Kade kneels next to a stream formed by the San Francisco Glacier, about two hours outside Santiago, Chile.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

APEC Summit 2003 - Bangkok

In 2003, when I was living in Bangkok, the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit took place there.  I sent two e-mails to my brother, sharing what was going on.

Security cars and officials are already setting up at the key location.  AUA (my school) was given a map marking the routes and times that the bigwigs will be driving by.  I can't imagine how they are going to coordinate it all.  The city seems so excited.  It's kind of funny...it's like you've got some really important guests coming over to your home and your first instinct is to shove things in the closet or under the bed, buy those curtains you've always wanted, hide the weirdo son upstairs, etc..  That's what's happening.  Sidewalks have been cleared and revamped.  The World Trade Center shopping plaza has a brand new sign (now Central World) and hundreds of trees that we will be planted just in time for the VIPs to gawk.  The best thing they've done is complete the entrance to Lumpini Park, which has been under construction for two + years now.  Huge teams of landscape workers, fountain installers and construction crews accomplished more in the past two weeks than I had seen them do in two years!  Yet the final product is impressive!  Most Thais don't see it as too extravagant because they deeply believe in "saving face" as most Asians do.  Honestly, once the world leaders leave and the fruit sellers, vendors and tuk-tuk taxi drivers retake their positions, Bangkok will not only look better, but will have their chaotic, crazy feel that most foreigners are attracted to.  That's the irony:  Bush and all the others would be fascinated by the real Bangkok.
Kade says she saw on the news that Putin and his family are enjoying a restful holiday in Phuket, Thailand's most famous beach city in the south.  He will head up here on Friday, the day all the others will come to town.  The King is giving a personal reception to only two leaders, Bush and China's president.  He will greet them all at another function. 
There's some excitement that the special guests are coming to town.  And, as one student said today, some jobs have even been created in preparation for this.  I had to remind her, though, that ordinary people selling goods on the street have been removed.  Even big businesses, included one huge supercenter nearby, are closing for three days at the "request" of the government.  So, there are also some losses.  For me, I can still walk to school, plus the skytrain (BTS) will be able to stop at the station next to AUA.  However, regular traffic will come to halt on major streets at certain times and even some toll ways are going to be closed when needed.  Citizens have been given maps detailing times and areas that are off-limits and they've been asked, using TV commercials to smile a lot and be on their best behavior.  It's kind of strange to me.  Of course, one of my colleagues from England said this is how small towns and cities in England do right before the Queen comes to town.
I wouldn't mind seeing some big shot, because I see these names in the papers and on TV.  However, when this thing is over and we get back to normal, it will be better for everyone.  A small example: During my break yesterday, I walked out to the street to buy some pineapple from a street vendor who always sets up shop outside the AUA gates.  The fruits are fresh and chilled on ice. All you have to do is point, speak a bit of Thai, ask how sweet it is and she cuts it, bags it, gives you a "stick" to eat it with and you're on your way.  Well, guess what?  She was a casualty of the APEC clean-up.  Beggars, prostitutes and stray dogs I can understand, but not people who are selling fruit and have been at spots all their lives.  On the other hand, clearing the streets where motorcades will be driving each day, does make it easier for security agents to pinpoint unsavory characters.   And what's a week of hassles?!?!?

click here for an article about how the poor got moved out of the way

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