I heard that there was a Thai woman coming to the Archie Bray Foundation. Some people thought she was from Taiwan. This confusion is pretty common. But Kurt Weiser said Thailand.
I was working in the Summer Studios, a part of the old brickyard that used to sell building supplies but now is used in the summer for summer residents. It is built of hollow clay tile and has a roof with little slope. At the time the lighting was pretty dim and there was no heat.
Anyhow, someone said that the Thai woman was at the old studios so I went over there. I started into the kiln room and there was a very short Asian woman standing there. I could not quite see her that well. I put my hands together in a wai and said, “sawat dee krap” the greating has Sanskrit roots in the word sawat, meaning goodness, fairness and prosperity. Dee pronounced similar to the letter ‘D’ means “good”. She greeted me back. I felt the need to use up my vocabulary, so I counted from one to ten, asked where the bathroom was, and then asked if she knew where the village of Dankwian . It was more like “Have you met the village of Dankwian”. She asked me why I asked. I said, “Its a little pottery village, do you know about it?”. She said, I own a pottery in Dankwian Village. I had to go.
I knew that I should learn Thai. I seemed to already have some interest in it. Its a tonal language ,with some sounds not in the English phonemic inventory, to a singer, it captivated my motivation. I went to the library and checked out “Spoken Thai”. It is not a very good book and it had no tapes. I had Suwanee read a chapter into cassette tapes. I am not sure that it helped much with vocabulary but became critical in terms of me getting to Thailand and getting a grant. Suwanee still makes fun of the archaic and formal vocabulary of the tapes, That said, without the Helena Public Library it would have been much harder to get to Thailand.
Then 10 days Suwanee was in Montana were very busy. I was working mixing clay and I believe we were getting ready for The Archie Bray Bash, a celebration of the purchase of the brickyard. Each day at around 5 Suwanee would come around with a “lets go dancing” to the residents or some other activity. Near the end of her stay we all took a whirlwind trip to Yellowstone, including geysers, Boiling River, Old Faithful, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and drove up to the Beartooth Pass so that she could see her first snow. It was August, there was only a little bit of a snowfield left near the road. The snow was dirty from dust. Suwanee said it looked like the ice in her refrigerator. She was not all that impressed.