Tag Archives: Thailand

Yes, There is a Fourth of July in Bangkok

3 Jul

You know that elementary school joke: “Is there a Fourth of July in England?” Of course there is! It’s just that it’s not Independence Day for them there the way it is for us in the US of A.

I’ve spent holidays in some unique places. Thanksgiving in Tunisia (let’s just say there was no turkey for dinner), several Christmases in West Berlin, Easter in Paris, and The Fourth of July in Thailand.

Spending your country’s independence day in a different country is bizarre. You feel patriotic and guilty, both at the same time. Kind of like when I traveled to the USSR in high school and all I wanted to do was chew gum…and I hate gum. It was this tenuous connection to the USA – something that made me feel American…as if I needed reminding when all around me was the Cyrillic alphabet, furry hats, and borscht.

When the Fourth of July rolled around in Bangkok the summer of 1989, all of the American ex-patriots were invited to the American Embassy’s front lawn for a down-home American picnic, complete with hamburgers, hotdogs, corn on the cob, and ice cream. There were games, too: three-legged races and tug-of-war. And, at the end of the day, fireworks.

Let’s just say that the American embassy in Thailand doesn’t have a very big fireworks budget.

But, that being said, that afternoon and evening stand out in my mind as one of the most memorable Independence Day celebrations I’ve ever had. Being away from home made home all that much more special.

But I think the best Fourth of Julys were spent on Orcas Island, growing up. Their budget – supplemented by tin donation cans at every island store all summer long – was a million times larger than the Thai embassy’s. Orcas Island had – and still has – the best fireworks I’ve ever seen.

When the sun goes down, round about 10:00 at that latitude, the people of the island – along with a gazillion tourists – line Eastsound Bay and wait patiently for the show to start. Out on tiny Indian Island (only slightly less unpolitically correct than its former name, “Jap Island”) – with fireboats floating at the ready – the pyrotechnics are about to begin.

Now, Orcas Island is an upside-down horse-shoe shape, and Eastsound Bay is at the top of the inner part of the “U”. All around the bay, then, is island and hills – big hills – hills which would be called mountains around here in Minnesota.

Indian Island is an itsy-bitsy island just at the head of the bay, which can be reached at low-tide if you’re booted up and keep a wary eye on the rising tide so that you don’t get stranded. It’s the perfect spot for fireworks, as any accidental fire is contained on the island, and you have this amphitheater surrounding it with space for hundreds of viewers, both on land and by sea.

So, picture this: you’ve shimmied across a narrow rock path to get to your favorite place on the beach. In the dark, no less. And now you’re sitting on a promontory, hearing the local YMCA campers singing campfire songs at the top of their lungs (the sound traveling across the water), hearing waves lapping a few feet away, and watching the star-strewn sky for the explosion of fireworks.

There are probably 25 boats out on the bay, sitting quietly at anchor. Occasionally the sound of laughter or popping of champagne corks comes faintly toward you, but nothing too obnoxious.

Then comes the first burst of color, the BOOM of powder, and the echo of it all ricocheting off the mountains.

Explosion after explosion, reflected on the water, in our eyes, in our hearts.

Now THAT, my friends, is how to spend the Fourth of July.

Happy Birthday, America.

Oh, the irony! 23 years after I spent the summer in Thailand, my husband went there for a few days and took the next several shots. Needless to say, the hotel across the river had a much larger fireworks budget than the US embassy…

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Sometimes Epiphanies Come in Neon-Green Flashes of Light

26 Jul

Didn't catch this lightning bug flashing, but here he is...in all his non-glowing glory.

So…it just O’Ccurred to me that I often begin my blog entries with “So…” Oops! On the other hand, I like the feeling that we’re continuing a conversation – that I’ve just stepped out for a minute and now am back, ready to pick up where we left off. Somehow “so…” sets that tone for me.

So…I bought the 2011 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition about 3 weeks ago. I opened it today for the first time. “Why,” you might be wondering, “did you wait so long when this is the thing you’re aiming at? SELLING your book? Finding an agent, finding a publisher. Why didn’t you dive right in?” Because it makes me nervous. It makes me afraid. It makes me a wee bit queasy.

I keep telling myself, “Hey, it’s being edited now. Then, inevitably, you’ll need to change things, clean it up, fix stuff. You’ve got plenty of time to research publishers, agents, etc.” Yes. And no. Plenty of time…but the time all goes so quickly. Especially when singing and dancing get in the way. (See last week’s post!)

The singing and dancing is a little less stressful now that I’m getting it somewhat figured out, but it’s even more exhausting with the late nights of practice. We were driving home from rehearsal after dark last night, and, despite my weary state of mind, I was able to admire the lightning bugs. They’re incredible this year.

One got caught in Lucy's hair!

I love the Morse code of the fireflies. I love sitting on the deck as it gets dark and watching them come out randomly across the yard, singly or in groups, like neon-green chips of light sewn in the air by some giant farmer scattering his seeds.

We didn’t have fireflies in Washington…a sad lack in the Pacific Northwest skies. The first time I saw them was in Thailand, the summer of 1989. I remember standing at the edge of the jungle, in the yard of the church where we were staying, and wondering what on God’s green earth I was seeing flashing all over the place like insane disco balls of light. I asked someone what they were and they, being from the southern United States, stared at me through the darkness like I was a crazy woman. “You don’t know what lightning bugs are?”
“Well, sure I do. I’ve just never seen them before. Is that seriously what they are?” I could hardly believe it. “They’re amazing.”

They are unbelievably hard to capture on film. This is the best of about 50 tries!

And they are, truly. They hover over the long wet, boggy grass that is our yard and they speak to each other of their day, their troubles, their love. And we foolish humans gasp and clap our hands at their beauty. This is a gift from God, a reward for the humidity, the soaring temperatures, the long nights of play practice. Lightning bugs: the great stress reliever.

And they’re way more fun than researching publishers.

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