Friday, July 12, 2013



My first part in Thai! Happy 6 month anniversary!!

They asked a sister in Bangkok who has been here about a month to do this interview in Thai.
So... it could be worse!

I promise it was slightly louder in real life.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Beware the Curse

I almost don't believe my calendar. In the last 5 weeks we have had a Thai Circuit Assembly, an English Special Assembly Day, an English Circuit Overseer's visit AND a Thai Circuit Overseer's visit. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to fit a District Convention in there as well. So there's room for improvement. Maybe next year.

It's also coming up on the 6th month anniversary of my arrival in Thailand. Seriously?! Feels like half that. But for some people, it feels like twice that because a sister asked me the other day if i'd been here for a year. Is that a good sign?  From the looks of my calendar, I'll be celebrating my anniversary with a Bible study.

How's the language coming? Well, i'll try to re-enact a recent conversation between Yumiko (a Japanese sister) and myself. She speaks mostly Thai to me, only using limited English as a last resort. It actually helps me a lot. Usually.

We were at meeting and she apologized for not going on return visits with me the day before as she was under the weather. I asked what had been wrong with her.
She said, "Detox."
"Detox?" says I. "What kind of detox?"
At this point she holds her fingers up to her head to represent a bull's horns and says the Thai word for buffalo. This is not normally the first thing you'd expect someone to say when describing a health procedure. Then she further confounds by reaching over and repeatedly stroking my arm while making a pained face and saying the Thai word for pain.
"You got massaged with a buffalo horn?"
"No, no, no" she says, as if that were ridiculous.
"Fever!" she says in English, then re-inacts the horn, the stroking and the pained face.
My mind was straining. She got scratched by a buffalo? The buffalo gave her blood poisoning? Are buffalos that dirty? How did she get away? How do you detox from buffalo disease? Who even does that? With so many questions, it was hard to settle on just one. I finally decided on:
"You got scratched by a buffalo and it gave you a fever so you needed a detox?"
She thought about it.
We stared at each other with deeply furrowed and puzzled brows. Then came the smile of defeat. As I walked away I wondered how a busy little Japanese sister had found the time to get on the bad side of a bitter buffalo.
Later on, another Japanese sister explained to me that she, in actuality, had simply gotten an incredibly painful deep tissue massage with yes, a buffalo horn of all things, and was now all bruised up and healthy.
Wait a minute. I said that already...
OK so maybe that was in no way an answer to how well my Thai is coming along and maybe that was entirely on purpose but it does give you an idea of some of the little language battles we fight on a daily basis.

Which brings me to the curse.


Language as we know it is not a gift from Jehovah. It is literally a curse and there are 6,700 varieties of it. That doesn't even touch the varieties of ways we speak the same language. Think how many accents there are among native English speakers alone.  And how many of us think our version is just a little bit better than someone else's from the north, the south, this country or that country? How I speak has been made fun of. I've probably returned the favor. But there really is no need to compare. We're just functioning under a curse. Also makes language slightly difficult to learn too, from what I hear. Just a little point that made me feel whole heaps better during the Circuit Overseers visit this week.

And now I give you: Egor!

Shawn interviewed him for our local needs. OK so for starters, where Egor is from, our magazines are a little bit naked. That is, they don't have titles on them because they have been labeled extremist. So is the Bible Teach book. At our congregation, we have both versions of the magazines in his language. I had never seen this before. I was going through magazines the other day stocking up for service and saw the naked ones and had to stare at it a minute, asking myself: What am I looking at?  Also they have no service meetings and can only work together in groups of one or two.

Yet here we sit in freedom, handing out literature with bold face titles as we please, literally parading down the street telling everyone we meet just exactly who and we are. What a difference.

Witness Parade
Egor and his wife, Svieta, have also served in equally difficult countries close to home. But Egor wasn't always a fearless preacher. As a young man, though acquainted with the truth, it was not in his heart. He found himself heavily involved in smoking, narcotics and criminal activity. He ended up in jail. In jail he realized he needed Jehovah. When he got out of jail, his parents took him home, cooked him a big meal and welcomed him with love. This response apparently was just what Egor needed. He had to immediately lock himself in a bathroom so that he could cry.

The following transition was not easy and his parents had to keep him under constant supervision for a time so he couldn't return to his old lifestyle. After a while, he improved and began to take the truth seriously.

He also started a company that grew to be quite successful. Soon he saw that his business was taking over his life, distracting him during meetings and stealing time away from other spiritual activities. So he sold his business.
Egor's story encourages me because I think it would be comforting for the parents who are watching helplessly as their children make unwise choices right now. Egor is an example that things can get better. Much, much better. He is now serving in Thailand with his beautiful wife and son.
And his parents.

One more cool brother.

Brother Geitler. He told us his story at the assembly. Originally from the states, he and his wife have been here for six months. Came straight from the Dominican Republic where they have been serving for the last 7 years in Spanish. He is 69 years old, has 8 children and is fighting cancer. So why is he pioneering in Thailand "learning a brand new language that looks like noodles"? Because he wants to. They're not rushed. They know it takes at least a year to get into the swing of a new land. They're just not interested in retiring from need greater work. And I thought that was pretty awesome. Old or young, doesn't matter. You can do it.

Also had a moment at meeting the other day that got me a little choked up.

No it wasn't remembering what guacamole tasted like, thanks for reminding me.
It was the realisation that a pretty old dream was finally coming true. The one that was born sometime while watching the To the Ends of the Earth video. I was a kid and being a missionary sounded amazing although it ranked up there somewhere next to space explorer in terms of possibility. Still, I didn't doubt that I would get there somehow.
Then the teenage years came, where I started to doubt myself and what I could really do with my life. So I slowly downgraded my goals. Eventually, I woke up one day in my mid twenties and realised that I now had literally no goals left because I genuinely believed I couldn't do what I really wanted to do on my own!! Yes I know single sisters have been taking on foreign countries for decades, but I never saw myself as one of them.  So, I began the climb back up. A few years and wrong turns later, this resulted in a plane ticket to Thailand.

Most of the houses in our territory are pretty normal, but then again stuff
like this isn't really out of the ordinary either.
To get here, I had to put my nose to the grind, get focused on a schedule, a budget, a language, a balance. All of these being very much details in the here and now. I had to take things one day at a time. Life was a rush and a blur but sometime last week the dust cleared.  I saw for the first time where I was.
I was getting to be my version of a missionary!
Ok, Thailand is no where near the most difficult place to live in. It's actually pretty nice. But that's beside the point. The POINT is, even though I had stopped consciously working for that goal ages ago, somehow I had gotten back to it.  Living on the other side of the world, battling bugs, ignorance and a general lack of comfort to preach to people who have never even gotten the faintest whiff of Jehovah's name before... Fantastic.

Of course it wasn't exactly as I had initially imagined, but enough. That's when I got a little teary eyed. It was like connecting with a younger, less jaded version of myself. And I wish we hadn't been parted so long.
I still don't think I had what it takes to do something like this, but Jehovah filled in the gaps. And i'm so happy he did!

And now it's time for an elephant break.

You can't tell but she's about to take that and beat herself with it. Yep, gonna start to bang it against her legs and even smack herself in the forehead. The elephant, not Amy. Why? To break it into smaller pieces?? Not sure.
But it IS distracting.

Inhaling bananas. And rewarding me by blowing their nose on my dress. True story.

Found out about another Thai Buddhist tradition that just defies explanation. This is the annual trip that buckets and buckets of sand make to the temple. Why bring sand to the temple? It's because you've been coming all year and slowly stealing the sand away on the bottoms of your shoes, you scoundrel. So bring it back! And while you're at it, build it into a pagoda. And then we'll have a competition for who did the best one. And... let's say it's for the ancestors. 

The Water Cycle

Water was distinctly easier to drink back home. I walked to the fridge, held my glass to the dispenser and got cold filtered water. Getting drinking water is a little different here. (I should point out, the tap water is fine. It won't make you sick. But it won't exactly put a smile on your face either.)

The Cycle: On days undisclosed to us, a beat up old red pickup chugs up our street far too early in the morning for us to be prepared for his arrival. We have, as a result, missed his brief and silent visits on many occasions. Nonetheless, he is our water man and we persevere. When we do manage to stumble out of the house, incoherent and slightly frightening to look at, we hand him the equivalent of about 40 cents and he gives us the Big Bottle.
But it's absolutely impractical to pour into the Big Bottle into anything smaller than a tub. So we transition the contents of the Big Bottle into the Sort-of Big Bottle. Safely in its new home (assuming  it's not all over the floor), the water is now manageable but disgustingly lukewarm. Put it in the fridge you say? No can do. The Sort-of Big Bottle is still too big for the Decidedly Small Fridge, so the water makes yet another transfer. Now it can be chilled and do its job in rescuing us from the ever present threat of dehydration and delirium. But on some days we literally have to pour the water 3 times just to get something to drink.

And that's just silly.

This is the end and subsequently the part where I talk about the need in Thailand! There are 74 million people in Thailand and less than 4,000 publishers. There are 60 missionaries here and they're sending two more missionary couples this month! Our Circuit Overseer is actually a Gilead graduate. Our District Overseer soon will be. The need is pretty well established and the work is speeding up in a number of languages, not just Thai. So I guess what i'm saying is, the branch is just a letter away. And if you ask, they might just say:

Mangosteen, a delightful little fruit.

Sala, a not delightful one. 

Rainy season, it does things to people.
Actually it's pretty nice. It's like someone turned on the AC outside.

Kay y'all. Take care.