Take from this world. There is so much that it offers you.
Learn from others. Sit at the feet of the wise. Learn their ways.
Humble yourself to God's direction and wisdom.
Be willing. Give back. Love.
These are my goals.
Join us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Little Things.

It was a long day. It's been continually raining the last few days here. Everything is soaking wet and it's not easy to dry clothes in the humidity. Life is great.

I have gone to a local migrant (Burmese) school these last two mornings to help teach English class for one hour. We are talking about healthy living and it's sad to see so many foods of affluence such as KFC and GMO products pollute their world. They are becoming more comfortable asking questions and speaking English with me. At first they felt embarrassed, as any high schooler does in a second-language course.

Yesterday afternoon, we found some bamboo. It was a short hike through the trees on small paths next to rice fields. We are going to use the bamboo to make a garden fence. It was fun chopping down tall shoots. Side note, lots of angry ants with pointy abdomens and sharp jaws fell on me. Their bits still hurt. As we were cutting the bamboo into shorter pieces I was thinking, how are going to split this. But this whole thing wasn't new to them. They placed the knife on the end of the bamboo and hit the back side of the knife into the end with another price of bamboo. Often it's better to watch and learn.

Today at the clinic I was in Adult Medical In-Patient Ward. It was interesting. Lungs sound terrible when there's something wrong. And I am very thankful for vaccines.

I love maps. Not Google maps. I love maps that I can touch and write on and unfold and fold and that take up the whole table and I can dream with. I bought the kids at Agape two maps today; one of southeast Asia and one of the world. We put them up in their meeting hall as they were finishing their homework. Today in school, some of them learned a bit about their neighboring countries. And now they have a map to see them. While looking at the world map, Myo Aung Oo told me, "I always wondered what the rest of the world looked like. I didn't know where all these places are but now I do!" Vision and potential should go hand-in-hand. Here, it seems vision is large and potential is suffocated by proud governments and greedy people. There is hope though. And for right now, we start with the little things.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


The other evening while I was at Agape Orphanage, a few people from a church close by came and sang songs with all the kids and told a story from the Bible. Myo Aung Oo, one of the boys pictured on the right (below), was playing his air guitar like nobodies business. Afterwords I asked him if he had a guitar. He said they did but it was broken. He started to explain but couldn't find the words in English so he said, "I will show you." We went to his/their room/hall and he grabbed the guitar. It was missing the D string and the tuning peg for the D string. I asked if they had the peg and someone popped up with it. So we needed screws and new strings. Let's do this. I told the boys I would do my best to fix it. Today my friend and I headed out on bicycles to the orphanage. It's about 24 minutes from my house. En route to Agape, we checked a hardware store and they directed me to Tesco Locus Extra. It's a huge store that is basically the Walmart of Thailand. By the way, for all the Washingtonians out there, here's to us.

On the lower level they have a cinema, KFC, a bank, more fancy restaurants, and among other things a guitar shop. It's a stark contrast to what is in a 10 kilometer radius to the store. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, refugees, orphans, the Thai-Burmese boarder.

They had what we needed and the guy even let me barrow his precision screwdriver for the afternoon. We arrived just as they were finishing up some soccer and were starting to eat lunch. When they were done, we screwed the tuning peg on and then put all new strings on. Ahh yes. Stoked. I tuned it up and strummed a few chords. I handed it over to Salomon and he played a few chords. We encouraged them to sing something but Solomon was maybe a bit shy and handed it back to me. I played one song and then gave it back him. We encouraged again and believe me they wanted to. They started out with a song in Burmese which and then kept it going with some mixed language songs, Christian and other wise. They played and sung maybe eight or nine songs and each one very passionate and from deep souls.

We moved to the garden project and started pulling up plastic bags and so on. A few days before, the kids worked together to clear and clean up one large area and one small area for gardens. The larger area looked ideal but once we started turning over the dirt, we found plastic bags everywhere among other bits of trash. We even found a few Lego peices. Once we started pulling the trash out it didn't smell very good so we decided to wait a year or so to plant that one. We moved up to the smaller spot. It's more flat there and definitely less trash buried. Using the hoes, the older boys over turned the dirt while the younger ones pulled out bits of trash here and there. It looks really nice now. It does need a fence though to keep the dogs and chickens out. Bamboo might work if we can find some. Maybe that will happen tomorrow or the next day. One day at a time.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The situation.

(a picture by a child from one of the refugee camps)

Hi friends,
First of all, I hit my head on the end of a 2x4 in a restaurant. It's healing nicely. No stitches. A nice French doctor told me it would be fine, and I'm fine with that. Here's a picture.

Huh. Well, there it is. On to more important things.

I arrived in Mae Sot on Friday morning by way of a night bus from Sing Buri. The bus was fancy with reclining seats and lots of leg room. It was also freezing cold. And they played a Chinese King Kong movie translated into Thai. So when we got to Mae Sot, I slept all morning. I am staying at a hostel instead of with a host family like I thought. The hostel is owned by a family though, so I still have some connection with local Thai people at home.
I've been here,

at the clinic, for the last few days with a medic, mostly observing. This is the adult out-patient ward. It is run by about 10 medics. Patients come with complaints from fatigue and dizziness to fever and caugh to numbness in the arms and legs. This afternoon, through the medic as an translator, I was able to ask questions and write up several patients assessments which includes a chief complaint, patient history, hands on assesment and vital signs. Then diagnose the patient and prescribe treatment. It was a little scary. I felt under qualified in a way but the medic was right there to make sure everything was covered.

(To clarify: Burma and Myanmar are interchangeable and Karen is a tribe/ethnic group of the Burmese.)

The people who come to the clinic are primarily Burmese and Karen, a tribe on the border between Thailand and Myanmar here close to Mae Sot. The medics are mostly Burmese and speak Burmese, Karen, some Thai and some English. The patients communicate in either Burmese or Karen and the assesment is write in English by the medics. The situation with immigrants and refugees coming to Thailand from Myanmar is a huge issue that has been going on for over ten years. Please research it more. The patients I spoke with today work in the clothing factory here in Mae Sot. Their hours in one day are 8-12, 1-5, and 6-12 midnight, 7 days a week. So yes, they get two 1 hour breaks a day. That's enough, right. Their chief complaints were "dizziness" and "tiredness". It's common. When I looked into the eyes of a 25 year old woman who is married with thankfully no children and think she works 16 days, 7 days a week and she managed to take today off to come to the clinic, is there not more we can do?
Get out of that situation. Get an education. Find another job. Something. The horrible thing about this situation is that it's not that easy. Burmese migrants don't have access to the Thai healthcare system, and can be exploited for work because they have very limited options with very limited resources. Again, if you have any interest in this, start with Google and find out more information about it. It's bad. I don't really know all the details. I've only picked up a bit here and there from ex pats who work for organization helping these people get funding for major surgeries etc and students doing research in the area for the summer.
So here I am. What can I do. Smile. Give sincere advice about healthy living. That only goes so far.

These are the kids at Agape Orphanage. They are not all orphans. In fact, only a few of them actually have no family. Most of them have at least cousins or even siblings or parents. They too are Burmese or Karen. After the clinic around 4:00pm, I ride my bike about 20 minutes on good roads. It's just before a check point into Burma where I turn off to the orphanage. The kids get out of school about that time so it works nicely.
Here is a map to show how close it is to the river border.

The last few days I have spent with them speaking English. We work on pronounciation. Most kids are taught English in school so they can read and write fairly well, however, speaking it is something they just don't do with each other. We wrote out different questions and answers and practiced speaking them today. I encouraged them to when I left to work on them with each other. Tomorrow will tell. But for today, I noticed improvement from yesterday and even just the the hours we spent together they improved. It's exciting. And it's not just about learning English. It's about connecting and growing. Maybe we take those things for granted. Being from an affluent nation, we have the opportunity to connect and grow so often. Do we take those opportunities though? Growing hurts. Connecting is hard.

These little kittens are running around the house I'm staying next to. They're cute. It's now 1:47 am. I barely feel tired. Tomorrow will prove I am though, so I must sleep.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


We're riding in the back of a truck taxi right now on our way to a hospital about 35 minutes from Sing Buri. The bumps in the road translate well to the truck and my bottom. There is a little rain and the skies are closed with a sheet of cloud cover. It's peaceful. We're in the present. Earlier today we visited the Buddist temple in Sing Buri. It is full of statues of Buddha and pictures of monks from the past. We placed incense and lit a candle and placed a gold leaf on a reclining Buddha.

This morning at 6am we joined some locals to give cooked rice and package (ours was with canned fish and a juice box) to the monks as they passed by. Each of us respectfully bowed before placing the rice in the their bowls. After collecting the food, they eat what they need for that day of the perishable items and then give the rest to the poor.
While walking through the temple we came to the large reclining Buddha. When we got to the head there was a spot to kneel and bow. I chose not to. P'Ao, one of the coordinators, asked me why I didn't kneel and bow. She said, "Is it against your religion?"

The night before while eating in town, someone asked the core beliefs of a Seventh-Day Adventist. I explained healthy life style, death as a sleep, salvation through Jesus' death and life, living with love towards other (God's charactor as Jesus lived), and heaven, "hell" as separation from God, and the new earth. There are several world regions represented in our group. It was refreshing to share Christianity as a simple way of life rather than a complicated religion. Talking with others there, we shared several core principles.

When P'Ao asked me if it was because of my religion, I hesitated, and said, "Kind of, it's because it's not living." I explained that for the monks and to her and other people I have deep respect. And in the Thai culture, we will show that by bowing. Also that I didn't mean any disrespect to her or anyone else. But to an image that is not alive, I will not bow. She understood. And she said, "That is good that you do what you believe. Some people come here and just do everything because it is what we do but you should do how you believe." 

Last night P'Mick was leaning against the doorway and I joined him. He was eating the rambutan fruit that looks like a leche. We starting chatting a bit. I asked him about his family and his place here where we are staying. I noticed the meat of a rambutan fruit sitting next to a pillar. Ants had found it and were crowding around, making a line up the pilar to somewhere and nowhere. I was surprised and said something like, "Oh, no, you'll attract the ants." He said, "The ants have to eat too." And laughed. He had placed it there to feed the ants. I asked him if he killed the ants ever. Or mosquitoes. What about malaria? He said no and you just blow them off your arm and it's bad luck then, or wear long sleaves. No killing. One of his five principles he lives by. He explained to me that as a Buddist he lives in the now. The present. The past is past and unchangable and the future has not happened yet so why worry about it. The only thing we can do is be in the now. This morning the fruit had ants covering it entirely and when we left this afternoon on the truck, we could see the seed showing through.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Just Inside Thailand.

(Screenshot from a video in Sing Buri.)

From Hong Kong, I flew to Bangkok, Thailand. I was met at the airport and road in a taxi to a hostel in the heart of Bangkok. It is a busy city. We passed many temples on the way. Gold and deep red color with fancy designs. I don't have any pictures of them or Bangkok. I guess I was just taking it all in... Through my eyes. I took a couple videos of that evening though. There are eight of us here from the States. The six are from Maryland, one from Arizona, and then me from Washington (State). I had to clear that up.

We went to dinner on the main tourist street where everyone was getting a massage and solicited to buy souvenirs. Dinner was good. Different from Thai food in back home. We kind of think of curries but there was a good variety of food.

(Learning our names in Thai.)

We spent one night in Bangkok and then traveled to Sing Buri where we are at right now. The idea is to get us accustom to the culture for when we go to stay in local homes. We are staying in a house together learning some Thai and eating good food made by P'Ao and P'Mik. Solid leaders. They are very kind and patient and helpful and have a good sense of humor.

We'll be traveling to our sites on Thursday.

We had a quick rain the other day. It came down and we went outside and took showers. It was warm and refreshing.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hong Kong Day Two.

Let's start with breakfast.
We found a place the served traditional HK/Chinese food. We had grilled green beans, fried rice, and a couple vegetable/ tofu dishes. We ate with chop sticks. All those opportunities state side to practice and I used the fork. It was a good meal. Filling and lasted us, now that I think about it, all day!

We started out toward Dragon's back, a hike that was recommended my a few friends. The Metro put us out onto the street as we follow the super helpful instructions of a blog found by Em M. At a left turn, almost before we could check the map, a man walked up and said,
"Where you going? Where you going?"
He was onto us. We gathered this hike was pretty popular as he told about 12 times how to get there. We took a left and headed up the hill towards the cemetery.

We climbed the steps through the middle and met Channing, an Engineer interning in the area for a few months. We stuck together the rest of the day.

We kept climbing up until we came to cross roads and took a right heading South-ish on a paved path. The path wrapped around the hill as it offered a few views of the city and bay below.

The path eventually turned to dirt as we were partially covered by a small canopy. There were also flowing streams and dried creek beds along the way.

The path kept a large curl as we finished up the tail and emerged onto the lower back of the dragon.

We gradually made our way up the back and to the crest where the path opened up revealing green hill sides scaling to beach and ocean.

We decend the right of the neck to Shek O Road where we caught a bus down to the beach.

We were sweating so so much. I felt like the water was coming out of my skin as fast as I was drinking it. It's a good feeling I guess but we were very ready to get in the water.

It was a little colder than we had thought and the clouds had covered a little more than usual so I wasn't ready to go all in. Never the less, it was refreshing. The locals were catching little fish and putting them in a water bottle to eat later. They were using little toy nets and mostly the kids were doing it but we tried using our hands and actually caught a few. The ocean was pretty dirty. There was lots of trash floating and the water was a light brown color. Still refreshing though!

We showered off and started the bus ride back to Hong Kong. We had planned to eat out at Adam's favorite Indian restaurant that evening and we were so ready for it. Adam ordered several dishes that we all shared and honestly it was so good and I was so hungry I remember much about the dishes. The first one was a crispy shell wrapped around a bit of curry in the middle. And the rest was just super tasty.

We parted ways with Channing (to randomly see him again 20 mins later at a Metro stop) and headed to the the base of Victoria Peak.

Tourist for days. This was the spot to be apparently. We lined up and actually got a great seat right next to window. The mountain is steep and I was told it gets up to a 45 degree angle at one point.

We got off in a bustle of people and found our way to the observation deck, looking North. The view was amazing! We then looked out over the bay on the west side without city light. Such a contrast.

Then we got an ice cream cones at Burger King with the best view in the world, I assume. (Proof.)

And that was the day! It was long and amazing. And we slept hard. The next day, I was off to Bangkok.