November Trip to Bangkok

Tomorrow I go to see the surgeon in Bangkok who in May removed part of my kidney, for a six-month checkup. I suspect it will all be rather routine but it requires a trip to Bangkok. The beginning of that trip was not routine–beset by horrendous Phnom Penh traffic–but then, maybe that unfortunately is becoming routine also.

The first thirty minutes on the tuk-tuk ride to the airport were not so bad but then about a mile from the airport chaos reigned. This is on the street in front of the airport. These are the three westbound lanes with cars going in every direction, some trying to turn into the airport, others trying to turn around and go back the way they came. But the eastbound lanes are just the same. Gridlock.
This is a view back to the highway from inside the airport grounds. I sat in my tuk-tuk in that mess for about fifteen minutes and then paid off the driver and just walked between cars in the middle of the highway to the airport entrance.
These are cars and tuk-tuks trying to get out of the airport on to the highway.
Once I got in the airport, I checked in within three minutes. Finally it was time to board. This view from the jetway shows much less congestion on the airside of the airport.

I was on an economy airline and limited to just a carryon so I exited quickly, bought a Thailand SIM card, and headed for the airport bus stop. I took at A3 bus to Lumphini Park, the closest I could get by bus to the Maryknoll house. From the park I then took a taxi to Maryknoll. Today the the US dollar = 34.21 Thai baht so the 50-minute airport bus ride was 50 baht, about US$1.50.

Siem Reap MKLM Retreat

While the Asia Area Director, Steve Veryser, is in Cambodia, the Maryknoll Lay Missioners here are having a short retreat experience in Siem Reap where Angkor Wat is located. Today was a travel day.

A pleasant initial surprise was how well organized and clean the Larryta bus service is! Their terminal is really well planned and their staff very helpful. Here a manager in a tie assists an elderly woman to a seat in the waiting area.
There were two stops in the six-hour ride to Siem Reap. At this first site, Cambodia’s obsession with heavy, immovable, impractical tables and stools made of luxury wood was obvious, but the restaurant was most pleasant and friendly.
Another characteristic of Cambodian travel spots are the men’s urinals open to public view.
At the second stop, two hours beyond the first, it was again spacious and clean and very well organized.
Another feature of every stopping place on the trip is the ubiquitous spirit shrine, this one quite large.
Julie Lawler and I traveled together in the van above. Here at the Larryta terminal in Siem Reap, Julie negotiates with tuk-tuk drivers for a ride to the Jesuit reflection center.
Finally we arrived at the Metta Karuna Center. It is a delightful and most accommodating center for retreats and reflection groups with spacious grounds filled with all sorts of meaningful layouts and statues and thought-provoking arrangements. Here is a statue of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.

Beth Goldring is a Buddhist nun who is leading our reflection, working from her Buddhist studies and experience to help us develop a theme of nonviolence.

Post-Trip Photo

I’m a pilot (although I haven’t flown for a while) and have always loved planes. Now I am especially enamored of the A380 double-decker aircraft. I was booked on one of those on the return trip between Los Angeles and Seoul, Korea, and I chose a seat on the upper deck.

It was really surprising to me how roomy the upper deck was, with more space than many of the single-aisle aircraft I fly. One noticeable difference is the width of the rows. On the wider lower deck, there are ten seats across. On the upper deck there are only eight.

The upper deck of an A380.

USA Trip 2022

Thursday / 8 October 2022

I’m used to seeing more and more and bigger and better in-seat screens in airplanes these days but Asiana Airlines had a twist on that that was new for me. This was a smaller A319 aircraft and the seats didn’t have built-in screens for movies and entertainment. The plane had an entertainment system, though. It just used the passengers’ phone and tablets for the display. The seatbacks had a built-in phone holder that popped open so passengers could watch movies, etc., from the plane’s system on their own devices. The holder was a first for me.

USA Trip 2022

Wednesday-Thursday / 5-6 October 2022

These two days are together because that’s how they happen when yoh are on a long (12.5 hour) flight from Los Angeles to Seoul, Korea. I left LA at noon Wednesday and arrived in Seoul at 5:30 PM Thursday. Now I’m at Gate 18 at Inchon airport waiting for my final flight to Phnom Penh.

The Asian airlines and airports seem to have an edge over US counterparts. For example, the Asian planes seem to have more electrical outlets at the seats and they are marked better and easier to use. And here at Inchon I just saw bank of food delivery robots. A passenger scans a QR code for a menu, makes an order, gives his gate number, and goes to the gate, and then the robot picks up the food and delivers it.

Food delivery robots

USA Trip 2022

Monday, 3 October 2022

Today Sr. Arlene Trant, MM, took me to downtown LA where we visited Homeboy Industries, the famous project started by Jesuit Fr. Greg Boyles to give gang members a new chance at life. It is quite an inspiring place.

Homeboy Industries is located in Chinatown in LA.
A former gang member (center) took a group of five of us on a tour of Homeboys and told us of his personal experience of making the transition to a non-gang way of life.
We met with several former gang members and their descriptions of the spirit and the philosophy of Homeboys was really inspiring. It depends a lot on kinship, finding new relationships that support a different way of life.

USA Trip 2020

Sunday, 2 October 2022

On my way back to Cambodia, I have stopped at the Maryknoll Sisters retirement home in Monrovia, California. Sr. Arlene Trant and I worked together with the deaf people of Macau and now she is administrator of this home. She has been inviting me to visit so I made this my first stop on the return journey.

The center is set in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains on the eastern edge of Los Angeles, 45 miles from the sea.
Originally this was a TB hospital but the Maryknoll Sisters purchased it in 1920.
This is a view of the front of the facility from the side of the property. All the sidewalks are accessible for sisters using walkers.
This is a view of the other side of the main building. I stayed in an apartment on the basement level. My windows are by the second chair in the photo.
Most of the buildings are connected by sheltered sidewalks, more to protect walkers from the sun than from the rain. The eastern side of LA, here at the base of the mountains, is considerably warmer than LA along the coast.

USA Trip 2022

Thursday, 29 September 2022

I went to a local supermarket this afternoon, partly to buy some Coke and partly just to explore the neighborhood. It was interesting just being in a big supermarket after three years away.

My Asian friends would cringe at this sight–instant rice. That’s NOT the way to make rice!
Of interest to me were the Twinkies. I haven’t seen those in many, many years. I actually thought they had stopped making them.

USA Trip 2022

The past two days have been really hectic. I’m sorry I didn’t get to post anything here.

Today I traveled from Louisville to Monrovia, California via Denver to stay at the Maryknoll Sisters retirement home for a few days.

There’s a whole lot of desert between Denver and Los Angeles!