Our travels were absolutely wonderful, and I apologize for not checking in sooner. I expect to be resume blogging more regularly as we learn to again navigate the busyness of life in America. In the meantime, I wrote a blog for Good Shepherd Volunteers. Please click the link and read if you have the opportunity.
A lot has happened since I last blogged. We said goodbye to our community in Thailand and jet set for the beautiful country of Indonesia. It is a predominantly Muslim country, so recent events did create unwarranted anxiety.
Today is mostly a recap and reflection of the goodbyes, but as our travel slows I hope to share more of my infamous reflections/perspectives in coming days.
As our time here quickly winds down, maybe you have been wondering about the future of this blog. Do I have a plan for it, or will it just end? I started to really think about this as I listened to OnBeing this morning during my run. Her guest, Anil Dash, said it takes about 7 or 8 years to become good at blogging: that makes me feel a little bit better.
A short update on how things are going - generally good! We also went to a Thai wedding last weekend, so you can see Susan in a fancy dress and a few pictures of the formal event we are honored to have been invited to.
A short check-in. It was a busy, but nice birthday week. This weekend we had Christmas Camp, so hopefully more to come as we enjoy the Christmas celebrations in the coming weeks!
This week we get back to normal John kind of stuff: simplicity, running, emergency rooms (sorry mom), and trying to make sense of it all!
As promised, I have been trying hard to brighten my spirits by focusing on the positive and appreciating everything I have to be thankful for. Seems to be working.
Today, I thought I would just share a summary of my thanksgiving day. I feel like it is one of the better looks into volunteer life here in Thailand.
Reminiscing a little bit about the past, trying to continue to learn from the wisdom of my elders, and weaving this together to create a picture of my possible future.
Another short post to update the state of life here in Thailand, and then you can come with Susan and me on an even more eventful bicycle ride.
Well, it seems like everyone is still talking about the debates, but strangely I don't feel the need to. Here is a little piece about traffic, a driver names Santi, a bike ride Susan and I took, and some photos from a day at the races.
A short post about the many different challenges that have come our way in the last weeks. Thankfully, the balance appears to be leveling as October rapidly approaches.
We recently had a full-team meeting, ALL HANDS ON DECK! It really went well, but I thought I would share some insight into what a Thai meeting looks like in my mind's eye! Hope you enjoy.
I seem to be constantly looking back, reflection. I know I have done this before, but this is what this community and experience look like to me after 10 months here. Can you believe it has been 10 months already? I hardly can.
Sometimes it is easiest to go alone. This week I learn a lot by looking back at the experience of running with and without Susan. I also share updates about some recent changes and a lot of photos from a wonderful weekend we had in NongKhai.
We keep having amazing experiences in rapid fire. I have yet to write posts about our time in Siem Reap, Cambodia or the SongKran festival in Thailand. I am going to skip ahead to our experience from May 29. I promise that I intend to get back to those other highlights.
A few months ago my co-worker Krisida told me about a festival in his town where they fire off rockets. He said they do this before the rainy season to anger the gods and make it rain. Friday the 27th, Krisida asked if I remembered it and would we like to go. I said yes and jokingly asked “is it tomorrow?” He laughed, said no, and then called his wife to find out when it was - Sunday. Susan and I had no plans, so we were in - Pick us up at 11 (he said “Thai time”).
Sunday came and we were packed and ready, relaxed and reading when we got a call that he was running late. A morning deluge of rain, but by the time he arrived at 1:00 it was clearing up. I drove us the 45 kilometers to his home, and his father-in-law gave a chuckle when I got exited the driver's seat.
After lunch, we jumped in their friend's care and drove the 5 minutes to the town market and pavilion. There was loud music and people were drinking and dancing - a lot. Bottles of rum and whiskey, carts lined around the pavilion selling food, and drinks of all kinds. We enjoyed the music, danced a bit, and took selfies with a few people before walking off with Krisida and his son.
We headed to the field where the rockets were loudly firing off. Krisida says since the day is later then expected is it okay if we spend the night? We look at each other and say sure, but we don't have anything but a rain coat (the one time we travel light).
I was expecting the types of model rockets kids and dads make together in the United States, of course I was wrong. These are like giant, homemade, bottle rockets: made out of PVC pipe, wrapped with mylar, stuffed with propellant, and having a long bamboo stick attached. I was told that these were “long-tail rockets. Other villages have short tail rockets, or as I saw later on the news have horizontal firing rockets.
We sloshed our way into the muddy field filled with people and vehicles are all over finishing or polishing their rockets. Monks in mass are working on different rockets and some are blessing them, “rockets are the hobby of the monks” Krisida tells me. There was a ceremonial rocket built by monks that was fired off early in the morning. We stand and watch a few go off. It is a loud, neat, and intimidating experience. Then we walk back to the pavilion.
At this point, Krisida has to leave because a school teacher from his youth is severely ill and he has no family to help care for him. We spend the rest of the evening with his family. Ning (Krisida’s wife) is constantly checking in with us as we take in the party and dance some more. One man decides we are friends, he won't likely remember much of the evening, and around 7:30 we head back to the house for dinner.
Ning has procured us American sized clothing, so we shower at their house and change into shorts and t-shirts. Ning’s mother is cooking on a small charcoal stove in the kitchen of their stilted house. This is the first time I have smelled beef cooking since I arrived here. What a fantastic smell that is, and I tell her so.
They know that I love sticky rice so that is what we tend to eat with them. During dinner, 2 neighbors come up the stairs on separate occasions and talk to us all for about 15 minutes each. After dinner, we sit and watch Muay Thai boxing and the news for a bit, while Krisida’s 3 year-old son runs around naked after his bath. We seem to laugh all night long, and at one point I look at Susan and say, “How amazing is this?”
We head to bed and are sleeping in the main room with Ning’s parents (hopefully I don’t snore too loud.) The mattress is firm, the mosquito net has a whole or 2, and the ceiling is tin. I wake up several times throughout the night, but fall off again easily. The rain comes loud and then soothing.
In the morning I fight the urge to jump out of bed, because there is really nothing for me to do. I enjoy watching the morning routine as Ning's mother sweeps the house, both parents talk and joke with the neighbors from inside their house (the kitchen and main living area only has 3 walls), and then Ning’s dad goes out and catches us some fantastic fish for breakfast.
And then we are off, running late as Krisida often does, for a rainy Monday morning commute after a not insignificant Sunday.
Crawling out from the recesses of my mind and many challenging situations, things are looking up. This week I analyze the experience a little, talk about a patient who returned, and share positive events from the last week.
This week I responded to our recent tragedy by being more engaged with our patients. I saw an opportunity to prepare for the advancing illness of a one I call 'Sam'. I now have mixed feelings about some of these decisions. A brief piece about culture, intentions, and growth.