color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

What’s missing?

It’s been almost a year (10 months now) since we left home in the Midwestern States of the good ol’ USA.  A lot has happened, a lot has changed, and there’s been a TON of adjusting going on.  The first time we lived in Thailand (in 2005), we were only here for 6+ months, were not yet married, and didn’t have a lot of the daily life tasks that we do now.  So, when we returned this time for the long haul, we weren’t quite sure what to expect.  Sure, we knew basic Thai culture and what it would be like to live in this particular country, but as far as daily life as adults (rather than student interns) went, we only knew it would be an adventure.

It’s been a bit of a struggle for us living here in Lopburi, but we’ve done our best to really focus on the pros – the victories and positive things – in our thoughts, blogs, and everyday conversations.  There is only a small group with whom we discuss the cons.  I think it’s better that way, ya know?  With this system, we are able to vent, share our frustrations, and receive advice from those closest to us while being motivated to continually look for the blessings in each to day to share with the rest.  God has blessed us so richly with the ability to deal with and adapt to our constantly changing lifestyle, and for that I am really thankful.  I much prefer living my life on the bright side.  Wouldn’t you agree?  After all, we’ve got a roof over our heads, food on the table, and are physically able to get out of bed everyday and take care of ourselves.

That being said, we’ve received questions from friends lately about what it is that we miss from home (aside from goodies that they want to send us from the States – yeah, for that!).  It’s kinda weird how random things just kind of pop up in my mind when I least expect it.  Seriously, I can be walking down the street in 100 degree heat and blazing sun, headed to buy a bag of tomatoes in the market, and suddenly I’ll see a kid with a fancy looking notebook and start thinking about Hobby Lobby and all of the crafts I used to make for our home with supplies from that store.  Ha!

So, what is it that I miss from home?  Well, besides the obvious – family & friends, holidays together – here’s a little bit of what’s come across my mind in the past several months.  My intent here is not to depress you or make anyone feel bad for us, rather I hope it might help bring you joy as you seek to appreciate these things in your own life, as well as give you an idea of just how different the way of life is on our side of the world.  And hey, maybe the next time you enjoy one of these, you’ll think of us and say a quick prayer.  That would be awesome.

So, here we go, in absolutely no particular order at all.  I’m typing as I’m thinking….

  • Distinct seasons – we have hot, hotter, super hot, and wet hot.  Our coolest season is equivalent to a Midwestern summer.  The sun is also, according to my own highly scientific analysis, roughly 150 times larger and closer to us over here.  🙂
  • Carpet.
  • Grocery stores (when available) laid out in what I would consider a logical manner.
  • A real toilet that does not require a bucket & bowl to flush.
  • Furniture – you know, like a couch or an armchair.
  • Gardening.
  • Quietness.
  • Windows – yeah, we’re in a middle unit rowhouse with one small window set downstairs, and one window upstairs.
  • A cool wind / breeze – Lopburi is often referred to as the “city where the wind doesn’t blow.”
  • A kitchen.
  • Water you can use from the tap.
  • Grounded electricity.
  • Being able to speak with the people around me without practicing everything in my head 10 times before saying it.
  • Not being stared at everywhere I go.
  • Hearing crickets at night and birds in the morning – we live in a “concrete jungle.”
  • Listening to rustling leaves – no trees anywhere near our house, and not that many in our city either.
  • A roof that completely covers the house.
  • Cleanliness.
  • Not being sweaty all the time – TMI?  Hahaha.
  • Knowing where to go & what to do naturally.
  • Washing machine.
  • Blankets.
  • My old pup, Lily.
  • Having a car.
  • Shoes that aren’t flip-flops.  (Although I do absolutely LOVE being barefoot/wearing sandals all the time, I do miss wearing some nice ballet flats or occasional heels.)
  • Cheese & bagels.
  • Radishes & spinach.
  • Smelling good.
  • A real shower and/or bathtub – we have a hand shower on the wall next to our “toilet.”  Haha.
  • Cold weather.
  • Scented candles, in the evening, with a cool breeze bringing the smell of Fall in through the windows.
  • Having barbecues.
  • Grilling food.
  • Incandescent light bulbs.
  • Grass/ lawns.
  • Insect control – the ants here do not march two by two, they come in full armies.  🙂
  • A piano close by.
  • Singing at 628 or in the band on Sunday mornings.
  • Speaking English.
  • Having a “home” to settle into – this is our second housing already, and we will move again in July.
  • Current events – what movies are out, new music, what’s going on in people’s lives, news in the States.
  • Brook’s old man slippers.
  • Water temperature control.
  • Getting dressed up nicely & doing my hair – it’s not worth it in the heat here, as you get gross within 5 minutes.  Ha.

… and the list goes on.

Life in another country really is a whole new ballgame, that’s for sure.  Everything that was once familiar is gone, and it’s like learning how to live all over again.  It truly is an adventure every single day.  And we are blessed.  Each time I think about something  miss from home, it gives me the opportunity to relive the memories that I’ve made in those places, doing those things, the people that I was with.  That’s a huge comfort.  Even when times are rough, I have good things to look back on, and the hope that all will continue to work itself out in the end.

Perhaps next week, I’ll fill you in on some of the things I believe I’ll miss from Thailand when we get to come back to the States for the first time.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Personal, Thailand | 2 Comments

OMF Prayer Video

Back in Feb-March, you may remember me saying we spent a month in Singapore.  We were there as part of a training program with the organization we work with in Thailand, OMF.  While at the headquarters, we were asked to participate in a short interview, from which some of our answers might be used in a new promo video for the mission group.  Turns out we made the cut!

Take a look at this video – it’s only a few minutes long – then join us in praying for East Asia and the workers that are needed.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=11800495&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Extended version- Call to prayer for 900 new workers from OMF Media on Vimeo.

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Thailand | Leave a comment

Tasty Tuesday – Tom Yum

I know, I know.  Last Tuesday I said I’d be back full swing after being off sick for a week, and look at this – 2 Tasty Tuesday in a row, without anything between them.  I promise I have a small stack of half-finished posts that were on the docket!  Just got too busy to finish them up.  I’ll get back to being a good little blogger here soon…
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May 25, 2010 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | 2 Comments

Tasty Tuesday – Khanoms

Well, hello there… those of you that are left after my week off. Last weekend, I was ill with some sort of stomach bug, and the last thing I wanted on my mind was food. That then extended through the first half of the week, and seeing as I was in bed most of the time, I decided to forgo one week of blogging. Week is over, I’m feeling much better, and I’ve got a lot to talk about! So, welcome back, Tasty Tuesday. I’ve missed you.

Since it’s nice to get back on the blogging trail this week, I figured we’d go for something equally as sweet – a couple of my favorite Thai street snacks. Everywhere you go, there are hawkers with small styrofoam or paper trays and boxes filled with yummy bite-sized treats – both sweet and savory. These treats are called ขนม, or “kha-nome.” (I’ll do my best to write out the Thai names in sounds you will understand… not necessarily the proper phonetic system I’ve been taught.) Continue reading

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | 2 Comments

Why??

Things aren’t always what they seem!

By residing in a foreign country, I’ve willingly subjected myself to living every single day not fully understanding or knowing what’s going on around me.  No, I’m not saying I’ve become an airhead or unaware of myself or anything – rather, I am not in a place where I happen to know what people mean by the things they say or do all of the time anymore.  For example – back in the States, if someone smiles at me, I can take it as a simple gesture of friendliness or goodwill.  However, in some third world countries, if a smile is exchanged between a male and a female, it can be seen as a proposal of marriage.  Glad I don’t live in one of those places, because, well, smiling’s my favorite!

When leaving your home country, your home culture, and the way you have always known things to be, it is super easy to criticize your new location.  Maybe you think that the people don’t drive the right way, cook the right way, aren’t polite enough, are too polite, the people are inherent liars, they let their children run too freely, and goodness, don’t they know you’re supposed to bathe every day???  It’s easy to notice things that are different and judge from the get-go…

However, if you ever want to last in your new home… if you ever want to get to know any of your neighbors… if you ever want to enjoy your life again… you need to start asking the question “why” – sincerely! – before letting your initial judgments get too firm.  I’ve had to learn this living in Thailand.  I’m not saying I always remember it, but I do try, and it does make life just that much more bearable on the rough days.  By trying to understand where somebody else is coming from, why they do or say what they do, and what lies behind it, we can learn so much from the people around us!

I used to think it was so silly that, here in Thailand, it’s pretty rare to find paper or cloth napkins of the size you would be used to seeing in a restaurant back in the States.  Instead, there are tiny, 1-ply pink tissues that are, when unfolded, only about a 3 inch square.  How wasteful to use so many little tissues when one large one would serve me much better, right?  How NOT useful when trying to dab the sweat running down my face from eating chilies so hot I feel like my throat will be no longer of use to me, right?  So frustrating.  But, when I asked a Thai friend about this apparent lack of care for cleanliness in Thai culture, I learned that I was actually the one considered unclean and unpractical.  What?!  According to the Thais, it is much more sanitary to use one tissue to wipe your mouth, another to wipe off your utensils before use, another to clean up the pool of condensation under your cup, and another to dab the sweat from your brow.  After all, who would want to use one large paper or cloth napkin to do all of those things.  According to my Thai friends, that would be gross.  Would I have ever assumed that explanation on my own?  Doubt it.  Thus, the reason I must live my new life in a constant state of learning, a constant state of asking “why?”

This not only goes for those of us who have chosen to live overseas, but it’s the same for those of you back in the States, too.  The next time you see a mom who doesn’t seem to be in control of her screaming child at the grocery store, stop a second and think about the possibility that she could be trying to teach her child that he can’t always get what he wants.  She may just be holding to her word and trying to mold her children into responsible future adults.  The next time you see someone who isn’t the most attractive or able-bodied seeming to fumble their way through a department store, don’t laugh or poke fun.  Appreciate the fact that this person is doing their best to take care of themselves, may have had a harder life than you could ever imagine, and offer them a smile or some help.  I know we’ve all heard it before “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” and it really is true.

The next time somebody looks different, acts or speaks differently, or does something in a way completely opposite to you, don’t always assume that your way of thinking or being is better – take the time to watch and listen first.  You never know what you just may learn!

May 8, 2010 Posted by | Personal, Thailand | 2 Comments

Flat Stanley comes to town!

For those of you who don’t yet know who Flat Stanley is, let me enlighten you.  Stanley is the main character in a children’s book popular in elementary schools throughout the States and Canada.  The story focuses on a boy named Stanley Lambchop and how he uses his seemingly unfortunate circumstances to his advantage.  Wikipedia’s summary of the book is as follows –

Stanley Lambchop and his younger brother Arthur are given a big bulletin board by their Dad for putting pictures and posters on. He hangs it on the wall over Stanley’s bed, but during the night the board falls from the wall, flattening Stanley in his sleep. He survives and makes the best of his altered state, and soon he is entering locked rooms by sliding under the door, and playing with his younger brother by being used as a kite. Stanley even helps catch some art museum sneak thieves by posing as a painting on the wall. But one special advantage is that Flat Stanley can now visit his friends by being mailed in an envelope. Eventually Arthur, who tires of all the attention Stanley has been getting, reverts Stanley to his proper shape through an air pump used for footballs.

In 1995, a third grade teacher in Ontario, Canada started what is now known as the Flat Stanley project.  The project seeks to connect children with others outside of their own community, by sending stories and more “Stanleys” back and forth to each other.  Over the years, the project has been adopted and adapted by teachers in all different schools.  Some choose to involve the entire class in sending one Stanley to another classroom in a partnering school.  Some choose to have each student in the classroom send their own Stanley to a friend or relative in another State or province.  And others allow their students to mail a Stanley off to the far corners of the world, as long as they know the person who will be receiving the letter personally.

stanley bookcoverUpon receiving Stanley in the mail, his host or hostess gets to take him on an adventure, documenting it the whole way.  After Stanley had has the opportunity to have his photo taken in all kinds of interesting places, checked out the local food and way of life, both he and a story about his travels are mailed back to the child that made him.  The child is then able to read about where he went, what he did, and see pictures of it as well.  The child may then also choose to share about what was returned to them in class.

We got a Flat Stanley… and you have no idea how excited I was about it!  Stanley was here through part of March and the holiday season mid-April – yes, that means he got to be part of Songkraan with us, as you’ll see in the photos.  I just received word, earlier this week, that our friend Makenna has received her Stanley pack, and I now feel that I can share his story with all of you.  After all, she deserved to see it first, right?  🙂  Thank you, Makenna, for choosing us for your project!  You are awesome!

flat stanley kung

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May 5, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Thailand | 1 Comment

Tasty Tuesday – Khao Mun Gai

This week’s tasty Tuesday focuses on yet another of my favorite simple Thai dishes.  It’s name is ข้าวมันไก่, or as you can pronounce it khao mun gai.  Here’s a shot of this very dish in front of me at lunch today.

khao man gai

Sadly, those of you who have actually ventured into the world of Thai cuisine back in the States may or may not have heard of this particular meal.  It is not very well known outside of Thailand, and yet it would be considered by most to be a national favorite.  This is perhaps one of the most common things I will see others eating in the night market or small shops during the lunch hour.  Why?  It’s simple and delicious.  Another wonderful thing about this particular dish is that it is one of the few that has virtually no variation on its preparation throughout the country.  Each region of Thailand typically has its own spin or flavor added to the typical Thai dishes.  This one, however, is the same wherever you go.  It is often plated in the same fashion as well – nice mound of rice, meat on top, cilantro garnish… bowl of sauce and sliced cucumbers on the side… and a bowl of soup.  Yum.

So what exactly is khao mun gai?

Let’s start with the main ingredient of many-a-plate of Thai food.  Rice.  Most Thai dishes will use some form of steamed or boiled white rice as their foundation, and khao mun gai is no exception.  Well, except for the fact that it’s not just plain old white rice.  This rice is actually cooked in chicken stock, and usually has a bit of crushed garlic, ginger, and some bruised cilantro tossed in as well.  This gives the white rice a sort of dingy beige color, but the flavor benefits are absolutely wonderful.  I really don’t know how to describe it to you, other than to tell you to just give it a try for yourself.  It’s just good.

Next, we’ve got the protein – steamed chicken (sometimes switched out with duck, if the vendor is running low… tastes just as great).  Several slices of meat are placed on top of the rice, then garnished with a few sprigs of cilantro.  I absolutely love cilantro, and the fact that it is used so often in Thai cuisine is yet another reason why I enjoy eating in this country.  There’s just something about taking a bite of the savory rice, tender chicken, and a leaf of pungent cilantro (or coriander for my friends outside the USA) all at the same time that’s magical.  Yes, I said this food is magical.  Laugh if you want, but you’ll believe me when you try it for yourself.

Now, the sauce.  Oh, the sauce.  As I list the following ingredients, I can already see some of your noses turning up, but again, I ask you to trust me.  These things are magical, too.  (Go ahead and roll your eyes.)  The slightly sweet, slightly sour, little bit spicy sauce that’s a little bit liquid and a little bit chunks is what really brings everything together.  So, what are the scary things it’s made of – both dark and white soy sauce, some white vinegar, a few Thai bird chilies, garlic, and ginger all crunched up, a bit of sugar and… fermented soybeans.  Some of you cringe at the mention of soybeans already, let alone tagging the word fermented onto it.  The sauce is served in a small bowl to the side of the plate, allowing the diner to either dump the whole thing straight onto their meal and redistribute it with a fork (which is my preferred method), or simply dip pieces of meat into it while eating.

Also on the side are the usual fresh, thick, peeled cucumber slices.  Everything tastes better with cucumbers.

And finally, the soup.  The soup is the only part of this meal that varies according to your location.  It just depends on whose shop you are eating at, and how they like to make it.  One thing that is always the same is the base – chicken broth.  What else goes into it is up to your cook.  Most places with give a sprinkle of finely chopped green onion or chives, while others (like our shop today) will throw in a few sprigs of cilantro instead.  Some restaurants will even add a splash of fish sauce or sugar to give the broth a little more flavor.  Traditionally, there is supposed to be a piece or two of Chinese winter gourd in the bowl as well – though some vendors omit this item for the sake of cost.  I’ve had this gourd in my soup many times, and it’s quite nice – when cooked, it looks and slices sort of like a boiled potato, but with the slight crunch of a water chestnut.  Whatever broth I get, it’s usually pretty good, and several spoonfuls always seem to find their way onto my plate of rice.

So, there you have it.  Yet another Thai dish to add to your list of things you need to try… or eat when you come to visit us in Thailand.  🙂

May 4, 2010 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | 3 Comments