A beaming Ajaan Boonsom called me into her office. A chocolate cake sat on her desk with a lit candle stuck in the frosting – a real farang cake from Seiler’s Bakery on Sukumvit.
“Wow, what’s the occasion, ajaan?”
“Khun Maitri, the Ministry of Education is submitting “Magic Chopsticks” to represent Thailand in the International Japan Prize ETV contest!”
“Meet Mr. Maitri” was a winner. Ernie, Dan, Bob and the gang had taken my first eight scripts and turned them into funny, well-acted episodes spiced with imaginative animation. The kids loved Mr. Kung Fu and the puppets. Seagrave ran a cover story on the TV series in the Bangkok World and Peace Corps Thailand basked in the favorable publicity. Now this unexpected honor.
“Ajaan, that’s wonderful!” I cried.
I walked over and over and gave her a big hug, making her blush in embarrassment.. She had taken a big chance on us and we had delivered. Someone high up in the Ministry had decided “Meet Mr. Maitri,” produced by Ajaan Boonsom Chatikanon, was the best educational TV program the Kingdom had to showcase to the world. I only wished Kevin Delany could have been there. She called everyone into her office and shared the great news. After the cake was devoured and everyone returned to work, Ajaan Boonsom asked me to stay behind.
“Khun Maitri, are you happy working here?” she asked.
“Yes, of course,” I said.
“I’m happy to hear that. Often you leave work early.” It was a zinger, but she delivered it with a smile. “And you missed many days from sickness –maybe because yuu work in a developing country like Thailand.” She had a twinkle in her eye.
It suddenly dawned on me where she was headed. I was supposed to write twenty programs before I left but I had only finished half a season. Now it was payback time. I had neglected my work, running off to Chiang Mai and Laos and Cambodia to write stories instead of writing scripts for “Meet Mr. Maitri”; skipping work to protest at the American Embassy or hang out at home waiting for a revolution to break out in Burma, and all my absences eventually added up.
“All of us are hoping you will stay a few more months until you finish ‘Meet Mr. Maitri’,” she said.
Behind her, in a picture frame on a wicker bookshelf, King Bhumibol Adulyadej stared at me, honor and responsibility personified. “Well, Mr. Maitri,” his majesty seemed to say, “How about it? We welcomed you to Thailand. We gave you the adventure of a lifetime. And we helped you grow up.” I looked at Mrs. Boonsom. Would it kill me to stay and finish up? If the World couldn’t wait, Dispatch would. Mike Morrow was working on plans for a Bangkok-based, Dispatch News TV service using him, me and John Dornbierer as the news team, but he figured it would take a year to raise the capital. Either way, I’d still be in the game.
Besides, I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty about that two week assignment to Indonesia with John Dornbierer I had already accepted from the Bangkok World.
(All: It’s been fun. Hope you enjoyed it Four more blogs and I'm wrapping this up. I have to let you know whether Peerachat won his bet….)