Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bangkok (and Julie's Apartment)

About one month ago, that is to say January, I ditched the old 9 to 5 in favor of some urban refreshment. I visited Bangkok and, graciously, Julie let me stay with her for a week. She lives in a lovely one room apartment with some hardwood flooring, a real kitchen and a real bathroom! (Meaning the shower is actually seperate from the rest of the room, not just a water spout attached to one of the walls.) This is her third, and I dare say, favorite abode. The first was a dorm style apartment (I think?) provided by the first school she worked for and the second was a less lovely, perhaps a little dingy, one room apartment with no kitchen that you arrived to after treading down a scary and many times dog-poo filled alley. (Sorry for the graphic details, but just imagine how Julie felt!) Not to mention the cross dressers and prostitutes. In the fifth picture we're hanging a much needed mosquito net.

The two following images are of the beauteous Au Bon Pan cafe near Julie's apartment. Then the unspeakably adorable baby is, of course, the famous Chet, of the fantastic Australian couple Guy and Alex of the Bangkok English Congregation.

Then you will virtually saunter through the amazing Hilton, Thai style, of Bangkok. Dao, an awesome Thai sister who is in the Bangkok English Congregation, took me there for our photo-shoot. Dao means 'star' in Thai. She is quite an excellent photographer and took most of these pictures. Thank you Dao! Then we went to a little jazz joint called Brown Sugar. Sweet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

a few photos

This is one of Weryn's many Bibles studies. She is a very old lady who lives in a three sided shack, underneath and behind which are the chicken stomping grounds. Stinky, to say the least. Weryn calls her yai, grandmother. All old ladies are referred to as yai because that is both respectful and endearing. Weryn was biding time talking to the neighbor waiting for yai to arrive for her study. When she came sauntering home she was wearing her traditional green skirt, carrying a folded umbrella, old rubber flip-flops on her feet, bundled up in a thick classic tan peacoat! As if it were cold! She was quite the picture but I didn't want to seem like a freakish foreigner for taking her picture (though, come to think of it, she probably would've been flattered.) I snuck these shots in while they were studying. That pink thing is her mosquito net.

Yai's yard with a view of the neighbor's digs.

Candy and Julie, some lovely sisters in Bangkok. Well Candy is actually studying. Candy is the sister of Baby, who lives here in Roi-et and is the mom of Zona and Nina. (Candy and Baby's mom, Ba or Auntie Udom, recently got baptized.) Julie is an awesome sister from Ohio who has been in the English cong in BKK for a year and recently switched to a Thai cong where she's helping to form a sign language group. They're so darling!

Some serious ghetto territory with Somai. She's awesome.

At the hospital after we got into a motorcycle accident. Just kidding! Pong Pan has a study with the nephew of one of Weryn's studies who just happend to be in the hospital so we went there to say hello and have the study. Oddly, people camp out at the hospital when someone they know and love is in it. It's like the waiting room?

Our circuit overseer, Brother Petcharat and his wife Jitigawn. He is really talented and cool; he writes lyrics to all these lovely songs and we (I say we but I mean the Thai brothers and sisters) sing them. They sang a really beautiful and catchy one about the purpose of life and finding Jehovah. His wife is soooo loving and encouraging in service.

Luke and Ta, a wonderful Australian couple. Ta is actually Cambodian but grew up in Australia after her family fled the Khmer Rouge. Lynn met them when she briefly jaunted over to ozzie land. They are in the Thai/Lao group in Sydney and came for a visit a few months ago to improve their Thai (and enjoy the beaches...not in Roit-et, in the South : )

Somai came over to make this beauteous cake (no one has an oven in Roi-et)

The pioneers with our beloved American elder, Brother Bob. The other brother is Pong Pan, the only other elder in the cong. and a special pioneer.

Feast after the pioneer meeting.

Nina, me, Sheep on location at the Kingdom Hall cleaning

Nina, me, Zona

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

In the Twilight Zone

Is there anything more startling, much more frightening, to walk passed a nice looking Thai lady, at night, and have her greet you with a man's voice? It was a soft voice, but it most assuredly belonged to a man. This country is oozing with transvestites.

How about being asked by the service overseer to accompany him on a call he'd like to hand over to you? You ride side-saddle on the back of his bike as he manuveurs off the road like a maniac. You're already almost falling off because the seat really isn't big enough for two big butts as it was originally designed for Asians, and you vow to take your own bike next time. You jolt down a dirt road and immediately are transferred from the modernish city atmosphere to the inbred back country. When the bike stops and you're getting off, several of the villagers gather round your spectacle of white skin. Dear God! A skinny shriveled grandmammy of an Isaan lady appears, her height barely reaching four feet. (Isaan is the area where I live, a mix of Thai and Lao culture.) She stares at you with one sunken eye and one hollowed out white space where one should be...but isn't. You just can't help staring back at it especially because now you're not quite sure whether it's an empty eye socket or an alabaster eye completely taken over by cataracts. You conclude it's missing, with lots of pillowy scar tissue to replace it. A younger granny saunters up, carrying a baby on her hip. The granny speaks, revealing her fang-like teeth dripping with what appears to be blood. But you know better (even though blood is used as an ingredient in much of the food here...it's usually coagulated and brown. euuucchhh.) It's actually snuff or some such addictive and cancer-causing substance the Isaan mammies love to chew. Her tongue is half rotting away, and the red colored drool seeps in the cracks of her wrinkly lips. They are surrounded by at least eight filthy, snot-nosed children. You hope they are the grandchildren but know probably at least one or two of them is the kid of one of the grandmas. Not sure which one, if any one of them, is the one you're supposed to call on, as the service overseer tries to get a word in through their cackling and leaves them all tracts. No wonder he wants to pass on the call. haha. Only (slightly) kidding. They do need the truth and were charming. In a scary twilight zone way.

Then there's the 10 day, marathon Red Cross Fair held at the soldiers' camp two streets over from your apartment. Every night the loud shriekings of amplified vendors mix with the loud shriekings of 'musical' performers, enough to drown our the loud shriekings of the roosters. Yes, they do attempt to crow in the pitch black of night. One night the band is thumping out a fairly accurate version of 'Enter Sandman' but it suddenly evolves into a slow Thai ballad.

And finally, to end this mortifying rant, there is the English bookstudy. I wouldn't even mention it on such a bizarre post as this, if it weren't for the fact that conducting is...weird. We have Lynn and myself that take turns conducting and reading, which seems to be theocratically acceptable; the new family Sister Poon and the boys; and 3 teachers from school-Jim, Caroline, and Daniel. It goes pretty well. But the feeling I get when it's my turn to conduct is, there's only one word for it, weird....

(conclude with music and a black and white tv shot)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Thanom and Thinu

Doesn't that sound like the title of a classic children's novel set in some exotic location, like Zimbabwe or, say, Thailand? Well perhaps one day it shall be and the two main characters will be two fantasticly entertaining Thai American boys. (Pronounce their names 'Ta-nome' and 'Ta-new'.) Thankfully for me they are real and are the new additions to our Roi-et congregation.

They actually lived here with their parents, Sister Poon, who is Thai, and Brother Jack who is American (from Kentucky, to be precise), for several years before I moved here. They left because poor brother Jack had to move back to the states for cancer treatment. Now Sister Poon and the boys have moved back and hopefully brother Jack will join them next month, if all goes well with the completion of his therapy. In the picture to the left, Thanom is on the far left, Thinu is in the middle, and Sheep is relaxing while reading a Watchtower.

Thinu is 12 and obsessed with animals, especially dinosaurs. Therefore we have good conversations in that regard, though we often spiral into discussions of somewhat violent movies he enjoys retelling. Don't be too concerned, though, because he usually ends up in fits of jolly laughter at my reactions.

Thanom is 13 and has lent me several movies (worth watching) and, more importantly, is my new service partner. We make a good team as he can help me with Thai and I can help him with reasoning (but really I just make the time in the ministry go by fast for him. His words.) Though he seems to do pretty good on his own already. He's bold, too. On New Year's Eve morning we went to one house where the man informed us that he was off to get drunk as he rushed passed us to his early merry making. Thanom quickly made sure he had a copy of the Awake! on the trap of alcohol abuse. Haha! Another day we were out together I did the first presentation for the new beautiful January Awake! The lady I spoke with had been in her small rice field but had taken off her classic straw hat and met us at her gate. As I spoke I could tell she was puzzled and Thanom new exactly why. She asked "What will cars be like in 20 or 30 years?" repeating my ill pronounced question. It seems when I say the word for earth in Thai, lok, it sounded like the Thai word for car, rote. Don't know quite how that happens. But it did and we had a nice laugh over it and Thanom explained what we were really there to talk about and we read a scripture and it was great.

So I really enjoy these kids. Even Zona and Nina, the Sikh's children, seem to finally be warming up to me. I went on their Bible study with Weryn the other day. They study out of the Learn from the Great Teacher book. Zona (the one up front in the picture below) reads and then her younger sister Nina repeats. Really good for me. I'll put up another picture of Nina on another post, since she is just so cute. So the kids seem to be doing good here and providing amusement for me. (But none can ever replace Jessica or Emily, my leech and monkey babies.)