living. loving. laughing.

living.  loving.  laughing.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Final pics:: southern beaches...

James, Doug and I went to a fun restaurant for lunch where we got to write on the walls! Well, I got to write on the walls, and so let the rest of the world know about our theme song: "we're down with Ko Phi Phi, yeah you know meeeeeeeeeee!"
And am I making you jealous of the sunset in Phuket? ...this was a pretty sweet walk roommate Jeannie and I took to the end of the cove.
From the ferry on the way to Ko Phi Phi - yes. this is real.
And this is where we went sunset surfing - I've discovered that I'm quite a pro surfer, if the board is like 19 feet long.
This was the view from our Bungalow in Phuket (in southern Thailand)- mmm...

just a few more from Bangkok...

Tuk tuks are a main form of transportation in Thailand; here's Doug and me on the tuk tuk riding through the smoggy, smelly streets of Bangkok. (Why are they called 'tuk tuks'? Because of the "tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk" sound the motor makes while its three wheels drive through town).
The Reclining Buddha :: now this buddy was BIG!
Jeannie and I made the mistake of wearing capris (and not pants!) to the Grand Palace, so we got to don the free saris and for Jeannie, the man-sized peach button-up.
The Grand Palace! It was so interesting being in a country with very little early Christian and/or Catholic influence; having traveled to Europe and Latin America, I think I take for granted the western influence not only culturally but within religion as well. Then being in a 97% Buddhist country, you could definitely feel a difference through the influence of the eastern religions.
Jeannie eating some big sheet. ha. ha. ha.

Thai pics: a few from Bangkok...

Welcome to Thailand!
Jeannie and I took a cooking class with what we suspect is the kid they hired from down the street who donned the "chef's" hat - yummy coconut soup, though!
On BTS, aka: the lightrail system in Bangkok: Doug, Jeannie, Jackie, Jeff, me. We traveled via the system EVERYWHERE.
Isn't it interesting that Thai definition of beauty involves having whiter skin, while in the states we buy creams to make our skin darker and/or tanner?
I'm obviously not going to post anymore of these pics, but this is an example of what we were in the middle of in the various red light districts in Bangkok: the sad stereotype of the older, white male hand in hand with the young Thai girl that he bought for the night, the couple of days, the week... I am still processing much of this.

Friday, October 17, 2008

the short of it

*love the Thai pancakes - rather crepe like...had a banana and cashew one this morning with sweet and condensed milk on top. I think I'm in love.
*danced on the beach with the girls last night - nothing like it! Shoes off, sandy feet, sweat dripping off our faces from the heat of the fire throwers just a few feet away, cooling off in the warm ocean water, starting the dance THAT is vacay.
*We're going snorkeling and kayaking to the James Bond island today.

It's interesting - a few of us assumed that Phi Phi Island would be more laid-back than Phuket, but because of the side of the island we were on, this place is feeling even more touristy than the former. Though there aren't cars, there's MUCH more of a travel feeling than the local side of culture, which I love.

blessings, c.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

down with ko phi phi

The six of us have all arrived on Ko Phi Phi and will be here for the next two nights. It's a beautiful island without a car in sight (or allowed for that matter). I'm in love with banana milkshakes and baby coconuts, food wise. It's crazy hot, and we seem to be reapplying the sunblock every two minutes. We're staying in the Chestnut Bungalows, in these fabulous little rooms with swan towels already folded for us on the beds. Currently, the crew is taking a quick walk around town before heading to the beaches. Quite a few people (but me) have had trouble with money, including ATMs, even if they contacted their banks ahead of time. Jackie's seemed to have the most trouble of all of us, and wasn't able to fly down to Phuket (the big island we were just on for the two previous nights) because they needed a copy of her credit card, which was ironically stolen the first day. What do you do? Finally the airline had mercy on her, but she and James ended up arriving four hours after the rest of us.

Among yesterday's highlights were sunset surfing, Thai massages on the beach (!), late night dancing (with the girls, that is - the guys have been suffering from white boy dance syndrome and need a few more people and alcohol in them before they're able to partake), and continuing to be with each other, learning and loving the quirks and mannerisms we all bring along on our respective and collective journeys. I have four more nights in Thailand then it's (sadly) home sweet home.

blessings, c.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

where to begin...

Our day of "work" began today around 1.30 - as previously mentioned, Bonita had asked us to help her out on a special project: without exploiting any of the girls by showing their faces, we were asked to try and find pictures of the sad stereotype of the older white man with the young Thai woman. Walking around the various red light districts and connecting streets of Bangkok, it was not hard to find such couples. We switched off pretending to pose for the camera while the photographer then zoomed in on the pair. Thus began that which we saw bits of yesterday but had further confirmed today: disgust and sadness and anger engulfed my heart all at the same time. I found myself soon not wanting to look any obvious male foreigner in the eyes because of the assumed stereotype of his presence in those particular areas of town.

We then went back to their house (which houses 10 girls) to get further training on the night to come, and just hang out with the girls and the other ladies there volunteering as well. After a Mexican Thai (!) dinner, we Bonita, Jeannie, Boo (one of the former prostitutes, who now goes into the bars to connect with girls) and I started out at a "level 2" bar: a go go bar. I was not horrified and I was not shocked by what I saw - perhaps the graphics of my present generation have already somewhat prepared my mind. I saw these girls - some as young as 14, and others nearing the end of their prostituting prime - and I saw their innocence. I saw the disconnect between the womanly facade of sex on the outside and the giddy childlike spirit in their interactions with each other. I saw them excited to see us, especially when they already knew Bonita and Boo. I also saw them eyeing and looking at me as a potential customer (of which we had been warned not to make too much eye contact with one girl for that very reason). I saw them slide up a pole, and then laugh hysterically with the girl next to them, dancing without inhibition. I saw their eyes. I saw the mechanics of the operation. I saw that it was their way of life, their only means to support their family. I wondered of their stories, and why more of them weren't getting out.

And I saw the men too. And I got angrier than I had been before. I saw men looking at the number on the woman they wanted, and simply pointing at the object of their affection. I saw carnal desire. I saw crude longing. I saw saddened eyes and I saw glazed-over eyes. I thought about what these men wearing wedding rings and dressed in their Sunday best might have left behind. I wondered why they wouldn't look me in the eyes. I wondered why there wasn't someone - another man, perhaps - out here reaching these men as these women are with the prostitutes.

I saw a lot tonite. We went to two more bars in another district that evening, and just sat there as the New Beginnings women talked (in Thai) to the working women. We were asked to keep a smile on our face, to not grimace or show disgust. To see the girls as such was not hard, but I felt like my face was in a stale position when a customer came ino the picture. This is not something that I can solve overnight. This is a bigger problem than choice because this is their livelihood. But I believe in what this ministry is doing, just as I believe that God does not look on these women (or these men!) in disgust, but in sadness.

That is all for now.

Monday, October 13, 2008

just stories

I wish I was able to upload pictures....but alas, you'll just be hearing stories until I get home. We're on day 3 of Bangkok, with the other four (Doug, Jackie, Jeff, James) having left yesterday for Cambodia. Jeannie and I are staying at the Sukhimvit on Nut guest house on the far east side of town; the place, which is run by a Japanese ex-Patriot, Manji, among other things boasts a 300-menu item restaurant that we decide to pay a visit to this morning. Ahhh. It was awesome. There's nothing like a lack of government regulations to then make menu items 1-10 different kinds of Quaker oatmeal: #1: Apples and Cinnamon, #2: Maple Syrup, #3: get the picture. Of that the rest of the menu flows. :)

So yesterday Jeannie and I departed from the others to drop our stuff off at the guest house, and then went back into town to meet up with Roy Thompson, a Bay ARea native who now lives and works out of Thailand. WE had lunch with him, then met up with his wife, Bonita, who runs a ministry called New Beginnings out of one of the red light districts of Bangkok. [There are four main Red Light districts in BAngkok, each with an average of 50 bars per area, with around 3000 girls per area...]. it was good just hanging out with Bonita and the 10 girls who live in their house, and tonite we'll be heading into one of the districts to be with Bonita and her staffers on what they call "Outreach." Really, it operates quite similarly to what I've seen with Young Life when (for instance), leaders go into the school: yes, they're Christian, but the point is not then conversion, but it's to love those girls right then and there, where they're at and in their worlds. Some girls are very receptive to Bonita's presence in the bars, and some completely ignore her; either way, she knows that she's being a light by simply entering into their worlds, into a place that too many people shun and look down upon, even qualifying the girls' actions as demonic. And as we talked about yesterday, if Hollywood were to make a movie about Bonita, she'd be the most unlikely star of the show: she's a woman in her early 60's perhaps. White. Unassuming. She was an educator of 36 years - and now she finds herself in a place that she of all people would never have expected in a million years. I'm sure tonite will be life-changing, to say the least.

After time with the Thompsons, we then headed outside of Bangkok to meet up with Chaovalit and his team of Young Life Thailand leaders. They're putting on their first ever weekend camp this coming weekend, so Jeannie and I got to do a training for them. I've never spoken with a translator before, so that was a different experience in that it's hard to gather your thoughts and keep them organized when stopping at the end of every sentence or phrase. But the people were the epitome of the Thai: warm, hospitable, polite, generous, with FABULOUS homemade food that we - literally - ate up. I have found my new food love of the day: mango sticky rice. Mmmm.

On the docket before tonite's adventure: a Thai cooking class at our guest house, and then Bonita's "mission" for us: pictures. Pictures of old men with young Thai women. Wow....this is going to be intense.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

we are here. :)

We are here....2 movies, a Lonely Planet episode, a bit of HW reading and some off and on sleep later, we've arrived and have reunited with 6th traveler James who accidentally flew out a day earlier than the rest of us. :) Meanwhile, highlights/lowlights:

*Jackie's wallet got stolen :: ouch
*the other four fly to Cambodia today - we'll reunite on Wednesday AM (it's Monday AM now)
*had AMAZING authentico Thai food last night, including lobster for $1/lb!
*the discrepancy between poverty and luxury here is always something that makes the mind swirl. As I was telling my friends JOsh and Brenda, what's the balance between getting a good bargain at the market and then realizing it's their income, their livelyhood?
*slept 11 hours last night - woohoo!
*am still in love with coconuts
*amazing pics so far - wish I could upload them
*Bangkok :: dirty slab of a concrete city. we found a park in the midst of the craziness yesterday. refuge.

That is it for now...heading to drop off backpacks at guesthouse we're staying at tonite, and then we'll do volunteer work for the next 48 hours. If you pray, pray for us - thank you!


Thursday, October 09, 2008

the vacay countdown

As is often the case, in that time before leaving for a big trip/assignment/small trip/day trip/walk with the dog (...), the hours before can be rather *crunched* in. But tomorrow night we embark on a 1.20 am flight to BANGKOK with the eclectic group of James, Jeannie, Jeff, Jackie, Doug and Cara. How I wish my name was Jara, but that's another story... The itinerary is as follows:

*Saturday, 10/11: travel for 17 hours (yes, you heard that right) from SFO for a layover in Hong Kong... Plane time will be my lone read school work time: NT Wright's Volume II JESUS book.

*Sunday, 10/12: arrive in Bangkok at 10.30 in the morning. Please, someone do the math on travel hours vs. time change! Today we shall go to one of the world's biggest outdoor markets (in Bangkok) and then sleep in a posh hotel that night (for an uber cheap amount as this is one place that the US dollar is ahead of the market).

*Monday and tuesday, 10/13 and 14: Jeannie and I will stay in Bangkok while the other four travel over to Cambodia for 48 hours. While in town, we'll be doing work with various ministries and non-profits working with women in the sex-slave industry for the majority of our time, and then we'll do a brief camp training for Young Life leaders in Thailand on Monday night. :)

*Wednesday, 10/15: Go see the Grand Palace during the day, and then travel to PHUKET that night!!

*Thursday - Monday, 10/16 - 20: SOUTHERN BEACH HOPPING. And this preview here is all I then have to add...okay fine, I'll then add the following picture made famous by Leonardo in his pot-head film, The Beach:

*Tuesday, 10/21: Arrive back in Bangkok, and then fly back to SFO to arrive there that afternoon at 1.30...

So, my friends, I will attempt to post pictures and/or stories, but seeing as I haven't posted in quite a while, I'm not sure how much that will pan out. :) And I don't plan on posting whilst sitting on one of those beaches eating my mango rice and drinking my whatever-they-drink-in-Thai-Thai drink.

Otherwise, here are other random musings....

*yay for new haircuts! This is one of my new leaders, Juvy, who just cut 10 inches off her hair. Wowee.

MISS CARA: Next we have three of the girls from Aragon that I hang out with: Monique, Kiara and Raven. They call me Miss Cara, and it is just fun fun fun.

And might we have another 30 before 30 soon checked off: there's always been this pipe dream of writing a book. But frankly as long as something's called a pipe dream, really, that just means that nothing's being done to put footing underneath or backing behind it - so why not stop talking about it, and start doing something about it?! Thanks to my old friend Jen Baum, I found out about the National Novel Writer's Month. Why not?! And the basic premise of the book? Well....some of the 30 before 30 adventures, of course! Finally, I won't be on my own, my friend Brandon from Young Life over in Oakland is joining me in the cause, for accountability purposes of course (and a fun read of his book afterwards). Here's Brandon:

All righty, I think that is it for now. Will I make The Office in 2 minutes? One can only hope...