Thursday, June 3, 2010

Week 3 in Southeast Asia

I was going to start this off by apologizing for taking so long to update everyone about my trip...but then I realized that writing a new blog every 3 weeks is actually way better than how often I typically update my blog - maybe I should work on that!

So what have I been up to the last 3 weeks...

Day 1... Took a really long plane ride from LAX to Taipei. Watched more movies than I can count, tried to sleep, avoided airplane food, and had swollen feet (this is a new occurance for me!)

Day 2... Hung out in the airport in Taipei for a few hours and then flew from Taipei to Bangkok. We arrived at 2 am, headed straight to our hotel (thank you Thong Ta Resort and Spa for sending someone to pick us up in the wee hours of the morning so I don't have to worry about finding a taxi and finding the hotel) and went to bed (much needed after over 24 hours of little to no sleep).

Day 3... Explored Bangkok (despite the rioting). We had breakfast at an adorable little waffle shop across the way from our hotel (we meaning Chelsea and I) entire breakfast including waffles and a mocha was less than $1.50. Hired a driver (that's right we had a driver for the day!) who said we wouldn't go near the rioting that was happening in the business district of Bangkok...ohhh how things get lost in translation!!! We headed out...and guess what...we drove on the freeway that goes right over the street where the rioting was...smoke was rising on both sides of the road...super safe! We spent the afternoon checking out the Royal Palace, several temples, and seeing the giganitc reclining buddha (so amazing...but such a reminder of the need for the Good News all over the world!).

Day 4...Chiang Mai! (Home sweet Home). A 6:45 am flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, checked into our guesthouse (Bed and Terrace...exceeded all my expectations!), had lunch at a great mexican place (ohhh how I love non Thai food!!) with the Director of the organization Chelsea is checking out, shopping at the night market, a foot massage, and of course we wrapped up the evening with a banana roti!

Day 5...Rioting in Bangkok is put to an end by the Thai military (it took all day...and unfortunately several people lost their lives), rioting broke out in Chiang Mai (about 1.5 miles from where we were staying), and a curfew was put in place by the government (from 8 pm to 6 am). We spent the day watching the news, walking around the Day Market and just enjoying the sights and sounds of the downtown Chiang Mai.

Day 6... Most things were closed in Chiang Mai because of the rioting (including Starbucks and all the banks). We had the opportunity to go up to Doi Suthep (the temple on the mountain that overlooks Chiang Mai) and had dinner with my friend Cynthia who lives in Chiang Mai.

Day 7... Factory Tour Day! This is a must for 1st time visitors to Chiang Mai! We went to the leather factory, the silk factory, the jade factory, the silver factory, the lacquer ware factory, the umbrella factory, and my personal favorite...the jewelry factory! Today I also made some new Thai friends during our many excursions...I love hearing people's stories and being invited into random families' homes during rain storms!

Day 8...Long bus ride to Mae Sot (sooo thankful it was air conditioned!). We got picked up at the bus station by staff of the organization...on motorbikes! My first experience riding a mortorbike was uneventful and not as scary as I's to trying new and adventurous things!

Day 9...Spent the morning at one of the children's houses the organization runs. This house is for children whose parents are in prison...typically the children would just stay in the prison with their mom but this house allows the children to not have to grow up in the prison environment and if they are school aged to go to school. I spent the morning going for a walk with two of the little ones, painting, coloring, and eating lunch.

Day 10...Mae Sot Day!! We walked around Mae Sot with one of the staff, had tea at a Burmese Tea Shop, and went to the Thai/Burma Border...heart breaking (the only words I have...but they don't come close!). In the evening we went to the Safe House...another house the org runs which house 8 children who were living on the street 2 years ago...the children are thriving and getting to go to school. They have so much energy, I was worn out after playing with them for just a few hours...blessings to the house parents!

Day 11...The Drop In Center, a place for street kids to come and have time to play and have a meal or two. If the Burma border broke my heart this was a million times worse! I met a 7 year old boy who crosses the border everyday with his 1 year old sister to beg and collect things to recycle...he also looks for several of his siblings who have disappeared. All I could find myself praying is "God you see them, please surround them and take care of them...there is NOTHING I can do to fix this!!!"

Day 12... Mae Sot Garbage Dump to visit families who make the dump their home. The thing I was told to remember...the living conditions at the dump are better than their lives in Burma...this blows my mind! The families we met were so wonderful and the org we went with is being so intentional about building relationships with the families in order to share HOPE with them. My mind is still spinning with the reality of people whose reality it is to live in the sewage and waste of society.

Day 14... Back to Chiang Mai...spent the rest of the day just hanging out around town.

Day 15...Back to Bangkok...took some time to process.

Day 16...Chelsea goes back to California and I stay in Bangkok for 1 more day.

Day 17...Meet Heather at the Bangkok airport and head to Vietnam! Arrived in Danang to Audrey and Robin's huge smiles! Then there was the trick of getting my luggage to the house...Robin took my huge suitcase on the back of his motorbike...I'm impressed!!! I rode on Audrey's motorbike...traffic in Vietnam is CRAZY...literally every one just goes and weaves in and out...ahhh I closed my eyes for most of the ride!

Day 18...International Children's Day Event...spent the day with Audrey and Robin at an event they helped organize for the children who live in orphanages in the city. I painted faces for 5 hours painting skills were much much better by the end of the day!!!

Day 19... Hung out with friends! Coffee, manicures, pedicures, dinner with friends...literally such a great day!! One fun adventure...Kait took me for a ride along the waterfront and on our way back it began to rain and then POUR! We were soaking wet by the time we got back to the was hilarious!!!

Day 20... Climbed Marble Mountain! Ok there were steps so I didn't actually "climb a mountain" but it was such a workout! The view from the top was so beautiful! The rest of the afternoon I spent reading while Kait was at work and then last night we had dinner at a cafe called Bread of org. that trains and employs deaf individuals to bake (baked goods are all the rage here!!) of my other friends volunteers there. It is so fun to see where all my friends live and work!

Day 21...Today...hanging out with Kait at work (writing this blog) and helping out where I can.

Plans...(and we all know how those work in Southeast Asia)... tomorrow we are going to Hoi An and then next Wednesday I am heading back to Thailand for a few days to explore/travel with Heather...I'm super excited!

How's that for an update!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I'm Off...Again!

Well it seems like May is always "that time of year" when I pack up my bags and head off to Southeast Asia...and this year is no different! In just a few hours, 5 hours to be exact, I will be boarding a plane to spend a month overseas - I couldn't be more excited or blessed!

For the first two weeks I will be in Thailand with one of my friends Chelsea, who is looking to commit to serve with an organization in Thailand for 2 years. Before she made a 2 year commitment she wanted to visit Thailand and the organization (smart move) and well I sort of volunteered myself to go with her (I think she is excited about me going with her though...I hope!) since Thailand is my other home. We will be spending 1/2 of our time in Chiang Mai (being toursits...which will be an adventure) and the other half with the organziation in a Burma border town seeing what they do and meeting their staff.

The second two weeks I will spend in Vietnam with a bunch of friends who live in Danang. I have no formal plans with them...but all I know is they live near the beach and there are tons of coffee shops...I think I will survive just fine! I promise I won't just be lounging around for 2 weeks...I will also be helping out however I can at the organizations my friends work for.

I know some of you may have heard about the protests in Thailand (and some of you have even voiced some concern about my travels)...I promise I have taken a lot of precautionary steps for my time in Bangkok, including only being there as little as possible. However, the situation is still unstable and I would ask for your prayers for peace. Chelsea and I are not feeling fearful about the situation and really belive that the Lord has created this time and space for us to be in Thailand specifically - so we go in full faith that the Lord will guide us, strengthen us and use us as He sees fit (whether or not we are "safe").

My hope and prayer for this journey is to really encourage and love on my friends who have committed at least a portion of their lives to overseas service...they give so much and my hope is to pour back into them as much as possible (and to maybe ride an elephant or two!).