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Michael L Schmicker's Blog

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Mar.17.2009
The night before they drew my draft lottery number, I dreamed of Khun Mae. In my dream, I was back in Thonburi sitting on her floor with Peerachat and Mr. Pipe Wrench. She finished my reading and I asked her for a betel nut to take home with my chilies. She reached into her woven basket, pulled...
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Mar.16.2009
While I hallucinated in a Bangkok hospital that summer, the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Vietnam reached 45,000. Stuck in Thailand, I missed the Big One. On October 15, 1969, a million Americans across the nation joined in "Vietnam Moratorium" demonstrations, rallies and prayer...
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Mar.12.2009
“Khun Maitri hiu cow mai?”  Sunee asked me. She stood next to my bed with a plate of gai yaang. Aren’t you hungry? She was worried. “Mai ao,” I replied. No. I turned away. The Peace Corps Manual called dengue fever “break-bone fever,” and that’s how it felt to me. Our pond was filled with...
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Mar.11.2009
I wasn’t always a teacher in Thailand. Sometimes I was a 747 pilot. When I flagged down a tuk-tuk or a taxi in Bangkok, I always bargained in Thai to get the local rate instead of the G.I. rate. That would spark the inevitable questions. Why was I in Thailand? What did I do for a living?  In the...
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Mar.08.2009
 Peerachat, Denjit and I usually lunched at a nearby raan ahaan that offered cheap noodles and cold beer to cool you off when the 90-degree heat and shirt-sopping humidity started to wilt you.  Like most, it was a hole in the wall; a cement box with a few plastic tables, a Sanyo refrigerator, a...
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Mar.05.2009
Ajaan Denjit liked massage parlors but he loved muay Thai. He worked every weekend as a Thai boxing referee at Lumpini stadium over on Rama IV Road. James Bond did his famous kick-boxing in The Man With the Golden Gun at rival Rajdamnern Stadium but Thailand’s best nak muay strutted their stuff at...
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Mar.03.2009
By night I was a writer. By day I was a discontented  school teacher. The monsoon weather matched my pissy personal life. From May through October, most afternoons brought an intense, tropical downpour which usually cleared by evening, but not before Bangkok filled up like an overflowing bathtub....
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Feb.26.2009
Ajaan Peerachat was my best friend at Wat Bovornives. He was what I would never be – a professional teacher. He taught me jai yen yen, cool heart, the relaxed, easy-going attitude Thai people excel at. Between my relaxing a bit and the public caning of Terdsak, Maw Saw 5 became tolerable. We were...
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Feb.21.2009
What had I gotten myself into? In the first three months, five Thai 27 Volunteers quit and flew home. Some were lonely, some were disillusioned, some simply couldn’t handle the culture shock. One girl suffered a nervous breakdown and Peace Corps had to emergency medevac her back to the States....
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Feb.20.2009
“Welcome to Wat Bovornives, Mr. Michael.” Headmaster Prayud, the ajaan yai, gestured to the tea pot and plate of mamuang – sweet sticky rice and mango – sitting in front of me on his desk. A dignified, square-faced, middle-aged man with graying hair, wearing a short-sleeve, white shirt and dark tie...
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Feb.11.2009
On the night of May 11, 1969, I found myself flying over Vietnam on Pan Am 1 bound for Bangkok. The cabin was dark, everyone dozing. I peered out the window and thought about the war raging 28,000 feet below me at that moment. It was surreal. Down in the darkened jungle, Viet Cong and American...
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Feb.09.2009
 Eight hours later, I landed in San Diego – blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. Sitting on a bench in the Greyhound bus station waiting for the rest of Thai 27 to show up, I watched a parade of young Navy recruits and grim-faced Marines dragging duffel bags through the noisy crowd. Nobody was...
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Feb.05.2009
The summer of 1968, I finally quit the seminary. I walked into the office of the Rector, Father McCormick, an ascetic Irishman from Boston, and told him I wanted out. I wasn’t sure about God, and celibacy was nuts. He didn’t argue with me because he never believed I would make much of a priest...
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Jan.30.2009
I couldn’t bring myself to play Goebbels for Nixon, so I never told Sergeant Rock at the Post Office about my film training –– but I  told Peace Corps. I air-mailed off an application the day after I passed the pre-induction physical.   In the summer of 1966, still toying with the priesthood, I...
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Jan.27.2009
 Before Bush and Iraq, there was Nixon and Vietnam. I ended up in Peace Corps, but sometimes wonder who I would be today had  I  ended up carrying an M-16,  slogging through the Mekong delta. The road not taken, as Frost  put it.  In the Fall of ’68, as the government worked to restock our...
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