color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

The Process of การเลือกชื่อ

One thing every new parent faces, regardless of where they live, how much money they have, what kind of baby will be born… is figuring out what to call their child once it arrives.

The process of การเลือกชื่อ, choosing a name, varies in difficulty from person to person. Some have had a name picked out for years before even becoming pregnant. Others like to decide in the moments after birth, once the face of their new little baby has been seen. Some couples agree right away, and others go through a timely process of writing down possible names and making lists for each other to go through for the purpose of either approving or vetoing certain selections.

Our little poser.

I’ve been making baby name lists, altering them every now and then, for a few years now. Brook, on the other hand, has not.  In fact, he told me early on in this pregnancy that he didn’t want to officially start thinking of names until we found out the gender of our soon-to-be little human.  Now that we have finally found out what little Sarver is going to be, the process has begun!

But still, it’s not as simple as that.

Since we live in Thailand, and the language of the people, of course, is Thai – a highly tonal, very much pronunciation-sensitive language – we need to take that into account when choosing what to call our new addition.  Every name we consider goes through the usual “Do we like it? Can we say it a million times and not get tired of it?  Does it flow well with our last name?” tests… but, it must also be run through an extra filter, if you will:

  • Does it sound the same as any Thai vocabulary, and if so, does it have a meaning?  Is the meaning acceptable or will we be inadvertently cursing every time we call our kids in for supper?
  • How will it sound when a native Thai speaker pronounces it?  If they say it differently, does it sound like any other Thai words which could also be wildly inappropriate not only for naming a person, but also for everyday speech?
  • How will it be spelled in Thai, so others will know how to say it?

There have actually been a few names already taken off of the docket, as all we can do is laugh when we ask some our Thai friends to say them.  They come out completely different – either because it is too difficult to say, or their pronunciation changes the name’s implied gender drastically.  It’s quite humorous, actually, to hear some of the things that come out of names we’ve chosen.  (And yes, I know there are more than plenty enough Thai names that I butcher mercilessly when attempting to say them as well.)

All that said, we have not officially chosen a name for our baby yet, but there is one that we are currently testing out seriously for the next couple of weeks.  Am I going to tell you what it is?  Nope.  Not until a final decision has been made, and a middle name assigned… and that probably won’t be for at least another month or so.  🙂  We’ve still got somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 weeks left, as far as we know, and we intend on using that time fully!

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May 22, 2011 Posted by | Personal, Thailand | 1 Comment

Mother’s Day

Back in the States, today is Mother’s Day.

The above picture was taken nearly two years ago, about a week before Brook and I moved to Thailand.  We had so much going on, and so many things to get taken care of, that I drove out to visit with family on my own while he stayed back in Indiana to continue wrapping up the life we’d built there.  He knew it was important for me to see them once more before we met for the last time at the airport, as over the previous 3 and a half years my time with them had already been limited due to distance.

And, I’m so glad I did.

As soon as our sell-everything-but-a-few-boxes-of-stuff yard sale was over on Saturday afternoon, I hopped in my little green car (also, for the last time) and made the 3 hour drive out to my Mom’s.  We spent the evening talking, looking at photo albums, eating amazing stuffed pizza, spinach fettuccine alfredo, salad, garlic bread… I had to get in as much good food as possible, ya know?!  Just the two of us, and all the puppies.  It was nice.

The next day, we spent the afternoon at my brother’s house with his family and one of my cousins who was in town.  We grilled out for lunch, played games with my niece and nephew, took what seemed like a million photos and videos in photobooth here on my trusty Mac, did a few family portraits in the yard, and had an all around wonderful day together.  Since we still had a few more speaking engagements and other responsibilities to take care of in that final week (seriously, we were travelling and speaking up until 2 days before we left… talk about craziness), I ended up needing to drive back to Indiana from my brother’s house.  That was a tough drive, as I knew the next (and last) time I would see them would be at O’Hare, right before boarding a plane to Thailand – for what we had thought at that time would be a 4 year stint before returning to see them again…

You see, my parents were missionaries for several years before I came into the world.  My big brother, Tim, was born out on the field.  They lived in a pretty remote fishing village in southern Alaska, a place where you needed to order your groceries 6 months at a time from a catalog.  Because of this, my mom has been even more of a help to me as Brook and I have begun building our life over here in Asia.  Sure, Alaska and Thailand are nothing alike – but, it’s still far away, still a world totally foreign to us, we get lonely, we miss home, we have to deal with raising support and everything that entails, we face all kinds of ridiculous challenges each day… and she gets it.  We all count on our moms for advice, encouragement, friendship, love, and the fact that my mom can actually relate to what I’m going through over here just sends her that much higher in the awesome category.  We chat via phone or Skype every couple of weeks, and there have been times where I only begin to tell her something and she already knows what I’m going to say, because she’s been there, too.  It’s really kinda neat how that works, and I’m so grateful for it.

So, you can only imagine how fun it was for me to call my mom, totally out of the blue, on what just so happened to be Halloween night, and ask her what kind of cookies we were going to make together for Christmas this year.  I took great joy in her confused pause and accompanying “wait, what?”, followed by repeating my question until she realized what I was really saying to her.  We weren’t supposed to be home for 4 whole years, and when the opportunity to fly home at only 1 and a half arose, we jumped on attacked it.

Ever wonder where my love of food, cooking, and hosting comes from?  Yeah, my mom.  You have no idea how fun it was for me to just hang out in the kitchen with her baking, making candies, and just enjoying one another’s company.  Sure, we weren’t home for very long, and it was super busy, but I wouldn’t trade the time we had for anything in the world.  We cooked together, baked together, hugged, looked at old family slides (yes, I’m the annoying little nerd who begs for the old projector and carousels of photos to be drug out whenever I’m home), wrapped Christmas presents, hugged, went grocery shopping, talked about the baby, ate Spumoni ice cream, hugged, and I did mention how many times I hugged my mom yet?

I love my momma.

It stinks to know that it’ll be another 2 and a half years before I get to fly home to see her again.  It’s hard to deal with the fact that she won’t be here to hold my first baby as soon as it arrives.  It’s tough not being able to know I can just hop in the car, and within a few hours be there to hand her a big bunch of flowers today.  But, it’s okay.  I know my mom always loves me, and is always thinking about me, no matter where I am, and that’s a wonderful thing…

Happy Mother’s day, momma.  Thanks for helping me become who I am.  Love you!

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal | 1 Comment

Tasty Tuesday – Lunch With My Dad

This is one of those times where I’m going to use the gigantic time difference between here and the States to my advantage.  You see, it’s already Wednesday here, but it’s still Tuesday night in the Midwest – so, this counts!  Thing is, this delay was not a result of forgetfulness or being too busy to write.  Rather, it was done on purpose.  This week’s Tasty Tuesday may be super simple, but for me, it’s special.

Last year, about this time, you may remember me writing this letter to my Dad.  Today, April 20, 2011, now marks 11 years since he passed.  You may also recall this post on remembering someone we love, where I described my sort of yearly ritual for reconnecting with my Dad.  Well, that’s what today’s Tasty Tuesday is about – the meal I eat each year in his memory.

Now, do you get why the whole time difference thing works for me?  I’m posting about food on what is still your Tuesday, but is already my Wednesday – the day I celebrate my Dad.  Perfect.

If you haven’t read the previously mentioned posts, what I do every year on April 20 (the day he died) and July 29 (his birthday) is eat a meal I remember my Mom telling me was one of his favorites for lunch or picnicking.  Lucky for me, it’s one of mine, too.

Egg salad sandwiches and green Jell-O.

So, there it is.  My lunch for today.  A bit of hard-boiled egg, celery, homemade pickles, and mayo.

Not a day usually goes by where I don’t think about my Dad at some point.  Whether it be something I wish I could tell him, a place I could take him here in Thailand, wanting to just give him a hug and tell him I love him… he’s in my mind somehow.  Especially with the birth of our first child coming in the next few months, I find myself thinking of him even more, wishing he could be here to hold his new grandchild.  But, no matter how much I wish, or think, or even regret not spending more time with him when I could have, I would never want him to have lasted 11 more years in the state that he was.  I miss him, but it’s better off this way.

Love you, Dad.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Food, Personal, Tasty Tuesdays | 4 Comments

My ชุดคลุมท้อง, or lack thereof.

Being pregnant in Thailand has been interesting, that’s for sure.  I mean, it’s already a completely new experience for me, as this is our first child… but, think of all the new things you (or someone you know) went through with your first, then place that learning curve in the middle of a completely different culture and a perpetually height-of-summer climate.  Now, you have me!

I’ve grown up hearing stories, watching tv shows & movies, witnessing family members and friends go through the growing, birthing, and raising process of children, picking up bits & pieces here and there to store for my own experience someday.  So, I thought I had something of an idea (as much as one really can without actually experiencing it for themselves) of what to expect.  For the most part, this has held true, and all of these tidbits of information have been quite helpful.  However, it’s all had to be twisted around just a little bit to fit where I am now – in Thailand… tropical Southeast Asia… the complete other side of the world.

I suppose this is one of those times that I’m glad I’m beginning this whole parenthood journey here, so I have nothing to compare it to, or feel like I’m really missing out on from an experience I’d already had back in the States, ya know?  Though, it is a bit strange (and a little bit funny) to me to think that someday in the future, if/when we move back to the States, I will be comparing things to how I started out here in Thailand, instead of the other way around.

Anyhow, aside from the fact that there are a lot more things over here that gross me out (when they didn’t seem as bad before) – meat laying out in the open air at markets and grocery stores, trash fermenting on the side of the road, all of the stray dogs that use the sidewalk at one side of our house as their toilet, the fact that the sun bakes every foul smell into the surrounding atmosphere at an intensity unequaled by anything I’ve ever encountered – and a myriad of other topics I’ll cover in the coming weeks….. there is one particular manner of life here in Thailand that I knew existed, but never really stopped to think about that much –

How do pregnant Thai women dress?

That’s where my ชุดคลุมท้อง (say it like: “choot khloom tong”), or lack thereof, comes into play.  Some of you may have heard me talk before about how there’s really not a market for maternity clothing over here.  Because of this, I picked up just a few basic pieces at a maternity store while in the States at Christmas (and had a lot of fun strapping on the fake bellies in an attempt to predict my future sizes!).  I also, thankfully, have a couple of friends here on the field who have graciously given me a few things to borrow (brought over from their own respective countries) for the next several months as I continue to grow, then attempt to shrink back to my normal size again.  But, the thing is, the clothes that I have still look pretty normal.  After all, that’s what we Western women like – looking as normal as possible, perhaps even stylish, while trying to embrace our ever increasing size.  I know I am definitely one who has taken to a more fitted style, as I feel it makes my baby bump more obvious – in turn, hopefully letting Thai friends and random onlookers know that I’m not just a “fat foreigner.”

Well, turns out I was wrong. I knew already what any Thai woman I’ve ever seen wears when she is pregnant – muu-muus, tent style dresses with large pleats and big buttons / bows on them, 90’s style jumpers plastered with cutesy embroidered cartoon characters, and the occasional big, baggy shirt with a pair of leggings.  Every factory and service-oriented job with a uniform (even 7-Eleven!) also has their own specific line of tent dresses for their employees to wear.  I think I’ve only ever seen one woman wearing some tailored knee-length shorts, and she was a Thai friend, married to a Westerner, who has spent considerable time living outside Thailand herself.  So, I’m not counting her.  🙂  The previously mentioned large-wear attire is really the only thing available, outside of a handful of super-expensive, high-society stores in downtown Bangkok – that are there mostly for the foreigners, I assume.

Here’s an example of what I see on my fellow mommies every day –

You see, wearing giant clothing with no shape has no appeal to me.  Neither does wearing cartoon embroidery.  In the 90’s perhaps, but not now.  As mentioned before, I like the more fitted look, as I feel it not only showcases the wonderful miracle going on in my life right now, but also keeps me from looking like a blimp in a land where I am already a head taller than everyone else (and much larger all around) – and, as many of you know, boosting the self-esteem right now helps a lot with the process!  But, apparently, that’s not how the people I am surrounded by see it.

This is what I wore for church yesterday, at 22+ weeks.

According to my friends, and several people at church, the ชุดคลุมท้อง (or “maternity uniform”) is key in distinguishing those who are soon-to-be mothers from those who simply don’t control their eating habits.  The fact that I have been wearing cleverly designed fitted capris, shorts and long pants (yay for stretchy panels!), along with tailored skirts and regular looking tops has been telling people the exact opposite of what I wanted.  My normal-ness says that I’m not pregnant – rather, I’m simply an already large foreigner who has decided to take a break on maintaining my health.  This very fact led to a few interesting conversations at church yesterday, and several people being completely surprised to find out that I’m actually growing a baby in there.  Apparently, word had not yet made its way through the whole congregation, and people thought I was just getting lazy.  Thankfully, I am secure enough to find that humorous, not offensive.  🙂

I know in another month or so, my belly will get to the point that it is more obvious and rounded.  I know that right now, depending on what I wear, the time of day, and how the baby is laying all affect whether or not I just appear a bit pudgy.  And I’m okay with that.  I also know that, despite this new knowledge, this is one cultural thing I will probably not be conforming to any time in the near future – though, I think it may be funny to go out and buy a Winnie the Pooh emblazoned jumper and wear it to church next week just to give my friends a laugh…

So many things I learn every day.  So many things I never would have thought about before.  And, thank God I have friends over here who can fill me in when I am so utterly clueless about what’s actually going on around me!

April 11, 2011 Posted by | Personal, Thailand | 2 Comments

Happy things!

Yesterday (Thursday) was just an all-around wonderful day here in my little part of Thailand.  So many good and happy things happened that I went to bed still smiling about it all.

First, we went to our second visit to the hospital where we will be having our baby come August, Samitivej Srinakarin.  It was your usual second appointment – the doctor asked a bunch of questions, took my weight and blood pressure, and then pulled out a Doppler to check the baby’s heartbeat.  Little guy/girl was already being a bit persnickety though, and testing mommy’s patience (and ability to hold off freaking out) by hiding for a couple of minutes (literally, Brook timed it) before letting us hear that beautiful little flub-a-dub-dub.  But, once we did, it was incredible.  Baby Sarver’s heart is strong, is progressing along just fine, and I’m doing well.  So, there’s happy thing #1.

Happy thing #2 happened right after our trip to the hospital.  Some friends of ours live over in that area and told us about a mall just down the road, so we decided to head there and check out what there was for lunch.  Upon calling them up to verify which direction we needed to go, they decided to come on over and eat with us since they had some time free.  Fun, right?

Happy thing #3 was Brook spotting a small shop in the basement of said mall, crammed with a strange collection of random USA export clothing at super cheap prices – American Eagle, Mossimo, Old Navy, and here’s the clincher… Motherhood Maternity!!!  They had a small selection of legit maternity shirts, in my size, that I actually liked for only a few bucks a piece!  Brook picked out a few for me to try on, I loved them, and I bought them.  Score!

Happy thing #4 also came about while at the mall.  It turns out that they have a Villa Market in the basement – a grocery store with a few branches around Bangkok that carries a good variety of both American and other international products.  Villa is where I finally found molasses for my gingersnaps this past Christmas, Cool Whip for Brook’s birthday cake last October, and frozen brussels sprouts when that’s all I wanted to eat a few months ago.  But, yesterday, I found something that has only been seen by my eyes in Thailand once before… something that made me so happy, I had to take a picture.

Marshmallows!!!!!  As with the majority of American products in the store, their price was a bit high, considering all of the shipping and import tax costs involved in getting those things on the shelf, so I did not buy them.  But, now that I know they are there, I feel a pan of Rice Krispies (which I also found!) treats just may be appearing sometime in the near future.  Mmmmmm.

The final, and definitely most happy thing, though, didn’t happen until 8:20pm.  Happy thing #5 was being able to witness the birth of my newest nephew, my brother’s 3rd child, Logan Cooper Santefort.  Here he is just moments after coming into the world…..

My sister-in-law went into surgery (for a scheduled Cesarean) about 7:00am Illinois time, 8:00pm Bangkok time.  Thanks to my brother’s brand new iPhone 4 (literally just got it a few days ago!), free hospital WiFi, kind doctors & nurses, and the wonder of Skype + iPhone’s FaceTime, about 8:20 my big brother rang up my computer and gave me the best gift ever… watching, with him in the OR, as they carried his new son over to be cleaned up, swaddled, then handed to his mommy & daddy for the very first time.  Seriously, it was perhaps 30 seconds after they pulled him out, and I was there.

I simply could not believe it.  I think I was in shock.  I just started to cry as Brook and I sat there watching for just a few minutes before it was time for my brother to put down the phone, pick up his son for the first time, and take him over to his wife.  Less than 10 minutes later, he called me back again to watch as they weighed, measured, and foot printed my new nephew in the nursery.

Incredible.  That’s all I can say.  Somehow, through the wonder of technology and the things available to us today, I was present in the delivery room, right there with my brother, for the birth of his son… from the complete opposite side of the globe.  He was in Illinois.  I was in Thailand.  And, it worked.  Heck, I’m crying again even now just thinking back on it!

Big brother Carson, 7 years old, holding his new baby brother.

Big sister Madelynn, almost 4 years old, holding baby Logan.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Personal | 4 Comments

Where in the world have we been?!

The United States of America.

I’m not kidding.  We went home.  For realsies.

We knew about it, you didn’t… because we wanted it to be a surprise!  I know there were many of you we didn’t get the chance to see, but for those that we did, we are ever so grateful.  Mere weeks before we left Thailand on December 12th, we had gotten news that my grandfather, my Papa (who was one of the main men in my life when my father became ill, then later passed almost 11 years ago), was not doing very well.  I mean, he is 96 years old, has had quite the full and beautiful life, and has just now begun slowing down in the last year… but, I still wasn’t ready to let him go yet without getting one more chance to spend time together.  Not to mention the fact that after a year and a half away, our families were really wanting to see us as well.

So, thanks to the generosity of family, we flew home.  For a whole, entire, glorious, wonderful, chilly, Christmasy, snow-filled month.

Oh, and while we were there, internet was not so much available for blogging – that’s why my grand plans for a holiday baking series didn’t quite pan out (and I know the 3 1/2 of you that were eagerly awaiting it are so disappointed ;).  Never fear, here’s a shot of the baking and candy-making that I got to spend an entire day doing with the marvelous woman next to me, my Momma.

There’s dark chocolate-mint truffles, dark chocolate-raspberry truffles, and lemon ones, too.  Raspberry tea cookies, mini apricot-walnut tarts, peppermint bark, chewy chocolate pixies, and Dutch almond Banket.  Mmmmmmmmmm.  Not pictured are the Swedish breads we always make for our Christmas Eve smorgasbord (yes, my family is Swedish and carries on traditions like nobody else!).  It’s amazing I didn’t gain 30 pounds while we were home, ya know?!

The feeling of cold wind in my face was shocking, but nice.  Seeing, touching, and even throwing snow made me excited like a little hyperactive kid.  Eating as much cheese and good bread as humanly possible was gut wrenching, but totally worth it.

But the best part?

The best thing was being with family.  Waking up in the morning (from being snuggled under lots of warm blankets in a nice chilly room), and being able to walk out of our bedroom to see the people we love every single day was more incredible than I could ever describe to you.  Being able to physically hug my own mother and brother… playing dominoes at the kitchen table with the family at Brook’s mom’s house… watching movies together at Brook’s dad’s… enjoying Christmas Eve with my Papa and the rest of the family… meeting our niece that was born a year ago after we had already left… all of those things were such an incredible blessing to us.  A blessing that, when we left a year and a half ago, we didn’t expect to have for a full 4 year term.  What a surprise it was to be able to go home so much sooner!!!

Really, I could go on and on and on about it, but no words that I could write or say could really ever convey the true joy it was to visit our home again.  And even though it was really tough to say goodbye once again, it wasn’t quite so bad this time around.  Why?  Because it didn’t seem as final as the last time.  This trip showed us that it is, in fact, possible to go home, that it is still a real place that we can reach, and that leaving home for Thailand isn’t actually the end.

So there, the mystery has been solved.  And now we’re back.

January 20, 2011 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal | 3 Comments

กตัญญุตา – Thankfulness

It’s Thanksgiving Day back in the States today… people are hustling and bustling about making pies, getting the turkey in the oven, letting rolls rise on the counter, setting tables, making place cards, cleaning their houses top to bottom, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, laughing with friends, enjoying time with family, and just soaking in a bit more of the Autumn air.

Here in Thailand, it’s a day just like any other.  In fact, I went to the dentist today.  My seventh and final visit in the drama that was my abscess tooth, root canal, crowning, and another filling.  Thankfully, it is now complete and I am once again able eat on both sides of my mouth!  (A luxury I’ve not had for more than a year.)

Last year, while living in Lopburi, we attended a small gathering of Americans in a nearby city on Thanksgiving.  There were maybe 10 of us in all, if I remember correctly.  We all worked hard to recreate something from home as best we could, using what was available to us.  It was great.  This year, however, we are the lone Americans – the nearest still being quite a drive away from us.  We had toyed with the idea of inviting people (other nationalities included, as all of our friends from language school days are from different countries!) over to our home for a big meal, but the timing just didn’t seem to work out for us this year.  Between field meetings, language study, church meetings, dentist appointments, and more, it would have been a bit too much for me right now.  It was a little disappointing, of course, but bearable as the lack of holiday vibe around here makes it easier to just live it like any other day.  That being said, I did end up using some rosemary and garlic on a bit of chicken for our supper tonight – I had to get a little bit of those flavors in at least!  Oh, and tomorrow I’ll be making some pumpkin bread.  Mmmmm…. pumpkin.

Despite our lack of Turkey Day feasting, or ability to be with family and friends today, I do know that I have a LOT to be thankful for.  I see these things and appreciate many of them even more after all of the troubles, hardships, and illnesses of our first year in Lopburi.  I am blessed.  In the good times, I am blessed.  In the bad times, I am still blessed.  As cheesy as it sounds, there’s really no other, better, way to put it.  On that note, I’m just going to start writing what it is that I am thankful for today, and every day that I am given to live.  May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving of your own today, enjoy your time reflecting on the good in your life, and soak in as much as possible as you celebrate with those that you love…

  • My Creator – without whom I would be nothing…
  • My family – a mother who raised me to see the world through compassionate eyes, a big brother who loves me no matter where I am in the world or how long it is between times we get to see each other, a sister-in-law who has become a great friend to me, a niece & nephew who are incredible and growing so fast, grandparents who have stood beside me, loved me, and prayed for me no matter where I go, an aunt & uncle who have always been there for me, and cousins who I love deeply…
  • My husband – who somehow thought it would be a good idea to move to the other side of the world with me, and who takes me at both my best & my worst…
  • 2 of the best families I could have ever married into, and the fact that they’ve loved me as one of their own…
  • Friends and supporters who not only encourage and love us, but give sacrificially so we are able to live this crazy life overseas…
  • Thai friends who help us every time we screw up our language or manners, love us just the same, and work alongside us anyway…
  • The home that we now have, the neighborhood it is in, and how comfortable and ‘at home’ we feel in it…
  • Enough food on our table every single day…
  • A body that, even when I may dislike or criticize it, is able to walk, function, and carry me through what I need to do every single day…
  • And the little things like…

… the masses of birds in our trees that sing all day long, kids that play on our corner in the afternoon, my gardens, a bathtub, my stove/oven, a washing machine, flushing toilets, my dentist, our language helpers, our church, our car, our computers & internet access, discovering new kinds of bugs and lizards in this environment, the fact that we actually do live on the other side of the world and how incredible that is when I really stop and think about it, Toffee at the mission home and Doxy at Shiloh (who are the only dogs I can talk to and pet without getting bit, since the rest are all strays!), Skype, a real mattress…

And so much more.

November 25, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal | 1 Comment

Duuuuuh

Sometimes I seriously wonder what the people of Thailand think of us in terms of our intelligence and language ability.  Those two things really do go hand in hand here, at least as far as first impressions go.

I’m sure you’ve all heard it before, the idea that in order to assimilate well into your new host culture, you must first go back to being like a baby.  You’re in new surroundings, don’t know your way around, often have no clue at all what you are eating (and whether or not you should be ingesting it at all in the first place), and can’t understand a flippin thing going on around you.  What language are they speaking?!  Oh, that’s right, it’s Thai.  I speak English.  They’re not the same.

As romantic and whimsical as the idea of going back to being a child seems, I can tell you that the wonder wears off after a while and all you’re stuck with is inabilities, dependence on those who are able, and a feeling of uselessness.  I don’t mean to be a killjoy, a downer, complainer, or whatever else though – it’s these feelings that will [hopefully] help spur you on then to learn about the community, figure out how to live, and strive to speak the language of the locals.  The whole hopelessness thing is a great motivator, and thankfully, Brook and I have been able to use these feelings to our advantage.

However…

No matter how hard we try sometimes, we still fail.  Sometimes miserably, sometimes embarrassingly… and sometimes hilariously!  I really do wonder what the Thai people we (and other foreigners who attempt to speak this confusing tonal language) speak to think of us when we make such silly mistakes and say things that make absolutely no sense at all.

There are times that I know I sound like a complete and utter idiot.

I find that amusing.

There was that one time I was telling the story of Jesus healing a blind man.  Jesus called the man closer to him in order to – as I should have said – touch his eyes.  I told my friend that Jesus wanted to kick the man in the eye.

There was that one morning Brook and I were sitting in a small clinic at 7:00, making small-talk with the doctor while waiting for the blood-drawing station to open.  When asked if I spoke I Thai (as Brook had been doing the chatting up until that point), I politely told the kind doctor that I was, in fact, a chair and that’s why I didn’t speak up.  It took me two minutes to figure out that I needed to go back and tell him that I was actually shy, not an inanimate object that can’t speak.  He was relieved, I’m sure.

Definitely can’t forget that one time I was trying to tell a little girl at our English club that I thought she looked very pretty that day.  I actually told her she was very unlucky – which in a wildly superstitious culture is a BIG no-no.

Oh, and today, at the end of my lessons, I told my tutor that I was going to visit the “dog rain” this afternoon.  Brook, when trying to tell a friend and neighbor about the same plans, said that today he would be taking me to the “sky doctor.”  In reality, I went to the dentist.

Go ahead, laugh!  I am.  It’s a good thing God gave me a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself (and Brook), or else I’m not sure what I’d do.  I like to think of myself as an intelligent person – I always did well in school, have a college degree, have won many awards based on academics, and blahblahblah.  The thing is, nobody here knows any of that.  Neither do they know how well I can speak and convey my thoughts in my own native tongue, because they don’t understand it.  Rather, I speak Thai in simple sentences, using a limited (and often incorrect) vocabulary.  I speak and need to be spoken to in a slower rate than others my own age.

And, as far as they know, I just might believe that I really am going to see the sky doctor.  🙂

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal, Thailand | 2 Comments

Driving in Thailand

How did you feel the first time you ever started up the engine of a car by yourself?  Was is thrilling?  Exciting?  Were you nervous?  Ready?  Or just plain terrified?

When it came time for me to learn how to drive (back in the States), I was excited and ready.  I had a good deal of respect for the road, the machine I was in control of, and the others on the road with me – I was prepared to be a good, responsible driver… and I always have been.  Sure, I’ve made goofs every now and then like missing a stop sign on a back country road, going through an occasional yellow light and barely making it across before it turns red, driving a consistent 5 mph over on the highway.  But, I’ve (thank God) never been in an accident, nor had a ticket or traffic violation.  I enjoy driving, and I do so responsibly.

But…

It’s now been more than a year since I’ve driven a motorized vehicle on a road of any sort (other than my own foot-powered bicycle).  At first, I was completely and utterly frustrated by my new found lack of independence – as Brook and I each had our own vehicles back in the States – but, I eventually grew accustomed to it, and came to enjoy the fact that I couldn’t go grocery shopping alone anymore.  Rather, Brook had to drive me and come along for the trip.

A couple of months into our time here in Thailand, we were given a small motorbike (on loan) to use for trips around Lopburi – you know, the kind that are just out of comfortable reach for a bicycle or walking trip.  When we had to give it back this past March, we then went on to buy our own.  Nothing big and fancy, but something suitable for our location and similar to everybody else on the road.

We have Songkran to thank for the dirt all over the bike!

(Click photo to view it larger)

Driving in Thailand isn’t only different because of our change in vehicle, but it is also a drastic change from the laws and regulations that are heavily enforced back home (and in the majority of Western societies).  Traffic law, lines painted on the road, stop signs, one way signs, stop lights… they are all mere suggestions here in Thailand.  Is the 6 lane superhighway just too inconvenient for you?  Go ahead and turn that slim shoulder into lane #7 – no penalty allowed!  Have you come upon a one-way street and going the extra 25 feet down to the next street just too much of a hassle for you?  Go ahead and drive down it anyway (motorcycles, SUV’s, cars, and trucks alike!), just be sure to flip on your hazard lights as you go.

Oh my.

Oh, and not to mention that the correct side of the road to drive on is opposite of home – we go on the left – and the fact that everything is measured in kilometers instead of miles.  Just a little more confusion sprinkled in there for kicks.

Brook is a good driver.  Brook is a confident driver.  Brook knows how to drive both a motorcycle and a car (both stick and automatic).  This means Brook has always been the one to take us places… until now.

Today, I drove in Thailand for the very first time.  I also drove a motorbike for the very first time as well… and I was completely terrified.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the feel of the wind in my hair, blowing across my face, experiencing the wide open world on a motorcycle – but, I’d rather be the one riding on the back.  NOT the one in charge of the machine.  No.  Nope.  Absolutely not.  Brook, however, decided that it’s about time I learn… so, I finally did (after him trying to force me into it since we moved to our new house 2 months ago) today.

There aren’t many things that can scare me to the point of tears, but driving a motorcycle/motorbike/anything 2 wheeled and motor-driven is one of them.  I was on the verge of tears, doing everything I could to keep them in, the entire time.  We started out slow, Brook’s arms around holding onto the bars with me, giving me instructions the whole way.  And, dangit, he was really really nice, too.  (He knows how scared it makes me!)  After about 5 minutes of driving assisted, he backed off and I did it.  I really did it!  I drove maybe another 5 min (seeming like an hour to me) around our neighborhood – which is riddled with super annoying speed bumps every 50 feet – all on my own.

Granted, as soon as I was allowed to turn back onto our own street and go back home (yeah, he kept pushing me to go farther and keep going… apparently I wasn’t too bad at it), I ran inside and bust out in tears.  Supposedly, he’s making me go back out and drive it again in 20 minutes because I have copies to pick up at a shop down the road, but, we’ll see how that goes.

Here’s to a day of firsts!  (And terrified girls crying and shaking so much that their arms, shoulders, legs, and ankles are already sore.)  🙂

*** Several hours later… I ended up making that second trip, and even drove the 2 km to the 7Eleven at the entrance to our community.  And, all without a single tear.  I’m still a bit nervous, but it looks like I may be able to start getting over my fear after all.  Woohoo! ***

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal, Thailand | 1 Comment

Teachers

I think the people who were born to be teachers have to be of a slightly different breed from the rest.  Strange creatures they are… and the better a teacher they are, the stranger they must be.

After all, who would want to spend their entire day, every day, 180+ days of the year with kids?  Who could stand the tension between being both a nurturing force and disciplinarian for so many young lives?  Why would anyone ever want to give of their time, their energy, their heart in order to teach someone else how to think and live for themselves?  What kind of person would ever want to bear the responsibility for forming the minds and hearts of a bunch of motley kids into (hopefully) responsible, kind, and productive individuals who could one day be running our very nation?

Teachers would.  What an odd bunch.

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet all kinds of people, from all different backgrounds, all different States, and all different countries.  As I begin thinking about how we are going to one day educate children of our own, while living in an international setting, I’ve done a sort of unofficial survey among these people about their experiences in school.  The more I hear about what people were taught and how the knowledge was administered, the more thankful I am for the education I was fortunate enough to have been given throughout my formative years.  I always knew my teachers were special, a cut above the rest (how’s that for a classroom slogan?), but these conversations have really helped solidify that reality for me.

As a kid, I loved school.  I hated missing a day when I was sick, and I looked forward to going back.  The teachers I grew up with really did make school fun and interesting!  But, even more than that, I can remember specific days, specific times, specific events when each of my teachers reached out to me.  I still have notes of encouragement I received from teachers in middle school during periods where my father’s health was declining.  They cared enough to know about what went on in my family outside of the school walls, and that meant a lot.  I still hang on to photos of my (awkward) young self with teachers from both elementary and middle school, as they provide some measure of comfort to me as I look back upon them.  And yes, some of the catch-phrases from classroom bulletin boards still haunt help me today.

Why was I so lucky?

I don’t know… but, what I do know is that these teachers had a lot to do with who I am today. After graduating from Huntington University, getting married, and finally finding my way out into this world, I naturally had to find a place of employment.  After all, bills don’t pay themselves, right?  My degree from Huntington was a BS in Ministry & International Missions (essentially, a combination of all gen-ed requirements, theological studies, education, mission history & theory, and language acquisition), which is intended for use in ministry settings or overseas mission work… but, we still needed some time to pay off debts before leaving for the field.  Interestingly enough, there happened to be an opening at a grades 3-5 school in the next town for an aide position working with special needs kids right when I needed a job.  I thought – “Are you serious?  A job that entails working with kids, getting to be a part of an environment that I already know I will love (c’mon don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to go back to class parties, field days, and being able to constantly learn new things!), getting to tutor those who really need it, and have a fraction of the paperwork that regular teachers do?  Sign me up.”

I worked in that school for almost 3 years before leaving to pursue our life in Thailand, and I loved it.  Sure, there were days I drove home crying (if you are a teacher, and you have had difficult students, you will understand)… there were days I spent an hour chasing an unruly student down the street or tackling a violent child in the hallway.  But, the chance to see so many kids growing up, knowing I had the ability to show them love, consistency, and be a positive voice speaking into their lives outweighed it all.  During my years at the school, my eyes were opened time and time again to just how much my own teachers must have poured themselves into me.  I had some awesome examples to follow, that’s for sure.  And, I can only hope that somehow I was able to impact the lives of those kids in the same way my teachers did for me.

So, with that, I say thank you.  And, honestly, I don’t know that those measly words could ever be enough.

Though all of them were good, and I learned a great deal from every teacher I had, there are some whose voices I can still hear as I go through my life today.  You may not have any idea who they are, and most of them will probably never read this blog, but I felt like I needed to name them anyway.  That being said, if you’ve lasted this long already and are ready to be done, you may stop here.  All others, continue at will.  In no particular order…

Back in Lansing-
Mrs. Berry
Mr. Cushing (I am hooked on Bull’s Eye caramels to this day because of his classes!)
Mr. Hayes
Mr. Kompier
Mr. Buchnat
Miss Bludzius (now Sandack)
Mrs. Garrison at the HMS office
Mrs. Harris
Mrs. Wickersham
Mrs. Francois

And those who influenced me in high school –
Mrs. King
Mrs. Thomas
Mr. Turner
Mrs. Dykstra
Mr. Wadley

August 20, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal | 1 Comment