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  • Susan Brown

Hanging In — and Hanging On

Friday — and another week of our stay in Thailand is finished.  The days, by now, have fallen into a pattern.  We get up between four and five and have sweet time in study and devotions. Then, about six-thirty, I go to see the children off to school.  I pray for them and give them hugs and they ride off in the back of the pickup with smiles and waves and calls of “Goodbye, Teacher!  Goodbye!”

Then the rush begins as I fix Paul’s breakfast of eggs and toast, unplugging the computers and phones so I can use the extension cords for my little Otto electric pan and the toaster.

Then to wash dishes.  Find the end of the hose and turn on the water. (A Ti constantly waters, so the hose may be anywhere in the orchard.)  Fill the dishpan with water and soap.  Fill the electric teakettle for hot water. Turn off the hose — or just put it back where I found it if it was already running.  Wash and rinse the dishes.  Dry and put away.  Pour the dishwater on the porch and sweep it clean.

Usually I just get ready for my English class — but this week we have added something new.  Ja Law is teaching us La Hu in the mornings.  “Tzuh,”  he says.  “tzuh, tzuh, tzuh”  We repeat after him, but we do not do it correctly.  La Hu is not easy.

English class with Isa and Hen-a-ri, and I have the rest of the day for housework, writing, and projects — and, I confess, sometimes an afternoon nap.  Paul, of course, spends the day teaching.

Some of the students are missing this week because they have gone to the Chinese New Years’ celebration in their villages.  We just learned that Willie, our youngest student who went home for the weekend for that reason, had a motorcycle wreck and broke his leg.  He evidently ran into a truck. We are thankful he wasn’t killed!  Long-time readers may remember Willie.  His three older brothers died from eating poisoned mushrooms in a stew. He is the only child his parents have left, and they want him to learn the Bible. He is only 15, but this is the second year they have sent him to our Bible school.

After school, Paul and I take a long walk to the next village and back.  I fix supper, clean up, and teach English to the children in the evenings.  Usually I walk back down to the dining hall with them and play games or just hang out with them until their bedtime.

A couple of times this week I’ve ventured out to shop.  First I walk down our lovely country road, bordered with orchards and banana plantations.  Orchids grow in the fencerow, and brightly colored flowers spring up everywhere.  Past the Buddhist monastery and across the bridge — no cows staked out at the river this time.  A short jog down the highway and back to the left and I’m in Hoe Nam Rin, the tiny suburb of Mae Rim.

I dash across the busy highway to wait for a taxi.  I had a slightly different taxi experience Thursday. I waited and waited and waited.  Finally, a white taxi appeared. To my dismay I found it was stuffed full of people.  Both bench seats along the sides of the pickup bed were crammed and even the narrow bench in the middle was completely taken up with passengers. I was tired of waiting, so opted to ride on the platform on the back — holding onto the rail.  Usually someone offers me his seat at this point, but on that day, they stayed put.  The taxi started with a lurch that nearly knocked me off my feet and we were off at breakneck speed. I’ve ridden in taxis that crawled, and those that made good  time.  This one flew, zipping in and out of traffic and hurtling over the bumps in the road.    I closed my eyes and held on for all I was worth.  The first time this thing stops and lets someone out, I’m getting in, I resolved.  But the taxi stopped only to take on more people who joined me on the back.  Finally some people got off, but the others seemed to expand  to fill their space and there was still no room at all.  I did manage to hang on until I made it to the Mae Rim post office, although I had to pry my fingers loose from the rail when we got there.

I did a quick turn around the day market before hitting the post office, since they are close to each other.  I picked up a few useful goods and a few useless ones and enjoyed looking at the wonders displayed in the jumble that is the market.  I mailed the birthday cards (which I fear will be late) and set out to catch another taxi.  And it was full, too.  I decided that I had survived one journey riding on the outside, so surely could do it again.  However, this time a gentleman came to my rescue.  He was an emaciated man who rose from his five-inch square of bench and magnanimously offered it to me.  I took it.  First, though, I tripped over the people in the middle seat and landed in the lap of the startled man seated next to my designated spot.  He took my arrival with good nature and I squeezed in next to him on my insufficient five inches with my large and inconvenient parcels on my lap — poking into the unfortunate people on the middle seat.

I believe everyone was happy when I saw the temple with the flying dragons on the fenceposts (my landmark) and rang the bell to get off.  Then I started up the long, steep mile toward home.  I had already regretted my bulky purchases and as I panted up the hillside in the sweltering heat, I wondered what had possessed me to buy them!  If I wasn’t so penny-pinching I would have “lost” my sack in the ditch. After about a quarter-mile climb, a nice young couple in a white pickup stopped and offered me a ride. I took it gratefully!

Later, Paul said, “What if they were planning to abduct you?”  I thought about it and then said, “I would have gone with them. Their truck was air-conditioned.”

As you may gather, the weather is getting hotter every day.  Although some of the children still come to my evening English class in their heavy fleece pajamas and leave for school in coats and sweaters, it is uncomfortably warm, getting up in the 90s every day this week.  Only our fan makes our room bearable at night — and it broke this morning.

Off I went again, this time to Makro, to buy the week’s groceries and a fan.  Back down the hill (much more fun than going up) and out to catch a taxi. This one had room for me and I made it to Makro without problem.  I have taught So Pic a sentence or two in English — among them, “I’m ready. Pick me up at Makro.”  “Khap”  he says — which probably means something like “okay.” He comes in the beat-up red pickup and hauls me home.

The truck is not air conditioned, but it is far better than walking up the hillside carrying my groceries, and I don’t feel like complaining.

This week was also enlivened by the arrival of THE BOX.  Daughter Becky and son-in-law Andrew sent it and we greeted it with joy.  Inside were lots of kids books.  I was so happy to have something to read besides “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.” .  Becky picked out the perfect books to go along with the things I’ve been teaching.  We read “Go Dog Go” and the kids were thrilled that they could understand much of it.  We’ve been learning big and little, colors, in and on, etc.  They were even happier with the coloring books and puzzles

The box also contained my spare Nook cord. My other one broke and I have been Nookless for a week.

I had asked her to send some toys for Gracie, who seems not to have any.  Before I could give them to her, the other kids found them in the box and had a blast playing with them.  These kids can have fun with anything!  Yesterday we were nearly run over by several kids rolling old tires down the path.  Back and forth they ran, keeping their tires in motion. No wonder several of them won medals at their school sports day today!  They do a lot of running and jumping.

Tomorrow we are going in to the condo to get on the Internet since my air card dwindled from slow to slower to stop and I have not been able to get online long enough to post my blog.  Quick visits via Facebook are all I have managed — and they are maddening.  Especially the messages. I see I have them and usually can read the first sentence.  “Exciting news sbout….” it says. But then it won’t let me get the rest of the message, and after about five minutes regretfully tells me it has taken too long to load, so I have been disconnected.  What is the news I wonder?  I imagine all kinds of unlikely things and try again.  Still nothing.  By the end of the day I have decided this friend a. Is getting married.  b.  Has cancer. or c. Is moving to Fiji.  I never find out her exciting news and think maybe my friends should send me emails, which I tend to get more quickly.

Blessings from Thailand,

Susan

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