I have now arrived home as have all the students. I actually left Bangkok a day early because my oldest sons and my granddaughter were going to come for a visit.
It's been a good trip and I am, as always, left a little conflicted. I am so glad to be home! I am so tired! I missed Betty and my family and dogs terribly. But, give me a little rest and I'm ready to go again. I guess I'm like the farm dog who always jumps in the truck anytime the door opens. In my mind, I am already planning the next trip.
This was such a great learning experience: culture, food, politics, economy, history. It's all in Southeast Asia in quantity and the students really absorbed it. Some of the best teaching I ever did occurred in Bangkok, on Soi 11, at 11 p.m., at a street food vendors cart. It's a great place to discuss culture and politics, religion and economics, food and spirituality. There's Thai culture, at least quite a bit of it, parading right in front of you.
Another favorite teaching location is in the local markets. People are rushing in to buy things from individual vendors with whom they have a continuing relationship. Shoppers head for their favorite fruit vendor who has the best Dragon fruit. Or, they go rushing off to the person with the best pork, or veggies. People in Southeast Asia still rub shoulders with their neighbors and they still buy from people they know. What a different economic model built on small individual sellers who have been making the same pho, for example, in the same spot and in the same way for 20 years. And they sell to the same customers who come by for the best pho in Ho Chi Minh city every day. There is no Wal Mart, Target, Sam's Costco, or Kroger. There is a new grocery chain "Lotus" and one wonders how that is going to affect things and how will that affect a culture where people know each other and do business on a regular basis.
Bangkok, our last stop, is quiet and things seem pretty normal. There remain fewer tourists and I noticed that the flight from BKK to NRT was about 60% full. It was great for me because I had added room but not good for the local economy.
I wonder if this peace will hold. While Thai peoples were shocked and angered by what happened and how it happened the underlying issues remain. Thailand is a great country but the gulf between the haves and have nots remains vast. If you don't believe me take a trip outside Bangkok to any smaller community and there you will see it first hand.
So, the issues remain and red shirts remain. Can the latest coalition government produce a sustainable solution? Will the current government hold elections in November as promised? What will happen as the king spends more time in the hospital and less time exerting his enormous moral power? Is Thaksin really finished? All of these questions make Thailand a fascinating political topic of interest.
Well, it's hard to believe but my work is done here. Best to all.