Once my work in Bangkok was completed, having turned in a draft of the document that will go to the schools describing the school’s responsibility for any volunteers who will work there, an outline of what I hope to accomplish the rest of this year (outside of studying the Thai language, which is my first priority), and a job description for the position of Assistant Coordinator for the CVT Program, I focused my attention on returning to Chiangmai with all the “stuff” we left in Bangkok when we arrived. Mom and I had added to that pile (all the red bags from Central Department Store) the things we purchased in Bangkok that we had not been able to find in Chiangmai.
Early Friday morning, May 28th, Acharn Gusak, an administrator from Bangkok Christian College (another one of the schools the volunteers will be serving), sent a van to take Mom and Jane Fucella to the airport. Jane was tasked with getting Mom, without any luggage, safely checked in and through security. Jane Fucella, Mike’s wife, had also identified a member of the Sapan Luang Church who was willing to drive his van to Chiangmai, hauling me and all of our stuff, for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, on the day we were to travel, Kuhn Nop got caught in Bangkok’s notorious traffic and Jane Fucella actually called to let me know that Mom was on her way to Chiangmai via Air Asia long before the van showed up at the CCT to pick me up, along with all of our belongings.
When Kuhn Nop arrived, we packed the van to the roof, squeezing in all the bags and boxes, as well as all the things that Mom and I had purchased in Bangkok for the house in Chiangmai. (I never found a waterbed store, so have resigned myself to sleeping on a “regular” bed for the first time in 40 years. Ah, the sacrifices we mission co-workers make!) Kuhn Nop and I left the CCT compound at 9:30 AM and Kuhn Nop assured me that we would be in Chiangmai by 7 PM. That’s about 700 kilometers (435 miles) in nine-and-one-half hours, averaging between 75 and 80 kph with rest stops. We spent the first hour dealing with Bangkok traffic before breaking free at the outskirts of town. I thought that hour might delay our arrival in Chiangmai somewhat, but I was wrong. The road to Nakorn Sawan was a very pleasant six-lane divided highway with a wide grass median. We wove in an out of traffic, but the wide highway that went straight across the Chaophraya River valley made it possible for Kuhn Nop to “put the pedal to the metal” so we could make it to Nakorn Sawan in just over two hours.
After Nakorn Sawan, the road dropped to a four-lane divided highway for the remainder of the trip. Kuhn Nop was determined to make up for the time he lost in Bangkok traffic and the speed of the van increased significantly as traffic disappeared. In the straight stretches across the valley, I had few concerns as we flew along. But when the rain moved in, the straight road turned into sharp curves, and the grass median became a concrete barrier – and Kuhn Nop’s speed remained the same – I began to have some second thoughts. Then, I glanced over at the speedometer. I could not read the number, but the number below the needle was 140 and the number above it was 180, so I extrapolated from that and asked if he would slow down a little. One hundred miles an hour was a “little” faster than my stomach could handle on that stretch of highway!
Needless to say, we arrived in Chiangmai WAY ahead of schedule, rolling into town at 4 PM. Subtracting the time we spent in Tak, our only stop along the way, to get gas, visit a restroom (bring your own toilet paper), buy some food and give Kuhn Nop a brief rest as he admitted he was tired, I guess we did the 700 km trip in just over six hours. Yes, it was faster than the train and I did see much more of the country than I could from the train, but I think I would have enjoyed it more at a more leisurely pace. We went straight to the house that I have leased and were met there by a friend of Mike Fucella, who helped us unload the van. I then locked the place up tight and went to find Mom, who was over at Jack and Nutda Neale’s home. They offered us dinner and a wonderful place to sleep that night so we could begin the big “moving day” refreshed.
On moving day, we had lots of help! Molly and Teng, friends of Mom and Dad from their years at McKean Rehabilitation Center, arrived bright and early and picked up all of the bags and boxes and parcels we had at Jack and Nutda’s house. They took all but the biggest and heaviest suitcase – the red monster – in their car. Teng and I somehow managed to manhandle all those bags into the house. Then, Andrew McRady, the son-in-law of Michal Dobson, arrived. He graciously volunteered to drag all of the heavy bags upstairs! I took photos so I could document this selfless effort, undertaken while his wife, Julie, his two children and I simply watched. There were three really heavy bags. (See thumbnail photos below.) Yes, they all weighed 50 pounds when they were checked in at the airport in Dallas, but we had added “a few things” to them.
Michal Dobson (named after King David’s wife in the Bible) was also there to help us with moving in. That day and over the next two weeks, she and Molly and Teng have helped us find all the little things that you need when you first move in – kitchen utensils, dishes, soap, groceries, shower curtains, brooms, mops, etc. Who would know that there was so much to buy!?! I think we spent 10,000 Baht at Rimping the first week just stocking the refrigerator and buying staples for the house. Yes, I would have packed differently if I had known what I know now, but hindsight is always 20/20. So, we forge ahead, as the Apostle Paul says, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” After all, as I said in one of my first posts, it is all just “stuff” and not the reason why I am here.
More photos of Andrew’s heroic effort: