December 2007: “Be Careful What You Wish For....”

154/171 First Tower
Sukhumvit Soi 1
Wattana, Bangkok
Thailand 10110

24 December 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

Have you heard the expression, “Be careful what you wish for….”?

For a year and a half I have been wishing for visitors. I could take folks around my neighborhood and introduce them to the tasty food and the smiling food vendors I have befriended. They could admire the golden Buddhist temples and the grand royal palaces and the enormous shopping malls. And finally they would meet my friends and colleagues and other ex-pats who live and work here in my adopted home.

My wish finally came true in the middle of November. To celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary, my cousin Dorothy and her husband Roger from London had booked a cruise in Southeast Asia. Bangkok was their embarkation city.

My visitors and I had dinner together at an outdoor sidewalk seafood restaurant and at an indoor fancy place. I persuaded them to try the national dish – spicy papaya salad. And finally, before they knew what was happening, I had each of them on the back of a motorcycle taxi for the short speedy ride from Sukhumvit Road down the Soi to my apartment.

Dorothy had tears in her eyes when she departed and asked me to visit her soon. She has three grandchildren and I have never met the youngest.

Next, by chance, I met charming LiLi and Italian ex-pat Diego, professional photographers from Beijing. Diego gave me a few good tips and we all enjoyed a few beers together at Nana Plaza Entertainment Complex.

Next came Da, my Thai friend from Miami. Da decided to visit Thailand so that her son Art could become ordained as a monk. Da didn’t need any orientation to Bangkok and she didn’t need me as a guide. She did need a place to stay for a night and I was happy to oblige. Da also invited me to Art’s ordination ceremony.

Then came Dan. Dan, 19, is the youngest child of my friends Larry and Brooke in Boston. Larry warned me Dan was on his way but it wasn’t clear when exactly he would arrive. Well, my mobile phone rang one evening. Dan was at the airport and I gave him directions to my street. He crashed at my pad.

My friend Noy and I took Dan to a few of our favorite temples. We tried to see the parade for the King, but the parade was delayed. Dan and I needed to take a late bus in order to attend a wedding Up County early the next morning. Dan had decided to come with me.

Dan is a delightful young man and quite independent and adventurous. For me it was like having a young son around for a couple of days. I was sad to see him leave. He was headed for Nong Kai, on the border of Laos where he will receive an orientation to his volunteer project.

Then came Ofir and her boyfriend Emre. Ofir is the granddaughter of my second cousin, Miryam, in Israel. Ofir and Emre, twentysomethings, are just out of the IDF and taking their “big trip” before returning to university at home. They traveled for three months in India and showed up here one day. We had lunch and looked at my maps of Thailand. They stayed at the backpackers’ neighborhood before taking my suggestion to go to “romantic” Kanchanaburi, the site of the bridge on the River Kwai and lovely mountain scenery with lakes and waterfalls.

Next, Roel. Roel, 36, and I met in Bangkok last year. Roel is my Dutch buddy. I suppose you could say we are “soul mates.” We both enjoy travel, photography, good conversation and non-fiction books about history and culture. Roel is also a brilliant computer professional who specializes in helping multi-national companies with logistics and financial controls. Roel now lives in Chiang Mai so he came to Bangkok to visit friends and to enjoy a bit of nightlife. We enjoyed a bit of nightlife together. Just a bit.

Next, Dalia and her boyfriend Harel, fortysomthings. Poor Dalia, she missed her baby Ofir so much she came to visit her and travel together. And also, for what else? Shopping! So I took the group to lunch and Thai-style iced coffee in my neighborhood before they all flew south to Phuket, Thailand’s largest island and a popular beach resort. I await their certain return. Dalia left a huge suitcase filled with about forty pair of jeans.

In between all of this, Da returned for a couple of hours to pick up the photos I took at the ordination ceremony, and Dan returned for a couple of hours to shower and change clothes after his all-night train ride. Da is headed back to Miami and Dan is headed to his teaching project in a small town on the Andaman coast north of Phuket.

Whew! What a month! What an end to 2007! Wishes do come true. In spades.

I hope that in 2008 I will be the visitor rather than the visitee.

On 4 January I fly from Bangkok to Beijing for a four week journey in China. In the middle of the winter? Yes, I promised myself I would visit the northern city of Harbin for their annual special event. You could look it up. Of course I will visit LiLi and Diego in Beijing. LiLi has already made some excellent suggestions for my trip.

At the end of January, when I return from icy China, I expect to defrost down in Phuket where I will visit Dan at the seaside.

Then in April, for Passover, I will return to Israel to visit Ofir and Emre, Dalia and Harel, Dalia’s parents Abba Moshe and Miryam, and the rest of their large family

In August I will return to Miami to visit Da, other loyal friends and my nephew Jason and his family.

In early September I will fly to New York to see many old friends and cousins. I also plan to visit my friend Allen. Together we will attend our high school reunion celebration from September 12 – 14.

I also plan to visit Boston. And who knows? I may just rent a car and visit many other hot spots east of the Mississippi. Look for Jan at a Holiday Inn near you.

There’s another expression worth noting, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

I know I am neither immune nor exempt from “life.” So I am making my Leap Year plans and hoping for the best.

And whether you are a visitor or a visitee, may your wishes come true and your days be busy, warm and just a bit spicy in the New Year.



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