Friday, June 26, 2009

Staying On The Good Side.

One of the things I "get" to do every 90 days is traipse to a border of Thailand and renew my visa so I will be legal in this country and not be shocked at the airport by having to pay $200 to get out of Thailand. (Yes, that did happen to someone a few months ago).


I prefer to stay on the good side of the law and Thursday was the day Carolyn and I went to the border to renew said visa. There's a bus service in the middle of Bangkok that will take care of all the visa details if I shell out a little baht, so that's exactly what happened. Of course we don't actually live in downtown Bangkok, so that meant waking up super-early to get there in time:).

I don't believe a trip is really a "trip" until it involves coffee...

... or in my case, hot chocolate. For the record, this was some of the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted!

While it's typical to see these things all around Thailand, I've never seen one quite like this.

Some people think that Thailand is a backwards, third-world country, so perhaps these buildings clear things up a bit. Maybe:).

I've got to work on my timing, but in my defense this was taken from a bus going about 50 mph:). In the distance is a wat.

I think I sat on the wrong side of the bus the last time I went because this time the scenery was much more interesting:).

Being the perpetual tourist, here's the "I was in Cambodia" picture:). Carolyn and I did actually cross the border and we were hoping to buy something from Cambodia, but the only things we could buy in the "tourist section" was something to drink, smoke, or postcards. No thank you!

Little Asian kids are so cute, are they not???

Our chariot awaits! Seriously though, I'm so glad the colors are mild and toned down compared to some other buses that just scream loud colors! Thai people have a fascination with stuff like that:).

The building on the left is the passport control on the Thai side. This makes my stamp official:).

A checkpoint of some sorts... not quite sure what or why:).

Another pretty mountain of Thailand:). Oh, and a telephone pole - because we're experts of taking pictures of them:).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Flip Side - There Always Is One:).

Today I was reading Nina's post on things she misses in America and it got me thinking about some things I've been missing too. I can tell you right away what tops my "missing" list:

1. Car. As in, my little Toyota Corolla. I miss the ease and accessibility of jumping in my car and zooming off to wherever I have to go. But on the flip side, I absolutely love the convenience of public transportation. After church today, Pookie and I took a little trip via taxi to the Siam Paragon and thoroughly enjoyed an authentic Mexican meal (thank you Sunrise Taco!) and topped it off with a stop at Starbucks. Once we were done there, we rode the sky train -- a train that runs above the road -- to Mo Chit where we got off and took a taxi home. Sooo simple and we weren't stuck in the endless traffic that is known as Bangkok:).

2. Pennsylvania food. Yes, I miss sweet lebanon bologna, swiss cheese, pork and sauerkraut, Philly cheese steak, hot dogs, baked beans and more. Seriously. The other day at lunch time, someone's meal smelled like baked beans and my excitement level jumped at the thought of enjoying some... until I realized it was a basil and beef dish:). But on the flip side, I've been able to enjoy lots of Thai food (and other regional cuisine) since coming to Thailand. I always laugh whenever we order food off the street and I hear the price: 25 baht. That works out to be about 75 cents and the meal is very filling and satisfying. I went to a Thai restaurant in the States in December 2007 and ordered a very simple meal: chicken fried rice. Here in Thailand the price is 60 cents. At that restaurant? $7.00!

3. Church service. I am so thankful for my church and my pastor and try to listen to as many messages as I can on the internet. It's a pleasure for me to listen to my pastor preach in English and to understand illustrations and "Americanisms" used during the message. But on the flip side, there is such an incredible feeling in participating in a service that is done in another language. It's given me a very tiny insight to what heaven will be like hearing people from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people praise the Lord! Another thing is the Thai church service is actually translated for us by my co-worker Berm. We sit off to the side in what is called the "farong section" and Berm sits right in the middle of us all so we can hear the message. Very nice!

4. Fellowship. There are about 250 people at my church, so that leaves plenty of room for fellowship, parties, get-togethers, showers, events, spending time with friends, etc. Here in Thailand, there are about 10 or so people that I get to interact with on a daily basis in English. Let me tell ya, that's a bit small:). But on the flip side, there are pretty much no secrets on our team. The good, the bad, and the ugly all come out when you sleep, eat, work, and breathe together 24/7. We're pretty much one big family here and yes that also means that there are tears along with the laughter. But I love this team so much and am extremely grateful to the Lord for allowing me to come work here in Thailand for a year!

5. English. A few months ago, we were at the airport picking someone up and while we were waiting for the person to arrive, I went to the restroom. As I was washing my hands, I heard several conversations in English going on and I just wanted to stop and speak to each person:). Also two weeks ago I was sitting in the mall waiting for one of our team members to get done with something and as I was waiting, a man walked by and said, "hello. How are you doing?" After a brief 15-minute conversation, the man (who was from New Zealand) continued on his way but it made my evening to talk with a perfect stranger in English. But on the flip side, I do realize that English really is a global language and I can "get by" with my limited Thai and their limited English.

Although I miss many things from home (and I didn't even get into the nephews and nieces!), I know I'm right where God wants me to be. And I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.

Besides, how many people can say, "let's go to another country this week?" and just go? That's what we're going to do this week:).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Camp, Anyone?

You'll have to forgive me for having summer camp on my mind, but it is that time of year, as evidenced by Jendi being a counsellor at her camp this week and Kristi sending her daughter off to camp. Since I can't actually be at camp with my church this week (something to do with that 12,000 miles away from home thing), I've been thinking about camps in the past that I've had the opportunity to go to -- like last year's summer camp or winter camp 2008. Good times!

When I was younger, all my older brothers and sisters got to go to a camp in Virginia at one point or another, but by the time I was old enough to go my family stopped going. Go figure - the blessing of being the youngest child and being excluded from some pretty cool things:). But the Lord showed favor to me later in my teen years when I got to go to church camp, which was much better and well worth the wait:).

My first "kinda real" camp experience was at family camp in Schroon Lake, NY at the Word of Life camp. The only problem was I was too young to take part in the youth group activities (like the rest of my siblings) and I didn't know anyone in the elementary group, so my brother Phil (2 years old than me) had to go to the elementary group with me and all I remember are the scowls he gave me as we sat on the little carpet squares. Hey, it wasn't my fault that I wasn't old enough to be with the youth group:D. I finally did get to participate with the youth group once the leaders realized I was the youngest of five children and wanted to be with my siblings. Ah, life at family camp!

I will always remember my first official camp experience in January 1998. I had just gotten saved the Sunday before camp, so I was in a really good position. I didn't have to worry about conviction over not being saved and I didn't have to worry about conviction over not having things right in my life. After all, I was a 4-day old Christian and it was the best time to go to camp and enjoy the experience:). With all the excitement of a 15-year-old, and being duly sugared up from my best friend's candy stash, I headed to what is now a dearly-loved camp about 45 minutes south of my church: Camp Sankanac. I haven't been to Camp Sankanac in a while, but I am so grateful for that wonderful place.

In addition to being a new Christian at my first camp, I was also blessed to have my Pastor preach at camp. The theme for that year's camp was based on Lamentations 1:12 ~ "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" and my Pastor preached some thought-provoking messages. All in all, I greatly enjoyed that oh-too-quick weekend camp, from the preaching to the activities and everything else in between.

My disappointment was great six months later when I couldn't go to summer camp, and that was a trend that would continue through my high school years: go to winter camp, stay home from summer camp. I suppose that's another reason why winter camp was always such a special, special time for me. I can still remember walking the half-mile from the girls' house to the main house where the preaching, activities, and eating all took place. What good memories!

After I graduated in 2001, the main cook for winter camp asked me if I would like to help her in the kitchen and I jumped at the opportunity. 11 wonderful camps were spent at Camp Sankanac and it became an honor to be asked by Mrs. Lytle to help at camp in the kitchen:). The last time I went to Camp Sankanac was as a counselor and I came full circle: from camper to cook to counselor:).

Since then I have gone to a couple of summer camps as a counselor and enjoyed those camps too. As I think about the teens from my church at camp this week, I realize I can still be actively involved in summer camp 2009. Praying for those teens, the speaker, the counselors, and the camp in general is my great privilege and honor. Many of these teens I interacted with on a daily basis while I worked in our Christian school, so I feel a special connection with them and am asking the Lord to work at camp in a special way. I don't regret one year of going to camp and know just how life-changing camp is.

Besides, where else can you play crazy games like the entire team eating from the same watermelon or American Eagle - mud style?!?!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quick Pics!

Facebook is way too convenient... I just realized that it's been quite a while since I've posted pictures on this ole' blog of mine! I'm sure a family member or two might appreciate some pictures:). Like I said, check Facebook if you want more pictures; I have a little bit on there;).

My co-worker Carolyn was working very diligently on Vietnamese the day this picture was taken. Lord willing, this project will be wrapped up within the next couple of days.
(*insert happy music here!!!*)

I think I was working on Vietnamese too, although it very well could've been Lithuanian too! All the languages tend to run together after a while;).

We were over at the Langes' house on Sunday night to celebrate Jeff's birthday. After this picture was taken, people got a good laugh over the fact my head and Carolyn's body were caught at the right angle;). Pookie was obviously showing us something interesting on her cell phone and I just had to look!