Thursday November 22, 2018

Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Today’s scripture is one that is relevant every day of this journey. Jeff and I have clung to each other and relied on each during the entire process of planning and now during this time of service. I have commented before how much we have leaned on one another during the planning process, but I also see it happening now that we are in the midst of the journey. During the planning process (which was almost 2 years ago), there were times when I was strong and Jeff needed to rely on my strength and then there were times that the tables turned and I needed that support. What was most amazing about these times is that these shifts were almost palatable, both of us could just feel a shift in confidence, faith, trust, anxiety, fear, etc. When one was strong the other relied on that strength. This carried us through the process, but now, here we are, living this journey out every day and experiencing the same things. I am so grateful for his patience and strength, but most importantly, I am thankful for the wonderful communication and understanding we have with each other. He can see when I am struggling, whether with aspects of the trip or with our own children (it is more often this!), and will gently put his hand on my shoulder and tell me to take a break. He is able to sense my frustration, anger, fear, etc. and supports me through it and I do my best to do the same for him. This is not an easy tasks, but we have both committed ourselves to God and to each other, and I believe that because we put God first, we are able to better understand what the other needs; we are not just looking at what we need. We have been able to balance each other and I truly believe that this is what makes our marriage so strong. We think of the other before ourselves and we rely on the other to help when we need it and provide the support and encouragement when needed.

Today was the Loy Krathong Festival, a celebration of the water spirits and a time to let go of the sins, mistakes, and regrets of the past to prepare and make room for the blessings of the new year. After making the Krathong floats, we all headed to the river to release them and make a wish for the future. Shortly after arriving at the preschool we found the kids to be dressed in beautiful traditional Thai dress, all holding their Krathongs they made yesterday. We all walked down to the river together, which took about 10 minutes and then set the Krathongs downstream after making our wishes. Rinya was kind enough to make one for each of our kids and one for Jeff and I to set off together. We had made ones that were still at home for tonight’s festival and she wanted us to be able to participate with the kids! It was so thoughtful and sweet (and very beautiful!). We came back to the school in time to teach the last two classes (Jonas and Emma taught one of them) and then lunch and off to the primary school.

Our kids did their schooling during classes and they did quite well. We seem to have made some progress with getting them to do their work a little more expeditiously, though today they had a much lighter load because we knew that they wouldn’t get as much done with the festivals and celebrations. Once we got home, we added some final touches on our Krathongs and a quick dinner. We knew were going to the festival here in Wiang Sa, but we didn’t know that Wat had arranged for the girls to ride on the parade float! Anjali was not interested in this, but this was right up Lucia’s alley. We ended up having to rush out of the house to get to the parade in time for Lucia to ride on the top of the parade float with 5 other girls. We got to the parade to wait for the rest of the floats and then proceeded to walk slowly in front of the float through the main street of Wiang Sa down to the Nan River. As we were walking down the streets of Wiang Sa I couldn’t help but smile and softly chuckle to myself. Never in a million years would I ever have imagined walking in parade celebrating Loy Krathong in northern Thailand with my family. I have never been so far from my extended family and yet I felt at home with the people of this community (as I did in Germany). These wonderful people have taken us in as part of their family. When we got to the Nan River, there was music playing, food vendors, and lots of people with Krathongs and lanterns walking down to the river to set off their floats.

So we joined the crowds of people down by the banks of the river to send our Krathongs off with a small piece of ourselves (a finger nail clipping) and a wish for the future. This was such a meaningful experience and nothing like I have ever seen in the states. I am forever grateful to these wonderful people who guided us through this process and allowed us to participate in their culture so willingly. Here are some pictures of this amazing experience.

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Wednesday November 21, 2018

2 Thessalonians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.

What an amazing day! We taught at the preschool with Jonas and Emma, sharing the 4 classes amongst us. It is great to have a break, but I am already missing the kids. Each time Emma and Jonas teach a class for me, it seems to be a mixed blessing. I am so happy we can help to provide a smooth transition for everyone, but I really miss singing and being with the kids, which makes me realize how hard it will be to say goodbye next week. I just can’t believe we leave in less than a week now, time just flies by.

I remember thinking that a whole year is a really long time for this journey and wondering how much impact we can have in just two months, but now that we are living this journey each stop seems to go by so quickly and yet each time it is difficult to say those goodbyes. We have become so connected to the people around us that we find it hard to leave. I didn’t have any idea the level of grief that my children would feel each time we had to leave our new friends. I notice it more with Anjali who, for whatever reason, has this idea that she is not supposed to feel sadness or that sadness is a bad emotion. This journey will give us the opportunity to not just teach her about the emotion of sadness, but also to show her how to handle it. I shed tears in Germany and I am certain that those times will repeat when we leave Thailand. We can hopefully show her that it is okay to cry and that sadness does not have to be a negative emotion; that we can use this emotion to feel closer to those people we are leaving.

I digress. During the last class at the preschool, the kindergarten children and teachers all made Krathongs. So I sat down with the kids and teachers and helped make roses out of banana leaves (which I had no idea could be done!). It was a lot of fun learning the different Krathong techniques from Rinya and watching the children make their beautiful floats. Tomorrow morning, the school will walk down tot the Nan River to release their Krathongs.

Teaching at the primary school was fairly uneventful. I have been teaching the 1st and 2nd classes (basically 1st and 2nd grades). The first grade class is very engaging and are actively participating in the lessons; however the 2nd class is only engaged during a game. So I have to get pretty creative with the lesson plans each class because if I don’t have a game to play the kids are falling asleep, staring into space, or playing with something in their desk. What makes it even more difficult is that I don’t have any idea what the teacher wants me to teach prior to getting to the class. When I walk into the classroom, she gives me a piece of paper with vocabulary words or her lesson plan for the day and I am charged with coming up with interactive games and activities to go along with the lesson she just handed me. Talk about quick thinking! At first I struggled with this, but I have gotten accustomed to it and I seem to be doing just fine. I have figured out that if I separate the class into 2 teams, I can make anything into a game–so that’s what I do. Today was pretty fun and the kids seem to be pretty engaged with our lesson of animals–we played charades, hangman, and practiced writing sentences with a/an/the (the kids had to fill in the blanks–2 teams made it a race!).

After returning home from school, we finished our Krathongs and made sure they were ready to go. We also talked with Wat about staying here in Wiang Sa for the festival as driving to Nan was just going to be too much and would mean that the kids were going to be up way too late. We wanted/needed them to be somewhat rested for our last day of teaching on Friday. I am really excited about the festival. I have been told that it is beautiful to watch all of the Krathongs floating down the river and the lanterns floating in the sky makes for a picture perfect evening.

Here are some pictures of the day, including the kids making the Krathongs at the school and then the ones that we made at home.

Making Krathongs at the preschool

Lucia and Rinya

David and Lucia holding the “rose” banana leaf I had made

Tuesday November 20, 2018

Isaiah 55:10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater...

Jeff and I taught half of the preschool classes today while the new volunteers, Jonas and Emma, taught the other half. It made me realize how much I am going to miss teaching these kids and how much fun I have when I am with them. I am so grateful for the last two months here. At the primary school, both Jeff and I taught as we normally have, and Emma and Jonas taught their own class. This is wonderful because instead of just being able to teach 2 classes in the time we are there, we are actually able to teach 3! I’m so glad we are able to provide more opportunities for these kids to learn English and I realize how nice it is to teach fewer classes–my voice is very grateful for the break.

After school today, we got home to find that Na Na acquired all the necessary materials for us to make our own Krathongs for the Loy (Loi) Krathong festival on Thursday. It is a Siamese festival that pays respects to the water spirits. People make the Krathongs (or floats) made from banana trunks, wrapped in folded banana leaves, and decorated with flowers, candles, and incense. The floats are launched on the local rivers after making a wish. I am so excited to experience this festival and we were talking with Wat trying to decide whether to go to Nan or stay in Wiang Sa. The initial making of the float was a bit tricky, but we quickly got the hang of it, and things went a bit faster. We were able to finish 2 of them and will work on the others after school tomorrow. Lucia took off with Yumi after school, so we ended up working on hers too.

Here are some pictures of our afternoon creating the Krathongs.

Banana Trunks

Anjali and David with Grandma

Na Na showing us how to trim the banana trunks!

Monday November 19, 2018

Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Happy 10th Birthday David!

Not sure what else to say, but Happy 10th Birthday to my son. We are so proud of how flexible you have been on this journey so far. You have been our steady rock and have learned how to just go with the flow of life. Even when your sisters are going absolutely bonkers, you just seem to sit back and enjoy the ride. This is a huge change for all of us, and you are facing with such grace. We are so thankful for you and so proud of the young man you are becoming.

I am so glad we had the opportunity to celebrate yesterday because today was such a busy day of teaching. We were able to get 2 of the preschool classes to sing Happy Birthday to David, which was pretty awesome and David seemed to enjoy it. The kids were so excited and basically tackled David as we were leaving the classrooms. It was really fun. I do hope we were able to make it special for him despite the limited resources we have at our disposal. After dinner, we all walked down to the 7-11 so the kids could pick out ice cream for dessert, which is always a fun treat for them.

We also learned that Thursday is Loy Krathong (Festival of Lights) on Thursday. We talked with Rinya and with Wat about the festival, as well as did a bit of internet research. We learned that Loy Krathong dates back approximately 800 years and the idea behind it is to put all of your misfortunes, anger, sins, etc. into the handmade “float” (made from a banana tree trunk, banana leaves, flowers, 3 candles, and 3 incense, etc) and send it down the river, sea, lake, or any body of water. It is believed that the boat will carry away your ‘bad luck’ and bless you in the new year.

Here is a sample image of what the Krathongs look like.

Na Na is going to help us locate the materials to make these floats for ourselves and then we will go either to Nan or to the Nan River here in Wiang Sa to set off our Krathongs.