Monday, November 30, 2009

First Day of School

This morning some smiling kids trotted off with Steve and excitedly headed to their first day at their new school. Or for the boys their first time to do anything except home school. I got a text from Steve a while later saying that school was closed today because of a strike in the city and they arrived back home a bit dejectedly a while later! So tomorrow will be their first day of school-----we hope!

Strikes happen here fairly often we hear and people expect the really big ones to be observed. The buses and taxis that don't take part in them are in danger of getting set on fire, etc, if they go down the wrong street.

Rachel and the boys go to school from around 8:30 and end at 1:30. They get a break for morning tea/snack but come home for lunch. Hannah starts at 1:00 and ends at 5:00. So between us we'll have to make 3 round trips per day on the Metro (subway) to drop them off and pick them up!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

1. Steve and American team members cleaning out rubble. Looking down from what will be the first floor of our flat. The empty space will eventually be our kitchen!
2.Looking up into what will be our bathroom and laundry room. (When it has a floor!) We have 3 rooms on 2 stories to turn into our quarters.
3.The kids in front of a palace built for Queen Victoria. She never saw it!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sights, Sounds, Smells

We have been here for five busy, exciting, confusing, challenging, good days so far. Wow, what a place! It's hard to know where to begin to describe it. The sights, sounds, and smells are all sooooo foreign to our home countries! There is constant noise here. Sitting here I can hear horns honking non-stop. They're irritating and can actually cause hearing loss after a while (!) but necessary to avoid killing people in the streets. There are no obvious road rules except get there as quickly as you can, as fast as you can, the most aggressive way you can. That can include using lanes that don't exist, of course, and you must never give even an inch to another vehicle. The roads are jam packed with vehicles and there are masses of people walking as well. So horns actually do have their place! I also hear a loudspeaker of a woman's voice down the road that has been going all day every day. I think the content is political but am not exactly sure!

The are a HUGE variety of smells as you walk along the street. You can literally take a few steps and smell kerosene, another few steps and smell spices, a few more steps and smell, um, something not so nice, another few and it's old garbage/rubbish, and in a few more something completely different.

And the sights.....many of them will break your heart. It's a city that used to be the jewel of the British Empire but it hasn't been maintained much since they left and a lot more people have moved to into the city as well. Every night we are filthy just from walking around and breathing the air but there are many children who never get to come inside for a shower and a soft bed. This afternoon I walked by a portion of road about 100 meters long where for some reason there were around 20 babies and children under the age of two with a few parents scattered among them each with their family's portion of broken cement sidewalk staked out. One baby girl was laying there smiling and waving her arms without anyone near her. The odds are that those sweet little children will never know what it's like to live with four walls and a roof.

It's important to have a clear focus as to why you're in the city or the needs would be overwhelming and you'd accomplish nothing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mental Snapshots

I have a few vivid mental snapshots already from our time here. One is being amazed as a man maneuvered a herd of goats across a BUSY four lane road in the middle of the city this morning. How none of the goats got hit (drivers here just don't stop!) and how he kept the herd from bolting, I'll never know! And where were they going anyway?

Another was this afternoon walking behind Aaron. Five boys who were begging decided Aaron was their best friend, put their arms through his or around his shoulders, and walked with him a couple of blocks. They wanted money, of course, but Aaron good naturedly handled the attention anyway.

Last night we were walking along a road where the traffic was at a stand still. A taxi pulled up on the side road where we were crossing. Since he couldn't possibly pull out into the road ahead of him I, in my western mindset, assumed that he would stop and let us walk in front of him. The Stop sign that was right in front of him gave me that impression, too. Wrong! Hannah reached back and pulled Adam out of the way (my mental snapshot) as he continued forward to get every inch he could into the traffic jam ahead. Adam's hand is now being held every time we cross a street!

If there's something you need in this city you often have to go to a street dedicated to that product to find it. Rachel needed new contacts (cheap here!!!) so today we went to the eyeglasses district. Sure enough, the whole street was full of shops selling glasses and nothing else! The eye doctor came highly recommended but his office was a little dingy cubbyhole in the back. He took out the old kind of apparatus that you have to wear on your face to check her prescription. Looked like something from fifty years ago but he still did a good job and was up to date on topics like laser surgery!

I love the images in my brain of the lovely women at the business! The expressions on their faces and in their eyes are so different from those still working the streets right outside the door.

Other events: This morning I met Steve's brother who's here leading a team from the States! The last sibling of Steve's for me to meet. It's been fantastic to meet the other foreign staff where we'll be working. They're great! We've literally walked miles in our time here so far. There's a subway (metro) through the city but there's a lot of walking to get to it and around the districts once you arrive in them. We've also climbed LOTS of stairs down and back up again into stations. Think we'll all be pretty fit pretty soon!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Finally Here!

What a day! It started when we finally got to the guesthouse where we're staying and got to bed about 3am. The word 'guesthouse' is probably putting images in your mind that don't actually apply here! It's not bad by local standards but the Hilton it ain't.

We had a great morning (why can you never sleep in when you really need to?) showing the kids around the business where we'll be working. It was neat to watch them finally put a face to the place! It was great to meet other staff members who we didn't know and catch up with those we already did. Jarrod from Beachlands (NZ) showed up as well so we've also been able to hang out with him some today.

K and A showed us around the new building and we saw which rooms we get to make livable for us. There's a LOT to be done before we can move in--like making floors out of empty holes in two rooms!!! But we love the location and think it will be ideal for our family when it's finished. It's not a huge area(the priority of the building is room for the business to grow)but since it's a few small rooms on two stories, it will give some space for our family to spread out and it's actually more square footage than we were expecting to have!

Last night a 20 year-old woman died just across the alley from the new/old building when the roof of the makeshift structure that she lived in collapsed. The whole area is quite old and derelict so we're pleased to see all of the work already done on the building to reinforce it, etc. The teams that have been coming to help have done great work, too!

We'll post some 'before' shots of our own space soon.

It's been a bit of a sensory overloaded day of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells. Right now the sounds is highest in my mind as I still hear loud traffic outside. In the words of our Adam, "People in _________sure love to honk their horns!" Aaron was also impressed to blow his nose tonight and find that things the color black came out. That's kind of the way it is every day here!

The kids say they love it here already! We've got a LOT to learn but it's good to be here and be on the way!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More on Bangkok

We've enjoyed our second day in Bangkok. We walked through a huge weekend outdoor market this morning. You could furnish a house, decorate it, get clothes for your closet, paper products to put in your desk, fancy toiletries for the bathroom, exotic food in the kitchen, AND buy many different pets for the place as well---all in one place! (Have YOU ever seen baby bunnies for sale wearing cute little dresses before?) Talk about one stop shopping!

Tonight was a bit more disturbing, however. We went on a walk after dinner and the seedier, darker side of the city reared it's head. Steve doesn't like it here and I can understand why. As a foreign man it's like he has a big target painted on his chest. He got offered any and every kind of diversion you can think of even though he was walking along with his wife and children!!! Right beside nice shops or restaurants are open doorways into a girly clubs (quickly diverting the boys' eyes!) as you walk down the street. Grandmothers selling trinkets and playing with their grandchildren right outside are not disturbed, that's just life in Bangkok.

It makes me so sad.

But it's also a reminder that that part of the world is very real all of the time, even though most of us don't often get to see it. Women and children are degraded, used, and abused. And men are enticed into things that end up trapping, controlling, and destroying them.

The district that we're moving to is different in ways but has the same rot at the core. It's disturbing and heartbreaking. We're going knowing that we don't have the strength in ourselves to cope with it every day. We'll have to find that in Him. But we know what breaks His heart needs to break ours and move us to compassion to be His hands in this world!

Friday, November 20, 2009


Tonight just before dusk we walked through a park near the guest house where we're staying in Bangkok. In this huge, densely populated, modern city parks are a place where people can gather, relax, and be active. It was also a neat cultural experience for our family!

The park was beautiful with walkways, ponds, green grass, trees, and water features surrounded by a panoramic view of the glittering lights of skyscrapers. People were doing the normal park things of walking, jogging, and skating but in addition we saw a couple of outdoor aerobics classes and a Tai Chi class (but we'd never seen it done to music before!). In one pond the fish were obviously regularly fed. They were absolutely thrashing over each other near the surface to get to the food being tossed to them. One girl was putting bits of bread on the end of a little stick and a turtle kept surfacing to eat it right off of the stick! Aaron nearly came out of his skin when in the dusk he suddenly noticed a HUGE lizard (a monitor?) slinking along the grass a few meters in front of him. Stray cats and dogs lived near a statue and people obviously brought food to them nightly as well.

All of these things combined with the Asian flair of the place were neat to drink in and watch the kids' reactions to. But we still haven't figured out the most unusual thing yet! A voice said a few words over a loud speaker, a whistle blew, and everyone in the entire park suddenly stood stock still! For the next minute or so a weird, warped wailing sound (but not the sound of a voice) filled the air while everyone waited. A whistle blew and then everyone walked on like nothing happened!

We're all jet lagged and haven't had enough sleep yet but we had a morning and early afternoon at the legendary MBK. It's a six storey mall that feels like a big outdoor market with hundreds of stalls and lanes, each level specializing in a certain type of product. Steve and the boys spent the most time in the electronic section but all of the kids wisely spent pocket money on clothes that they needed for a fraction of the price they'd find them elsewhere. When asked if they'd like hamburgers for lunch the kids unanimously voted for Thai food stalls instead. Good little multicultural kids!

Tomorrow we'll take a river ferry through the city and see more sights. We're so glad that we stopped here for a few days! This is a very modern yet very Asian city so a good cultural bridge for the kids between NZ and where we're headed! We fly out on Sunday evening hopefully refreshed and ready for what's next with only a 2 hour time zone change to adapt to after that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Extra Time in NZ

We've really enjoyed the extra time in New Zealand! It's a lovely time of the year here. Steve and the boys got up at 5am and have been out fishing for the last several hours in a borrowed boat. They must be catching something or they'd be back by now! There have been a number of different ways we've been able to just play a bit in the last couple of weeks. Nice, and I think we needed the time more than we realized.

But since we leave a week from today I suppose it's time I think about getting ready to go again! It shouldn't be too hard this time as I've finished sorting and had packed already once before. Practice makes perfect!
Photos: Yesterday some youth from Beachlands/Carey came up to hang out for the afternoon at the beach. (Hannah and Rachel are in group shot) The water is still pretty cold, however, so after a bit of body surfing Adam had his most fun 'surfing' down a sand bank over and over!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What do we do?

In a large city in S. Asia there is a district about a mile square where somewhere in the range of 10,000 women sell their bodies daily. The women aren't there by choice, but through trafficking or poverty. The girls must service a number of customers per day just to make enough money to eat----slavery in the 21st century.

Some friends began a business there to give these women a choice to leave the sex trade by training them to make jute bags for export. The women earn twice the going rate for a similar job elsewhere. They receive health care, a pension plan, and childcare while they are at work. None of the foreigners who work at the factory receive a salary so all of the profits can go towards expanding the business. A new unit making organic cotton T-shirts opened in 2009.

There are 170 women working at the factory now. Just a drop in the bucket, however, compared to the ones still working the lanes outside.....

Our family moved to this district to join the work near the end of 2009. We can't think of anywhere else we'd rather serve!

Going soon!

Our passports came back today so our visas are in hand! We thought Steve was the only one getting an employment visa but they issued one to Heather, too.

So we're leaving for sure on the 19th!