Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thailand Update 1 (this may be a long one!)

Well...I have been in Thailand over 3 weeks! I really cannot believe how fast the time has gone! I am going to do my best to brief you on the trip, tell you some funny stories, and let you know what is happening the next few days.

I met up with the team at LAX on Tuesday May 12th. We had no problems checking in and going through security, which can always be interesting considering all the tools and random things we bring with us! We boarded the plane and took off for Bangkok...and we didn't stop at all for over 16 hours! Let's just say I had plenty of time to think, read, watch movies, and attempt to sleep (thankfully the flight home is much shorter because of the air currents or something like that...I am just very very thankful!!!). We arrived in Bangkok, hustled through customs and boarded our flight to Chiang Mai, which was less than an hour.

We arrived in Chiang Mai around 9 AM and headed to our hotel to drop off our luggage. Then it was off to lunch, a briefing at the office, and shopping (which I opted out of to go relax at the hotel...I mean you can only go to the Gem store and Silver shop so many time =) ). After the team came back we had dinner & headed out to the night market. On our way back to the hotel that night it began pouring rain- so by the time we reached the lobby we were completely soaked from head to toe...I love wading through the steets of Chiang Mai!

The next morning we headed out to the Elephant Farm, the Snake Farm, and Tiger Kingdom. At the Elephant Farm I feed a preganant elephant 5 bunches of bananas in about 30 seconds (she would eat them a whole bunch at a time) and watched the elephant show. At the Snake Farm (not my favorite place int he world) we walked around, held snakes, and watched the snake show. At Tiger Kindgom I opted out of petting the tigers after I heard that sometimes the tigers just have bad days and knock people around with their huge paws...I may have some good traveler's insurance...but I am not too sure if it covers getting mauled by a tiger? After our exciting morning of visiting animals we grabbed our gear from the hotel and headed out to the villages.

We stayed overnight at a "resort" (which is nothing like a resort that we would think of...I didn't even get a warm shower) about half way to the village. It was a fun night to get to know the team a little bit better, as the girls stayed up late talking and fighting off the "big" bugs...which little did they know the bugs only get bigger the farther away from the city you go...but I thought I wouldn't scare them and let them figure that out on their own (I'm mean I know!)

In the morning we headed out fairly early and were able to not have any rain on the way into the village. The drive into the village on the dirt road was amazingly easy! Absolutely no rain, no mud, and no wenching trucks up roads...incredible! Thank you for your prayers! We arrived in the village (not Maohjo where I thought we were going to stay, but the village right next to it...we are trying to spread the wealth...I guess each village "fights" over where the team stays...they love us that much!!!) in early afternoon and got settled. As I was getting settled I realized that I didn't know where my battle buddy was...so I went on a search. Came to find out that the team had gone to visit Maohjo and the work site...so one of the staff found some children to take me on a hike to the work site. I admit I was a little nervous...but the children took me on the easiest route and I arrived at the school site and hung out with the teachers until the team came back down the hill.

The next day was Sunday so we didn't work; but we did get to go to church in Maohjo! What a blessing! One of the girls in the village that I had gotten pretty close to the last I was there was at the church service...I couldn't stop smiling! Her family is Buddhist and she's Christian now! What an answer to prayer! During church some of the team shared their testimony, we sang a song (impromtu), and our team leader gave the sermon (which was translated into Karen)...such a great experience!

On Monday we began work on the medical clinic. A team from San Diego Christian College had come out in December and done a ton of work on the clinic! They had laid almost the entire foundation...which basically meant mixing cement for 2 weeks straight! We arrived to a very basic structure of a foundation and some of the steel beams. We spent the day mixing cement, hauling cement, pouring cement, and smoothing cement...we love cement!!! This is where a really funny story comes in!!! So on the way up to the work site we took a random path up the side of a hill...literally!!!! It was pretty steep and slippery and well I was pretty dirty before we even started working. On this little path there were two "ladders" made of bamboo...one that spanned a gap between the rice patties and the side of the hill (with probably a 4 foot drop under it into a small stream of water) and a ladder that allows you to climb over a barbed wire that seperates plots of land. No big deal right??? Well on the way up the hill there were no problems at all. But on the way back from work...well that was another story!! So we get to the first ladder on the way down (over the barbed wire fence) and there are Fire Ants all over the handles of the ladder...so I am told not to touch the sides of the ladder so I have to walk up one side...not hard and down the other while standing straight up...a little harder. Thankfully one of the team members helped and I made it over safely with a big sigh of relief! We get to the next ladder (the one spanning the gap)...well earlier in the day other people on the team had broken the ladder (remember that everyone on the team...even the smallest girls probably outweigh the villagers 20 or 30 pounds)...so two of the rungs were missing. So all of the team but me has gone across...the ladder crackling all the way...I think ok this could work...I will just crab crawl across it...well I get half way across and well the part I am not even on suddenly has had enough...the girl in front of me is like...ummmm Erin....and down I go! But like a pro I landed on my feet in the stream! Lauging the whole way! I didn't even get dirty! BUT....I did get dirty about 1 minute later. While walking in the rice patties we had to manuever through a random part that was muddy...no big deal right...well first step no problem...next step...instantly knee deep in rice paddy mud (which FYI...is full of leeches and weird things!). My foot would not come out and I thought my big rubber boot was lost forever....but I got down on my hands and knees and wiggled and squirmed while the girl with me was laughing hysterically! Needless to say I was so dirty...that I walked into the village and everyone who saw me just started laughing!

Alright there is so much more to write but I have to go I will write more later!!!