Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The High Ground Of Jubail

Ahmed was a wonderful student of English.
He was a Saudi, but I doubt there is a teacher
of English whose love of teaching wouldn’t
have been kicked into a higher energy orbit
just by sitting next to him.  I saw him at
his home on the navy base in Jubail.  Jubail 
meansa small mountain, but it all looked like
flat desert to me.  Still, Jubail was an
ancient landmark, I think mentioned
in the Koran, that sailors use to navigate
by in the Arabian sea.

I was supposed to teach him and his older
brother, but the older brother got radicalized
by the modern Arab world and soon left.

One afternoon a Filipino house boy came in
and handed me something that looked like
a mini TV and a small instruction pamphlet
in English.  “My father,” [a Commodore] “wants
you to teach me.” Ahmed said.

It was the first GPS I ever saw.  I began reading
and I kept saying.  “Wow.” 

“What?  What?” Ahmed kept saying.

Finally, I said. “We’ve got to go outside.
We have to acquire three satellites.” I said.

Outside we peered at the small screen until one
dot appeared and then another.  We pointed
at the blue sky:  There!  There!  We screamed
while the Filipino understanding nothing stayed
ten paces back to insure the American teacher
did not harm his charge.

We ran up the empty beach and back:  A Khawaja
in shirt and tie followed a small boy in a white thobe. 
We did big crazy eights and double backs
while the Filipino house boy – a man in himself
in this forties – became more confused.  And every
time we stopped we peered at the small screen
and there was a thermometer’s red line showing
where we had been. 

Ahmed must be in his thirties by now.  I wonder
what he’s doing?  For me this single afternoon
on an empty beach in the Eastern Province of
Saudi Arabia was the high point of fifteen years
I spent in the country.  Swear to God.

FG           11/22/2015

Khawaja is the Arabic name for foreigner.  Thobe is the long white dress worn by Saudi men.