color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Welcome Home

Wait, what? What do you mean “welcome home?” Sara, you’re in Thailand!

I know Thailand isn’t what we would generally refer to as “home” yet. But, in order to make this thing we’re doing viable long-term, we need to feel like it is. There’s no sense in feeling like you’re constantly on the move, or just visiting, right? Right. We’re trying to become “at home” with where we are, trusting God to take care of our every day and every need. So, this is where we are.

When moving to another country (sometimes even with a long visit), there are certain stresses a person will experience. There is a certain loss of identity as you are no longer an expert on your surroundings. Everyday tasks from back home seem to take twice as long here, because you either don’t know where you’re going, or you simply don’t have the right words to communicate what you need. Groceries may be sold in baskets on the side of the road rather than in a neat, clean, well-lit supermarket. Or, you may not even be able to find food items that you can either identify or know what to do with! Depending on the country to which you have travelled, your level of language is likely no longer that of an adult, rather you are again like a child learning to speak. Can you even read the letters or characters with which your new language is written? You know that store sells laundry detergent, but does the label on that package say it’s for use on colors or is it bleach? Do you know what a good price is for vegetables, linens, or car parts sold in the open-air market?

That’s a lot to take in all at once. But, we’re doing it. Each day, we become more and more familiar with our surroundings. Each day, we recognize more and more people on the streets, inside shops, and selling in the market stalls. Each day, we gather new words and try our best to use them until they become a part of our natural vocabulary. And, each day, we have both dramatic successes and gross failures. This is what we asked for, and it is what we’ve got… and despite the headaches, the fatigue, and momentary lapses of homesickness, we do love it. Each day we come just a little bit closer to feeling “at home.”

An important part of adjusting to life in a new culture, for me, is having a safe place – a place to call my own. Up until this weekend, Brook and I were living in a one-room temporary setting at a local youth hostel. One room, one bathroom, no kitchen… no other rooms. That was in some ways very hard for me. I could not decorate, I could not fully unpack my bags, I had nowhere to release stress creatively by “nesting.” I had no table even for eating or writing.  I also lacked another outlet for frustration, that being a kitchen. I love to cook, bake, create… I wouldn’t say the situation was physically rough, as the room was bright and relatively clean, kept us cool inside and safe from the rain, and we had become friends with some of the workers. No, it wasn’t that bad of a place, but it was mentally and emotionally hard for me to live there. After all, who really wants to go back to living in a dorm, but this time, with your husband as your roommate? (I expect you to laugh here.)

DSC04946Well, after waiting patiently and making do with what we were given, a house finally opened up. This past weekend, Brook and I moved our belongings over to a small place just down the road from the youth hostel where we were already living. And guess what, it has more than one room! We are now in what could be considered an old-style traditional Thai rowhouse, in a lower-middle class community. We have a unit near the middle of the road, with neighbors all around. The house itself is roughly the size of a one and a half car garage, with an upstairs, but it’s still rather comfortable. We have a small gated patio, a living room area, a kitchen off the back, a bathroom, a laundry room, and 2 bedrooms. What in the world are we going to do with all of this space? Enjoy it. Settle in. Have people over to visit. The possibilities are endless!

So, this is where we’ll be until our year of language study is complete. Then, it will be time to move on and find another place to call home… but for now, this is where we are.

If you’d like to see more photos of our home, including what it’s like inside, please visit my photo album on Facebook.

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September 22, 2009 Posted by | Personal, Thailand | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Len bat mai?

badminton

Ahhh, the words I love the hear. Words that suggest strapping on my runners, grabbing my racket, and hurrying to the Army Camp. Words suggesting there is an intense game about to take place, and I am definitely going to be a part of it… Len bat mai? Are you ready to play some badminton?

Yes I am.

Here in our city of Lopburi, Thailand, there are multiple Army camp sports facilities open to the public, as well as a government-run Sports Complex, and several parks with basic exercise equipment outdoors. In one of Lopburi’s major circles (what you could equate with a town square), there is even an outdoor stage and platform area devoted to community aerobics every day at 5:00 pm. Fitness is important in Thai society, and it is often seen as something to engage in with friends. All people, all ages, all nationalities are welcome. Exercise here is social, not just something you do for yourself.

So, in order to fall in with the rest of our community, I decided to take up playing badminton with one of my language teachers, as well as the school’s head linguist. Upon hearing from another student that I enjoyed playing badminton in high school, I was invited to join these two ladies at the Army Camp courts a few weeks ago. A little unsure of what I was getting myself into, I decided I would go for it. We arrived at a large building housing five regulation courts in a row, all filled with people playing the sport. How exciting! We played for over one and a half hours, perhaps 6 or 7 games, and it was a load of fun. Good exercise, too. I had such a great time, the next day I went and bought my very own badminton racket, a tube of shuttlecocks (which are made from real feathers, so you know I’m a serious player), and did my best to convince Brook how badly he needed to join me the next time… and he did.  For the last 2 weeks, Brook has indeed come along and added to the intensity of the game.  Today, we even went and got him his own racket so we can continue this new activity.  I must say I’m pretty excited about it.  Oh, and I must add that those ladies sure can play!  We only managed to fit 3 games into our usual time slot today because we were just playing that hard.

All in all, this is the kind of thing I’m here for.  This is why I’m in Lopburi, why I’m in Thailand.  To play badminton?  Well, yes… and no.  I’m here to spend time getting to know Thai people, getting to know Thai culture, becoming a part of the Thai community, and what better way to meet those goals than to do things together?  I have so enjoyed getting to know one of my teachers even better on the badminton court.  I have had a tremendous amount of fun laughing and playing with her outside of class.  I won’t take for granted the time I have to be her friend, to show just a little bit more of Christ to her as we spend time together on and off the court.  Pray for my teacher.  Pray that she will have joy daily.  Pray that we would form a good relationship that will last more than just this year in Lopburi.  And above all else, pray that she would come to know the grace and love of Jesus Christ in her life. 

September 15, 2009 Posted by | Thailand | , , , | 3 Comments

Cute Culture

Many of you may have already noticed that Southeast Asian culture is quite different from that of the States and many other Western cultures. Every culture has its good points, its bad points, its similarities and its differences. Those things are exactly what we are trying to observe, learn, and distinguish every day that we live here. For today, I want to tell you about one difference that I particularly like – their willingness to use cartoons and “cuteness” in everyday life. Okay, okay, there are definitely cartoon characters on many products in the US, in commercials and whatnot, but the usage and extent of advertising over here is greatly magnified in comparison.

big sheet mascot board - smOne example of this can be found in the promotion of a particular brand of dried seaweed sheets. They are known as “Big Sheet” and you see their products in every supermarket, every 7-Eleven, and on practically every street corner. We were even recently in Bangkok during one of their major promotion days, and they had a few different mascots running around handing out free sheets of seaweed to anyone who wanted them. They had posing stations for photo opportunites, information booths on all the different types, flavors, and sizes of seaweed snacks you could buy, and even a live concert going on with flashing advertisements for the product. My absolute favorite thing though, was this billboard just around the corner from the Big Sheet fair going on. It was almost scary, as this was covering the top half of a large building, and completely 3-D. Just take a look at it!

Another example of “cute culture” can be found on my phone.  What?  Yes, you can find it on my phone.  Not on the screen, not a picture on the background, but literally hanging off the side of my Motorola Razor flip phone.  Much to Brook’s demise, I have added a phone charm to my calling device, and I’m really pretty happy about it.  You see, here in Thailand (and much of Southeast Asia), cartoon characters and the products they appear on are not just limited to children.  You might see a 6 year old child and a 32 year old mother both wearing the exact same Winnie the Pooh backpack, and no one thinks twice about it.  Any major store or mall will carry more than one line of car accessories, including seat belt sleeves (to cover the part that goes over your shoulder), gear shift covers, tissue box covers, floor mats, things to hang from your rear-view mirror, etc. all designed by cartoon companies.  Winnie the Pooh and a brand called “The Dog” appear to be among the most popular.  Men and women alike will buy these things, all different ages, and no one says a thing.  (At home, it would probably be a different story… 🙂  ) I love it!

phone charm 2 - smThe club that I have chosen to become a member of though, is that of the phone charms.  There are literally 1,000’s of different charms you can attach to the side of your phone, ranging from dangling jewels to cartoon characters, small action figures to fake cinnamon rolls, even small dolls that are twice the size of your phone!  Seeing as I was a rather large fan of Hello Kitty when I was a kid, I was instantly pulled toward a market shop that sells only Hello Kitty merchandise.  Oh, the joy I had when I saw this little charm hanging from a rack above the stuffed Hello Kitty dolls!  I am very proud to say that my phone is just that much cuter now and nobody will ever say anything about it (well, nobody here in Thailand anyways).  🙂

September 12, 2009 Posted by | Just for Fun, Thailand | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Internet & Food

Ok, we’ll start with just a wee bit of business.  I have a notepad with about 7 different posts on it right now, all waiting to be shared with you, but there’s a hitch in my posting process.  We don’t have internet.  Well, I do at the current moment, because I’m sitting in a cafe down the road from us, but it’s not a regular possession.  We are hoping to move into what will be our home for the remainder of our year in language study sometime in the next couple of weeks.  When we do move in, we will have (hopefully) consistent internet and you will be hearing from both Brook and I much more often!  Until then, you’ll just have to keep checking back for new posts as I can get them up.  Thanks for not giving up on me yet!

Now onto the meat of today’s post.  Well, it’s not all meat, there’s a lot of veggies in there, too.  Yes, I’m giving you a visual sample of some of the food we’ve been eating since our arrival in Thailand just over a month ago.  The photo you see here is of an evening meal we shared with a group of fellow language learners.  Every Wednesday night, there are 2 fellowship groups that meet, comprised of our fellow language learners here in Lopburi.  We meet for a bit of worship and study, a meal, and just some time to speak with others in something other than Thai.  The host home provides the rice, and everyone else that comes brings 2 servings of something to go with the rice.  Everything is pooled and we share it.  It’s a neat way to get a little variety in your supper.

FG food

Brook and I usually go to the fresh outdoor market nearby and get a couple bags of something from one of the ladies we’ve come to know.  This particular night, we brought what you see at the top of the photo – spicy crisp green beans with fried pork and chilies.  Another family brought a Thai-style salad (also from the market) of shredded cabbage and carrot, kernel corn, red beans, boiled potato, and egg.  Somebody else brought chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, and we also brought some fresh pineapple.  And trust me, you haven’t had pineapple until you’ve eaten pineapple in Thailand.

I’m planning on starting a food section here on the blog when we have regular internet, until then, check out some friends of ours who also live in Thailand.  They run a piece on Food Fridays where you can learn about other things we eat on this side of the world.  Enjoy!

September 6, 2009 Posted by | Food, Thailand | , , | 2 Comments

Fun Fact #2 – Beware the Snatchers

Monkey see, Monkey do, Monkey does the same as you

Monkey see, Then takes two, Monkey always wins, not you!

DSC04864 smaller

Monkeys here in Lopburi are unlike any other primates you’ve met, I guarantee it.  They have a certain sense of entitlement, this way of life which requires the humans in their city to serve them and provide their every need.  They reside primarily in “Old Town” – the ancient sector of the city which houses numerous ruins of temples, royal residences, and even a former palace – where they run free and frolick among the buildings and powerlines at will.

Let’s say you are a merchant in the fresh fruit market in Old Town.  You are on your way to your evening post with a truck full of tomatoes and limes.  You are stopped at a traffic light for nearly 15 seconds when the critters spy you on their road.  They proceed to swarm your truck, eating whatever and however much they want, as well as throwing some of your produce at passers-by and other vehicles just for the fun of it.  They just might even rip off a piece of trim from your passenger door, too, and carry it away like a sword.  What do you do?  You get out and yell at them while waving your arms to scare them away.  Bad move!  You must do nothing.  The monkeys are considered sacred, and therefore protected and free to do as they please.  You are allowed to do only… nothing.

You are walking back from the market after buying your meal for the night.  Your plan is to take this food back to your home and feed both yourself and your family with it.  Oh, and of course your food is carried in a plastic bag, as that is the most convenient way, right?  Bad move!  If there are any monkeys nearby, they will hear or see your plastic bag, and automatically assume there is food inside (even if there’s not!).  And, what do monkeys do when they know food is around?  They take it.
You are now a tourist walking about the ancient ruins looking not only at the history surrounding you, but also the monkeys running about.  You are so excited about it, and think they are just so cute that you begin talking to one while bearing a wide-toothed grin.  Bad move!  Most monkeys will see teeth as a sign of aggression, so they just might retalliate against your kind words with some rather unkind actions.

Now, why do I tell you these things?  Well, because we would love for many of you to come visit us here in Thailand someday, and who knows, we just may take you to visit this city of monkeys on your trek through the country.

So, let’s review…

1.    Let the monkeys do whatever they want.  You are not allowed to punish them.
2.    Do not carry anything you actually want to keep in any sort of plastic bag, whether it’s food or not.
3.    Do not smile at the monkeys.  They are not cute.

Anybody ready for a visit?

September 4, 2009 Posted by | Fun Fact | , , , , | 1 Comment