I open one eye and look at the clock. Four-thirty a.m. Time for the day to begin. I sit up, decide it is too cold, and slide back under the covers. This has been an unusually cold and long winter in Thailand. Here in the foothills of the mountains, the temps dipped down into the forties at night for much of January. That isn’t so bad, unless you have no heat. No one here has a heater, or even warm clothes and bedding. It has started warming up, though, and soon it will be pleasant at night and unpleasantly hot during the day. This morning it is still cool, but not bad. I grab my iPad Mini and check Facebook from the warmth of my bed. About that time Paul comes in with my morning cup of coffee. He has been up for a while already, studying and praying and preparing for the day ahead. I sit in bed and sip my coffee and see what my friends and family are doing on the other side of the world. How is my mother-in-law doing after her hip surgery? What about my friend Rebekah and her new baby? Are there new pictures of my grandkids posted? I’m so thankful for the connection to loved ones who are so far away!
After that I tap on the Bible Reading App. and read today’s reading and spend some time with the Lord. By then it really is time to get up and the chill is receding, so I climb out of bed and dress and make preparations for the day. At 6 a.m. I walk down to the dining hall, carrying the instant coffee jar which is now filled with vitamin powder for the children. They look at me and grimace, but I am pretty sure they are making faces about the powder. They come without argument and take their daily dose, though. Anond can pour it into their mouths without touching their lips or dropping any powder. I can’t do it — and wound up pouring it all over their poor little faces. I gave up and bought a bunch of spoons and hand it to them, one by one.
I dispense hugs and kisses and wave goodbye as they head off to school, then walk back to our little home to fix breakfast for Paul. I have a two-burner hotplate which is already pressed into service heating up our kitchen. Paul feels the cold and this month has been miserable for him. I fix our usual breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast for him and a muffin-in-a-mug (made with almond flour and ground flax) for me.
Cooking is no problem, but washing dishes is a pain. Nevertheless, they must be washed. I carry the dishpan out to the faucet beside the house and fill it up. The faucet comes off in my hand and water shoots up from the ground like a fountain. Paul has assured me that it is no big deal when it does that, so I call for HIM to come fix it. (I always end up soaked when I try to stick it back together.) He fixes it and I fill up the electric kettle and start the washing process. As soon as the water is hot, I pour it in the dishpan and start another pot going for the rinse water. I have a few extra dishes because I bought a couple of plates at a market the night before. I was interested to see that they have “Ikea” stamped on the back.
Today Paul helps me with the dishes, and after they are washed, dried, and put away, I empty the dishwater and get ready to leave for Thai class. Paul, meanwhile, makes phone calls back home to check on his mother who fell and broke her hip last Sunday. We are relieved to hear that she is doing well.
By then the men — about 15 of them — have arrived for devotional service. They take turns preaching to the group. Today I think it is Sabat I hear. Paul finishes his preparations for class and I head down the hill, the sound of preaching gradually fading behind me.
The air is crisp and cool, like a day in early spring in Oklahoma. Wide-leafed banana plants and tall coconut trees flourish in stretches of jungle, interspersed with cultivated land planted with mango trees. New construction of vacation homes for the wealthy spring up among the trees. Our land, which was in the middle of nowhere when it was purchased about 15 years ago has become a valuable piece of property in a desirable area.
The trip down the mountain is pleasant — partly because it is DOWN. At the bottom I come to the entrance of the Buddhist monastery. This morning a female monk in her white robe is knocking tamarind fruit down from the tree. She wears a white knitted stocking cap on her shaved head. I stop and talk to her in halting Thai and she unleashes a flood of the language on me. I have no clue what she is saying, but smile and nod politely — hoping I’m not agreeing to something I disagree with!
Then I go on over the bridge and past the lovely little lake. The mountains behind it make such a beautiful picture, but I have never succeeded in getting it on film to do it justice. I turn down the village street of the little Thai village of Hoi Nam Rin. The cows are in the road this morning. Sometimes they are staked out down by the river, but they are wandering around town today. They come right up to me and appear to look me over with curiosity. Good thing I’m not afraid of cows. The ladies at the little roadside cafe call out to me, and I smile and wave.
“Pai nai?” they call. It means “Where are you going?” I answer, as usual, “Chan pai Mae Rim. Rhian pasaa Thai.” (I’m going to Mae Rim to study Thai.)
“Now, mai?” they say. (Are you cold?)
“Mai now,” I answer. (Not cold) And I’m not. The brisk walk has warmed me up.
Soon I am at the busy road and must wait my chance to cross the street. Traffic careens along at a frantic pace and I begin to despair of ever being able to cross. At last my moment comes and I dash across with my top burst of speed. I am thankful I can run. If I couldn’t, I would be marooned on our side of the street forever.
Then begins the waiting for the song tao. After about ten minutes the white pickup comes around the bend. I look at it expectantly and give the hand signal that means “stop and pick me up, please.” He flashes his lights to let me know he saw me, but then continues on without me. I can see into the covered truck bed through the open back. It is full. Usually that doesn’t keep the driver from stopping. They just pack people in more tightly.
I wait another ten minutes for the next one. This one stops. However, as I look in I see that it is full of monks in their orange robes. They sit on both of the side seats and only the middle seat is empty. And I have a problem. I can’t get onto the narrow middle seat without brushing against a monk. They are forbidden to touch a woman and even casually brushing against the robe of a monk causes a lot of trouble for him. I decide to ride on the platform on the bumper. It is a nice day and the driver is going along at a moderate pace, so it is not a bad ride. I notice that the monks are very young. The one on the end is probably in his early teens. He is reading a comic book.
I get off at my stop and walk to Jeng’s little store. I get there right at 9 a.m. Jeng has had a hard life and now has a load of debt she is trying to pay off. Her daughter, Bom, is studying for her doctorate degree. Her specialty is bees, so she opened this store selling honey products. Jeng minds the store and does laundry and ironing. She is a retired teacher and university professor, so she also teaches English to private Thai students and she teaches Thai to me. The store is cheerful and bright, filled with honey products like honey shower gel and beeswax lip balm, as well as several different varieties of honey. Customers come through to buy honey or to drop off and pick up clothes, but it isn’t really distracting and we do well together.
Today we work on the months of the year — which are tongue-twisters! November is the worst — Pleudsajikayon. Also, we work on dates and numbers and she answers various other questions that have come up since our last session.
At 11 o’clock the lesson is over and I walk out to wait once again for the song tao. The wait is shorter this time and the song tao is almost empty so the trip back is pleasant and quick. I watch for landmarks — the temple with the two giant serpents lining the entryway, the one with statues of little women along the top of the surrounding wall and finally, the one decorated with golden birds. I ring the buzzer, climb down, pay my 12 baht and start off back up the hill to home. The second walk is never as pleasant as the first, mainly because the way back is straight uphill. It is also warm now and the sun beats down on my head as I walk through the village, across the bridge, and up the steep hill. It used to totally wind me, but now I go up with scarcely a pause. I come to our make-shift gate and crawl through the bamboo bars. The men are leaving for lunch and I am ready to sit down and rest.
I have a little break to write, to study Thai, and to do some housework. Then it is time to teach English. Usually I am happy with the progress of my four young men, but today nobody remembers anything. I think of my struggle to remember Thai words, and try to be patient. It’s difficult, though.
I pass out plastic vegetables from the toy box. “What vegetable do you have?” I asked Bon Jon. “Two,” he says hopefully. “Not ‘how many.’ What vegetable?” I say, trying again. “Green,” he says, less hopefully this time. Since we have been working on “what,” “how many,” and colors and vegetables for a while, it is a bit discouraging.
After class I am tired, but Paul is exhausted. We both feel like collapsing, but it is piano lesson day. A friend of Anond’s comes and gives lessons to several of the men. I gave up my piano long ago and it is in constant use for the church services and for the men who want to learn to play. They are really coming along well. It’s still rather nerve wracking to be around at piano lesson time, though.
Besides, Tuesday is market day at the Mae Rim Plaza. People come and set up shops all over the parking lot. I can buy our fresh vegetables there very cheaply. They sell everything else you can imagine, too, but I limit myself to the vegetables and fruit today. I buy a pineapple for less than a dollar, and a giant head of cauliflower costs me about a dime. A bag of carrots is even cheaper. I also buy some mystery fruit. I don’t know what it is, but the sample was delicious, so I bought a half kilo.
Meanwhile, Paul, who has a backache and feels lousy, has a Thai massage. This is also cheap — about $6 for an hour massage. I’ve been telling him he needs to get one, but this is the first time he has taken time to do it. It completely rejuvenates him and we go to eat at one of the sidewalk restaurants. Meat is expensive and so is everything else except fruit and vegetables. We figured it out, and it is really cheaper to eat out than to eat at home — and besides, that way we don’t have to wash dishes. It’s too much trouble to drive to Mae Rim every day for dinner, but we do it once a week on market day.
We come home refreshed, but lose some of that refreshment when we discover ants have swarmed into our kitchen. We sweep out thousands of the disgusting little things, who retaliate by biting our feet. Paul courageously deals with the trash can, which is the most heavily attacked. At last we have them out and Paul sprays with the poison which I swore I would never use. (I have learned to never say never!)
By now it is after 7 and we wait for the kids to show up. They come down to play after their homework is done. No one has been coming lately, though, and no one comes tonight. I think we will have to see what is going on. Paul thinks they are being sent to bed earlier, which is a good thing. They get up so early!
We give up on the kids and hurry to take showers before they cut the water off. We both make it tonight. Sometimes we don’t and they shut the water off for the night before we are ready. Tonight we felt especially crawly from the ant battle and were thankful for the shower.
Paul is already in bed, clutching the well-worn printout of the model prayer in Lahu as he drifts off to sleep. He is memorizing it and works on it in every spare moment. He is doing well learning Lahu, considering he has no teacher and no textbook. He is picking it up on his own with a little help from the men.
The prayers of the monks are floating up the mountain and into our windows. I listen and pray for them, that they might come to know the true God who can really hear and answer prayer.
And another day draws to a close. Tomorrow will be a full one with projects instead of a shopping trip. I need to do some mending for one of the young men working for us and get started on the last two skirts. All the girls have a skirt or jumper now except for the oldest two. There is a possibility that I may be able to teach English at a prison for boys and girls soon. I need to get my projects wound up before starting something new.
Also, I have preparations to make for the ladies’ Bible study. We have had a long break from our Saturday studies because of the holidays. (Thanksgivings, Christmas, New Years, and now Chinese New Years) The women have most of the responsibility for preparations for these, so they have not been able to come. We are supposed to start up again on Saturday. Prayers appreciated! We are studying the women of the Bible, and Potipher’s wife is this week. Since adultery and immorality in general is a huge problem in the villages, this will be a good opportunity to deal with some important truths.
Please pray for me also about the Bible conference coming up in March. I will be speaking to the ladies again. Our theme is Matt. 6:33. Please pray that I will know what to say and how to say it. It is so difficult with a different culture, as well as speaking through an interpreter.
Then comes Burma. We are also having a Bible conference there, and Brother Anond says the ladies are eager for me to have a study with them, too. There are lots of unknowns about what will happen there, but we are all excited about the prospects of this new ministry. We know that life in Burma won’t be as easy as life here in Thailand, but the need there is great and the people seem so eager to have us come.
Thanks for coming along with me as I traveled through my day. I thought of you, my readers, as I went along, so it felt like you really were with me!
You may notice that Paul wasn’t mentioned much. That’s because he is going to be my guest blogger soon and write about a day in HIS life.
Thanks for making it possible for us to be here by your prayers and by your giving.
Blessings from Thailand,