Saturday, February 26, 2011

Some more favorites...

We're home. I can't believe we're home. It's strange. I still have so many blog posts forming in my head. Until I finish them all, I'm going to keep writing like we're in Thailand. In my heart, I think I still am.

Adding on to the list of our favorite things:
  • On Monday, we flew to Chiang Mai on Bangkok Airlines, Thailand's boutique airline. It was very nice. The flight was short and perfect. Jenny took a different flight and we met her an hour later at the airport.
  • Our new friend, Naret, picked us up at the airport. He is friends with Jeff, the pastor of the Vineyard Church in Rayong. Naret served with YWAM for several years and has worked as a tour guide in Thailand. He's a great host!
  • We were nervous on our way to the hotel because Naret said he had never heard of it. You can imagine from my previous posts that my hotel snobbery took over and I was feeling very anxious about staying in a dive. Turns out, it was one of the most amazing places I've ever stayed. The Lanna Mantra is a hidden sanctuary complete with infinity pool, riverside restaurant, two-hour poolside Thai massages -- not that I know any of this from first-hand experience. I just saw it ... hehehe.
  • Naret took us to the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center for our first evening in Chiang Mai. Amazing! We ate an open-air Khantoke dinner. Khantoke is a form of tiered tray used for serving food. The trays are popular among all Thais. It was full of amazing food -- curry, fried vegetables, crispy rice noodles, sticky rice. Mmmmm... Then we watched several cultural shows and even got up and danced with some very dainty, elegant Thai women! It was hilarious! We aren't so graceful.
  • We met with Norbert and Cathy Bauer, pastors of the Vineyard Community Chiang Mai. They shared their stories with us and how God is leading them to serve in Chiang Mai. Cathy is from the U.S. and Norbert is from Germany. They have been on the mission field for years and have seven children. Wow! We were again blown away by the sacrifices people are making to serve God in radical ways. The Bauers are reaching out to the international community in Chiang Mai and also helped start a Thai house church in one of the city's slum areas. So inspiring!
  • After meeting with the Bauers, we ate some fabulous Thai food at a restaurant owned by one of Naret's friends. We got to pray for a young woman there who just moved to Thailand to be with her fiance. She was in a bit of culture shock. We could relate! Then we went to a Walmart-like store and bought gifts to bring to the Care Corner Orphanage we were visiting that afternoon. We bought a basketball, soccer ball, toothpaste and toothbrushes, candy (of course!!), ping pong balls and paddles, printer paper and some other things. It was the most fun shopping trip!
  • As I wrote about earlier, the visit to the orphanage was both amazing and heartbreaking. The kids and the workers are incredible. The facility was located in the country outside Chiang Mai. It was clean and kept up nicely. The kids had a soccer field, a fishing pond, a pool, a vegetable garden and a jungle gym to play with. We only expected to stay there a few hours, but the directors invited us for dinner and to their chapel service. We couldn't resist!
  • Wednesday morning we woke up early and drove to Doi Chang to visit the coffee fields in the northern Chiang Rai region of Thailand. Naret was born there and his mother still lives in the village. The four of us piled into our little car and we drove high into the winding mountains. I can't believe I wasn't carsick. Bleh. Lots and lots and lots of bumps and turns. I slept most of the way, both there and back. The village was beautiful. Amidst the poverty, there was so much beauty and kindness. It felt surreal. Doi Chang and more specifically, Naret's mother's land, is where the coffee comes from that Jeff wants Susan to help market and turn into a "local" business. We'll see. Exciting stuff.
  • Naret took us out for Mexican food for our last night in Chiang Mai. We were all craving it! Eating taquitos and chips and salsa in Thailand felt a wee bit strange. But is was a nice break from noodles, curry and rice.
  • On Thursday (Jenny's birthday), we flew back to Bangkok. Jeff picked us up and took us out to celebrate for a yummy Italian meal. So good. Kind of feels like this is turning into a food blog!
  • That afternoon we met with Sukit and Em, pastors of the Vineyard Church in Bangkok. Words can't even describe our experience there. The church is located in the biggest slum in the city. There are so many people packed into such a small space. I've never seen anything like it here in the U.S. I don't think there is anything like it here. Their church is all about reaching people in their community. They open up their doors every day for kids to come hang out, to teach English, music and dance classes, to pray, to serve food. Teams go on "search and rescue" missions every day in the community where they pray for people and bring hope. We met with Sukit and some of his team for several hours. They are the real deal. It kind of felt like to us what it must have felt like to be the disciples sitting at the feet of Jesus -- Who are these people? Can this be for real? If so, how do I do it? Can I do it? Their team prayed for us and shared words with us that they never could have known on their own. Then Sukit insisted we pray for them and do the same. I'll be blogging on that at a later time. Whew. So good.
  • Thursday evening we reunited with Marcia. It was so good to see her. Jenny and I were upgraded to a larger hotel room because it was her birthday and they sent us a super fancy cake! We screamed in excitement! Simple pleasures...
  • Jenny and I decided to head back to Patpong (Red Light District) since she hadn't been yet. We decided to just walk through and pray. I thought maybe it wouldn't upset me as much as it had before, but it did. I don't ever want that to not upset me. I don't ever want to be desensitized to that. So many girls, so many boys, young and old, for sale. It made my heart hurt.
  • Late that night in the lobby, Jenny and I were on our computers and about 75 percent of the people coming and going were very mismatched couples - young girls, old white men. I couldn't help but send out the stink-eye vibe. It's so hard to see it, right there.
  • Early Friday morning we left for the airport and after 21 hours of great flights, we arrived in GR. I can't believe it.
  • I ate Japanese tonight and it was refreshing to see all the Asian faces. My heart is still overseas. I'm not sure if it will follow me back here. Maybe I'll have to go back to find it!

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