Well, I guess this is what they call Christmas. Chalk up another year on the Kanester calender away from home for Christmas. That's right. While all of you are cuddling by the fireplace and watching the snow fall outside while listening to "Silver Bells", Ihave no tree to look at, no hope of snow falling, and(sniff sniff) no Christmas presents.
Oh well, moving on.
Christmas here is HOT, HOT, HOT. The temperature outside is about 80F, give or take 5 degrees. Christmas here isn't celebrated, so all the shops and stores in Bangkok are in full swing. There are Christmas lights up at the World Trade Center, but nothing impressive really. Can't replace the states for Christmas defintely.
In the Christmas spirit, I visited the Immigration Detention Center, where illegal immigrants and foreigners who commit crimes are detained. It is depressing. I was there with a Filipino band who was singing Christmas carols, and the smiles were few and the tears many. I couldn't help but give a tear here and there myself. Most of the people there haven't really done anything wrong. Most are illegal migrant workers, refugees, or just people who came toThailand to escape the hardships of thier own country. The prison is a series of rooms that hold up to 150, 200 people in each room at times. One room, where they put the Burmese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian women and children, they were uncontrollable. We were distributing presents and gift bags for them, and the kids were well behaved, but the women weren't, and they all came to get a bag at one time. I was being overrun and had to fight to get my way out of the cell. So I just brought one bag at a time in to the cell, and it worked better that way. The most heart wrenching sight are the kids. Just being next to them makes your heart sink, and I can only pray they get out of there and don'thave to come back.
My friend Allen, a Filipino, dedicates most of his day trying to help the detainees. I admire him greatly because he gets up everyday, sometimes even on the weekend, and gives 110 % to help the people. Most of the time, he is buying plane tickets and visiting embassies here in Bangkok to get them out of the detention center. The detention center isn't even the worst of it. Allen even visits the real prisons here and does what he can there. I haven't seen the prisons yet, but I hope to visit.
I just got done through a week of orientation with my predecessor, who was gone for the first two weeks I was here to be a reporter for Rueters during the Asian Games. Jon Greenaway is heading off to his homeland of Australia in a few days, and then he may return to Bangkok to work as a freelance reporter, or hopefully full time for Rueters. Things dealing with our work are becoming more apparent to me. My colleagues at the Bangkok Refugee Program (BRP) deal with the Burmese refugees and dissidents primarily, and it is always interesting to talk to them. I have befriended some of them, among them Ye Tieza, who was brutally tortured by the military junta in Burma for student demonstrating. He actually has me set up for a blind date tonight. I speak no Thai and the girl speaks no english, so we'll see I guess.
I'll be heading off to Cambodia in a couple of weeks to orient myself with the operations there and to assess the climate in the post civil war Cambodia. Since the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge have surrendered, the refugees we deal with may be able to return home.
In Febraury I head off to the Phillipines for a week of orientations with various offices there. And then in March, I will hopfeully pull together an extensive trip to China to assess the situation of North Korea refugees in China.
All these things will be keeping me pretty busy, so I am looking forward to the travel. And if I am lucky enough, I will be able to go to our JRS In-Service meeting for two weeks in Nairobi, Kenya. Cheers tothat!
Do I have any left? The Marincics sent a neat Christmas newsletter and Iguess that Rich is up and coming in the acting arena, with an extra role here and there. Hopefully I'll meet up with Marty in CA sometime next year. I guess everyone is home for Christmas, so those of you in school probably won't get this till you get back to school, but drop me a few lines and let me know how Christmas went.
Some of you should be recieving a letter from me in the mail. Write back to me or let me know you got it. Thanks. Expect it in about two weeks.
STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE
Well, I saw the prquel trailer here in Thailand before"Saving Private Ryan" (My sixth time seeing it) and Iwas reading on the net some controversy about whetheror not the title was really "The Phantom Menace" because foreign countries didn't have the PhantomMenace logo with the trailer. Well it was here inThailand, so I submitted my findings to www.countingdown.com , and they posted my testimony on the webpage, and it gets something like 60,000 hits a day. Pretty cool. So now I am the Thailand correspondent for Star Wars info. It comes out here on June 18th, 1999, but I would really like to see it at the Mann's Village in California on opening night, where you have to stand in line for days on end to get a seat for the opening show. It's a whole part of the genre. One can still dream......
Shon Smith and friend - December 26th - 31st
Dan Day - Late January
Dan Millbauer - ?
Me Casa Su Casa - let me know if your in town.That's really all for the Christmas edition of theKanestergram.
I hope that you have all enjoyed yourhoiday season, and may God bless in the new year.