Friday, January 30, 2009

Wonders of Thailand

Well, even on my worst days, when I want to go home... I'm STILL so glad that we're here, at least for this season.

Here are SOME of the reasons why:

Seeing Matt love on his students.

Getting to know other teachers. Hanging out with elephants.

Favorite Students.
These cute kiddos.These cute kiddos.

Thai teachers.
I certainly don't understand them all the time, but they're so sweet!
Friends and Game Nights.

Fancy pedicures for about $4.
I've only had 2 but plan on several more in the next couple of months. :)

One on one ice-cream outings.
...and so much more!

The Woes of Thailand

For those of you who have talked to me this week, you know I've had a "Bad Thailand Week". When I have a "Bad Thailand Day", it's alright. Usually the next couple of days will make up for a bad day. But, it's been a "Bad Thailand Day" every day this week... thus, the "Bad Thailand Week".

I threw these slippers away last weekend because they were yucky and because they didn't fit so I never wore them. The next day, someone (probably a construction worker because I frequently see them going through our trash) had taken them out. I think it bothers me because they take things out and they just sit around. If they want them, they can take them. But don't just leave them sitting around. It's strange. (Well, different).

Our front 'yard' has now become the welding station for the new school gym. They've been building the gym for a long time which is not that bad... but, now the work has moved to right at our front door. You have to be careful not to walk out at the wrong time.
Also, they must have tapped into our power in order to run all of their tools. There is not enough power in our house now even to run the microwave or one air-conditioning unit.

The picture below is the main plug and light switch in my classroom. This week, a mouse decided to come out of that hole and make an appearance. Freaked out the girls who sit close. Oh, and me. Thankfully, it must not have liked what it saw because it went away pretty quickly. (Hopefully it's not spending it's leisure time chewing on those wires.)

Click on this picture to enlarge it. You will see hundreds of tiny bugs. I don't know what they are, but they somehow know when we are sleeping. They come out when we are asleep. We wake up to tons of dead (thankfully) bugs about a foot up the wall and about a foot off the wall on the floor. I don't understand them. I don't like them.

Our house geckos usually don't bother me. But this week, they've started to spend time on our couch (so you have to double check before you sit down) and in our kitchen. I really don't like that they're in the kitchen, crawling around the food. I generally like them, though, because they eat bugs.

Freaking giant spiders. I hate them! Passionately. Matt killed one last night in our bathroom that was bigger and thicker than this one. (About 5 inches in diameter.) That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me and led to about an hour of sobbing and asking God if I could go home yet. Poor Matt.

We are heading out to do some shopping (more on that later), but I want you to know that I've also been working on a "Wonders of Thailand" post, and that one will follow shortly. Have to keep things balanced, you know.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tricia's Travels

One of the other teachers here recently did one of these posts, and I thought it was so cool. So, here's mine.

Below you will see a world map. The highlighted parts are where I've been so far. (According to the map, 10% of the world). Very cool.

And now, some pictures from some of these countries:

My first (and only) SOLO international trip was to England when I was 15.
This specific pic is from another trip... but Big Ben nonetheless.

The Rock of Gibraltar, between Spain and Africa. Very fun place!

A Spanish village near Nerja. Very fun to explore!

Uzbekistan. My favorite. :)
Mom and Emily visited in Uzbekistan. Uz gets two pics cuz it's my favorite!
My team in Paris after we got kicked out of Uz. The best time I've ever had in Paris.

In Russia. We had to wear head coverings in the mosque.

At the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. Love that place too!

A Kyrgyz Yurt!

All right, that's all the pictures for now! I'm missing several, but you get the idea.

God is amazing! His world is so big and yet so small!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stay Updated with Ginger

Ginger is now on the Africa Mercy, somewhere in the Canary Islands, I think. She's started a blog for this adventure, so if you'd like to keep updated, check out: her blog.

Praise God for safe travels and lots of joy and excitement so far!

Here's a brief update from an email I just got:
New people are arriving everyday. There are somewhere between 300 and 400 on board now, and more will join us when we arrive in Benin. There is a hair stylist on board and you can get free haircuts! Also a free seamstress, dentist, and crew clinic! ... The starbucks here sells lattes and mocha's for something like 50 cents! All the coffee is donated from starbucks! How cool is that!!! :) [Another good reason to justify spending money at Starbucks... some of it eventually makes it to Mercy Ships! - Tricia]
Oh, thanks for the blog shout-out! That was so sweet of you! I won't be doing any heart surgery, though! :) Mostly eyes (which I've never done!!!), cleft lip/palates, orthopaedics, and tumor removal stuff. I'll keep you updated on that! All the other OR nurses seem well experienced.... I'm definitely the youngest I've met so far (by like 30 years!) I'm sure I will learn so much from these women!

Okay, since she now has a blog I can point you too, I'll stop giving a play-by-play of Ginger's experience, but I do hope you'll check out her site every once in awhile. :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pray for Ginger

My best friend Ginger leaves the States today to spend 10 weeks serving on Mercy Ships in Benin, Africa.

Please be in prayer for her these next couple of months. She has been wanting to be part of this ministry for a long time, and God has set aside this as her time to do so.
Her specialty in nursing has been with pediatric cardiology operations, and I think that's what she'll mainly be doing on the ship as well.

Pray that this time would be rich for her relationship with Christ and that she would have opportunities to point others to know Jesus!

She is such a treasure to me and has been a huge part of my relationship with the Lord ever since we were roommates on a summer project with Campus Crusade the summer of 2002. Praise God for best friends!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Impropmtu Birthday Party

Two of my most rambunctious boys turned 10 today. I haven't been feeling good the last couple of days and thought about taking a sick day, but I didn't want to miss trying to make this day special for them.

Little did I know, their parents had gone all-out and planned a birthday party. As I walked to my classroom this morning, Seven's mom was waiting in the hall to see if she could bring in some snacks for Seven's birthday. It would take place from 12-2 and that was OK with me, wasn't it? Of course. Pon walked in shortly after and announced that his mom had ordered pizza to be delivered right after school so that we could have a party after school. Oh, goodness.

Thankfully, I was able to get both of the parties to happen together, at the same time. I don't think I could have handled TWO birthday parties and all the chaos that comes with them--even if I was feeling 100%.
It was supposed to start at noon, but Matt came home at 11:30 to tell me that Seven's mom was waiting for me at my classroom with cake and everything. This surprised me a lot because I've had many meetings with her, and she's never, ever been on time--much less early. So, my lunch break was cut short, and I rushed to my classroom.
We spent some time setting up, and all the kids kept coming to the room asking if they could come in. 23 loud, excited students. So, we had two birthday cakes, pizza, some Thai food, and lots of other snacks. We sang "Happy Birthday", blew out the candles, ate food, then watched Madagascar 2.
Some students decided they didn't want to watch the movie, so they pulled out some games. Without asking. Therefore, the movie was cut short. Classes resumed after a massive clean-up project. Surprisingly, they were able to change gears pretty easily. Math and Science happened without mishap. But, it sure has been an exhausting day.
Seven and his Mom. They're both fireballs sometimes. :)

Part of the spread, featuring:
Pizza, Oreos, Oreo sticks, meat on a stick, some kind of bread thing and ice-cream cakes.

The birthday boys blowing out their candles on their matching birthday cakes.

Shave and a Haircut

Matt was getting pretty shaggy and decided it was time for a shave. Unfortunately, his electric shaver here blew up a little while back. His beard was too long to try and shave it with just a razor. On Tuesday night, kinda out of the blue, we decided to go to a nearby salon/barber shop so that he could get a shave.

On the way, I decided to get my hair trimmed too. So, we walk in to the place, and we explain what we need. (We asked a Thai teacher for the essential words right before we went.) The sweet Thai lady washed my hair (with at least 4 different cycles), and then trimmed it. She started to blow dry and style it, but we didn't want to be there too long, so I told her she could stop. The whole process for me was about 15 minutes... tops.

Then, it was Matty's turn. She took him back, washed his hair (3 different cycles), then it was his turn for a cut. We found a picture in a magazine that we liked. Sweet Thai lady spent no less than 30 minutes cutting his hair. I would think she was done, and then she would start again. So, then, he had a really sharp haircut but a thick, bushy beard.

And, the shave was the reason that we went there anyway, so we asked her to give him a clean shave too. Before we knew it, she started going after his beard with a comb and some regular scissors. A nicely done trim. Then, he wanted to leave only his goatee, so we explained that (mostly with hand gestures and pictures), and she said, 'no problem'. Next thing we knew, someone brought a straight razor out from the back, and she just started shaving. No cream. No nothin'. The sound was pretty painful, but Matt said it didn't hurt at first. I was amazed that she could do such a good job (no nicks or anything) with a comb, scissors, and a razor blade. His total time in the chair was 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Here's a picture so you can see the final touch. It's a couple of days worth of a shadow, but you get the idea.
Isn't he handsome? :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Zack shared an eye-opener!

This whole post is copied from my friend, Zack. Brought tears to my eyes and a pain to my heart.

If the only news you usually get is from CNN or Fox News, you are tragically missing out on what’s going on in the world.

There are about 29 million people in Uzbekistan, a country run by a KGB hitman thug. Karimov’s cruelty and lack of respect for his fellow man is mirrored down through the government at every level, and the most startling example is in Uzbek prisons.

I was very close to going to prison there and witnessing the conditions first-hand, and the prospect of that made our country director so nervous that at one point he was trying to get a US military helicopter to hover over our house and air lift us out of our situation.

It’s rumored among the people there that some people are even boiled alive in prison as a method to force prisoners to confess to whatever crime they are accused of.

I once had my passport stolen by a police officer, and he wouldn’t give it back until I wrote a confession stating that I had committed a crime. That was our deal on the surface. He was really trying to intimidate our team into giving him a large sum of money to leave us alone.

All that to say, here’s an article I came across that is worth the five minutes to read it.

Here’s how it starts:

The treatment of prisoners in Uzbek jails has never been good: it has always been bad, but it turns out that the situation is worsening further and there is no limit for this.

Almost legalised mistreatment, corruption and the embezzlement of funds allocated for prisons are complicated further by chaos, established in jails, and the grave general economic situation in the country.

As a result, the lives of about 60,000 inmates in Uzbekistan have changed from hard to unbearable. Inmates are beaten up, mistreated, underfed and forced to do hard jobs.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here's the Deal...

So, I think we've been tossing this around for awhile, but I'm not sure we've ever come out and announced it.

We are not going to teach again in Thailand next year. After months of assuming that we would teach here for at least two years, God asked us to reconsider. It was weird. It was the beginning of December and all the teachers starting asking about who was coming back next year. Matt and I were saying that yes, we would be back. It made sense financially, and we wanted to continue building these relationships and our teaching experience. But one day in the shower, God was like, "Hey, have you heard from Me on that?". A gentle reminder that no, we hadn't really prayed through it. We just thought it was the most logical thing to do, and after all, God is a God of logic.

It's a good thing He gave us this gentle reminder. After this, we talked about it often and realized that both of us have a huge desire to move back home (Charleston) and get settled. We also reviewed finances and realized that it actually does not make as much sense to stay here as we thought--especially since I am without health insurance here.
It's scary; I'll be honest. To move back to the States in the middle of a recession is pretty risky, especially considering that we don't have much of a 'nest egg'. It's also a little scary because we don't know exactly what God will have us do when we move home. We are both considering teaching again, but since we're not certified, it would be at a private school. We don't know where to live. So, to review: little finances, no jobs, no place to live.

There's also the whole factor of more change. I mentioned earlier that moving to Thailand was my 22nd move in less than 8 years. It is quite an understatement to say that I am ready to be settled. I would love to have some consistency in so many areas of my life, and hopefully being settled somewhere is a huge step in the right direction.

I had a great talk with my best friend, Ginger, the other day about all of this. She is always great at offering perspective. We talked through my fears and struggles with all of this, but we also know that God's purpose is so much greater than anything I can understand. For example: I did not want to leave Uz in 2006. Not only was my team kicked out of the country, but the ministry leadership was not going to allow me to go back long-term, immediately, like I desired. This did not make any sense to me, and I fought it! I had no idea that God was orchestrating a romance between me and Matt. But He did, and I've learned more about God through our relationship and marriage than I probably would have in my whole lifetime in Central Asia (whoa, that's kinda hard for me to say... who really knows!).

So, here we are. Our third major shift in direction since we got married. We still have 3 or 4 more months here, so pray that during our remaining time, we would be obedient and faithful in everything God has for us. Also pray for us as we begin to make decisions about life in Charleston. Pray that we would continue to focus on God's purpose for our lives, and not necessarily our plans. (Proverbs 19:21)

My sister, Laura, made this image years ago.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happy Teacher's Day Weekend!

Well, we had Friday off in honor of Teacher's Day in Thailand! Hooray for a day off!

On Thursday night, we played some T3xas Hold '3m with a lot of other teachers. We do this at least twice a month, and Matt has won some good hands and brought home a little extra cash a couple of times. But, this week, **I** had the big winnings of the night... over 550 Baht, which is about $15. Oh, but g@mbling isn't exactly on the up-and-up here in this country, so I really shouldn't be so excited about this, huh?

On Friday night, we went over to Dan and Kristen's house for Game Night. We really love hanging out with them and their 3 great kids. We started the evening playing Wii, which we had taken over to their house. Their 5 year old had been wanting us to take it over there for a long time. The kids and Matt and Dad played Mario Kart for awhile, then we had dinner. After dinner was a little more Mario Kart, then all the adults played Mario Party.

After the kids went to bed, we played Cities and Knights of Cataan (my new favorite game!). Dan won the first round, which was the longest yet. I can't remember exactly, but I think it was at least 2.5 hours. So, of course, we had to play another game. But, we also decided to play Mario Party on the DSes while we were playing Cataan. There was even a wager to sweeten the pot a little bit, but no one won it because the person could only win it if they won BOTH the games. Here are pictures of us playing.

Also, on Friday, we got our Wii back from the other teachers who have had it at their house. We don't have a tv, so we let them have the Wii at their house. But they decided to let let us have the Wii back and lent us their tv for awhile so we can play it at our house. :) It's been great already!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Grade 4 Updates

I decided to update y'all on some Grade 4 happenings... those are the ones that seem to get the most responses!

Boom joined us this week. I think he's adjusting pretty well so far. At first, since the rest of the class was expecting a girl, they weren't very welcoming to him. They said, right in front of him, "Mrs. Tricia, is she a boy or a girl? She looks like a girl, but I'm not sure." And they assumed that he doesn't speak English, but he speaks English quite well. Poor guy. Today was much better, though. I'll keep you updated, and we'll continue to hope that he adjusts well and that his heart is softened and open to Christ's love.

Also, I think you'll be happy to know that my kids are constantly asking me to make my hair 'look like crap/b'. My hair's growing pretty fast, and it almost fits into a regular ponytail. The girls don't like it and ask me everyday to make it 'look like crap/b' again. It makes me giggle every time.

The Tuesday morning prayer requests are still quite entertaining. I do love hearing about what's on their hearts, and it's always a good time to remind myself that God cares about everything that's on our hearts. Probably especially what's important to little hearts who are still learning and wondering about Him.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Games Day and more of our first week back...

I forgot to mention that Matt found out on Tuesday that he's now teaching 1 hour of high school computers every week. This will be interesting...

We also found out that summer school (which we're expected to be here for) lasts until May 15. After a couple hours of panic, we discussed it with our administrator, and it looks like we will still be able to leave when we first planned--if not earlier. It's all still in the works, but we'll let you know what happens.

Friday was Games Day--our second and last one of the year. We also had one in October. The one yesterday was so much more fun for us, even though I think the actual games were better last time. Anyway, here are a few pics from the event.
The students are divided into four house teams:
Ruth wears red; David wears green; Moses wears blue; and Esther wears yellow.

I was in charge of musical chairs. Definitely the most boring of the games, but it worked.

And the day ended with a huge tug-of-war challenge and water fight.

I didn't get too many pictures because we're back to having only a 32MB memory card for our camera. Sadly, something went wrong with the one we got for Christmas.

We ended the week by going to see "Yes, Man" with a bunch of other teachers. It was really funny, so we recommend it. There was one part that was yuck, but overall, a good movie.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, January 9, 2009

first week back after break

Whew--it's been a week!

Kids were a bit grumpy on Monday to be back after two weeks (can't say I blame them!). Thankfully, that didn't last too long, and we were back into the swing of things quickly.

We've been learning a lot and having a lot of fun. I'm playing kickball in PE with my kids this week, and it's been a blast! Yesterday, I literally fell on the ground laughing at some of my kids. I used to really hate teaching PE, but once I forced myself to embrace it, it's been a lot of fun!

Matt hasn't had any unusual happenings this week, but that's probably a good thing.

We have Games Day again today, so I'm sure we'll have fun stories after that.

Oh, and, I just found out that I get a new student on Monday. Her name is Bow--pray for her adjustment!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Custom Jewelry--A Plug for a Friend!

One of my very favorite details from our wedding was--and still is-- the necklaces that I and some friends made for my bridesmaids, with earrings to match! They were made of purple and silver glass beads and crystals. I loved them because they were so unique and handmade. My Mom's lifelong friend, Mrs. Judy, did most of the work as a gift to me, so they were even more special!
You can see the necklace and earrings pretty well in this picture. This was the famous moment when Valerie couldn't get Matt's wedding ring off of her thumb (for real!). It was so funny, and I can't wait to get back at her in a few months! :)

This picture is better for seeing the jewelry. This is Matt with our 3 beautiful sisters:

Why am I talking about these necklaces? Well, one of my best friends from college, Amy Ray, is now turning her hobby of jewelry design into a side business. She also teaches high school math. She makes her own glass beads and pendants by glass-blowing them and then turns them into jewelry or other unique pieces. Check out her work at this website! If anything looks interesting to you, let her know. She can also custom-make the beads and/or jewelry for you by request. I have been keeping up with her stuff, and it looks amazing!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy 2009 / 2552 !

Happy New Year from Bangkok!

We had a great night celebrating with Dan and Kristen and their kids. Matt, Dan, and Jack all played DS games while Kristen and the girls and I got to chat. Then, we ordered in pizza and enjoyed that together before the kids watched a movie and then the adults played a game-- Cities and Knight of Catan, which is Settlers PLUS+++. It was so much fun. Unfortunately, Dan and Kristen won both of the games that night, but we'll hope that's not the trend for the whole year.

Right at midnight, we turned on the countdown here in Bangkok (which is 12 hours ahead of the East Coast), toasted with yummy sparkling apple/grape cider, then enjoyed some of the fireworks around town from their balcony.

On New Year's Day, we bummed around mostly (I think I read 2 books), and then we went to dinner and a movie downtown with Mimi. Movie theaters are AMAZING here, and it makes me wonder why we pay so much more in the States for the same movies with less than half of the atmosphere. That was only our second movie here in Thailand, but we're going to have to do more while we're here, since they're so cheap. (Less than $3 for new releases, reserved seats, and lay-back chairs.)

In 2009, we look forward to moving back to Charleston and getting settled! I had some good time of reflection with the Lord yesterday and realized that I have moved 22 times since graduating from High School. Craziness! And quite exhausting. So, hopefully, once we do move home, the Lord will allow us to put our roots back down there for awhile.