Wander project wandering Thailand…


Albums037Continuing to wander through old photos. When you look back over 10, 20, even 30 years you begin to realize how lucky you were, how lucky you are. That you are able to see things, to experience them and share them! A huge thank you to my entire family, those that lived with me, and those that live with me now. The journey is always the best part, but the only thing that matters is being able to journey with those you love!!!

Albums063One of the favorite trips we took while in Thailand was to the long time capital and now the Northern Capital of Thailand Chiangmai. It is a city set in the jungles. The weather is less humid and hot, so the King of Thailand (the only king to hold an actual patent) had started trying to grow apples. They were not the best apples I had ever had, but after nearly six months of no apples, it was worth the mediocre.

Albums109We ended up wandering to where the hill people lived. The Hill people, at that time, were still someone floating in that they crossed the national borders of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia frequently (less so Burma now Myanmar but that is another story). One of the things (because dad didn’t buy any of the offerings in the village) we were offered was Opium. Needless to say we didn’t buy that either!

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Family Historian

Wander project, cities I love (was top 10, but well, its not).


Albums 1026I promised after my top three cities post that I would share my list of top 10 all time favorite cities to visit. My three favorites were shared over the last two days. They will be included in the list as co-top spot so that I will share my top 13 all time favorite cities. The rules are very simple, I have to have been to the city for business or pleasure, and the experience had to be memorable. The list will be different today, (other than the top three) than the similar list I published more than ten years ago.

1. Bangkok

1. Dublin

1. Copenhagen

2. Chicago

2. Bloomington IN

3. London

4. Amsterdam

5. Prague

6. Sydney

7. Canberra

8. Melbourne

9. Kuala Lumpur

10. Seattle

Albums 1134Not being on the list, doesn’t mean I don’t love a city, it just didn’t make my top 10 (13). Chicago is where I was born, and I spent a lot of my early professional career in and out of Chicago. It is a city that I love, in part because of the nature of the city and in part because it also houses the sports teams that I follow (Bears, Cubs, Bulls and Blackhawks). Bloomington Indiana made a list as well, is the place I grew up. Although, in fairness, the two Chicago and Bloomington could also be in that list of all time favorite cities as well.

Albums 1794There is a place I have retired from the list. I have been back, and Barb and the kids have been to this place as well. It is a piece of my childhood that will forever be part of me. The retired place is Cambridge Wisconsin. It’s retired because the two people that made it what it was are no longer with us. My grandfather and Grandmother Johnston represent what Cambridge Wisconsin for me was. It was never Marsden family restaurant or Arbor Dells; it was always them for me.

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Family Historian

Wander project, Bangkok 1972


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The three of us on the steps of a Watt in Thailand (or possibly the royal palace). Thailand and writing about Bangkok is fun for me. There are so many wonderful places in the country and the people are beyond amazing. One of the happiest memories in my life is wandering the Sunday Market. The din of people shopping, bartering and children laughing filling the air around me. The smell of foods that you just don’t get in the US. I adore Thai food, although I have to say Pet Nitnoy on the hot. I’ve had Thai food that would burn the house down, literally from the inside of your stomach out. We, our family and the city of Bloomington Indiana had just celebrated our Sesquicentennial before we left Indiana. We, my sisters and I, are standing on the steps of a temple that is somewhere North of 1000 years old. It was culture shock for a time. To come from the true new world and end up in the old world of Asia. But Bangkok is also hard to remember.

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The first reason is the Thailand was my father’s great love. In 1969 Dad and mom first talked to Lynne and I about the of us living overseas for a time. The original discussion was considering moving to Vietnam. In that case we were not going to live with Dad, we would live far away from the war and dad would come to visit us on weekends and holidays. I was excited, the thought of living overseas was both terrifying and beyond exciting. But the decision was not to go to Vietnam. My youngest sister arrived, we watched the man land on the moon and then the discussion turned a little over a year later to going to Bangkok. Dad as an educator wanted to work with people who were building an education program to change their world. Thailand was the perfect fit for him. He was without a doubt one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. But Thailand was good for all of us. Yes there was anxiety and yes it was hard uprooting and moving. But the people we met changed my life forever.

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Dad was a young man when we went to Thailand. It is a culture that respects age, so Ajan Hans adopted his rote answer of I’m 27 when asked how old he was. Everyone knew he wasn’t 27 but that way you never knew how old he really was. He worked very hard before we arrived in Thailand helping us start to learn Thai. Put pasa thai may dai. (I don’t speak Thai very well) My mother, always the innovator learned her favorite phrase while in Thailand  The phrase she loves to this day, My Pen Rai. It doesn’t really matter. We wanted the land of smiles, we went to Pataya and we went down the long finger towards Malaysia. We visited the ancient northern Capital of Changmai. We celebrated the holidays and we learned to love Thailand. My father loved Thailand before we landed. It was his dream to help others. I learned to love the land of smiles while I was there. It has a place in my heart, Thailand that isn’t filled by sadness but is filled by happiness and wonderful memories. Thailand changed me. I saw the world differently after Bangkok. It took me years to understand how I changed. But I did.  Just a final note, this is one of the few pictures of my father without his beard or later the goatee. I don’t remember him without the beard (or goatee) so for a moment I was taken aback with this picture. But there was a time when he didn’t have the beard. I had the matching shirt as the one he is wearing although mine was smaller.

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Family Historian

Wander project, Bangkok Thailand- and how we got there…


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Bangkok Thailand is a funny place for me. Funny in that once it was home. Several times it has been a place that I have gone to for a visit. But it is, like Bloomington, Chicago, Cincinnati and Maryland also a place that was or is home. A place filled with so many memories and delights. There are many things I remember that I will never forget. For example I have a personal streak of having watched every single Super Bowl on television. All of them. My dad and I watched the tape delayed Super Bowl in 1972 at the Dusit Tani hotel (probably spelled incorrectly). Mom took us to see the Beatles movie Yellow Submarine at the same hotel but not the same day! I remember going to the Sunday market for food and just to browse the amazing variety of everything that was on display. My favorite part of the Sunday market was watching the kits fly overhead. The skill shown by the vendors who had flown kites since they were little was beyond belief. I stood in amazement as kites dived in and out of the sky towards other kites. The kite war having a winner and a loser but we weren’t usually there long enough to see the entire battle.

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I haven’t talked about getting to Bangkok the first time. We started our trip by flying from Chicago to Shannon Ireland. We had a family vacation in Shannon, near Galway. Two funny things, the first was I watched the movie the Andromeda Strain on the plane. That movie still scares me. Then my luggage decided to go somewhere I was not, so I was wearing a new Irish sweater and my jeans for two days. My suitcase finally arrived. In Ireland I tried scallops for the first time (love them!). I remember burning peat bricks to keep the cottage we were in warm. I also remember being at the pub for our first lunch in Ireland. The bartender asked my dad if the “lad would have pint” but dad said no he wouldn’t. The lad didn’t get to answer that question. From Ireland we flew to Paris. We landed in Paris at night, struggled to find a restaurant that served children and finally exhausted we got to our hotel. In the morning dad and I went to get croissants and warm milk for everyone. Without a doubt that is one of my favorite breakfasts. Jam, Jelly and marmalade with warm croissants and warm milk.

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Knowing we were going to Paris I had a lot of events planned. My poor mother. She actually took me to all the places I wanted to go to. Napoleon’s tomb (more than once) the Museum De La Arme. The Eiffel Tower and I am sure there were many other stops. Each day starting with the warm milk and croissants. I was actually reading the book Papillion while in Paris so you can image my concern for following the laws of France. We had two rooms at the hotel. Dad and I shared one. Dad said “you sleep like a helicopter” to this day I am not sure I know how a helicopter would sleep. My gut is in a hanger with its rotors stopped not moving, but I don’t think that is what dad meant then. I don’t recall if on that trip we went to the Louvre. I know my mother is a great lover of art. We may have. I have been to the great museum I just don’t recall if we went on that trip or if it was on the shorter return trip on our way home from Bangkok. We left Paris and our flight took us to Rome for about 5 hours. Due to some issue we ended up in Tehran and spent the night in a hotel in the capital of Iran. I don’t remember why we did. Nor do I remember much of the city, we landed at night and left early in the morning. From Tehran I believe we flew then directly to Bangkok. We may have made one more stop but I really don’t remember.

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Family Historian

Wander Project Bangkok Thailand 2005


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On one trip back from Malaysia to the US, I had extra time, so I stopped in Bangkok. Mom and dad were there (dad was consulting for the IPST after retiring). So I took the opportunity to go hang out in Bangkok. Twist my arm, make me go Smile. The Kalongs of my youth are gone, many of them now filled in. There are a few still, the waters still active. Dad was working during the day (except for the Saturday and Sunday) so I hung out with mom quite a bit. That was great. I got to take mom and her friend Miss Hart to the wonderful buffet overlooking the river. Well, mom intended to take me, but my grandfather taught me how to make sure the bill came to me. So I won that round. Grandpa was really good at getting bills sent to him. We had a wonderful lunch and did a little wandering. I always feel guilty every time I got to Thailand there are so many people I wish I could see every time. I get a few of them every time. There are people from my childhood that I can’t not see. They are important memories. We also took a trip to one of the oldest temples near Bangkok in the evening. Standing there trying to, with a digital camera, capture the majesty of a building that was more than 2000 years old. How do you capture 2000 years digitally? I have to say this movement, this visit to the temple feels different now. Miss Hart and Dad are no longer with us. The only travelers from that day that are still here are mom and I. I guess ultimately, the real reason for the family history project is to preserve moments like this. To make them available to more than just the four people that were standing there that evening.

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The picture of that evening trip to the Watt does little justice. I didn’t have a great camera with me. I guess in the age of Cell phone pictures this one is not bad. I find peace at Watt’s. Each one a different kind of peace and understanding. I was shocked at this one, standing next to my father he leaned in and said “I find such peace at Buddhist Watt’s” first off that he and I thought alike on the peace issue but also that he shared that with me. That was my father, you would be cruising along and he would would tell you something you didn’t expect. It has been a little over two years now and I miss that. I miss him handing me a book that I had to read. I miss basking in the warm glow of a Buddhist watt near Bangkok with him. My father, like all humans had flaws. Starting around the time we were in Bangkok and for many years after that, he and I didn’t see eye to eye often. My world was technology and building systems, teaching on occasion not teaching as an avocation. Dad and I never talked about that, about me leaving teaching. I know in the end that it bothered him. But I also know he was proud of who I became.

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I don’t often go picture crazy in my blog, but from time to time it is something you have to do. I love Bangkok. Not as much as my father did. He came alive in Bangkok. He was the Adjan (the honored professor) and it gave him an energy he didn’t always have back home. He did have that energy around my mom, but not work. Bangkok gave him purpose and connection. He had mom, dad always needed mom to make this whole. But Bangkok was his purpose, his mission. The pictures are from that long four or five day weekend. I really enjoyed hanging out with mom, hanging out with dad and just wandering Bangkok again. There are 100 places that I have been in the city. Maybe 200 places. I couldn’t pick a favorite one. Wandering the old city is amazing. Visiting the new Watt’s the ancient Watt’s, seeing the city evolve and become a mix of old and new. In 1972 there were Kalongs (Thai word for Canal) everywhere. Those were gone by 2003 when the entire family visited mom and dad as they were in Bangkok. There were still some Kalongs but not many, not the great Venice of the East (although 1000 years older than Venice, Venice is the Bangkok of the West). The Sunday Market, The Night Market, The Floating Market and just about every other market we ever went to were all and are all memories.

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Family Historian

On pools and big cities, moving away from Bloomington Indiana


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I have to say the one great thing about our neighborhood is that we have a great neighborhood pool. Great because I don’t have to spend the last three weekends of may getting the pool ready for the years. We built two pools (I know didn’t learn the first time). Our first pool was smaller in Cincinnati Ohio. We then went a little bigger after we moved to Greenwood. Since moving to Maryland we’ve lived in neighborhoods with pools and it makes all the difference. Unlike Indiana though, few neighborhoods here have basketball courts. They all have tennis courts and pools but no basketball courts. Even the sport complex (The Soccer Plex) that is a massive sports facility with 20 soccer fields (Cricket, a water park, and indoor tennis and indoor/outdoor swimming) doesn’t have basketball courts. I find that such a change from Indiana where every barn had a hoop (or so it felt like to me).

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These two pictures slightly different including the new fountain we tried in 2010. I think over the years we tried 4 different ones. Each of them was interesting but effectiveness was always the problem. Like I said I do not miss pool maintenance. Having a large backyard I don’t miss either. Someone has to mow it. Our yard is small and with the new patio there isn’t much yard left, just enough for the dogs to run around in. It is a very different world in the ‘burbs of a big city. When you live near a medium to large city things are much different overall. I remember complaining about traffic that delayed me an hour. It felt like forever when that happened driving around Indianapolis. Now there are days I wish it were only an hour. I guess as you move around your perspective and expectations change.

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My crew. I am so proud of all of them. On the far left my dog walking superstar Jakki. Then we have the amazing Lucas! Next to Lucas is the equally amazing Nick! And finally, the now fully licensed Maryland Social Worker, and my partner for the last 25 years Barb. This image taken on our family vacation to Indiana Dunes in 2010. Barb loves beaches so we have often vacationed near the water (now we get to vacation on the water). This trip ended up being our last summer vacation in Indiana. The next summer time we spent in Indiana wasn’t vacation. Both Barb and I grew up in Bloomington Indiana. We both loved growing up in that wonderful little university town, but we both longed to be somewhere else. Barb left Bloomington (she was born there) when she was 19 and moved to Arizona for a year. I was born in Chicago and missed being near a big city the entire time I was in Bloomington. I didn’t realize I missed the hustle and bustle of the city until we moved to Cincinnati Ohio. Bloomington is a unique experience. I love going back to see my sister and mother who still live there. But it is now going back. I was born in a big city. To me its where I belong.

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City boy…

The Kings Apple’s and shouting Police, Police!!!


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This is the exterior of the Kings Palace in Bangkok Thailand.  The King was experimenting with Apples so he was on dad’s really cool people list. One memory that I have (or as my mother like’s to say “it is your memory”) is of being in the Hotel the first month or so we were there. UNESCO put us up in a nice hotel and I actually started going to BPS (Bangkok Patana School) while we were still at the hotel. The memory is getting up really early (school started at 6:30 am to avoid the heat). The thing or memory that I have is mom telling me I could be responsible for my own restaurant meals in the early morning. She would get up, make sure I had a clean school uniform then she would head back to watching my sisters. I got to go downstairs like an adult and order my own breakfast. I felt like I was an adult.

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Mom and I have the same taste in Movies. We both love physical comedy. So we made sure to go to every single one of the Pink Panther movies starring Peter Sellers. But in Bangkok the movie that we ended up going to was it’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad world. Mom and I embarrassed dad because of how loud we laughed. I loved going to movies with mom. It was a time we could forget about everything and just enjoy. But the movie story from Bangkok was the great wuthering heights debacle. Mom and Miss Hart decided that Lynne and I needed to see the classic English Drama Wuthering Heights. There was a theater that had been playing the movie. Sadly the Wuthering Heights run was over the day before we went, which we found out when the Vampire movie came on the screen. Mom and Miss Hart rushed Lynne and I out of the theater.

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Another fun mom story from back in the day. I wasn’t with her when this one happened but mom was incredible funny retelling the story and it has stuck with me for more than 40 years. Mom was out one day in our Opal (a really great car we had in Bangkok). While stopped at a stop light another car hit the back of the Opal. Mom got out of the car as the man who hit her got out of the car and mom began shouting “police, police”   in Thai. The man kept trying to tell mom something. But mom kept yelling police, police. Eventually the man was able to convince her that he was in fact an off-duty police officer. Everything was fine in the end. No one hurt and the car was repaired. But mom’s retelling of the story made my laugh then and still makes me laugh. Mom has an incredible sense of humor.

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Family Historian