I was a PCV (Thailand 1963-65) assigned to the Pibulsongkram Teachers College (TTC) in Pitsanuloke,Thailand as a faculty member in the English Department.
My daily routine after waking up was to turn on my short-wave radio and listen to the English language news broadcasts of any station I could pick up (usually VOA or BBC). That morning, I got up a little later than usual and missed my usual start time of 6:30 am by a few minutes.
When fiddling with the dial in search of a news broadcast in English, I hit upon the NHK news broadcast out of Tokyo. Since the broadcast had already started, the first thing I heard was that the Japanese Prime Minister had sent his condolences to Mrs. Kennedy. It only indirectly suggested that JFK had been killed. No other details about the events.
Having missed the first sentence announcing the death of JFK, I could only surmise that something terrible had happend to him. But I didn’t know any of the other details until I picked up another English language broadcast from VOA (I think) beginning at 7:00 am. Then I knew the outline of the terrible events in Dallas. However, I could not listen further because I had English classes to teach.
I don’t remember much after that except that at the College I met the other PCV assigned to the College as well as many other Thai faculty. They all stopped to share their words of condolence (some in English and some in Thai) to me as an American and the only one of two such persons on campus. I acknowledged their thoughts with appreciation and emptiness because I still knew so little about what had happened. But no one any information to share about what had happened to JFK.
After my last class, I jumped on my Peace Corps provided bicycle and rushed across town to the faculty housing where I lived. I turned on my radio to see if I could find another English language broadcast and learn more about the tragedy. But reception was poor and so I went outside to talk to my neighbors until evening when radio reception was better.
It was a terrible time not only because of the tragic death of JFK, but because I felt so isolated, not knowing what had really happened and because the other PCV lived across town on the college campus far from my rooms. No one to talk with from my nation, my culture.
It was only over the next few days that I learned more about the assassination. But the real feeling I had was one of isolation and separation in the midst of real sympathy and support from my Thai colleagues and friends.
Robert Gurevich (Thailand 1963-65) taught English at Pibulsongkram Teachers College (TTC) in Pitsanuloke,Thailand. He then earned his PhD in Anthropology and Education and have taught at SUNY-Brockport and Western Carolina University. He also served on development projects in Indonesia, Somalia and Albania and served as a consultant on development projects funded by USAID and other agencies in more than 40 countries in Africa, Asia. Southeast Europe and North America. His last project was in Ethiopia. His recent novel The Razor’s Edge: Embezzlement, Corruption and Development in Ethiopia is a product of that experience.