A week or so back the Diplomat and I went to a soiree hosted by some Aussie friends of the Ginger Diplomat. The latter was concluding her thee year tour of duty in Thailand, returning to Ottawa to take up a new venture. Of course it would be impolite to not see her off with a dab of a ‘kerchief to the eye and a tasty dinner morsel so we trundled off into the Sathorn area having left Isla to give the nanny the slip for a few hours. I have to say that the Australian Embassy don’t half put their people up in a nice place. The Sukhumvit Residences give you not only a fabulous view over the Chao Praya but also most of east Bangkok. Watching a thunderstorm from twenty-odd floors up is both spectacular and thoroughly modern when it comes to the Antipodean diplomatic cause. Whilst I was there, I was treated to a fabula about a certain Ambassador (country shall remain nameless, it’s pretty close to my Western home) who, during the Bangkok unrest in 2010, was known to have run up Sukhumvit wearing only pajamas. Why? Well, so the story goes, this linchpin of diplomatic fervour had awoken to a T.V news announcement, dredged up some memory of a previous incident where such a T.V announcement had resulted in fire and brimstone and thought the best course of action was to leg it to the Embassy in aforementioned nightwear to direct the inevitable response. Problem was the news report was a legacy piece, not much was really happening, and the need to sprint in stripy PJs purely down to inner fantasy. At least it was not a negligee. Truth be told it’s tricky to lope with long, easy strides in a diaphanous gown. Nor am I going to tell you how I know that.
I listened to all this with some incredulity; after all slating the boss is the pejorative prerogative of the disgruntled worker. I’ve especially noticed it in the political/bureaucratic world where the former is in place of a few years, the latter for a career. Minsters come and go in the blink of an eye to a Foreign Service Officer; FSOs are mere naps in the life of locally based staff (LES). Each thinks the other interferes with the common mission of all, each probably knows they’ll get there in the end. After all, what’s more important? Making sure a politician has marmite in his hotel room (even if marmite is banned in the relevant country – Denmark anyone?); or making sure the NGOs get their funding on time as they strive to promote bi-lateral ties and fundamental human rights to sanitation? It’s a tough one.
So..the evening went without a hitch, there was an impromptu “Happy Birthday” sung for someone (this time without the chorally forlorn collapse into a mutter ably demonstrated by the well-wishers who were enthusiastically and vocally applauding the entry of Wills and Kate’s new baby Prince into the world when they realised as they approached the last line that they didn’t actually know his name). The morceau of dinner was very tasty, a few champagne corks were popped to toast the Ginger, and she was invariably asked how she felt her time had gone in the Land of Smiles. All of which, of course, must remain confidential. Not that I mean to suggest anything other than polite plaudits and a satisfactory sense of achievement. All it really needed was a crack of thunder to seal the deal, but…we didn’t get that. Still, one cannot have everything, can one?
As the Ginger Diplomat returned to Ottawa for a new post, I found it was time to pull my bi-annual lap from Bangkok to London in the space of 36hrs. The flight out was great, a brand new Thai Airlines 747 with HD wide screens in economy, and a selection of films that kept me amused far more than the BBC & itunes downloaded “The White Queen” (Phillipa Gregory) did on my itouch. For the first time I deliberately chose a Pad Thai for an aircraft meal over a Chicken Pasta and was pleased to do so. Going native, you see. Slowly and surely. I find it a frisson of achievement when I am able to exchange some pleasantries with the Thai air staff in their own language (that’s right I’ve started Thai lessons – more to follow on that), somehow it feels more settling, more personable. I got to a 19C UK (having missed a heatwave the previous week) with a chirping sense of refreshment; carried out my activities there and found myself back on an older 747 the following lunchtime. By now I am quite used to the flights over Europe, over Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the Bay of Bengal, over Burma and to Bangkok. Zooming in and out of the satellite images has opened my geographical eyes somewhat.
I’ve also come to appreciate the skills of parents and their babies on planes these days. You always sense the dread of the passenger thinking “Is that baby going to scream the entire flight? You see the frowns at those who claim that a shot of “calpol” to calm the child is the “way to go” (both a ludicrous claim and action as a mild painkiller isn’t a sedative. Still, people will believe what an energetic person opines). I’ve heard stories of babies vomiting over passengers in the seat next to them. Of course, such incidents are true, but on the whole, I have to say those parents do an excellent job and you notice kids on planes these days as much as you notice anyone else. Although, I will step aside here and berate the traveler four rows back who was consuming Chang beer and shouting at his colleague so loudly I reckon the pilots heard it. That classic case of “I am wearing earphones and trying to talk to someone but if I can’t hear myself I’ll assume they can’t hear me either and I’ll have to speak louder”. Here’s a news flash:
try taking off your headphones because you’ve failed the multitask test
At least I didn’t get rudely awoken by having someone sneeze all over me…
Is this a trifle grumpy? Oh well, everyone has an “honesty day”.
So…a tour of duty is over, the friend that made sure the Diplomat, Isla and I were greeted on nervous arrival here has vanished back to Canada, the cycle of diplomacy begins again with a replacement officer. This time, though, travelswithadiplomat isn’t quite so green as a year ago. In fact, I have a diplomatic event to attend soon and might just become a source of knowledge rather than an ever-questioning farang spouse. Life grows ever more interesting out here.
Au revoir, but not Adieu to the Ginger Diplomat. Good job over the past three years.
BTW – I found this blog on my travels. Quirky, interesting – http://www.foodbloggersofcanada.com/ – take a look
Is this what diplomacy is all about?