we’re home

 we made it with very little excitement on the way.  other than when we arrived at d/fw airport and they told me my itinerary had been cancelled.  but the kids were still good to go.  took a few minutes but the nice united employee – the only nice united employee we ran into – fixed it all up and had me flying with them.

here’s the kids 15 minutes after take off.

we had been at the airport since 4am, so i guess a nap was in order.

so close, but yet so far

a14 and i are stalled in san francisco.  our flight was cancelled this morning which means i’ll be arriving at d/fw 7 hours later than planned.  a14 is already 6 days late.  she was delayed for medical reasons.  got her a case of scrub typhus diagnosed 3 days before she was due to leave thailand for our visit home.  (good thing i’d scheduled myself to fly 5 days after the rest of the family.)

our trip had gone along pretty smoothly.  we were on time for all our flights.  they all took off on time – one of them even left early.  we arrived in san francisco right on time, made it through customs, got our bags and headed to re-check them for our very last leg of this journey.  and that’s when we were derailed.  everyone was really nice – the ticket agent tried to find an earlier flight for us, but there were no seats available on any other flight that could possibly get us to dallas before 11p.  so we wait.  and try to stay awake.

we’re flying united and their pilots do this bothersome thing when they are making their final pre-landing announcement.  they yammer on about putting your seat upright and locking your tray table, making sure you’re seat belt is on and all your carry on stuff is stowed away – the usual stuff – and then they end with reminding us that if we end up making an emergency landing to leave all our stuff behind when we exit the plane.  it might just be me, but i found this announcement, as the plane is landing, to be a bit unsettling.

on the second day – prachinburi

day two had us loading up into vans and heading to a compassion international project located in the prachinburi province of eastern thailand.  it was about a two hour drive (we quickly learned that loading up into the vans would almost always equal a two hour drive.)

  • day 1 – bangkok to pattaya (2+ hours)
  • day 2 – pattaya to prachinburi (2+ hours), prachinburi to pattaya (2+ hours)

we arrived a bit late – that was sort of a theme for us – and were warmly welcomed and enjoyed a lunch prepared for us by the project volunteers that included some of the best kaeng khiao wan kai i’ve had in a very long time.

after lunch we were introduced to the project manager and many of the volunteers.

these guys work tirelessly to ensure the success of this project

at this project we learned more about the child sponsorship program (csp) and the complimentary intervention fund (civ).  child sponsorship is why most of the group i was traveling with had signed up for this trip.  they each sponsor at least one child in thailand and trips like this allow them to meet the child(ren) they’ve been supporting and corresponding with.  the complimentary intervention funds are funds that are applied for by compassion projects to help with a need outside the scope of the sponsorship program.

so we could get a better understanding of csp we split into three groups to do home visits.  our group headed to a nearby neighborhood.  this neighborhood is located along the banks of the bang pakong river and floods almost every year at some point during the rainy season.

we visited a home that has twin boys who are in the sponsorship program.  they live at home with their grandmother, who is quite frail, an uncle and an older sibling.  the uncle is normally the income provider, but he is sick at this time and unable to work.

their home is in need of structural repair.  the annual flooding has taken it’s toll on the beams that support the floor causing the back half of the house to be very unstable.  the boys are healthy and strong.  they attend school and have been identified as good leaders among their group and are being mentored to encourage their leadership skills.  they take part in the progams at the project and they attend church.  without the compassion project it is very likely that these 14 year old boys would have had to quit school so that they could help support the family.

after home visits we returned to the project.  many of the children were out of school and hanging out at the project. the school they attend is located very near, but the area isn’t safe so they cut through the project to avoid the surrounding streets.  the project also has a shelter home for children who are not able to live at home, mainly because of abuse.

this project applied for and received civ funds from korea.  these funds are being used to help support the renovation of the project buildings in order to expand the space for the children’s classes.

i didn’t get a picture of the current space they have for the kids, but it is quite small and greatly limits what they are able to do.

i was greatly impressed by the organization of this project.  having never visited a project, i really didn’t know what to expect.  this was the only inner city project i visited on this trip.  it had a much different feel than the others and had done a very good job of assessing the needs of these kids and planning a program that accomplished the mission of compassion international in a meaningful way that truly benefited the children and their families.

too quickly it was time to load up in the vans and head back to pattaya.  we took time to pray with the project manager and volunteers and then said our farewells.   i don’t normally try to sell things on my blog, but compassion international’s child sponsorship program is absolutely amazing.  when they say “you can change the course of a child’s life” they mean it.  i would encourage anyone everyone who is able to do it.  today.


and we’re back – here, not there

the train arrived early.  we boarded.  we were excited.  we ordered dinner.  the train left the station for chiang mai.  we ate dinner (which convinced me not to order dinner on the train again.  it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good, either.)  we ordered breakfast (only because by that time the train was running an hour behind schedule and i didn’t figure the kids would like waiting until 11 in the morning to eat).  the nice train employee came and put the beds down for us.  we got into bed.  we were curled up nicely with our ipods and we (or at least i) was ready to be put to sleep by the swaying of the train.  and just as i was beginning to understand how someone could possibly be swayed to sleep by a train they came and told us we wouldn’t be having breakfast.  or chiang mai.  that we were headed back to bangkok.  flooding again so we shouldn’t count on the overnight train on thursday night.

now we’re back at the bangkok christian guest house with tickets for an overnight bus tomorrow night.  s11 has a vote in that we do nothing tomorrow.  he’d like a day to hang out around the hotel and fill every available minute with whatever might be showing on cartoon network.  and as tempting as that is – check out is at noon.  that leaves us several (like 7) hours to fill.  a13 mentioned that cats and dogs: the revenge of kitty galore comes out tomorrow and we’re not at all far from the mall where the ginormous theatre is and maybe we should go there.  right now, my vote is for sleep – and blogging, obviously.

and while we’re figuring out how we’re gonna fritter away a few hours before we can begin our journey home, michael’s hearing reports that super typhoon megi is due to arrive where he is somewhere in the same time frame as when he’s gonna be attempting to leave.  it seems he always has to one up me.

i’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done

or more accurately – i’ll be gone 431 miles when the night is done, but that just doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely.

a13, s11 and i are taking the night train to bangkok.  we’re headed there to have some testing done with s11.  i’m not going to go into all the details here – at least not right now.  it’s nothing life threatening, but something that does need to be looked into.  (how’s that for vague?)  other than a doctor’s appointment (that i have no idea of the length of or follow up for) i have made no plans. and in a moment of weakness i agreed that the kids should be able to pick out some of the things we do.  a13 wants to go to the mall – we can do that.  both kids want to go to ocean world, but both kids have already been there – so i’m leaning away from that option.  there’s safari world.  their tagline claims they’re “the world of happiness”. that makes it sound like it might be a must see.  except maybe it’s not very nice that they make the orangutan box.  and so maybe we shouldn’t encourage them to do that.  plus, it seems like it might not be the easiest to get to.  i’ve talked the kids into a river boat ride – several people have suggested it and when you google “must do in bangkok” it makes all the lists.  i’d like to make it to the grand palace.  and i think i can make that happen, especially if i can manage to convince the kids that the river boat cruise was really their idea.

all this figuring out how to have fun is really a big distraction from what i should be doing anyway.  and that’s figuring out how we’re gonna get from the train station to the guest house and from the guest house to the hospital.  after that, it will be all fun all the time.

dolphin bay – the fifth

today we fished.  we headed out just off the point of monkey island.  and then we sat and waited.  and nothing happened.  unless you count the fish eating our bait off our hooks as something.  which i guess it was, because it meant we had to re-bait our hooks – ourselves.  they fish with squid here.  squid has ink in it.  squid ink is sticky, sticky, sticky.

ay – our fishing guide – cutting up some squid for our bait.

in the first 1/2 hour ay caught 5 sea creatures.  2 fish that were keepers.  2 fish that were not keepers.  and this.

he – she? – was thrown back to the sea.

about an hour in the kids started getting restless.  and then a spark of hope.  i caught 3 fish.  boom boom boom.  my technique might be questionable, but it was effective.

and, in no time, a13 and s10 were in on the action.  a13 caught 4 fish and s10 caught 3 fish.

when we got back to the shore ay sent us on our way with our catch.

that’s ay and his boat headed back out.  he contributed 2 extra fish to bring our total to 12.  we turned them in to the kitchen at the juniper tree and for dinner we were served a plate of fried fish.  no picture of that – i blame it on exhaustion.

dophin bay – the first

turns out there are things i forget.  like arranging for a ride to the airport.  so we improvised.

don’t worry, i didn’t make them walk all the way to the airport.  just around the corner to catch a songthaew.

uneventful flight followed by uneventful ride.  made all the more uneventful because i took 50 mg of diphenhydramine – which totally knocked me out.  we arrived at dolphin bay just in time to catch the very, very tail end of a big rain.  so no swimming at the shore today, but there’s still time.

we did manage to discover something totally unheard of at the beach this evening.  a watermelon tree.

true story.  a13 s10 one of my kids saw that little bitty watermelon sitting on that table and as we were walking by he she they said, “some watermelon trees”  like she he they see them all the time.  and it wasn’t until we were well past the “watermelon” trees that he she realized that that watermelon and those trees were most likely unrelated.

i did manage a few pictures this evening while s10 played ping pong table tennis with a new friend and a13 watched a movie with some other kids.

tomorrow morning we’re planning to head out in these kayaks (not all of them).  our goal is to make it to one of these islands.

monkeys live there. and we want to see them.

if kayaking proves too difficult we can hire a boat like this one to take us to monkey island and some caves and fishing.

i was hoping to avoid the fishing thing, but both kids are keen on going.  maybe i’ll manage to catch some good pictures.