Burma, Bugs, Bee Mine, and Blood

What a week – has it just been one week?! On Monday we drove up to Burma (Myanmar) with a couple from Ireland to renew our Thai tourist visas. It’s a 4-hour drive from here through some beautiful mountain scenery and past gazillions of rice paddies. We stopped at some hot springs on the way up and saw something I’ve never seen or even imagined at hot springs in the US: enterprising Thais selling eggs hard boiled in the hot springs! At Mae Sai we walked across the border, and I don’t mind telling you it made me feel a bit edgy when we crossed over to have to leave my passport on the Burma side with officials of your friendly neighborhood military junta. they give you a photo copy of your passport, then you reclaim your passport when you exit the country. The differences between Burma and Thailand remind me of the differences between El Paso and Juarez – that obvious – so I spent most of the 15 minutes or so we were there p-ing for the people and country.

The bugs in this week’s title refer to the one Ev caught last week and the one Er is down with. Kids in particular have passed around something not as bad as the flu, but it produces fever, vomiting and coughing. Several have ear infections. Er has a cough, runny nose and laryngitis – an opportunistic bug that took advantage of the food poisoning Er picked up last Sunday night from what we suspect was an undercooked hamburger. We ate in a good restaurant, so it surprised us all. something you also never see in the States: a parrot and a Shitzu (belonging to customers) in a restaurant! We’d appreciate your thoughts for good health for everyone before the next conference begins on Monday.

El has a runny nose and slight fever, we think from the tooth she’s cutting. Her poor little face looks like she’s played pro football with no helmet – kind of matches the knees of most every child here – because she fell twice this week: once off steps and once just falling on the sidewalk. This week also saw the arrival of a new baby, who made her public debut yesterday at dinner. The ex-pat community at this guest house is a bit like an extended family. It’s quite common to see people babysitting or caring for other people’s children, and the kids kind of regard the other adults here as “aunties” and “uncles.”

Not in the title – Em and I attended a Thai cooking class this week, an early part of her birthday presents. It was great fun, not only the spunky, funny woman who teaches the class, and not only the easy and tasty food we learned to cook, but also the fun people who took the class with us: two guys from the UK, a young German couple, a woman from Japan, and a colleague (and her mother) of Er and Em’s. I’ll have to make a trip to LiLi’s when I get home to pick up ingredients for pad Thai and sticky rice with coconut cream and mango!

Bee Mine was the message on the bee valentines Ev made during our “Bug Week” four weeks ago. He, Em and I made v-alien-tines for his friends here, too. Get it – alien ?!? Ev certainly shares his daddy’s interest in things space and NASA. We also launched, er, sent aloft, paper lanterns lifted by what amounts to a sterno ring for Chinese New Year – something else we’d NEVER do in Arizona!

Blood figured in today (Saturday). I was at the pool waiting for Em, Er, Ev and El to arrive when the assistant manager here came to the gate to ask if anyone knew anyone here with B- blood. A tourist who’d been here just one day was evidently in an accident and needed blood for his surgery. Rh- is nonexistent among Asians. Well, “as it happens” (though we know it was no coincidence) Em’s friend Monica ws at the pool and knew Em is B-, so I went with Em via ambulance to the hospital. Bless her heart (and both her arms) it took two tries to get a good vein, but Em donated a pint of blood(plus the half pint they couldn’t use after her first vein collapsed), enabling the man’s surgery. We don’t know his or his wife’s name, but DAD does, so please lift them both up. How much had to work together to make this amazing connection: the assistant manager being a nurse and knowing the nurse overseeing foreigners at the hospital, Em being here, Monica being at the pool at the right time and knowing Em’s blood type . . . ! Just in case you think ABBA doesn’t know and care about each one of YOU!

And on that note – tomorrow we move over to the next conference and hotel, where we’ll be for the next two weeks. I’ll be helping in the nursery, so the little ones AND I could use your thoughts, too – particularly because both El and her slightly younger buddy Chloe LOVE to walk, but Chloe can’t yet and needs an adult to do laps, and I do mean LAPS, around the room with her! Much love and many thoughts your way –

Around The World At The Juniper Tree

Gosh, time is flying by here, but so is the world. We’ve met people from all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Australia and New Zealand, both in terms of their homes of origin and where they live and work now. I can’t share their stories online, but I’ll be coming home with many, many practical ways to pray for these people, and I hope some of you may hear the call to someday help at conferences and hear incredible stories and meet amazing people yourselves.

We’ve spent our week just here in Chiang Mai: me, playing with Ev and El and quite a few of the other children here (see the photo taken in the dining room here for a few of them), and Er and Em catching up on e-mail (their in-box often has upwards of 800 e-mails) and personal business. I learned this week that it is possible to exchange a purchase here – even got pointers from the resort staff on the most acceptable way to phrase it. One of the directors here wrote it out for me in Thai, thank goodness. My tailor-made jacket now fits well enough that I CAN take a breath, though I’ll never be able to broadly use my hands and arms if I’m wearing it when I speak. Today I made my first venture out without the kids as guides (but with one woman from Gilbert!!! and another from Finland) and didn’t get lost in the day market building – amazing, and I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of the day market on this computer so you could be suitably impressed.

Yesterday we did a tour (Em arranged it) of some handicraft factories. It was the first – and no doubt last – time I had an emerald and diamond ring on my finger. Some handicrafts! Besides the gem factory, we did see how Thai silk is spun and woven, right from the moths laying eggs all the way to the finished product, and we visited an umbrella-making factory (though factory is hardly the right word to use – it’s all open-air and done by hand) where I got a butterfly painted on my jeans, Ev got an elephant on his shorts, and El got a spectacular butterfly painted on her shirt – which she was not wearing at the time, due to concerns about wet paint and her busy little hands. You’ll soon see umbrellas from this factory in your local Pier 1 store. The Thai people are quite artistic and music lovers. Our guide/driver spent his time waiting on us to tour the factories by playing a stringed instrument he keeps in the bed of his pickup truck when he takes people around. He was quite good and we enjoyed a short “concert.”

This week we attended a kantoke dinner, too, with traditional Thai dancing and food. Monday we go to Burma to get new Thai visas, so next week I’ll report on that adventure. I”m off now to call my hubby, so y’all be blessed.

Am I Jane or the Swiss Family Robinson?

For the past two days we’ve been living in what seem much like tree houses at The Juniper Tree “resort” here in Chiang Mai, our home for two weeks between conferences. I’m living in a teak house that seems very much like ship’s quarters inside. Check out http://www.juniper-tree.org for a peek. At every meal besides breakfasts, we sit with different families from all over the world. Aside from the one thing we all have in common, the common denominator here is children! Em calculated tonight that we adults are seriously outnumbered! You should hear the commotion from the play platform in the dinning room after about 20 minutes into every meal- something like preschool meets family reunion meets chaos. Ev and El love it!

Today we checked out the spider webs, butterflies, and bananas behind their house, then the LARGE red ants crawling up and down a tree (and our legs!) behind us. Yikes and ouch! Our other adventure today was our tuk-tuk driver getting confused as we tried to get back here from an errand up in the north of town. Well . . . it was a nice day for a drive, especially after the non-stop rain and cold yesterday. Our rooms don’t have any heat – why would you need a heater in the tropics???? – so last night was quite nippy. We figured it was the storm that blanketed much of China in snow, so we were glad it was just rain down here.

My adventure this past week was getting a jacket made by a seamstress in the day market. Tuesday will tell whether my and Em’s gestures and scribbles in a pattern (sort of ) book really communicated what I wanted! Phooey – it’s costing me almost as much for a rayon jacket (I couldn’t find the right color in raw silk) as it would have for a ready-made silk one – though the silk one was a tight fit. I’ve never had anything made to my measurements, so this is a new experience on several levels.

So is meeting all the folks here at the Juniper Tree and hearing the stories of their work and challenges. Suffice it to say they regularly deal with things you and I would find “impossible” or downright terrifying. What love and commitment is in their hearts! I’ll share details when I get home – in the meantime, please think about them as you talk to the Lord.

Well, the bird (?) monkey(?) is calling outside, so I’d better close for this evening. Much love!