Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Some Days

Some days are unbelievable.
Around 5 this morning we found out that Cheri's mom was critically ill. Cheri, who was vacationing in Krabbi yesterday, called to let us know she was in the midst of an emergency trip back to California to see her mother before it was too late. We told her we would pack her things and meet her in Bangkok so she could avoid an unnecessary trip back to Pattaya. 
By 9 am, her mother had passed away. We spent our last few hours with Cheri in Bangkok waiting at the airport. She left this evening. I can't believe she's gone! We were already such a great little team. Her mother suffered from poor health and diabetes. She recently caught pneumonia which turned into double pneumonia. After only a day in the hospital, her organs began failing and there was not much that could be done after that. Cheri was very close to her mother and is in a state of shock and disbelief. How could something like this happen so fast?
Cut, a truly amazing Bible student in our congregation, drove us to the airport this afternoon. On the way, we stopped by our coordinator Fred's house to borrow a GPS that could reliably get us through the nightmare that is Bangkok. While his wife was offering us lunch, we heard a disturbance outside. It was their longtime neighbor who hates the witnesses. We had parked too close to his house so he sprayed Cut's car with water. The windows were down by the way. After yelling at Fred, he then starting throwing bricks at the house. Never had bricks thrown at us before. Fred wasn't too bothered by it as he has dealt with this man for years.
Seeing Cheri suffer was very hard. We had only known each other for a short while but the truth draws you together quickly. I'm glad I got to see her good example of dedication to spiritual things and fearless commitment to a new assignment for at least a few weeks. I hope I can imitate it!
On the long drive back home, we took a detour through the country to visit another Bible student. The country was so peaceful. We rolled the windows down and soaked up the clean air. It was good to just look at the scenery and have the music take care of the silence. 
We arrived at a night market in the town of Sriracha. Wait, Sriracha? The same Sriracha as... Yes, the same Sriacha that we all use on our food.  I can't believe that tonight I ended up accidentally in a town that makes a chili sauce i've eaten for years. The night market was buzzing with people. The Bible student we visited  is a 19 year old girl named Mai. Her family runs a drink stand at the night market. She was a monk in a Buddhist temple when she got the truth. A sister who was an acquaintance of hers visited her at the temple to witness to her. After only 3 studies, she recognized the ring of truth and left the temple. She said she found no happiness as a monk. But after studying the Bible Teach book, she quickly saw that this was the true path to happiness. Cut says that Mai is an inspiration to her. And both of them are to us! Mai's mother and father are now studying as well. We're planning to visit her again after our assembly.

Cut, Mai and Amy

So that was how we how we ended our day. Well, almost. When we got home, I finished working on my talk and then Amy and I researched nuclear fission. There's actually a unit that requires her to teach her students nuclear vocabulary words. They have to explain the process to her in english and she has to correct them. Of COURSE we'd have to learn how a neutron gets absorbed by a uranium-235 nucleus and produces prompt gamma rays in order to teach english. That's just logical. Though when you consider the rest of our recent events, I suppose it fits right in.

But meeting Mai was a genuinely happy end to a day otherwise filled with grief and worry. What a great many things seem to be crammed into a single day here. I won't even get into the strange fact that just last night we taught two Korean brothers who were in prison together how to swing dance. And do the cupid shuffle. We danced very silly dances with people that were imprisoned for their faith. That one still hasn't sunk in yet. But I think it's pretty amazing.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


This is Sebastian and his wife. He conducts our Watchtower in English even though they're from Sweden.
It could have been the language barrier.  Or we could blame the tile induced echos of our sound system.
But one thing's for sure, he didn't hear my name correctly when I said it. The result was, I got a new name.
Maxime. The whole meeting. I liked it. It's like my alter ego. Thanks Sebastian!

 Love, Maxime

The Non-Crisp 
This is from our pioneer meeting. We had three languages meeting at once! Then we all had coffee and dessert together. The Russians were very happy to get their meeting in their own language, since there are no meetings in Russian here. The meeting was lovely. Joe, from England, reassured us that there was no way to look "crisp" here. Just look as nice as we can. He also explained why the meetings for the Thai language class would be so early (they start at 7:30 in the morning). The classes are an hour and a half long and then we go out in service after. I asked why we couldn't do it later in the day. He said they didn't want to meet with a room full of smelly people. 

A point we really liked from the meeting was made by Glenn from Australia. He said to imagine how Jehovah feels when he looks down and sees a world full of selfish people motivated by greed. Then, he sees us, right in the middle of it, being self sacrificing and giving what little we have out of love for his name. What we do might seem small but it sticks out like a sore thumb in this world. 
Also the Bible reading this week made me think about  what happens when we put our trust in Jehovah. When Peter stepped out on the water, I usually picture him sinking and the subsequent rebuke by Jesus. But this time it struck me that he walked on water. What were fishermen more scared of than storms? The sea was a formidable enemy and he got to look it straight in face and triumph over it. He stepped out on the water and lived, without any way of knowing how it was happening. And he wasn't alone, he got to walk with God's son. He took a walk with Jesus across a raging sea. That is an unbelievably extraordinary experience. His willingness to get his feet wet led him to one of the most memorable experiences of his life and really, one of the most unique had by any human. 
So for me the lesson is, when we trust in Jehovah to support us, we will have a memorable experience. We won't know how Jehovah makes us successful, but it will be clear that he is the one doing it. We too can walk with Jesus into the most memorable experience of our lives...if we step out of the boat.

One final pic of all the pioneers! Jehovah gives us a big beautiful family. Tonight Eungin (the half of a   head to the left of mine) and Natasha (the redhead with sunglasses in the middle) came over to learn English. I gave my first lesson! We acted and sang and I tried to answer questions like, why do we say "in front of" but not "in behind of"? The answer is simple really. Because I said so. BUT WHY? Because it's english. So I need to look into to learning my own grammar while i'm here so that I can teach it online. NOT as easy as I thought. Good to practice on friends though.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Week One

I should've learned Russian.

I really like being in the english hall here because now I get to see what it must be like for the native Thai speakers to have all these foreigners trying to comment and do the ministry with them. All three halls have a generous supply of Russians, at varying levels of fluency. There are also some folks from Sweden and a German brother. Got to dust off my German tonight! I have a special fondness for that accent. My grandma's accent is German and whenever I hear it, I feel like i'm with family.

But seriously, Russian is what i'm learning here. Not as much as Thai of course, but a lot more than I thought I would. On most days, when I'm not working with one of my roommates in service, i'm working with one of the many Russian sisters in our group. We trade phrases and correct grammar in between talking to the Thai householders. I've got to be careful. I'm already getting some Thai phrases confused with Russian ones. Before I speak I have to think, wait a minute... what language is that? Not to mention, Cheri has a Spanish call and i'm about to study with a girl who has a French father so of course, we can use those languages while we're here too. Japanese would be helpful to know as well. Thankfully, good ol' English is the fallback. And I gotta say, it sure feels nice to be the expert.

I like feeling what it's like to be the native speaker because it's alleviated a lot of my fears about what the Thai people must be thinking. I love it when the brothers and sisters at least try to speak English even if they get it wrong. I don't feel bothered when they ask for help because it feels good to help them. So that will help me be less shy when it's my turn to ask for help. It's funny too how our english deteriorates as we try to communicate with others who don't speak it fluently. I wanted to say "you're kidding me" the other day but it came out "you make joke with me". Wha? Come on, english is all I got. Can't lose that too! Especially if i'm going to start teaching it :/ Amy just started teaching english online today so she's blazing the trail for me. I can start in May after the Thai class is done. Amy also told me I don't have to be able to read the language before I start the class, just know my letters. SO there's less pressure on that point.

Side note: the fried chicken here is amazing. It's a million times easier to find knock your socks off fried chicken here than it was in Seattle. It's the little fried things that count. That and the good coffee shop near our house that Cheri already sniffed out. The food is so much better here than in Costa Rica, there's just no comparison. Being here makes me appreciate what we sacrificed there! 

Also it was day one of me learning how to drive a scooter with a manual transition. Let's just say, that would never ever never happen back home. Back in the states, when someone prays at meeting that we all make it home safely, it just  feels like something nice to say. Here, it takes on a whole new meaning. Like, it might be my favorite part of the prayer.

Even though everything here is foreign, even down our simplified way of speak/acting english, Jehovah is helping me stay calm and focus on one thing at a time. It doesn't feel like a hard transition. I just wish I tried it sooner!

Now I leave you with the reader's digest condensed version of the past week. The video was too large so I had to post it on Vimeo. Click on the link below.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cold Showers

Oh yes.

The bathroom is a toilet, a sink and a shower head. That's it! You just sort of shower in the room. With cold water. It's good to know that I can survive the one thing I really didn't want to happen. The bad thing is, i'll probably stop showering. Hate. Cold. Water.

We're too busy to shower anyways! I've been here 3 days and been out in service twice. Gave my first Thai presentation today. I said hello to a cute little girl who was walking through her front yard. She paused so I went into reading my little script. Halfway through, she just turned and walked away. That bad, huh? She wasn't going to get away that easily. I kept calling out hello until she nervously popped her head out of the house again. I made her suffer through the whole thing this time. She looked very puzzled until I got to the part about "this is for you" and then she smiled and took the tract. Did I feel like a success? Why yes I did.

Amy and I had a couple of good conversations after that. I got my first hug from a total stranger. What's nice is many people know at least a few words of English which makes me relax a bit when talking to them. But i'm getting very comfortable with shrugging my shoulders, smiling and saying "I don't know!" Oddly enough, they keep talking. I like these friendly people.

We inherited two little fish ponds with our house. They're in awful shape so i'm trying to learn how to take care of them so the fish can live. Don't know anything about freshwater pond care soooooo we'll see.

I found out I have two weeks to learn how to read Thai! The Thai class starts in February and they expect you to be able to read before then. Oops. Thankfully, Amy has children's workbooks, you know, the kind you had in kindergarden. I trace the nice big letters and say the sounds they make in my big girl voice. That is, I do it when i'm not screaming down the streets on the back of a scooter. Or trying some new Thai dish i've never heard of. Or trying desperately to communicate with someone whos native language is  Thai, Japanese, Russian, Korean or sign language. 

We study alot. I could describe it more, but that's the main point. 

Another great thing: i've already made smoke come out of an outlet! Or, my blowdryer did. Good, got that out of the way. Dad, thank you for the adapters. You saved my hair. 

My roommates are fun, brave, spiritually focused girls. It might be a small simple home but it's a very healthy spiritual environment. We're enjoying getting to know each other and supporting each other in the ministry. Jehovah answered all of our prayers!

Oh, and i'm sure you'd like to know that the weather here is perfect. 

Next time i'll post pictures!