Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thailand Episode 8--Layover

We left Thailand at midnight for an overnight flight to Seoul, where we have an 11-hour layover.

You don't think about how much happens in three weeks until you go away.

Since we left:
Justin and Kayla got engaged.
So did Jamison and Ciara.
Grant and Arlene moved in to where Harold and Rachel used to live.
The school board discussed blue jeans.
Emily graduated from Linn-Benton.
Paul's mom's missing hearing aids were found.
Darlene Kropf passed away.
Rita had her baby.
Emily fought skunks and went to a robot club competition.
Farmers started windrowing.

There's probably a lot more that I didn't find out about.

Or that can't be posted online.

I thought that seemed like a lot.

I really like this airport.

It is huge, modern, beautiful, efficient, and immaculate.  It makes O'Hare look like a third-world landing strip.

Of course, any airport with a huge, clean lounge like this is my friend.  It has places to sleep, a row of chairs where you press a button and get a free massage, little tables where you can eat or work, and a row of computers where you can get online.

I took a nice long nap and then got some hot water for tea at the snack bar 20 feet away and then got a chair-massage.

We talked about taking a bus tour for a few hours but Paul is fighting a stomach ailment so we may just chill out here.

In front of me, a nun with the blue and white uniform of Mother Theresa's workers is sitting.
For a while she was sleeping with a white cloth over her face.  Now she is eating Ritz crackers.

We're all anxious to get home.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Thailand Episode 7--Winding Down

Today we went on yet another touristy adventure, visiting the umbrella factory where you see how the paper parasols are made and also can get pictures hand-painted on any surface you want.  So we got them to paint an elephant on Paul's Bible cover, a tiger on Steven's computer case, and so on.

Life in Thailand has been more than fun and fluff and fellowship, just so you know.

But a lot of projects going on all around will be more successful if they aren't broadcasted online, so it feels like I'm rattling on about stuff that doesn't matter as much and silent about stuff that does.

I mean, JUST HYPOTHETICALLY HERE, if you were taking supplies into a prison camp in that country north of South Korea, you probably wouldn't post on Facebook, "Slipped past the guards with 25 pounds of medicine and a bunch of grenades, ha ha ha."

Not that anyone is venturing into N***h Korea.

Some places aren't open to change or help of any kind, or of the truth being told, shall we say.

So I decided not to name names or tell stories of that nature.

But when you get to Heaven you need to sit around with some of these people and hear all their stories.

Meanwhile I post about elephants and food and hot weather and shopping.  Which are also important in their own way, I guess.

We leave at midnight tomorrow night.

Thank you so very very much for all your interest, encouragement, and prayers.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tea & Trouble in World Magazine

My book just made the Top 10 Self-Published Books list in World magazine.

I wanted to tell this in ALL CAPS but I restrained myself.

But I am very happy and excited about this.

Here's the article.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thailand episode 6--our busy life

We are busy.

In fact, we are acting like this is a grand vacation, and we are doing vacationy things, as opposed to a lot of studying and writing like I had intended.

Somehow it's easier to sightsee and go out for coffee in this climate and atmosphere than it is to sit down and work.  Or post.

Plus Steven is always using my laptop for his online course and and a research paper he's writing, and Jenny likes my laptop to chat with her friends.  And we don't have internet at the house.

So.  Here are a few things I/we have done in the last two weeks:

Went out for coffee or tea at least four times.
Went shopping at the mall.
Went fabric shopping.
Went to a spa and got a Thai massage.
Went pottery shopping.
Went to the exotic Waterfall Restaurant twice.
Went swimming.
Went to three staff families' for dinner.
Went to chapel almost every morning.
Went "up the mountain" twice.
Went to Mae Wan's to drop off and pick up laundry
Went to the elephant camp.
Went to a recreation-night futsol game [like soccer, on a smaller field]
Went to a volleyball game AND PLAYED. [yes. me. I got it over the net too, having gotten stronger since 9th grade.]
Went to the Night Safari twice.
Went to church.
Went mini-golfing.

We do not live this sort of life back home.

Yesterday Delight the delightful secretary took me out for coffee.  Like good Thai folks she drove her motorbike and I rode behind her, breezing along at it-felt-like high speeds along 4- and 6-lane highways, happily passing cars and doing u-turns and joining the little crowd of motorbikes at every stoplight.

It is an experience in Trust because you sit there utterly helpless.  And you'd better not move or get too involved because it can upset the bike's balance and off you go into the side of a truck.

The massage was an experience too.  Amy and I and Katelyn the ladies' dean went to a very professional place south of here. In little woven-mat-carpet rooms we changed into loose pajamas and lay down on small mattresses, and then these silent ladies came in and worked us over from foot to head, slowly but very firmly pushing and kneading flesh until I felt like I was a drumstick and they were yanking large chunks of meat off the bone and then putting it back on.

They knelt on our thighs and pushed determined thumbs into the knots in my shoulders until I gasped in pain.  Then they turned us over and massaged our heads until we wanted to fall asleep and dream for hours.

We got an hour of this for 200 baht each, or less than $7.

And afterwards they gave us cups of tea.

Even here in the city you get the sense that the jungle is crouching all around, waiting for a chance to pounce.  There's vegetation in every vacant space, and straw-hatted workers are constantly going along whacking things back to where they belong.  Behind our house there's a swampy little ditch, and the vines and other jungly things grow thick.

This all means that even in the city you have lots of creatures.  Cockroaches by the dozen.  Geckos.  Rats, I'm told.  And snakes.  And spiders of such size as you have never seen or imagined.
See him there?

And yet, people go around without fear and they don't seem concerned about sealing off houses or stores to keep the crawly creatures out.  I can't tell you how many times I've been somewhere, ranging from our laundry room to the open and jungly Waterfall Restaurant, and thought, "SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE, ANYTHING COULD COME CRAWLING IN HERE."

This is the little room where we hang up wet personal laundry.  Long vines grow right through that chicken wire, and you know it wouldn't keep much else out either.
Of course, it's reassuring to have these sticky rat traps on hand.

On Sunday we went on a drive up the nearby mountain and stopped for an iced tea picnic at an overlook.  We noticed a path and steps heading a ways down the [jungly, wild] mountain to some tables down below.  Steven investigated and then we all got ready to head down with our basket.  A little Thai man stopped us and earnestly warned in broken English about a big snakeskin he had found in the grass down there. "King cobra!" he said, and angled his arms to show how long it was in the grass.  "Down there.  King cobra, maybe."

I was ready to levitate in the air, whirl my legs like a cartoon character, and light off for home.  Not my family.  "We'll be careful!" they said condescendingly.  "We'll stay out of the grass!" and off they went down the trail with the worried old man looking after them in despair like Jeremiah after he had warned the people of judgment and they went off and sinned anyway.

I gingerly followed.

We found a little gazebo which I inspected thoroughly, and we had a nice time, but again, people, ANYTHING could have come crawling in there.

On future days when I whine about some inconvenient detail about my life in Oregon, you're allowed to tell me, "Well, any day that you don't run into a king cobra is a good day."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thailand Episode 5--Kind of Complaining About the Heat

I spoke too soon.

The reason I was coping so well with the heat was because it wasn't all that hot.

I mean, it was hot, but then it got REALLY hot.

Oppressively, overwhelmingly hot, so hot that I wanted to go out in the streets--well, no, maybe more like from our air-conditioned bedroom--and shout to the people of Thailand that they were all mixed up, and God never intended for people to actually live in this part of the world.  Thailand was meant to be the undisturbed haven of snakes, geckos, and spiders, and they should all move to Canada and settle in the vast unpopulated territories there.

And I would go back to Oregon, that happy land of moderate temperatures.

Despite the heat, we have been spending time with people and seeing the sights.  Saturday we went with the Barkman family to the MaeSa Elephant Camp, and yesterday the director's wife, Barb, took me and Jenny downtown to the garment district with its narrow noisy streets, fabric shops, clothing shops, coat-hanger shops, and a lot more.

Jenny and Amy leaving on an elephant ride.
Last year I always felt so wimpy before the onslaught of heat and felt that if I just didn't complain about it, I'd be ok.  But before we left home this time, Emily gave me a lecture that I need to be proactive in dealing with the heat, that it's ok to do specific things to help myself.  So I think of that often and when I get that panicky feeling, I think, ok.  First I get a drink.  Then I find water and wet down my sleeves.  And so on.  And on Sunday I left during the sermon to get some air and ice water.

Twice so far I got so hot I started seeing those shimmering ovals in front of my eyes and wasn't sure my foot would touch the ground when I took my next step, kind of like when you stand up too quickly and get light-headed, and it was strangely comforting to know that maybe I have an  actual biological intolerance for heat rather than just a low tolerance for misery.

While we were fabric shopping I was standing in front of one store when a definitely-Thai woman came by wearing--WHAT??!!--YES!!--an Oregon Ducks Rose Bowl 2010 sweatshirt!  I opened my mouth to stop her or something but she was gone before any words came out.

Worlds colliding, that's what it was.

We note that it was the middle of the day and about 100 degrees outside and beastly humid, with the sun shining hot.

And she was wearing a heavy sweatshirt.

I asked Barb about this.  It turns out the Thai women are just rabid about keeping their skin pale.  They not only wear sweatshirts on hot days, but I saw one woman with a hooded fur-trimmed jacket, with the hood up.  Barb said they sometimes wear gloves, too.

People who work outside often wear a straw hat with an attached hood made of cotton fabric.  It comes around the lower part of the face and has a big flap in the back to protect the neck.  It might actually be cooler than working in the sun unprotected, but it always looks claustrophobic to me.

I saw evidence of the obsession with pale skin the day I went shopping for sunscreen.  You can seriously find racks, displays, and even walls of creams and lotions that promise to whiten the skin.  I had a hard time finding sunscreen, which seems odd, but maybe they count on long sleeves rather than sunscreen.

The only possible "plus" about this is that the girls and I get compliments on our pale skin.

Otherwise, it seems downright abominable, that women are so desperate to be beautiful that they torture themselves in that way, in the most unnatural way possible for this climate.

Maybe kind of like American women, blessed with food all around, and even with age and babies, have to almost starve themselves into an artificial shape to be considered beautiful.


The worst thing about the heat is not the misery per se but the fact that it fogs the brain and it is SO HARD to get anything done.  I have to think deliberately about every step of even the most basic tasks--shampooing my hair, for instance.  Or washing dishes.  And then I have to slowly force myself to do this simple basic step, then the next thing, and then I realize I left the towel upstairs and have to slowly think through the process of going up. the. stairs. to. get. the. towel.

And here I was hoping to get sooooo much done in all my free time here.

YOU ARE TOTALLY NORMAL, said the two women I was talking to before church on Sunday.  They both went through the exact same fog, they said, and it lasted two months.  In fact, one of them said that she noticed that after the new pastor was here for two months, suddenly his prayers got longer.

Well, in a week we should be back in Oregon, and this summer when it's 85 degrees and the air is sharp and dry and you are complaining about the heat, I will just smile.  You wimp, you.

Here are a few pictures.  If you want to see more, go to my facebook album here:
Thailand 2013

Here's Jenny in the ocean of fabric.
Me trying to decide on one cheap fabric out of hundreds.
Our lovely children at the Night Safari statues which are beautiful but creepy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thailand episode 4

You know how men enjoy back-seat driving from their wives?  Or not.

Well, all our married life I have sat in the front passenger seat and happily backseat driven--GASP!  Watch out!  Mercy me!  AAAAHHHH!!  Not so fast!

But it was ok because Paul is deaf in his right ear and he couldn't hear me.

Now we are in Thailand and everything is reversed.  So all my gasping and yammering is on the side of his good ear.

Life here proceeds apace.
we had two glorious days of weather that was tolerable, even pleasant, all day long.  It was wonderful.

I can walk again without bandaging my feet.  Amy, Jenny, and I went to the local mall which is huge and fancy.  Amy looked for that scotch tape that is all the rage, with little pictures on it.  It's rather vague what girls actually do with this, "Oh, I use it for journaling and [shrug] just stuff.  I just like it."  I looked for cute notebooks with wonderful "Tinglish" phrases on the front--"My friend, into the best ice creams with me." "The first thing to do, is say to yourself, and make them."

Three staff ladies took me out for coffee and we sat in deep chairs in a little cabin with windows on allsides and water flowing off the roof even though it wasn't raining.

I spoke to the girls for dorm night and the staff ladies for their monthly meeting, where one lady told about how she has learned to live with snakes, lots in the yard and about one a year in the house, like the one just under the bed that she stepped on the other week.  The neighbors across the fence took out a nest of spitting cobras a while back.  Jesus have mercy, but the truth is I have gone into some very snaky places in my life and someone back home always prayed the snakes away.  [That would be you, Sharon Coblentz, when we were in Kenya.]

In Canada in 1990 we moved in behind a big rock pile that the neighbor boy informed us had 'lots of snakes' and looked like heaven for garter snakes but I never saw one the whole time we lived there.  God is merciful.

And now we have a screened in back room where we do laundry that has snaky looking vines growing right through the screens and chicken wire and lots of damp jungly looking vegetation taking over behind and beside the house.  It makes me look around very cautiously before I go through the door but so far, again, God has decided I have enough to deal with and he will not send me more.

I would love to post pictures today but I'm on a tablet and haven't figured out how.  Please keep us in your prayers, for safety and effectiveness on all fronts.  Also, malaria is not really a danger here but dengue fever definitely is.

Back home, Emily has been dealing with skunks, mice, a raccoon, a broken belt on the lawn mower, and lots of other drama.  Matt says,

Quote of the Day:
"As a Smucker, there are destinies that one simply cannot escape.  Mine is to do tech support for random people.  Yours is to lead a dramatic life  Embrace it."

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Thailand Episode 3

Our first week here is over and we have only two more to go.  Paul enjoys teaching, Amy enjoys the classes and interaction, Steven and Jenny are busily charming the local population.  We are getting to know lots of friendly and inspiring people.

There are lots of spin-off projects going on here, mostly by young people who came to the Bible school, saw a need, and decided to come back and do something about it.  Some teach English, some work with students, some with prostitutes, some with children, some with Karen refugees at the border.  Some stay around here and some go into neighboring countries.

It's all very fascinating and it gives you hope for the Young People of Our Day.

In our family's life:
PRAISE GOD I am almost fully recovered from my rash.  I still look like I had the sort of chicken pox that my children had many years ago i.e. they looked and felt like someone had dumped boiling water all over them.  But it is all fading to a nice pale pink and I no longer feel like my body is bursting out in flames or itching like poison ivy.
I have a whole new level of sympathy for people with poison oak, hives, scabies, etc.
The hardest thing now is that my feet are still pretty tender, like after a sunburn, and I can walk around barefooted but my sandals chafe the skin raw, so I haven't been out and about much since everything seems to involve walking.  However, I tried protecting them with gauze bandages and tape and that works quite well.

So yesterday we ventured forth on a drive up the mountain outside of town.  We were in a borrowed van, with Paul driving, on the left side, and we went up and up on a road that makes Highway 34 to Waldport seem very gently sloped and mildly curved.

The goal was to see a coffee plantation but as the road got narrower, I got nervouser, "Alas for it was borrowed!" I thought, and when it got down to a single lane I said it was time to turn around.

We stopped at an outlook to look over the city.
Paul and me turning our backs on Chiang Mai.
See the airport kind of at center right?  We live in that area, just off the right side of the photo.
  Amy likes to take pictures.  She always frowns, but "behind a frowning providence she hides a smiling face."

We also passed the Phuping [or Bhubing] Palace, where the king stays when he visits the area, and a big temple, but both were overrun with visitors so we looked but didn't stop.

Amy closed the gate for Paul after we got home.

This is "our" motorbike while we're here.  It doesn't like me but is fond of the others, and whispers sweet things to Steven in his dreams.
 After our jaunt to the mountain I rode my bike to the "Volkswagen Coffee Bar" just down the street.  Note the mist spraying out of the pipes up above to cool things down.


I rang this bell for service.
This young lady made coffee shakes for us.
Three 20 oz shakes for less than $5.

84 degrees + raining = hu.mid.i.ty.
Steven likes to slide on the tile when it rains.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Thailand Episode 2

I feel like I'm finally coming out of a long dark tunnel and waking up to the fact that Hey!  Here I am in this foreign country!  Wow!  Good times ahead!

The flaming red rash all over my body has toned down to a reasonable pink on the first areas to be affected, while the last areas to flame up are the last to die down and still look pretty shocking. I thought about posting a close-up photo but Jenny thought that would be a very bad idea.  Then I went to Google Images thinking I could find a very Impersonal Example to show you what things look like now.  Do not try this at home, people.  Never go to Google Images and type in "hives" or "rash."  Just don't.

I am now on Doxycycline and Zyrtec and Tylenol and feeling much, much better.  I don't know if medical people do case reviews but I think this would merit a going-over by the clinic I use, as in, was I prescribed the right thing for the occasion and could the rash have been from the original tick bite rather than the medicine and am I now all covered for whatever nasty things a tick might carry?

I can now walk along with mincing steps, but not far, so today I took what is called a "scooter" or "motorbike" from our house over here to the Bible school, since this is where we eat most of our meals and get internet and Paul teaches.  I am told it is a small and personable means of transportation but to me it felt and looked like a Harley-Davidson headed for Sturgis.  I tried rolling it out the slanted driveway and it got away from me and fell over, and then it was like getting a cow back on its feet.

When I finally got going, I had to stay on the left and navigate about 5 corners over a quarter mile.  But I made it.  I am determined to find a bike around here as in pedals and gently rolling wheels to serve me until I can walk ok again.

Paul has taught his History of Missions class for a few days now and is enjoying it.  Steven and Amy are both taking some classes, plus Steven is taking a Swahili course on the side.  Jenny hangs out and reads a lot.  I was going to take a class but obviously I've gotten a slow start so I decided to focus instead on getting ready for talks I'm scheduled for and reviewing a few books I promised the authors I'd do.

The student body is a lot smaller than last year, only about 13.  Two of the girls are Amish, from Hutchinson, Kansas.  I said, "Oh, I was there once, for my cousin John Earl's wedding.  I remember John Earl had this wild buggy."

And the one girl said, "Oh, I know all about John Earl's buggy."

Wow.  They got married some 30 years ago, and John Earl has had a car for years, which proves it was Quite a Buggy.  Bucket seats that reclined, a polished-wood dashboard with all kinds of gauges and dials, turn signals, and much more.

So far I am having a much easier time with the heat than I did last year.  I am trying to figure out why and here are some options:
1. It's actually a bit cooler.
2. I've been exercising over the last year so have less insulation.
3. Anything feels cool after you have hives.

Today it was 87 degrees and raining.  Hu.mid.i.ty.

Thanks for all the prayers, encouragement, input, and advice over the last few days.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Thailand Episode 1

We are once again in Thailand.  Paul is once again going to teach three weeks of "history of missions" at the Institute for Global Opportunities.

This time we're staying a house maybe a quarter mile away from the school.  We have nice accommodations there and best of all, air conditioning in the bedrooms.

Everything is going wonderfully except for one thing.

Back on the 23th of May the whole family [all home for Steven's graduation] was out at the coast.  We went hiking on Cape Perpetua.  During and after the hike I felt this irritation on my neck.

It was a tick, firmly attached.

I freaked out.  LYMES!!

An internet search assured me I'd soon be cursed with chronic Lymes.  And we were leaving for Thailand in a few days.

It didn't help that the bite was quite painful and it swelled up.

I went to the doctor.  She put me on high-powered antibiotics for ten days.

We went to Thailand.

Soon after we arrived, my ankles started itching.  I developed pink spots on my feet and ankles.

Mosquito bites, I figured.

The dots spread.  Bedbugs??!!!!  Horrors.   But Paul didn't have them.

Poison oak?/  Surely not.

By Saturday it drove me crazy to walk anywhere.  By Sunday I was starting to be miserable but I went to church.

By Sunday evening I had dots and spots almost all over.

Today I am a mass of itching, burning red splotches.  Arms, legs, back, front, places where I walk and sit and lie down.

And of course it is very hot here.
It is horrible.

FINALLY by Sunday evening I put it together that this has something to do with the medicine I'm on.  I Googled it.  Yes, it's not uncommon to break out on the 5th or 6th day with Amoxycillin.  And of course, this being the internet, I'd soon go into anaphylactic shock.

But I'd rather go through this than Lymes, so I kept taking the pills and trying to tough it out.

It's very hard to make international calls from here.  Most people use Skype Credit but it wasn't set up on my computer.

Plus, it was the weekend back home, and the middle of the night, so with all that I couldn't call my doctor.

The nurse here gave me Benedryl.

We emailed my nurse sister and Paul's doctor sister.  They both said to cancel what I'm on and take Doxycycline.

So Paul walked to a pharmacy just now and got a packet of ten Doxy. for less than a dollar.

 I am so woozy from Benedryl that this may or may not make sense.

But I know what I'm saying when I say "Please pray for me" and "I will always have the deepest sympathy for someone who breaks out in hives.  Yes I will."

Amy and Jenny are off shopping with the secretary.  Paul and Steven are studying.  So, "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" we are doing great.