Friday, October 4, 2013

Weirdly Normal

Nong Nooch gardens

Well, it's a new service year!

For me, like so many of you, August was completely maxed out and exhausting. But then comes September. September is a beautiful month. So beautiful in fact, that I don't really have anything to say about it. Which disturbed me a little until I realized what had really happened.


It does not take long to get used to Thailand. What seems so awkward and bizarre to navigate at first, soon becomes commonplace.  Four people on a scooter worries me not. Neither do dirty little carts meandering through traffic with rows of dried squid swinging from them. Sparks shooting out of the sockets? No big deal. Cockroaches? They fear me. Or they should. But none of them ever live long enough to talk about it. So that's it. I've adjusted. It's normal. Adventure over.

Just kidding. Let's talk a minute about the driving.

If you knew me before Thailand, you knew I had a habit of comparing everything to Disneyland. Now, there is nothing  o v e r t l y  Thai about Disney. But there is one very Thai thing that Disney has put to good use in all their parks.

The driving.

You can see the safety laws are rigorous. Their families live on the job
in those metal shacks. So little kids are a regular part of construction sites. 
You know when you're on one of those funhouse rides, like Mr. Toad's for instance, and things are jumping out at you from all sides, you're dodging them erratically, lurching forward, slamming on breaks, looking like you're about to crash... Well, that's basically a trip to the grocery store here.

It occurred to me the other day as I was weaving around oblivious cars that had suddenly pulled out in front of me, that it all felt oddly familiar. And not just because it happens every day. That's when I flashed back to the hundreds or so of rides I had been on and it clicked! Someone at Disney rode a scooter in Thailand and enjoyed it so much that they decided to bring it to the masses. I'm sure of it. But you know what? The scooter is way better. As long as I don't actually end up in the hospital.

So far I am scar free and looking to keep it that way. To stay scar free, you develop this sharp sense of awareness of what's going on 360 degrees around you at all times. I like to float through life paying attention to as little as possible so this was a bit of a sacrifice for me. A necessary evil when busses, taxis, carts and maniacs can be coming at you from all sides. You just weave. And there's enough hills, valleys, speed bumps and potholes to transform any normal drive into a rollercoaster. It's like my entire life is a ride at Disney now. Except cheaper.

Can you find the sleeping man? This is his roadside hut he built in front of a nice hotel. I think he's a motorcycle taxi man. It's across the street from my Bible student and every time we come, this is what he looks like. 

This awareness is taking on a weird side effect. Because everybody is everywhere. They don't stick to lanes. They don't even stick to sides of the road. If they want to drive straight at you in a brief game of chicken, they will. There's all kinds of pedestrians and dogs in traffic as well. But I understand the pedestrians because there are no sidewalks. So they have to make their way through traffic. But all of this sharing the road makes me get confused about my identity sometime. It's happened to me several times now that when walking down the road, I decide I need to cross the street and subsequently look down to check my mirrors before I merge. And i'm thinking, where are my mirrors?? I can't see my mirrors!! I blame it on my hair for half a second until I realize... oh wait. I'm a human right now. Not a scooter. I'm a human behaving like a scooter because i'm in the middle of the street and there's cars everywhere. It's just a habit wanting to know what's happening behind and in front of me simultaneously. I'm considering inventing mirror bracelets.

The other day on a study, a Bible student was venting about the driving. This is something I can identify with. I chimed in trying to be sympathetic. In Thai I said, "YES! Every time I drive, I pray to God to give me wisdom." Which is true, this is a popular prayer with me.
However, that's not what I said. This is what I said.
"YES! Every time I drive, I pray to God to give me problems."
She looked at me strangely for a moment. Then they realized I meant banya instead of banha and we were all glad that I pray in English and not Thai. No need to get greedy asking for traffic problems. There's enough to go around.

This is my favorite Thai food, Nam Tok. It's a spicy pork salad with mint and garlic that you eat with sticky rice and vegetables. The lady I buy it from is a lady of few words. I say, "Hello!" she says, "What do you want?" But last night, she FINALLY chuckled as she handed me my beautiful bag of takeaway and said,
"You sure do like that Nam Tok there, don't cha?" Or the Thai equivalent. YEP!!
Another weird Thai custom. So when you want to say that someone is really something, you put "poop" in front of the something. What now hey? Yes, you read that right. For example, let's say you wanted to tell me I was lazy. You wouldn't just call me lazy, you would call me pooplazy. Maybe i've noticed someone is stingy. The word for stingy actually means sticky. Like the money is sticking to your hands because you have such a hard time letting go of it. But then you throw the word poop in there for good measure. So calling someone stingy is actually saying, "You're a stickypoo." I don't know why. But both of our cats were given these Thai names that mean Bossypoo and Playfulpoo. Now that I know what their names really mean, I call them the Poop Cats. It's pretty fitting actually. I don't know where this whole thing came from but it's real. It's not slang. It's just what they say. And while we're on the subject. If you're a gentleman and you want to be polite, you end all your sentences with "Crap." You can't make this stuff up!!

But things really are getting normal. I've got a job, thanks to some friends back home. I finally painted some things in my house. Paint is terribly normal for me. Several visitors have brought wine, chocolate and cheese. Those things would have made me feel normal before, but now they make me feel like a princess. Which is cool. Because at first you feel like you're holding on to your sanity by a thread, trying not to freak out about a million different things. Every day brings a new challenge. And you get into this survival mode. The heat, the bugs, the sunburns, the stomach upsets, the language, the religion...You just take it one battle at a time and muscle through. And pray and pray and pray. But then you get the hang of it. You come out of survival mode, and it's just home. It's a foreign home. It's still demanding. It's still amazing.


But you GET IT.

And sometimes, I just drive down the road smiling. Seriously. No reason. Just happy.

Well, there is a reason...
It reminds me of something that impacted me from the Bible reading.

2 Corinthians 8:9
"Though he was rich, he became poor for your sakes."

It's been said before that Jesus was the greatest Need Greater. It's true. No one has taken a dip in privilege or station like Jesus. No one has had to simplify their teaching to make it understandable like Jesus. Adjust to a new lifestyle, a new LIFEFORM. Become a baby, literally, not just metaphorically as in learning a language. And on and on. The greatest. The Master Worker becoming a poor nobody. For us. And if this is the lifestyle that the Son of God chose, it makes me feel happy that we can imitate him in our own small way just to be a part of this work that he was so passionate about. What we give up is miniscule in comparison. We're a bit poor, but only materially! So for anyone thinking about need greating, just look again at verse 10.

"YOU initiated...the wanting to do; now, then, finish up also the doing of it."

That's all! Doesn't it sound so easy? Paul is a great motivator. You can't argue with a guy that's been shipwrecked. We have to continue the pattern that's been set for us. Of courage. Of trust in Jehovah. Of love for fellow man. It's not about experience or toughness or worthiness. It's about that fantastic word in verse 12: readiness.

Are you ready?

For now, i'll leave you with some of the faces and places I love!!!

Amy and Noi,  her Bible student

Thai cultural show

Some of the animals were real at Nong Nooch.
Some weren't.


From our very own fish pond. A sister later told me I could make a sleepy time tea from this lotus. But the thought of boiling such a lovely flower wasn't too appealing. Plus, I don't really have a problem getting to sleep here...

Look at how happy we are
to be starting the new service year with croissants!

Breakfast at the nicest spot in town,  La Baguette.
So we took a lot of pictures.
Mostly because we weren't sweaty for once.