Friday, June 30, 2006

warning: black blog

i need a camera in my glasses. i want visible record of everything i see, from the hilarious (middle-aged man wearing a 'parental advisory explicit lyrics' t-shirt) to the dangerous (four children under the age of twelve all on one scooter) to the downright sombre (tin shacks, blind beggars, dead dogs). there are some things i seriously wouldn't have believed before i came here. i want to tell you about how funny it is that cars will park perpendicular to a row in a parking lot, but leave the car in neutral so that if someone needs to get out, the parking lot attendant will just push the car out of the way, like those puzzles where you slide around the pieces to make the picture. i want to tell you that the boys and i ate choco coco crazy puffs this morning for breakfast (bless you, california team, wherever you are). i want to tell you that i beat a 12-year-old at chess twice, and at chinese checkers four times, and didn't feel a whit bad. i want to tell you about how the boys sell popcorn at the night market, and how scholarly max looks when he tries to teach me thai, and all these pleasant things, because it's been a rough day.

i don't want to think about horrible things, about the toughest twelve-year-old i've ever met whimpering because his disease causes boils that have to be lanced and drained, about house help being roughed up by thai mafia loan sharks, about the tsunami scrapbook that i found this morning - article clippings, newspaper photos of parents and their dead children, pictures of the team of high schoolers that went down to help sort bodies - that could have been full of faces i know.

so many things are fabulous here, but so many things are hard. i just accidentally cried on the shoulder of one of my thai friends; it's tough to keep emotions in check here. thanks for everyone who's praying.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

a time to post

man, i did it ALL today! (except go to monkey mountain, which was actually a good call, it being a long day as it is. i swear to you, though. i will make it to this mountain) we went to the tiger zoo (we again being me and the california team, and laura peters), and i held a baby tiger, and fed it a bottle of warm milk, and they had a cage where tigers and pigs live in harmony, and then laura and i each hatched a crocodile (they hand you an egg with a baby crocodile in it, one that's already started pecking his way out, and then you help pick him out, and he chirps at you the whole time, and then you cut the umbilical cord, and that's gross) and then i fed some green beans to a camel, and had iguanas piled on my head, and held a wallabe (A WALLABE!!!), and saw a lady covered in scorpions, and rode an elephant, and fed a chicken on a string to a bunch of crocodiles (ain't no thang like a chicken on a strang), and i ate a coconut!!! out of the coconut!!! so check out my photo blog. it's gotten WAY more exciting in the past 24 hours.

and THEN we got home and i had about 2 hours to shower and plan our kids program (i hadn't had a chance to pull anything together last night because i was helping the boys sell popcorn at the market so that they have some spending money, and then i helped the california team teach the first of the adult english classes that dave and i will be taking over for the rest of the summer), and then i thought i'd lost all my photos (see previous blog), and then i came to the church to throw something together, a program of my choice for an unknown number of children of an indeterminate age with varying english ability...those 4 years of school and $50 000 have just paid for themselves. the program was awesome, we had like 20 thai kids show up (plus tiffany's 4 wee farang, plus our boys were in and out), we played a rousing game of david, david, goliath (VERY similar to duck, duck, goose) and acted out the david and goliath story, and taught them 'my God is so BIG' and 'only a boy named david,' and we had 20 little buddhist kids singing about how our God is so big, so strong and so mighty, and i almost cried. now if we can only get them to believe it.

spoiler warning: this blog gets rambly in the next paragraph, and there aren't any scorpions or baby crocodiles in it.

i do a LOT of english teaching over here. it's totally not my favorite thing, and honestly, i'm not sure how much english anyone's going to learn from me. but every time we build a program to teach the thai english, we're meeting what is for them a felt need, which gives the team credability, and enables them to build relationships, and also brings thai people into the church. to be thai is to be buddhist...i think i've talked about this before, but if our boys didn't have HIV and weren't orphans, they'd be buddhist, and there'd be almost no chance of them ever coming to church. it is the hardest thing in the world for the thai people to become Christians...anyway, it just kind of puts the whole english teaching thing into perspective. and places something of a heavy responsibility on me to be a credit to the reputation of this church, this team that has spent years building credability in this community. as sheri says, they have eyes everywhere. bang saen isn't a real touristy area, so most of the farang are associated with the church, and any white person causes a stir. i'm starting to recognize faces in the community, and i KNOW they recognize me (hey, it's the new farang!). this isn't really going anywhere, except maybe towards a request for prayer that i uphold the values of this team and help bring them honor in the eyes of the thai people. thanks.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

no time to blog

but check out my photo album. quick story...thought i'd deleted all my photos from the zoo, because they weren't in my thailand photos folder...had a little panic attack, almost cried a little, almost phoned you, dad, even though it's like 4:00 a.m. over there, but i didn't because i knew there was nothing you could do, because i deleted them off of my camera, not my computer...then i checked all my other folders just in case, and there they were, safely hidden away in summer 2003. whew. check them out, they cost me three minutes of grief.

breakfast box mark II

ok, so today's blog is kind of a repeat of yesterday's blog, but it happened again!! except this time they were catfish, and pi ganniga didn't make me eat any, and max started tickling one and then bun made it laugh (working the little whiskered lips and everthing), and i thought it worth posting. i wish i had a picture for you all.

i'm going to the tiger zoo today. expect wikked pictures.

Monday, June 26, 2006

what's in my lunchbox, mum?

nothing quite as interesting as what's in my breakfast box!!! i believe that i've mentioned how thai breakfasts are like thai lunches and thai suppers (in that they include both rice and meat, but lack fruit and milk). and i, like the dutiful quasi-missionary that i am, have politely eaten everything that has been set in front of me, including the flabby cabbage (did i TELL you that story? so one time, we were having this soup that had cabbage in it, and pieces of slightly darker something else that i ate, telling myself all the while that they were flabby pieces of reddish cabbage, and not mushrooms at all. through one of those happy twists of fate, pi ganniga decided on then and there for a language lesson, listing all of the ingredients of the soup. i forget what it was in thai, but in english it was most certainly 'mushroom').

ANYway, the other day i came down to find rice, this delicious sweet-potato thing, and four ocean-pot-table fish (as in, from the ocean into the pot and onto the table, sans beheading). 'you eat?' asks max? 'hey, no way, man. those fish are looking at me!' everyone laughs. later, pi ganniga (who's secret thai thoughts run thusly: please oh please let me feed you, let me iron you, let me teach you to speak thai! i love you, but you are altogether too thin and wrinkled and foreign) spoons two bites of fish onto my plate, which i wash down with heaps of rice. everyone laughs. they have infinite mercy for my non-thai-ness.

mild moment of panic. we run a kids english-teaching program on wednesdays, starting tomorrow, and headed up by me. well, headed up by carmen usually, but she's leaving, so this is for me to take and run with. eep. i am not a good runner. i am an excellent follower, but heading up projects (especially at such short notice) makes me a leetle nervous. of course i can, carmen. it'll be awesome. meep. it'll be awesome. awk! i guess i should go prep for that???

some clever blog title.

my english classes laugh at my attempts to speak thai. 'cut it out,' i say. 'i don't laugh when you speak english, cut me some slack.'

there's something freeing about being in a country where no one understands you.

this guy on the beach tried to talk to me, but he spoke no english (this is not an example of how freeing being in this country is. let me preface this by saying that i was wearing a to-the-waist bathing suit top and board shorts, but i felt more nekkid than i have since i got here, and he probably thought i was some sort of american tramp, because later he touched my thigh, and then i got the heck outta there), and usually when people speak no english, i say 'no speak thai,' and they get the hint. if they persist, then i throw long, rambly sentences at them, like 'i'm sorry, i haven't a clue what you're talking about because i do not speak any thai, and since you speak no english, we are at something of an impasse.' if 'no speak thai' doesn't discourage them, 'blabiddy blah something in english' usually does. my most run-on sentences did not deter this guy, and he followed me around the beach until the thigh-touching incident, at which point i fled the scene. in a stately, unconcerned manner.

all the thai-speaking farang were gone this weekend. at a conference. sheri and i were terrified, lest something horrible happen, and we need a thai-english speaker. as laura pointed out, the boys speak thai. as i quickly rebutted, they speak no useful english. nothing of note happened, except that sheri and i had our first official mentorship date (she's my sanity check while i'm here) at this beautiful little barista, which makes the greatest fruit smoothies.

oh, and laura and i got foot massages for, like, five bucks. FOR AN HOUR!!! i figure that i'll budget at least one in a week for myself, preferably after a rough english class, or after i babysit joy. who still hates me (i'm not sure if i've mentioned her. she's one and a half, and hates EVERYONE except for her foster family, who she hates slightly less). i think i saw her smile today. not at me.

all's well in rachelsville.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

which one of the powerfull...

ok, so the thai people have trouble saying ‘twenty,’ because they can’t get the ‘t’ and the ‘w’ together, so it usually comes out ‘tewenty’ and sounds like ‘seventy.’ ‘t’ and ‘w’ they can’t do, but throwing the ‘mng’ consonant trio at the beginning of a word is no problem. mngung.

and then there’s this sound…you know how on those phonetics charts, it’ll have the symbol (‘a’ with a little hat, or something) and then the sound it makes in english, and then some english words that have that sound in them. well, next to this little symbol (it’s sort of an ‘i’ with a dash through the middle, like it’s wearing a belt that’s too big for it), there is no english equivalent. there are no english words that contain this sound! this sound is not found in the english language? ergo, i am having a devil of a time trying to reproduce this sound.

in other (more exciting news), we went to the zoo last night (we being the california team and i) and went on the night safari. the california team have been kind enough to include me on any exciting things they may or may not be doing (going to the boys’ old orphanage, taking a night safari) and i, in turn, have included them on some of my exciting adventures (painting the new bathrooms at the boys’ school). ANYway, check out my photo album for a couple of was night, so i couldn't get anything really good off of the safari, but please oh please let these photos load....wahoo! ok, any of you too lazy to check out my photo blog at least have to see these signs...they were almost the highlight of my trip. do you not get an english-speaking person to edit these things? this one's awesome...

but this one...

Which' one of the Powerfull and be use for Hunt? extraneous floating apostrophe after 'which'? OH man. i gotta go, they're gonna lock me in the church again if i dont git outta here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

now that my computer's plugged in...

ok, so laura peters showed up (weird) and this team from california also showed up, and these three guys from abbotsford also showed up, and they know a bunch of cbc people, like adam nash (also weird). they all showed up on the same day, and so everyone assumed that everyone else was a permanent part of the team. it was mental mayhem for a lot of people.

it was fun to have laura here, we went on an adventure to this market…it’s always a party when you don’t know where you’re going and it’s dark and you finally get off the songthaew so you can ask someone where you are, and then you ask this guy which way the market is and he points, and then you ask him if it’s faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar (holding your hands far apart) or close (bringing them close together). can you walk (mime walking) or should you take a motorcycle taxi (point to his motorcycle)? he stares at you blankly for a minute, and then says ‘no thai?’ of course no thai. it turns out that the market was less than a block away.

dao got sick the other day, and was running a fever, which is always scary, but he’s ok now. he went to vbs tonight (the california team is running it) so i’d say he’s fine.

we (the california team and i) went to lorenso house on monday, where the boys used to live before the came here. it’s a tidy little orphanage with about twenty children, and four full-time nuns. we did a mini-vbs for them, and they had a riot. it shocked me when i first met our boys, and again yesterday, to see how healthy these kids are. i mean, externally speaking. the sisters said that when they first come to lorenso, they are usually sickly and frail, but that with proper care and God’s grace, most of them plump out. the others die. she said that if they are faithful with their medicines, they can live to be twenty or thirty years old. this is a long life with HIV by thailand standards, but so short…i want my boys to have girlfriends and go to college and get married and have children and grandchildren…i wasn’t really prepared for it to be this hard. at their last check-up, the boys were all pronounced healthy as horses, and they certainly eat like baby wolverines. the team is all fairly optimistic about their chances. when gunniga disciplines them, i know that she does so believing that they will live forever, and wanting them to grow up to be men of God. still, we have no idea what His plan is, and it’s not always the one we would have chosen.

Monday, June 19, 2006


i fed an elephant. the other day. refer to photo blog for photo of me feeding the elephant. sheri and gunniga and i went to this night market by gunniga's house (turns out that she DOES have a house, even though she lives at the orphanage six days a week, and has two children named ping and pong [no joke, and none of the thai think this is funny] but they're not young has a 12 year old son). ANYway, i just happened to have my camera because we had gone swimming earlier, and i wanted pictures of the boys swimming (refer to picture blog for lack of these photos), and we saw this elephant, and i wanted a picture of it, and then the guy pegged me out for a tourist, and 'YOU! feed elephant, twenty baht!' and i was sold!!

that was my happy ending to my first kind of difficult day...

the boys accidentally locked me in the house this morning, and i had to phone gunniga to send one of them back to let me out.

then we went to the church, dropped the boys off, got breakfast on the run, checked out a few pieces of land that TLC is thinking of buying for the new orphanage and church, went to the un-air-conditioned paint store and spent probably an hour trying to figure out how much paint we would need to paint these bathrooms at the boys' school, and what colors, and how many paint brushes, and how many paint pans, and whatall, all the while breathing in paint fumes. needless to say, we got home hot and cranky. and our door wouldn't open. the lock has always been finicky, and now it was stuck. we alternately cranked and cajoled it for probably 15 minutes before it popped open.

then i went to the church to check my email. i was upstairs for maybe half an hour, and the woman downstairs forgot i was there, locked the doors, and left. i had to phone dave and get him to come let me out of the church.

i went home and took a nap in the boys' room, and then took them swimming at brian and sheri's mooban (townhouse complex). afterwards, sheri and i were like, ok, we'll run home and shower, and you guys gather the toys and meet us there (because we were going shopping). when we got back to their house, sheri started laughing, because *drum roll* she had forgotten her keys and we were locked out until brian and the kids showed up.

so, not once, not twice, not thrice, but frice in one day, i was locked in or out of something. so i bought myself a skirt at the night market to make up for it.

oh yeah, and while we were at the market, a gust of wind started up, and apparently wind means imminent rain. it was like turning the lights on in a room full of cockroaches (not that i am in any way comparing the thai people to cockroaches, please don't come kung-fu me in my sleep). in a flash, they were gathering up their stalls and fleeing the scene.

my battery is dying. i will blog again soon, but in short...laura peters showed up out of the blue, and stayed for a few days...i went to the boys' old orphanage yesterday and met all of their friends and the beautiful nuns who look after them...i taught english this morning for the first time, and they brought me an apple (how oldskool)...meep! big red x on battery sign, very bad.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


i've had no end of trouble posting pictures in this blog, and the internet connection here at the church is SO slow, so i just gave up and posted them all at my old msn space. there's a link to your right.

so busy...

Oh, so much has happened, I don’t even know how to tell you. I went from being in a constant state of pleasant boredom to constant activity in a very short time. Let’s see. This week, I’ve mostly been meeting with people and discussing my part in their ministry. As Karen put it, I’m here for the boys and then I’m being sub-let into every other ministry they have. Next Monday I start teaching English at the boys’ school (eep). It’s the poorest of poor schools, but they were the only ones who would take our boys, and have kept their HIV status a secret thus far. Since they have blessed the boys, we are blessing them by lending them a part time English teacher (me). I’ll be there Monday and Tuesday mornings, and then Monday afternoon and probably some other afternoon, I’ll be taking care of Joy, who’s a year and a half old and a bit of a handful, so that her foster parents can get some rest. I met with Joy’s foster mom today to discuss that, and also the Sunday school ministry (which she runs), and how I can help out there. They have so little help, and so it’s just one big class with toddlers and teenagers and everyone in between, plus it’s about half Thai and half farang, which complicates things still more. ANYway, I also met with her husband today to help him teach an English class, and to discuss the English course that we want to set up while I’m here (which we never actually got around to discussing). It was nice, though, to see an English class in action, just so that I’m not flying blind on Monday (although these 20 kids are way older and way more proficient than my 45 tiny, poverty-stricken ones will be). That’s the thing I’m most nervous about right now, actually. But I’m kind of getting used to being in a bubble of uncertainty, and to just go with it. For example, I just (as in, 20 minutes ago) got keys to the ALH (Abundant Life Home, our orphanage), and so previous to now, someone had to be home if I was to get in. I was locked out of my house for about four hours this morning, so I went on an adventure. I hadn’t taken a songthaew (a sort of taxi-bus-pickup truck hybrid) yet, so I flagged one down and went to the beach. Songthaew are hilarious, because there’s a million of them going all the time, and you just flag one down wherever, and it’ll stop and pick you up, and then when you want to get off you press a little button inside, and they’ll screech to a halt and drop you off right there. No stops, no waiting (they come about every 30 seconds), they put north American buses to shame. Plus they usually cost six baht (about 25 cents).

What else have I done…I bought a cell phone. I was feeling so disconnected and vulnerable and never had any idea what time it was. They recommend short-termers get cell phones anyways, for safety reasons (if I get lost here, I’m REALLY lost), plus it’s nice to be able to get a hold of people.

As for my boys, well, they’re my darlings. Usually, when they go somewhere, they’ll only take three bikes, and the other two will ride on the backs. This leaves one back-of-a-bike free, which is now mine. My legs are way too long for this (I’ve never felt so tall as I have the past week), and so I have to hold them up (it’s better than Pilates), plus, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t actually ride a bike myself (I may tell the boys this sometime soon, and I know they’ll want to teach me. It could be fun…), so I’m quite a wobbly passenger, plus I weigh at least twice as much as any of them, so whoever has me on the back is pulling three times his own weight now. Max (it’s pronounced ‘mac,’ but he spells it with an ‘x’) will never try, since he’s easily the smallest and a perma-passenger himself. Dao manfully hauled me to the church once, and may never do it again. Bun is my most reliable ‘taxi,’ and I always promise him a thousand baht fare, but then find some reason not to give it to him (he almost hit a car, went too fast, went too slow).

The ALH is looking to buy some land to make a permanent orphanage (as of now, we can only have seven kids max). Please pray for this, because money is always tight, and land is always hard to find, and we want a plot large enough that we can have the church and the orphanage on the same lot, but preferably somewhere in central Bang Saen for easy access. The church right now is in a prime location, but it is tiny. The man across the street has made an offer, but he knows the value of his property, and so it won't be cheap. Other plots are being looked at, but they are further on the edges of town, which would make many people less inclined to come.

I miss you all!!! Thanks for praying!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

moving in...

I moved in with the boys last night. It was an eventful evening. We had a party for Dao, complete with cake and candles and Spongebob piñata created by yours truly (I knew E.C.E. would be useful for something). We’d come back from the pool to do the piñata, and just after we’d finished, the Falls’ neighbor got bit in the face by his dog (a dubiously friendly beast at best), and had to be rushed to the hospital. The boys were all riled up, and I was concerned that there would be trouble getting them to bed. In North America, sugar and excitement and danger late in the evening are a recipe for disaster. In Thailand…by the time I’d packed up my stuff and Brian had driven me over, the boys were all calmly getting into their pyjamas and brushing their teeth. While we hauled my goods upstairs, two of them quietly trotted down to the kitchen and brought Brian and I each a glass of water, and then took our glasses from us when we were done. Mac brought an extra fan in from the boys room (they have AC), and they all told me that if I got too hot, they have an extra bunk. Their room is gloriously cool.

They’re all super-excited that I’m moving in (in their quiet, Thai excited fashion). Mac must have told me at least four times yesterday that ‘you come I home today.’ For my part, I’m delighted to be surrounded by them all the time. They’re tiny and respectful and SO funny. I’m consistently blown away, knowing what I do of their histories, by seeing them laugh and play with each other and me. They sass Pi Ganniga all the time, which I can only tell because she smacks them.

It’s weird to be surrounded by Thai-speaking people all the time. The boys speak very little English, and Pi Ganniga speaks just a little more. I’m trying to learn Thai from her, but often she can’t explain to me what a word means, and I have no idea what I’m saying. So they all chatter away in Thai, and when they laugh, I laugh, because they’re all so delightful.

Pi Ganniga and I share a tiny room, barely large enough for our two beds (with three inches between them), two fans, and the wee wardrobe (and now all my beastly luggage). One night down, so far so good. I don’t have any internet here, so I’ll post this when I get the chance.

Monday, June 12, 2006


i figure it's about time i post some pictures, and this is my last day with sweet sweet wireless internet. nothing SUPER interesting, i'm afraid. i haven't been bringing my camera with me everywhere, but once i get into the swing of things, i'll try and take some awesome shots of people and stuff. so here are the hairy eyeballs (they're delicious, but every fruit in thailand seems to resent being eaten, and to present the greatest challenge to consumption that it is able)

and here is the little friend that hung out with me while i brushed my teeth

and here's me after my first thailand shower

herbal essences commercials have nothing on showering in thailand. ditto swimming. you're all hot and sticky, and then you're glorious and clean. i take cold showers (cold being a relative term. there is no 'hot' dial, but the water coming out is more tepid than cold) before bed.

in other news, we dropped the boys off at school again today, and i met with the head english teacher (since i'm teaching english there twice a week). while we were waiting for her, we were surrounded by tiny thai children, all peeping from around pillars and hanging off of rails and staring, with gap-toothed grins, at these two crazy farang (pronounced farong, means foreigners). whenever we met any of their eyes, they would mostly wai us (bow), but the cheekier ones would wave, and call out 'hello!!!' three girls about ten years old approached us, but two stopped at the edge of the invisible space bubble the other kids had created around us. one, obviously dared by her friends, strode forward, hand held out, to shake both brian's and my hands, and wish us a good morning. then she ran back to her two girlfriends, and the three of them, giggling like mad, rushed off. it's like we're a freak show.

i don't know what my internet situation will be once i move in with the boys (when we picked them up, mac pointed at me and said 'you come us home today,' and they all nodded like little bobble-heads), so this may be my last post for a while. i've been spoiled rotten, living with the fallses, speaking english and trying to un-jet-lag myself. i'll try to keep in touch the best i can.

night market

i am just boggled by this place. we went to the night market yesterday evening (sensibly held at night because of the gross heat), and sherri bought a kilogram each of three different kinds of fruits for 95 baht (about three canadian dollars). i got a pair of pants for 170 baht (about five dollars) and sandles for 50 baht (a dollar fifty). they have these things...i for get what they're called and can't pronounce them right by any means, but it's a super-thin pancake of dough wrapped around a banana (or an egg, or a banana and and egg, or nothing) and then fried and sprinkled with sweetened condensed milk and sugar. it's twenty baht (sixty cents). OH man. i am coming home twenty pounds heavier than i left.

so, going back to buying clothes...i'm fairly small, so the biggest of the sizes will fit me, but sherri and karen have been telling me about how, often if you go into a clothing store in the mall, the clerk will say 'ohhhhhhh, no. no, you beeg. very beeg size. no clothe here, very beeg size' and one time a woman told sherri she had 'very beeg bum.' somehow, they don't think this is rude, but it's rude to pick your teeth after eating, or lick your fingers.

the boys play uno in their darling english-sprinkled-thai. they teach me numbers (noon, song, saam, see, ha, ho, jit...that's as far as i've gotten) and colors.

yesterday karen told me as much as she knows of their stories. it makes you want to cry. all of their parents have died of AIDS, except for bun, who's mother is still alive and doesn't think she has it, though the doctors say she does. most of them were raised by an aunt or a grandmother until their care became too difficult. you can't fault these relatives for dumping the children (though i think dao, who was nine when it happened and so probably remembers some semblance of family, does) because it is nothing short of impossible to make it in thailand if you have AIDS. they've been kicked out of schools and apartments, had people told not to associate with them, and generally had a challenging go of things. you'd never know it to look at them, though. they're SO energetic and cheerful, and i know i have yet to live with them or work with them, but considering what they've been through, i think they're amazing. i wish i had a video camera so i could show you all how cute they are.

it's dao's birthday today, he's turning sip-song (12). we're having a party for him at the pool. i'm making a spongebob squarepants pinata. it's awesome. i didn't go to school for four years for nothin.

i miss you all!!! i'll upload some pictures soon.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


i swear it's the air. it's not me. i'm not sweating. i'm just damp.

breakfast at the omf consisted of cereal and toast (for the unadventurous) and some sort of rice-pudding-with-pork type thing, and a fruit they call 'hairy eyeballs.' i get an a+ for my adventurism so far, because i tried both.

i met a million people yesterday, so i'll just recount the important (thus far) ones. i met the falls family (betty and ben's daughter and her family, mum), sherri and brian, and their kids, addison and abraham. i never thought to pray to find people here that i would enjoy, deeply and truly on a gut level, but these are four of the funniest people i have met in a long time, aside from being welcoming and kind. they're funny like my family is funny, and i feel right at home with them. the fact that i came bearing gifts from grandma didn't hurt, either.

i also met ricky and karen, and their four girls (sierra, tassanee, mckenna, and aree), but the younger two girls were sick, and so i didn't see much of them.

i met pi ganiga, the boys' nanny, who has promised to teach me thai. her and i share a room at the abundant life home. the boys share the other room. three sets of matching bunk beds.

i met the five boys (bun, gop, mak, joon, and dao), but only briefly. bun has a wicked sense of humor, language barrier aside, and seems intent on thwarting my efforts to learn a few thai words. dao frequently refers to himself as handsome (and sometimes 'pretty'). they're all indescribably ticklish. i learned a bit more about them this morning after we dropped them off at school. they are all HIV positive, but none of them have AIDS. four of them are on...i forget the name of the drug, but it's the last-ditch HIV drug. they're all thriving on it (they take it every day at exactly 7:00) but if, for some reason, their bodies reject it, there is nothing else they can try. i only just met them, and this thought is scary to me. the one boy, gop, is on the second-to-last drug, so he still has some margin for failure. the medicines run about $500/month/boy, which is easily the orphanage's biggest expense. somehow, the money's always been there, and somehow it always will be, because there's nowhere else for these boys to go.

i met dozens of pleasant thai who can't pronounce my name, but who tried very hard before taking to calling me 'lychee' (which we pronounce 'leechee' but they say as 'linchen,' which sounds very similar to the way they try to pronounce 'rachel.' i thought it was just more botched attempts, but then one slender thai girl handed me a lychee nut, pointing first to it and then to me, saying 'lychee is easier than 'wreachawl' ')

i stayed at the falls' last night, on a massive bed in an air-conditioned room. this will be my last night of luxury. i was certainly awake enough to enjoy it. i went to bed around eight, but didn't get to sleep until probably ten, and woke up at four. i lay in bed, willing myself back to sleep until around five-thirty, when i finally caved in and got up. a billion birds were already up and singing, and an hour or so later, the local dogs woke up and joined them. a lizard stared at me while i sat and journalled, and then ran away to eat mosquitoes (we love the lizards) when brian came downstairs. we drove the boys to school, and brian gave me what he knew of their history, as well as a bit of an orientation to the town. now i'm back in an air-conditioned room, recharging my computer and blogging away. i finally figured out that i could change the time zone on my desktop and know what time it really is. it's 8:35. you're probably all eating dinner.

i'm having a blast, but i haven't really started yet. this is still like vacation. pray for me, that i'm up to the task, and for the boys' health. they're all glowing, and not many people know that they have HIV. you'd never know it to look at them. i'll post some pictures as soon as i'm able.

miss you all!!!!!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

on my way...

I am ON THE PLANE!!! I am on my way to Tokyo.

We got to the airport a cheerful three hours early, and took our places in the already-long line. Twenty minutes later, the line up was several times as long. Bless my parents and their promptitude.

Only Canada would have a recycling fashion show at the airport. Only in Canada would the airport staff traipse around in skirts made from plastic bags and hats fashioned from used cd’s. Entertaining? But of course. Useful in any way? Nada.

I completed my ten-minute trek to the gate, only to discover the waiting lounge full of ‘transit passengers,’ people who were on their way from Mexico to Tokyo, and got first dibs. They weren’t allowed out, and we weren’t allowed in, so the hallway was crowded with ‘other’ passengers. I sat against the wall, alternately reading ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and critiquing people’s travel outfits. Spike heels? Knee-high mukluks? Don’t they know their feet will swell? A pink velour track suit, deemed completely inappropriate in any other circumstance, looks, in this situation, better even than my comfy jeans. (Editors note: I bet that girl was regretting her selection for the last four, unseasonably warm hours of the flight. Remember how I packed socks on my carry-on, Mum, in case my feet got cold? They did no such thing).

The guy on the runway with the orange cones, you know the guy…he dropped one. I laughed, but he couldn’t see me laughing at him. He must have known, though.

The Japan Airlines stewardesses (flight attendants?) are beautiful, small and sleek with flawless skin, large dark eyes, hair pulled back into uniform tight buns with side-swept bangs, and all falling within that indeterminate Asian age range of 19 and 40. There is one older gal with short, feathered hair who looks tired. They are indescribably polite, and I find them hard to hear.

They need to add another distinction to airplane seat requests. Not just ‘window seat or aisle,’ but ‘male seatmates or female.’ I’d a million times rather sit next to women. They smell nicer, and take up less space. As is, I’m not so badly placed beside two men who speak little English (they’re not Asian, though. I think they’re Spanish, que?). Not tiny, or pleasantly fragranced, but friendly. They helped me get my carry-on (which must weigh as much as me) into the overhead compartment, and one of them traded his thawed bottle of water for my frozen one (for those who like their H2O in solid form), and then the three of us tried to figure out WHAT, exactly, we were being served for lunch.

And what does a Japanese airline serve for lunch? Some delicious beef slices over some noodly business, some other noodle jazz that reeked of wasabi, and which we opted not to try, a tasty salad made entirely of peppers (and I ate it, Joel), and some mango foam for dessert. And I had a green tea to cap off my meal, I am SO Asian! Now I’m totally going to watch Jaws! (They do have those awesome little TV’s, Joel, in the back of the seat in front of you, and I could also be watching Top Gun, or Match Point, or that movie about those sled dogs that were abandoned in Snowheresville and had to find their way home, or playing mahjong, or watching my plane creep increments along the wee map, which I do check periodically. We are currently very north and west of where you are).

They dimmed the lights and everyone was sleeping, but I was watching Jaws! and then the shark came out of nowhere and I jumped, and woke the guy next to me up. He just laughed and went back to sleep, but I was slightly embarrassed. It’s like when people sing along to the music in their headphones, that no one else can hear.

I finished ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ It scores a seven-and-a-half out of ten.

I am IN JAPAN!!! I am IN TOMORROW!!! I have USED a squatty potty (not because they didn’t have toilets, but because I was being adventurous)! The first thing I did was seek out the ladies room, since I elected not to pee on the plane. I arrived here about an hour and ten minutes after I left Vancouver, but in the next day. I’ve seen the future, folks. It looks exactly the same. I’ve been typing this in Word, and I’ll post it as soon as I can. I have another six hours to fly, and then I’m in Bangkok. I’m still not sure who, if anyone, is going to be there to greet me, but here’s hoping…

It’s 1:43 in the a.m. for my body, 5:43 in the p.m. on the clock, and I still have a time zone or two to cross. It’s weird to think that you’re all sleeping, and it’s daylight out where I am.

Not all of my posts will be this long, I swear, but I did just sit on a plane for nine hours (not peeing), and now I’m in this waiting area…the next long post will likely come from my trip to Cambodia in two months (which we’re all going to pray that I don’t have to take…for the uninformed, I only have a 2 month visa, and may have to take a day trip to Cambodia and back if I can’t get it extended).

Happy sleeping, folks.

Ok, I’m in Bangkok, and this will hopefully be the last tag on this uber-long post. It’s 11:30 in the a.m., my time. I took a 3 hour nap on the plane, so now I’m good to go. Problem is, it’s like, 1:30 in the a.m. here, so everyone’s asleep. I’m not for certain, but based on my rough calculations, Thailand is ten hours earlier, but in the next day (so 14 hours later, really).

Karen and Sherri picked me up from the airport, thank goodness, and we wove our way through Bangkok. In the dark, and sans the tropical flowers and whatnot, it could be Vancouver. Except for the dogs. There really are a million dogs.

I’m staying in the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (or something) guesthouse, and I have a room all to myself, a luxury I haven’t known in over a month. Everyone’s asleep and I can be awake, poking around the OMF house, checking things out. They have internet, but there’s a guy on it, so after I finish this I’m going to go down and see if he’s off just so I can send you all an ‘I’m alive’ message.

Oh, and it’s hot. Sherri and Karen laughed when I said that, because apparently this is one of the cooler days of the summer, but I’m hot. The air is damp, and I am not sweating, but condensating, rather. OH it’s hot. I’ll listen up the next time I hear a weather report, and let you know exactly HOW hot.

I’m going to try to sleep.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

ladies and gentlemen, i present to you...

for the very first time since the eighth new glasses (see picture)!

dr webb is more keen on optometry than anyone i've ever met. AND he's fabulous. he was the first and only professional in my twenty four years to notice the fact that my eyes don't look in the same direction all the time (again, see picture) and that one aims slightly down from the other. my new glasses, besides being stylish and lightweight, have a prism in the one lens that compensates for this oddity. i don't even have to TRY to see just one of everything now. honestly, i feel like something is wrong, like i should be straining my eyes to see as clearly as i do.

those of you with 20/20, count your many blessings. if i could see like this for free, why, i'd dance a merry jig.

Monday, June 05, 2006

my boyzzzzzzzz

also, here's a picture of my wee orphan boys, look how cute they are! don't you wish they were yours? i'm going ot thailand in four days.

i am up to my old tricks again...

namely the only-wearing-one-contact trick that i practiced for about a month last semester. this time, likewise, it is not my fault. one of my only pair of contacts committed suicide by launching itself into the threads of my contact case while i was twisting the lid on. eep. i have ordered a spare several pairs, but they are in abbotsford at this time, and i can't get them until wednesday, at the earliest. so my depth perception is, at the moment, scarce.

i also broke a flip flop this morning, and had to wear said flip flop for the remainder of the day. the thongie part came out of the base, and was put-back-in-able, but stayed that way for an indeterminate amount of time. walking home from the mall this evening, it came undone no fewer than five times in one block, so i took them off and walked home barefeeted.

so there i was, my one good eye blearily searching the road, attempting to keep my frail, winterized feet from rocks, or glass, or large insects, nearly getting hit by a biker because he came at me from my blind side, feeling like a fool.

i'm going to thailand on friday.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

to do...

hepatitis A vaccination...check!
typhoid vaccination...check!
vaccination agains 'traveller's diarrhia'...check!
passport finally picked up...check!
'culture shock, thailand' picked up from local library...check!
mercifully tiny three dollar overdue fee paid...check!
copy of oscar wilde's 'the picture of dorian gray' purchased from garage sale on the way home...check!
agreement to bring digital camera to young girl in thailand who forgot it at home turned in to agreement to bring digital camera and small duffel bag full of other items family forgot at home...check!

things are really coming along.

in related news, it is concrete fact and no longer suspicious rumor that needles make me faint. any and every piercing i've ever gotten (except for my ears, which were done with a gun, and my belly button, which was done my this really cute irish guy in amsterdam who distracted me with his witty irish banter) has made me light-headed to the point where i've had to lie down. i tried to give blood a few months ago, but when they pricked my finger to check my iron levels, i full on passed out (how embarrassing). today, when given my (mercifully combined into one) hep A and typhoid shot, i was dizzy almost immediately and had to lie down and drink a juice box. i am, what they call, a sissy. i know it's not going to hurt, and that it's no big deal, but i get myself all psyched out...

in related news, i borrowed a book from the library last summer and hadn't finished by the time i returned to abbotsford, so i gave it (a big ole hardcover) to my friend robyn to return at her leisure. what with one thing and another, her leisure was unavailabe for at least a month, so it was with great trepidation that i approached the library counter. *wah wah* went the computer, as my card was scanned. i'm picturing my face with one of those 'no smoking' circle-and-a-lines forever banning me from abusing the system, or reading for free (one of my chief delights, and proof of a God). 'ok, ma'am, we'll just have to renew your card real quick, is your information still *blah blah blah* and you have a three-dollar fine. would you like to pay it now, or later?' *relieved giggle* i can pay that now.

in related news, it's great to be back in the lower mainland. true, i had to transit out to get my shots done, but translink picks me up a block from my house and drops me off a block from the vaccinators (granted, i have to transfer twice, but that's a gripe for the unsufferably spoiled). returning to metrotown, i walked two blocks to pick up my passport, walked another block to the library, and then strolled the seven or eight blocks home. i don't have my license because up until now (and my transit commuting nightmare of the past month), i've never had to.
i still only travel by foot, and by foot it's a slow climb/but i'm good at being uncomfortable, so i can't stop changing all the time.' - fiona apple (extraordinary machine)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

picture this...

it is raining, not hard enough to necessitate an umbrella, but hard enough that a 15 min walk will leave you slightly damp and disconcerted. rachel is walking home. she is tired. she has had a long day, and she has a long evening ahead of her. she wants to dry off, eat dinner, write little goodbye notes to each of her daycare babies, and (maybe) have a shower so that when joel picks her up from work tomorrow she won't smell like yesterday's baby pee. she stops at a corner, waiting for the light to change. a shabbily-dressed man is kitty corner to her. they make eye contact. he crosses one street, and rachel imagines a scenario wherein she is mugged, her ID is stolen, she is unable to get her vaccinations on saturday because she has no care card, and she comes down with typhoid AND malaria while in thailand. the man crosses the other street without waiting for the light, so intent is he on getting to her. 'excuse me, miss. would you have a cell phone? my car broke down a few blocks from here and i need to phone for a ride.' Street Savvy battles Good Samaritan for a split second. GS wins by a narrow margin, though SS manages to squeeze out a quasi-jocular 'just don't run off with it.' the man makes the call, thanks rachel politely, and heads off on his way. GS smirks at SS, who shrugs her shoulders and sashays off to get herself a martini.

we live in a dangerous world, and too often my fear of that world prohibits me from doing a good deed. i will be far more inhibited in thailand, but i am going there as a good samaritan. where does my trust in God to keep me safe run into the fact that He is under no obligation to rescue me from my foolish choices? how often will savvy keep me from kindness, and when will the good samaritan finally get her ass kicked?