Thursday, December 24, 1998

So This is Christmas

Hey Friends,

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.


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 , 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.


Thursday, December 17, 1998

Week Two in Bangkok

Hello Again Dear Friends

Well, another week in sunny and warm (but cold to the locals at a mere 75 degrees F) Thailand, and another week to get more settled in to my surroundings and establish friendships.


I am learning, and the task mutates into more information and research the more I read and study, but all the better. I actually am quite intrigued by a certain book I am reading. "Burma: Insurgency and the politics of ethnicity" is a book recommended to catch up on the background of some of the refugees we deal with on a daily basis. I am slowly beginning to understand the all too complicated history of Burma through te book, and I am learning more about Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy activist in Burma who recieved worldwide recognition during the 1988 protests and recieved the Nobel Peace Prize. Lots of heavy stuff, and defintely intensely interesting reading. So the research angle of it all is cool

Next week, my predecessor arrives to handover the rest of the job to me, and then I should be smooth sailing in the Information Office. I plan on an extensive visit to Cambodia to find out more about the JRS field operations and programs there - PnomPenh, Siem Riep, Sisophon, and Batangbong. That trip takes place around mid-January. Then February 3rd through the 9th I take a trip to meet organizations in the Phillipines, mainly Manilla. A lot on my plate in the coming months, but I like the travel.

I have been getting around Bangkok rather well despite my inability to speak any Thai. I would like to learn Thai, but classes are sort of expensive and my schedule may preclude me from being able to do so right off the bat. I believe my language lessons will have to come about as trial by fire. As for the company I keep, it's fascinating to reflect on the diversity of the people I come in to contact with on a daily basis. Human rights activists, student demonstrators in exile, lawyers, religous clergy, and staff workers paint the colors of my current life. The weeks to come hold the promise of meeting more interesting people, and the adventures continue from there.


The Illinois connection wraps up this week with my family all moved and settled in Pennsylvania sometime this weekend.


Dan Millbauer is doing a little visiting at home from Japan as well as Greg Craber (who leaves Las Vegas for Washingtom State for Christmas), Larry Gillick is still going strong in New York - I had a chance to instant message a little session with him and it was good to keep up with him.


Matt Wrobel is recording another CD with the Dodecaphonics in Boston, and then is heading home for Christmas break. Carrie Williams is in to her fifth and final year at Olivet, and has a wedding on the horizon (I believe during the same time as the release of Star Wars: ThePhantom Menace, which is a crime. There should be a national holiday in honor of the release of this incredibly awesome film! - Just kidding Carrie!). Her incredible excitement into marriage is evident in her e-mails, and kanester and Vader International wish Carrie best wishes. I know that Rob Thiry is working at Wolohan's (soonto be Stock Lumber) in Dekalb, but know nothing more than that because he sees fit to never e-mail (hinthint)


This area is for those who wish to get some messages out to those on the Kanestergram. E-mail me withyour message, and I indiscriminatly will post on the next Kanestergram.


On January 24th, all movie theaters will be required to ship back to Lucasfilm the prequel trailer that was released in early November. This is due to the fact that Lucasfilm would like to keep a lid and strict control over all aspects of the coming Prequel Trilogy AND because after January 24th, there will be a 4 and a half minute trailer to replace the existing one. Cool stuff, helping build the excitement to May21st. is one of thebest sites on the Internet for information on the coming prequel. Check it out.

Well, so concludes another Kanestergram. I wouldn't mind hearing from you, so I hope that you don't mind sending some mail.

Until Then,Peace and Best Wishes,

Happy Holidays


Thursday, December 10, 1998

One Week in Bangkok

Dear Kanestergrammers,

Well, I recieved some backlash about cancelling theKanestergrams, so here is another, continued in asomewhat different tradition than before.


My first week as the Information Officer for theJesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific has been botheventful and then again uneventful. I spent the first few days staying at the office here and getting familiar with staff and colleagues, and I am nowstill in the midst of a hectic orientation program. Conversely, I really haven't done much in relation to my job due to the fact that I need to become more familiar with the work itself. But it will all panout in due course I am sure.

And to top it off, I have already had two days off during my first week of work because of Thai National Holidays. It was the King's birthday this weekend,so we had Monday off for that (it was also the opening ceremony for the Asian Games, hosted here inBangkok) and then we had Thursday off for a holiday I am not entirely sure about.

SO on Thursday, Myself and several Jesuit scholastics(Jesuit hopefuls who have yet to take their vows) went on a bit of a tour of Bangkok, visiting the reclining Bhudda at the Wat Pho temple, eating Chinese food in the Thai tradition, and then a visit to the Grand Palace of King Rama, where the emerald Bhudda rests and the King of Thailand used to reside. A long day that was tiring on the feet and legs(whine whine whine....)

Today, I join several different agencies in preparing for a Christmas party at the Immigration DetentionCenter (IDC) where those who enter Thailand illegally are sent before deportation or release. We will be wrapping presents and preparing gift baskets. It will be my first of many visits to the center, and I look forward to it.

I moved in to my "condominium" which is really just an oversized studio apartment. It came furnished,but still looks a little barren. I have an awesome view of the city from my balcony and even have some palm trees - one on the balcony and I brought one inside the apartment to give the place a little color and flavor. It is a neat place to be and is very close to the office.

And the office....messy, cluttered, but slowly being sorted through as I make sense of my new environment and the world around me.


I am not sure how many of you know or have heard, and my parents probably don't want me making a big deal about it, but the family is moving from Marseilles Illinois back to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. My father took a new job with Miranda Homes in Imperial Pennsylvania and that will bring the family back to our roots in PA. I am particularly happy with that. It seems that everything will pan out for my family and I will be able to bring the base operations of Kanester Central back to my old stomping grounds in the future.

THE OTTAWA SCENE (That's Illinois, not Canada)

Well, I saw many of you during my home visit before traipsing off across the world, and it was good to remind me that Ottawa is a nice place to visit, but not to live at this point in my life. Even though the family is moving to Pennsylvania, I intend to visit often and keep up to date with those near and dear to me who share the alma mater (correct terminology?).

I sincerely hope to give the Ottawa Daily Times exclusive rights to publish articles I will submit before others will publish it, provided my boss allows and the editors of the Daily Times get in touch with me. So far my offers have gone unanswered, and I won't keep trying.


I heard that I made the Christmas tape with my infamous "Truffle Schuffle" and a new rendition of "Twelve Days of Christmas". I miss hanging out with you guys, both those I survived Roppongi with in Japan and those who I certainly escaped Itaewon with intact from Korea. Good times and great pictures,which I soon hope to litter my office with. Keep me up to date.


Well, the gang or the friends. Steep has just wrapped up his directing venture with some high school kids in "Bullshot Crummond" and it looks as if it went off without a hitch. I take personal pride in Steep - he does well and carries a drive and ambition (and a weird sort of relentless dedication) that I try to emulate at times. Keep it up Steepdogg! I hear that Julia Jorgenson might be moving or rumors to the sort. Rod Swearingen and Aaron Giger sent a reassuring e-mail to me that reinforces the fact that a friend is a friend, always, any where in the world. They're in Reno Nevada hanging.

Marty Marincic is getting along rather well in the theater and SIU scene. I understand some personal works written by Rich himself are going to be performed, and it strikes me as rather impressive. I am assuming Matt Wrobel is still on the up and up at Dartmouth. You would think that buds like Kanester and Wrobs would keep up a bit more, but Matt gets all busy singing and doping up some songs and such with the noted a capella group "Dodecaphonics". Those who were with Matt in OHS choir - can you really believe it - Matt is probably one of the most successful singers to come from Ottawa high school in recent years (minus Carrie Williams of course) and to think that I never knew he could sing, and he only joined choir halfway through the senior year! Wrobs- You Da Man!

The stripes to shirts crew (ex-military friends)

It was good to hang out with Roger Hunter and reminisce about the good life in Korea. A bit nostalgic, but Roger has done well for himself, moving in to a trendy and awesome townhouse and working as a production manager for Darshan studiosin Washington


Those coming to Bangkok End of December: Shon Smith and friend
End of January: Dan Day (D-Day)
Springtime: Dan Millbauer?

STAR WARS: The Phantom Menace

This section is dedicated to my only love in life -STAR WARS. You can get the latest on info for the movie from this section. Those who want it - I'll send you the Samuel Jackson Top Ten sayings in the new Star Wars prequel (He plays a jedi in the new movie.) Release Date: May 21st, 1999

There are several newsgroups and clubs on line. Youcan even join a group who will be standing in line for shifts for a month at the Mann's Village Theater to get tickets to Star Wars opening gala. Contact me for info.The trailer can be downloaded at

I'll provide more interesting things in the future. Well, I hope that the Kanestergram is a little bit better than previous ones, even if it is a little long. Thanks for taking the time to read it and share in it with me, and I will continue the tradition as long as people express interest.


Wednesday, December 9, 1998

First weeks in Thailand

I moved in to my apartment. It is really cool and rather homey. It is really big, about three times the size of my room there in Japan and it has a neat baclony with an awesome view of the city, plus a pool on the roof to boot.

So I am getting settled here and starting to get the awesome task of familiarization in the works. Tomorrow is a Thai holiday, so me and a few of the Jesuit Scholastics (Jesuits in training I guess) and the legal officer (Micheal) are going on the boat canal ride and taking a tour of the Grand Palace.

This weekend is the visit and Christmas party at the Immigration Detention Center, where all of those here in Thailand illiegaly are put in prison. Our Christmas party here at the office was pretty humble but cool. Mass followed by some gathering was the extent of it.

As for me, I have a bank account, an I.D., a room, a job, and my own office, so I am settled in so far as that is concerned. Got my Milage Plus with United all squared away and it turns out I have enough miles to be a premier member, including enough miles for
some free airfare. So that is how that is going.

The family has moved to Pittsburgh and my Dad started his job on Monday. I spoke to him for the first time today, and it was comforting to know that everything is going OK. My mom and Ashley are still in Illinois so Ashley can finish school up to Christmas break and my mom can put in enough notice to leave the hospital. Then they will all be in Pittsburgh.

That's the news as of now.