Friday, May 10, 2013

May 10th, 2556

No I haven't started writing sci-fi.
That is today's date. Yes, somehow Thailand has decided it is 543 years ahead of the rest of the world. So, hello from the future.

My computer is still broken in the future. It's now on its way back to Seattle to see if anyone can fix it there. I'm kinda jealous. My computer gets to visit home, but I don't.

So much to catch up on!

First, the zone visit.
GREAT talk by Robert Hart from the Kenya Branch. He told us to know where we are headed. He said the only reason we try to get the latest is to make other people recognize that we are at their level or higher. Ouch. Beyond the basic necessity, everything else is for the ego. Christians can't afford to fall into this trap. Living a simple life will not impress anyone. No humans anyway.
It was very nice getting to see brother Pierce. He told the audience that he wanted to speak Thai so he could get to know everyone. He said he could smile in many languages though. He gave the same outline as he did for the Zone Visit in the states. After the program they had a chorus perform 3 songs. They did amazing. Then they had a few children onstage to sing Listen, Obey and Be Blessed. If that wasn't cute enough, the kid behind me was singing along from memory.
Getting to the Zone Visit involved a two hour bus ride, a sky train and a 45 minute water taxi. Oh the water taxi. Imagine a stretch rowboat that's about 50 years old crammed with about 75 people. The engine is deafening and the boat is groaning. You're in a narrow canal that is dark and filled with floating trash. Many parts of the walkways on either side are actually collapsing into the water. And beyond the disintegrating walkways are equally disintegrating houses with people going about their daily lives. You get a feel for how poor they are. People tell you to keep your mouth closed when you ride a water taxi. Things like that make me wish I was blissfully ignornant of the world of germs. Science and imagination are a bad combination on water taxis.

Saw them on the way to a call. Had to stop.
Song Kran

The water festival. I have video to give you an idea of what it's like, but without the computer, i'm stuck. So those will have to come later. But basically during the week of Song Kran, if you go outside, you will be wet. And for some people, if you go outside you will be dead. 400 people died this year during the festival due to all the drinking and driving. People will throw a bucket of water on a motorcycle driving by or hose them down. Sometimes they even rub powder on you and your face. Makes driving a little dangerous even without the alcohol. Most of the brothers and sisters stock up their homes and hibernate for the festival. Especially the last day, which is the craziest. On meeting night, I had been wet all day in service, and had gone home to get clean and dry for meeting. I left the house, got completely doused and went to meeting. I was a householder. That's another first: being wet on the stage. This whole festival started out because Buddhist monks would sprinkle people with water once a year in forgiveness of sins. How it got from that to this insanity, I don't know.

Meanwhile, on an island off the coast of Thailand...
We camped on a beach. A small group from our hall stayed in two teeny tiny cabins and the rest of us had tents. We had the beach all to ourselves. Except we shared it.
With the rain.
And the bugs.
I can honestly say I liked swimming in the rain because it was so warm. The rain made the normally clear water murky and as a result, I had my first encounter with a squid who inked me. But if it hadn't rained, the heat wouldve been unbearable.
I think the best part was seeing two of our elders totally relaxed. Weemon spent all of his time fishing, hunting and gathering any living thing he could possibly get his hands on. That included grasshoppers, frogs, fish and crabs. Whatever did not escape his grasp met with one of two fates: the grill or being used to scare women. It was easy to picture him as a 6 year old.

Joe, an elder in sign language, spent his time splashing, yelling and playing games where you got to bonk someone on the head with a toy mallet.
Then there was the food. Weemon's wife Sillypan did all the cooking! The eating would've been my favorite part too, if it wasn't for the flying ants. Apparently people eat them here because theyre good fried. Well, what isn't? If you were looking ro eat some flying ants then our camping trip would've been manna from heaven for you. Not only were they swarming in the air, they were landing simultaneously on a person's arms, legs, neck and hair, covering the table and drowning in your soup. Like six at a time. You would get your soup cleaned out, take a bite, then it's full of bugs again. I was about to lose it. I think I did lose it actually. Amy was a trooper though. We ended up having to eat in the dark because they're attracted to light.

Weemon's grill victims.
Amy, Natasha and I tried to walk to a waterfall but it was flooded. Then we watched up close as a fisherman pulled in his net and started to remove the random sea life from it, including a fully puffed puffer fish.

View from the tent where I was hiding out.
One of the better parts of the trip was that Weera, a deaf Bible student, came and got to spend time with everyone. He swam and hunted with Weemon and we all played games that you didn't have to be hearing to understand. The Russians taught us some new ones i'll have to bring back with me. But if you're deaf here, you can be very isolated so we were glad he got to be part of the group.
But dad, I gotta be honest. I missed Mountain House!!

Identity crisis.
It was a small miracle. I had finished my first letter in Thai. I was so happy with it that I promptly brought it in service to get it proofread. Also I wanted to show them that i'm doing something, even if it's not always readily apparent. So I hand it to the sister and right away she starts shaking her head. I had checked the letter myself already and didn't think it was t h a t bad. She points to the first sentence as the source of the trouble. This is what it says:
My name is Lexi. I am Jehovah.
I had left out that crucial word which keeps it from being blasphemy. Oops. Well the brothers had a good laugh about that one and pretended to be scared of me. Go right ahead guys, i'm starting to be scared of myself.

My name in Thai is เลกฃี่.

Let me break it down for you.
That first skinny symbol is a vowel that makes an 'ay' sound. Most Thai vowels are put before the consonant even though the sound they make comes after the consonant. But some aren't. You just have to memorize which! The second letter is an L. The word for monkey in Thai is ling and if you look real close, the letter L kind of resembles a monkey with its tail above its head.

Next is a G. What, there's no G in Lexi you say? Correct. But they have no X. And the letter that normally is G becomes a K when it's not the first letter of the word. Also the word for chicken is gai. Notice that the letter G kinda looks like a chicken head??
Then the weird one on the end is one of the many S's in Thai. There are 4 S's in the alphabet. I'm not sure how they knew to pick this one for my name. It is topped by an E (yes some vowels go over or under the consonants as well) and a tone marker to accentuate the second syllable.
Americans usually accentuate the first syllable, but Thai people usually accentuate the second. So you don't say LEX-i here, you say lex-EE. It's like seeing ALGSE and pronouncing it Lexi. Ok and this is not even a crazy word. It's pretty normal as far as spelling rules go.

And that is the joy of reading.

I was thinking about how to explain how important the tones are and I decided it's like taking the words of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and putting them to the tune of Happy Birthday. Try it. It's terrible. Very confusing for the gray matter. And if someone asked you which song it was, what would you say? Twinkle Twinkle or Happy Birthday? It would be difficult to decide. That's a taste of what Thai people are going through every day as I say words in the wrong tone.
Hang in there Thai people, i'm trying!!

Frank and Lilly
Look at that smile!
Toured Bethel in Bangkok! They remodeled for the Zone Visit with an empahsis on the history of the truth in Thailand. They did a marvelous job.  I never get tired of seeing slides from the Photo Drama of Creation. There was a story I liked from a brother who was involved with the presentations of the Drama. One evening, so many people came to see it that they couldn't hand out pamphlets fast enough. So they threw them in the air and not one of them hit the ground. I wanna try that.

There are about 60 at this branch and they are focused on translating as Japan now does the priniting for them. There is also an A/V department for the deaf. There was plenty of memorablia to look at. My favorite were the personal journals of  Frank Dewar (we read about him and his son in the last yearbook). His love of truth shone off the page. Tough too. He walked from Bangkok to Myanmar. I was dreading taking a bus!! He even collected grain and made his own bread based off a recipe from a 1925 issue of the Golden Age. He finished his earthly course in 1997.

I've been to 5 Bethels now and even though they're in very different environments made up of very different people, they all feel oddly familiar. I think that's because Jehovah has seen to it that we acquire the qualities he loves. It is those personality traits that make us resemble one another no matter who we are or where we're from. We were greeted by kind, humble people who were dressed simply and modestly. There were smiles and laughter. And there was brotherhood. There's no better word for it. Bethel's a good place to be.

Our very international tour group in Bethel's backyard.

Oh yeah, they gave us popsicles too.


The Portlandians
Meet the Hollmans.

Shawn handles about 25-75% of the parts at every English meeting due to lack of appointed native English speakers. We just started having full meetings again on Thursday night. Shawn handled the entire service meeting. Before coming to Thailand, they were in the Russian group in Portland for 3 years. But that was 5 years ago, Zina likes to remind me. I don't care, you still speak a million more times Russki than I do. Which helps out a lot in our particular congregation. Zina also shares my love of certain musicals that contain Howard Keel and Shawn is hilarious so they keep me entertained. And their car that breaks down every 5 minutes keeps them entertained.
Needless to say, I love having them here!

Shawn hamming it up in the recording booth.

Meet the Gansens.

This is pretty much how they are all the time.
One of our ex-convict elders... but we won't go into that :) Han and Ina are from the Netherlands. After learning the truth, they wanted to do more so in 1969 they moved to Bramstead, Germany to help a small congregation. They stayed there till 1993! When they first arrived, there were only 19 publishers and they met in a chicken house. I can't even imagine. BUT! They grew so much that they soon built a new Kingdom Hall. Then they had to build another, and another to accomodate all the growth. Now there are two congregations of more than 100 publishers each. Must have felt very productive to be part of all that. Next, they served in Kenya for a short time, but the health dangers were too much for them so now they come here! Shawn interviewed them on the meeting this week and I hope the picture slightly conveys how adorable they are. Also, they remind me of the old couple from The Princess Bride. They really do. I can't help it. Love em!!

Coming home one night as usual, Amy unlocked the door and stepped inside the darkened house. I was still fiddling with the endless bungee cords that keep my belongings from escaping in transit. The light flipped on.
Somebody tried to murder Amy.

Or so it would seem from the bone chilling screams that eminated from the tiny house.
Screams is correct, they were plural.

"What is it?" I ask tentatively.
"Uuuuuuuuugh, come in here and see for yourself!!"
I thought about it. "Um, no I don't want to."
By now a small crowd of neighbors had gathered to see who killed Amy.
"Get in here! Look at it!!" She says.
I was expecting a boa constrictor to be hanging from the ceiling. Maybe with her arm in his mouth. But no, it is a lizard. Barely. To be fair, he is larger than any other lizard I have seen in our house. I waved a particularly worried neighbor to come see for herself what was the trouble. She laughed and told the others how crazy we were, probably. But the lizard had to go. Still giggling, two of the guys came in. In about 45 seconds (more than enough time for Amy and I to leap on the couches) they had the intruder in hand.
That was days ago and whenever our neighbor sees us, he still smiles.


Thank you, lizard king.

And Hello to my lovely oma Christa and grandma Marty! Thinking of you...