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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cars, Trucks and Ice-cream Carts



Moving cars that are “double parked” out of the way 
is a common occurrence in Thailand!!

A large crowd of people streaming in to our street on Tuesday at 4pm 
had us all very curious.

It was the beginning of a huge soccer tournament between Grace International School (where Tobi goes) and some of the other Chiangmai international schools, along with a team from the Philippines and Taiwan. It was the start of a 5 days event, which ended last night with an exciting 3-1 win to Grace!!
When we weren’t over watching the action, our children loved climbing our front gate and yelling hello to the many familiar faces walking by. The event drew out crowds from everywhere and the atmosphere was electric! 

Our street has been so congested with cars, buses and pedestrians and finding a car park has been difficult for spectators at times. One of the days, I went to pull out of our driveway and noticed a car parked right across the end and totally blocking my exit. Thankfully by the time I had started my engine and opened the gate, the owner ran over very apologetically and found somewhere else to park, but I was getting worried for a moment there!

Last night as Dave, Tobi and Eli walked across with their dinner to watch the grand final, some international students stopped Dave and the kids as they came out of our house and wanted to take their photos. Eli was most willing and obliging to smile politely for a few photos, however Tobi, who dislikes that type of attention, was much more keen to just make it across the street uninterrupted and meet up with his friends. And fair enough too!!

When Spencer and I arrived later, Dave was the only one out of the three of them still actually watching the match as Tobi and Eli had hooked up with all the other children from the neighborhood and were happily playing their own games. It was so nice to see them running and playing so freely. It really was a wonderful atmosphere.

I guess the real highlight of the tournament though was the ice-cream cart that was parked right on the edge of our driveway for four days in a row!! How cool is that? Talk about easy access. Every child’s dream!




Photos: The ice cream cart... and waiting for the crowds of people to arrive.

Now, speaking of parked cars, parking etiquette in Thailand is very different than in Australia and the act of “double parking” if the car park is full, is not frowned upon at all. It is extremely common for cars to park right behind you and block you in simply leave their car in neutral for you to push it to the side if you get back and their car is still in the way!! You may remember this happened to me once when I was with friends after a women’s conference but the people forgot to leave their car in neutral… we ended up having to ask the security guards of the hotel to move the car which was a time consuming ordeal as you can imagine! 

Well on Thursday night I headed out to do some grocery shopping and discovered a very full car park. There was a carnival in full swing on the land next to the shopping centre and it was unbelievably busy. Surprisingly I found a car park relatively quickly but upon returning to my car, a little over an hour later, there was another car double-parked right behind me!! Long story but, yes, I am proud to say that I actually PUSHED my first car out of the way!! So glad the owner had left it in neutral!!

So anyway, while I am on the topic of vehicles, I also wanted to share some photos I’ve taken recently on my phone through the car window of “heavy loads”. This is one thing that fascinates me about Thailand, the variety of over- burdened cars, motorbikes, trucks and utes. I wish I’d taken more photos- I’ve seen some doozies!





Anyway there is a point! You probably know I have been feeling a little homesick, a little far away and, yes, a little sad at times over the past few weeks but whenever I see one of these heavy-loaded vehicles (I’m not sure why but…) I am always reminded of that verse from Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.

So I am thankful that there are a lot of these heavily burdened vehicles on the road in Thailand because I am being constantly reminded of this promise!!

Thanks once again for your encouraging emails. You (and the over-loaded cars) are a great source of strength and a reminder that it is not our own efforts or our own abilities that keeps us here. It is only through God that we are able to press on. It is only through Him that we are sustained.


Love Andie.


“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall”. Psalm 55:22

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CAMP UPDATE


We are now in the second (and final) week of the camp program at ZOE.  
“Spy Camp 2010” is finishing on Friday night when the kids will get to see the camp DVD that Dave is making for them as well as share the highlights of the past two weeks.


Most of my contribution with camp has been in the months preceding camp.  I spent time brainstorming ideas for themes, room decorations, props and activities.  To me, it’s just like planning a big themed birthday party, ha ha! 
When Jess, Dave and I started sharing ideas for this camp, back in July, we were so excited to think about how the “spy” theme would all come together.
Unfortunately due to Spencer being so unwell, I haven’t been able to get in to ZOE since the Boot Camp day and see for myself how everything was turning out.  Thankfully Dave is great at coming home and updating me on the day’s events and showing me lots of photos and video footage.
On the day of Boot Camp, I did manage to sneak a peek at the rooms that had been set up though- which I thought was just extraordinary.  There are three themed rooms for the different age groups (5-9, 10-12 and youth).  Each room was designed keeping with the “spy” theme but appealing to the various age groups.  
The younger kids have a really colorful room full of huge jigsaw pieces.  The room is ‘puzzling’ and clues need to be pieced together...



The 10-12 year old was designed like a secret agent/detective headquarters with maps of the world, wanted posters, board room style tables, purple lighting, computers and very “official” looking. 



And, the youth room has a forensic science type of feel with ‘evidence’ around, police tape covering the door and a chalk drawn body on the ground.




To go in and see how these ideas written on paper had been made in to a reality was just astounding.  I think that Dave and the team of people who just “made it happen” are truly amazing!
Another area that I love to help with is with the daily snack.  Once again, I couldn’t actually be there to see the kids, but because I chose the snack ideas, bought the ingredients for each day and sent in instructions on how to make each one; I get so much enjoyment out of hearing Dave tell me how much they loved making and eating their special treats.  



Knowing that I was missing out on the fun, David was kind enough to swap me for part of the day today and be home-dad so that I could go on the outing to the Chiang Mai Zoo and Snow Dome with the ZOE family.  



It was lots of fun taking photos of the kids getting all rugged up to enter the Snow Dome’s minus 6 degree weather and see their little noses all runny and red as they emerged with huge smiles on their faces, laughing at how cold it had been.  
These kids have never experienced anything like this before!!  It was so great to be a part of.
Thank you again to everyone who sponsored a child for camp.  You are helping to change lives!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SPENCER UPDATE



Thank you so much for all the messages and emails that you sent us in regards to Spencer being unwell.  I am pleased to report that he is doing MUCH better now.  

What a difference the right diagnosis makes!!

We now just have to keep him away from other children for another week or so to allow his immune system to fully recover otherwise he is highly likely to pick up something else straight away.  So no nursery classes for him, at least this week, and we’ll re-evaluate the week after.

We had planned a casual birthday celebration for Spencer yesterday (as he turns two this week) but we ended up deciding to cancel.  We were going to the Night Safari which is one of  our favourite places over here.  

SO what do you do when you can’t get to the Night Safari? 

You bring the Night Safari to you!!  

After putting the children to bed on Friday night, Dave and I snuck around the house collecting props and decorating the kid’s play area like our own little safari.  I had baked a cake and made it in to an lion and put together a little treat bag for each of our kids.

I was so excited I could hardly sleep!



And... what did Spencer have to say about all this?  WOW!


          ... new toys.



So after dressing up, playing with his new toy dog and truck and eating lots of 
lion cake there was only one thing left to do....

SLEEP!

We had a lovely morning with just “us five” at home and made some wonderful memories celebrating two years of having Spencer in our family.

Spencer, we love you so much and we’re wrapped that you’re almost all better.  We can’t imagine our family without your sense of fun, laughter, cheekiness and zest for life.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!




Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Million Miles Away


Did you know we’ve been in Thailand for nine months now? Nine months!
In some ways it feels like a lot longer than that, especially when I consider that we’ve lived in two different houses, changed schools, moved ZOE and experienced a whole lot more than I thought possible for this space of time.
October is a busy month in my diary- well it used to be!
There are so many friends’ birthdays (Andy S, Carla, Chad, Deb, Jason, Maree H… plus the mother’s group ones!) Man, I miss you guys!
It was also my little niece Bella’s 4th birthday on the 11th. I would’ve dearly loved to have been at her party especially since I had helped my sister choose so many of the party favors and decorations while she was here.
Next week it is our own little Spencer’s 2nd birthday. How hard it has been to plan for his birthday knowing that none of our family will be with us to celebrate with him.
I have close friends, newly pregnant when we left, who now have babies that I’ve never even met!
I must admit, I find all of this particularly difficult.
On a personal note, October has been a little bit rough on me. I know there are sacrifices with living so far away- that’s obvious right? But I think I’ve been hit hard with some pretty strong feelings of being so far away- especially this past week.
But I guess the two biggest blows came with the passing of my ‘Grandpa Lewis’ and the ongoing uncertainty of a chest infection that Spencer has had.
Firstly when I received the call from my sister that my grandpa had passed away all I wanted to do was drive myself to the airport and jump on the first plane back to Australia.
I couldn’t have felt any further away than I did at that moment.


Secondly after taking Spencer to the doctors for the third time and two courses of antibiotics later, I couldn’t understand why he just wasn’t getting any better. In fact, my instincts were saying he was actually getting worse but how could that be?
Again, all I wanted to do was fly back home and take him to an English speaking doctor- one that I didn’t have to prompt just to listen to his chest or look in his ears. And, oh, how I missed having my mum and my sister there to just ask, “What do you think? …. What should I do?”
So, in regards to these issues, both, which have left me crying (just a little bit), I sit here now and I realize again that it ‘s all gonna be okay.
I spoke with my parents yesterday who gave me the run-down of Monday’s funeral. I prayed for them at various moments through the day like when I knew my dad would be giving the eulogy and when my family was at the cremation. So despite not being there, I knew that God’s love and comfort would sustain them.
And, as we suspected, we found out yesterday that our Spencer is very unwell at the moment.
After asking around the other missionary mums, I was told about a private hospital that had a good clinic we could try for a second opinion. It was going to be a bit tricky to find this place though and the waiting times were also said to be very lengthy. I really needed Dave’s help on this one. So after many emails, texts and phone calls, he finally managed to delegate all his work tasks for the day so that he could come with me yesterday. I am so grateful for this!
After eventually locating the hospital and maybe 40 minutes of trying to find a car park, we knew we were in for a long day!
The nurses were extremely helpful though and tried to entertain a very grumpy and uncomfortable Spencer by giving him stickers. Funnily enough, I think his continued crying helped us out because we somehow seemed to be bumped up the queue considerably.
The doctor we saw was very thorough. He examined Spencer and ordered both a blood test and x-rays of his chest and face. His suspicions were correct. Spencer’s results showed that has a bacterial infection that is quite extensive on his lungs. He has a sinus infection and his ears are also inflamed.

The blood tests showed that he has a lot of inflammation in his system and his immunity is currently very low.  The doctor has put him on some new medication and told us to stop some of the previous antibiotics he’d been prescribed. He also said that the air quality in Chiang Mai is currently very bad, so it seems that with Spencer’s current condition, young age and low immunity he is picking up everything and getting worse by the day!
We were told to go and purchase some air purifiers for the bedrooms and he said this would be the most important thing to get him sleeping and allow his chest to recover. He also needs to stay away from other children outside our home for a little while to allow his immune system to get back to full strength. The new medicine will fix up the infection and the inflammation.
So although little Spencer is still quite unwell, we are now confident that this new plan will get him back on track in the coming days/weeks.
After an exhausting five-hour ordeal, Dave dropped Spencer and I home and went on a mission to buy air purifiers. Obviously this was a considerable financial outlay but thankfully it did not cause us to worry. 
God provides everything we need!


Just in the past 1-2 weeks we’d had some money given to us as well as the Prep-2 students from Flinders Christian College who had been busy raising funds for us just banked approximately $1500- you guys are amazing!! How humbled and grateful we are!
For the children, a surprise package containing balloons and stickers from their nanny, a DVD of their cousins from Aunty Sonia, a belated birthday present from some good friends for Tobi (thanks Kaz) and a big bundle of craft, books, paint and stickers from Aunty Julie all helped to keep their spirits high. WOW! What a blessing!
I loved the bright packaging on the stickers from Dave’s mum that read, “colourful stickers with encouraging messages to brighten up your day”.
Your emails, thoughtfulness and prayers really do wonders to brighten up our daysand help ease the feelings of being a million miles away - thank you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

BOOT CAMP... Fun Day at ZOE


Drill sergeant Dave (with his freshly shaved head) and acting sergeant Jess, all dressed in their costumes for the fun day at ZOE.



Prior to next weeks SPY CAMP, we decided to run a fun, one-day training camp so that the secret agents could get their ‘accreditation’ ....BOOT  CAMP!

Today I was the drill sergeant whose job it was to test the new recruits to see if they had what it takes to become a secret agent.

We got the recruits to dress up in some camouflage gear and face paint, then do some activities, plus an ‘amazing race’ style game and then we all headed to the gauntlet -a special test of endurance that we created for today.

The kids had an absolute blast.
The pure joy they had on their faces today was absolutely priceless!

They now have their accreditation and are ready to be secret agents .....as of Monday!








Monday, October 11, 2010

Feel The Power ~ by Dave

It’s a funny thing electricity.  It has become a part of my life that I take it for granted.  If I walk into a dark room, I flick the switch and “click”, the light goes on.  
The new ZOE Children’s Home is a great place.  The home is settled in amongst the mountains.  Though we have electricity, we are at the end of the line.  ZOE had the lines extended into the area where our children’s home is located.
The disadvantage of being at the end of the line is that if there is a power outage at any point on the line….we lose power.   During the current wet season (still 30 degrees -but with rain), this has occurred a number of times.   
All of a sudden the heavens open and the volume of water that falls in the space of an hour is quite unbelievable.  As soon as there is one of these significant downpours (in Australia we would call  it ‘flash flooding’) then we lose power.
When we lose power, we have been able to run some of our services with the use of a generator but often have to reschedule things. Generally when the electricity goes out it is just for 4 to 6 hours, however, last Wednesday night the electricity went down and it was not back on by the morning. So when I went to work at ZOE on Thursday there was still no electricity.  It was then that I realised just how used to having power at my disposal I had become.  
We were making a promotional video for the upcoming ZOE Children’s Camp on Thursday, so when I needed some more light for one of the shots, as the room was too dark, I automatically went and got a lamp and plugged it in! Some time later I was in need of a coffee so I put the coffee and sugar in my cup, and then went to the water heater and filled my cup with lukewarm/cold water!  Ahhh that’s right, water heaters and lamps use electricity!!!  
You may remember our last camp.  We run camp when the ZOE kids are on school holidays. The theme for the October camp is SPY KIDS.  So one advantage of not having any lighting was that it created the prefect ‘spy’ ambience as we filmed.
We filmed it with my Flip video recorder (donated by Ben), and edited in a couple of hours…. I had to get it edited before my laptop battery ran out!
(video below)
Camp is shaping up well!  I will write more about it as it evolves.
On the home front, we are thoroughly enjoying having Mel (Andie’s sister) stay with us.  Andrea apologizes for her lack of blogging. As you can imagine, she has been busy showing her sister the sites of Chiang Mai and doing A LOT OF TALKING!  Stay tuned- she promises she’ll write more soon.
David

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Sunday Night



When I take the time to stop... or even just pause... I give myself the opportunity to see all that surrounds me and appreciate its beauty.  There is so much beauty in the landscape at the moment.  With the rainy season almost over, we’re being left with lush green lawns and many delightful flowering blooms. 

There is also beauty in laughter.  There’s a lot of that in our house.  Some typical of 2 to 5 year old humor, buts that’s okay.  

And there is beauty in friendships. It was so lovely to spend the day with our dear friend Jessica today just hanging out and catching up.

We are also enjoying the location of our new home.  Living right opposite Grace International School we are continual entertained by the array sporting events on showcase right outside our front window.  We have literally jumped up and walked across the road several times now to watch fellow ZOE missionary’s sons or daughters play sport and enjoyed cheering them on.  
What a privilege it is to be able to step outside off our driveway and almost be guaranteed to bump in to someone we now know.

Beauty comes in many shapes and forms.  The look in a small child’s eyes when Daddy gets home, the sound of a bird singing its chorus, the warmth of a cuddle, the taste of a curry that had been craved for or the words of encouragement crafted and sent at just the ‘right’ time.

So on this Sunday night, with random thoughts going through my head, I want to take the time to say THANK YOU!  You are appreciated and valued.  We love reading your news and we think of you often and we will never forget the family, friends, foods and fun from our first home in Australia.  Love you guys,

Andie :)