Life in the 6th Grade and Diakonia
Today I went for a solo, Sunday afternoon motorbike ride up in the hills. The last time I drove up that far was back in May. This Sunday afternoon ride was long overdue. Since July, it's been so rainy that it's been difficult to get out and about in the hills. Hopefully, rainy season is coming to an end.
In Colorado, Sunday afternoon drives were a favorite. I'd just get in the car and drive west...ending up in Estes Park or Nederland outside of Boulder and not really caring about time. Windows down, enjoying fresh air, the beauty of the mountains and a change of scenery.
Today's drive was just what I needed. Feeling the twists and turns of the winding road, the warm sun (finally) shining, gazing out into the distance as I gained elevation, seeing the many hills, thick with green forest below the bright blue sky. I had to maintain focus though, as to not wipe out and watch for other cars and bikers that often zoom by. I was breathing in the actually fresh (not too humid) air and had the visor on my helmet up. Stopped at the top of a mountain pass to get a tea and rice. Enjoyed a few peaceful moments by a koi pond before heading back to the busy, bustling city. The only downsides to my excursion were the mosquitos eating me alive (where do they come from???) and then a bug flew right into my eye (this happens frequently, unfortunately...). I think my eyes attract bugs...
Anyways. I realized today that I need to get out more, which probably sounds strange because I have traveled and seen a lot in my 2 1/2 years here, but this year has been really different. I've felt more confined to the area of town I live and work in and to the responsibilities I have. I pretty much work all the time. Can't stop. I struggle to slow down and find space for myself. So my hope is that for the remainder of the year, I'm going to carve out time every week or two, to get out of town and explore the forests and hills surrounding Chiang Mai. Hopefully, I'll have more adventures to tell you about in the future, but for now here is my latest update :)
Thailand in mourning-On October 13, 2016 Thailand's beloved King passed away. He was one of the world's longest reining monarchs. We had heard rumors that he was hospitalized a month earlier and we were just waiting with the rest of Thailand to hear the news. No one knew what to expect or what would happen. The school made contingency plans for if the whole country were to stop. We made sure to have multi-entry permits and know where to go in the case of a national emergency. People were stocking up on water, food, gas like Y2K. When I woke up that Friday morning after, school was canceled, but other than that most businesses were open although, the Thai people are in tremendous mourning. We watched on TV as the motorcade transported the King's body from the hospital to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Since then, there have been weekly gatherings and memorials of mourning and weeping this loss. We had a memorial ceremony at school the following Monday and this past week there was a huge ceremony at the nearby botanic gardens. The mourning period is to last for a year. Fortunately, non-Thai are nearing the end of our 30-days of dressing in black. Now to find muted colors for a year. No one knows what this will hold for a country whose king is honored in every aspect of life here.
If you would like more info read this article here. Also, this ceremony with elephants here.
Vietnam-My trip to Vietnam was not long enough. I left wanting more. So much to see in such a short time. Thankfully, I have a year long visa. Yes, all Americans only have one option when entering the country now and that means obtain a year-long multiple entry visa. So I hope to visit again another time this year.
One of my housemates joined me on this adventure. We spent some time in the busy city of the North, Hanoi. It was quite the experience navigating the insane traffic (couldn't even cross the road by foot) and ended up catching a ride on the back of a strangers motorbike to make it across town one day to eat at a cafe owned by one of my student's parents. We were able to see a cultural water puppet show and learn about the Vietnamese culture and their mixed buddhist and varied religious beliefs.
We took an overnight trip to the famous Halong Bay. A series of 2,000 islands off the northern coast. Such a beautiful place but always full of many tourists which I personally don't enjoy.
The best part of this trip was going to mid-coastal Vietnam to visit a now friend that I met last year when she came to Chiang Mai to visit for a holiday. We stayed with her and her 3 other housemates. All these ladies are part of my sending organization and in their area they are some of the only foreigners in their small coastal city. My housemate and I were fortunate to spend an afternoon at the school they teach at. It's always so good to step outside of ourselves and see how others teach and live. So refreshing to see another perspective and view of education. The kids loved learning our names and practicing their English. They asked us all kinds of questions...the ones that kids in America really want to ask but are told no because it's not polite. What cuties! (But really, ALL kids are precious :))
We traveled up the coast a bit to a lighthouse and to other beautiful vistas and beaches. Although it rained everyday and was really windy, we did enjoy moments of sunshine, rest and community.
Some of my favorites about this trip:
1. Love Vietnamese food! Different spices and flavors than Thai. Nice to try something different.
2. Such a beautiful place with pristine mountains and beaches.
3. The people I met were so friendly and helpful. They are so eager to practice their English and converse with others.
4. They drive on the correct side of the road!
5. Art and French Architecture
6. Connecting with other international teachers
7. Playing drums for a church service
8. Love that they are louder people and Karaoke is everywhere!!!
9. They have better rain ponchos than we do in Thailand
10. In my opinion they win the award for carrying the most stuff on a motorbike...more than Thailand. Oh and their traffic is MUCH worse!
Health-This past weekend, I was planning on going on a trip with the Sports Leaders of our school to the Burmese border, but ended up staying home because I was sick. I was seriously bummed, but I think this was God's way of telling me to slow down and get rest. I still have a really bad cough and not feeling 100%.
School update-Recently a coworker posted..."sometimes I think God allows us to get knocked down to our knees because that's where we should be in the first place"
This is proving true for our school who is desperately trying to build their own campus. We were told recently that we will be moving to our new (hopefully, permanent location) in Summer 2019. The problem is that just last week, we found out that the previous Elementary campus location is unable to be sold because there are issues between the bank, government and the neighborhood. It is a very complicated situation and needs lots of prayer.
-Thanking God for a good, safe, encouraging trip to Vietnam
-Diakonia is going so well! Fun is being had, learning is happening and friendships are being made. These are all exciting things I am so glad to be a part of!
-For this season of Thankfulness and the life He's given me here
-My 6th graders are going on their overnight 6th grade trip this coming Thursday! Pray for a great time of bonding and fun together as a class. I'm excited, but always a bit nervous as many things in 6th grade are new to me.
-That our old Elementary campus would sell so that we can have the money to begin building on our new land.
-The decision I have to make concerning next year. I am in need of lots of prayer for discernment to stay one, final year or not. I am continually grateful for all of you and your continuous journeying with me.
-Health-not just physically but also spiritually. There is a real spiritual battle that is threatening our community, school and many individuals. There are many strongholds. Please pray for walls to be torn down and people to be receptive to truth and healing.
I'll be HOME for Christmas! This is not a dream. This year I'll be home for a few short weeks over Christmas and New Years. Unfortunately, I won't get to see everyone, but I'd like to see as many of you as possible! I'll be in a good friend's wedding and spending my first Christmas in three years with family. I plan on taking advantage of all the Christmas treats, smells, and weather. Pray that it would be a great holiday filled with encouragement.
Sara Gurule c/o