Dreams in Waking and Sleeping

It has been a looong time since my last post. In fact, I almost forgot about my blog altogether until recently when memories of Thailand started popping up much more frequently than usual. Flashbacks of the smells in the air and energy of the markets and cities would pop up in my mind at random points in my days, and they have caused me to miss that place almost more than at any other point since being home. Perhaps the fact that it has almost been a year to the day since landing in Thailand for the first time (August 19th!) is what is causing the floods of memories. Regardless, they have led me to re-read the blog posts I wrote while being there, finally fulfilling their true purpose in why I posted them in the first place – in order so I could remember details, places, names, and stories I would have forgotten otherwise.

I decided to write another post, just for my own sake in trying to navigate the feelings of nostalgia towards Thailand. I read an article recently that listed 10 things the author wished she would have known before studying abroad, and one of the points stated that “Coming home will be more difficult than leaving.” While I have found this to be true in my own experience, the author elaborates in saying a simple, albeit fairly obvious, statement about anyone’s time overseas: “…what you just lived can probably never be recreated.

I know that this is probably a no-brainer fact to some, and while I knew that deep down, I had never verbalized it in that way. It’s a pretty tough thing to accept, too. No matter how much I wish or try, I will never have the same experience as I did while going through Go ED. last fall. The people, the program, the area no doubt all have and will continue to change. The five other students and myself will most likely never all be together at once again, learning from each other, laughing, traveling and growing friendships like we did while abroad. I don’t even know when I’ll get to go to Thailand again in the first place (it WILL happen at some point, though!).

However, change is an unavoidable concept and, although it can be hard to swallow, is responsible for bringing beauty, variety, and newness to life. Already my life has gone through so many changes, as I’ve gotten married, moved back to Oregon (this time without having to be in a long-distance relationship!), and will be graduating from college in just one semester. Even though a part of me wants to go back and relive my time in Thailand exactly how it was before, I wouldn’t change where my life is at this moment.

I do greatly miss the friends I made while abroad. But already I’ve had opportunities to see and reconnect with three of the students and the directors here in the States. The fact that two of my friends came all the way to Kansas to celebrate with my at my wedding was unreal, and I know that those friendships will continue no matter when or where we will see each other again. That’s what makes relationships formed while abroad so great.

I’m not really sure in how to draw this post to a close, partly because I don’t have any real “answer” to how to stop missing Thailand. But it always helps in talking about it, and the fact that I continue to think about it and ache to be there again speaks testament to how great of an experience it truly was. I would never trade going through the Go ED. program for anything, and I would go through it all again if I could. And I know I’ve said this before, but if you ever get the chance to study abroadtake it. The pros greatly outweigh the cons, and it will always be an experience that continues to teach, reveal and enrich.

P.S. If you’re interested in the article I talked about above, here is a link: http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/10-things-i-wish-id-known-before-studying-abroad/ 

A Thailand momento in preparing for the wedding celebration. So many friends from different parts of my life (home, Oregon, Thailand, Bethel...) converged at once. Couldn't have asked for more.

A Thailand momento in preparing for the wedding celebration. So many friends from different parts of my life (home, Oregon, Thailand, Bethel…) converged at once. Couldn’t have asked for more.

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Looking Back – Our Final Experiences In Thailand

I have been back in the United States for a four weeks now, and the adjustment process continues. There are many things I miss about Thailand – the people, the food, the beauty, the warmth, the relaxed road rules, the fresh fruit… The list goes on. However, it has been good to be home and see family during the Christmas season, to get engaged to my future husband, and to experience a change of seasons (even though I’m constantly freezing now).

This break has been both relaxing and very busy due to the quick wedding planning that had to take place before my fiance Aaron and I parted ways again for the last time (he left early for a month-long Biology trip to Costa Rica!). While this is exciting, it also seems to have taken precedence over processing my return home after a semester full of learning, challenges, beauty, and unforgettable experiences. So I’m going to finally reminisce about a couple of the last major events that took place at the end of my time in Thailand, both so I won’t forget and so I can share this experience with you.

The first event was Loi Krathong, the lantern festival that is much like the one highlighted in the movie Tangled. This was a festival I had been looking forward to since before I even left for Thailand, and it was surreal to be there while the lanterns incessantly filled the sky throughout the duration of the two-day event. Crowds of people filled the streets, hundreds of handicraft and food vendors were present, carnivals kept the kids happy, and elaborate parades made their way through the city as the “Loi Krathong” song seemed to play on repeat. We joined in by lighting and releasing our own lanterns among the thousands of others – something I had been looking forward to all semester.

People waiting to release their boat/candle offerings onto the river at Loi Krathong.

People waiting to release their boat/candle offerings onto the river at Loi Krathong.

Releasing lanterns into the night sky!

Releasing lanterns into the night sky!

Releasing my first lantern. : )

Releasing my first lantern. : )

Part of the parade at Loi Krathong. Miss Chiang Mai?

Part of the parade at Loi Krathong. Miss Chiang Mai?

The festival was certainly magical, but it definitely was not the safest. As the nights continued, the level of drunkenness seemed to escalate as people released lanterns that got caught in trees and power lines and eventually caught on fire. Others released their lanterns too early, so instead of rising into the air, they hovered just enough to travel and descend upon other people – thankfully the lanterns would be snatched away just in time before the flaming ball of fire landed on their heads. Other lanterns had fireworks dangling from them, and when they weren’t released correctly, many would explode and shower those below (I was a victim of this at one point). How the city did not burn down, I do not know. These are the hazards that would make this festival impossible in the U.S., but they’re also what made it that much more exciting, and I’m so thankful that Thailand continues to carry on the tradition year after year. I would love to return and experience it again sometime in the future.

The second event was our camping trip on Doi Inthanon – the highest mountain in Thailand. We went, fully expecting to have to set up our own tent and camping with primitive resources similar to our first boathouse experience in the semester. However, we got there and found that it was a national park with rows of tents already set up, full bathrooms and sinks available, and rentable little charcoal grills in lieu of an open fire.

Our lovely tents.

Our lovely tents.

Since we did not have to spend time setting up tents, we went on a walk instead to a nearby waterfall we could see in the distance. It turned out to be another national park, complete with beautiful gardens leading up to the waterfall, which was also gorgeous in itself. I believe it was in these gardens, though, that I got bit by yet another leech in a rather unfortunate spot… Those sneaky leeches.

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Such a wonderful family. : )

Such a wonderful family. : )

Jonah found some puppies to play with!

Jonah found some puppies to play with!

That night we had our first debrief session to prepare us for returning back to the States. It was so good to reminisce about the semester – what we had learned, experienced, how we had changed… We did it all in the coolness of the night (we were able to finally bundle up a little bit!) while roasting yams, bananas, and leftover chicken and sticky rice on the small grill we rented. Nearby our campsite there were agricultural fields lit up with hundreds of lights, making the entire evening feel a bit like Christmas season. It was the first time I had strongly experienced nostalgia and excitement for going home. Of course it was coupled with great sadness to be leaving as well. Everything always seems to be so bittersweet lately.

The lit up fields.

The lit up fields.

Our late night snacks.

Our late night snacks.

On the way back down the mountain to return to the Go ED. house the next day, we stopped at another gorgeous waterfall. And a few days later, we went to yet another waterfall called Mak Fa, where we were able to swim out and stand in between the two thundering cascades. What is it that makes water so incredible? This was probably one of the coolest experiences of the semester. Not to mention the bat cave nearby that we were able to explore. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any of the creatures on that trip..

Ah, beauty.

Ah, beauty.

Josh found a vine to hang out it.

Josh found a vine to hang out it.

Swimming in a river after a nice lunch. : )

Swimming in a river after a nice lunch. : )

Mak Fa waterfalls.

Mak Fa waterfalls.

It was hard to see and breathe in between the falls!

It was hard to see and breathe in between the falls!

Josh exploring the bat cave.

Josh exploring the bat cave.

In our final days in Thailand we were also able to go to the Chiang Mai zoo, where you could literally reach in and touch most of the animals there – flamingos, giraffes, storks, and more. We also came across the occasional peacock crossing the street, and we could have fed a jaguar meat from a stick. However, for some odd reason we decided against it.

Flamingos are odd birds.

Flamingos are odd birds.

This friendly giraffe let us feed him.

This friendly giraffe let us feed him.

He only liked us for our food.

He only liked us for our food.

Tropical places have some pretty awesome birds.

Tropical places have some pretty awesome birds.

We also held a White Elephant Christmas party with our group and the Go ED. staff. I was lucky enough to come away with some wall decor and a handmade pencil case made by Sanya’s mother. I would gladly take that over some of the giant rubber spiders and creepy bugs that some of the others received. : )

Having fun with sparklers after our Christmas party.

Having fun with sparklers after our Christmas party.

Retelling all of the stories makes me greatly miss being in Thailand. If you ever have the chance to travel or study abroad, I urge you to take it. There are so many things to be learned from experiencing other cultures, witnessing how others’ worldviews shape their lives, and seeing what you have learned about places around the world firsthand. I can’t wait to travel once again and experience it all again myself. For now, I will continue school in Oregon, hopefully with fresh perspectives and desires to learn.

Until next time!  – Rachel

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The Final Stretch…

Once again, I apologize for the lack of posts recently –  the motivation to blog has left my bloodstream in the last month and a half. But I figured since time is so close to running out (only 4 days left here… How is that possible??), I better get one or two posts up about  our last month!

I believe I ended my last post saying that I would write about our elephant riding excursion. Breezy and I had ridden elephants once before over practicum, but this took it to an entirely new level! We actually went to the same elephant camp that Breezy and I went to before, but instead of driving all the way there, we took an hour-long scorpion boat ride on the river to get there. Once we arrived at our destination, we were convinced to hold a very large snake (for a small fee, of course), and proceeded to walk to the camp to board our elephants. We rode for 2 hours through the jungle, crossing rivers, going up sketchy hill paths (how the elephant was able to manage it, I’ll never know…), and entering gorgeous clearings in the midst of mountains and hills dotted with bamboo huts and people harvesting rice. About a half hour or so before reaching our destination, our driver let Breezy and I take turns riding on the neck of the elephant… I had no idea he wasn’t going to get back on (he directed the elephant from the ground with commands in Karen), so I spent the remainder of the ride on the elephant’s neck, with Breezy trying not to fall out of the now completely bar-less seat on the back. It was both terrifying and hilarious.

Holding the snake - Josh was having too much fun with it.

Holding the snake – Josh was having too much fun with it.

It was tricky getting good pictures while enduring a very bumpy elephant ride..

It was tricky getting good pictures while enduring a very bumpy elephant ride..

Rachel and Lyric enjoying the epic adventure!

Rachel and Lyric enjoying the epic adventure!

Rice harvester - threshing stage.

Rice harvester – threshing stage.

At the end of our ride we reached a Lahu village, and from there we trekked through the jungle, in the midst of which we stopped to have lunch. This was probably one of the coolest lunches I’ve had in Thailand – the table was a banana leaf, and all the bowls, cups, and serving dishes were made of bamboo (they made us cups on the spot with their machetes). All the food was freshly cooked in bamboo as well over an open fire, and afterwards we had tea made in bamboo. The countless, creative ways in which they manipulate and utilize bamboo here will never cease to amaze me.

The Lahu village we stopped at.

The Lahu village we stopped at.

Our bamboo and banana leaf lunch setup!

Our bamboo and banana leaf lunch setup!

Making tea in bamboo.

Making tea in bamboo.

After much more hiking through the jungle (with no real path – I may have taken a nasty fall on the way down a muddy hill…), we made it to a waterfall where some boys were having fun jumping off rocks and bathing in the water. If us girls had dressed for the occasion, we would have joined Josh and Aaron as they swam beneath the waterfall and climbed the rocks behind it… Overall, the excursion was epic to say the least.

Our first real waterfall experience in Thailand!

Our first real waterfall experience in Thailand!

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Josh being adventurous as always..

During that final week of classes in Chiang Rai, we split up (in the same pairs as practicum – go figure) and went on different overnight research trips for our Social Development class. Breezy and I were reunited with Boon and Jan (from MMF – so good to see the MMF staff once again!) and visited the World Vision office and one of their cooperative development projects outside of Chiang Rai. We interviewed many farmers in the area, the cooperative staff, and the staff at the main World Vision office to gather information on World Vision’s development model for a research paper and presentation that we completed at the end of the class. We stayed in an Akha village on the top of the mountain (one of the scariest drives of my life – I literally thought we started sliding off the mountain at one point…), and had a rather interesting dinner with the hosts, the cooperative manager, and his friends. I will refrain from going into detail about that. The stars were exceptionally beautiful on the mountain, though, and Breezy and I introduced Star Tripping to Boon and Jan! (If you don’t know what that is, it’s a game where you spin while looking at the stars, and when someone shines a light in your face, you can’t help but fall down). It was pretty entertaining to see Boon try it out.

The fog was thick in the valley on our way down the mountain from the village. It was so beautiful!

The fog was thick in the valley on our way down the mountain from the village. It was so beautiful!

Some chickens at a school we visited that's sponsored by World Vision.

Some chickens at a school we visited that’s sponsored by World Vision.

Once we reconvened after our research trips, we left Chiang Rai for good and headed back to Chiang Mai. On the way, though, we stayed at another village to learn how to weave (the girls weaving fabric, the boys weaving baskets). It was wonderful to learn from the Karen women – they were amazingly fast and skilled at the art. One of the older women teaching us had the most infectious laugh – despite their simple lifestyles and minimal possessions they still seemed incredibly joyful. We learned a lot more from them than just weaving.

Learning to weave from the experts.

Learning to weave from the experts.

It was harder than it looked!

It was harder than it looked!

It takes so many passes on the loom to make a full pattern...

It takes so many passes on the loom to make a full pattern…

Josh learning to weave baskets!

Josh learning to weave baskets!

This was pretty confusing, I'm not gonna lie. We had good teachers, though. : )

This was pretty confusing, I’m not gonna lie. We had good teachers, though. : )

That night they held a small worship service in the pastor’s home (a tradition they do every Saturday night), and afterwards we got to hear stories from the village elders about the history, traditions, and struggles of the community. This village was particularly inspiring – about half of the families are Christian, and the other Buddhist/Animist. Despite their differences, though, they still work together to preserve the forests, complete tasks within the community, and coincide peacefully with one another. It was fascinating to hear about how they interact within the community despite different beliefs. Of course, much of this can really only be discussed in person. : ) Also, that night a rather humorous spider incident occurred – ask me for details if you’d like to hear the story – it’s too much to type at the moment!

Perfect Christmas photo shoot!

Perfect Christmas photo shoot!

The next morning we had a sunrise service, then took a long walk through the jungle and mountains to reach a neighboring village to go to a later church service (every week they alternate villages). It was a most beautiful way to experience God’s beauty before and after church. We also happened upon a Golden Orb bird-eating spider on our path there – those spiders are huge! After lunch we hit the road and made our way back to Chiang Mai. It was sad to say goodbye to Chiang Rai for good – I have many fond memories and made many good friends there. Hopefully some day I will be able to see them again.

The White Temple in Chiang Rai - We visited this rather interesting and shocking place for our Thai Cultural Arts Class.

The White Temple in Chiang Rai – We visited this rather interesting and shocking place for our Thai Cultural Arts Class.

We visited a Lahu Thanksgiving during our time in Chiang Rai - these men were showing the best products they grew in their gardens. It was inspiring to see how they only gave their very best to the church, instead of keeping it for themselves.

We visited a Lahu Thanksgiving during our time in Chiang Rai – these men were showing the best products they grew in their gardens. It was inspiring to see how they only gave their very best to the church, instead of keeping it for themselves.

Some of the hands collecting alms in the depiction of hell at the White Temple.

Some of the hands collecting alms in the depiction of hell at the White Temple.

This is Ben's Guesthouse - we stayed here for our 2 weeks of classes in Chiang Rai!

This is Ben’s Guesthouse – we stayed here for our 2 weeks of classes in Chiang Rai!

Since we made it back to Chiang Mai, we finished up our classes, but not before completing many long papers and art projects. For our Thai cultural arts class, we had to pick one art form and complete a project that combined the Thai form with our Western influence. For mine, I chose to do a Thai dance – I choreographed a dance to Western music (Regina Spektor was the artist of choice), and told a story that encapsulated some of the more difficult issues we learned about while being here – ones that I had difficulty processing. Many of the projects completed by the other students turned out to be good tools of processing what we had learned throughout this semester as well – some did paintings, others did weaving, and one did poetry. Art certainly has a way of sharing feelings and processing emotions that words cannot.

My Thai dance outfit - many thanks to Adele for her hard work in sewing my skirt and golden belt!

My Thai dance outfit – many thanks to Adele for her hard work in sewing my skirt and golden belt!

We were also able to celebrate a wonderful Thanksgiving here with a fantastic traditional meal. After indulging in all the delicious food and desserts, we released lanterns that we had written various things we are thankful for on. It was a lovely way to spend the holiday, although I did miss everyone at home.

The lantern with all of our thankfulness written on it!

The lantern with all of our thankfulness written on it!

We had sparklers too!

We had sparklers too!

Some of our delicious Thanksgiving feast. I have to admit, it was pretty wonderful to have mashed potatoes again.

Some of our delicious Thanksgiving feast. I have to admit, it was pretty wonderful to have mashed potatoes again.

After classes ended, we’ve been having many adventures (after having to say some sad and tearful goodbyes to Michael, Adele, Peter, and Scott…), those of which I will blog about at a later time since this one is getting rather lengthy. It’s weird to blog since I’m going home so soon, but I want to get everything written down so I don’t forget. This semester has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had – I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thanks to everyone back home who has been so supportive of my coming here – I am excited to see you all again very soon and to share my experiences with you in person. : ) Until then!

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Blog Procrastination

For some reason, the desire to write a blog post this month has completely gone out the window. For this I apologize. And as more time passes, the amount to tell about grows, which makes the task even more daunting and unappealing. However, I don’t want to leave everyone at home in the dark, as this past month has been full of some amazing experiences! Catching up completely may take a few posts, but I will see what I can do for now…

The rest of our time interning at MMF was wonderful – I can’t emphasize enough how great the people are who work there. It will be formed relationships like these that will make leaving so hard.

In our last week or so there, Breezy and I took another village visit to help out a Youth With A Mission (YWAM) team in their efforts to mix and lay concrete at the church in Boon’s village. We stayed at a different house that time – one that was much different from our previous visit. It was there that I took my first bucket shower of the semester! The family who hosted us did not speak English, but they were just as sweet and hospitable as our previous hosts. However, the daughter did speak some English, and we ended up going to her wedding on the Saturday before heading back to Chiang Mai. We were so excited to attend a traditional Karen wedding! It was actually pretty similar to a wedding back home, except they had about 5 different groups sing in the service, including the YWAM team whom they’d never met before..

Farewell lunch with the MMF staff.

Tippewan’s wedding – for the ceremony, they wore the traditional Karen dress, but for their professional photos they dress in Western style. Funny, huh?

After we all made it back to Chiang Mai (it was so good to see everyone again!) and rested for a day or so, we packed our bags and took a Red Eye to Phuket (pronounced Poo-ket…) where we did some beautiful sight-seeing on the beaches of Thailand and the islands of the Indian Ocean. In two days we snorkeled in the clearest, most beautiful water imaginable, kayaked around the James Bond Islands, found an isolated sandy beach to swim in (so peaceful and serene.. with warm water!), rode on speedboats, got sunburnt, and dressed up to eat out on the town despite our scorched skin and salt-soaked hair.

Snorkeling in the crystal-clear water! So many beautiful fish and coral.

At Maya Beach – the beach where they filmed “The Beach” with Leo DiCaprio. Maybe I should say “beach” one more time for good measure..

Phi Phi Island is beautiful. This was a gorgeous lagoon we toured.

Yep. Should have worn more sunscreen.

James Bond Island.

Our guide got off the kayak to take our picture – he was pretty neat, even though he asked for a 100 baht tip afterwards.

Blue water, blue skies, beautiful islands.

So glad we found this beautiful, peaceful, secluded beach. It was the most relaxing portion of our trip by far.

From Phuket we took a 9 hour bus ride to Bangkok through the night, but instead of sleeping, we were trying to stay calm as our double-decker bus tipped to and fro thanks to our assumed drunk bus driver. I have never been so terrified in my life riding public transportation – our luggage, and almost ourselves, were literally falling into the aisles as our driver wove in and out of traffic and took sharp curves at full speed. Not to mention the explicit movie they showed containing sex, porn, and gruesome killings to a public bus full of not only children, but many Muslims as well. How we made it out alive, I do not know.

We did make it to Bangkok, though, in the middle of the night. Thankfully taxis are available at all hours in the busy city! Our two days there were jam-packed with sight-seeing, eating, and taking any and all forms of transportation (taxi, boat, sky train, on foot…). Some of the highlights were seeing the Grand Palace and the adjoining wat structure, watching a practice parade of longboats (a.k.a. scorpion boats) for the king’s birthday in December, touring Wat Arun and dressing up in elaborate Thai dresses and accessories, walking through the biggest and most elaborate malls I’ve ever seen, and walking through the flower/fruit market, China Town, and Little India where we found the most delicious hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant. Bangkok did not feel like Thailand to me, as many of the people spoke English well, there were many more farangs, and the skyscrapers were comparable to many in the U.S. I guess I just was not used to being in such a big city!

The Wat by the Grand Palace – so overwhelming!

The Grand Palace.

In the Royal Field!

The parade practice.

Bangkok skyline from the river.

The glorious Wat Arun.

Our Halloween costumes!

Probably the fattest dog I’ve ever seen.

Storm’s moving in. Bangkok has some impressive hotels.

From Bangkok, we took a sleeper train back to Chiang Mai – a ride that was supposed to take 13 hours, but turned into 17.5. Instead of having individual rooms, we discovered that we would all be rooming together, as the bunks were adjoining with only curtains to give us privacy. It was a cozy ride, to say the least! Sleep was hard to find with the incessant rocking and noise of the train cars along with the frequent stops at various train stations, but the view once we woke up the next day was gorgeous. There really is no other way to get such an uninhibited view of the natural mountainside of Thailand than from the train.

Ah, privacy.

The train!

Since we’ve been back from our vacation, we’ve already completed 2 weeks of our last 2 classes of the semester. About those and the amazing weekend adventure we had last weekend (including riding elephants, waterfalls, and eating in the jungle), I will have to explain in another post. For now, I need to get back to work. I love and miss you all! Just one month left in this beautiful place.

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Oh, to Be a Hill Tribe Farmer…

Monday through Wednesday of this week were spent in a Karen village, where we helped an MMF staff member named Boon at his farms. When I say farm, I mean two small pig pens near his house, and a large cattle pen out in the mountain countryside with 4 pregnant cows and one calf. There are many poor hill tribe farmers in Thailand, Burma, and Laos, and each only have a few animals which provide for their entire livelihood. Boon works on an Animal Health Training team at MMF, where they educate and train different farmers and pastors in the region to help them raise animals more sustainably, and cost-effectively, while providing information on how to keep them healthy as well. However, Boon had injured his hand by cutting into it with a machete while working on his farm, so he cannot work as hard since it is still healing. So Breezy and I journeyed out there to help! And we had a lot of fun doing so.

The first day we got there, we helped Boon with his pig pens. We treated the dirt and mud with a special solution, gathered rice hull and spread a new layer over their quarters, and fed the pigs. It was so funny to walk a few feet into the woods and cut down banana tree branches to give to the pigs as a “snack.” Talk about eating locally!

One of the pig pens. They were quite nice actually! And not too smelly. :)

 

The next day we traveled to his cattle pen, which actually was quite a drive, but gorgeous the entire way. We parked on the road and walked to his land, and on the way we had to cross a river and walk by his neighbors’ land huts. Once we reached his pen, it was humorous to see his cows at the top of this super steep hill – I have no idea how they were able to stay balanced. When we climbed up and down the hillside, I definitely slipped and slid a few times! At his land, we helped him update his fence a bit – fixing the weak spots and filling the holes. However, we did not know about the land leeches, so both Breezy and I got bit on our ankles! It’s amazing how much the small little creatures made us bleed.

Boon let us stop and take pictures during the drive. So gorgeous!

See the cows at the top? I don’t know how they walk around up there!

This is Boon. He is a great man with a generous heart. I’m so glad we got to get to know him!

Enjoying some lunch at the top of the mountain.

There were a few other things that we did that made us feel like hardcore Thailanders:

  • I learned how to use a machete, and I cut bamboo.
  • We shot Boon’s gun, which had to be re-packed with gunpowder and bullets after each shot. We both hit our targets, by the way!
  • We got to chill in a bamboo hut. I’ve always wondered what those were like on the inside!
  • I know I already mentioned it, but we crossed a river! That has been on my Thailand bucket list for a while now.
  • We used herbs that Boon found and chewed to help my leech wound. Supposedly that leaf is supposed to help stop bleeding. It was pretty cool to be treated with freshly picked natural medicine!

Putting my machete skills to the test.

Getting some coaching before I shoot…

Fire!

All bamboo. All hut.

Ok, so it wasn’t quite a raging river, but it was still exciting!

Blasted land leech. Apparently Thailand is one of the only countries to have them!

While staying in the village, we were hosted by a couple whom we’d never met before. Yet they were incredibly generous, providing for us a warm bed, sweet breakfasts (since they know that Westerners don’t usually eat rice and curries in the morning…), and a place to “take it easy.” Even though they were technically strangers to us, I felt like I could truly relax and be comfortable in their house. I felt so blessed by them!

All of our meals were prepared by Boon’s wife. I have never eaten so much rice in my life – they have it with literally every meal. And of course, they offered us multiple servings of it. Everything was delicious, though, so we gladly ate more than our stomachs could comfortably handle. I am growing to love (essentially) all the food here in Thailand – Karen, Mien, Lahu, Northern Thai, Central Thai… I will definitely miss it when I return home.

It was so nice to get away for a couple nights and experience the peacefulness of the countryside. I didn’t realize how living in the city made me miss nature. It was a refreshing experience, for sure. Thankfully we are returning to the village to work with a YWAM team for a couple days next week as well! Who knew, I actually somewhat enjoy getting my hands dirty and working on a farm.

View from our hosts’ yard. Such a lovely setting. : )

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From Elephants to Ostriches

I have spent so much time these past two weeks journaling for my practicum that I forgot it has been a while since I’ve updated my blog – I apologize! My first two weeks interning at MMF have been good, and the weekends have been even better. There is a lot to catch up on, so let’s get started!

So far at MMF, Breezy and I’s main task has been teaching English at the Burmese Learning Center. The children are ages 1.5 – 14 years old, so it is a bit challenging to come up with lessons that won’t be too hard/too difficult, especially since the older children already know some English and the younger kids do not. But they are all eager to learn and energetic, so they are wonderful to work with. We also play games and sing songs with them every day, and while they nap in the afternoons, we either teach the teachers health basics or work on projects for the Human Rights branch of MMF.

Some of the children at the Center. They are wonderful!

Praying before Mae Mali gives out candy.

Precious girls. Having fun on the playground!

We have also spent a few days working at the MMF office, usually to join their meetings, devotionals, and prayer times. It is interesting to see how an NGO functions, and to see how people from various ethnic minorities can come together and work harmoniously. It’s amazing how many different languages are spoken there throughout the day!

To be honest, teaching English is not what I had envisioned or hoped for for my practicum experience, but the people I have met while being at MMF have made the time and experience worth it. Everyone is so gracious, giving, and loving, and they have become role models for me in what it means to be a Christian. And while I have not done a lot of art or nursing for myself, I have been able to use what I have learned in those areas to teach others, such as by teaching the children and teachers about health, by drawing worksheets for the children to color and trace letters, and by having the children do art that goes along with our lessons for the day.

The weekends, on the other hand, have provided so many new and exciting experiences. Last Saturday, we joined some of the MMF scholarship students to plant trees in Karen villages in the mountains. The drive there was a little scary (lots of poorly maintained roads on the edge of the mountains), and once we arrived and got our bags of trees to plant, we trekked through the jungle and up steep, sketchy paths that opened up to a hillside clearing. There we each planted about 5-6 trees (there was such a large group of us, so the work went very quickly!) on the side of the steep hill. The view from that location was absolutely gorgeous. We could see mountains and rivers for miles – it was unreal. Unfortunately, both Breezy and I stupidly did not bring our cameras, since we were afraid it would rain and we’d be dirty from planting all the trees. Hopefully we can attain some pictures that were taken by the MMF staff who went, though!

After the work was done, we all went down and ate a delicious meal in one of the Karen churches. They prepared so much food for us! On the way home, we stopped at an elephant camp, and before we knew it, we were escorted up some stairs and onto an elephant! We definitely were not expecting that when we agreed to plant trees for the day! Our ride lasted about 30 minutes, and then afterwards we headed back home (not before Anawan stopped to get us all Thai iced teas), and then Breezy and I proceeded to nap and relax until dinner.

On Sunday we spent the day with one of our future professors/MMF staff named Peter. It was such a wonderful day, as Peter showed us such generosity by making us breakfast, taking us to church and lunch, and then chatting with us at a coffee shop. He had such energy and love for life, despite the fact he is battling cancer. I have learned a lot from him and his blessings since I’ve been here.

This weekend has been full of firsts! Yesterday, Tim, another MMF staff member, and his family took us to a ceramics studio on the outskirts of Chiang Rai called Doy Din Dang. It was the most beautiful studio I have ever been to, and it definitely re-sparked my desire to do pottery! The main potter there is renowned for his beautiful work, and we actually met him while looking around the various galleries. We also enjoyed some homemade ice cream at their coffee shop – if it wasn’t such a drive to get there, I would spend so many afternoons in that beautiful, quiet, serene, and inspiring setting. The highlight, though, was that the potters working in the studio that day allowed me to throw a couple pieces on the wheel! My skills were a little rusty and the clay was new to me, but it was so good to get back on and practice.

One of the cool buildings of Doy Din Dang.

Back on the wheel!

Making a vase.

Breezy was having fun with the camera. These were all taken by her!

The finished forms! (The two in the center are mine.)

From there we went to Wana Farm, which is a farm that raises ostriches, horses, long-tailed sheep, and peacocks. And yes, they have both horse and ostrich riding available. We couldn’t pass up riding an ostrich! It was rather strange, and a little awkward at times, but it was worth the experience and it gave us a lot of laughs. It took some strength to stay balanced for sure – especially when my ostrich almost wiped out when it started running in the mud. We also proceeded to try ostrich meat when we ate lunch there. It actually was not too bad! May as well get the full experience, right?

“Once Time in your Life”

Couldn’t hold on to the neck! Had to grab hold of the wings. Such a weird experience!

Breezy’s turn!

Nit’s boys heading off for a ride.

Waiting expectantly for food.

We then switched gears and went with another MMF staff member (the director, and our supervisor, actually) Nit, and went to the market with her to pick out ingredients for our Mien and Northern Thai meal we would be preparing for the evening. Before we ate, though, they took us to a mountain that overlooks all of Chiang Rai. We got there right as the sun was setting, and it was a gorgeous view. It was an incredibly peaceful place as well, especially as there was a temple and chedi at the top of the mountain.

The quaint city of Chiang Rai.

Sunset over Chiang Rai.

After dinner, we went to the Chiang Rai weekly Walking Street. They have a live band and Thai dancing, and Breezy and I were ushered in to join by some Thai women. They wouldn’t let us leave, so we stayed and danced for about five songs! It was a lot of fun, even though we were some of the only ferangs present. We spent the rest of the evening walking through all the handicrafts, clothing, and food vendors until it started raining and everyone packed up. On the way home, though, we stopped at a Chinese restaurant and Nit ordered us some ginger soup with sesame dumplings. It was probably the strangest food I have ever eaten – the dumplings reminded me of eyeballs. I’m glad I had the excuse of being full from dinner, because I couldn’t bring myself to finish it!

Today we had the morning and afternoon to rest, thankfully, and this evening we went to an English speaking service with Scott. It was so good to go! I had no idea so many missionaries and English speaking people were present in Chiang Rai. It was very comforting to be around people whose culture I was comfortable with (even though I love Thai people!), we met some great missionaries, and we made many connections with people who knew of George Fox, Messiah (Breezy’s college) and our home states. It was exciting to be around them and witness their excitement for the work that is being done in this city, and it made me excited for what God has in store for my future, whatever that may look like.

Tomorrow Breezy and I head off to a village for a couple days to help on a farm. So far we think we’ll be building pig pens, helping a church somehow, and doing other farm work. Should be interesting! My experience here has definitely had highs and lows, but at the moment I’m very grateful to be here and excited for what the week holds. To everyone back home, I miss you greatly, and I’m so sad to be missing out on the Fall season with you. Make some good pumpkin muffins and scones for me, ok? Much love to you all!

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CBN Medical Trip/Moving In to Practicum

These past 4 days have been quite a whirlwind. At the moment, I’m extremely tired due to the lack of sleep and insane amount of traveling around/adjusting to new places. However, the events that have taken place have been wonderful, so the fatigue is well worth it.

On Saturday we left with Marting for Fang, where we met up with the CBN medical team doing a free health clinic there. They were set up in a school with different stations in each room – one to register, to see the doctor, to get eyeglasses, to get medicine, to get haircuts, and finally to hear about God (as many of them are Buddhist or have never heard about God before). We were greeted by the main lady (I feel terrible that I cannot remember her name…), and thankfully she spoke very good English. She encouraged Katelyn and I to take pictures, look around, and observe wherever we saw fit. We spent most of our time in the room with Dr. Arida, who was a very sweet lady who also spoke good English. She allowed us to watch while she did brief physical examinations of each person – they all seemed to suffer from the same types of problems – usually the common cold, carpal tunnel, frozen shoulder, stomach aches, sore throats, etc.

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Waiting to get glasses.

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It was so fun to watch people get their sight back.

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The “pharmacy.”

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Dr. Arida and one of her many patients!

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This was the first and only baby with Down Syndrome that I have seen so far. She was so cute.

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The Lahu translator and her son.

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Almost finished…

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Haircut success!

It was wonderful to observe the amount of love and care each CBN member gave to each person, and to know that it was all free of charge for the villagers. 275 people came the first day, and 2 accepted Christ as their Savior. Before we left for the day, they held a worship service where they sang songs, prayed, and gave a recap of the day. Most of the songs I did not know, but a couple I did. I loved singing when I could – the Thai and Lahu people seem to worship with an energy and freedom that I don’t often witness in the States.

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Post eye-wash.

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The room where they shared about God.

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The team!

That night the team took Katelyn and I out for dinner where we had many interesting dishes. (Most) of them were very delicious! One of the best was a fried fish with fried herbs piled on top. Throughout the meal the team had fun practicing their English with us and tried teaching us a little Thai as well. It was so fun to hang out with them as they loved to make jokes and truly enjoy each others’ company. Afterwards they got a dessert called rotee (which is somewhat similar to a sopapilla, but it usually has eggs mixed with corn, banana, chocolate, or milk and sugar inside) and a couple bunches of a fruit called longans, and we had a second feast once we reached the hotel. Thai people certainly love their food! Pretty soon we were all wishing each other “lop fahn-dee” (“sweet dreams”) before we all headed to bed for the next day’s clinic. (Of course, Katelyn and I had to watch some Thai t.v. before going to bed… It is probably the most entertaining t.v. I’ve ever seen.)

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Our hotel bathroom.. Everything you need all in one spot!

We were excited about the old fashioned room key!

The next day we set out for a remote village in the mountains, where both very rich and very poor people came. Of course, we stopped for breakfast on the way – boiled chicken over rice with a side soup to go with it. Thai people don’t really have the typical American breakfast, that’s for sure… Once we reached the village, Katelyn and I took blood pressure for the first portion (don’t worry, it was digital!), however it was a struggle to get a read on most of them because their arms were too skinny. Then we helped out with the kids where we distributed snacks, drinks, and new sandals to all. Afterwards we watched Dr. Arida work again, and we got to know some nurses who were volunteering from the Fang hospital. They were all very sweet, and thankfully they knew enough English to make up for our minimal Thai!

The preschool of the village.

The first ladies to come to the clinic.

Worship before the clinic started for the day.

Nurse Katelyn hard at work!

The kids!

Pi Taw teaching the lesson. She was one of the many wonderful CBN team members!

One of the children wearing her new sandals. :)

Dr. Arida hard at work.

These kids were precious. I couldn’t get their names, because every time I asked they just shyly giggled. But they loved having their pictures taken!

Yes, I look like a ghost compared to them.

Another successful day!

The day wrapped up pretty quickly, as access to the village was pretty tough. It was interesting to watch all of the people emerge from the woods, though, in order to see a doctor. It was also interesting to see how different cultures are – the women have no problem breast feeding in public, and there was a boy around 9 years old running around naked. Most of the toddlers and babies do not wear diapers either – it’s their way of potty training (although I’m sure many of them can’t afford diapers.). It makes you think twice about walking around barefoot…

Coming for the clinic.

If you look closely…

Katelyn and I rode back to Chiang Mai with the medical team as well, and during the would have been 3-hour drive, we made probably about 6 stops for ice cream, buying fruit at the market, bathroom break, etc… The best stop was an impromptu visit to a place where there were date palm trees growing. The man who owned the place allowed us all inside, explained all about his date farm, and let us try some of the fruit (which was shockingly sweet!). I love how welcoming Thai people are!

A date palm tree!

One of the fresh dates from the tree.. So incredibly sweet.

One of the biggest avocados I’ve ever seen!

Dr. Arida and Pi Taw – Two very sweet ladies. :)

That night we went once again to the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai, packed, and stayed up way too late before we headed off to our different practicum sites. After 2.5 hours of sleep, Breezy and I caught a bus to Chiang Rai, where we were greeted by 2 MMF staff who took us to the Burmese Learning Center where we will be teaching English, to our apartment, to the Big C to purchase stuff to fill our apartment, and then to lunch. (The Big C, by the way, is basically a Wal-Mart. It was our first time going to a store like that here in Thailand – it felt like stepping back into America!)

Our one-room apartment! Very small, but better than what expected. :)

The other half of our apartment.

A giant Buddha statue wasn’t exactly what we expected to see from our third-story view…

Today we visited the MMF office, then headed out to a place where MMF staff are doing animal health training sessions for pastors from Burma. It was very cool to learn that they use their animals as a virtual church, as it brings so many people together in their villages. And before we knew it, we walked to a nearby village where we watched a vet from the local government castrate a pig. That poor pig never saw it coming…

One of the dogs at MMF. This one is named Alien, and the other is 200 Thousand. I’m not quite sure who came up with the names…

The MMF Office.

The unfortunate pig…

 

 

 

Something I did not expect: there is an MMF staff named Rachel, from Kansas, who has been living in Manhattan and whose mom lives in Topeka. Also, there was a guy who had recently graduated from KSU helping with the training, and another staff member has a friend from Newton, KS (and is also friends with a friend from George Fox!). Such a small world.

Breezy and I made another trip to the Big C today to get some last minute purchases for our apartment, along with some Blizzards from DQ (only a dollar!). I’m not gonna lie, it was good to have a familiar treat that I have back home. The wonders of comfort food… On our way back to our place we got lost for the first time in Thailand – somehow we ended up in a small village, walking through huts along a riverbank. We were definitely farongs (foreigners) today.

Yep. We were lost.

Tomorrow we will be getting some orientation for MMF before we start teaching English at the Burmese Center. Who knows what else we will do! I better get some sleep now, though, as I have not been getting enough of it lately. Good night to all, and thanks to those who have been reading!

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