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 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!

 

Monday October 22, 2018

James 5:7-8 Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near

This scripture passage is a reminder that we all are on God’s time, not ours and that we need to sit back and enjoy the ride that He puts before for us. This would have been a great passage during our time in Bangkok when we were waiting on immigration stuff and having to change travel plans! But it is still a great reminder today, especially for me because I am not patient, particularly when it comes to planning the remaining portions of this trip. I can easily get overwhelmed, stressed, and overly focused on getting things done right now, rather than waiting until the time is right.

As for today, we taught at both schools and then came back to the house to finish some needed homework for our kids. While the kids were doing their homework we had a visit from other family members from Wat’s family. After homework was done, we all took the 15 minute walk, past the houses with open shops and stores on their bottom floors, to the temple where we teach English to the monks. Every evening they have a market at the temple where you can buy food, smoothies, and treats. We grabbed some food for the kids and a snack for Jeff and I, and started walking to the Nan River for the festival. We walked through the hundreds of vendors selling everything you can imagine: clothes, smoothies, food, toys, cosmetics, small creatures (hamsters, bunnies, mice and hedgehogs), etc. and purchased some traditional Thai skirts for me and some pants and shirts for the kids. The kids were desperate to get into the “hamster balls” again, so we were happy to oblige and pay the $3 for the opportunity to burn of energy for 15 minutes. Wat then took all of us to a Korean BBQ restaurant right on the Nan River and it was amazing. It was another wonderful day.

I would like to take a moment to share with you a description of where we are staying. Wat’s home is situated right on one of the two main streets running through the town and it is very busy; tons of cars and mopeds driving by at all hours of the day and night. He lives about 4 blocks from the Nan River, so it is no more than a 10 minute walk to the bridge. Now, I am not sure if this is common for Thailand or just this area, but the best way to describe the town would be that people have stores that are run out of the ground floor of their home. They open their doors in the morning and put all of their goods out to sell, but their store/shop is part of their home. A lot of the stores sell similar items, so it is difficult to know if or why one would be a better choice, so we opt for convenience. This town is so busy and yet it is still so small. If you walk about 1-2 miles and you are out of the town and into rice paddies and corn fields—everything is packed into a very small area as far as the shopping and business is concerned. Before coming to Thailand, I was told me that there is a 7-11 on just about every corner and they weren’t kidding. 7-11 seems to be the place in town to go and get basic sundries and snacks.

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This picture was taken while I was riding on the back of a moped : )

 

The people here, also, do not disappoint. They are so kind and loving. They are also enamoured with our children. I can’t even begin to count how many people just want to hug them and to tell them how beautiful and handsome are and/or take pictures of them. Anjali and David are starting to not enjoy this attention so much, but Lucia is all in and is soaking up all this attention. Probably a bit too much!

Until tomorrow….

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.