My Asia Journey – Part 2

I know I began the story of the journey over a year ago and wrote Part 1. I was recently reminded that I didn’t finish writing those memories so I will write part 2.

My blue and white fruit bowl from Thailand

For some reason this part of the journey has been the hardest to write. It could be that this was a difficult assignment. It might be that this is one of those times in life that I wonder, “what would have happened if. . .” I do want to write this just to have it as part of the story.

So after 10 months in Taiwan I was back in the US and working there. I was living with my parents as that was an easy place to go. I was making plans to move into an apartment. Then in May or June I was  asked if I would go to Thailand. There was a factory there that the company I worked for was helping to manage. It was an interesting arrangement — American management, Chinese ownership, and Thai labor. That should give some clue to the challenges that were faced. I was asked to go and help with production management — get the product produced and shipped.

In early July I flew to Thailand. Back in those days I mainly flew Northwest and their Asia hub was Narita. It was late afternoon when I landed there and then it was still a 5-6 hour flight to Bangkok. The flight landed there close to midnight. I remember walking outside and realizing it was hot, very hot there. I read that Thailand has two seasons hot and very hot. The food is also hot or very hot.

My job was scheduling production so that orders were shipped on time. It was a much different work experience for me. Three languages were used in the office — Thai, Chinese, and English. You might have to look for a different translator depending who you wanted to talk to. Our offices were at the factory which was in a special area that was manufacturing to export. We had various checkpoints along the way.

I lived in a hotel now before you thing that was a glamorous life I should explain some things, the hotel was brand new which makes it sound wonderful but hot water didn’t really exist and there was one restaurant and not much in the area. I really didn’t spend much time there.

Our morning began with a planning meeting at 7:30. So in order to be there on time we had to leave at 6:30. There were two others working there and living in the hotel so we met for breakfast at 6:00. Don’t bother ordering pancakes, they were always “out” of them. A driver would take us to the office. I would grab the fax that came from the US office (we didn’t use email back in those days) and any others papers and head to the meeting. After the meeting, someone would take my lunch order — fried rice either chicken or shrimp. Then it was a day of work–answering questions from the U.S., working to make sure we had raw materials, checking to make sure production didn’t change what was scheduled, and numerous others things until we were all ready to leave around 6:00. Then the next question was where to eat dinner. We normally did that on the way home. There wasn’t much time in the evening after dinner because I knew the alarm would be going off early on the morning.

Everyday was pretty much the same as the previous day except the rugs on the lift changed to tell us the day of the week. Saturdays were the same except we came home early around 4:00. Every other week we had Saturday off. I don’t remember much of what we did. I remember one week we went and did all kinds of tourist things in Bangkok.

On Sundays we went downtown to an English speaking church. We rode with whoever had the van that week. We would often eat lunch and maybe do some shopping. We didn’t go downtown during the week. That was back in the days when traffic was horrible. One night we had a dinner meeting at Neil’s Steak House which was some of the best steak I have ever had. It took us four hours to get from the office to the restaurant and 20 minutes to get home.

Sometimes on our Saturday’s off we would go to the weekend market. It was fun to wander and look at the blue and white dishes, the silver jewellery, and the fruit.

I celebrated a birthday while I was there and we went to Charley Brown’s which is Mexican (interestedly I just googled and it is still there). Another favourite when we have lot of people was to go to the Seafood Market. I don’t think I have ever experienced anything like it. First you go in and pick your seafood, veggies and fruit. You pay for that and then you go to a table and tell them how you want your food cooked. The garlic bread had about a quarter of an inch of garlic on it. It was yummy. There were other places that we ate at like Hard Rock, and some Italian places.

There were a number of other Americans there. There were three families and then three or four other individuals. I am thankful that there were others there and I keep in touch with a number of them (mainly because I lived in Taiwan with some of them).

For me the challenge was my life was like a long business trip. It seemed to be all work which is fine for a week or two but after months it is difficult. My parents knew it was challenging. They were supportive and praying and I think they let a friend of theirs know that it was tough for me. After almost six months, I quit. That is where some of the “what if’s” come in. What if I hadn’t quit? What if I had stayed?

I returned to the States thinking that I would never be back in Asia and began a new job, scheduling for a consulting company. It sounds like a great job but honestly all I remember is copying lots of procedure manuals and checking time sheets. It was based on a contract which was supposed to be in place for five years but 10 months after I began work the contract was terminated. That is not good for your job. I was looking for a new job.

While it was a difficult experience there was good that came from it. I had a feel for Thailand and would later travel there regularly. I had some great co-workers and keep in touch with many of them today. I am thankful for that time in my life.

I wish I had more photos to share but the ones I have are in storage and that was back in the pre-digital days.