Friday, September 30, 2005

Our Christmas Tree last year. Sigh.

Is it that time already?

"It's the most wonderful time of the year! It's the hap-happiest season of all. There'll be parties for hosting, marshmellows for toasting..."

Yes. Yes, I am listening to Christmas music. This is a practice I've always detested, listening to holiday songs before the holiday has arrived. My rule has always been "No Christmas music until after Thanksgiving!"

But every year about this time I am flooded with sentimentality. I came back to Switzerland last week to find that the season has changed, that people are wearing sweaters and eating fondue again, that it gets dark early in the evening. And so I find images and feelings and scents and sounds passing through my mind. Pictures of Christmas trees, the smell of my mom's baking, the excitement of holiday shopping. I REALLY wanted hot chocolate last night! I feel transported to various scenes, like picking out a Christmas outfit at Old Navy, taking cookies down to my dad's friends at work, carrying gifts out to the car in my pajamas on Christmas morning, huddling together with friends in the marching band while waiting for the Festival of Lights Parade to start, laughing at my dog running around with his stocking, eating Christmas dinner at my aunt and uncle's and being sure that no one else's family could possibly have such a delicious feast, playing with the candle wax at the Christmas Eve service, washing sap off my hands after bringing in the tree, etc, etc.

So it's time for a little Elvis. "I hear the bells (bum, bum, bum) saying Christmas is near. They ring out to tell the world that this is the season of cheer. I hear a choir (ooh, ooh, ooh) singing sweetly somewhere. And a glow fills my heart, I'm at peace with the world, as the sound of their singing fills the air. Oh why can't everyday be like Christmas?!! Why can't that feeling go on endlessly? For if everyday could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

On my way to the airport pulled off to follow a sign to a beach. Turned out to be the prettiest place we'd been to!

This is what we had to traverse to get to that last amazing beach! Can't say I've ever walked on planks over a river before. Made the view that much prettier.

Hello from the jungles of Thailand! This was right next to the beach, my first time at the Indian Ocean. Hope you appreciate this photo because as I was standing there little ants crawled on my feet and bit me!

This was a fun boat ride. I'm in love with this photo. It's now the wall paper on my laptop!

We went to James Bond Island! It was cool... except for the freakishly aggressive vendors who grab you if you try to walk away from their booth.

Cortney is a buff babe.

Here's those cuddly monkeys. Note the blond one in a onesie (see post below).

At the beach we spent most of our time in Kao Lak, one of the hardest hit areas of Thailand. Evidence of the tsunami's destruction was everywhere, but much rebuilding is going on. It was cool to be able to contribute to the ravaged economy.

Signs like this were sobering and made me realize how fresh the disaster still is in the lives of many. Just in this tiny community 4,000 people died.

This police boat was outside our hotel. I guess it's kind of famous from the coverage of the tsunami. Freaky to think of a big boat like this riding a wave past us when the ocean is blocks away.


OK, here's an entry from my journal. Seems all I've done for a couple of days is write! So you can expect more where this came from.

I find myself in yet another plane, making one last take-off, unable to leave my journal properly stored in the bag under the seat in front of me. Something about having so many experiences in such a short time makes me want to create something. As I look through the flight magazine I have the urge to start clipping words and pictures and make a collage, though I know I’d be unhappy at the end with my 3rd grade level artistic expression.

So I turn to writing. I mean, I can speak, so surely I can write. Right? During these travels I’ve puzzled over how guide book and travel log authors do what they do. How do they take the tedium of travel and turn it into an adventure? I think that most of all they notice and remember the details. I could say, “Last week I visited a Muslim village in the middle of a lake in Thailand,” and that sounds kind of cool. But I could also say, “Last week, as I began to explore a rustic little Muslim village perched atop pillars in the middle of a lake in Southern Thailand, a woman thrust upon me her 3 cuddly monkeys, one of which was wearing a little white onesie, and then demanded I pay her for the unsolicited photos she took of me on my own camera,” and that makes the scene some to life. A monkey in a onesie? Ah yes, those are the details that turn tedium to adventure.

Hmm…writing is indeed scratching my creative itch. But not quite. I’m just so full of experiences, and contentment, and memories, and images, and thankfulness. I just want to “exude.” Can exuding be an artistic expression? These are the times when I’m so glad to know that God knows all my thoughts and feeling. With Him I can indeed just sit and exude and He gets it. He likes it that I’ve enjoyed His creation, that I’m found fulfillment in being with others who worship Him, that I’m thankful for all He’s blessed me with.

I hope you understand what I mean by “exude.” Not that you could tell me the dictionary definition, but that you too have had that feeling in life. What is that feeling? It’s not being able to keep a smile from curling around your lips. It’s having a song in your heart. It’s laughing out loud…even when you’re by yourself. Or better yet, by yourself out in public! There’s nothing better than being so happy that you can smile to yourself while out in public just because your thoughts are so happy. Sometimes even a laugh comes out before I know it.

And we don’t need 3 weeks in Thailand to achieve that state. In fact, 3 week trips can often have the opposite effect! I’ve never thought before about what it takes to make me exude, but I think there are several factors: Peace with God, peace with who I am, and peace with the world. Peace is key. From there it doesn’t take much, just observation of cute or good or funny things going on around me or reflection on such things from the past or projection to such things in the future. Besides laughter, other ways I get my exude out are singing and dancing. If I’m not able to express it, it just comes out in much happy sighing. I highly recommend it. So go ahead, make peace with God, start enjoying who you are, forget about the busyness and stress of this world and let yourself experience the great life that’s been rushing by you. You’ll surely find a reason to exude. When you do, why not post a comment about it?!

PS: I’m aware that some of you may be bothered by my unconventional (i.e.: incorrect) use of the word “exude.” But I’m simply quoting from my journal. What is written is written.

“Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp. For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.” Psalm 149:3-5

“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my mediation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” Psalm 104:33-34

“God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Erin and Tong. They only speak Thai together, which is very impressive on Erin's part, but then I miss out on her great Carolinan accent. I'm so thankful to have them to show me Thailand!

This beach dog was so awesome. I want to be like him when I grow up. He just goes around making friends wherever he goes and having fun all by himself. He wasn't afraid to mess up his hair in the ocean.

It felt good after being at a conference for 2 weeks to just get beachy. Water on my pant legs, sand on my feet, windblown hair.

Warning: Going to the beach in the rainy season can be dangerous. Actually, I live in Oregon, so I felt right at home. A sunny beach? That would just be weird.

We were impressed with Ronald's cultural appropriateness.

It was weird being on this beach and imagining the tsunami coming. I was struck by the beauty of the colors of the sand and the water. We wondered how it looked before the tsunami.

Wearing skirts in blustery weather is fun.

Me and Erin. This is actually the best picture we were able to take once the wind and rain picked up.

Rainy day in Poo-ket

Hello from Phuket! Actually, we're somewhere outside of Phuket, in a place that was hit by the tsunami. Since it's stormy outside and Erin's bf lives in an appartment at an Internet Cafe, what better way to spend the afternoon than updating my blog?

So the conference ended on Friday and I said goodbye to my friends. Sniff, sniff. I'll be traveling for a few more days with 3 other girls and then on Thursday it's back to Switzerland for a couple more months of French studies.

Here's a few surprising things about Thailand:

1) It's acceptable to say things like: "You're looking fat today," "I think you got fatter," "See that fat man down there? Turn left by him and you'll find the Internet cafe." But don't dare to call someone short. That would be insulting!

2) Statistically there is one beauty pageant for every day of the year in Thailand. We enjoyed one at the mall just last night.

3) On the beach you can just sit back and buy whatever you'd ever want, as the vendors simply come to you. Cortney says she once was offered rakes and toilet brushes. "Nothing is impossible in Thailand."

Grace and Margaret were my roommates at Oregon SIL my first and third summers there. Grace works in Uganda and Margaret in PNG, so it was so cool to reunite in Thailand! We hope to see each other again at the next conference in 4 years! :o)

The last night in Chiang Mai was probably the greatest. We went to the Riverside Restaurant where they have live music every night. We heard 3 different groups who covered all sorts of songs like Hey Jude, What a Wonderful World (Louis style!), and I'm Just a Girl. So fun!

One of the funnest times was just getting out and playing Ultimate Frisbee on a soggy field. We were covered in mud!

Here I am in Thailand with Burma on the left and Laos on the right, the "Golden Triangle." I visited those other countries briefly as part of a day-long tour I went on with 5 friends from the conference.

Thom, me, and Mark in Burma. The border is just a big market where they hound tourists to buy little fans and playing cards. Funny thing about Mark--I recognized him at the conference because I'd read his blog!

Just plain cute. This little boy lives in the hilltribes village we visited as part of our tour.

This woman is part of the "Longnecked" tribe. The women wear these rings that they build higher and higher over time, until their necks are elongated and can't be supported without the rings.

This little girl was so cute. She's weaving cloth. She can't go to school because she doesn't have a Thai ID card. Her tribe is from Burma I think.

Here's a woman from another tribe. She's wearing humongous earrings.

Other countries have the coolest playground equipment. This is like a 4-seater ferris wheel in a hilltribes village. So fun!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hi from me

I'm sitting in an Internet cafe in Chiang Mai, so no deep thoughts or photos to share at the moment. Just wanted to let my faithful readers, friends, and family know that I'm still alive and loving life. Happy birthday to Amber and happy wedding to Stephanie! The conference ends tomorrow and I'm taking a sleeper train to Bangkok and flying to Phuket. After this non-stop conference we're looking forward to lounging on the beach, getting pedicures, and drinking fruit smoothies. Hopefully I can squeeze some time in there for blogging, but if not, see ya back in Switzerland.

PS: Thom says Thailand is da bomb.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hello from Thailand!

I feel psychotic or something with all my travels. I went from living in Switzerland, to vacationing in Paris and London with my mom, to travelling in Thailand with old friends for a conference. According to my calculations that's 4 countries within a week! Not to mention the various relationships, languages, cultures, etc coming into play.

I'm having a great time in Thailand. I don't know how to describe it because in many ways it's not that different from life anywhere else in the developed world, but on the other hand everything is different.

I've experienced many firsts transportation wise. From sitting in a car with the driver on the right side and driving on the left side, to taking a motorbike to and from the conference everyday, to riding in various Thai taxis, some with only 3 wheels. It's definitely an adventure, especially the motorbike. I'm loving it more and more and get excited when it's time to go somewhere.

The other important experience here is the food. I've always loved Thai food. Here the difference is that you can get a great meal for a dollar! It's awesome. One thing I've learned is that they eat by using the fork in their left hand to push food onto the spoon in their right hand. Don't know whose idea that was, but it seems to work pretty well. Although, as an American who's been living in Europe and is now in Asia, my utinsel usage is totally out of whack. Time to go to Africa and just use my hands!

There's much more I could say about Thai culture and my experiences here and certainly about the International Language Assessment Conference that I'm attending, but I will save that for another day so I can run off to get some sleep. Conferences are tiring!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Thai food is soooooooo good! This meal cost us maybe $2/person tops.

We got a great show from these entertaining monkeys. They live at a temple and are considered sacred.

Erin attracted the monkeys at this place that's famous for them with her water bottle. This little guy actually bit a hole in it and got a drink of water.

Here's me outside one of the places with all the monkeys

Here's me with Cortney and Erin who I'm staying with in Thailand. Check out my hair--got it washed and straightened for like 2 bucks. We were at a wedding in this picture.

Here's a market we went to. Wish I'd taken a picture of the pig heads for sale.

Here's another common form of transportation. We can go pretty much anywhere in these taxis for like 50 cents. This is Philip (PNG), Richard, and Joshua (India). Richard is from Tanzania and it's his first time out of his country!

My friend Thom who's been working in PNG for a year now. Seeing old friends from around the world is the best part of being here. The next best is the food, even the fajitas Thom is eating in this picture!

Personally, I think I look pretty good in a helmet.

Here's a snapshot of what I see riding to the conference every morning on the motorbike with my friend Erin.