Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Hope of Loy Krathong

As the saying goes, " When in Rome, do as the Romans do"....or something like that! Anyway, last night, Sam and I joined with what seemed to be all of Bangkok and headed for the nearest body of water in order to offer thanks by the light of November's full moon for water. In truth, I offered thanks for so much more as I prayerfully stood on the banks of the Queen's Park lake.

The traditional festival dates back over 700 years and finds it roots in a Hindu festival where the water gods were thanked for their help throughout the year by floating a krathong (a beautiful floating bouquet lit with candles and incense) on the river. Today, in addition to offering thanks, pushing the krathong downstream is symbolic of washing away the previous year's sins and hoping for good karma to come. There's even an official song that children learn from an early age much like we learn Christmas carols that is translated something like this-

November full moon shines,
Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong,
and the water's high in the river
and local klong,
Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong,
Loy Krathong is here and
everybody's full of cheer,
We're together at the klong,
Each one with his krathong,
As we push we pray,
We can see a better day.

It was a beautiful sight seeing families praying together, then watching them as they gazed at their krathongs float away so full of hope and anticipation for a bright future. The collective beauty of the candle light on the lake and the sweet incense filled air made a lasting impression. However, on a deeper level, the festival has left me wondering and questioning...

I wonder if God heard the prayers of each precious person's heart even if they called Him by another name... I wonder if I had been born in Thailand to a Buddhist family, would I be a Christian today?... I wonder why it's so hard to accept the gift of forgiveness and the hope of eternal life God gave us through Christ's sacrifice...

Christ said that we as Christians are the light of the world...I can't imagine the beauty that would fill the earth if we all shined with our God given potential like the lit krathong candles on the lake last night...Surely, then the whole world would bow down and worship the one true God.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Counting the Days!

10 more days and I'll be home! Can you tell that I'm just a little excited? It's not that I need to get away from Bangkok...I'm really becoming quite accustomed to this humongous city and it's bizzare sights, but rather that I can't wait to be with family and friends. I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz...the Emerald City was beautiful, but there's no place like home!

I know it's a busy time of year, but I'm hoping to snatch as many times as I can at Starbucks or maybe even El Jarito/Los Cucos...just to enjoy the moments with everyone. Once I'm in town, I'll be available on my cell# 832-248-5352.

FYI- So far this is what our schedule looks like...

Dec. 1 Tracey arrives in Houston at 5:36PM
Dec.2-15 Flexible...a portion of this time will need to be spent regrouping in Corpus Christi, but of course I'll want as much time as possible with Vanessa, family, and friends.
Dec. 15 Sam arrives in Houston at 5:40PM (S&T Holiday Inn)
Dec. 16 Baby shower for Vanessa (S&T Holiday Inn)
Dec. 17 Sam and Tracey drive to Missouri
Dec. 18-21 Visit family in Missouri
Dec.21 Sam and Tracey drive back to Texas
Dec. 22-25 Christmas with Vanessa (We'll be at the Reeds as they've graciously let us borrow their home while they're in Big Springs with Lauren's family)
Dec. 25-27 Corpus Christi...Sam needs a day to putter at "home"
Dec. 27 Spend the night in Katy at Holiday Inn...very early flight on the 28th!
Dec. 28 Sam and Tracey travel back to Bangkok...I don't even want to think about leaving again. Wish you all could come with us!
Dec. 30 Arrive in Bangkok at midnight
Dec. 31 Happy New Year!!

I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself wishing you all a Happy New Year...instead I need to be sure that you know that as I'm counting my blessings this Thanksgiving, you can be sure that you'll all be lifted up in prayer. Sam, Vanessa and I are very grateful for each of you and the blessing you are in our lives.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A New Day...A New Adventure!

I'm a bit rushed for time, but wanted to write once more before I headed out to Udon Thani, a city in North East Thailand where the Voice of America was broadcast from during the Vietnam War. First of all, each of my days since my very bad day have been absolutely wonderful in every way! Thank you so much for keeping me in your prayers. I've now officially taught English for a week and am in heaven. The pre-k and kindergarten students are like little sponges. If I can sing it, they can learn it...or at least repeat it!

This weekend, I'll be experiencing several new right after another! The first adventure will be flying an "off brand" Thai airline to my destination of Udon Thani. Fortunately, I'll have lots of women from the American Women's Club to keep me company. I'm not really nervous. Just trusting that if the airline wasn't safe, the club wouldn't have selected it.

The next adventure involves teaching English again, but this time to high school girls who have received scholarships from the club to pay for this year's tuition. The club works together with the Peace Corp to sponsor this annual English camp for about 200 girls. I'm excited to be seeing a new area of Thailand and to be working with the Peace Corp. Many of you will probably remember that it's always been one of my dreams to be a PCV (the local lingo for Peace Corp Volunteer). This may be as close as I'll ever get to fulfilling that dream so of course, I'm bringing my camera to record the moments. Be on the look out for new pictures some time next week.

Speaking of being on the look out, Sam should be home in about 30 minutes. Yeah! It'll be so good to see him, however we're going to have to visit fast since I'll be leaving tomorrow morning. I'll be back on Sunday evening, but he leaves for Batam on Monday morning... just ships passing in the night! I guess it's all part of the wonderful adventure called life. (22 more days !!)

Friday, November 2, 2007

It Was a Terrible, Horrible.....

...No Good, Very Bad Day! We've all had them. They're the kind of days that seem like if anything can go wrong, it the extent that it's laughable. I did laugh, but mostly just cried. I'm writing about it this morning only because I don't want to forget the blessings a bad day can bring.

It all started on Thursday evening. When I got home from school, I was met with a horribly strong paint smell. The wood floor in the next apartment was being refinished or something like that. Anyway, within minutes, I had a headache so I decided I needed to leave. With really nowhere to go and no one to go with me, I went shopping for school stuff. That went well until it was time for dinner. I hate to eat alone, but decided to brave the food court. The tacos I ordered were the worst...yet I felt guilty for being ungrateful as there are children on the streets around the world, for sure here in Bangkok, who literally are starving, so I ate the them.

During the night, I got a phone call from Vanessa. She'd had a scary day trying to navigate a county hospital in order to get some test her Dr. had be honest, my heart keeps breaking over and over. In the morning, I was lonely, had a headache and worst of all, had that fragile weepy feeling....I really wanted to stay home with the covers pulled over my head, but I'd promised a friend I'd give her a ride to school as she doesn't have a car and driver.So I got myself together and headed off for another day of preparation at school (I start my regular schedule of teaching on Tuesday).

Well, I ended up crying all the way to her house, tried to act as though nothing was wrong...that didn't work and was blessed by her sweet encouragement. Leanne knows what it's like to be so far away from friends and family as she and her family moved here from Australia about 8 months ago.

After I got to school, I got busy on setting up my room and was OK until in a quiet moment with another friend, the floodgates opened once again. This time, there was no holding back. Again, I was blessed. Jody prayed the sweetest prayer over me...I gave her permission to share with the team from UNOH and I know they'll also be lifting me up. They are mighty prayer warriors.

As I was leaving, I crossed paths with another friend, Anjie, who could tell something was up. Of course, the tears started again. After a quick hug from her, I was in the car and headed home all the time wishing for the privacy of driving my own car. My poor driver, Ton, had seen me upset earlier and now again. Well, once we got to the apartment, I realized I'd forgotten my backpack at the school. Wanting to help in any way, Ton offered to go back to school and get it. I let him go alone as I just needed space. By the way, earlier in the day, I'd realized that I'd also forgotten my cell phone in the apartment that morning.

Since I didn't have my key, nor my cell phone to call my friend Gini (she's a blessing fact since she hadn't heard from me as we had planned, she was ready to contact Sam in Australia and organize a search party!), and not wanting to bother the office, I sat by the pond in the lobby. The only bad thing that happened there was I got a glass of water from the cooler and proceeded to pour it in my lap...don't ask me how, but this time I laughed. Not long after that, I crossed paths with Mindy. Mindy is from Utah and is mom to Jack (3) and Jane (2). I explained my key predicament and jokingly asked her if she knew the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. She was familiar with the story and also could relate to the day...she said she'd had plenty of them! Later in the evening, once I'd made it back into my apartment, Mindy delivered a plate full of warm cinnamon rolls....another sweet blessing!

The final blessing of the day came in the form of a text message from Ton at around 9:00. I'm not sure how he did this because up until now, my cell phone has only displayed Thai script. Anyway, he wrote of his concern for me and offered to do anything he could to help. As his English is very limited, I know he must have sought help or spent hours using a dictionary.

Reading back over the day, nothing really that bad or horrible had happened. The bottom line was that I was feeling lonely and vulnerable. As in the past, my first response was to withdraw and tough it out on my own. But yesterday, not wanting to let someone else down, I forced myself to try and rise above the feelings. Obviously, I failed. But it was in my failure that I was blessed. I think that's when God can do His best work...when we finally let our defenses down and say, "I can't do it." God answers with, "I can."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat!

Just for the record, even though I'm in Thailand, I'm maintaining the Bell family tradition of hotdogs on Halloween....afraid that I'd have 7 years of bad luck or something dreadful like that if I dared stray away now :) Actually, I'm not alone in this celebration. I've been amazed at how the holiday has been embraced and promoted by the local merchants. I don't think I'd be exagerating if I claimed that it may be an even bigger deal here as I can't ever recall seeing a larger than life pumpkin patch in front of Houston's Galleria (...for my nonTexan readers that's one of the city's very upscale shopping centers). The kids in my apartment building are being treated to a party in the lobby by the apartment's management and everyone has been invited to dress in "fancy" costumes and "play" trick or treat. Such fun and of course such sweet memories!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lessons from the River

As Sam and I were floating down the historic River Kwai on Tuesday, I had this heightened sense of awareness that I was experiencing a once in a lifetime moment that I needed to savor. I pray I'll never forget the blessing of the quiet...the lush tropical landscape... cool river water... looming limestone cliffs... and the shared adventure of floating past water buffaloes resting along the river's edge.

Being so aware of the transient nature of life, I began to wonder how many far more important moments had I failed to appreciate with this same intensity. Things like the first time I said bedtime prayers aloud together with Vanessa, or maybe the first time she ate her first chocolate chip cookie. I know these were both moments of pure joy, but to honest, I probably took them for granted trusting that there would be many more prayers... Then there are all the last times that escaped me like the last night I said good night to my dad. Even though I knew our time together was limited, I fully expected to have at least a few more days. Had I only known that that last night was my last opportunity...

Although I know it's impossible to live life as "all knowing", I can savor the experiences and commit to living them thoughtfully. What a blessing it was to be so aware of the gift I'd been given to experience Thailand in that special way. All of life is a gift...full of precious moments that God has placed in our paths. I pray for the wisdom to slow things down a bit...kind of like floating on a river... so that I recognize and take time to appreciate God's goodness.

There are 2 new albums posted on Shutterfly. They are actually under construction as I've not had time to add the text. One album has pictures of my students, and the other contains the snapshots from our bike tour. Enjoy!

P.S. I'm so excited to share that Sam and I will be home for Christmas! I'll be arriving on Dec. 1st. Sam will come into town on the 15th, and we'll both leave together on the 28th. Though it seems like a long visit, at least for me, I know it'll fly by! We'll be taking time when Sam first arrives to visit his family in Missouri (Dec. 17-21). Then, we'll be in Corpus Christi on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day...until we leave on the 28th. I know it's a busy time for all, but I hope we can seize some precious moments to spend together. How we miss you all!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The 100 Challenge

Recently, a few of my friends have posted lists of 100 or more little known facts about themselves for their friends and family. Though I've thoroughly enjoyed reading the lists, I really don't think I could come up with that much info about myself. However, I've thought it might me fun to try and list unique sights, sounds, smells and experiences of Bangkok as a way of sharing our life here in Thailand. I'm not sure I can list 100, but I'm willing to give it the good ol' college try. Wish me luck!

1. We live on the 20th floor of a high rise.
2. Our building is called Bann Jamjuree and it's close to a sky train stop, which makes it very easy to get to other parts of the city quickly.
3. Our apartment has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, office, 2 balconies and a service porch.
4. Each room has its own air conditioning unit.
5. The apartment also has a maid's bedroom and bathroom. Our maid only comes 2 half days and doesn't use the quarters.
6. Our driver's name is Ton and our maid's name is Tawan.
7. Ton is 21. Tawan is 32.
8. Ton attends English classes 3 times a week and is learning English far more quickly than I'm learning Thai. Tawan can speak English enough for us to enjoy each other's company.
9. Speaking English in Thailand opens many doors of opportunity.
10. I hope to give my Pre-K and K students a head start in learning English so that they might be able to one day live outside of the slums.
11. We're worshipping with The International Church of Bangkok and I go to a Tuesday night BSF Bible study on the book of Matthew at Calvary Baptist Church.
12. The International Church of Bangkok is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year.
13. The embassy of Myramar (Burma) is a block away from the church.
14. There are weekly protests outside the embassy on Sunday mornings. The group I work with (Urban Neighbors of Hope) have been participating in the protests.
15. It is a common sight to see people wearing hospital masks because of the pollution.
16. Pedestrians have no just have to be bold and take a chance as you race across the street.
17. You cannot walk more than a block without crossing paths with a food vendor...lots of other street vendors too!
18. The food vendors set up sidewalk kitchens daily...some of their kitchens are transported on a charcoal barbecue grill and all.
19. Speaking of motorcycles, whole families use them for transportation. I've seen 5 people on one motorcycle!
20. All major intersections have motorcycle taxi stops. Motorcycle taxi drivers wear an orange vest....and usually a helmet.
21. Pink and orange taxis (cars) are owned by a company.
22. Green and yellow taxis (cars) are owned by the drivers.
23. I usually walk around breathing very shallowly as there can be a strong sewer smell that comes from the street holes and exhaust from the tuk-tuks.
24. Balconies are for clothes drying.
25. Street vendors wash their dishes in basins of cold soapy water guessed it- the street!
26. Most Thais shower in cold water....they don't have bath tubs.
27. I have 2 bathtubs in my apartment with hot water!
28.Traffic is horrible...thank goodness for the sky train! However, many times we sit in traffic just so our driver can get the hours.
29. The police and security people blow whistles constantly when directing traffic...kind of like the national bird of Bangkok!
30. The streets are swept by hand with handmade brooms...usually by women.
31. At 6:00 in the morning and 6:00 in the evening, everyone matter where they are to honor the King. They play the national anthem.
32. Everyone stands before a movie to honor the King.
33. Everyone wears yellow on Monday to honor the King...He was born on a Monday.
34. All the days of the week have a certain color.
35. Everyone wears blue on Friday to honor the queen...She was born on a Friday.
36. Father's Day is the King's birthday. He will be 80 on Dec. 5. He has been King for 60 years and is dearly loved...just recently had a stroke.
37. Mother's Day is the Queen's birthday.
38. Building scaffolding is made from bamboo.
39. People believe that beggars and handicapped people must have been really bad in a former life. Many have little empathy.
40. 90% of the population is Buddhist.
41. People "make merit"(offer food, incense, flowers) at local shrines in order to keep evil spirits away and to gain favor for the next life.
42. Local shrines...temple houses are everywhere.
43. Foreign visitors pay a higher admission price to attractions like national parks.
45. Service charges are added into restaurant bills so tipping is not the custom.
46. Most women don't wear sleeveless shirts with out jackets.
47. Women carry umbrellas much of the time...mostly to protect themselves from the sun.
48. Thai women use a whitening cream...they don't want their skin to turn dark.
49. The whole chicken/duck is eaten.
50. It's common to see the boiled chicken/duck hanging from it's neck waiting to be cut up for some dish.
51. I've seen just the duck's head served with some rice.
52. I've yet to see Thai road rage.
53. The tradition is to smile no matter what.
54. Thai smiles are beautiful and welcoming...but sometimes you wonder if they're really happy about something or just acting that way. It can interfere with honest communication.
55. Dairy products like sour cream and cheese are expensive...if you can even find them.
56. Fruit is delicious and cheap.
57. I especially love the lime juice drink served with soda water.
58. I could eat fresh pineapple every day if I wished.
59. A major section of the grocery store is taken up with rice, oil, and fish sauce.
60. Thai beer is inexpensive and good.
61. Thai wine is expensive and bad...all wine is very expensive due to a tax.
62. You can't buy alcoholic beverages between the hours of 2 and 5 in the stores.
63. Most people don't cook at home as the street vendors provide good food at a cheap price.
64. "Street" drinks are served in plastic bags.
65. "Street" soup is served in plastic bags.
66. Emergency vehicles use a siren, but traffic is so bad, there is no way to get out of their way. I hope I never have need of an ambulance or if I do, I hope it's about 3:00 in the morning.
67. All drinking water is bottled. I cook with bottled water also.
68. Fruits and vegetables are weighed and priced before going to the check out stand.
69. You hand paper money to the cashier with the King's picture facing up out of respect.
70. Thai people love corn, and they eat it as a sweet. They even have yogurt with corn in it.
71. Tuk-tuk drivers do not have a set price. You must negotiate it before you travel...same with motorcycle taxis.
72. Most property is gated and security is posted. I don't think security is because anything is dangerous, but rather because it provides a job to someone and it protects property from being used as a parking lot.
73. Sidewalks are a luxury and are often times treacherous.
74. Thai foot massages are the best!
75. Thai body massages can be very physical...I've been advised against them as they can injure you.
76. Toilet paper is not flushed. There is usually a hose for washing.
77. Most toilets in Bangkok are western style.
78. There is a pet duck that lives at a house just below our balcony. Most mornings, I wake to the sound of it quacking.
79. The city is never silent.
80. Department stores all have doormen.
81. Department stores are usually 6-8 floors high and include a grocery store.
82. There is no lack of fast food...McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donuts, ....
83. Sticky rice and mango is the best dessert!
84. I'm too big for most clothes here.
85. 8...maybe 8 1/2 is the largest shoe size.
86. There are plenty of tailors...but I haven't explored that world yet.
87. One of the most annoying sounds in the world is a young Thai lady with a microphone selling something...a very common sound in the grocery stores and malls. It's kind of like nails on a chalkboard.
88. I'm commonly addressed as "Madam" ...with the the last syllable pronounced "dawm"
89. A dishwasher is very rare...we may be the only ones who have one in our building as it took 4-5 months before they could figure out how to hook it up.
90. It's tradition to remove your shoes before entering a home.
91. It's tradition to not point with you should use your whole hand.
92. It's tradition to not touch the top of some one's head.
93. It's tradition to not show the bottom of your feet.
94. It's tradition to eat a bite of plain rice before eating any other part of the meal.
95. Eggs are not refrigerated in the stores and are barbecued in the shell by street vendors...I haven't tried one yet.
96. Gift cards are called vouchers.
97. Thai street dogs are so ugly...I feel very sorry for them.
98. The yellow royal flag always flies side by side with Thailand's country flag.
99. Bank accounts are extremely difficult for foreign residents to establish.
100. Trash is hand sorted and that which can be is recycled, is.

Whew! Now I'm positive I'd not be able to complete this exercise with info about myself. What you have here is a bizarrely random list, but maybe it'll give you a glimpse into my life in Bangkok after close to 3 months. I imagine that, with time, my focus will change and many things that seem note worthy today, won't be something I'll give a second thought to a year from now. It'll be fun to look back, but for now, I can't imagine anyone I'd rather have travelling along with me than y'all! Thanks for checking in on the blog.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In Memory

Remember those middle of the night phone calls I wrote about a few weeks ago? Well, last night I got one from my girlie, but this time it wasn't good news. She was calling to share that a very good friend of hers had just lost her mom. Her mom was my age... probably younger and had fallen on the tile floor in their home during the middle of the night. That simple accident caused a fatal injury. My heart just breaks for their loss.

As I struggled to think of words of comfort, I remembered what one of my favorite poets, Flavia, wrote-"That which brings us sadness has once brought us joy. May you cherish forever all that was yours." If you didn't have a chance to listen to the song from Point of Grace yesterday, this would be a perfect time to give yourself a gift as it so beautifully reminds us all of "How to Live."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blessings to you!

I've always admired artists...singers, songwriters, poets, painters... They have a gift that touches my very being and at least for a moment, lifts me up to a higher place...a place I aspire to be. My dear friend, Anita, shared a blessing with me that I'd like to pass on to you. Go to and listen to their new song called "How You Live".
Blessings to you!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Check out the new pictures on Shutterfly!

It's been an active week. Since I last wrote, I've explored a national park, experienced a bit of Bangkok's nightlife, shared a 25km bike ride with a lovely group of women, started a BSF Bible study, observed the Thai education system first hand, and toured the Mattel toy factory where Hotwheels are produced. Hard to believe that was all in a's no wonder I've not had time to write. Rather than trying to tackle the entire week, I'm going with the old saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words". Check out our new album on Shutterfly and hopefully the pictures of the park, nightlife, and bike ride, along with their subtitles will speak for themselves.

Unfortunately, you won't find pictures of the toy factory tour as photography was not allowed. This tour was very unique in that it's not a routine experience the factory offers. We were only able to go because the president of the American Woman's Club's husband is friends with a big guy from Mattel. Lucky us! What an eye opener this activity was for me as, to be honest, I'd never even wondered about the production of toy cars. If you'd asked me how I thought they were made, I would've described a totally automated system with people supervising the work of sophisticated machines. Not! I'm surprised that Hotwheels don't cost way more than they do as they are virtually hand assembled. The employees work 10 hours a day (2 hrs. overtime), 6 days a week doing the same job over and over during peak production. During non peak times, about 40% of the workforce is cross trained on another task required to make the cars. The reason they are so labor intensive is all economics. In order to keep the price down, the company doesn't invest in the technology of automation because there is an ample workforce willing and happy to do the job for less money. I guess we all benefit- consumers, employers, and employees. However, after this tour, it all seems a little more personal. From this day forward, I hope to try and pause to admire the the skill and individual effort put into the products I buy...and also to think twice before I complain about the cost!

Friday, September 28, 2007


Yeah it's Friday! Friday is "soul food" night in least for Sam and me. On most nights, being the oldies that we are, we stay in. Oh, we may go for a walk in the park, but we don't go out on the town, which is really kind of a shame, since that's when the city comes alive in a unique way. Anyway, I totally look forward to Fridays because as of about 4 weeks ago, we discovered the best (well, best for Thailand) Tex Mex restaurant called Charley Browns. I literally dream about their fresh salsa and chips, cheesy chicken enchiladas .... and crispy shredded beef tacos topped with a dollop of real sour cream! Believe me, this food comforts us in an almost spiritual way. Even last week when I was under the weather, we were still able to do Charley Browns by using the internet and ordering from the following site:
Just for fun, you ought to check it out and view the menus from over 70 restaurants in Bangkok. For 60 baht (@ $3.00), they'll deliver from any of these restaurants in 1 hour or residents of Bangkok, that is!
Well, I'd better go freshen up for my night out on the town.

P.S. Go Katy Tigers! (Fridays in September will forever bring precious memories of good times with dear friends spent in a sea of red shouting for our favorite team)

P.S.S. I'll get back with you on my visit to the school in the slum of Klong Toey...but just to keep you in the know, I'm going to begin teaching English to Pre-K and K students as soon as they return from their semester break. Thai students go to school from May- February with a semester break in October. I'm so excited! :) :) :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Life is Good!

As of today, I've been in Thailand for 2 months. What a difference time can make! After 1 month, I do remember sobbing and telling Sam, "I hate it here..." Believe me, it wasn't a pretty conversation. But in my defense, there was a lot going on and it's hard to adjust to anywhere when your heart is elsewhere. Given the depths of those feelings though, it's nothing short of miraculous that today, 1 month later, I can honestly say, "I love my life here." Maybe time was all I needed, but I also have to believe the difference is as a result of all the prayers that have been faithfully offered on my behalf. The peace I feel about where I am and what's happening in the life of my family is truly a gift.

The most exciting thing that has happened this week is that an opportunity to teach English to children who live in one of Bangkok's poorest slum areas is open to me. I'm going to visit and observe at the school tomorrow. If you're interested in finding out more about the group I may be working with you can go to . I emphasized may because I know this can't be about me and what I want. To make this kind of commitment, it has to be a God thing. I'll keep you posted.

Another bright spot in my "Bangkok life" is my association with the American Woman's Club. It has been a joy to join these lovely ladies in both their service and social activities. They have welcomed me warmly and invited me to join them as we all strive to make where we are home for whatever time we have to share it together.

Last, but certainly not least, I love my life here because I'm with Sam. It goes with out saying that the empty nest is certainly a challenge, yet it's life... all part of the journey we started over 30 years ago. I remember that back in the early days of our marriage when Texas was new and so far from California, Sam and I had to count on each other in a special way. The same is happening once again and because of it, our relationship is closer than ever. How blessed I am to be sharing life and living it to the fullest with my best friend...and getting to bring my entire family and all my friends from all my former homes along via the internet! Life is good!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Free at Last!

"Free at last; Free at last..." I know Martin Luther King Jr. was referring to a far greater struggle; however, even though it's a bit melodramatic to say the least, I couldn't help but remember his words when my body was finally free of the unwelcome virus, bacteria, parasite, or whatever it was that had hijacked my intestinal tract for the past week. Don't worry. I'm not going to try and paint another word picture...not really even going to write about...that.

Well, maybe just a little. Let's just say that since I hadn't been feeling like myself for a couple of days, I began to get a bit concerned, living in a foreign land and all. I even spent a few hours Googling the symptoms...Come to find out, now that I have the gift of hindsight, the more serious of the problems I was suffering from was the dreaded What Ifs! What Ifs when left untreated, can get out of hand so quickly! In fact, a bad case will rob me of sleep, take away my appetite, and zap me of energy as sure as anything. What baffles me is that What If treatment is available right here in Thailand, it's free, and it's not in the least bit unpleasant. Yet, I often find myself finally turning the to the pages of my Bible only after Googling and everything else!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

The peace of God will guard my heart and mind...
will free me from my endless What Ifs.
Now that's Freedom!

Monday, September 17, 2007

No Translation Necessary

Hopefully, you've all gotten the invitation to view our new album on Shutterfly by now. It was a hectic weekend, but so much fun to share our new home with a guest from home. John, a coworker of Sam's, arrived Saturday morning and we hit the ground running. Since this was his first visit to Thailand, we wanted to entertain him royally which we did by touring all the royal palaces and temples we could squeeze into 2 short days. Unfortunately for both John and Sam, there was no rest for the weary and it was back to work for them yesterday. Fortunately for me, I had the leisure of organizing and sharing the photos. Believe me, I'm not taking this abundance of time for granted. I have boxes and boxes of pictures at home in Texas waiting for me to have "free" time...if only I had packed them! Another activity on my calendar for yesterday was a community project's committee meeting at the American Woman's Club...this brings me to the title of my blog.

On my way to the clubhouse, which included a tuk-tuk ride, a short jaunt on the sky train, and a nice stroll though a busy neighborhood, I heard some sounds that needed no translation. The first was an ice-cream vendor. Without even telling you what sound I heard, you know. I'm guessing from this experience that all ice cream men, no matter where in the world they find themselves, use a happy sound to advertise and attract customers. To be honest, until yesterday, I'd never really thought much about it. It's kind of funny where my mind goes these days.

Another sound was that of children playing at recess. I'd walked past this particular school before, but the children had always been inside. Since the signs on the building were all in English, I'd assumed that this must be a preschool for expat children. What I saw and heard yesterday were Thai children racing after each other, laughing while digging holes in the sand, and swinging as high as their little legs could pump them. There was no translation necessary as the joy of friendship is understood universally.

The last sound I heard recently that also needed no translation was a bit different as it was the sound of silence. Do you remember seeing the picture of the bone thin boy in my "Royal Weekend" slide show? I took his picture to remind me of what I'd heard with my heart. He'd made no sound...just sat under the shade of a tree on the Ayutthaya temple grounds, but what I heard with my heart was God's voice reminding me that no matter where I find myself, the language of His love is understood.

"My children, our love should not be just word and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action." 1 John 3:18

In the past, much of my ministry took place at school. As any teacher knows, being an educator is so much more than reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. I've always felt that teaching was an opportunity for me to truly show God's love in action! Please join me in praying that I'll soon be led to an opportunity to serve God here inThailand as I'm feeling more and more ready for some action...Godly action that is!

Friday, September 14, 2007

As promised...

Thailand Tracey reporting back as promised....I had a wonderful time at the tea party. The treats served with the tea were delicious especially the traditional English Sticky Toffee Pudding which was served warm and with real whipped cream. It would have been so easy to have made a total pig of myself; however, believe it or not, I wasn't even tempted! I know, I know... you're thinking to yourself, "That sure doesn't sound like the Tracey I know." Well the truth is, I was so enjoying feasting on the fellowship of total strangers that the desserts were just there...definitely not the focus of the event for me at all. To be with a group of women I could converse and laugh with was treat enough. They were all very friendly and welcomed me, the newbie, in a warm genuine way. Eagerly, they took turns sharing valuable tips like having business cards made with my name and address printed in both English and Thai, opinions on where to get the best foot massages, and last but not least, the best brand of milk to buy and where to buy it. Needless to say, High Tea was truly a highlight in my week! more thought. I think in my last post I wrote something about sampling the privileged life. What a silly thing to say... I know that you know what I meant, but as far as a privileged life- I've enjoyed that my whole life! I count it a privilege that you call me friend, mom, sister, niece, aunt, cousin, daughter, wife... whatever I am to you, I'm blessed to have the privilege of having you in my life.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tea Party!

I think the last time I went to a tea party was when Vanessa was about 5 or 6, and even then I wasn't the guest. Instead, I played the role of the maid answering the girls' bell rings and served the tea... Such fond sweet memories! Times change...Roles change... and I guess the best way to handle it all is to go with the flow. So that's what I'm about to do. Thailand Tracey is about to venture out to sample the privileged life of high tea served at a lovely Bangkok hotel. This treat has been arranged by the American Woman's Club as one of a variety of activities available each month. While you're all sleeping, I'll be sipping tea and indulging in a decadent chocolate buffet. What a life! Anyway, it's time to go, so I'm just going to put a pause here and I promise to report back later.
Love you all and Sweet Dreams!


Do I take things for granted? Yep, I sure washing machines. Maybe it's my old age, but I've seemed to have developed a bad habit of forgetting that I've washed a load of clothes and therefore fail to transfer them into the dryer in a timely manner. Anybody who has ever lived in a hot humid climate knows the result, and it's not pretty! The only way to fix the mistake is to wash them again. I'm just now rewashing a load of clothes for the 3rd time! Not really that big of a deal...yet when I really think about it, I know in my heart that it is a big deal. It's a big deal for me to take my blessings for granted and to be so wasteful living in a land where many people have so little. For that matter, it really wouldn't matter where I lived, it would still be a big deal and that's why I'm writing about it today. Maybe by taking the time to think this through and by putting my confession out there for you all to read, I'll be more conscientious in the future.
I think the source of my problem isn't really old age...that's just an excuse that I tend to be using more and more these days. The real problem is the amount of effort I put into washing the clothes in the first place. It's nothing to step out onto the service porch, add a bit of soap, fabric softener, push a few buttons and before you know it, I have soft clean clothes. I can guarantee you that if I had had to scrub those clothes by hand on the shore of a river like I've seen some Thai families do, there's no way that I would walk off and forget about them!
I'm pretty sure this is another one of life's everyday experiences that has bigger applications to ponder. Sorry if I'm getting too heavy. I'm really writing for myself today...just recording my thoughts as though I were writing in a journal. Anyway, since I've been over here, I've been exposed to different religions...mainly Buddhist. Though there is still so much I don't know or understand about what they believe, one thing I've observed daily is the practice of making merits. In order to deliver themselves to a better life, they believe that they must do good works and must offer gifts or make merits of food, flowers... You may remember seeing pictures of spirit houses with these gifts placed in them that I've taken and placed in my Shutterfly album. A better reincarnation is totally dependent on their self effort in this life. Personally, I can't help but think of what a contrast this is to Christianity! As a believer in Christ, I know there is nothing I can do to save myself. I have a home in heaven only because of what Christ did for me by sacrificing His perfect sin free life in place of my sinful one.
OK, so back to the washing machine... since my salvation is not dependent on my effort it can be easy for me to take God's blessings for granted! That's another confession... There have been so many times that I've gotten distracted with life that I've forgotten to take time to be thankful...I mean really thankful that my God is who He says He is. I can't begin to count the number of times I've taken the most precious gift I've ever been given and cast it aside and said, "no time today"...not literally nor purposefully, but just like I didn't leave the clothes in the washing machine on purpose, it's because I failed to live gratefully for all the blessings God has freely blessed me with. Yes, there's no doubt about it, I'm guilty. Praise God that I'm also forgiven!

(FYI the clothes have finally made it to the dryer!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Middle of the night phone calls

It used to be that I dreaded middle of the night phone calls. Thank goodness I hadn't had that many before moving to Thailand, but when one did interrupt my dreams, my heart would always be racing as I just knew really bad news was coming. That was then. Now I love them because it usually means Vanessa, though being a very bright mathematician, hasn't stopped to figure out the time difference, and is calling me just because...just because I'm Mom and she wants to share something, usually good news like being excited about a lunch date with a special friend, something that makes my heart glad. How thankful I am that I live in a world where it is so easy to reach out and touch someone make their day just by saying Hi! I'm thinking of you.
Speaking of reaching out, I'm so impressed with the technology skills of those of who have reached out and commented on my blog as I've still not figured out how to do that! Yesterday, I was trying to leave a comment on a friend's blog but couldn't get the right combination of user name/password. I don't have a Google acct., but of course I do have a Blogger acct. What they want in order to publish a comment? Maybe, with a bit more patience, I could have figured it out, but my was patience was spent at the bank yesterday morning as Sam and I tried to navigate the Thai banking laws in order to establish a local account. Let's just say that we left the apartment at 7:30 AM, didn't leave the bank until noon, and Sam just got a phone call from them today that the account is ready to be funded. With any luck, after a call to the states tonight requesting a wire transfer, the account will be good to go. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Just call me "Grace"!

I can't believe that I was in the least bit concerned about what I would have to write about on this blog. Oh, ye of little faith... God always provides! Let me see if I can paint a word picture for you. This afternoon after triumphing over the Thai language challenge with Daphne's help, I decided to seize the moment and follow through on another one of my goals and that was to go to the workout room and put in an hour of exercise. All was going well...I had even completed the circuit 2 times and was pushing the limits to an hour and a half be honest, I was only going the extra mile because the HBO movie wasn't over yet:) Anyway, I'm watching the movie and ticking off the miles on the treadmill when another lady comes in to workout. As you know I'm desperate for friends so when she started having problems figuring out how to work the stationary bike, I was only more than happy to help. Obviously, that was a very nice thing to do; however, I momentarily lost my focus and forgot that I was on a treadmill going at a pretty fast rate. Well, to make a long story short, I have road rash down both arms, a major bruise on my right hip, a couple of broken blood vessels, and last but not least, I've suffered significant embarrassment and scared a friend away:(
As I was soaking my wounds and pride in the tub, I started thinking about an analogy. I think that life is kind of like this... as long as we keep our focus on God and stay on his path for our life, things usually go along pretty well. We can choose to avoid many of the pitfalls that can cause disappointment and heartbreak. However, if we're not careful, we can lose our focus...even to do what we think at the time is something good. Before you know it, we're wounded, broken hearted and in need of healing that only the Great Physician can offer. Praise God that his grace is sufficient no matter how severe our fall. I don't know about you, but I think it would be an honor to be called Grace! In fact, I can't think of a sweeter name.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Where there's a will, there's a way!

As many of you know it was my intent to begin blogging upon my arrival in Thailand as a way of keeping in touch because I knew myself well enough to be confident that my bad habit of failing to make it to the post office would follow me around the world. Well, that was a great plan; however, I found it impossible to break through the language barrier as every time I attempted to go to, it would assume that since my computer was in Thailand, then I must speak Thai. Wrong! Just when I'd reached the end of my rope and was even questioning if there was anything in my life worthy of sharing, my dear friend Daphne came to the rescue. She tried researching different fixes and finally resorted to creating the blog herself back in the good ol' USA. After a bit more coaching, here I am in Bangkok typing away:) I feel victorious...kind of like that shout from a mountain top feeling. So what now? What is it that I write? Well, to start with I'm thinking of how thankful I am for friends and family like you who might be reading this. God knew that I would need you and it's no accident that you've blessed my life. It's impossible to know how many times have you've been God's voice here on earth offering kind words of encouragement, or His hands as you've hugged and helped lighten the load of life when it was just too much to bear alone. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for sharing in my life's journey and allowing me to share in yours.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


To see what time it is for Tracey and Sam, go to and select Asia/Bangkok. For USA Central, they are 12 hours later than us so, at 7 AM on Thursday in Houston, it's 7 PM on Thursday in Bangkok.


Across the Ocean

This is Daphne trying to set up a blog for Tracey that is in English and not Thai! We'll see if it works so we can spend more time in Tracey's new world!