English Cyberletter 4
Up Farewell Phnom Penh Goodbye Party Laura Scratchbook



We sailed with our (red) yacht to Cala Bona, not far from our apartment in Spain.

Sawadikaa and a Sanuk Happy New Year!!

This time, a letter from Bangkok where Kees started to work for the Regional office of UNICEF in April last year. After Minke and Laura finished the school year in Cambodia and after the summer holidays, which we spent as usually in The Netherlands and Spain, they came to Thailand too. 

By then, Kees had found a house in a compound in the outskirts of the city. After the holidays, our container arrived from Phnom Penh without delay and the house was already more or less furnished when Minke and Laura arrived. 

Our house in Moobaan Ladawan.
Living in a quiet compound has a lot of advantages. Laura can safely skeeler and bike to her friends and tennis lessons, there is not so much pollution, and in the morning you can hear the birds chirp. We have a house with a garden and our two dogs, "Dikkie" and "Banjer", also made the trip by plane from Cambodia to Thailand. 

A disadvantage of living here in Moobaan Ladawan, is that it is quite far out of the center of town (while many things are happening in the center) and Kees spends a lot of time in the car commuting from house to office and back.

Kees is the Regional Monitoring and Evaluation officer. The work is of a higher academic level than the work in the country offices, but it is also quite at a distance from the fieldwork of UNICEF. Kees has to travel a lot to countries in the region, what he often enjoys but sometimes not. The work morale in the office is more positive than in his previous posting and people laugh a lot together. Also the national staff, in this case the Thais, are much better equipped to work in a western organization, what UNICEF after all is. Especially in Kees’ section, Kees has many very competent colleagues

Laura goes to Patana School, the British School, and she is enrolled in Year 6 (Grade 5 of the American system, Year 7 of the Dutch system). Patana School is quite different from Laura’s previous school. The school has almost 2,000 students and it is all very organized and disciplined. It has to be like that because there are already 150 student in Year 6 alone (6 parallel classes that all follow exactly the same curriculum and give the same homework). The school operates two hundred mini-buses to shuttle the students to and from school. Laura still sometimes misses the cosiness of her old school where she knew everybody and enjoyed her chats with the wife of the director.

Laura has a very good teacher and nice class mates and she adapted quite easily to her new life. Her first report card was very positive and she was especially praised for being social and helpful. Laura likes to read (she just read all the Harry Potter books for the second time), she also likes art projects and gymnastics. She still keeps in touch with her best friends from Cambodia. We went there for a visit and both her best friends have been to Thailand. Her eleventh birthday was celebrated with a treasure hunt in the compound with all the girls of her class and a gourmet dinner afterwards. Laura’s grandmother was here too, with lots of presents from the Netherlands.

Minke uses this new start in Bangkok to do some different things than teaching and organizing activities for children. She takes Thai lessons twice a week and speaks now better Thai than Khmer or Dzongkha. Thai is a tonal language and that is very difficult for us in the beginning. A word can have different meanings depending on the tone you use. Minke also followed a course in Thai art and history at the National Museum. She really enjoyed it and met a lot of nice people during this course. Although she was ready for a break from teaching, she misses the social contacts she had with her colleagues in NISC. 

Laura's first visit to the Netherlands in the summer of 1992 

This year was not easy for us with all the changes and also because both Minke’s father and Kees’ father passed away. We still miss them, especially when we are in the Netherlands where they were always happy to see us. Also in Thailand, we miss that we are not able to share important happenings and changes in our life with our fathers anymore.

We have to adjust to life in Bangkok. The climate is not very different from the climate in Cambodia with right now the warmest December month in 20 years. The food is delicious; everywhere in restaurants or on the street you can get excellent food. We have the impression that one half of the Thai cooks for the other half. We often enjoy our favorite dishes, coconut soup with lemon grass and prawns and prawns with garlic and black pepper. Also social life in Bangkok is in a way very easy, there is always something happening in town and it is easy to meet new people via clubs and committees. The Thai people are extremely friendly and service oriented.

However, we miss the small-scale life of the previous countries where we lived. We very much have to get used to the busy traffic and all the concrete around us. You cannot just jump in your car and go to the river for a beer. You have to plan your day and not get irritated or upset if it turns out you have to spend some hours in traffic. The expatriates here mostly work for big companies like Nestle, Makro, or Mercedes. Often these people stay only two years or less in a country. Also Laura is noticing this in her class where children regularly come and go.

We will probably be in Bangkok for the next four years and we hope you will come to visit us here. We went to Koh Samet already twice, an island about two hours traveling from Bangkok, and we think it is still very pleasant with small-scale accommodation, nice snorkeling and beautiful sunsets. We are planning to go to Koh Chang next time. Also not far from Bangkok and people say it is still quiet and "unspoiled" with beautiful beaches. Thailand has a lot to offer in art, culture and scenery.
The three of us at sunny Koh Samet, on the occasion of the Kings Birthday


We are happy we have some special friends all around the world, special friendships since many years. We wish you all a Happy 2003!!!
The Christmas tree in the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok