A Close Call

Nellie with a Neighbor in Seattle This Summer

Nellie with my Sister’s Neighbor in Seattle This Summer

While I was in Bangkok, my little Miniature Pinscher, Nellie, stayed with Mr. Sawai Chinnawong, my artist friend, and his family. Nellie is not a young thing any more with at least twelve years of living under her belt.  That makes her a senior citizen in the dog world – about 84 years old in human years. Still, she is a feisty little dog who loves to run and play and can jump straight up in the air about waist-high. She adores Mr. Sawai, mostly because he lavishes affection on her and spoils her with treats that she does not get at home.

Nellie with a Chew Toy

Nellie with a Chew Stick

As the story goes, Mr. Sawai was out in his yard with Nellie, watering his garden.  She had wandered off into another part of the yard when two stray dogs discovered her. These much-larger dogs attacked her. Mr. Sawai heard her cries and came running, chasing the two larger dogs off. He then carried her bleeding body with one arm while he drove her to the animal hospital by Chiang Mai University with his other hand. (Thank heavens, he has automatic transmission!)  Nellie was treated for her wounds and admitted to the hospital for observation.  The doctor said that they would have to operate as some of her wounds were extensive.  They gave her intravenous fluids and made her comfortable for the night.  The next morning, they operated.  They told me that they would call if she was failing, but I did not receive any calls. Mr. Sawai went to visit her later that day and reported that she seemed to be OK.

Nellie with Mr. Sawai at the Hospital

Nellie with Mr. Sawai at the Hospital

It was several days before I got back to Chiang Mai and could see her myself.  When I went to the hospital to visit her, she was wrapped with bandages from her neck to her knees.  The worst of the damage was to her chest on the right side and to her left hind leg.  The doctor had operated on both to repair the damage. She still had a drainage tube in her chest (held on top of her back by the pink bandages), but she was glad to see me and spent some time telling me just how dissatisfied she was with my care of her. After a while, she calmed down and I just held her and petted her until it was time to go.

Nellie at Home Two Weeks After the Incident

Nellie at Home Two Weeks After the Incident

About a week after she first went into the hospital, she came home to my room on the third floor of the Education Ministry Building. They had removed all the stitches and her chest tube. Needless to say, I had to carry her up and down the stairs for the first week and she was weak a feverish for a few days. But I was surprised at how quickly she bounced back and was willing to try the stairs herself. Of course, that was more “game” than ability, for her left rear leg was still weak and collapsed under her if she tried to do too much.  Mostly, she ate and slept and forgot what it meant to be “housebroken.”

Nellie - Waiting for Hair to Grow Again!

Nellie – Waiting for Hair to Grow Again!

This week, she is a different animal!  She runs up the stairs (four flights) without any problem.  She wolfs down her food as she did before all this happened.  I have changed her food from mostly dry to mostly wet as she lost some teeth in her battle with the larger dogs. Her wounds have healed and, while she spooks easily and sticks close to my side outdoors, she is mostly her old, feisty self. She has also remembered what it means to be “housebroken” – thank heavens!  She wears some doggie clothes now that her bandages are gone, for the rains have stopped and the weather has turned cooler. She has very little hair on her body – just battle scars – but I am glad she is alive and back to her old ways!

Blog Postscript (2 November 2013): Mr. Sawai told me only today that, when he took Nellie to the Animal Hospital after the attack, the doctor gave her only a 50/50 chance of survival.  I am so thankful that she did survive and so grateful for the skill of the surgeon on that day! God is good.

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From Strangers to Partners in Ministry

Caren Martin Arrives in Thailand

Caren Martin Arrives in Thailand

I returned from a three-month sojourn in the USA just in time to welcome a new group of volunteers into our program. Beginning October 4 with the arrival of Caren Martin, a total of eight new volunteers joined the three already in service in Thailand. Ms. Chonchineepan Ajarayangkun went to Suvarnabhumi International Airport with me at midnight to meet Caren, whose flight was on time. A short time later, Lucas Peters arrived. His flight was an hour early – and we were grateful, because it gave us a little more time to sleep before getting up to return to the airport to meet Judith Moore, who arrived at 8 AM.

CVT Volunteers with the Moderator and Vice Moderator of the CCT

CVT Volunteers with the Moderator and Vice Moderator of the Church of Christ in Thailand

With the remaining volunteers, we had some problems with visas and holidays, resulting in our four ladies from the Nagaland Missions Movement in India (Vinokali Chophi, Piketoli Kinimi, Susanna Sheim and Kahoni Sohe) arriving the following Tuesday morning and our last volunteer, Lindsey Monroe, arriving two weeks later. However, we had a full orientation class, with Bovito Sema (working with the Thailand Karen Baptist Church) and Adam Royston (working with the Christian Conference of Asia) filling out the rest of the class. One of the first things we did during orientation was meet the Moderator and Vice Moderator of the Church of Christ in Thailand, our partner church who has invited all of us to work with them in ministry in Thailand.

Volunteers at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Volunteers at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

The first week of orientation was held in Bangkok. While some of the time was spent allowing volunteers to recover from jet lag, the rest of the time was packed with activities and learning events. We worshiped at a historic Anglican church in English and a Chinese-Thai church offering worship services in three languages simultaneously. We visited the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, one of the most revered, most famous, and most visited sites in Thailand. We reviewed the basic “Do’s and Don’ts” of Thai culture. We discussed the importance of staying in touch with people back home, learning how to email, Skype and blog to help family, friends and supporting churches understand a little of our journey and our ministry. We visited stores showcasing the best of Thai exports, including gems and Thai silk. We visited ministries of the church, including the Far East Broadcasting Company, recording some shows for future broadcasts. We learned how to use the skytrain for transportation and everyone was able to find a mobile phone to use while in Thailand. We also tasted several typical Thai dishes and learned their names so that we could order those dishes in the future. The group also began reading the book “Foreign to Familiar” by Sarah Lanier.

Regional Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Regional Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

At the end of the first week, the entire group boarded a bus and traveled to Chiang Mai to continue their orientation there. Buses are a common and inexpensive mode of transportation for volunteers during their service in Thailand. Normally, we take the train, but there are no trains to Northern Thailand as the State Railway is making major repairs to the tracks. Once in Chiang Mai, we attended worship at one of the oldest Thai churches in Thailand and had lunch at one of the favorite American food restaurants in the city. After a week of rice, rice, noodles, noodles and more rice, it was a real treat!

Teambuilding Activity with Senior CVT Volunteers

Teambuilding Activity with Senior CVT Volunteers

The second week of orientation was packed with new learning activities.  We learned about the Child Protection policies of the CCT from Mr. Jeerapat Junawat. We learned about the special handicrafts of the Thai and which areas of the country produce which products. We visited the Umbrella Village and Bo Sang. The group spent 20 contact hours learning basic Thai conversation: how to say hello, get basic directions, the numbers, the colors, basic courtesies, how to purchase things and how to get around town by songtaew or tuk-tuk. We did some activities in understanding cross-cultural dynamics with Dr. Esther Wakeman. We saw Christian art created in classic Thai style from artist Sawai Chinnawong. We learned about the history of Christian Mission in Thailand from Dr. Prasit Pongudom. Senior CVT volunteers arrived for their fall seminar and joined the newcomers to discuss the reality of living and working in Thailand. We also did some teambuilding activities together to create a strong bond among and between the volunteers.

On the Steps to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

On the Steps to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

As the second week of orientation drew to a close, the Senior CVT volunteers returned to their schools. The third week of orientation began with attendance at worship at Chiang Mai Community Church. That was followed by a trip to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar to see the wide variety of handicrafts produced in Thailand and to do a little shopping. There was a discussion of the importance of managing expectations in the schools. Learning activities continued with an exploration of the book, “More Than a Native Speaker” by Don Snow. There was a trip to Baan Tawai to see the incredible variety of products made from wood. There was a visit to Prince Royal’s College and to McKean Rehabilitation Institute. Meals included trips to local restaurants and the challenge of ordering food using the Thai language. On another day, the group was challenged to make their own way to Wororot Market and purchase an item using the Thai language. Each volunteer learned how to write their own name in Thai from Ms. Chonchineepan Ajarayangun.

Learning About Banana Plants

Learning About Banana Plants

During the three weeks of orientation, each morning before the work day began, the group joined in morning devotions using “The Upper Room” devotional book. We explored ways of leading worship and combining worship with a simple English lesson, by using hymns that could be found in both Thai and English language hymnals. Each evening, the group gathered again for a brief devotional time. In one of these, I shared the text of Isaiah 43:1-4 and reflected on our call to ministry and God’s love for us. Each volunteer received a pin with the words “We are called” written on it. One final treat on the last day of orientation was a lesson on the importance of bananas in the Thai culture and how no part of the banana plant is ever wasted. As these new volunteers leave Chiang Mai to begin their ministry here in Thailand, I reflected on humankind and God’s purpose for us. No part of us is wasted either. In life and in death, we serve a risen Savior! By the end of our three weeks together, we had moved from being strangers thrown together in a strange place to being partners in ministry, using the gifts that God has given us to serve God in this place. All praise to God from whom all good things come!

More Photos from Orientation:

Learning About Child Protection

Learning About Child Protection

A Chinese Meal in Bangkok

A Chinese Meal in Bangkok

In the History Room of CCT Headquarters

In the History Room of CCT Headquarters

Playing Ping Pong at CCT Headquarters

Playing Ping Pong at CCT Headquarters

Building Spaghetti Towers

Building Spaghetti Towers with Senior CVTs

Daily News Update

Getting a Daily News Update

Volunteers with Peacock Dancer

With a Peacock Dancer

A Spaghetti Tower Bites the Dust

A Spaghetti Tower Bites the Dust

The Green Energy Room at Prince Royal's College

The Green Energy Room at Prince Royal’s College

At McKean Gift Shop after the Tour of the Island

At McKean Gift Shop

Lou and a New Friend

Lou and a New Friend

The End of Orientation

The End of Orientation

The Chedi on Doi Suthep

The Chedi on Doi Suthep

Ms. Chonchineepan Ajarayangkun Teaching

Chonchineepan Ajarayangkun Teaching

CCT Headquarters Cross

The Cross on CCT Headquarters

Thai Dinner

A Thai Dinner

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Privileged to Share

Bridal Party at First Church Chiang Mai

Bridal Party at First Church

Just a month ago, I received an invitation to a very special wedding.   Dr. Rujadhorn Indratula was marrying Dr. Nattapong Swangmuang. Dr. Rujahorn’s parents were my next-door neighbors during my first three years in Thailand. My sister, Carol, got to know the bride as Ms. Rujadhorn was writing her doctoral dissertation last summer. Carol was in Thailand caring for my mother as I traveled with the New Wilmington Mission Conference Summer Service Team. The bride’s mother, Kuhn Rujira, was the Director of Nursing at McCormick Hospital before she retired. She was a rock, a comforter, and a friend during my mother’s final days, offering advice, solace, and prayer as cancer continued its relentless attack.

Kathryn McDaniel and Kuhn Sritong

Kathryn McDaniel and Kuhn Sritong at the Wedding

It was my first Thai wedding in decades and what a beautiful wedding it was! The bride was lovely in a long white gown.  The Maid of Honor was in pink chiffon. There were four little girls in white who spread rose petals on the red carpet leading to the chancel area.  Two little boys carried the marriage certificate and the rings. Fresh flowers covered every part of the chancel and decorated the arch that the bride and groom walked through when they entered the church.  I caught Kathryn McDaniel and Kuhn Sritong in the floral arch after the service! It was very similar to weddings I have attended or officiated in the USA with one exception: the bride and groom both knelt at the feet of their parents to receive their blessing after they said their vows. I was amazed and honored that they invited me to sing “The Wind Beneath My Wings” as a duet with Mr. Ekkawudt Preeyakraisawn for the ceremony. It was a pleasure to do so AND it gave me a front-row seat!

Cutting the Cake

Cutting the Cake

Afterward, I drove to the reception at the Empress Hotel with Kathryn McDaniel. Once there, we wandered around the entry to the reception dinner, looking at photos of the Bride and Groom taken for their engagement. There was also a floral wall set up for photos of the Bride and Groom with the guests.  Inside, a live band played while we ate. We had a seven or eight course meal (an appetizer, two soups, two duck dishes, a chicken dish, other dishes I’ve forgotten, and a dessert). After lots of speeches and words of gratitude to various people and groups, the Bride and Groom cut the cake. Here was another place where Thai weddings differ from those I have attended in the USA: the cake was not a real cake and no wedding cake was served to the guests – with the exception of VIP guests, who did receive a slice of cake. At the end, unmarried women were invited to the front for the Bride to toss her bouquet.  She elected not to toss it, but to personally hand it to her Maid of Honor.  All in all, it was a wonderful evening and a wedding I’ll not soon forget!

More Photos of the Wedding:

Bride and Groom, Preacher and Singer

Bride and Groom, Preacher and Singer

The Wedding Cake

The Wedding Cake

The Bride and Groom and Their Parents

The Bride and Groom and Their Parents

The Bride and Groom

The Bride and Groom

A Funny Moment at the Reception

A Funny Moment at the Reception

 

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Happily Ever After in Korea

The Dance of Planes at Incheon Airport

The Dance of Planes at Incheon Airport

I am on the road again and, once again, I had a layover at Incheon Airport in Seoul, Korea. This airport has been rated the #1 airport in the world for eight consecutive years. I blogged about this airport when I went through it on my way to the USA in March. I could not believe how wonderful it was. This time, I had a twelve-hour layover and my curiosity questioned whether I would think it was so heavenly again the second time around.

Side-by-Side Toilets for Families

Side-by-Side Toilets for Families

Oh, I found some flaws this time:  There was only one empty recliner in the TV-News watching lounge.  When I sat in that recliner, it immediately flipped over until I was lying with my head on the floor and my feet in the air. The wonderful man who rescued me from that predicament suggested that I could post a video of my antics on You-Tube, but there was no one else in the room who was conscious enough to capture in on video (for which I was very grateful). I also found an empty seat in the Internet lounge, only to discover that the computer at that station was not working. But I was again enchanted when I discovered these side-by-side toilets in a “Family Restroom” in the airport. There was also a diaper changing table if the family had a younger member.

Bride and Groom on Display at Incheon Airport

Bride and Groom on Display at Incheon Airport

The best part of my layover in Incheon (besides seeing Brice Rogers and getting caught up on ten years of living without taking a single photograph of the occasion) was this exhibit of a Korean wedding. Besides these life-sized mannequins dressed as the bride and groom, there were actual palanquins for the bride and the groom (see thumbnails below), examples of gifts exchanged between family members, and other objects typically found in a Korean home in the 1800’s.  It was wonderful to see the craftsmanship that went into each item, whether it was the carved wood on the palanquins or the embroidery on the clothing.

Mt. Ranier

Mt. Ranier

I was lucky! Later in the morning, I did find an empty recliner and, this time, it did not turn over on me (see thumbnail below).  I was able to get at least three house of sleep and that helped so much with my “adjustment” to time in Seattle.  As  our Korean Airlines flight flew into Seattle, I noticed that the skies above Seattle were clear and rain-free. That gave me the opportunity to capture this almost surreal photograph of Mt. Ranier from the plane. Now, I am catching up on the latest news in the USA and hugging my Nellie, whom I have not seen since I left her with my sister back in March.  God is good!

More photos (double-click to enlarge):

Groom and Palanquin

Groom and Palanquin

Bride's Palanquin

Bride’s Palanquin

A Beautiful Dress on Display

A Beautiful Dress

The Royal Family from Another Era

The Royal Family

Enjoying a Recliner

Enjoying a Recliner

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An Amazing Artist

Lotus Madonna by Sawai

Lotus Madonna by Sawai

Ajarn Sawai Chinnawong came by my office today with some recent works of art.  We have been friends since he served as a judge for the Christian Volunteers in Thailand logo contest early last year.  This time, the works that took my breath away (I have already purchased some of his oil paintings.) were pen-and-ink drawings of such detail and beauty that the photographs (taken with my little Canon Power Shot) do not do them justice.  All have a Christian theme. So, with apologies for the poor photographs, let me share some of what I saw today. This beautiful Lotus Madonna (left) seems to glow.

Loaves and Fishes by Sawai

Loaves and Fishes by Sawai

For those of you who do not know Ajarn Sawai Chinnawong, he is a Thai Christian artist. He was the Paul T. Lauby Artist in Residence at Overseas Ministries Study Center in 2003-2004. His love for art began when he was a child in Thailand when he saw some old men painting on a Buddhist temple wall. He would watch them for hours each day. Sawai’s interest in art persisted into adulthood, and he studied art in a vocational school in Bangkok, Thailand. It was at this time that Sawai became a Christian. He says that a missionary was witnessing on the street one day, and soon after, he began to study the Bible every day after art class.

Holiness by Sawai

Holiness by Sawai

After completing his art studies, Sawai felt compelled to attend the McGilvary College of Theology at Payap University in Chiang Mai. He was deeply influenced by a series of lectures on the history of Christian Art given there in 1984 by artist and professor Nalini Jayasuriya. He began creating liturgical art while attending seminary, and designed the artwork for the chapel there. Today his art is appreciated in many places for its portrayal of Christian themes through a Thai graphic idiom that is inspired by Thai culture. Sawai’s artwork is published by the Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre of Hong Kong and by the Asian Christian Art Association of Indonesia.

Creation in Abstract by Sawai

Creation in Abstract by Sawai

Sawai Chinnawong’s work has been exhibited in Asia, Sweden and the United States, and he was one of five artists chosen for the Summer of 2007 exhibition “The Christian Story: Five Asian Artists Today,” held at the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) in New York City. The catalog for that exhibition, which includes reproductions and critical essays, is available from the Mobia Store. OMSC has also published an 80 page color monograph of Sawai’s drawings and paintings, with an appreciative critical essay by Dr. William Yoder. The book is available through the OMSC Bookstore.

Descending Dove by Sawai

Descending Dove by Sawai

Yes, he did bring some oil paintings along as well, but I could not take my eyes off of these pen-and-ink drawings. Each one has pictures hidden within the picture and a wealth of meaning that flows from his Christian faith. Once again, I asked him how soon the work on his website would be completed, so that his work could be displayed properly and those who were interested in purchasing some of his work could contact him. He assured me that work on the website continues and that, before the end of the year, everyone should be able to view his works and even make purchases online.  I am just a preacher.  How I wish my words were as eloquent as his art.  Amazing!

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My Mission Co-Worker

Ajarn Chonchineepan at Work

Ajarn Chonchineepan at Work

The Presbyterian Church (USA) talks a lot about mission co-workers but, when they do so, they are usually talking about their own missionaries who are serving overseas. The term ‘mission co-worker’ was adopted when the PC(USA) decided to abandon the old paternalistic style of mission endeavor in favor of a partnership approach – working with partner churches in other countries to share the good news of the gospel with those who have not heard. Yes, I am a mission co-worker, but I also have a mission co-worker who is my partner in ministry. Ajarn Chonchineepan Ajarayunkul is my mission co-worker. (‘Ajarn’ is an honorary title given to those who have a university education.) She is a Thai citizen who has a bachelor’s degree and has graduated from seminary.  She is married to a pastor who works at Payap University, the first Christian University to be established in Thailand. When I began work as Coordinator of Christian Volunteers in Thailand, I asked for a Thai staff person to work with me. I wanted a college-educated Thai person who was as fluent in English as I am in Thai (understanding about 80% of what goes on around me). I wanted someone who could help me understand the nuances of Thai customs and traditions, as well as someone who could help me communicate with all of the school administrators and other persons we might encounter as we worked to grow this program in Thailand. Ajarn Chonchineepan, or Tang as she is called by those who know her well, has been invaluable to this program. She has prevented me from making drastic errors, mostly by doing something very non-Thai like getting in my face and stopping me in my tracks when my German-American heritage threatens to derail communication and relationships in this decidedly non-German-non-American culture. She has spent hours describing Thai history, Thai traditions, Thai customs, Thai people and personalities.  On top of it all, she has a great sense of humor and shares her laughter with me and all of our volunteers. I don’t know where I would be at this point if she had not agreed to come and join me in this ministry.  I just thank God every day that she was available and willing to take on this challenge!

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Helpful Friends

Special Transportation in Bangkok

Special Transportation in Bangkok

While I was in Bangkok, I had an appointment to see the doctor at 9 AM. My doctor practices at Bangkok Christian Hospital, which is within walking distance of the Bangkok Christian Guest House. Unfortunately, the only way to cross Silom Road at rush hour is to climb the stairs to the BTS Skytrain platform, cross the street and come down on the other side. For someone with a knee recovering from a minor surgical procedure, this was not a good option. Taking a taxi is another option, but during the morning rush, all automobile traffic is directed away from the hospital and the taxi must go “around Robin Hood’s barn” to get to the hospital, through some of the worst traffic in Bangkok. While describing my dilemma to the staff at the Guest House, a staff member volunteered to take me on the back of his motorcycle. While I was not certain of this mode of transportation in Bangkok traffic, it was the best option available. It was not until we were halfway to the hospital that this staff member asked how often I had done this – ridden on the back of a motorcycle in Bangkok traffic. The answer: Never before this day! The photo was taken by an orderly when we arrived at the hospital – obviously with God’s blessing!

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Love Affair with a Mountain

Doi Suthep at Sunset

Doi Suthep at Sunset

For as long as I can remember (and even longer, I’m sure), the city of Chiang Mai has nestled in the shadows at the foot of Doi Suthep (doh-ee soo-taep). The sun always sets behind the mountain… and yet it is never quite finished. Daylight lingers into dusk long after the sun has disappeared over the top of the mountain until, at last, the sun finally sets in some far distant place. As it slides slowly into that place, the sun paints the skies with incredible colors. Now, as the rainy season approaches, those colors are muted and magnified into a wonderful spectrum of blues and purples and pinks – like a beautiful impressionist painting. And, from the place where I am now living, I can see it all.

Rain Clouds Gather Over the Mountain

Rain Clouds Gather Over the Mountain

During the rainy season, clouds billow into the sky like huge white puffy sails, shifting and changing constantly with the wandering winds. Sometimes, the clouds sit below the mountain top, obscuring the mountain, but not the peak (as in the first thumbnail below). Sometimes, the clouds gather over the mountains and turn the skies dark and gloomy in mid-afternoon. (I usually appreciate this, because my windows face west and the afternoon sun can be very, very hot.)

The Rain Lets Loose

The Rain Lets Loose

On this particular afternoon, I witnessed the clouds gathering and decided to watch for a time. It did not take long for the clouds to let loose their treasure-trove of rain – first on the mountain itself (left) and later on the city near the mountain (see second thumbnail), totally obscuring the mountain from view. Despite the power of that rainstorm in the distance, those of us on the east side of the river did not receive very much that day – just a gentle shower. And, after a time, the mountain re-appeared. A quiet, clear and yet still beautiful sunset followed (see thumbnail below).

The Heavens Open Over Doi Suthep

The Heavens Open Over Chiang Mai

But my favorite photo of the mountain that I have taken from my apartment this year is this one. This one reminds me of the Greek New Testament passage (Matthew 3:16) where God tears open the heavens and allows His glory to shine down on His beloved Son after Jesus was baptized by John. It was just a whisper of time and the image was gone, but somehow I was able to capture it on film. It remains my favorite photo of clouds… of the mountain… of God’s enduring glory.

More photos of the mountain (double-click to enlarge):

Low Clouds with the Mountain Behind

Low Clouds with the Mountain Behind

Rain Obscures the Moutain

Rain Obscures the Mountain

The End of the Day

A Look at the Mountain at the End of the Day

Doi Suthep in Late Afternoon

Doi Suthep Late Afternoon

Doi Suthep in the Morning

Doi Suthep in the Morning

Another Doi Suthep Photo

Another Doi Suthep Photo

Cloud Bank on the Mountain

Cloud Bank on the Mountain

The Mountain at Sunset

The Mountain at Sunset

More Clouds on the Mountain

More Clouds on the Mountain

On a Clear Day at Sunset

On a Clear Day at Sunset

 

More Rain Clouds

More Rain Clouds

 

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Settling In

Ed in the CVT House

Ed in the CVT House in Prae

With the end of orientation, it was time for our new volunteers to go to their schools, move into their new living quarters and  settle into their new duties at their schools.  I traveled with Ed by 12-passenger van to his school in Prae (about three hours south of Chiang Mai). The school has an old wooden house that was built for CVT volunteers many years ago and they cleaned it up for Ed to use. It is a two-story house with one room (living room, dining room and kitchen combined) down below and four rooms (bedroom, bathroom, all-purpose room and storage room) upstairs.  Only the bedroom is air-conditioned, but the school thoughtfully provided two fans to help move air in other parts of the house. They also provided a refrigerator, two burner propane cooktop, toaster, and electric hot-pot, along with dishes and silverware. A simple bed, two tables (one down, one up) and some chairs complete his home furnishings.

Teachers Ed and Udom at Charoenrasdr School

Teachers Ed and Udom at Charoenrasdr School

On Monday, we met with the other English teachers and the director of the school so that they could meet Ed and allow him to demonstrate the computer program that has helped him to teach English in other countries. After the demonstration, the teachers discussed how it might be used and made plans to incorporate Ed and his language learning software into their program. One of the teachers who was very helpful in this discussion was Teacher Udom, who is pictured here with Ed after the meeting.  Teacher Udom is the son of missionaries to Thailand who are still serving there. He grew up in Thailand and is bilingual and he has been very helpful to Ed during this settling-in period.

Teachers Ben and Jimmy at Sajja Pittaya School

Teachers Ben and Jimmy at Sajja Pittaya School

I then traveled to see Ben at his school in Bangkok. Ben had already survived a week of school by the time I arrived.  Since he does not have a teaching background, the school has decided to have him serve as a Teacher’s Aide for the first few weeks. This way, he can observe other more experienced teachers and learn from them. Teacher Jimmy, shown here with Ben, is one of the teachers that he will work with in the coming weeks. Ben has an apartment on campus – actually, on the top floor of a classroom building. His school is barely a block from a large shopping center and just over a block from the nearest BTS Skytrain station. Sajja Pittaya School is a historically Chinese-Thai School and is currently one of only two schools that teach all three languages (Chinese, Thai and English) to the students.  Ben is eager to play his guitar and has already been assigned a date to prepare morning devotions.

Director Prattana and her New Baby

Director Prattana and her New Baby

Director Prattana has been out on maternity leave for two months. Her daughter came to church with her today for the first time and I was able to snap a photo of the two of them after morning worship. I have been amazed at all that Director Prattana has been able to do in the short time that she has been Director of the school. Two years ago, the school built a new playground under roof for the children to enjoy – even in the hot season and the rainy season! Last year, every classroom was retrofitted with air-conditioning and the school received and installed a new security system. Bathrooms were also upgraded and repaired. This year, the entire school received a fresh coat of paint – and what a difference all this has made!! Also, the teachers were relocated into a new spacious office that is also air-conditioned. A new computer lab was completed over the summer and is now ready for use. I can hardly wait to see what Director Prattana and her board of directors will do this year!

More Photos (double-click to enlarge):

CVT House Bedroom in Prae

CVT House Bedroom in Prae

CVT House Kitchen in Prae

CVT House Kitchen in Prae

Sajja Pittaya School Building

Sajja Pittaya School Building

Sajja Pittaya Playground

Sajja Pittaya School’s New Playground

 

Students Waiting for Extracurricular Activities

Students Waiting for Extracurricular Activities

 

 

 

 

Teacher Encouraging Students to Do Well

Teacher Encouraging Students to Do Well

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Homestay in Heaven

First Church of Fang in Worship

Congregation of First Church of Fang in Worship

The highlight of orientation for our volunteers is a three-day homestay in Fang in the far north of Thailand. This comes after two weeks of orientation to Thailand, Thai food, Thai customs and culture, and at least 20 hours of basic Thai language. The Fang homestay experience always begins with worship on Sunday morning. Our CVT volunteers join the congregation (see thumbnail below) in a traditional Christian worship service during which they are introduced to the congregation. This congregation has offered this homestay experience to our volunteers on four different occasions.  The church sees it as a ministry to new missionaries and our volunteers see it as a valuable learning experience of Thai family life and culture.

Ben and an Admirer

CVT Volunteer Ben and an Admirer

After worship and a wonderful noon meal with the congregation, our volunteers met their homestay families (see thumbnail below) and were taken to their homes.  The afternoon was spent getting to know the families.  Then, we gathered in the evening for a great feast of smoked and roasted meats, fish, mixed vegetables and rice. All of it was cooked (see thumbnails below) as we sat on the family porch overlooking the fish pond, talking about life in Thailand and its unique quirks. Ben, one of our volunteers, found a guitar to play and a ready audience in the three little dogs that were running around looking for those who would stop to pet them. When the food was ready, we dug in and ate. The young people of the church ate and then went inside to sing songs, talk about life in Christ and play games together.

Ed, Ben and New Friends in Fang After Bible Study

Ed, Ben and New Friends in Fang After Bible Study

The next day was a holiday for most Thai people. Ed and Ben spent the day with their host families: Ben helping to paint the remodeled home of the teachers he was living with and Ed working in the nursery and flower shop of his host family.  Acharn Chonchineepan and I had a rare day off, so we went to the beauty salon of one of the church members. There we indulged in a manicure, pedicure and facial massage. Acharn Chonchineepan also had her hair done while I spent time reading a new book on the Kindle Fire that my son gave me for Christmas. That evening after dinner, Ed and Ben joined members of the church at a Bible study in the home of one of the members.

Acharn Chonchineepan at the Petroleum Museum

Acharn Chonchineepan at the Petroleum Museum

The next day was packed with interesting stuff! We began by going to the Fang Petroleum Museum. I did not even know that Thailand had petroleum, but the very first oil field was discovered in Fang back in the 1950’s. At this time, there are 59 productive wells in the Northern (Fang) District and there is a little museum that tells the story of how it was discovered and how petroleum is refined and used in Thailand. There are, of course, many more oil fields in Thailand and the most productive fields are in the center of the country.

Ed Wandering Through the Hinoka House

CVT Volunteer Ed Wandering Through the Hinoka House

From the petroleum museum, we went to the Hinoka House, a grand home built by the owner of Thailand’s most successful cedar oil business. We learned that cedar oil is extracted from cedar imported from Laos. It sells for 80,000 THB per liter (about $2,500 a quart) and is used in the production of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The entire Hinoka House is built of cedar and teak and is fit for royalty. I counted three bedrooms and three bathrooms, a living room, dining room (with cedar bar), and other multipurpose rooms. While Laos has halted the export of cedar, the owner of the Hinoka House has been given an exemption and he continues to import cedar and extract the oil. In addition, the House itself has spawned a new business. People want to purchase furniture made of cedar and mattresses and pillows with cedar shavings inside. I bought the smallest pillow I could find and the smell of the cedar shavings is still so strong that I doubt I could sleep on it all night.

All of Us in Front of the Geyser

All of Us in Front of the Geyser

After a wonderful lunch at a restaurant on the main street in Fang, we drove out of town and into the rural areas. We entered a National Park where there are hot springs that bubble up through the rocks. Some of the pools of water are too hot to touch, but we went to a place where we could boil eggs in the water.  Once we put our eggs in the water, we sat down nearby to watch a geyser.  Every 25 minutes, this geyser makes an appearance and sends a stream of boiling water straight up into the air.  It was a spectacular show. After about 20 minutes, we rescued our eggs from the nearby hot spring and had a great snack of hard boiled eggs and soy sauce.

Pastor Sawan, Sharon, Ben and Ed at Fang Church

Pastor Sawan, Sharon, Ben and Ed at Fang Church

We returned to Fang and were hosted for dinner at another member’s house.  It was, again, a fabulous spread with chicken curry, fried vegetables, and local favorites with rice. When we crawled into bed that night, we were exhausted. But the next morning, we were up with the sun and met together at the church at 9 AM to say farewell to our host families and travel back to Chiang Mai. On the trip home, we discussed the experience and how it might be improved.  Once again, despite their initial reservations, our CVT volunteers agreed that it was a great experience and that they would recommend it for future CVTs.

More photos (double-click to enlarge):

Sunday Worship in Fang

Sunday Worship in Fang

Homestay Hosts and CVTs

Homestay Hosts and CVTs

Dinner in Fang

Dinner in Fang with a Host Family

Cooking Meat for Dinner

Cooking Meat for Dinner

Ben at Bible Study

Ben at Bible Study

Ed Shooting Photos

Ed Shooting Photos

Lots of Help in the Kitchen

Lots of Help in the Kitchen

At the Petroleum Museum

At the Petroleum Museum

Old and New Sanctuaries

Old and New Sanctuaries

The Main Geyser

The Main Geyser at the National Park

Mr. Makoo and Ed

Mr. Makoo and Ed

Tang and Pink Tree

Tang and Pink Tree

The Show Begins

The Big Geyser Show Begins

Tree of Bees

Tree of Bees at the National Park

Hinoka House Bedroom

Hinoka House Bedroom

Hinoka House Reception

Hinoka House Reception

A Dinner in Fang

A Dinner in Fang

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