he would like to do something and he said, no I can’t I have a date with so and so. I was like. You are dating somebody else. That’s kind of like it hit me. After that we talked . After that, we realized that we really cared for each other. There was nothing magnetic at first. Since then it has just gotten better. It has not been a perfect relationship. We both care enough about each other that we are willing to work at it and not give up. That’s been the most important part.
We always thought my son would be a girl. We named him before he was born. We wanted to know what he was. Of course, when they did the sonogram, they could never see if he was a boy or a girl because he was breech and he never turned. We had him named as girl. Poor kid. It was a difficult pregnancy at the end. I was pre-eclamptic. My blood pressure was up and I ended up in the hospital. He was premature. So, that part of it was yucky.
After he was born , he was just wonderful. He was a difficult baby because he was premature but it didn’t matter to me if he was a boy or a girl. He’s just like his father. He looks like Jeff. He acts like Jeff. He has the same interests as Jeff. Both Jeff and Reed bounce out of bed instantly in the morning. I’m the kind of person that needs an hour to wake up. They are interested in science , photography, history, German U boats that sank. Boring! Even Reed’s baby pictures, his face, if you look at Jeff’s baby pictures and Reed’s baby pictures you almost can’t tell them apart except Jeff’s are black and white. The only thing that Reed has from me is blue eyes. He’s basically a clone. I’m afraid he’ll be short like his dad, but that’s O.K.
There is one thing that continues to affect me. In the Thai culture you always have great respect for people who are older than you. There are little titles that go ahead of a person’s name. A little word that you are suppose to say before you say a person’s name if you are addressing someone who is older than you which we don’t have. There’s no distinction here. Even though another teacher is quite a bit older than me, as far as anybody else is concerned, we are pretty much equal. In Thai culture, that is not true. There’s definitely a hierarchy. We had the exchange teacher, Daranee, last year and it was really important to her when we were speaking Thai that I call her older Daranee. She was only a couple of months older than me. That was important to her. It didn’t bother me at all. We don’t make that distinction. I find it had to accept when children aren’t respectful of adults or respectful to me. If there are children who are not respectful to me, it is very unacceptable to me. If kids aren’t respecting other adults, that really bothers me. I think it is something that has been ingrained in me. It is the Thai part of me, We joke about our Thai part of ourselves and the American part of ourselves in our family. We joke about how we have our Thai side and our foreign side.
From my parents, even though they were missionaries, that puts a picture in peoples mind that they are out there preaching the gospel and saving souls, it really wasn’t like that. The mission that my parents were in , their mission was to meet the needs of the people. Whether that be medicine, or through teaching them English, or helping learn how to care for handicapped children, that was their mission. Once you have met the physical needs of the people , their emotional needs, then you can help to meet their spiritual needs as well. Of course, that often came into the picture. There are some factions of churches where their whole drive is to save those souls, recruiting people for Jesus. That’s just not me. I have my faith . It is very private, very personal and I am happy to talk to people about it but I am certainly not going to try sell them on it. That’s important and it really offends me when people try and shove their religion down my throat.
When I was younger (spirituality) was expected. You were expected to go to church every Sunday. After college, probably due to my bad experience being married and everything, I rebelled against all of that. Rejected it. Then after a period of healing, through my relationship with Jeff. Just growing up in general. I have come to terms that. I’ll believe the way I want to believe that’s good enough for me. I don’t have to go out and do the missionary thing like my parents did. If I can just do little things to help people that’s O.K. I don’t have to be my parents. It’s a very private thing. I do go to church. That’s just for me. It’s not because I am going to go save the world. Preach to other people.
Even though I grew up in a religious family, and raised going to church and everything. It is not that I don’t believe in that stuff but I can’t see that it’s the only way to be a good person. There were some people in Thailand that were very devout Buddhists who in some cases were better Christians than the Christians. You can read about Gandhi , what a selfless person. He wasn’t perfect but now there’s Bill Clinton. He’s done a lot of good things. In some regards, it has given me a different perspective on people, religion, and culture.
(The biggest challenge for me) is being a mother twenty four hours a day. That’s hard work. I am very fortunate that I have Jeff. He’s a very good dad. But I think what makes it twice as hard is that I am also a working mom. I work all day but I’m a mom all day. I’m a mom when I get home. There are times when I have to say, I can’t do this anymore. I need a break. Jeff’s really good. I’ll just go to my sister’s and take a couple of days off or go off for a couple of hours by myself. He’s really good about that. I know there are some mothers who , especially stay at home moms, who are the parent because the father is always away working. That’s definitely not us. Jeff actually used to work for the state and when Reed was born he decided that his job didn’t allow him to be home enough so he quit his job and he took a different job . After a bad experience with that position he quit and started his own business, so he could be home and spend more time with Reed. It’s wonderful. He did that five years ago. It has been nice. He can just drop everything and be there.
Both of my grandparents have died in the last five years. Three of my grandparents have died in the last seven years. I knew them all as adults. It was just like. Oh my gosh. Just realizing that, I’m getting older. I’m one step higher to wherever. Realizing what death really is. I never really knew anybody close to me who died before. Seeing them grow more feeble. Have disease take over them. It was just really awe inspiring. Probably that would be the most awe inspiring (experience).
Well, it’s not true of that map over there but most maps you see in the United
States, the United States is in the middle. To me, it is not in the middle. We are just a very small piece of the whole pie. There is so much out there to experience and I hope that I can help Reed experience that. Even me, I’ve lived in a foreign country and I’ve had an opportunity to travel but there is so much that I’ve never seen. I’ve never been to Africa. I’d love to go there. I’ve never been to Australia. I’ve never been to China. There’s a lot of things that I’d like to see. Yet, the world is such a small place. Due to the technology we have. Takes only a instant to get a message from Daranee. or from wherever, from Nepal. Even if the world is vast and there is so much I don’t know, it is also very small at the same time. That’s it in a nutshell.
Well, I want to have another baby. That’s something we are working on. We have been doing some fertility stuff. We’ll know in a little while if it worked or not. If it doesn’t, we are going to plan b which is adopt. Jeff has applied to the Department of State for a variety of positions that he is qualified for and we are hoping to get an overseas placement. That would probably mean taking a leave of absence or resigning from my position here which I’ve been here ten years and that would be hard to do. But, that’s something we really want to do. I know that I don’t want to teach forever. There’s other things out there. I really believe I can be good at what I put my energy into. So, we’ll see what happens. There’s part of me that thinks that’s never going to happen. But, there’s always that little spark of hope. Maybe, we’ll end up in Africa or South America and we’ll all learn to speak a foreign language together. That’s what we’re hoping. The state department is so slow. We have been applying for over a year now. We have heard back. We have received your application. So we are just going to keep applying for any job that he’s eligible for and just hope that something will open up. I told Jeff that I really don’t want to go to a cold place. No colder than Maine, please. If we ended up in Russia for a couple of years, I could handle that. I don’t want to go to Greenland, that’s too cold. I could handle being in Africa or Indonesia or somewhere. I could do it. You are usually not stationed for longer than two years and if you really didn’t like it there you could see the end in sight. You are moved every two years. There are parts of the United States I haven’t seen, lots of parts of the United States. I’d be open to that, too. It’s nerve wracking. But, there’s that part of me that says, it will never happen. I’m going to be here forever. I’m going to be like A.K. , and twenty five years later. I had Mrs. Gage as a teacher. I hope I look as good then as I do now. I hope I don’t seem like a stagnant person. I don’t want to come across, that was my experience. That’s it. That’s the end. I know I have been in the United States for almost twenty years now, I came back from Thailand, but I don’t want to be stagnant. I want to keep developing. I want to be a dynamic person. That keeps growing and learning. Whether it is about Thailand or something else.