We spent today in Chiang Mai, recuperating from India and doing touristy stuff. Everyone was breathing better today. Some of the differences we've noticed between the 2 countries: It's much quieter in Thailand. No horn honking. The Thais seem to follow the rules of the road, at least for the most part. They have lines on the road and honor them. It's not so hot hear, and the land is much more colorful. India is mostly brown except for the women's clothes. Chiang Mai is green and lush, a lot like Hawaii without the ocean. THere aren't people living on the streets, although I did see a couple of people sleeping outside when I was looking down from my hotel window. Finally, there are a lot more white people. In India the only place we saw white people was when we visited Mother THeresa's home for the destitute and dying (they were volunteering), or at the Baptist mission guest house we stayed at, or at the mall. Here there are white people everywhere.
This morning we headed out and went to the elephant farm first. We could feed the elephants, watch them bathe, (I thought of Tim and lifeguarding when the elephants walked down into the water and immediately had to poop. The elephant poop does get scooped up so they can turn it into compost, or paper, or other things), watch them perform, and even ride them.
After the elephant farm we went to an orchid place that serves a great buffet lunch. Pupu Jack lied when he said we'd lose weight on this trip. I think I'm gaining. We've been eating wonderful Indian and Thai food. Today I had chicken and vegetables in coconut milk soup. Earlier this year we wanted Ni Doh Paw to make us a dish with lemon grass; now I've eaten a lot of food with lemon grass in it, and I might be making trips to the Asian market myself.
WHen lunch was over we went to the tiger farm. Because the price of admission included a 15 minute visit in the tiger cage everyone ended up going in. I think that some of the kids, especially Sophie and Katy would have put their hands in the tiger's mouths if they'd been told to do something like that. The pictures will take years off Pam's (Sophie's mom) life, but at least she'll be forewarned.
We ended the day with a visit to an orphanage Roger wanted us to see. Most Thai orphanages (we'll see some next week) are mostly filled with ethnic minority or tribal kids, and often the kids are left there by parents who can't afford to care for them, but might come back for them when their lives are better. This orphanage is different....Here they have to relinquish parental rights, and the orphanage only takes Thai children. The reason: after 175 years of Christian presence and missionary work in Thailand, the gospel has still never taken hold. Less than 1 % of the population is Christian and those are mostly tribal people. So this orphanage is set up to take in Thai children, raise them with the gospel, and maybe that will be the seed of the church...
Tomorrow we're leaving for the refugee camps, on my birthday. We celebrated tonight with ice cream at Haggen Daas (sp?) . It wasn't as good as at home. Everyone in the group is holding up well, although it's been somewhat hard on Jean. She stubbed her foot on the tile floor in India, and has had a hard time walking. Her toes are all purple. If you've been praying for my back, thanks. I'm amazingly not in pain at all. Maybe I need to sleep on a straw mattress like we had in India.... Katy, Nathan, and Sophie have all said that they want to go back to India for 6 months to work with Subir and Eunok. I told them to remember that bugs, rice, heat, and poverty are part of that package but they seem undeterred. We're traveling up to Mae Sot in a van and 2 trucks. There is a possibility that some people will be sitting in the back of the trucks. Guess who is volunteering????
Pray that we'll be able to connect with all the people that I've been given stuff for from our Karen community at home. Continue to pray for health and endurance. And please pray that we'll be open to whatever God has for us.