Monday, March 19, 2012

ZOE Children's Home March Update.

Well, the activities around the children's home have been numerous.  There's been so much excitement recently as the last exams have been finished and the children completed their schooling for the year (Thai school year).
This year we had several children graduating Grade 6.  
Their last day and graduation ceremony was on Friday.
I felt kind of reflective as I tried to remember my own Grade 6 graduation (many moons ago) and I took a moment to also consider what these children have accomplished in their short lives to even reach this point.  For many it has been a struggle.  Not just on an academic level but in ways that we can only imagine.  The resilience of these children, their persistence, their courage and their strength challenges me in my own life.  These guys are truly inspiring!
Can you spot me? LOL

Congratulations (or "Congratulation" as the big sign at the entrance of the school read) to the 2012 graduating Grade 6 class.  Everyone at ZOE is so, so proud of you.
What was also great, was that many of our ZOE kids from the other year levels also received awards on Friday for English either for being most improved, the highest mark or having a great attitude.  Well done to all the award recipients too on a great year of study.

For the past couple of weeks, we've had an American team visiting.  They have been such a blessing to us all here at ZOE.  There were so many great things that the team did but a couple of personal highlights were the two Saturdays that they organized special activities for the ZOE family.  
The first Saturday they were here, they prepared several elective classes for all the ZOE and missionary kids and teens.  
Our children, Tobi, Eli and Spencer, enjoyed the fitness/ exercise class and it made for a few laughs to see all the little ones taking on the big American guys in a huge tug-of-war.  The team kept trying but these kids combined obviously had some muscle and remained undefeated!  
After the classes had finished, the team blessed us with a ZOE favorite for lunch- sticky rice and chicken. Mmmm YUM!

Then, this past weekend, we headed in to ZOE on Saturday night for a very special barbecue dinner.  

I'm going to write more about this over at ZOE blog, but I just want to say {um} DELICIOUS!
And just when I thought their was no room left to eat any more, the team brought around the ingredients to make "smores" (because they leave you wanting some+more).  
Made from Graham crackers, marshmallow and Hersheys chocolate.
Now, I'd only ever seen smores on the kid's show 'Barney' but I'd never actually tasted them.  Can I just say that the Cross Family were just a little bit excited, okay that's not quite true, we were very excited and......WE LOVED THEM!!!!!
So, thanks Wintersburg Team.  You took that barbecue to a whole new level.
Well the past few weeks have seen Dave here, there and everywhere.
He went to Chiang Rai a couple of weeks ago with Greg and Rob to look at a possible self-defense training program for our guards and Child Rescue Team.   
Pictured below, the guys learning some of the moves.

Then last week, Dave attended a three-day conference here in Chiangmai.  It was put on by the San Jai network.  The network’s main focus is to build a strong Christian network with members who support one another in working on child protection issues. In order to achieve its goals, the network meets regularly to share ideas and work on initiatives.
Together, the member-organizations explore more diversified type of trainings and technical assistances. 

David met some wonderful people over the three days also working hard to tackle many of the issues that surround sexual abuse, trafficking prevention, aftercare best practices, child protection etc.
Back at the office this week, Dave is setting about planning for the next Child Protection Training.  A couple of weeks ago he did training with the children and next it will be with the staff and parents.  Child Protection is an important aspect to maintaining safety for everyone at ZOE.  
He is also continuing to work on raising the profile of ZOEAustralia too.  This will be the main focus for us for a little while now and I will get Dave to explain a bit more about it soon.
Please keep checking the ZOE blog for more updates from the Children's Home and hopefully soon, a new-look ZOE web page will also appear!  
Thanks for your ongoing prayers for our family.  
Please feel free to leave a comment. 
We love to hear from you too.

Fresh Air Anyone? YES please!

Well, just when we thought that the air was clearing up a little bit, the smog is back. 
Apparently there was a large fire outside the city that had to be brought under control over the weekend which did not help the situation at all. 

Taken outside our house. Usually there are hills in back ground.
Our street. 
The pollution figures were as high as 263 yesterday morning at 10am. A safe level is 50!

As I talk to people at school, preschool and through my day-to-day encounters, I hear repeatedly about how people are temporarily leaving Chiangmai to escape the pollution.  
Others are being hospitalized with pneumonia, asthma and severe respiratory conditions.  Just about everyone else has headaches, allergies, coughs and a general feeling of being unwell.

I could go on, but I won't.  Please join us in praying for some heavy rain!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Master Chef vs Survivor

Have you ever tried to make something in the kitchen only to find yourself running out of both available bench space as well as clean chopping boards and then facing one set back after another?
That was my cooking experience tonight.  
I was making lasagna.  It's a family favorite, something that we don't eat in Thailand very often, a real treat and rare that we even have all the ingredients in stock.
I'd made the meat sauce and that went reasonably smoothly, other than the fact that both my chopping boards were completely covered in carrot, tomato, onion and garlic scraps that screamed, "clean me up".
I didn't though but instead began to make the white sauce and that's when the setbacks began...
The white sauce wasn't thickening up enough so I decided to add some cornflour.  My baking containers are all squished in to a bottom cupboard and so on hands and knees, I began searching for the corn flour which, because I don't use very often, was of course, right at the back.  I needed it quickly so I pulled all the other containers out and just left them on the floor to race back to the saucepan.  
I then discovered that I had neither the bench space or the motivation to simply find a cup and combine a small amount with some liquid before adding it in.  I saw the mess on the bench and made a bad choice and just threw a bit in.... of course it just made the already thin sauce really lumpy.  
After angrily trying to beat the lumps out of it with the back of the wooden spoon, I resorted to the fact that I would have to put it in the blender.  To get to the blender, I had to move the rice cooker but there was no where for the rice cooker to sit on the already full bench, so I put it on the floor too.  
I blended the white sauce, which did the trick beautifully, but added to my pile of dishes that were now stacked high like the Eiffel Tower.  I then had to add the cheese.  Well, cheese here is very expensive so to save money I buy it in a big packet from the Thai version of Cash and Carry and freeze it!  Then I can just cut off sections when we need it.  But of course my chopping boards were still covered in vegetables peels, my bench was lost under everything... the floor {just kidding}... it was not an option. Really!  
I grabbed a clean plate from the dish drying rack, balanced it on the side of the sink and did my best to hack off what I needed.


Do you ever feel like life is a bit like this?  
You want to do (A) but you can't do it until you accomplish (B) but you can't accomplish (B) until you finish (C), but you can't finish (C) until you move from (D).  You can't move from (D) until you've achieved (E).... and so on.

I have so many things that I'd like to say, share, understand, discuss with the people here, but I can't do any of that until I can comprehend and speak Thai.  
I can't understand and speak Thai unless I practice and study all the time.  
I can't practice and study until I prioritize it and not just leave it until the night before my lesson like I {sadly} often do.

And so that's where I'm at, basically I'm in the middle a big mess!

But, you know what?  I did find the corn flour... I did stack back the containers nicely... I put back my rice cooker too... washed the dishes.... wiped the bench and mopped the floor.
You know what else?  {Not to boast} but I made a really GREAT lasagna {and dessert too!!!}.
And strangely enough, this small, insignificant task of making dinner on an ordinary Wednesday night in the North of Thailand comforts me.  Because if I can survive the small set backs in my kitchen, and reach a not-so-important 'end goal' then I am going to make it my mission to keep on trying to achieve my harder, yet much more significant, ones.
I am definitely never going to be a contestant on Master Chef but I am determined to keep-on surviving persevering here until I am speaking Thai like a local!  

What's your advice on "sticking with it"?  How do you motivate yourself to never give up despite the set backs?  Please leave us a comment below!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Talking about pollution and fleas... wanna read?

So {yeah} it's David's birthday today.  
I see that he got some Facebook messages!  
I'll be sure to pass them on to him tonight as he doesn't log on to check his page very often {unlike some of us LOL}.

He's actually gone to Chiang Rai today to attend a training session taking place at another NGO.

Here in Thailand we have three seasons. 
We are now in summer (approx. March- May).  
I'm not sure if you've seen any news reports but the air pollution in Chiang Mai has been above the safe levels lately but where David has gone today, the levels are even higher!! Yikes.  
I hope he remembered his face mask.
In the period between March-April, a continual environmental problem faces Chiang Mai in relation to air pollution. 
It is currently shrouded in smoke during this period leading up to the rainy season.  
The Air Quality Index shows that a moderate level of pollution is between the range of 51-100.  Obviously below this though is best!  Here in Chiangmai, it can rise between 190 and 300 at this time of year.

Whilst there are several causes of air pollution, the main one in Chiang Mai is the age-old practice of burning-off undergrowth in forests in the mountainous regions, especially along the Thai-Myanmar border. 
This problem is made worse by the location of the city which is located in a natural geographic bowl surrounded by mountains (which we currently can not see).  
There are many people we know who are suffering respiratory problems right now.  
Spencer has also been a bit unwell today so I have kept him home.  Thankfully tomorrow is a public holiday so another day inside at home should help him to feel a bit better.  
As we are unsure what time Dave will be home tonight, we will celebrate his birthday tomorrow at dinner time.  
It will be fun having the kids home tomorrow to get things ready.

On Thursday, ZOE has a short-term team arriving.  I am looking forward to meeting them on Saturday when we all head out to ZOE for some activities that both the ZOE children and missionary kids will be involved in together.

And this week, as I feel tempted to complain about the air, I remind myself of a snippet of a conversation between Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, after arriving at the barracks of the Ravensbruck extermination camp in Germany during WWII.

'Give thanks in all circumstances!" That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks." .......

"Thank You," Betsie went on serenely, "for the fleas and for--"

The fleas! This was too much. "Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea."

"Give thanks in all circumstances," she quoted. "It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are a part of this place where God has put us." 

And as you read on further in the book "The Hiding Place", you come to learn that Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, were able to hold massive Bible studies in the sleeping quarters of their barracks without being discovered because the guards were too afraid of the fleas to enter. 

The fleas were what God used to allow the gospel of eternal hope to reach hundreds of women, many of whom lost their lives shortly thereafter.
This always helps me to keep things in perspective! 
How about you? 

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's Gonna Take a While

Did you ever have a friend at school who looked liked you, shared the same interests and people even got you confused sometimes?
Tobi has a little friend like that.  When I'm picking him up, teachers from other year levels sometimes call him his friend's name by mistake, but he doesn't mind... he just smiles.
There's a whole lot of laughter, soccer and eating sweets that takes place when these two get together!  Not surprisingly this little friend comes from two remarkable parents; a really beautiful family.
We knew that they would only be in Chiangmai for a year or two, but with a sudden turn of events causing them to pack up and move back to the States within a two week period, our little boy had a very hard 'good bye' to say this morning before going to school...

I went to Tobi's classroom this afternoon, to do my weekly volunteering, only to discover that his usual classroom teacher was absent today along with many other classmates.  In fact, there was only Tobi and seven others making it a very small class.  I missed his little friend racing up to say hello.  The class just wasn't the same.
As the day drew to a close and we walked hand in hand through the gates Tobi said, "Mum it's gonna take a while to get used to it".  "What's that?" I asked.
"Justus not being here".
My heart broke just a little at that moment, for I know the pain of having to say goodbye and the feeling of emptiness that missing friends can bring.
Throughout the evening he prayed for his friend and just keep repeating, "It's just gonna take a while".

I know.

Dave and I have both shed a tear too for the loss of such a wonderful family.
A while ago I posted this:
"The longer I’m here, the more I begin to understand that I have to change the way I view how life is ‘meant to be’.  I’m learning that life doesn’t follow a ‘rule book’ and that I’m not ‘in control’ ".

But it's still taking a while to get used to that too.