Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bangkok: Disneyland for men?

After receiving notice that our assignment in Abuja, Nigeria had been rescinded, we were told we needed to submit a new bid list. The new list had many of the same assignments as our previous list, but it also had some exciting new posts. A few of the posts that piqued our interest were: Dar Es Salaam, Tegucigalpa, Caracas, Havana, and Bangkok. Bangkok was my wife’s number one choice because she loves Thai food, loves Thai fruit carving, and Bangkok has a direct flight to Hanoi. I was actually reticent to place Bangkok high on our list because it has little hardship differential.

Our second flag day came, and to our delight, we were assigned to Bangkok, Thailand. We will be receiving eight months of Thai training and then two months of Consular General training and then we’ll be off to Thailand. After taking a deeper look into Thailand I became very excited to work there. I found out Thailand has wonderful roads which will allow me to take my family on exotic adventures on the weekends. The Thai language is tonal like Vietnamese, so I should have an advantage in trying to learn it. And finally, the LDS church has a good, albeit small, group of saints in Thailand. My wife and I are excited to serve in a Thai branch in Bangkok.

None of these reasons are what seem to excite most people I speak with about Thailand. They all speak of what a great country it is, for men. Just the other day while purchasing a vehicle, the man assisting me said, "where are you moving?" I told him I was going to Thailand and that I was very excited about it. He responded by saying, “oh yea, I’ve been there and it is a dream world for men.” He then looked at my hand and saw my wedding ring and became embarrassed. I told him, I’ve got a family and I’m Mormon. He then became even more awkward and tried to say something about his appreciation for culture.

A friend and colleague of mine also told me of her encounter with Thailand as a place for men. She had what she described as a “lecherous old man” for a client. She was deposing him and needed to ask him if he had ever frequented any brothels with a certain individual. The man looked at her in disgust and said, “I don’t go to brothels, I go to Thailand.” She asked what he meant, and he replied, “it’s like Disneyland for men.”

For some reason--which I cannot figure out--there is a pervasive view among many westerners that soliciting a prostitute in Asia is somehow different from doing so in America. Both are morally abhorrent and will lead to grave consequences for the individuals involved, their families, and their societies. One of the surest ways to destroy a family is to engage in extramarital sex. This will change the way a man views himself and his spouse. It will also affect the way a man views women in general. And rest assured, this behavior will influence the way his boys treat women as they grow up, and the way his girls view men and allow themselves to be treated by men.

Personal rants aside, if you know me, please feel welcome to come visit Bangkok anytime. We will always have an empty room and a warm meal waiting.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Flag Day

A-100 came and went before I even had time to comment on my experience. I had a class of 94 incredibly talented, highly educated, individuals with a bevy of diverse experiences abroad. One common theme in our group was lawyers. It seems everyone in my class was a lawyer at one time or another. We also had a lot of really tall people, and about five bald guys. It was a great dynamic.

When we received our list of possible destinations we were in awe. There was everything from Havana, Cuba to Hanoi, Vietnam. We decided we wanted to be in the developing world and that we wanted an adventure. Accordingly, we bid all hardship posts high and all language posts high as we wanted to learn a new language. We were warned up front that it would be unlikely we would be able to serve in Vietnam because Duong's family is all there. As it turns out, we are precluded from serving there for five to ten years. =( Oh well, I guess we'll have to spend the next decade seeing new places.

When flag day came I was surprisingly nervous. I had been so cool throughout A-100 but it wasn't until flag day that the reality of moving to another country to work actually hit me. To make it worse, it was about 100 degrees that day and I was just sweating. Flag day is really intense because they hold up a flag of a country, read the name of the country, and call out the name of the person going there. I was about the third person called, and it took me by surprise. I saw a green and white striped flag and heard ... Abuja, Nigeria. In addition to having the third largest film industry in the world, i.e., Nollywood, I've always wanted to go to Africa. So, WE ARE STOKED! We're a little worried about the crime, violence, heat, and spiders, but other than that, this is going to be an adventure of a lifetime.

We leave in a little over a month, and we have so much to do. We need to buy a car, get diplomatic passports, get visas, finalize Duong's mother's I-130 form so she can come live with us, etc. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

new kids - moving to DC

Everything happened so quickly--Asa came 3 weeks early on June 5th and the movers came and moved our stuff on June 8th. Elijah moved to DC 2 weeks before the rest of us. It actually worked out well with the baby coming early because Elijah was able to help me with the kids for 2 weeks before he left. It is a blessing to us that Asa is a really good baby. The three kids and I left Utah on Saturday July 3rd, 2010. My mother-in-law flew with me and the kids and I wouldn't have made it to DC without her help.

The first couples days when we got to DC Nani and Kea kept asking to go back to grandpa and grandma's house. They are used to going outside and swinging with grandma on the front porch and running in the back yard and riding bikes outside. Unfortunately, they can't do that here because we are living on the 10th floor in an apartment in DC. It will take a couple of weeks for them to get used to the new place. At least they have a swimming pool here so the kids can have some activities outside and not be locked up in the apartment all day long. The nice thing here is that we are close to the museums. We can take the kids to the museums in the weekend. The museums here in DC are amazing.

Elijah's mom stayed with us for 2 weeks to help us settle down. It was really nice of her to stay and help us. The day she left to go back to Utah Nani cried for an hour. She was so sad to say goodbye to her grandma. We all cried that night when she left except Kea and Elijah. Now I realize how much I miss my family. I miss those fun nights we got together to eat some Viet food or cooked up some Korean BBQ. I miss all the little kids running around. Kea kept asking for his cousin Zari who he would fight with every single time they played together. I'm excited for our adventure in the foreign service.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Housing in DC

We found a two bedroom apartment just outside of DC with a shuttle service to and from work each day. It's fully furnished, which means we will be able to worry less about moving and more about having a new baby and starting a new career. While it isn't a house, it is nice, clean, and has a jacuzzi. We can't complain. Check out our new place at the following link:

Friday, April 23, 2010

We got the call!

Last week we found out our security clearance was complete and that we were ranked 25 out of 120 individuals waiting for a job offer. Only 18 people are called for each class, and offers for the next class in June were about to go out. We kept our fingers crossed but by last Friday when we hadn't heard anything I couldn't take it anymore and I sent an email inquiring about my chances. I received an auto 'out of office' reply and was told to try back Wednesday. On Wednesday I heard nothing, but kept my hopes up for a call on Thursday. When Thursday came and went I still had a (fading) hope I might get a call on Friday. By noon on Friday I couldn't take it anymore and I sent another email to Tamale asking if there was any chance I would get a call. At 2:30 MST I realized I wasn't going to get a call and I candidly asked my wife what we were going to do since I'm graduating in a couple weeks. At 2:58 I felt prompted to check my email one more time since I knew Tamale worked until 5:00 EST (3:00 MST), and I had one unread email in my inbox. I was so nervous opening my mail, and when I saw an email from Tamale my heart started pounding. I opened the email and read the following:

"Good Afternoon, Mr. Lawrence:
My colleague began extending appointment offers for the June 21st JO Class on April 15th for the career tracks that she manages. As I was on leave, appointment offers were not extended for the career tracks that I manage (Economic/Public Diplomacy). The Registrar's Office is pleased to extend an appointment offer to you for the June 21, 2010 - Junior Officer Class."

Duong will give birth three days before I leave, allowing me to be there for her and my son. The Lord has blessed us beyond what I deserve. Two more finals and I'm done with law school, and two more months and we'll be moving to DC. One more year and hopefully we'll be moving to the Middle East. =)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Received Security Clearance

Last Friday I sent an email to security clearance seeking the status of our background investigation. I received a terse email stating "it is pending adjudication." Then on Saturday Duong came in from getting the mail holding a letter from the State Department stating that our security clearance had been granted and that we were officially on the register. Because May calls have already been extended, we are praying and hoping for a call for the June class.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nani Pays Tithing

Yesterday Nani did some work for Grandma who paid her 50 cents for her labor. I then sat Nani down and explained to her that Heavenly Father has asked us to give him ten per cent of any money we get. She didn't know how much ten per cent was but I told her it was one of her nickels. I explained to her that this is the way Heavenly Father builds churches and temples and that if she did this she would be making it possible for other people around the world to go to church like she does. Her first response was for me to make God and Jesus come down and she would pay them herself. When I told her it probably wasn't feasible but that the bishop could accept the money on behalf of God she was intrigued. She couldn't figure out what a bishop was, but she was eager to meet him and give him her money.

As we got to church we put our tithing and fast offering into the church envelope and sealed it shut. I then gave it to Nani and asked her if she would like to hand it to the bishop. She said yes and walked up to the pulpit and handed it to the bishop. As he was accepting it I could see her saying something to him but I couldn't quite make out what she was saying. I asked bishop, and he said something about wiffle puppy. When we got home from church I was still curious about what Nani had said so I asked her. She told me she handed the bishop the envelope and said, "go build a church!"