That's a wrap.

Christmas Eve brought a party for the Regina Center - the women's sewing center in Nongkhai - followed by an afternoon funeral for a staff member's father in unusually warm weather. A quick moment to breathe, and then John was once again chauffeur for a small group to attend Christmas Eve Mass, followed by dinner provided by various parishioners.

The male staff vie for prizes from a moving apparatus.

Antonia opens a surprise gift from Sr. Mary.

Christmas Day was not quite as relaxed as we had hoped - little, annoying moments like a flat bicycle tire and bigger things like Lauren's sickness. We still made it to dinner at the Convent and were treated to a dinner of pizza (from the good pizza place!) and ice cream cake. A previous volunteer, Lara, and her friend were able to join us as well.

Boxing Day brought a staff party in the morning, followed by the big Christmas party with everyone that is near and dear to us at the Garden. Lo and behold, John's Secret Buddy was P. Bon, and he was totally surprised. Since they work so closely together, she apparently tried to get him to work a little less hard throughout the month, with little success. They laughed about it afterwards.

Buddy Surprises.

Teens and twenty-somethings dancing the night away.

After a final appearance at the Farm's Christmas party, John and I could finally take a quick afternoon to pack before we got a quick getaway to Phu Kradueng. We hiked up the surprisingly steep mountainside and spent several nights atop the plateau in the designated camping area. We hiked to see sunrises and sunsets, waterfalls with breathtaking color splashes from red maple trees. We hiked a lot! It helped to stay warm in the cooler weather at higher elevation - down to 40 degrees at night - in a tent! And it helped to work off some of that holiday weight. I really enjoyed seeing pine trees again.

After a few days of working at the Care Center full-time and seeing how the other half lives (tiring to clean all those patient beds every morning!), Thursday saw my first full day back at Hands of Hope with the producers after the break. Now it's back to saa paper and finalizing the new designs.