Tag Archives: Chiang Mai

ballet flats and truck beds

Today I borrowed a truck with a “Carryboy,” a hood on the back, to pick up a piece of furniture from a village known for its furniture and handicrafts. I’d discovered yesterday that the Toyota Soluna I have been using is not large enough to accommodate my purchase – a coat/purse/umbrella rack.

After making the long trek to the south side of town, I found that the back hood wouldn’t open. The shop owner and I pulled and pulled to no avail.

I debated whether I could fit through the small window from the cab into the truck bed.

“I think I can fit,” a young Thai girl says, appearing from another shop. She probably weighs 90 pounds soaking wet and is around 5’2.”

“Oh? Really? Do you mind?”

“No, not at all!”

Thai people are SO helpful and friendly.

Sure enough, she was able to maneuver through the window. With more pulling and prodding, she was able to pop the lock with the aid of another shopkeeper who came to help pull from the outside.

We had to leave the back door open because I wouldn’t be able to open it once I arrived at home.

“Drive slowly,” they told me.

After thanking them all profusely, I headed to a friend’s house to pick up to items I’d purchased from them.

When I opened the door to the back seat, I see a pair of size 5, cream-colored ballet flats that perfectly matched my rescuer’s dress (yes, she offered to crawl through in a cream-colored dress)

My new friend is now walking around barefoot.

Thankfully, I had the business card of the shop owner. I called and explained I had the shoes of the girl who helped. She said I could bring them by whenever – now or later. I decided to return, even though it was a bit of a trek back out, because my house is on the complete opposite side of town.

I slowly chug along, in a truck that is as old as I am, with an office chair and wooden coat/purse rack in the back. I stop on the side of the highway to make sure my rack and chair are OK and get mud on my khaki pants.

I arrive back at the shop to find everyone gone. I call again and explain that I’ll leave the shoes at the shop two doors down on a carved tree stump sitting next to a wooden elephant and stone Buddha.

I had a mental picture of the girl driving her motorbike home, barefoot. Poor thing!

I raced the rain back home, praying it wouldn’t since the back hood was open. I managed to pull in to my carport before the rain.

Welcome to a day in the life of Tessa. There is never a dull moment.

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closing chapters

How do you close a chapter in life?

I think it’s similar to finishing a really superb book – the kind of book where you eat up every line until the last line, consuming and enjoying every word and minute. It’s the kind of book you get lost in, where the characters seem as real as the man sitting next to you in the songtaew (Thai taxi). Great books make you feel you’re a part of the drama.

When the last chapter ends and the last line is digested, there’s a sense of sadness that it’s over, that the journey you were just on has ended. You close the book, thinking, wow, that was good. You close it half wishing you hadn’t read it so quickly.

This happened for me recently with “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. I’m not sure why I’d never read it before. Well, actually, I do know why. I think God had me read it this year.

I finished Dickens’ masterpiece on the Thai Airways flight home from my last media coverage as a journeyman. I sat between two coworkers and friends and ooh-ed and ah-ed over the last scenes and sentences (they can attest to how verbal I was).

Now I realize how symbolic my reading and finishing the book was. I’m closing a chapter of life – just as I closed out on my final voyage with Dickens’ book about two cities and the adventures held within them.

During my almost three years here, I’ve spent time in more than just two cities. I’ve been a part of stories that are in some ways just as dramatic if not more so than “A Tale of Two Cities.”  Sans the guillotines, of course, but these stories had dangers just as real as the French machine of death. It’s been an awesome “book” and I feel so blessed to have lived it. Thank you Lord, for the lessons learned, the adventures had and the challenges I’ve learned from.

Finishing “A Tale of Two Cities” felt a little like grieving. It’s that good. I was sad to say goodbye to the characters, action and drama. Finishing my time here as a journeyman feels like grieving.

The feeling of the loss of something great happens with some TV series too. My brother and I were immersed in a British TV-series called “Foyle’s War.” When we finished the last episode, our shared memories seemed to end. We finished something great – something we’d spent hours together watching over Christmas. This happened to me when “Lost” ended too. All those years spent, waiting for resolution and it never came. We won’t get into that.

While some people may feel like instantly reading great books and watching TV series again, I’ve found that I don’t. When I say this, I mean, I don’t feel like closing the book then re-open and start reading it again or watching the TV series again. I do re-read and re-watch and I want to do this, but I’ve found I need space in between the reading and watching – time to absorb and remember. For me, re-reading and re-watching are never quite the same as reading or watching the first time either. The suspense and mystery are known.

It’s the same with my time here as a journeyman. I can’t and won’t go back to “re-live” it right now that it’s over – as good as the past three years have been. The adventure won’t ever be as fresh as the first time living and experiencing it. And it shouldn’t be.  You can’t live in the past. You can remember the past and you can re-visit it.

I’ve found that after reading a great book, I’m inspired to find and read another that’s equally as epic. Great books have a tendency to do that. Excellent books put you on a manhunt to find and discover a book that have the same immersing effect on you.

I think it’s the same with life. I’ve just closed out the last chapter of a “book” of my life – my time here in Chiang Mai as a journeyman. I’m inspired to find the next book that will so move me as the past three years did.

Yes, I will be returning here next year, but the “book” will be different. I lived here in Chiang Mai as a elementary, middle and high school student and that book was VERY different from my “journeyman book.” Little did I know when I graduated from high school that I’d be returning to Chiang Mai for a very different adventure.

In the next saga of “Tessa’s life in Chiang Mai,” there will be new drama, new characters and new challenges.  I don’t know what these are yet, but just like you don’t know the ending to a great book, you wouldn’t want to because it’d spoil the journey of reading it.

Now, I know of some people who read the ending of books first. I have plenty to say about that but I’ll save it for another inspired-blog-writing-moment.

In a few short days, I’ll be closing the final chapter of an epic book. There will be grieving at its end – at the end of this fine adventure. But, I’m inspired to see what God’s written in the next book of my life.

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call me rude

Rihanna’s “Rude” plays in the background of a darkly silhouetted bar. Western men lean in to whisper dirty nothings into the ears of petite and scantily-clad Thai women.

These women work in Thailand’s sex industry. Many come from eastern Thailand to find work in the city. Some come under false pretenses. Some know what they’re getting into. The journey to Chiang Mai and Bangkok work in bars, massage parlors, clubs and strip clubs.

Men from around the world come to Thailand to hook up. Many of these men are 50 + and many come to find a woman in her 20s. Many of these men are old enough to be these girls’ father and some are old enough to be their grandfather.

Every night children wander up and down the aisle of bars selling roses. These children are under 10 years old and selling flowers to the Western men to buy for their woman of the night. The money the children make from selling roses goes to an adult at the end of each evening. They walk past these bars late at night and they see all that goes on.

They live in red light.

Last night several friends from the U.S. went with one of my colleagues and I to prayer walk in this area, in Chiang Mai’s red light district.

We had the chance to talk with several of these flower-selling youth for a few minutes.

It breaks my heart. At their age I was playing with Pet Shop Animals and Polly Pockets – not watching drunken men seduce women to the tune of this week’s favorite hit hip hop artist.

“God bless you,” I said in Thai to one of the girls as we said our goodbyes, leaving the children to make their rounds.

“God bless you too,” she answered.

Does she know who God is? Does she know Jesus loves the little children? Does she know true love isn’t a one-night stand?

I don’t know.

She knows the tune of Rihanna’s song.

Will you pray for these children?

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twin grievings

Ten years ago I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand, just like I am tonight.

I was 14 on September 11, 2001. Now, I’m 24 (I’m great at math, can’t you tell?) and I am back in the Land of Smiles on September 11, 2011.

I was getting ready for bed when the planes hit the Twin Towers. It was Sunday evening our time, we’re 12 hours ahead, and I was preparing for another school day at my international school. My parents called me in the living room to watch the coverage. I plodded out in my PJs and sat cross-legged on our couch and watched in horror as the buildings crumbled like sand castles under the weight of a wave. I also watched the reports on the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

I grieved over the lost lives and the men and women who met their eternity without knowing Christ.

Today a friend and I visited my friend John’s home and met his 83-year old grandmother. John works in the red light district. He recently became a believer.

I grieved today again for those who lost their lives but also for John grandmother.

She’s a wisp of a woman–she looks if you hug her too hard she might break. She’s missing all of her teeth, but that doesn’t stop her from smiling.

I couldn’t help but notice the veins in her arms and hands. They tell of a long life– a life without knowing her Creator.

They’ve lived in this house all of John’s life.

A poster of a senior monk hangs over her bed. His grandmother talks about going to the wat, or temple, whenever she’s able, which isn’t as often as her earlier years because of her age.

We shared, but mostly John shared, about how we believe in God and go to church instead of the temple.

It’s all good, she said, all religions are good.

She showed us pictures from her and John’s youth. She struggled to keep her reading glasses on her nose as she flipped through the worn photos.

“He’s so cute,” she said. “Such a big baby he was.”

We talked about life and memories. We did a lot of smiling and laughing.

Before we left, we said a prayer over her. She held our hands and strained to listen to our English and broken Thai. She came over and hugged me, laying her head on my chest. This surprised me, hugging isn’t too common in Thai society.

Her sweet hug is a moment I’ll always remember.

I pray that she’ll love Jesus. My heart grieves to think of her not. It’s not too late–her eternity hasn’t come. But, like the fateful day 10 years ago, we’re never guaranteed another day.

Today is the day to share with that person your heart grieves for.

 

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washed in the waterfall

“I’m so happy,” John* said, smiling and shivering a little from the waterfall’s cold water.

Angie* emerged from the water with a smile I won’t easily forget.

I’m still recovering from a recurring case of glorious goosebumps.

Today, my two dear friends from the red light district followed Jesus in believer’s baptism. We went to a nearby waterfall to baptize them. We celebrated with roast chicken, papaya salad, sticky rice and brownies.

In the past year, several women I work with started a ministry to reach out to men and women in the red light district here in Thailand.

God has placed on my heart a burden for the women and men in the red light district. As I’ve traveled for work, I’ve encountered stories of redemption, heartbreak and renewal in red light districts across Asia. These are my people, God told me. “They need me, they’ve always needed me, and this is the time,” He said.

For the past several months, I’ve been venturing into Thailand’s nightlife with my coworkers, trying to meet people and share Christ’s message of redemption. It’s been God, all God. Whenever I don’t feel like going or don’t feel like I have anything to say, that’s when God knocks my socks off.

Isn’t it awesome how His power is made perfect in our weakness? It’s so we know that this all-surpassing greatness is from Him and not from us.

Let’s back up a little and I’ll explain how we met Angie and John.

Prior to my busy summer travel schedule, I’d been going out once or twice with other women involved in the ministry to share God’s stories. A friend and I met Angie one night after a door closed with another friend of ours.

Angie approached us and invited us in to sit and talk at the massage parlor where she works. This started a beautiful friendship.

Angie told us she’d been wanting to learn about God and Christianity. This caught me off guard. Not many Thai people say this.

I told her that my friend and I like to talk about God and that we would love to talk with her. She was very excited. I pulled out my Thai-English Bible and started to flip through to the book of John. Just then, a little old man came, asking us to sign a petition. Another man came out of the massage parlor and walked purposely toward us.

“Blast,” I thought, we are going to get her in trouble.

Turns out, he was coming to make sure the man with the petition didn’t bother us. His name is John — and there started another beautiful friendship.

John also showed an interest in learning about God. Let’s study together, we suggested.

“But, where do I read, where do I start?” Angie asked. From there, my coworker and I decided to start studying John with them. We visited weekly, reading a chapter at a time, and studying. Angie’s English is excellent, John is wanting to improve his English. We used our Bible study times to also teach English.

The beginning of June, John trust Christ as his personal Savior. Several weeks later, Angie decided to become a believer.

Today, they were both baptized.

To God be the glory.

There’s much more to the story, so stay tuned to the next installment.

*name changed.

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Gnomes and g(rumbling)

We’d just seen a gnome smashed into itty bitty pieces on the big screen.

The floor suddenly started shaking. My first thought, “Is this retribution from the Capulets?” Watch out gnomish Montagues.

In my next thought, I attributed the floor swaying to my imagination, which can sometimes be very active. We were, after all, wearing 3D glasses. They distort reality. But, this seemed a little too real. Maybe it’s someone angrily exiting the movie theater because they see the inevitability of the conclusion of the movie.

Finally, my slow mind guessed that this must be an earthquake. I turned to my friend and asked if she felt that. We removed our 3D glasses and looked around for direction at the five other people who chose to watch “Gnomeo and Juliet” yesterday evening.

One man sprinted to the exit door, only to find it locked, then sprinted out to the entrance. His frenzied departure worried us. Should we put our sprinting skills to the test?

“Should we leave?” my friends and I asked one another. We kind of wanted to just finish the movie, only 15 minutes remained to this cartoon feature. We did already know the ending of the movie, seeing as we’d all read the play, as most people have in high school English classes. Although, I’m betting that Juliet does not commit suicide and she and Gnomeo live happily ever after and build a garden together with their flamingo friend.

In case you were wondering, there are no gnomes in real Shakespeare.

The room was now shaking and swaying more now. It reminded me of standing on a surf board in the waves. (I’ve done this, by the way, in the Philippines, sorry, had to brag a bit.)

We were on the fifth floor of a mall, was it safe to remain?

We didn’t have time to ponder our decision long. Like in the “Wizard of Oz,” a little man popped out of a curtained room (where the movie projector is located) and told us there was an earthquake and they were stopping the movie. We were told by movie theater attendants that we could return and show our ticket stub and we could re-watch the movie. We’re not sure we want to sit through animated gnome family feuds again though.

Outside of the theater, it was business as usual. No one seemed to act like anything out of the ordinary had happened. The lousy karaoke singers continued to sing horrid rendition of current and archaic hit songs.

Another earthquake, the third one, hit not too long after my return to the apartment. At the time, I was sitting in my green swivel chair, lovingly dubbed “the green panda.” The clothes in my closet swayed. This quake didn’t last as long. It felt like a mother rocking her baby to sleep.

The earthquake’s epicenter was in a rural area on the Thai-Burma border, 70 miles north of Chiang Mai. As of this morning, there are more than 25 people confirmed dead. I heard about the first death last night. A 55-year old woman was crushed by the roof in her home. My heart hurt when I heard this. I’m grieving for her family. I pray she knew Jesus.

I’d covet your prayers for the Burmese and Thai people along the border. Pray for opportunities for Christians in the area to share hope and truth. Pray the the Lord would use this to make His glory known. Pray that Christians would step up and respond to this disaster. Pray for no more earthquakes.

 

 

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for auld lang syne

So long 2010.

Every year flies in and out faster the older I get. My elementary years seemed like an eternity packed into 10 years. Middle school seemed to slink slowly by. Each year in high school went by progressively faster. College went by in light speed, or what is it called on Star Trek, warp?  I somehow ended up a college graduate with a job.

Now, I’m sitting in my apartment in Chiang Mai, wondering where 2010 went.

I’ve been reminiscing about what’s taken place the last year. Here are just a few thoughts.

In the past year I:

-Celebrated Christmas and New Years in Taiwan

-Moved back to Thailand

-Begun my first full-time job, which has been my dream job since middle school

-Studied Thai again

-Traveled on my first work trip

-Learned to see poverty through God’s eyes

-Visited four new countries

-Was in my best friend’s wedding

-Had six months where my brother and I were both in Chiang Mai

-Watched my brother graduate high school

-Traveled through Turkey and Greece with my family

-Got to be a part of media relating to the World Cup and the Lausanne World Evangelization conference

-Traveled back to China

-Learned more about Thai festivals

-Made many dear Thai friends

-Hung out with awesome journeymen

-Swam with whale sharks

-Learned how to surf

-Zip lined through the jungles of Thailand

I am praying that this next year God becomes more and I become less. Last year was a good year. But, there are a lot of things from last year that I wish I could change or do differently.

“God is the God of our yesterdays, and he allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present,” Oswald Chambers.

I’m looking forward to a year of closer intimacy with God.

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