It's been a busy season sprinkled with the grand and not as grand- that my current life has to offer! Here's the latest and greatest from yours truly :)
GIS Update Things are busy as always at Grace International. Always a constant flow of activities and events. More recently we had a visit from American author, Ralph Fletcher. Our students enjoyed asking questions about the books he wrote and making connections. There was a "Bike for Grace" event and an "I love Grace" run. Our high school theatre group performed the production of Stuart Little. The end of this month is the annual Character parade, an event where everyone dresses up as a book character. I'm excited to be a not-so-well known but a literary favorite character. We just finished report cards for 3rd quarter and now we are already in 4th quarter! Final stretch! This week we had a PD (professional development) with other international schools in Chiang Mai. It was good to meet others that teach international students and to see similarities within these schools.
There is a desperate need for people to come teach for the 2015-2016 school year. Many long-termers are heading back to their home countries for furloughs, family, health and various other reasons, leaving many open positions in their wake. Please pray that the right people would listen to the call to come teach at Grace whether for a year or more. It's hard to believe 10 months ago...that was me! What seemed impossible (and often still does...until I'm reminded) is always possible with Christ. My experiences so far have rocked my world in both good and bad ways, but I don't regret any of it and know I'm changed because of it. I look forward to teaching another year at GIS and seeing how a second year will stretch me further.
It will be difficult for me to let go of my 4th graders at the end of the school-year as they move up to 5th grade. My heart continues to overflow with love for them.
I still take pottery and LOVE IT! Using the wheel has been a fun challenge and a wonderful outlet. Ministry club has ended for the year. What a great time it was and a fantastic group to pilot it with! Much was learned from successes and failures and we look forward to next years group and even more opportunities to get involved in the community!
Among a Sea of Pink Back in mid-February some friends and I took a trip to North-Eastern Thailand to UdonThani, a city on the border of Thailand and Laos for a quick weekend getaway from the smoke and smog of Chiang Mai. It happened to be the weekend when bright pink lotus bloom, on a giant lake outside of the city, rightly named the "Sea of Red Lotus". One morning we took a boat out on the water. The sky was misty, gray. It was quiet except for the hum of the boat that carried us. Skimming through the water that was completely covered in pink lotus flowers and lily-pads. Surprisingly, we were the only westerners there. Everyone mesmerized by the beauty around us and the peace it brought. A moment I'll definitely cherish for years to come.
24-hours in Laos Since we were on the Laos-Thai border, we decided to spend 24-hours in Laos before returning to Chiang Mai. We got our travel visas and quickly went through immigration and customs, crossing over Freedom bridge into Laos. Looking out to Thailand across the river was definitely weird. It didn't feel right...like my mind knew that I belong in Thailand right now, not in Laos. Within minutes it was obvious to notice the vast differences but striking similarities to Thailand. One of these differences included driving back on "the correct side of the road." Vientiane seemed dirtier, dustier and less developed than Chiang Mai. The streets have French names and much of the architecture is French. I've heard Vietnam is similar. Also similar to Vietnam is communism. The short time we were there, the only clear evidence we saw was the Lao flag flying next to the communist flag . We spent some time at a history museum which explained the waves of invasion and seizing of Laos and the influences of French, China and America. A sad history for sure. A country whose true heritage is basically forgotten and is now left with much poverty and caught in political crossfire. Pray that the people of Laos would come to know fulness of life in Christ despite their circumstances.
After 24-hours of wandering around Vientiane, we were once again ready to get back across the river to Thailand. :)
Hilltribe Outreach The weekend after traveling to Laos, a friend and I went to a Lisu and then to Rawang hilltribe village with Hope House (one of our ministry club partnerships). Some of the Lisu children from the children's home performed through song, music, dance and drama for their tribe, sharing their new hope, future and faith that they have found since living at Hope House, inviting those they love to do the same. It was humbling to see the excitement and the desire these kids have for other's to experience a new physical and spiritual life. Apparently the village we were in is well known for their production, use of and smuggling of drugs in and out of Burma (which from this village, is only 10 km away from border). Our group brought used clothes from the city to the tribe, since clothing is so desperately needed. Woman ran to the canvas bags of clothes that were poured out onto the dirt floor, frantically trying to gather as many clothes as they could for their families. Within five minutes all the clothes were gone. There were not even enough clothes for the many babies that were held in their mothers arms. Food bags we also distributed. Kids would get a bag and then attempt to come back for more. So desperate for basic necessities. Education is practically non-existent in these rural tribes and that was obvious in so many ways. The kids running around, screaming and fighting during the presentation forced the teacher in me to try not to get up and take control. During the presentation, Thai had to be translated into Lisu and then into a specific Lisu dialect so there was a lot of confusion of languages. It was difficult to see so many people, clearly not in their right mind and many children with deformities and malnourishment. My heart ached for them.
However, it was encouraging to see how the children's home rescues kids from all over the surrounding hill tribes from abusive, drug ridden homes and sex trafficking, allowing them to have an education, have their physical needs met while living in a Thai community that loves them-giving each one a second chance. I hope to continue to support them in the great Kingdom work they do. Message me if you would like to know more and how you can help!
Burning up Hot season is also burning season. The rice fields all over this part of Asia are burning in preparation of planting season. The air quality is terrible and now it is almost daily we cannot see the nearby mountains and hills. The heat only makes this season more miserable. This week the forecast is dry, hot (106 degrees F!!!!!) and hazy. Today the pollution index reached almost 400=hazardous!!! Many people in the city are greatly affected by this and respiratory illnesses are at an all-time high. April will be the peak of this season before the rain comes mid-end of May.
Run for Burma Early March I ran a 5K around a rice field and a large reservoir to raise awareness for the one million displaced people within Burma, not to mention thousands of others that are living in refugee camps in Thailand and other surrounding countries. Many of them flee horrific violence and oppression and desire nothing more than peace in their country. They flee wearing only sandals. A group called The Free Burma Rangers organized this event and are former leaders from the Kachin State who assist and help those who flee. Running the 5k seemed like a small way I could show my support to those who live in fear, are fleeing, live in camps or have lived in camps...both in my Thailand home and Colorado home.
Chinese New Year 100,000 Chinese tourists descended on Chiang Mai last month for the "Year of the Sheep" lunar new year celebrations! That week was CRAZY! Granted we are not too far from China and I've heard that a famous Chinese New Year movie was once made in CM which is an excuse for the influx of tourists. It took a lot of courage to wander through a night market full of tourists eating dumplings, sausages and cakes. It was so crowded my shirt got caught on a Chinese tourists fanny pack zipper...after an awkward moment, ripped the bottom of the shirt and shuffled on!
Ready for Spring Break...in April, an insane month of May and then...6 weeks of my sweet Colorado home before returning to CM for language class in July :)
Praise: 1. Discovering creative outlets and treasured moments of rest 2. Outreach/ Ministry opportunities 3. 4th quarter is HERE! 4. Countless provisions...God's placed some pretty amazing people in my life! I am so grateful. 5. A truly, wonderful group of kids, whose lives I get to be a part of each day.
Prayer: 1. Health- poor air quality and extreme heat, safety in traveling 2. Hill-tribes of Thailand/Burma/Laos (Karen, Hmong, Lisu, Lahu, Akha, Rawang) would come to know who is their ultimate protector, provider and sustainer. 3. Patience with things I cannot change in numerous situations, courage to speak up for the things that I can and for contentment when I feel caught between two completely different worlds. 4. The school year would end on a positive note...for positions to be filled and support to be raised so that this essential school can continue to provide quality education. 5. For my class as we prepare for the end of 4th grade and transition into 5th grade and for their teacher who is going to have to let them go :(