Monday, July 28, 2014

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THAI'd ONE ON . . .

Reconnecting with my Soul Tribe at the International School Bangkok All-Class Reunion in San Jose - 24-29 July 2014

As I've described many times before, I grew up in Southeast Asia in the sixties and the seventies. It was an incredible childhood and youth, one I wouldn't trade for all the tea in China, but when the time came for me to leave and to come "home" to a land I barely knew . . . well, you can't possibly imagine the sensations of loss, of loneliness, of exile. The closest I can describe it is the feelings returned veterans have of a shared adventure, the most intense time of their lives, that nobody around them knows or can possibly understand.

Tony Grady in the jump seat, that's me in the driver's seat. Tony was Class President and Senior Patrol Leader in our Boy Scout Troop. A natural leader with tons of charisma, he went on to fly the B-2 Stealth Bomber.

Again and again I have heard my friends from that time of my life remark upon the same themes: coming "home" and missing an exotic land in Asia, a magical kingdom that for us really was our home. When I came "home" I was a lost soul. I didn't have a plan, I didn't know how to connect the dots . . . I couldn't even understand how people looked at me and saw me as the same as them, but inside I was so, so different . . . it literally took decades just to get my head around it . . .

Artifacts and souvenirs from The Good Old Days

Nowadays we "ISBeings" reconnect through our biannual Reunions, alternating between the west and the east coast. For us, this is more than a high school reunion - this is the only way we can go "home". Bangkok is still there, of course, but our friends and families are no longer there. I went back to Bangkok in 1988 and it broke my heart. I was standing in the middle of Sukhumvit Road - one of the busiest thoroughfares in one of most vibrant and bustling cities in Asia - and I might as well have been in a ghost town.

If you can't be in Thailand, you must bring Thailand to YOU! Thai dancers at the Saturday night banquet.

Ancient Sukhothai style of Thai dance.

Isan style of Thai dance done to modern electronic synthesized version traditional Thai dance music.

The home of our youth is more a moment in time than a physical place. Sure, Thailand is still there, but our home is the Thailand of our youth. At the ISB Reunions a strange phenomenon takes place. At some point over the four days, a strange kind of vivid deja-vu occurs, all of the alumni describe it:

A glimpse out of the side of the eye as an old friend approaches out of the sunlight, and she looks like she's sixteen years old . . .

. . . an out-of-body experience on the dance floor and suddenly its Saturday night, dancing the night away at the Teen Club . . .

Words aren't enough to describe . . . but pictures are worth thousands of words . . .

More little bits and pieces of Thailand . . . because when you're an ISBeing, wherever you go, there's always a little piece of Thailand there . . .

ISB logo with the iconic Hanuman, the brave and virtuous Monkey God of Hindu mythology, loved and revered in Thailand.

The Mighty, Mighty Mekhong

The ISB Alumni Association Spirit House embodies the Camaraderie we share as ISBeings, the Good Works we pursue in the ISB Alumni Association, and as remembrance of our lost Family of Classmates and Instructors.

Our Tribal Gatherings allow us to reach back across the Mists of Time and briefly touch our Shangri-La beneath the Summer Moon . . .




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