Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dessert Banquet:Trip in Review

Perhaps a bit overdue to let you know that we all arrived safely home again after a "whirlwind" tour of the world. People keep asking me, "Where was it that you went again? Asia?" Yes, and then some! It was around the world in 62 days, and now that Christmas season is over and second semester has started, "the world" seems a bit in the past.

We will be reliving the experience and would love for you to join us! We'll do a trip review/dessert banquet in the Blue Room at Naz Hall on Thursday, Feb 3, from 6-8pm. Please join us for pictures, stories, drama, music, and, of course, dessert.

And then stay tuned... the 2011 fall trip will be here before you know it! :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Uhh... Snow? Not at our debrief!

We left for the airport in Thailand at 3:30 in the morning and were amazed at the large number of students who arrived at the airport at such an hour to see us off!  It has been such a blessing spending so much time in one place, being able to make friends, and it was a joy (and a bit sad) to see them see us off.  Who knows, perhaps some of us will be back in the near future? We were kinda hoping a couple of them would fit in our suitcases, but they were all over 23 kilos. 

We were a bit surprised to land in Honolulu to find weather typical for England (60s, rainy, gray), yet we had a sneaking suspicion that Hawaii was going to be more enjoyable than Minnesota despite our not having slept in more than 48 hours. Okay, yeah, we know about the collapsed Metrodome and 45 cm of snow. Wait, we're in America, we can do inches again!  Nahh, too depressing.  We know how much snow that would really be.

Phil Bjorklund has joined us for this last leg of our journey.  He's had many years of experience leading ICS groups through debrief and we appreciate his experience, knowledge, and, of course, stories.  Each evening we've gathered together to go over our trip, starting from day one.  It's been interesting reliving the past two months, one day at a time.  So many experiences!  What does it all mean? 

There's the expectation that going on a short term mission trip "will change your life!"  We know that only Jesus Christ can truly change our lives; a trip like this simply helps us to change our perspective.  The most obvious changes that our friends and families at home will notice when we get off the plane are the new hair styles.  (Professional cuts for $4, well, how can you not?)  What will you notice different in us over Christmas break, back in Naz in January, or bumping in to us at Caribou?  We're not sure we can tell you that at this point, and more than likely, most of us may not even know or understand what sorts of transformations have taken place in our minds and hearts for years to come.  We know that God had a purpose for bringing us all together for these two months, bringing us to the places he's brought us, for his purposes and for his glory. 

This may be the last update before we land in Minnesota.  We leave tomorrow at 4:00 and most of us will arrive in Minneapolis at 4:09 on Wednesday afternoon (some have different final destinations).  A quick note: if you are picking up your student at the airport, PLEASE BRING A COAT!  I guarantee that our wardrobes are not sufficient.  :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Leaving, already?

Can it be that a whole month has passed already?? 

Today's our last day of classes at Santisuk and we're flying out at 7 am tomorrow.  Classes will get out 1/2 hour early today so we can spend those last precious moments with our precious students, getting in some final conversations and of course making sure we can find each other on Facebook.  Our classes all ended 1/2 hour early on Tuesday and Wednesday as well so the students could hear about "the real meaning of Christmas."  We sang some songs and Pastor Steve explained what Christmas really is all about.  Hopefully the Thai students learned that Santa has little to do with it! 

I'd love to say all of us are packed and ready to go.  Hopefully by the time the vans pull out at 3:=yawn=30 tomorrow morning, we will be packed.  Doesn't mean we're ready to leave Thailand, though I guess we can't complain about our next stop, Hawaii.  Just wish we could bring some of our students, Santisuk staff, and some Thai food with us! 

Monday, December 6, 2010


Liz and Ana with their students
Santisuk arranged an outing on Friday for teachers and students to Farm Chok Chai - a dairy farm two hours outside of Bangkok.  Both Thai and American alike enjoyed the fresh air of the countryside - not to mention the elevation that brought cooler temps! 

Farm Chok Chai was started in the 1950s by a Thai man who'd dreamed all his life of becoming a farmer.  He started this farm, and in the process introduced the very first pickup truck to Thailand.  The farm started as a beef farm and eventually changed into a dairy farm, importing Holsteins and crossing them with local breeds to create a cow that can do well in the tropics.  The Thai king worked with the farm to start programs which introduced milk into schools to promote good health. Some of our group - both Thai and American - got a chance to milk a cow by hand! 

We watched a Thai rodeo presentation, reminiscent of the Wild West (complete with "Texas - Don't Mess with It" t-shirts in the gift shop), followed by an opportunity to ride horses.  There was also a show featuring monkeys, various dogs, sheep, a 3-week old calf, a parrot, a pelican, and others.  On the way out we enjoyed FRESH milk and extremely creamy ice cream.  Umm...milk!

All it all it was a fun, relaxing day to hang out with our new friends!

O Little Town of ... Bangkok?

December 5 is the King of Thailand's birthday.  Preparations for celebrating the king's birthday started weeks ago as parks and other establishments started decorating by putting up lights and flowers and planning special ceremonies. King Bhumibol (also known as Rama IX) is the longest reigning monarch in modern history, having taken the throne over 60 years ago, and is beloved by the Thai people.  Most people in this country have never known another king!

Our service at Santisuk on Friday night opened with a tribute to the Thai king, showing slides and a movie clip which showed him walking among the people and serving the country, followed by a patriotic song.  There were celebrations around the city (and, no doubt, the country) yesterday as people gathered to honor their king. One of our dear friends, Rung, took a group of Northwestern students and Santisuk youth to the local mall for an orchestral tribute to the king.

I pondered last night while standing on my balcony looking at the silent streets below (while hearing the booms of fireworks in the distance).  Seeing the strings of "Christmas" lights around town is very reminiscent of the ways we celebrate our King's birthday at home.  It causes one to reflect on the wonderful ways we celebrate Christmas - family gatherings, putting up lights, singing songs, having parties, eating those special foods that only come once a year to celebrate the birthday of a king.  Those of us from a democratic nation don't know what it means to live in a kingdom.  We love preparing for Christmas because of all the wonderful traditions our families or churches have year after year, and we always look forward to this special time of year.

The Thai people do it simply because they love their king.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ahan Thai Aroi Mak! (Food Thai Delicious Very!)

I've heard it said that the number one reason people leave "the field" is because they can't handle the local cuisine.  I'm not sure if that statistic is true, though I do know some who've made desperate attempts in the kitchen if familiar ingredients were available.  Safe to say, that is NOT the case here!  I challenged the students to try something new for every single meal during our stay in Thailand (aside from breakfasts, which we usually eat in our rooms), allowing for the national dish of Thailand, pawd thai, up to three times (pictured left).  Pictured below is papaya salad, stir-fried morning glory in oyster sauce, red curry with chicken, and stir-fried pork and chard. I've been very proud of their experiments with the amazing variety of food available here!
Many of our Thai students don't have kitchens in their apartments.  Why bother, when you can get a complete, hot meal on the street for $1?  Especially when eating is a social event.  In fact, the Santisuk teaching schedule allows for time before and/or after class to eat out with students.  We've also had many opportunities to eat out on our weekend excursions and shopping trips.  The traditional Thai style is to order a variety of dishes and to share everything, family style.  Our students are able to share much more than just food during these times - some of the lessons in the English books lead to conversations that continue once classtime is over.

Karen and Krista eating at a milk stand with Krista's business correspondence students. This is one of their favorite places to take their favorite teachers!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving - and Beyond!

Our weekend was a full one, going in many different directions as students and their cell groups went on various outreach events.  We kicked things off with a Thanksgiving party in the parking lot on Friday night during Santisuk's normal service time.  Over 50 people ate chicken, duck, mashed potatoes, stuffing, stir-fried vegetables, mangos, and quite a variety of other foods together after hearing Pastor Steve share the history of Thanksgiving.  After dinner, we sang songs, played games, and listened as Amy N shared what it means to give thanks.  Mo, from my cell group, stated on Sunday morning that she had been really excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with us as this was her first Thanksgiving ever - and wished that the party could have gone on longer! 

Weekend events included visits to the Grand Palace, the weekend market, the floating market, two different beaches, and an amusement park.  Cassidy, who went to Pattaya, said she enjoyed the weekend though was saddened to see the business in the red light district there.  At another beach called Rayong, Krista enjoyed riding a "banana boat" with three of her Business Correspondence students while Reilly's six students made him try new foods - coconut juice out of the coconut, durian chips, and a Thai jellied dessert.  Amy R and Ashley said the amusement park trip with the Santisuk youth group was exciting (or perhaps more exciting for the kids than for them, yet they enjoyed the day).  The Northwestern students who went to the Grand Palace were glad to have been warned ahead of time to wear appropriate clothes (which, ironically, the Thai students hadn't prepared for) - knees covered, shoulders covered, no ripped jeans, etc.  Never fear, one could rent the proper clothes outside the gate for a small fee before going in to see one of Thailand's most historical sites.

We're enjoying the time with our Thai students - and are excited when they join our cell groups!