Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stories I Didn't Tell my Mother (till now) Part 1

Most of you know that I'm home now, and I'm SO grateful to be back. I realize that there are still several stories that I haven't yet posted on my blog, and for my own sake, I'm going to write a few more before I can no longer remember them. This first set of stories is called "Stories I Didn't Tell My Mother (till now)." As I tell the following stories, I want everyone to understand that I tried my hardest to use common sense, and to listen to the spirit; however, I wasn't always in the safest of situations....and OK, sometimes I didn't make the smartest of choices--but when you travel on your own to a foreign country, sometimes ANY choice you make is a risk. So, I took some risks, I had a grand adventure, and now I'm safely back home.

I honestly felt safer in Thailand in a lot of ways than I do at home. I can't really tell you why that is. Maybe it's because I never watched scary movies there, or maybe it's because I felt the protection of all the prayers for my safety being said back home.

Despite my feelings of safety, I WASN'T safer. I'd heard enough stories to know that. My friend Harj, one of the teachers at the Baan Unrak school, told me all kinds of scary stories about Sangkhlaburi. Supposedly a volunteer that lived in Harj's house a few years ago was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in that very house and....well I won't tell you the details on that story. But Harj also told me about the girl who manages the dog sanctuary (right across the street from me). Apparantly, Gemma was walking either to or from the wooden bridge just a little bit after sunset, and she was attacked by a man who tried to rape her. Luckily, she had her trusty dogs with her, and they saved her, but after hearing that story, I was much more cautious about walking alone at night.

It's common knowledge in Thailand that many monks are former criminals and convicts who escape to the monastery to claim sanctuary. Every time we would pass by or talk about a monk, Harj would say "recipe for rape," and then laugh as if it were the funniest joke in the world. I tried to avoid monks.

Probably the stories that made me the most nervous were the stories about my mentally disabled next-door neighbor. I don't think that he's a malicious, or intentionally dangerous person, but apparently he once beat an older man and put him in a coma. And another time, he broke into the front room of our house (the room that I was sleeping in for the first few weeks of my stay), and was found sleeping there the next morning (luckily this particular incident happened BEFORE I was sleeping in that room, and I didn't hear about it until after I was no longer sleeping there). I still always greeted that man as I walked to and from the home every morning, but I was always very careful to lock the doors whether I was home or away.'s really no wonder why I was so excited when Laura came to live with me, and I didn't have to stay in that house alone any more.

Thanks again for all of your prayers =) I'm sure much of the credit goes to you that I'm now safely back home!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mon Breakfast One Last Time

My last week in Sangkhla, Laura and I decided to wake up early to watch the sunrise and eat a hot Mon breakfast. It was a pretty misty morning, so we didn't see much of the sun, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

I decided to brave it and try the beef porridge with egg and fish oil. Not typically a "Kimber breakfast" but, surprisingly, quite good.

I believe this was the first time I ate a Mon breakfast and skipped all of the deep-fat-fried delicacies that were offered to me. On the far left you can see the tasty burmese donuts (to be dipped in sweetened condensed milk); the triangle shaped pieces are called....oh! I can't remember! But they are stuffed with a spicy curry--absolutely superb. The far right front are small roti peices, also to be dipped in sweetened condensed milk, and in the bag are the large roti which are served with a chic pea mixture. Yes, it's true, I skipped out on all of this for fish-oil porridge. Weird, I know.

Just a couple of pictures I took from the bridge. I miss seeing sights like this, now that I'm home.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Elephant Never Forgets....but Kimber sometimes does

Yesterday morning I joined the kids for a swim at an elephant camp. About forty kids scrunched into the back of the truck, and 6 of us held onto the back. It was a VERY long 40 minute drive away....It's going to feel so strange when I'm back in the states and get to ride in a regular car with a regular amount of people again. AND it will be strange to wear seat belts....very strange.
When we arrived at the designated swimming spot, Lars pointed out a couple of elephants standing by trees, fanning out their ears and swaying from side to side. It felt very cool to be swimming in a river that was watched over by elephants--although I was careful to not open my mouth and let ANY water in (who knew what the elephants had done in there...not to mention the kids).
After the kids piled out of the truck, and ransacked the local trees for fruit, they proceeded to run to the river and push each other off of the rafts that floated across it. I was enjoying watching them play, when two of the teenagers snuck up behind me and pushed me in as well (shoes and all). I was happy to join in the fun--it's amazing how long kids can stay entertained with a little bit of water and the freedom to push each other around. We left to go swimming at 8:30 in the morning, and didn't get back until about 4:00 in the afternoon!

Unfortunately, I started feeling sick about half way through the day, and had to stop swimming in favor of rest. While I was curled up in the back of the truck, some of the locals came and tied the rafts to the back of some elephants to give them a ride through the river (along with the tourists that were actually PAYING for the experience). They had a great time, despite the incredible heat that was beating down on them.

By the time we finally left, all of the farang, and even the Thai volunteer that was with us, were showing signs of sun exposure. When we got home, it hurt to walk--I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my knees....and they were pretty darn red. I don't think I've ever had a sunburn over a major joint before.....knees have got to be one of THE worst places to get burnt. I can't bend my legs very well at all (combine this inconvenience with the commodity of squat toilets, and you've got yourself a problem). Today my legs feel slightly better...until I move them. I've been trying to walk without bending my knees and I look like an idiot. My queezy stomach, hasn't helped matters. Haha....I guess I should just be happy that I'm not still limping from the tack I stepped on last week.... I could give my mom a run for her money when it comes to being accident prone. Let's just hope I'm done with this stage by the time I get on my plane for home next week.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Six Months Split

This has been a rather crazy past couple of weeks with the result being: I've decided to come home! Between student loan issues, missing the strength that comes from living in an LDS community, feeling like I've learned what I've come out here to learn, and a few other things that have come up, I feel really peaceful and happy about the decision to come home.

There are definitely things I will miss about Sangkhlaburi, but I'm excited to continue moving onwards and upwards with my life. Laura and I have an itinerary planned out this week to visit all of my favorite places in the town. We'll end the week with a trip to Bangkok--and then I'll begin my 30+ hour trip home. I know that there have been quite a few stories and experiences the past few weeks that I've failed to post--but now, I can tell the stories in person, which is MUCH more exciting, right?

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

LDS Branch in Penang

Thanks to my mom, the internet, and a knowledgeable taxi driver, I was able to find the building in which the LDS branch here in Penang meets. What a LOVELY branch. The members were all very eager to introduce themselves to me, and I was also quickly introduced to the other Americans in the branch. I was shocked and amazed to discover that the first American I met, Sis. Shaw, was born in Hurricane, UT! Haha…the church really is a small world, you know. She didn’t grow up in Hurricane, so we didn’t know any of the same people, and I forgot to ask her maiden name… She and her husband now call American Fork home, but they are working for a company here in Penang. Sis. Shaw informed me that another couple in the ward—the Hinton’s—were from the states, and Brother Hinton hailed from Hurricane as well (I thought he might as soon as I heard the name). Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet the Hinton’s as they are currently in Phuket, Thailand with their quadruplets.

During Sacrament meeting, a young man was confirmed a member of the church—according to Sister Shaw, he is fifteen years old and discovered the church online just a couple of months ago. He came to church out of curiosity, and shortly thereafter, decided to get baptized. Only fifteen and he could make a decision like that... I met him briefly after church, and was very impressed with his sharpness. Really happy, very bright kid. I’m glad he’s found the gospel.

I sat next to Sis. Le Blanc in Sunday school—she was the first person to introduce herself to me in sacrament meeting, and was sure to quickly write down her contact information for me in case I ever come back to Penang and need a place to stay. I loved being able to participate in the Sunday School lesson, which was taught in English (most Malaysians here in Penang speak fluent English), and I was even asked to say the closing prayer in Relief Society!

I met another American in Relief Society named Sister Horrocks. I found out she was the branch’s choir director and asked if I could join in singing with them after church. She consented, but warned me not to expect too much. She said that they all sang in unison because if she tried to get them to do parts, it would scare them from coming to choir practice. I laughed and said I understood as I was trying to start my own children’s choir in Thailand. She mentioned to me that her Dad was a choir director, but that it wasn’t a talent that she really felt she had…but she did her best. I asked what kind of choir her father directed—“Does he teach in schools?” She replied, “Well, he directed the Tabernacle Choir for 16 years, but now—“ I stopped her with my wide eyes. “Who’s your Dad?!” It was, of course, Craig Jessop. I felt kind of in awe. Out of four American families in the ward, three have roots in Hurricane or St. George, and the other one consists Craig Jessop’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandson (who is an adorable kid, also named Craig). Suddenly, I understood why she told me she would be nervous to have her father come visit while she had the calling of choir director. Wow.

Choir was nice, and afterwards I was able to receive a much needed Priesthood blessing from Brother Horrocks and one of the other Priesthood holders in the ward before someone gave me a ride back to my hostel. I’m now sitting in my room listening to video clips of Mo-tab on Youtube, and feeling a peace and joy that I haven’t felt in a long time.

I finally got to take the sacrament today for the first time in over three months. There is so much power in that ordinance. Sometimes, when we take it every week, I think it’s easy to take the sacrament for granted. Being able to participate in it after weeks of not being at church, gave me a completely new appreciation for it—and a new appreciation for church in general. It’s not that the rest of the world is evil and bad—there are a LOT of good people in the world doing the best they can—however, most of them are pretty lost and they don’t have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I felt a major difference in the air as soon as I stepped into the chapel today.

Even though I’ve been trying to do service for God’s children on the Burmese border in hopes that it will improve who I am, I felt like I gained more from 1 day in church than I have in the entire three months I’ve been in Sangkhlaburi.

I LOVE the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I testify that it’s true. I felt that more strongly today than I ever have in my life. I’ve spent a lot of the past three months questioning my beliefs—everyone believes that their beliefs are the “right” ones, right? How do we know that ours really is the fullness of the gospel here on the earth? How do we really know that God is even there—I’ve never seen Him. I’ve never heard His voice calling me from the heavens. All religions have stories and all people have reasons for believing what they do—so what gives us the gall to claim that our church is the truth?

True, we have some BEAUTIFUL hymns, really friendly members, sharp looking missionaries, lovely church buildings and temples, and the organization and workings of our church stay consistent throughout the world—but that isn’t enough to claim we have the “true” church.

We can’t even honestly say that our church is the only one that has the spirit. Since I’ve come to Asia, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in various religious ceremonies and have many religious based conversations with many people of a multitude of faiths. I’ve felt a sense of the spirit—or some kind of good spiritual/emotional feeling during many of these practices and discussions. Just last night I attended a Hindi ceremony and was completely caught up in the beautiful colors of the clothing, the smell of sandal wood incense, and the excitement of the priests coming around to smear ashes on everyone’s forehead as a blessing.

However, we do have something that no other church has—a still small voice that whispers, “This is it. This is the truth.” I felt that voice today—it struck me to my core. After experiencing the many idols, colors, and bright spectacles in the Hindu temple yesterday, it almost surprised me how piercing the simple ceremonies and doctrine of our church were to me today. I was reminded of the story of Elijah when he was on the mountain and….actually, I’m just going to quote it. It’s in 1 Kings 18:11-13:

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

God doesn’t need spectacle—He has the truth. He is the truth.

Something changed in me today. It’s as if I were a character in a cartoon strip—caught up in my 2-demensional world of face-book, music, relationships, school, foreign lands, and other 2-D things. I’ve been trying to make sense of the little box I’m in, and it makes me frustrated that I can’t see into the next frame. I keep thinking that if I can just make the right decision, then maybe one of the frames I end up in will be open ended—that I’ll be able to see from one frame to the next without guessing where I’m jumping to; And then I won’t feel so trapped by the walls around the little cartoon box I’m in.

Today, I somehow was able to look up into the 3-D world and glimpse my Creator. I realized that seeing what’s in the next frame isn’t what matters—my job is to trust in His ability to see the next frame and to keep walking while learning things from and experiencing fully the frame I’m in. If I ever feel trapped by my lack of ability to make sense of my life, all I need to do is look up and remember that God knows where I’m going, even when I don’t. My world is just an illusion anyways—what really matters, is His world—and the more I look up, the more I become ensconced in reality.

The trick is figuring out how to look up. Scripture study and prayer are great tools—but not enough. We need the fellowship and the ordinances that church provides us with. I need them. I have no clue what direction my life is about to take in the next few months—or even weeks for that matter; however, I refuse to go another three months without attending church. It’s too important to me and I’ve missed it too much. This means that I’ll be making some changes. Whether that’s a change in location, or a change in my spending and schedule so that I can afford the 6 hour drive to Bangkok for church , I haven’t figured out yet…but something will be changing. I’ll try to keep you posted.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oh rats!

Ok, here come a couple of quick up-datey posts for those of you that haven't given up on my blog yet! Sorry for the lack of writing. It's funny how used to a totally different culture one can become--things that everyone back home might find intriguing, I simply find common place now, so it hasn't been as exciting to write about everything on my blog =)

At first, Laura thought that seeing little rodents running around our house was kind of cute, but after they chewed through her precious soy-milk cartons and got the liquid ALL over her stuff, she decided they weren't so cute after all. Our Kiwi friend, Scott found this concoction called N-rat. Some kind of sticky glue to catch rats with--he bought it as a joke, thinking the description on the back of the rat's "frenzied scream" when caught was morbid and hilarious. But to Laura, the rodent situation was no longer a laughing matter. She spread the stuff over a styrofoam plate and used two pieces of dried fruit as bait.

Later that evening, we spotted the mouse run behind a box in our front room, so we let the styrofoam plate lie in wait by the box. I chased the mouse from behind the box, and it ran out--and RIGHT over the plate without getting stuck. What?! How did it do that? We decided to leave the plate where it was--maybe the fruit would prove tempting in the night.

Sure enough, Laura heard some scuffles in the night, and kept waiting for the "frenzied scream," but none came. In the morning, this is what we found:

Not a mouse, but a rat. And it seems to have died in quiet dignity.

We told the Kanchan family (Paul Kanchan is a Doctor volunteering at Baan Unrak for about a month) about our catch. They informed us that it was probably one of the rats that Gemma saved. Gemma is the young English woman that lives across the street from us and runs the dog sanctuary. Apparantly, in her informational booklet on the sanctuary, she has pictures of a rat family that she saved from some obscure corner of the
Baan Unrak school. John and Barbara and their little ratlings....woops. Sorry, John. We decided it would be wise not to tell Didi. She might kick us out for killing a rat, because harming animals is against the neohumanistic philosophy. I think Laura would argue, "Better the rat than my soy milk!"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Re-Culture Shock

I’m currently sitting in the BKK airport eating a large mango-almond

blizzard (their large is the same size as an American small…and I’m starting to think that I won’t be able to finish it….so much ice cream!!!) and feeling pretty uncomfortable. I feel like I don’t belong in this world of cushioned chairs and nicely boxed candy; of donuts with sprinkles and deep dish pizza. I feel …uncouth? I feel…country bumpkin-ish. Too dirty and poor to touch anything.

I got to Bangkok two nights ago, and was VERY happy to be able to hide in my hotel room away from all of the neon lights, traffic, and street vendors. How can people live amongst so much…stuff?!!! My eyes hurt after only an hour outside—the buildings were all so BIG, and everything was so LOUD and chaotic. I’ll admit, there’s a certain excitement to it all, but mainly I just felt overwhelmed and little. Yesterday, after zooming through traffic for awhile on the back of a motor-bike, I made my way to a mall with movie theater (I have NEVER seen such a large mall OR such a hi-tech, complicated movie theater) and pretty much just closed my eyes through the movie, “Hop” (didn’t like the movie—don’t recommend it).

I’m really glad that I don’t live in a big city in America. I don’t think I could ever adjust to the chaos… I like trees, grass, cows, and horses. It’s like in Ernie’s song, “I Don’t want to Live on the Moon.” The city is a cool place to visit…to take in all of the sights and sounds, to blend in to the masses, but I don’t think I’d like to live there. It’s going to be hard enough for me to adjust to the wealth of Hurricane and Rexburg when I get back. It’s one thing to remember home and think, “Wow….I used to live like that? It will be another thing entirely to adjust to living that way again.

I really can’t get over how comfortable these cushioned cafĂ© seats are…and I took a hot bath yesterday it felt simply LUXURIOUS. I never thought that comfort could feel so uncomfortable. I’m anxious to get back to my wooden bed and squat toilet in Sangkhla.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kimber and Laura Throw a Dinner Party

So....sorry about the long Blog-break. I've just been having such a fun time with Laura, I haven't really had the time to blog about it all. However SHE has written a bit about the last couple of weeks, so, I'm going to let you hear it from her point of view. Here is her last blog post (pictures by ME):
Overall an excellent first week! Both the work and the social scene are a lot of fun, if a little exhausting. Weaving-wise, it's a slow burner but there is a lot of potential - a very exciting little project! Our main issue is having minimal staff; our weavers weave away merrily but the management side of things is all rather messy. Ohma is the main woman and seems to be pretty on the ball but unfortunately has a tendency to disappear off the ball back to Burma without prior warning. The last time she did this they recruited in Akka, who was originally a maths teacher, but he isn't so on the ball and speaks very little English. And he's gone awry this week too.

While Ohma is lovely and does speak very good English communication is often still strained. A conversation will go something like this:

"Here is the children's range that a previous volunteer designed before he left." Ohma shows me the children's range.
"Oh wow these are fantastic, can we still make these?" I admire the children's range.
"Swinn designed them before he left."
"great, so could we reproduce these if we were to advertise them online and in the shop?"
"We got rid of all of the patterns."
"Oh... so we can't make these again?"
"These are the only versions"
"Ok. So we can't make them again? Can we contact Swinn to ask if he still has the patterns?"
"Yes I have his email address."

The following day:
"I'm sending an email to Swinn to ask for the patterns for the children's clothes."
"Oh we don't need patterns - the women can make them without."

Tuesday I attempted to hold a photo shoot. Momoa, one of my favourites (am I allowed to have favourites??) agreed to model some of the new children's range for me. I think she looks a lot like Kate Hudson; a Burmese version. She, and everyone else, thinks I'm mad.

So she was very excited; did her hair specially and came and found me on the dot, ready and raring to go. A couple of shots in she got bored and ran off. Well, that's my opinion anyway. she maintained that she was shy and didn't want to model the dresses that revealed her shoulders; a problem that I was apparently going to encounter a lot (even though a lot of thegirls here do reveal their shoulders and knees regardless...). so I was told I should model the dresses myself as apparently I have the body of a child..! I personally think I look a bit weird, but you can judge for yourself (and have a good laugh) once they're up on the site anyway. They're currently waiting to
be photoshopped (how I am going to navigate my way around this I have no idea) - We're cutting off my old-looking head.

Unfortunately my English teaching arrangement has come to a close, after one lesson. My beautiful 23 year-old Burmese student has run off with her boyfriend! Apparently he was a bit of a rude boy, with tattoos, and not popular with the family so they were planning on shipping her off to Bangkok. She obviously wasn't all that keen on the idea so vacated... This is a shame. Obviously because it's all scandalous and such like but also because I was very much enjoying the reading exercises! I was learning some invaluable pub quiz knowledge - about giant treetrunks and the typewriter for example. One of the subjects (about Chicago's tallest building swaying in the wind) has already come up in conversation since reading about it. Imagine all of the fascinating topics I am (and you are) missing out on!

But I am not without things to do. My latest interest is the Circus performance that the children are preparing for. I introduced myself to the founder Jerry as having some tap and ballet knowledge and he said that they are currently working on sticking bottle tops to shoes to create a sort of urban, Stomp-style affair. Needless to say he was very interested in my tap abilities. We are having a meeting tomorrow to sort something out. I'm also trying to involve some Baan Unrak Weaving handiwork, having suggested that we provide the costumes (ooh promotion), but this might be a little ambitious. Time will tell...

This morning I had another meeting with hippy Terrance about the art and dance therapy. It basically involved plugging my ipod into the speaker on the roof and flitting around in a sort of free-style contemporary ballet duet to Kate Bush. Invigorating!

You'll be pleased to hear I've been spreading the pun love all the way over here; and have picked up some keen punters already. I think our finest was Thursday evening... Because I've (obviously) become such a frequenter of the Tea House I was among the group invited along to sample the owner's new range of herbal tea and toast selection. We were discussing the use of Thyme in tea as well as thinking of a name for the new tea shop; and suddenly it came to us: Tea THAIyme! Yes a TRIPPLE PUN! Perhaps a competitor could open ThaIRED of Tea Total(ly?) in the form of a bar... Perhaps not.

The House Boat party was a lot of fun - lots of sitting around chatting and meeting fellow volunteers - culminating in cocktails and sambucca shots in the Home Garden (one of the town's two bars) for those with the most stamina (the English obviously). But I have decided to try not to drink while I'm here. That's what I was expecting so I'm kind of in the mindset for it anyway. Let's see how long it lasts...

Tuesday Kimber and I hosted a dinner party at our wooden house (which I've realised reminds me of the one in Three Little Pigs; especially when the dogs bark on our porch like the wolf). With ten guests, two hot plates and no kitchen sink this was perhaps a little ambitious, but we made a reasonable success of it... After 6am yoga We hit the market, foraging through the crazy Thai ingredients and guessing which would be suitable for sweet and savoury pancakes. We cleaned (disturbing toads, spiders, lizards and all sorts) and decorated the place with candles, scarves and flowers - it looked really pretty once we were done with it.

The food wasn't quite such a success. (This is a note from Kimber: I thought we did AWESOME. Everyone really liked the food, and we made it all with such limited ingredients!) Savoury pancakes turned to Spanish omelette, which turned to egg stir fry(!) thanks to a non-non-stick pan. This part was actually quite nice though - a bit like pad Thai with lots of veg' and went down really well.

Dessert was the interesting part - having purchased rice flour instead of the standard plain variety (not because that wasn't available but because it was cheaper and more Thai) the concoction fried into a gooey, sticky splodge. Very much like a really thick sheet of rice paper. Which I suppose is kind of understandable with hindsight... But never mind. What it lacked in taste it certainly made up for in comedy value.

I've come to terms with the giant spider that lives in our bathroom - We like to think of him as our pet. He generally keeps out of the way and must eat a lot of mosquitoes so he can stay. I think he's also less frightening because he only seems to have six legs.

I was feeling similarly about the mice. Having seen one peering out from behind my bedroom door during the dinner party I thought he looked quite sweet, and ensuring my mosquito net covers all possible entrances seems to have prevented them from getting in my bed. However, when rushing to leave the house this morning I went to pick up a carton of soya milk, only to find that the little pests had chewed not only through the cardboard container but through the outer plastic too... They'd even squirmed into my bag and chewed through a carton in there! Perhaps if they'd actually drank the soya milk I would have had more sympathy (it is of course rather hard to resist) but no, they'd just wasted it and spilled it all over my things.

Immediately after this little episode, on visiting our friends at another volunteer house, Scott produced a "present" - a proper old-fashioned snappy mouse trap along with some sticky rodent glue. I'm still reluctant to kill them but We tried and failed with the humane traps. The devious little mites somehow disabled them, stole the food and deposited it in a corner (as if to say "Look I don't even want your food, I'm just showing you how clever I am") so I'm definitely considering it...

The dogs are still howling at various intervals throughout the night, but melodically - like something out of a Disney film! And a few of them here have that funny wheels-instead-of-hind-legs contraption which I still find hilarious. I tried to take a picture of one the other day but it didn't take too kindly to me laughing at its disability and chased me down the road snarling... luckily it couldn't quite lug its speedy wheels up the hill so I managed to get away.

Tonight I'm choosing whether to watch the children (and Kimber) in an end-of-term presentation, or attend a "healing" concert involving some sort of giant crystal ball chimey band! I know where my loyalties should lie...

SO, there you have it! And, for those of you who are wondering, she DID come to the presentation--although she wasn't able to stay long enough to watch me rock out on my violin with the Baan Dada boys band... Too bad. I also got to sing "Zombie" by the Cranberries for everyone--THAT was a new experience. I'm pretty much a rocker chick now...


I'm not alone anymore!!! My new housemate, Laura arrived last Tuesday. Laura is from London, and has already expanded my vocabulary in the short amount of time that she's been here. She uses three words pretty consistently and I think I've got them down:
  • Peckered=Hungry
  • Nackered=Tired
  • Shattered=Exhausted
Laura is helping Baan Unrak in the capacity of Marketing Coordinator--she's helping out with getting our weaving center on the map. We've had a fun week--life is SO much better when you have someone to do things with! And the days go by SO much faster. I've laughed more this week than I have in the two months preceding this week put together. I'm happy =)

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I've finally been getting my long wished-for experience of meditation and yoga in Thailand. I had my first private yoga lesson with the new Italian Didi this morning in the upper Baba room. It was kind of embarrassing that a fifty some odd woman is more flexible than I am, but she says that I'm pretty flexible for a twenty-one year old. Cool. She thought perhaps I'd done yoga before--I told her, "not really," not deigning to admit that I've done a bit of "video yoga."

Luckily the yoga that the Didi's practice don't require TOO much flexibility--I never had to wrap my leg around my neck like a scarf. It was more like a really good stretching session with 5-10 minutes of relaxation at the end. I could DEFINITELY get used to starting everyday that way. I think it's the first time in my life that I've gone through a day without my eyebrows feeling furrowed.

I've also taken to doing meditation with the teenagers in the evenings on some days. It lasts for
about half an hour and comes in three stages. The first stage we all lift our arms toward the sky and sway back and forth while singing "Baba Nam Keba Lam"--which means something like Love is all around or Love is all there is. In the second stage we all sit cross legged on the floor focusing on our breathing--for probably about 10 minutes. The point is to be in the present moment and not worry about the past or the future. In the final stage we move to our knees and sit for another 10 minutes. Everyone but me chants some cool Buddhist sounding song, but I, for the life of me, can't figure out the words OR the tune. However, I DO enjoy listening to it while I continue in my silent meditation.

Yeah, I'm pretty much living the authentic oriental dream. Machima even asked me to be part of a Yoga photo shoot for her new business (See above photos). I'm on her pamphlet wearing Thai Pants and everything!

Jai Garu Deva....Om.....

(Not Triangle of David)


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kimber's Violin Debut

I played the violin for an art exhibition at Graph Cafe yesterday. I really loved it. I was able to secure some free sheet music online and Pi-Ton and her brother Poom helped me to locate a printer and paper to use yesterday morning. I taped up all of the music along the walls of my house and practiced for a good two hours before heading over to the Cafe.

I had a whole group of fans there waiting to watch me play. Diana had brought some of the kids down from the home to watch me (about 15 of them). The two new volunteers (a fruity social worker and his slightly less crazy wife) were there as well as Paul, Machima, and Machima's new French boyfriend, Matthew. The new Mongolian home Didi came down along with Chandra, and I was especially pleased to see Pi Sai and her English Husband Charlie (I met them a few weeks ago and really hit it off with Sai who owns a violin and would like to learn how to play better). The owner of the teahouse, Pi Ton was also there along with her niece (?) Meem, and brother, Poom. A Belgian girl named Greta that I met a few days ago came, and in the very back was one of the school teacher's, Grace. The only people I didn't know included an older couple volunteering at another children's home in the area (I met them after my performance), and a lady from Hungary who clapped enthusiastically after every song.

I used the kids as my music stand--each of them would hold up one or two sheets of music for me--I felt bad for their arms, which must have grown tired after awhile. I played some simple minuets, a few concerto movements (Seitz and Vivaldi), and then finished grandly with a fiddle tune (Boil them cabbages Down). It was SO much fun, and just like playing for family or maybe a ward get together.

Today as I walked past Graph Cafe, Wat (at least I THINK that's the owner's name) ran out to give me a Graph Cafe T-shirt to thank me for playing. I'm touched. I probably won't wear this t-shirt much at home since it's bright orange and talks about coffee...but I'll wear it out here the best I can.

Kimber goes to Church

I decided to attend church today. There is a Christian church located just a couple of blocks away from my house, so this morning, I dressed up, grabbed my scriptures and headed over a few minutes before 10:00.

I was greeted warmly at the door ("Welcome!") by a blue-shirted gentleman, and then led to a chair by a sweet lady with a baby. Half-way through the service, the lady I was sitting next to traded places with a woman named Talaung who speaks decent English and was able to translate for me (I caught about half of her English...but I nodded at all of it).

I really enjoyed myself. I liked that the first hour of the meeting was just a lot of singing and clapping and smiling. Definitely different from the more subdued LDS meetings I'm used to, but you could still feel the Christian spirit. I was surprised that the meeting lasted over two hours...I thought our church was the only one with such long meetings. The first hour consisted of singing, something akin to a testimony meeting, scripture readings, and a song/scripture from the children's sunday school. They also had me stand up and introduce myself along with two Karen girls who were new this week. The second hour and a half of the meeting consisted of a sermon given by the local pastor, and lots of prayers...

If I grasped what Talaung was telling me, the sermon talked a lot about the problems and violence that Burma is facing right now, as well as the earthquakes that have been occurring all over the world. The pastor asserted that the people have turned away from God and so he is showing his wrath to the people. As Christian's it is our duty to spread the truth and call God's children to repentance. We also need to make sure that WE are choosing to follow the word of God so that we can have eternal life. The pastor had us turning to scriptures all over the Bible--it felt a little strange to never open the Book of Mormon. Over all it was a good meeting, and everyone was incredibly friendly.

After the meeting the pastor invited me to sit as a guest with he and his family and the two Karen girls for the after meeting luncheon. I felt honored. The spicy fish soup with rice was a little much for me--not only was it spicy, it had random pieces of fish and squid? floating around in it....with skin and everything on it. I ate some anyways, but was thankful that the pastor's wife cooked me some eggs knowing that farang often don't like fish. The eggs were DELICIOUS and the company was lovely. I've been invited to come to their pastor training session this week--it's an all day thing this Tuesday-Thursday. When they found out that I teach music at Baan Unrak, they were also anxious to invite me to there weekly music practice sessions on Saturday at 1:00--saying I could sing some solos in their meetings or perhaps even teach music to the kids. Haha....I don't know if I'll be attending everything they've invited me to, but it felt nice to be welcomed so openly.

More than anything, it made me want to drive up to Bangkok to attend the LDS ward....I really miss church. I wish it weren't an 8 hour drive one-way....
Hopefully, my new found Christian friends will hold me over until I can make it to Bangkok.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Movie Night

Last week I joined Paul and Machima for movie night at the house they’re renting together. Paul prepared his room to be the official “cinema room” and Machima lit candles around Paul’s Macbook to create a relaxing ambience. I’ve never watched a movie by candlelight before, but I rather enjoyed it. We boiled some ginger tea to enjoy while we watched, and right before the movie started, Machima presented me with what remained of a container of chocolate ice-cream she had purchased the day before. I could have cried with happiness--she knows that I covet her fridge/freezer for it’s melt-preventing capabilities. I really could have cried. But I didn’t. Even though the movie was definitely cry-worthy material. It’s called A Mighty Heart and it’s a true story about a pregnant French journalist in the middle-east trying to find the kidnappers of her Jewish husband. The movie ends with her delivering her baby just a couple of months after receiving a video from the kidnappers in which her husband was brutally murdered before her eyes. Absolutely horrifying—I was truly hoping for a happy ending. I was glad that Paul and Machima walked me home through the rain that night.


So, for those of you that haven’t heard, the past couple of weeks have been a struggle. I’ve emailed my mom to ask her to buy me a ticket home a couple of times. It’s not that anything bad happened, but I’ve just felt pressing loneliness and discouragement to the point that I thought I couldn’t stand it any more, and I desperately wanted to go home.

But miracle of miracles, I’ve been re-enchanted by the country this week, and I’ve decided to stay (even though I know that most likely the loneliness and discouragement will be keeping me company on and off for the next four months). The rain here seems to make everything ok. Everything feels fresh and alive—even the food here tastes better in the rain. I’ve been soaking in the moist air and walking around all smiles inside all day.

Teaching has been going pretty well for the kids. I think that my music classes are definitely one of the most popular at the school—second to computers and sometimes art. I have kids that I can’t get to go to lunch because they want to stay and talk to me or watch musical youtube videos on my computer. When kids from my classes see me, often they’ll break into a smile and loudly sing one of the songs I’ve taught them. I’m really enjoying teaching this week—except for my Tuesday boy’s class. I’ve about given them up as hopeless. I kicked a kid out of my class yesterday because he simply refused to participate in ANYTHING we were doing. Grrrrr…….turns out that inspiring kids to learn is a lot easier in theory than it is in practice.

I took a group of girls from the home to go watch a movie at the teahouse yesterday. They voted on Confessions of a Shopaholic. When the movie ended, a couple of girls proclaimed they wanted to go shopping—I think they missed the point of the movie…

I’m getting pretty good at remembering the names of the kids. I feel rather proud of myself. Let me list some of the names for you, so you can understand why I feel my pride is justified: Dok-Bua, Chan-Pen, Kong, Ko-Ko, Sanda-so, Attataya, Chandra, Kamala, Ahong, Kaisa-oo, Sanda-eh, Mi-mi, Chamu, Wannapa, Metapui, Winnai, Monkila, Minareppa, Saw-dwice, Bupah, Momo-eh, Tirawat….etc….etc…. Not your typical “Scott” or “Emily.”

What makes me even more happy is that many of the kids are starting to remember my name—even though no one here really pronounces it correctly. To most, I’m “Kim-buh,” with emphasis on “buh.” NO one here calls me “Kimber,” because even the Europeans around the place don’t pronounce there “r”s. At the teahouse I’m “Keem,” at the home I’m “Kim-bah” or “Kim-BUH” (“Kimberly” with a French accent if it’s AC), and at the school I’m simply “tee-chuh.” I don’t mind the variety =)

I apologize to any avid readers for not posting for awhile….I just didn’t want to post about how lonely I felt. Also, the internet hasn’t been particularly reliable….so let’s just blame that.

Dinner for Two

I went to the restaurant on the bridge today with images of Pad Thai and ice-cream in my head. This local eatery is located on the small intersection between the modern paved bridge and the old wooden one. As I stepped onto the first bridge, an un-abashed Thai (or perhaps Burmese?) boy, perhaps about 10 or 11 years old, stared at me openly. I greeted him with “Sawa dee Ka.” He replied with the standard “Krup,” and then gave me a toothy grin showing off the bottle-rot apparent in his front teeth and incredibly common in these parts of the country. I smiled and nodded back and continued past him, sliding my hand along the rail as I went. It wasn’t long at all before I noticed the sound of someone else’s hand sliding and bumping along behind mine. RIGHT behind mine. The boy was following me at an uncomfortably close distance. If I went faster, he matched my pace. I crossed to the other side of the bridge and he followed. I hugged my bag closer to me in case he was a pick-pocket, and practically power walked the remaining distance to the restaurant. I ordered my Pad-Thai quickly and sat down at the far table by the rail over-looking the river. I had thought that he had stopped following me at the edge of the bridge, perhaps to follow other bridge-walkers like the bridge guarding troll in Billy-Goats-Grugg, but no sooner had I opened the book I had brought along then I spotted a small hand pulling a chair out on the side of the table kitty-corner from me. Before I could say anything the waiter had come along to poor both of us a glass of ice-water. The boy smiled at me before gulping his water down and then looking at me for more. I used the pitcher the waiter had set at our table to pour him another glass. And another. And another. By the third glass, I guessed he would be sticking around for a while.

He pointed across the bridge several times saying something I couldn’t understand. Even if I COULD speak Thai, I think I would have had trouble understanding him, because his speech was slurred, and it appeared to me that he was slightly mentally disabled. I just smiled at him and kept pouring him more glasses of water. I had given up reading my book. A couple of times he went to the side overlooking the river and dumped (or spit) his water over the edge. I told him “Mai-Au” –Thai for “Not want”; in English we would say “Don’t do that,” but Thai’s are more sparing with there use of words. He would usually just look back at me, smile, and then come sit back down.

Before long, my Pad Thai came and he didn’t take his eyes off of it as I lifted my fork to start eating. I couldn’t very well enjoy my Pad Thai while he was staring at me, so I pushed it over to him and ordered another one for myself. Now it was I who was staring as he ate. He didn’t eat as hungrily as I’d expected him to, which assured me that he probably had someone looking after him--at least when he wasn’t following people around on the bridge, but boy was he a messy eater. He’d use his fork to get a huge pile of noodles half-way into his mouth, and then would proceed to slurp and use his left hand to get the noodles the rest of the way in. I said “Mai-Au” several times and tried to show him how to wrap his noodles around his fork and eat smaller bites. It was to no avail. My one success was to convnince him not to throw his napkin over the side of the wall—“Mai-Au!!! Tee-nee!” Not want! Here! (as I pointed to where he should place his used napkin on the table.) It wasn’t long before my second plate of Pad Thai arrived, and I was embarrassed to discover that I was no better at politely eating the dish than he was. I tried my best to set a good example, though I felt like a hypocrite every time I had noodles hanging sloppily out of my mouth, and I used whatever means I could to stuff them inside of me before he could see.

I ate as fast as I could worrying that if I didn’t leave before he was finished with his food, he would just follow me home, and what would I do with him then? I won the race, and hurried over to pay the bill while he was still working on his plate. I couldn’t leave without a little ice-cream though, so I ordered two-scoops to go, glancing over at him to make sure he wasn’t looking. Unfortunately, he was, and he immediately came over and stood hovering over the cone as the cashier scooped first a chocolate-chip, and then a chocolate scoop into my cone. I smiled at him and pointed at the table where his unfinished plate of Pad Thai was waiting for him. He happily went back to work on it, perhaps hoping that I would return with ice-cream for him as well.

I didn’t.

I paid the 75 Baht and walked quickly out of there, hoping that he wouldn’t follow me, and hoping that the management knew I didn’t have a clue who the kid was and that they had a better chance of communicating with him than I did. He didn’t follow me. I felt guilty all the way home as the ice-cream dripped


Dripped, and I wiped the drips off the cone with my tongue and off my face with the back of my hand.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tiger Dog and Iguana

Here are some more pics of the cool creatures here in Thailand.

This is one of a few dogs throughout the town with a coat like this. If I didn't know that there aren't tigers in this neck of the woods, I would have guessed that this dog was some kind of dog-tiger cross breed. Look at that striped orange fur!

This is an iguana I nearly stepped on on my way home from Baan Unrak one day. It stood pretty still while I took a few pictures.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bugs kind of Bug Me

If you ever decide to move to Thailand, realize that insects just become an integral part of
your life. There is no escape. I'm used to feeling like an ant-hill by now...used to watching tiny bugs navigate there way through the maze on my key board...used to picking ants and mosquitos out of my water...etc.

I have a constellation of bug bites on my arm. I’ve named it “The Boomerang.”

If there is a Greek or Latin name that fits it better, I’m open to suggestions. You know, you’d think that after practically bathing in bug-repellent cream in the morning and then periodically spraying myself with mosquito spray throughout the day that the bugs would leave me alone. They don’t. I have another bug-bite on my foot that almost looks like an extra appendage sprouting—a rather oozy appendage.

On top of it all, last night I could NOT stop scratching my head—it was itching like CRAZY. I woke up this morning with a sinking feeling in my stomach and the memory of something Diana whispered in my ear on Valentine’s Day during the Baan Unrak celebration:

One of the girls that I was sitting next to that night had jokingly taken her hat off and placed it on my head. I posed in it for her and pulled a couple of silly faces before handing it back. Diana leaned over from her seat across from me and whispered, “Now you have lice too!” and then sat back, laughing. I looked at her, wide-eyed, wondering if she was serious, but because she looked so jovial, I assumed she was only teasing me. This morning, I realized she probably wasn’t.

Having an itchy scalp is pretty bad….but knowing that the itchiness is being caused by a community of tiny crawling biting bugs in your hair is about 100 times worse. I told Diana about my suspicions today, and she said that it’s hard to avoid getting lice out here since about 80% of the kids have lice and no one does anything to get rid of them (the lice not the kids…though we don’t get rid of the kids either). Diana says when she first got here she would try to avoid getting to close to the children for fear of getting lice or some other ailment, but after awhile she just gave up and learned to live with it. She says that lice usually just go away after awhile—awhile for her meaning two months after going home to Holland.

I don’t WANT to wait for them to “go away.” I want to get rid of them! I did some research on how to get rid of them…and it looks like it’s going to take a bit of work. Especially since I don’t have access to many of the suggested remedies: hot water, mayonnaise, anti-lice shampoo…. I went to town today and couldn’t find ANYTHING that I thought might help me. I couldn’t even find a fine-tooth comb to help me comb them out. Right now, my game plan is to head to the local pharmacy first thing in the morning and PRAY that he has something. After that…I’m at a loss.

I ate my first bug-infested bowl of rice today. Luckily all of the bugs were boiled until dead, and they were pretty tiny, so I was able to get the rice down by just telling myself I was getting extra protein. I wonder what Didi’s philosophy is about eating bugs. Can you eat bugs and still consider yourself vegetarian?

I think the bug problem is just going to multiply as we get deeper into the hot season and then into the rainy season. Adventure, here I come!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Going on A Tokay hunt! I'm not afraid! (well...maybe a little)

I finally found a tokay that stayed in one place long enough for me to take a picture. This guy was on the side of my house...I went hunting for him and shot him with my camera before he new what hit him. It was pitch black outside and I only saw his silhouette...he looks even scarier in this picture! I'm not sure if his eyes really look like that or if it's just a bad case of red-eye--but either way he looks creepy.

This one was about a foot long--give or take a couple of inches.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kimber goes Bohemian

I'm slowly discovering the bohemian in me. And
what better way to express it than by what I wear! Here are a few of the pieces that I've found over the last several weeks:

My first buy included two sets of earrings I found at the teahouse.

A simple elegant set of silver earrings for about 99Baht (approx. $3)

And a hand carved black set for 29 Baht (approx. $1.)

Last week I went into town and decided to stop in a small shop right by the local 7-11. They had some gorgeous items, and I kind of went crazy. The rest of my new look came from there.

A hemp anklet with some fun beads and bells worked in--35 Baht (approx. $1). I feel like a rebel when I wear it because I'm always reminded of that "tinkling of feet" scripture. It's slightly embarrassing to sound like a walking tambourine--but I love this anklet anyway.

A handmade turquoise bracelet--99 baht (approx. $3). I LOVE this bracelet, unfortunately it's already coming a bit undone...I'm hoping that maybe someone at the Teahouse can help me fix it.

A pair of light-weight fisherman pants--200 baht (approx. $6). Again, an AWESOME buy--not to mention this is
the first time I can remember owning orange pants. I almost bought the turquoise pair, but thought that perhaps I would be too closely copying a certain disney princess. The best thing about these pants is that I can actually wear them in this heat without feeling like I'm wearing a sauna. Bonus that they make me look arabian (as a arabian as a milky-white Blonde person can look).

And finally, my favorite purchase so far, my Thai Elephant bag. I wouldn't have bought a bag at all except this one kept yelling at me. I adore the colors and the textures of this bag. It reminded me of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, and I couldn't resist it. I cherish this bag. It cost me about 250 Baht (approx. $7)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thai Massage

No Thai experience is complete without one of their famed massages, so I decided to go get one last week. I went the conservative route and chose to get the shoulder/back massage rather than the full body Thai massage, but it was something of an experience nonetheless.

After giving me a towel and making gestures indicating that I was to remove my upper garments, my masseuse hurried off to go poor me some green tea (to no avail, since I don’t drink tea), and I was left in a thinly veiled room feeling VERY glad that I had opted out of the full body experience. I had managed to discreetly cover myself with a towel and was lying face-down on the mat she had indicated before she came back in, set my tea down, and sat on my legs. Hm. Wasn’t expecting that. She then proceeded to bend my legs back toward her so that she could massage my feet. It felt AMAZING. After she was done with my feet, she began using her knees to work on my calf muscles…then my thigh muscles…when she reached the muscles above that I started thinking, Wait! Wait! Doesn’t she know that I only wanted a shoulder massage?! And then, Woah! Who knew my butt was so ticklish? I’ll just have to grit my teeth through it….I don’t want to laugh….how embarrassing would THAT be?

Luckily, the lower body massage didn’t last long—apparently it was a complimentary sample of the REAL Thai massage. Which, frankly, I don’t have a huge desire to ever get. The shoulder/back massage was plenty for me. The masseuse bent my arms into strange contortions behind my back and then...beat me. I don't know how else to describe it. I didn’t find her harsh slaps up and down my arms and back NEARLY as relaxing as the slow shoulder rub that Diana had given me earlier in the week. But….it was certainly an experience. And….I have to admit, I DID feel relaxed after; though as a result of the massage or as a result of feeling relieved that I was no longer BEING massaged, I couldn’t tell you.

I think next time I’ll just go in for a foot-rub and facial.