Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday, Jan. 26, 2007 at SWU, getting settled, food shoppping

Whew! I'm here and getting settled at last.

The journey was very long, Columbus-Dallas-Tokyo-Bangkok (about 36 hours door-to-door), but no major glitches. The new Bangkok airport (opened since Louis and I were here last December) is all stainless steel, high ceilings, and huge. It's also unfamiliar to the locals, so that made it a bit difficult to meet my contact upon arrival. Fortunately, Mrs. Nongnath Chairat, Director of the Central Library at Sirinharinwirot University, and I managed to find each other about two hours late.

My studio apartment on campus at Srinakharinwirot University (SWU) is most pleasant, convenient, and cool. Thank heavens the air conditioning works well, as it is very warm here. It was over 80 degrees F. when I arrived at midnight. I just walk across a soccer field and small park to get to the library. The campus is small in acreage and in the heart of Bangkok's "good" neighborhood, filled with high-rise condos and lots of "farangs" (foreigners) who work nearby. There is a bank on every corner and two or three along the block. Lots of U.S. and European names and labels evident, Starbucks, 7-11, etc.

After a few hours' sleep, I had lunch with a group of Bangkok librarians who happened to be meeting in the SWU Central Library today. They are the International Librarians and Information Specialists Group of the Thai Library Association. Several of them have retired from full-time librarianship, but they still work part-time and are very active in the profession. An impressive group. We have so much to share, and they assurred me my English will be no barrier at all. I'm relieved about that.

My first impression of the library is that it is much like those in mid-size state institutions in the US. It was a busy Saturday there, with many groups of students crowded around tables sharing a laptop and doing group work. Two reference librarians were on duty. Like at home, the library is the one area of campus that's open 7 days per week, though they close a bit earlier than we do (7 or 8 pm here, vs. midnight or 2 am at home). This campus has no dorms (lack of space), but many students rent apts. nearby and are visible throughout the day. I'll visit the SWU suburban campus next week, where they do have dorms.

Dinner was at a small Thai-Pan-Asian restaurant a few blocks outside SWU's Gate #2. In addition to Nongnath, my most gracious hostess here is Piamsuk Thungkawee, a long-time librarian at SWU. We shared tofu/pork soup, rice, a stir-fry dish with shrimp, mushrooms, and broccoli, plus fruit. The restaurant filled up quickly with people from around the globe and a large groups of visiting students at SWU.