Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friends Forever... Keto and Nala

These guys are best buds! Even though they aren't together 24/7 anymore, they still see each other pretty often. Today, I met Laura and Keto at the dog park, and Nala was SOOO excited when she first saw Keto. It's really sweet. Here's a video of them. They're having a licking war... one of their favorite things to do.

Valerie's Lingerie Shower

This past Sunday, I was able to be at a bridal shower for Valerie (finally!). One of my mom's friends, Vicky, hosted a lingerie shower at her home. It was such a blessing to be there, even though I had to scoot out early so that Matt and I could speak at our church about Thailand.

Here's the beautiful bride-to-be, Valerie Elaine!
Her future in-laws who double as my childhood best friend (Megan) and her mom (Mrs. Jo) who was friends with my mom while they were growing up in Spartanburg.
Who would have thought?

Beth and Beth. My mom and Lisa's mom, a very proud new grandmother, complete with brag book and all! :)
Some of the other lovely ladies in attendance.
Whitney (bridesmaid), Laura (maid of honor), Megan (matron of honor), Valerie, Christina (bridesmaid), and Stephani (wedding coordinator/my sister-in-law). :)
This picture is purposely blurry because I don't want to give away any secrets.
But Miss Valerie was very cute opening her presents.
The shower fun has just begun! And the wedding is only 3 and a half weeks away!

Family keeps Growing!

(How many of you thought this would be a pregnancy announcement from the title? Haha, sorry!)

During our first week back, one of Dan's daughters, Kristen, and her family came for a visit. It was SO great to spend some time with them and get to know some of our new 'step-siblings' on the Brown side.

This is a picture of the whole Case crew: Zac, Kristen, Michaela (10?), Matthew (8?), Nathan (5?) and Adrienne (3). I'm sure about Adrienne's age because she celebrated her 3rd birthday while visiting here in Charleston. They are so fun, and I hope it's not too long before we see them again... maybe a road trip to Utah is in order!
It was fun to experience this half of the growing family...
and to get a taste of what Mom/'BeeBee' will be as a grandma.
Kristen and Michaela.
Valerie with her new buddy, Adrienne, and of course, little Daisy. The kids LOVED the Tyndall dogs... despite the fact that poor Adrienne got bit by Tori and had the marks to prove it.
If you're interested, check out Kristen's blog to see all of the fun things they did and saw in Charleston. She's a much better blogger than I am--and takes amazing pictures!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Job Update

Praise the Lord! Matt has a position with Doubletree Guest Suites downtown Charleston, where he worked before. This should tide him over pretty well until he can hopefully find a teaching job for the Fall.

Also, both of us will be trainers part time with a company called LearningRX. Check out the website for more information. We're both pretty excited about it! It's a one-on-one cognitive training program to help 'train the brain' to learn better. We'll be able to build relationships with students and their families... and help them to gain confidence in school and life in general.

Here's a short video that introduces you to the program. We're excited to start our training tomorrow. We're not sure yet how many hours we will be able to get, but the pay is great. After our training is completed, we should be ready to be official trainers by the end of next week. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pictures of Homecoming

The weary travelers arriving home after 34 hours!

Hugs for the siblings first!

Meeting baby Lilly Lawson!
Together again!

We claimed Nala the next day and are enjoying having her back in our everyday lives!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Update of Sorts

I'm so tired! Don't know how much of it is jet lag or stress, but I haven't been sleeping very well. Yesterday, I woke up at 2 am after going to bed at 10 pm. Didn't go back to sleep until I took a short nap around 4 in the afternoon. We took sleeping pills last night, and that helped us sleep about 8 solid hours... what a blessing!

Aside from being tired, it's been so much fun being home and hanging out with friends and family! We've also been spending a lot of time looking for houses to rent and of course, jobs. Looks like Matt will be working at the Doubletree again until he can find a teaching job. Not sure yet what I'll be doing. If anyone knows of anything, please let me know.

Last night, we went to my mom's house for a cookout and got to meet Dan's daughter, Kristen and her family. Zac and Kristen live in Utah, but they're visiting this week, and I'm so glad we'll get to hang out with them more. Their 4 kiddos (Makayla (not sure about spelling), Matthew, Nathan, and Adrienne) are so much fun, and they were having a blast with the dogs at mom's house last night. Crazy how much our family has grown in the last year!

Sorry for the lack of pictures... I'll try to add some soon of our reunions with everyone.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

First Days Home

It's a wonderful feeling to know you are loved. We were greeted at the Charleston airport with many friends and family when we arrived off of our last plane. I must say that after 4 flights and about 32 hours of travel, they were a sight for sore (and dry, red, scratchy) eyes!

The travel was great overall. From Bangkok to Tokyo to Los Angeles to Washington DC to Charleston, we had minimal turbulence, lots of sleep, and not-too-long layovers. In fact, our LAX layover was JUST enough time for us to deplane, go through immigration ad customs, recheck our bags, go through security, and get to our next plane. We were the last ones to board that plane, and it was just in time. All the other travel was seamless, and we even traveled as far as Los Angeles with another GES teacher, Tyler.

So, when we arrived at Charleston and saw Dad and Gail, Steph and Steven, Laura, Eddie and Frances, Cindy and Jerry, and baby Lilly, we were so excited! (A bit 'shiny' and smelly, I'm sure, but very thrilled to reconnect with so many great friends and family). After we got our bags (which all made it!), we headed out to the cars and met up with Adam and Valerie. Even more love! I was holding baby Lilly (4 weeks old) as we walked outside, and I said to Valerie, 'this is the REAL reason we went to Thailand', and she and Adam both believed me. Hilarious. I think they thought we adopted a baby, but Cindy and Jerry were quick to claim their beautiful daughter.

After saying goodbye to some, Steph, Steven, Val, Adam, Matt and I headed back to our temporary home. Mark was waiting for us and helped us lug in all of the baggage. We passed out gifts, told stories and caught up until about 2:30 in the morning when Adam and Valerie left. Then, Steven, Matt, Steph and I stayed up talking more until about 3:30.

7:30 came early when Matt was waking me up--excited to eat at Chick-fil-A and to go get Nala, he couldn't sleep anymore. So, we were up and waiting on someone to wake up who could drive us to get our car and our first child from Laura's house. Finally, at 9:00, Steven gave in to our 'pathetic' pleas for him to wake up and spend the day with us (which he had so sweetly taken off from work).

Our first full day back started with breakfast at Chick-fil-A which was sooooooo good. Then, we headed over to Grandma and Grandpa Powers's and hung out with them for a little while. We then drove up to Ladson and met Laura at her place, which is where we were finally reunited with our baby girl, Nala! Such a fun reunion. I think she was pretty overwhelmed at first, but she was definitely excited to see us. Took her a little while to remember us as 'mommy and daddy', but she does. (This is very good for our hearts!) Hung out with Laura, Keto and Nala at their place for awhile, then got our car and headed back West Ashley. It was so strange driving at first, Steve said I was driving like a grandma. Matt sat in the back with Nala, which didn't surprise me one bit.

We hung out at Dad's with Gail for awhile then headed to Mount Pleasant and dropped Nala off for a grooming appointment (she needed to be freshly cleaned and to have nice, short, trimmed nails to come with us to Steph and Mark's.) Then we went and saw my Mom at her office and hung out with her there for an hour or so. Then back to get a fresh and clean Nala bean and drive back to West Ashley. Drove around a little looking at houses for rent and then dropped in to visit Gary and his dog Dublin. After being there for a bit, we headed to Dad and Gail's for a great dinner with family! By 7:00, it was very tempting to fall asleep, but we were able to stay awake in a semi-social state until about 10:00 when we had made it back to Mark and Steph's and were finally able to crash.

... And yes, Nala slept with us last night. Best I've slept in months!

The Thailand Wordle

I sat down and thought about lots of words that came to mind when I thought about Thailand and then created a wordle.

Here's what I got.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Favorite Memories/Quotes from Thailand (from Matt)

Posted on by mattflagler

Lately I have been consumed of thoughts and memories of our time here in Thailand. I guess that’s normal since this is our last day here. I thought I would write a post of some of my favorite memories of Thailand and fun things I remember about my kids:

  • Elephants walking down the street.
  • Food carts everywhere.
  • Seeing movies and having to stand for the king’s anthem.
  • Thursday night poker games.
  • Eating at Sombats and Que Pasa
  • Our small group
  • Hanging out with the Seaman family, playing Settlers with them, and spending time with their kids.
  • Soi dogs
  • The Black Swan
  • Dome pretending to be a cop:
    • Dome: “Pause Mr. Matt!”
    • Me: “Pause? I think you mean freeze.”
    • Dome: “Oh yeah, freeze Mr. Matt.”
  • Web: “I want to eat Mr. Matt.” “I want to eat chew gum.”
  • Web wanting to tutor with me everyday and never wanting to leave once tutoring was over.
  • Daonua and GiGi fighting over which one loves me more and who can sit in my lap.
  • Questions the kids asked every single time we had show and tell regardless of what was being shown:
  • “How much you pay for it?”
  • “Where you buy?”
  • “What is it’s name?”
  • “Is it a boy or girl?”
  • “What color is it?”
  • Minty treats with Tiffany
  • Kids crying over the dumbest things.
  • Christmas with the Lawsons and skyping with family.
  • Chiang Mai and Krabi
  • Giant spiders, geckos, and lizards in the house.

And so many other things that it would be impossible to mention all of them. Thailand and the kids that I taught have left a lasting impression on me. I am so thankful that God gave us the opportunity to come here and have a small part in the lives of the kids that we taught.

Final Days in Thailand

Well, it just so happens that our last two final days in Thailand are major holidays. Sunday was Easter. We made it to church (a little late), then celebrated with a sorta random group of people with lunch at Paul and Joni's house.
After lunch, I really wanted to get my nails done one last time, but I couldn't find a place that was open. So, we headed back home for some packing, cleaning and CSI watching. We also napped. Matt went to a friend's to watch a movie, and I spent a significant amount of time following the protests here in Bangkok.

Monday was the beginning of Songkran, which is the Thai new year celebration. It celebrates the beginning of the rainy season by having huge water fights. As we were out and about today having lunch with the Seamans, we got to see a lot of fun Songkran activity. People have 'booths' set up with lots of water, water guns, buckets, and stashes of flour. I don't understand the flour, but they put it on each other, on cars, motorbikes, and everything, then douse that object with water... making it kind of like glue. Very interesting and fun to watch! If we hadn't been so distracted by all the last minute tasks, I would have loved to play more.

So, in between packing and cleaning today, we had lunch with the Seamans at McDonald's, then ice cream at Swensen's. So great to be able to spend more time with them... we are going to miss them so much! More packing, last minute stuff, then another visit from the Seamans who brought over a DS we had left at their house. They took some things off our hands, and we got to pray together before they left. Such sweet friends!

After more packing, we had a yummy dinner at Chris and Ro's house with the McLatchers and Tuggys. I'm also really glad we got to have some good time with them. Baby Jaya is now 7 months old, and it's crazy to think that she wasn't even born when we first got here. And Baby Joel is now 6 weeks old... his mommy was barely showing when we got here. Time flies!

After dinner, we had our check out of the house. Pretty uneventful except for the giant lizard that we found in one of the guest rooms. I have no idea how long he's been in the house. I think I've heard him the last couple of days, but this was the first time I saw it. Huge lizard!

After our successful checkout, we went to see 'Fast and the Furious 4' with Tiffany and Tyler. Nice way to pass some time.

Currently, we're watching CSI, throwing some last minute things together, and waiting until 3:30. So, in a little over 2 hours, we will haul our 5 gigantic suitcases out to the street and meet up with the other teachers who are riding with us to the airport. As far as we've heard, the protests are not affecting the roads to the airport. Thank you, Jesus!

Soon, we'll be flying out from Bangkok to Tokyo, then to Los Angeles, then to Washington DC, finally arriving in Charleston around midnight on Tuesday night. Can't wait to see some of you there!

It's in the 'Blue' Bag

A funny thing that drove my husband crazy during our recent travels is the fact that all my bags are blue.

Matt would say, 'honey, where's the ...'? And I would say, 'It's in the blue bag.' Or, I would say, "Matty, will you get me the .... from the blue bag?'

Sure, but WHICH ONE?
I learned pretty quickly to add a couple more adjectives to the description.

For example:
This is THE blue bag/purse. It's a very large purse, and I mostly use it for traveling or shopping.
This one is the blue computer bag.This one is the blue South Carolina and/or pool/beach bag. Gets a lot of use. (Thanks, Steph!)

This is the blue duffel bag. Did not go with us to Chiang Mai but did go to Krabi. (Thanks, Mom!)And this one is the toiletries bag that travels with me. (Thanks, Aunt Betsy!)I guess I like blue bags.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dear Thai Protesters...

...PLEASE do not take over the airports again. We are almost packed and ready to be home with our families.

Article I just read.

The beginning of the article:

BANGKOK – Thailand's ousted prime minister called for a revolution Sunday after rioting erupted in the capital, with protesters commandeering public buses and swarming triumphantly over military vehicles in unchecked defiance after the government declared a state of emergency.

Bands of red-shirted anti-government protesters roamed areas of Bangkok, with some furiously smashing cars carrying Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his aides and others beating up motorists who hurled insults at them.

At least 10 intersections were occupied by the protesters, who used buses to barricade several major roads, spawning massive traffic jams. Police Gen. Vichai Sangparpai said up to 30,000 demonstrators were scattered around the city.

Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, regarded by most of the protesters as their leader, called for a revolution and said he might return from overseas exile to lead it. [The potential return of Thaksin is what caused the protesters of the other group to take over the airports a few months ago.]

Farewell to Sombot's and Nee's

Sadly, Sombot's restaurant is closed for three weeks, so we won't be eating at our favorite place again before we leave. Our last time eating there was actually the day we left for Chiang Mai... though we didn't realize it at the time.

We eat an average of 4.5 meals a week at Sombot's. His wife cooks in the outdoor kitchen, rain or shine. It's mostly covered, but she's gotta get hot with two fires going... especially on the muggy days! It's the best place I've eaten Thai food. It's very affordable, and the walk is just about the right distance away from school.
It's a small place, and sometimes it's absolutely packed when we go. GES teachers probably give them most of their business, at night (as you can see in the picture below) but during lunch time, it's filled with locals. A lot of Mondays and Wednesdays, Matt and I would walk done there for lunch and end up sharing a table with a local businessman on his lunch break too.
Oh, the food was delicious, and even though I can get tired of Thai food kind of easily, I know I will miss his cashew chicken or beef, garlic chicken or beef, chicken fried rice and yellow curry. Matt will miss the chicken salads, sweet and sour pork or chicken, spaghetti with pork or chicken, and many 0f the dishes I mentioned too. Thankfully, I was able to say goodbye to my second favorite food vendor: Pee Nee. She's the lady who makes the yummy fruit drinks and cocoa cafe' yens. And I'm pretty sure I'm her most frequent customer... which is the GES Teacher award I got on the night of the farewell dinner: "Most Likely to be Pee Nee's Most Valuable Customer".
Nee is a sweet 45-year-old woman who's dating an Irish guy who lives in Iraq. She lives with her parents (who are in their 80's), at least 2 siblings, and between 4-8 neices and nephews, depending on school and work schedules. I would walk to her drink stand and her family's restaurant at least once a day... sometimes more.

It was sad saying goodbye to her. We exchanged email addresses, gave blessings to each other, took pictures together and said goodbye. I've loved getting to know her but really wish that I spoke Thai so much better so that I could communicate easily with her. Hopefully, we will keep in touch over the years. Prayerfully, there will be many more Christians who love on her and show her the way to know Jesus and the eternal life available through Him.

Full Day with (most of) the Seamans!

What a great last Saturday in Thailand! We had a great dinner with some friends from church last night at a new Thai restaurant out on the river, then came home to do some packing (not too much, mind you) and just chill. We stayed up til about 4:30 this morning. My guess is that we are trying to reduce jet lag by getting back on Eastern Standard Time while still in Thailand. Who knows.

Anyway, we got to sleep in this morning, and then we headed out (in a crazy storm) across town to the Seamans. We spent a hour or so just hanging out, watching performances by the girls, and then 'Mr. Matt' stayed with the kiddos while Kristen and I went out shopping. First we stopped by Starbucks to fuel up for the shopping. :)

We went to a new shopping place, in light of the storm. We had planned on going to Chatachuk market, which we've been to a few times before, but we didn't feel like being in an outdoor market after the crazy storm... so, we tried a new shopping venue: JJ Mall. It was nice and definitely had enough types of places to choose from. Plenty of souvenirs and things that we were looking for. Kristen got a lot of cool stuff for crafts she's working on for the kids and other neat stuff for their house and some gifts. I picked up some souvenirs that we wanted for friends and family. We really enjoyed shopping and did lots of giggling throughout the day... always good for the soul. :)

There was also one of those places where fish eat at your feet, so I did it one last time! I got 10 minutes of fish feasting on my feet for less than three bucks. And it was a fun thing to do in our last couple of days here. I enjoyed it, but I felt a little on display! Kristen didn't do it, so I was the only one in there, and lots of locals just came up at stared. I tried to interact with them a little and convince them to try it, but they just gawked. It was kinda awkward.

After the shopping trip, we headed back to their place and joined back with Matt and the kids. More performances. :) Then, we piled in the van and headed out to dinner at Que Pasa. Where else? Always a good time. Unlike Thursday night, it was packed, there was power the whole time, and we were in and out in a decent amount of time. (Thursday night dinner with the Seamans at Que Pasa was a little eventful.)

After dinner, we stopped by some of the neighborhood soi dogs and tried to pet the new puppies, but they were too shy. Headed back to the house for more performances by the girls while Jack played DS and the grown-ups looked through the awesome Adventures In blog book! (They made a book out of their blog using Blurb, and it is stinking amazing!... I'm gonna do the same thing.) Then, the family talked about some of the Resurrection Eggs, and Matt and I enjoyed listening in. What a precious, faithful family! Not too much later, the kiddos headed to bed, and we played a couple games of Cities and Knights of Catan. I won the first game, and Kristen won the second. Very fun but not quite the same without Dan.

Matt and I left around midnight and are now chilling at home. Tomorrow/today is Easter Sunday, and we look forward to worshiping at church then spending the rest of the day cleaning and packing to head home. I think we are at about 53 hours left in Thailand. Crazy!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thankful for 'Leaving Well'

God has me in a continual state of thankfulness right now. Though we are definitely sad to be leaving the people and some things in Thailand, it is a huge blessing that we are having a good transition and the opportunity to 'leave well'. I'm going to miss a lot of aspects of Thai life, but I've had time to prepare myself for those things.

I can spend time with my friends, go to my favorite places, reflect on our time here with people who have known us here. All these things are giant blessings! How do I know this?

Three years ago, when I was leaving another country, I didn't have the same opportunity. I found one of my past prayer letters that outlined the events that were consuming the time and energy of my team this time 3 years ago, when I left another country. ***
Friday, April 7th (2006), we experienced a lot of pressure from the local authorities which eventually led to us having to leave. It began with problems with our registration as a result of a law that was recently passed to intentionally target foreigners. Our passports were taken from us for a few days, during which we spent a lot of time at a local government building. We ended up paying a lot of money in fines and thought that our problems were over.

However, the day we received our passports back (Thursday, April 13th), Debbie’s English class and Jordan’s English club were visited by the police. Their students were questioned and detained, and ministry materials were confiscated from the guys’ house, where Jordan’s club was taking place. During that time, it became apparent that the city authorities wanted us out. By the end of that night
, our country director made a deal with the police, over the phone, that our team would leave the city instead of going to jail. We were told we had a week to leave.

Friday, we made a decision to stay in our city until Tuesday so that we could carry out our Easter outreach plans and have enough time to say goodbye to friends and pack (though a few days hardly seemed enough). We planned to show the Passion and the Jesus movies in a local movie theatre on Saturday and Easter Sunday to our friends who were interested. However, on Saturday (April 15th), police again showed up at the guys’ house in the morning with arrest warrants. Our country director was at their house (Praise God!) and was able to keep the police outside until all of the paperwork and everything was done legally. By the end of the day, the police left (we think because the guys' house owner paid a bribe for them to leave), and the guys were able to leave town immediately.

While the guys were stuck in their house for seven hours, Debbie and I packed (in the midst of destroying ministry materials) and hurriedly left town on our own. We all met up in the capital city late that night where we spent a few days deciding what was our best next step and waiting to see if criminal charges would be pressed against us. At the end of that time, we decided that it was best for our company and for the potential of some of us to return in the future, if we left the country as soon as possible.

So, we flew out on
Thursday, April 20th, to Paris to be debriefed by the regional part of our company and to explore other places for us to serve. Unfortunately, no other locations worked out for us, so we plan to return to America Thursday, April 27th.

It's so bittersweet to reflect back on that time. There are so many friends who I wish I could have spent time with and said goodbye to. There are many places I would have liked to visit one last time. Many things I would have packed in my suitcase had I known we were headed back to the States and not to another secure country. Mostly would have just liked to have time to spend with the people who I had grown to love.

God is so good, and the experience that we are having here is a reminder of that for me. He's giving me another opportunity to 'leave well'... something that I'm realizing is so important.