Sunday November 25, 2018

John 20:26-29 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

This morning we got up and Wat took us into Nan after breakfast. We really didn’t know why we were going into Nan, but off we went; Wat had his own plans : ).

We ended up at Wat Phumin in Nan and Wat pointed out the mural painted on the wall of a man whispering into a woman’s ear, specifically called “The Whisper of Love” and local legend says that if you make a wish for eternal love with your partner in front of this painting, your wish will be granted. The whole inside of the temple depicts the history of Nan by means of a beautiful mural that stretches the entirety of the temple, even the ceilings. The temple dates back to 1596 and this mural, while have been renovated a few times, still remains as beautiful as ever.

A statue depicting “The Whisper of Love”
Inside Wat Phumin
“The Whisper of Love”
Jeff and I in front of “The Whisper of Love”
A family picture in front of ‘The Whisper of Love”

After a beautiful experience at the temple, we ended up at the Nan Museum where we got to learn about the history of Nan. As you walk up to the Museum you will see a beautifully lined path of Frangipani Trees (I swore I took a picture of this, but I can’t for the life of me find it, so here is a picture of just the tree!). These have become my favorite trees because of the amazing flowers that bloom; they are the most beautifully smelling flowers I have ever experienced.

A picture of the Frangipani Tree
All of us in front of the Nan Museum
David in front of ancient weapons

Little did we know that Wat had a celebration planned for us when we returned. I tried to go upstairs to finish packing (since I didn’t get much done yesterday or today!), but that wasn’t going to happen. As soon as I sat down to pack, Lucia came running upstairs to let me know that we needed to be downstairs right away for a party. When we came downstairs there were 7-8 family members waiting for us, including a “Doctor of Celebration”. This ceremony was beautiful, though everything was in Thai and I had no idea what was being said. At one point Wat did whisper that this was a ceremony to give us blessings of health, safety, and well-being. After the Doctor of Ceremony did his part (which was about 20 minutes), the family members there tied pieces of string around our wrists while giving us their own personal blessing. I am blown away at how thoughtful and wonderful this afternoon was and my heart is overflowing with joy and love towards these people. We have been accepted into their home and they have allowed us to be a part of their customs. We have learned so much from them and they will forever have a special place in our hearts. I just can’t believe we will have to say goodbye on Tuesday.

Here are some pictures from this wonderful afternoon.

David receiving blessings from the family
Anjali receiving a blessing from “grandma”
Jeff receiving a blessing from Wat
Lucia and Yumi
David and Yumi
Anjali and Lucia with Yumi
Me receiving a blessing from Wat
Anjali receiving a blessing from Wat

Today was a day filled with love and compassion. I can’t describe how many times I saw Jesus today. He has blessed my family in so many ways and today we got to feel His love through these wonderful people in Thailand. We have laughed and learned with them, and have felt a great amount of love from them. We can only hope that we were able to not only show our gratitude, but also our love for them. God was truly present today and among us. God knows no limits, and even with those that do not believe He is the Son of God, He is able to show us what love looks like through them. These wonderful people in the pictures above are a part of our family and I am so grateful for all of the time with had with them. I will miss them greatly and they will always have a place in my heart, and in our family.

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Saturday November 24, 2018

Psalms 62:1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

We have learned to just roll with things as they come, and today proved to be no different. We had arranged with Wat to have dinner at the night market in Nan one last time tonight and we planned on leaving Wiang Sa around 4:30 or 5:00 pm, so we could stop at Big C for a few items that we needed before meeting with Rinya, Emma, and Jonas at the market for dinner. So after lunch Jeff and I went upstairs to our room to get some packing done. Because it I am a total type A personality and like things done a certain way, Jeff ended up taking a nap. I figured that I would have about 3-4 hours of packing before we were going to leave and would be able to get most of it done. However, at 2:30 Wat came knocking on our door saying that it was time to leave for Nan! This was so typical for Wat and both Jeff and I just had to laugh out loud. Wat had a plan that we didn’t know about and we were just along for the ride! But every time this happened, we had a wonderful day and memorable experiences; again I say, today was no different!

We thought we were headed straight for Big C, but instead Wat took us to Wat Phrathai Khanoi where we hiked up 307 stairs (303 according to the picture, but there were 4 more steps after the sign) to the temple, where we found ourselves looking out over Nan. The view was beautiful. Then to Big C and off to the market. As always, we got way too much food, but it was amazing. We also met up with Rinya, Emma, and Jonas which was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures from the day. I am so grateful to God for the many blessings and amazing people with whom He continues surround us. My heart is just filled with joy and sadness that we have to leave more wonderful people in just a few short days.

I was thinking about all our experiences in Thailand and decided that it would be a good idea to come up with a list of “good to know” things, should you decide to travel to Thailand.

Be prepared for a totally different driving experience. Whether you are driving or are just the passenger, being on the road in Thailand is quite different than the States. For one, motorbikes and mopeds are all over the place and they don’t really adhere to the lane lines, not that cars do either; the lane lines are more of a suggestion than a requirement. Motorbikes are known to weave in and out of traffic via the shoulders of the road of highway, in between lanes, and over the center line. It is also not unusual to see a car doing the same thing. The horn on the car is also used in a very different way. In the States it is used to let someone know they made you angry or did something wrong, but here, the horn is used as a way to let people know that you are there and are about to pass them. So horns are used all the time.

Always carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you. Not all bathrooms have toilet paper and soap to wash your hands, so if you are prepared for this it won’t be a problem. Unfortunately, we had to learn the hard way!

Internet access is very simple and cheap. Purchasing a SIM card at the airport is a piece of cake and very cheap. It was wonderful to have unlimited data on our phones for the entire time we were there, especially for the kids.

Pack light. Clothes are very cheap and very nice. We stocked up on Thai clothes and ended up having to send several boxes home because we had too much to carry with us to our next stop!

Be flexible and patient. A schedule or plan is more of a suggestion than a set structure. More often than not, we would adhere to the time table we arranged, only to find that the people around us just flowed with life. It was a bit of an adjustment at first, but to be honest, it was a much better way to life for us without the stress of being somewhere at an exact time. It taught us how to just roll with the day.

–The medical clinics and medication are great and cheap. We had to take our son into a local clinic for a really bad case of hives. The cost was very minimal, as were the medications, and he received excellent care.

–Definitely bring anti-diarrhea medication with you, but if you don’t you can get it there for really cheap. We used Azithromycin and it worked like a charm. We all had to take it at one point, and I would definitely recommend taking it the first day you develop the symptoms because within 24 hours we all were feeling better. We were also able to use this medication for other infections, so it is very versatile and accessible here (we stocked up before we left in case we needed it in other places).

Don’t drink the water. Stick to bottled water (its cheap).

–If you have children, be prepared for people to just come up and give them hugs and tell them how beautiful they are. This attention did go to our 5 year old daughter’s head a bit, but the people are just so loving and kind, how could you ask them to stop. They just loved our children and treated them with nothing but kindness and gentleness.

–Smile. A smile goes a long way and the people of Thailand are perfect examples of how to be kind and friendly. Everyone smiles. Thailand is known as the “Land of a Thousand Smiles” and we were not disappointed. You actually have to try really hard to be in a bad mood here because everyone around you is so happy.

Easy on, Easy off shoes are a must. You will be asked to take your shoes off anytime you enter a building or a house, so have shoes that can be easily taken off and put back on is a must and will make you life much easier (especially if you have kids)

Brush up on appropriate clothing (especially for the temple). The Thai people are very conservative. Dress modestly and you will be just fine. In regards to the temple, be dressed very conservatively–no shoulders showing, long dresses/skirts/pants for women, long pants and a nice shirt for men. Kids have the same requirements. It can be very hot and humid in Thailand, so I do recommend a shall for women. That way you can easily wrap it around your shoulders if you end up in a temple. I tried to carry one with us when we went out because we never knew if we would end up in a temple! This is a good website for reference (https://www.kohsamuisunset.com/what-to-wear-in-thailand/).

If I think of others I will update the list, but this is a good start. If you are ever afforded the opportunity to travel to Thailand, especially outside of Bangkok, you will not be disappointed. Also if you are looking for something to do in Thailand rather than just travel, you should definitely look at volunteering with Volunthai. This experience was one that we will never forget. We were able to meet and live amongst the wonderful people of the area, and to see places that we would have otherwise looked right past. You really get a full view of the area when you are living there rather than just visiting. There is so much more to see and experience beyond the tourist destinations.

Sunday November 18, 2018

2 Chronicles 7:14-15 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 

The kids were so excited for today. Today we went back to the Nan Seasons Resort to celebrate David’s birthday a day early, with a fun day of swimming and then dinner. The kids also talked Wat into joining us for the day, so we had the blessing of spending the afternoon with him. It was such a beautiful and relaxing day. For the most part, the kids got a long fairly well, with minimal fighting and bickering. We swam and then enjoyed a nice dinner. Wat made this day even more special by picking up a birthday cake and candles for David, he was so excited. I really missed baking a cake for his birthday. I have made handmade cakes for the kids’ birthdays since David turned 1 and it feels so weird to have a purchased cake. This would be one of those things I did not realize I would miss : )

I want to give a huge shout out to the Nan Seasons Boutique Resort, for giving us the opportunity to celebrate David’s birthday swimming. This really made his day!

Friday November 16, 2018

Proverbs 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

We arrived at the Mae Sa school today to very warm welcome from the children. As we got off the van and walked into the school, the kids swarmed us with high-fives and hellos. I snapped this picture after things had died down a bit, but you can get a glimpse of what this looked like.

This just brought such a smile to my face and brightened my day. The kids were not just saying hello, but actually having a conversation (Good morning, teacher. How are you?). This was such a huge blessing and they truly made my day better.

Our children got all of their work done for the day with very little trouble, so, all in all it was a very nice day. When we got home our kids dispersed to play on their tablets while Jeff and I sat downstairs to visit with Wat, Grandma, and Na Na. Na Na made me a ramen noodle soup with veggies and a boiled egg. It was so wonderful, yet simple; I can’t wait to make this at home. Na Na also made the kids some chicken nuggets to go along with the Annie’s Mac and Cheese I made for them (my mom had sent like 7 boxes with her last package).

After putting the kids to bed, Jeff went with Wat to Nan for a bit of nightlife. I will leave this for Jeff to share at a later date, but they did not get home until almost 2 am, so would say that they had fun. Jeff did say that it was a loud and interesting experience, but also a lot of fun. I stayed home with the kids, which I was more than happy to do, and watched Clueless with Anjali while enjoying a nice bottle of wine.

Sunday November 11, 2018

Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lordand will be repaid in full.

I don’t know where to begin. Today was a wonderful day with my family and our host, Wat, who took us up to Doi Phu Kha National Park. The drive through this national park is  stunning and completely breathtaking, plus the winding roads through the mountainside was a lot of fun for the kids. Words and pictures just cannot do this place justice. What is really amazing is that this national park is also home to ancient salt wells and the mountain villages throughout this area still mine for salt, which can be used from spa treatments to cooking. We were able to stop at one of these villages called Bo Kluea and we fully took advantage of the myriad of salt scrubs and spa treatments, to the wonderful snacks and food (including salt boiled eggs where the eggs are boiled in brine). We made a stop at a coffee shop for drinks and then were off again through the beautiful mountainside towards Nan for dinner at the night market.

This was such an awe-filled day, from the views and scenery to the food and wonderful company of Wat. The kids were happy and got along the entirety of the day, which was a nice reprieve. The people of Thailand are some of the happiest and nicest people I have ever met; every person that I see or talk with has a smile plastered on their face. I heard that this was the “land of a thousand smiles”, but I had no idea how true this statement actually was. I guess I just didn’t think it was possible given that in the US most people won’t even look at you if they don’t know you. This place is definitely one of the friendliest and most welcoming place I have ever been.

I am going to let pictures show you just what we experienced today, though as I mentioned previously, they still don’t do it justice!

 

Wednesday October 31, 2018

Proverbs 3:24 If you sit down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

We finished the pumpkins for the kids and we did the best we could to dress up for Halloween. David was to be a zombie soccer player (though we worried that his costume would be too much for the little kids), Lucia was a fairy princess, Anjali a mummy, Jeff was Coach Jim Harbaugh, and I was a witch. Now we didn’t have much to work with here in Thailand where they don’t celebrate Halloween, but we managed to find some fairy wings for Lucia, a mask for David, and some glasses to finish off Jeff’s costume. We were all really excited about spending the day teaching the kids about Halloween.

The kids woke up and we attempted school work, but this week has been a bit trying. It seems to either be Anjali or David who throws a fit; Lucia is tackling her school work like a champ. I am not sure what is at the root of these fits, but I think it has something to do with the difficulty of wrapping their head around this as school and not “homework”. They are not getting their work done with huge fights and it taking about twice as long as it needs to be. To add some more fuel to the fire, we had a fight amongst the girls this morning during our first class with the 3-4 year olds; they decided to fight over who handed out the candy pumpkins to the kids. Jeff took the girls out and they continued to fight with each other. David and I taught the next 2 classes by ourselves and Lucia joined us for the last class. Anjali however was really struggling with her emotions and had a difficult time gathering herself together, though she did manage to collect her wits to have lunch. Our time with the older kids was a bit better and we watched an episode of the Addams Family.

Today was a very trying day for both Jeff and I emotionally. I am touched that this scripture came up today because after we put the kids to bed, both Jeff and I just sat in bed a bit overwhelmed. This whole thing was just a bit much for one day. But reading this passage reminds me that tomorrow is a new day and that we are doing this journey to fulfill a purpose that is beyond us, and that He will continue to guide and care for us. I said a prayer before falling asleep, praying for some patience and help to handle teaching my children during this year. Fighting with them on their schoolwork every day is exhausting and I am hoping that we can get over this hump and move forward with their education. I prayed for a restful and rejuvenating sleep so that I would wake up fresh in the morning, ready to face any tantrum or fight my children threw at me, and I tried to remember that God does not give us anything that we cannot handle because He is always with us and will forever guide us on the path we walk.

Here are a few pictures of our day at the two different schools.

Sunday October 28, 2018

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.

As our weekend of rest, relaxation, and indulgence comes to a close this passage is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the blessings of the last 3 days. These days together as a family was truly a gift from God. We have very much enjoyed the volunteering that we’ve done over the last 3 months, but it was very refreshing for all of us to be able to rest and recharge as a family. After experiencing the girls being at each for the last 3 months, these last 3 days were a welcome reprieve as they played so well together and we had very few arguments/fights/bickering.

This weekend made me realize how important small breaks are for our family during this year. Even though we are always together, this break of no volunteering and just enjoying each other was just what we all needed. I hope that this peace and rejuvenation carries through for another few months.

It was also very nice to be back “home” and see Wat, Grandma, and Nana. Tomorrow we are back to the routine of homeschooling and teaching English.

Here are the rest of the pictures from this weekend. And don’t forget, if you ever in Nan and are looking for a relaxing and serene place to stay, the Nan seasons Boutique Resort is highly recommended—you won’t be disappointed!!

 

 

Saturday October 27, 2018

Lamentations 3:22-23 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Well the morning started with a bit of difficulty, also known as the kids got up at 6:00 am. But they did manage to be quiet until about 7:30 and then they were at each other for who knows why. But they rebounded well after our delightful breakfast, followed by a couple hours at the pool. Jeff, the birthday boy, went for his annual birthday run while I began, what turned out to be, a 2 1/2 hour yoga practice by the pool. The kids swam and played together wonderfully while I did yoga. Then lunch and massages for Jeff and I in the room (separately so one of us could watch the kids at the pool–we aren’t totally irresponsible 😉). Absolute vacation mode has set in for me, and it’s not even my birthday. I think Jeff feels the same way given the constant state relaxation plastered on his face!!

I have to be honest, Wat drove us past this resort last weekend when we came to Nan. And while it looked nice, it really was out in the middle of nowhere and was very small. We decided to put our hesitations aside and just go with it. I can’t even begin to convey to you how glad I am that we just trusted that God would provide a relaxing weekend to celebrate Jeff’s birthday–and He outdid Himself for sure!

This is a wonderful vacation after 3 months of volunteering and traveling. While we have had the opportunity to see a lot of amazing places and to volunteer over the last 3 months, we have been on the go constantly and this weekend seems to come just at the right time. Our kids are finally getting along with each other–maybe they just needed a break too. He has definitely shown His mercies upon us, as we all get some needed rest and relaxation and fun as a family. I am truly enjoying watching my children play together and playing with them. It is so refreshing and it has been along overdue! I guess we all needed this weekend.

Friday October 26, 2018

Psalms 37:7-9 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

After a full (and fun) day of teaching, we took the short drive (Wat was kind enough to arrange the van that drives us to and from school for us) to the Nan Season Boutique Resort for a weekend retreat to celebrate Jeff’s birthday. The place is amazing. It’s small (only 9 bungalows) and just outside of Nan City. But it is so relaxing and peaceful. The kids loved the pool so much so that we spent the rest of the evening here. The kids swam and we had food brought to the room for dinner, which by the way is absolutely amazing. It also just so happened that they just came off from being fully booked and we were the only reservation for the weekend.

While we played at the pool Jeff and I decided that we were 100% content with just being here the whole weekend. Neither of us had any desire to go into town and leave this serene and beautiful place. As long as the kids were happy in the pool, we were happy too.

God is truly amazing and this place is a testament to his great works in this world. We are surrounded by a National Forrest with trees, flowers, and plants native to this area that were all created by Him. I am in awe of the beauty here, surrounded by rice paddies and jungle makes it seem like all the world is at peace (if only that were true!). But I will enjoy every moment of this weekend here and will soak in all the peace so I can share that peace with the people that I meet when we leave.

If you are ever in Nan (northern Thailand) and you are looking for a quiet and peaceful retreat topped with amazing food and service, please visit. You will not be disappointed.

Friday October 19, 2018

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

We got up this morning and headed off to teach the little ones, which was a lot of fun. It is great to see our kids engaged with these kids. David even helped by leading an improvised game of Simon Says and did great. We are now able to get most of the kids repeating after us and actually speaking, which is great.

After getting home from school we were able to do a bit of schoolwork with our children and then Wat took us into Nan to see the night market and to get some dinner. It was so funny because Wat dropped us off in the front of the market and then went to park the car, we didn’t even get out of the car and two soldiers where trying to snap a pictures of our kids. So we were able to get a posed picture with them!

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There were so many people and different vendors that the options for dinner were limitless. The first thing we got was a watermelon smoothie (served inside a watermelon). This sounds as wonderful as it was, but because it was so large and we needed the kids to still eat dinner, we only ordered one for the kids to share. We should have known better…this became a constant fight over who got to hold it, who was drinking more, who spilled it on someone else, etc. But we were able to distract them with a (kind of) waffle. This was not a traditional waffle but rather little pods (honestly they looked like a honeycomb) filled with whatever you chose (we got one banana and one strawberry). These were incredible! The kids (and us adults) devoured them. As we moved on through the market we stocked up on various different Thai foods and then sat down at a table to eat. There was music and dancing happening up on the stage, as well as various vendors selling clothing and toys, shoes, and anything else you can imagine. This was such a happening place to be and I can’t wait to come back again soon.