Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Teaching and traveling in SE Asia

 In the mid sixties I completed a masters program in art and art history at the University of Colorado.  After a few months of drifting about I found a book listing universities with art departments all over the world.  I began writing to schools in Asia explaining that I had studied in India and would like to return to that part of the world as an art professor.  By offering to provide my own transportation and work as local wages I made my proposal appealing to several universities.   I  chose Philippine Women's University in Manila.  It was a great decision for me.  Classes were in English, the students talented, and the faculty friendly.  I was given a studio as well.  It was a fabulous place to be a young artist. Most of my evenings were spent in a coffee house that attracted both Filipino and expat artists, writers, anthropologists and other interesting types. There were art openings with Imelda Marcos in attendance, parties that ended with the sunrise over Manila Bay, and trips to visit ingeniousness people who still lived much as they had for thousands of years.  Alas the Univeristy had a strong Catholic affiliation and I think the amount of partying i did was frowned upon.  I was not invited to stay a second year.I had an exhibition of paintings in a lovely gallery in Manila, making enough money to either return to the US or move on.
 I choose to move to Thailand.  Luckily I met some artists hanging a show in Bangkok. After showing them slides of my work one of them explained that he was leaving on a study grant to the US and needed someone to take over his classes in NE Thailand.  Off we went to meet the dean of NE Technical Institute in Korat.  I taught there for almost two years.  That time focused on learning about Thai art and architecture, visiting the night markets, and getting more deeply involved in making art.  When it was time to move on I had another exhibition, this time at the American Embasy in Bangkok.  With the proceeds I took off to explore.  The time was 1969, just at the very height of a massive international traveler scene.  What a fabulous time to be in my twenties and on the road.
I rode a bicycle around Ankor Wat, a motor cycle around Bali, and assorted boats, trains, and trucks in India, Nepal, and Burma.   Kathmandu and Goa were at the places to be.  In many ways these months of traveling were a reintroduction to the West. I was getting to know my own generation after three years spent in very different cultures.  This was a time before travel guide books.  Most young people on the road had traveled overland from Europe through the Middle East and Afghanistan, up over the Kyber Pass.  In order to proceed we  shared remarkably specific information on cheap hotels, travel arrangements, and places to experience.  If I had to pick a time in my life when I truly had an extended and adventurous good time, this would have to be at the top of the list. 

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