Raising My Family Around the World: The Adventures of a CIA Wife and Mom in Stories, Snapshots & Letters

From correspondence saved with a beloved grandmother, journals, family snapshots and memories, Linell Joyce set out on the formidable task of preserving the story of her life as a CIA wife and mother living in six widely varied countries besides the US. This excerpt is from Chapter V — A Place to Make a Difference: Bangkok, Thailand 19779-1980

Lin Joyce in a market in Bangkok

"Bill immediately returned to work at FBIS's offices in the Shell House office building, which was across Wireless Road from the US Embassy.
"And me? As excited as I was about being in Bangkok, I felt lost. This was such a foreign place, and without any knowledge of the Thai language, I was doubly lost. There is a helpless feeling that comes from being outside of one's comfort zone. The language barrier, unfamiliar foods, strange looking foreign currency, and a distinctly different culture all gave me many destabilizing moments. The heat, traffic, noise, and congestion all made me feel extremely uncomfortable. In my early days in Bangkok, I was not eager to keep putting myself into this situation.
"As I look back on this time, I know that I clearly suffered from anxiety. Things did eventually get better and more comfortable as I ventured out from the apartment building.
"I noticed there was a food market across the street, and I wanted to buy some groceries to prepare a meal for Bill and me. I walked out of the apartment building, stood on a busy bustling street corner, and pushed the pedestrian crossing button to request the traffic to stop. I remember feeling so overwhelmed by it all. So hot, humid, noisy, congested, such strong foreign smells—an assault to the senses. When the traffic stopped, I cautiously walked across the wide boulevard with many others and quickly entered the grocery store. It was a huge store with crowds of people and the rows and rows of packaged items on the shelves were all so foreign and strange looking to me. I managed to find some eggs, milk, and a kind of cheese that looked like it might make a good omelet. Bill had given me some Thai currency (Thai Baht), and I walked up to the cashier to pay for my groceries. I couldn't decipher the money's worth by looking at it, so I handed the woman a stack of bills and asked her to take what was needed to pay for my items. I don't think she spoke English, and it was obvious to her that I was a 'farang,' which in the Thai language means 'foreigner'...."