In the Ptolemy household, the Peace Corps is a family
affair. Roger and Andrea Ptolemy met while serving in Tonga in
the South Pacific, and their daughter, Jennifer Goodman, is about
halfway through her stint in Thailand. (She graduated from Durango High School
In November, the Ptolemys met up with their daughter in
Bangkok. In a fun twist, the program director of the Peace Corps in Thailand
has volunteered in Tonga as well, so there was some fun sharing of war stories.
Funeral ceremonies for the king's sister were taking place
while they were in the capital city, so most of the popular tourist attractions
were closed. Goodman had warned her parents about that, so they changed into
respectful black clothes at the airport in Kuala Lumpur before arriving.
Goodman traveled with the Ptolemys to a few destinations
in Thailand, including a visit to the Chiang Rai, where they saw what may be
the most unique Buddhist temple in the world, made of concrete painted white
with millions of tiny mirrors creating a look of snow and ice. It was donated
by an avant‑garde Thai artist.
They also had a few days of R & R at Krabi Beach near
Phuket. A day trip to Ma Ya Beach, where the movie "The Beach" starring
Leonardo Di Caprio was filmed, showed them why the spectacular scenery has
inspired the Thais to make it a national park.
They ended the Thai leg of their journey with a visit to
the home of her Thai family and the schools where Goodman teaches English in
the northwest part of the country. (The Peace Corps requests that the press not
name the town where she is serving for her safety.) The students were delighted
to meet her parents, and they were introduced and asked to say a few words in
both the elementary and upper‑level schools where she teaches.
The warmth of the Thai people and the friendliness of her
fellow faculty and students are making Goodman's stay a delight. She feels that
she is having a true Peace Corps experience.
The big adventure was the trip from Goodman's home to
Cambodia, which her parents took on their own.
The Ptolemys found themselves among the hundreds of
thousands of people who got caught in the closure of the Bangkok airport. So
they took a complicated land route to Siem Riep, worrying about bandits, the
use of e‑visas at a remote border crossing and the dangers of the 1 million to
3 million landmines remaining from the five‑year reign of the Khmer Rouge.
The journey took place on Thanksgiving Day, and they found
themselves more thankful for their safe arrival than they'd ever been over a full
The stop at Angkor, one of the seven wonders of the modern
world, was everything and more that they could have imagined. Most Westerners
have heard of Angkor Wat, but it is only one of hundreds of temples in the area
of the ancient capital of the Khmer, who were in power from 790 to 1327 A.D.
They stopped in Phnom Penh, the country's capital, for a
look at the more recent past, including the Killing Fields. By the end of the
Khmer Rouge's dictatorship, 2 million people, including all of the educated
population, were dead. At a visit to the S‑21 prison, they learned that 16,000
went in, and only seven survived.
A boat trip on the Mekong River took them to Vietnam, with
stops in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and Hanoi. Of course, because of our
history there, there are a lot of reminders of the many Americans who fought
and/or died there.
A final stop in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia,showed them the other face of Asia, with some of the tallest buildings in the
world and a high level of cleanliness and order.
Roger Ptolemy said there are some overriding themes that
they brought home in their memories: A rich and deep history. Scenery that
ranged from rice paddies and jungles to cityscapes. Meals always based on
either rice or noodles. Lots of bicycles and motorbikes (not motorcycles),particularly in the countryside. And people who work hard and share generously
what they have.
My passport is calling my name, but I guess I'll stick
around and write the rest of this column.
Happy birthday wishes go out to Judy Peel, Jerry
McBride, Virginia Miller Cavanagh, Jon Powell, Yvonna
Graham, Sara Petersen, Sara Rolph, Ken Marshall, Ivan
Estrada, Ruth Shock, Nancy Conrad, Harold Sparks, Mitchell
Serwe, James Dickson, Carol Arnspiger, Tom Stuber, Chloe
Bourdon, Jeff Booton, Jessi Parker, Mary Orsini,Marcia Baxter, Jacky Dzuibek, Gail Short, Don Brown,Joyce Boyer, Scattie McGrath, Jorden Stanley, Niall
Byers, Jan Goldman and last, but far from least, Cheryl Jackson.
Do you know someone who has contributed significantly to
helping young people and/or organizations that deal with young people in our
The Boys and Girls Club of La Plata County is creating a
new Service to Youth Award to honor folks who have made a real difference in
the village that is raising our children.
Nominees should not be affiliated with the Boys and Girls
If you know someone like this, fill out the form you can
find at www.bgclaplata.org. Applications may be e‑mailed to Vaughn Morris, the
BGC director, at firstname.lastname@example.org; or mailed or dropped off at the Boys
and Girls Club, 2700 Main Ave., Durango,
Applications are due by Thursday.
The honoree will be recognized at a fundraising breakfast
Feb. 18 in front of 150 adults and kids at the Boys and Girls Club.
We don't say thank you enough to people who help us raise
the next generation. Here's a chance to do just that.
Whether you dropped a quarter or a C‑note into a Salvation
Army kettle in December, your contribution added up. While the organization's
volunteers weren't sure how they'd fare after all of the economy's ups and
downs, kettle contributions were only a few hundred dollars off from 2007,bringing in more than $75,200.
Checks with nice donations are still coming in, and it
looks like the total will be well over $100,000. (If you still want to make a
donation, you can mail it to Salvation Army, P.O. Box 3296, Durango, CO 81302.)
You can only begin to imagine how much that money will be
needed by our friends and neighbors in these tough times. The number of
applications for help going to the Community Emergency Assistance Committee is
already way up in 2009.
As always, touching and funny stories are still coming in
about bell ringers' experiences. One man told a ringer as he put his quarter in
that his grandfather had loved the Salvation Army. His granddad taught him when
he was a little boy to always put in 25 cents when he passed a kettle. He's
still doing so today.
For several weekends in front of Wal‑Mart, a group of
teenagers was raising money for a drug‑and‑alcohol rehab program by selling
crosses they had carved and put on keychains and other items. One day, a youth
leader brought one over and gave it to a bell ringer, saying "God bless you for
what you are doing." And they were trying to raise their own money.
Finally, there's a light note. Over the many years of bell
ringing, a variety of organizations have created friendly rivalries to see who
can out ring the other. The Kiwanis Club of Durango and High Noon Rotary Club,which both hold their meetings at lunchtime at the DoubleTree Hotel every
Thursday, rang during the same week at Wal‑Mart.
"Rotary outrang Kiwanis $2,800 to $2,100," High Noon
newsletter editor Wayne Bedor wrote regarding Salvation Army board
member Jim Bolen's report. "Rotary was posted at the north entrance to
Wal‑Mart and consequently had to shake a whole lot more to stay warm compared
to the Kiwanis bell ringers posted in the banana belt of the south entrance."
My thanks to Wanda Ellingson for the update.
Here's wishing these anniversary couples a 2009 full of
love and laughter - Tom and Joan Helm, Tom and Geri
Mulligan and Doug and Jenny Houle.
For information about
upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
How to reach me:
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