Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas!

From Malaysia...

and Texas...

We want to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

May your holidays be filled with precious blessings,

savored by hearts overflowing with love and gratitude

for the gift of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

and joyfully shared with family and friends.

Our love and best wishes always,
Sam, Tracey, Vanessa, and Riley

Home Sweet "Malaysian" Home

Capsquare Residence ...20th floor

Our view

Our neighborhood...notice the Starbucks!

I've been back in Texas now for a little over week, but leave again tomorrow. Before I head out with our girls to celebrate Christmas with our family in Oregon, I wanted to post a few pictures of our new home in Kuala Lumpur. Sam and I were blessed to actually find and move into a furnished apartment over my Thanksgiving visit. Speaking of my visit, it was wonderful though way too short! Sam is doing well and sends his love. Of course, he's glad I can be with the girls during this time of transition, but is also looking forward to my return.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Beeee...autiful Blessings!

...just wanted to share a few pictures from Halloween. What a blessing it was to be with my girls to share yet another "first!" I'm convinced that there is no greater joy than experiencing the thrill of childhood once again, only this time through the eyes of Vanessa as she celebrates life with Riley.

Precious moments with Grandmommy's Honey Bee!

Posing for pictures before visiting friends

My Beeee...autiful Bees. Riley was a "busy" bee, Vanessa was the "queen" bee, and I joyfully chose to be the drone!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trick or Treat!

Since I haven't blogged in over a month, I'm treating myself to time on the computer while my girlies are occupied.... Riley with napping and Vanessa with studying.

As far as an update... Sam and I are moving to Malaysia on November 1st. Nope! This is not a trick. Actually, Sam broke the news to me about a month ago on my birthday. It's been almost 2 years ago since we accepted the Thailand position. At that time, we thought we'd be there for a minimum of 3 years and were really hoping for 5. Unfortunately, the company had different plans. Such is the life of an expat!

Actually, now that we've adjusted to the idea, we're looking forward to the adventure of living in and exploring yet another country, though we'll miss our life and friends in Thailand greatly. The current plan is for Sam to stay in the company's guest housing until we're able to select an apartment which we'll do over the Thanksgiving holiday. I'll be travelling to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on the 20th of November to join Sam until Dec.4. Then, I'll return to Katy and continue helping Vanessa with Riley until she finishes her semester at HCC. In January, we'll move the girls to our home in Corpus Christi where Vanessa will continue pursuing her dream to become a nurse. Once she feels confident and we have care for Riley, I'll move to Malaysia and will begin making a home for us there.

Until all that comes to pass, I'm enjoying the treat of sharing in Vanessa's joy as she cares for her precious Riley. So far, I've been blessed to see this little fairy princess grow hair...enough for a clip-on bow, sprout 2 pearly teeth, stand solo in the sand on the beach, and take her first steps. My jack-o-lantern is truly full and overflowing with magical moments!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tracey in Two Worlds

I'm seriously considering renaming this blog as Thailand is truly only part of my life's adventure. I haven't really done the math, but if I did, I think that I'd discover that the time I've spent in Texas since Sam relocated is about equal to the time I've spent in Thailand. It's neither good nor bad...just is what it is.

As far as an update, the storms, both weather related and personal, have passed and with each day the future seems a bit brighter. As of today, the plan is for me to stay with Vanessa in Katy and be Riley's grand"nanny" until her semester at HCC is complete. In December, we'll relocate our girls to our town home in Corpus Christi and Vanessa will complete her education at either Del Mar Community College or Texas A&M. Once we have a support system in place, I'll return to Sam and begin counting the days until we're with our girls once again :)

You know, the more I think about it, I really do want to change this blog's title. How blessed I am to live in 2 worlds! Does anybody in my blogging world know about title changes?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Stormy Weather in Texas

Hurricane Gustav is reeking havoc as it heads for the gulf coast, but the storm I'm writing about is one of the heart. Just a brief blog to let you all know that I'm heading for Texas in order to be with Vanessa and Riley as they rebuild their lives in the wake of Trey's departure. Funny, how in the last blog I posted the picture of the double rainbow. To be sure, there are rough waters ahead, but I know that we won't be facing the "storm" alone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Singin' the Bangkok Blues...

Recently, Sam and I've both been singin' the Bangkok blues. We're really not quite sure why. Probably, it's just a lot of little things....all together called life! Fortunately, our concert is over and quite dramatically we were once again reminded that no matter how down we may get, God is faithful to keep His promises.

This picture was taken from our living room balcony. I wish I could have captured the whole double rainbow with my camera. I guess what's important is that it's etched in my heart.

"I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth." Genesis 9:13

"Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving towards all he has made." Psalm 145:13

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A "Prophetic" Party Hat

Today, August 12, all of Thailand is celebrating their beloved queen's birthday. On this special national holiday, not only is the queen celebrated, but also mothers are honored as it's Thai tradition that Father's Day and Mother's Day are celebrated on the birthdays of the king and queen.Since today is such an auspicious day, I thought that I'd to seize the opportunity to share this snapshot of one of my students in his "party" hat. Do you remember in my last blog that I mentioned that we made hats the day President Bush visited Klong Toey? Well, imagine my surprise as I folded this little guy's hat! Honestly, I can think of little more to write as the headline profoundly says it all..."The future of history is here." I do believe that Thailand's royal family and our president would most certainly agree.

Hope you have a happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Just Another Day....NOT!

Today wasn't an ordinary day in the Klong Toey slum. In fact, for days things haven't been business as usual. The sidewalks had been swept...or should I say scrubbed? Street hawkers were notified that they were to remain closed on Thursday, decaying building awnings were removed, even incinerators along the street were wrapped in brown paper to mask any unsightliness from our President's view. I can't help but wonder if President Bush is aware of the extraordinary lengths to which this community went to prepare for his visit today.
Of course, he didn't just randomly choose this poorest of the poor Bangkok neighborhood. President Bush came to visit and honor a very special American, Father Joe Maier, a Redemptorist priest who came to Thailand in 1967 as a missionary. Father Joe founded the Human Development Foundation and has lived in and served the Klong Toey community for over 40 years. His Mercy Centre, a shelter for street kids and a home for mothers and children with HIV/AIDS is directly behind the school I teach at.
Speaking of teaching, I did actually teach today or at least tried to! The children were certainly aware that it was a different day... after all, it's not every day that their playground gets turned into a parking lot for police trucks! Anyway, after our routine lessons, reviewing the letter "H", and making newspaper "hats" (check my next blog), I headed out onto to the street to see what I could see...kind of felt like Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree! One of the first sights I saw was a string of secret service agents and their assorted vehicles. The picture above is of an agent I befriended because he was in need of locating the "facilities". I really enjoyed chatting with him and his partner. This was their first trip to Thailand. With the exception of suffering from major jet lag, they were having a nice time...looking forward to a Thai foot massage this evening:) To show their gratitude for my help, they gave me some secret service pins for Riley. Now that's a souvenir I never expected to collect in Thailand!
I also never expected to be interviewed by an AP reporter, but as you can see from the picture above, I was. Talk about nervous! The tape will probably never be aired, but just in case you'd like to hear what I had to say, you might want to tune into CNN. And if you'd like to know more about Father Joe's ministry, I highly recommend his book, Welcome to the Bangkok Slaughterhouse, or you can check out the Mercy Centre website. http://www.mercycentre.org/ My Shutterfly page will have a new album shortly containing all my snapshots from this most un-ordinary day.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another 1st!

August 1st...I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some recent special firsts. First of all, it was our joy to welcome our Corpus Christi neighbors, Doug and Georgene, as our first guests from home. As I was waiting for their plane to arrive, I realized this was the first time I'd ever been to the Bangkok airport to meet someone...very exciting and I can't wait until the next time!

The picture above was taken the second evening our friends were with us, but it was the first time any of us had been to a restaurant where they give you condoms rather than after dinner mints! The restaurant, Cabbages and Condoms, is a one of a kind Bangkok Thai restaurant that donates a percentage of their profits to population control and AIDS charities. Be sure to check out my Shutterfly album for some pictures of artistic uses of condoms.

Doug and Georgene both enjoyed the view of the Chao Phraya River from the terrace of the Oriental Hotel. This 128-year old hotel is one of the most famous hotels in all of Asia and the first of it's kind in Bangkok. At the time of it's construction, it was the most impressive building not constructed by the king.

High tea...now that was truly a memorable first for Sam and me! We celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary in the Author's Lounge of the Oriental. This original wing of the hotel was an oasis of Victorian charm with it's white wicker furniture, sepia photos of King Chulalongkorn, and guitar soloist. We all enjoyed it so much that Sam promised that it wouldn't be our last visit here. In fact, we can't wait for our next guests to come so that we can share this special Bangkok tradition once again. Be sure to let us know when you'll be arriving, and we'll gladly reserve a room for you in our Bann Jamjuree B&B!

P.S. I've been busy working on our Shutterfly account and am once again up to date with pictures. Yeah! If you'd like to take a look, simply click on the link to the right.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Do I Make You Proud?

In memory of Dad. This picture was taken
the morning of my wedding, July 30, 1977.

Life in Bangkok, as I know it, is resuming a more normal pattern for which I'm thankful. Anyone who knows Sam and me, knows that we both tend to thrive on routine. For me, part of that routine is teaching.

I've just finished my 2nd full week of teaching English to pre-K and K students out at the Klong Toey center. They're such a sweet energetic group of little ones. Our major accomplishment of the past 2 weeks is mastering the new phrase, "I'm hungry"....it has so much more meaning to them than, "I'm fine."

How I wish I could share this little update with my dad as he always enjoyed hearing about what was happening in my life and would have gotten such a kick out of vicariously travelling with me through this part of the world. It's hard to believe that it was just 2 years ago yesterday that I had my last conversation with him, and even harder to believe that one of the thoughts I shared was assuring him that it was O.K. to die. Today, I find myself wrestling with thoughts like, "What was I thinking?" or " Why didn't I try pleading with him to keep fighting?" But I know in my heart that the truth is, it wasn't about me, nor should it have been. It was about honoring Dad's tremendous courage by helping him to have the peace of knowing that I respected his wishes and also trusted his judgement. It's my hope and prayer that my response then, and my life today makes him proud.

Father's Day thoughts I wrote to share with Dad years ago...still true today.

Sacrificially Loving...
Quietly Teaching...
Gently Pushing...
me to be the me,
I want to be.
Always there...
Always in my heart...
My Dad.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

Our girlies celebrating at the park.
Looking refreshed after our 2 mile hike in the rain!

This truly was a most memorable 4th of July, my first ever to celebrate outside of the good ol' U.S.A. Our plans were to go to the Great American Rib company for dinner as they had advertised a special celebration. Well, as the saying goes...best laid plans! Our driver was sick, so we took the skytrain and walked about a 1/2 mile. Just as we got there, the sky opened up and it began to pour monsoon style. It was then that we discovered that not only was this an open air restaurant, covered only by a tarp like ceiling, but that since we didn't have reservations, we weren't able to join their party. Anyway....long story! The short version is that Sam and I waded home laughing all the way! We had no other option....couldn't hop in a taxi soaking wet, couldn't walk into another restaurant... Our only choice was to enjoy the moment, which we did. How awesome of God to provide a display of heavenly fireworks that we won't soon forget!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy 75th Birthday, Mom!

Mother's Day came and went and I didn't share my heart...my excuse for procrastination was no time. After all, I was heading home to the states in 3 short days. Then came, June 30th, Mom's 75th birthday, and once again, I let a special opportunity to try and express my heartfelt gratitude for her beautiful selfless life slip through my fingers. Maybe it's best that I'm writing...or at least trying to write...this tribute on just an ordinary day because really and truly, it's on these ordinary days when I'm doing ordinary things that I'm mindful of Mom in a special way and reminded of how blessed I am to be this amazing lady's daughter.

Up front I'd like to confess that the real reason for my procrastination has nothing to do with lack of time, but rather everything to do with an irritating personality trait of perfectionism. Truly, I realize the limits of my own writing ability and know that there's no way to adequately put into words the admiration, appreciation, and love that I feel...kind of like the lyrics from The Sound of Music...How do you catch a wave and pin it down? The task is impossible, but today I'm refusing to accept that as an excuse and choosing instead to at least try.

Daily, I admit that I'm in awe. "How does Mom do it?" is a question I've asked myself over and over and after much pondering think the answer is really not that difficult. The truth is that Mom has always chosen, and still chooses today, to live the life of a servant...my mind is flooded with waaaaay too many examples to share in this blog! However, I'd like to elaborate on just a few to illustrate my point, and more importantly, to honor Mom by letting her know that buried in the hearts of her family and friends are treasure chests overflowing with memories of her loving kindness and thoughtful ways.

One of the examples that has been dear to me over the years is the way in which Mom sacrificially gave years of time to her children's schools as a volunteer. As both a mom and teacher, I know that having parents willing to be involved in the life of a school can make a tremendous difference. Even though there never seems to be enough hours in the day to take care of all of life's responsibilities, Mom never used this as an excuse for not helping. In fact, she not only volunteered at the schools, but also with scouts, little leagues, Job's Daughters, children's theatre, and a multitude of other activities. Makes me tired just thinking about it! Did I say that I was in awe?

Anyone who has been married for a number of years, knows that in order to nurture your relationship, you must be a servant... regularly placing your spouse's needs and wants before your own. Being a parent also requires the same sort of sacrifice...in our family, this sacrifice was x's 7! Needless to say, I'm totally in awe at Mom's ability to love us all so much that she was able to give, and give, and give, even when it meant that she went without...without sleep, without new clothes..., without even time to call her own. Mom and Dad were married for 54 for years before Dad passed away. During their last 11 or so years together, Dad suffered from kidney failure and all the bad stuff that came with it. It's always given me and continues to give me great peace knowing that during their most difficult times, Mom was right there caring for and lovingly serving Dad in ways I'll never fully comprehend, but for which I'll forever be grateful.

In choosing a last example, I'm remembering my recent visit home. During this visit, I was treated to several precious moments spent with Mom's friends. First, there was the next door neighbor, a little boy not more than 5 or 6, who just came over to talk :) Apparently, he and Mom along with some other little girls in the neighborhood all exchange love letters and little gifts like freshly baked cookies and holiday treats. Then, there were Mom's new friends from the Camarillo House who shared how much they enjoy Mom and her caring ways. Finally, there was our special lunch with Mom's dearest high school friends, my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Simon, who always bless me by reminding me of how much they love and appreciate Mom. All of these friends have richer lives because of.....

Mom, a beautiful woman whom I'm very proud of.... not perfect, just excellent, and forever a blessing in my life!
Happy Birthday, Mom!

I'm not entirely sure of whom my blog readers are, but if per chance Mom has touched your life in a special way and you'd like to join me in honoring her with your thoughts, please feel free to comment.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Basking in Blessings!

Add yet another name to the family bassinet.
Riley is napping in the same bassinet her
grandmommy and mommy slept in as babies.
Four generations


Memory making moment

...A short blog to say that we're back in Bangkok basking in the blessings of a wonderful trip to the United States. It'll take me awhile to get all the snapshots organized and on Shutterfly as I still have the Beijing trip to finish. Anyway, I thought I'd just post a few of my favorites here. Enjoy!

Monday, May 12, 2008

We're O.K.

How blessed we are to have people across the world mindful of us! Recently, Sam and I've received several emails and phone calls inquiring about our safety. We're most grateful to report that we've not suffered in anyway from the recent cyclone in Burma or the earthquake in China.

Well, that's not exactly true. We, like you, have very heavy hearts as we watch the daily news and hear reports of human suffering due to the cyclones, earthquakes, floods, fires, droughts, cancer, war... Today, I should be dancing for joy since tomorrow I'm leaving for a visit with our family and friends. Believe me, I'm happy...just feeling helpless, sad and maybe also a bit guilty. I have soooo..... much, while others have lost everything.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request 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

....precious comforting words I'm striving to live.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One more memory from China...

Sam and I are home from our China travels...well, I should say that I'm home. A couple days after getting back, Sam had to head off to Batan, Indonesia. Oh well, that's life as we know it these days! It was a great trip...full of lots of memorable moments.

The highlight was our hike up to and on the Great Wall. Once again, we traveled with Cycle China and would highly recommend this group if you're into seeing the sights in an up close and personal way.

We drove 3 hours out of Beijing to reach the starting point of our hike, and then hiked another 2 hours up a mountain before reaching the Great Wall. After reaching the mountain top, we hiked 11 kilometers along the 600 year old wall...from an unrestored section-"Jiankou" to a restored section-"Mutianyu." The weather was just perfect for hiking...cool and overcast. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best for taking pictures, and that's why in some of our snapshots you can barely see the wall through the fog. Oh well, trust me. It was magnificent!

Of all the things that really enriched the experience, I would have to say that the group we were hiking with made it most memorable. Actually, it's kind of funny how the wall was originally built to separate people, but today it brings people from around the world together. Our tour group included travelers from Germany, China, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States. We started the journey as strangers and 12 hours later were exchanging addresses in hopes of crossing paths again. I have some thoughts on how these friendships form...but that's a blog for another time! For now, I'm just glad to be home and heading for home. I leave for California 1 week from today. Ask me if I'm excited!!!

The Great Wall of China

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thoughts from Tanggu

We're now in Tanggu, an industrial town about 2 hours drive from Beijing. It seems small compared to Shanghai, but I was told at dinner last night that the population is around 1 million. (not exactly Katy, Texas). Speaking of dinner, we were once again treated to a feast! The different groups that Sam has been meeting with have all been very gracious in sharing their delicious local cuisines...nothing like any "Chinese" food I've enjoyed before, but delicious none the less.

After having breakfast with the MI-SWACO group, checking my email, and surfing for Skype partners, I planned my outings for the day. Since there are no tourist destinations in Tanggu, shopping for a tea set was on my list of things to do. When Sam visited this city last year, he went to a tea shop and has been talking about the tea sets ever since. I had no problem finding my way to the shop and actually, even though language was a barrier to discussing my purchase with the salesperson, it was a pleasant transaction because there was no bargaining involved. Fortunately, the prices in the stores here are set, unlike the bazaars of Shanghai.

Today, in addition to sharing our China travel log, I also want to write a bit about what I've been pondering lately. My thoughts have been about how travelling has made me so much more aware of, and thankful for, how unique America is as a "melting pot" of cultures. Being physically different...red, yellow, black or white... is the norm in America. None of Sam's co-workers from Thailand, Malaysia, or China would stand out at all if they were to travel around the United States. The same is not true here. As I walked down the street today, I felt as though I were a 6 ft. Las Vegas style neon sign flashing the warning-"Foreigner". The response I received as I walked along was certainly not rude, but rather cautiously curious. I'm sure many of the people I passed were just wondering why someone so obviously foreign was strolling along their neighborhood streets.

On a spiritual level, I'm mindful of the fact that as a Christian, no matter where in the world I travel, I'm a foreigner because this world with all its worldliness will never be my home. My prayer then is that God would empower me to choose to live my life each day, wherever I am, in such way that it attracts the same curious attention I created as I walked down the streets of Tanggu so that I might have opportunities to share the hope I have in Christ. I'm so thankful America is truly a melting pot for physical and cultural differences, yet at the same time, I hope and pray that it never becomes one spiritually... I pray that it will always be...One nation under God... The same God who loved the whole world so much ... that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him, would not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Friday, April 25, 2008

A "Shoutout" from Shanghai

Sam and I arrived in Shanghai yesterday afternoon. The weather is beautiful...a bit on the smoggy side, but it's what I expected with over 20 million people living here.

Yesterday, after settling in at the hotel, we all ventured out to explore Nanjing Lu, Shanghai's foremost shopping street. The group (Sam's co-workers and me) did a bit of shopping... mainly "window" shopping and enjoyed strolling along the street with throngs of others. The street ended at area called "The Bund". The Bund is at the heart of what used to be colonial Shanghai. Today it's a nice place to take in views of the Huangpu River...old colonial buildings on one bank and some of the world's tallest buildings on the other. Since there's a tunnel that transports you under the river, we were able to enjoy both views.

Today, I ventured out on my own once again and am happy to say that I actually got to enjoy the sight I set out to see. I took a taxi to the Yu Gardens and Bazaar. The gardens were amazing...quite magical to have such a peaceful place in the middle of the chaos of a bazaar and looming skyscrapers. I hope my pictures capture the calm, beauty, and art of a perfectly balanced landscape. After savoring the calm, I bravely entered the bazaar armed with my calculator. I have to admit that though bargaining is a real stretch for me, I quite enjoyed the experience. I'm sure I still paid way too much for my treasures, but at least I participated in the cultural ritual that was expected of me.

Getting home was not near the adventure I'd had in Shenzen, yet it was not without a challenge. Taking a taxi from the hotel in the morning had been a piece of cake with the help of the hotel staff. Flagging one down for the return trip...NOT so easy! First, I had to figure out where they would stop, because as a foreigner I didn't seem to be able to get the same response from the side of the street as the locals did. Once I found an actual taxi stop, my intuition told me not to go with the drivers that were wanting to bargain for the price. Thankfully, an English speaking tourist filled me in on the different taxi colors and which could be trusted to be fair. It wasn't long after that lesson, that I hopped in a blue taxi (as opposed to red) and was safely on my way home with plenty of time to blog and check email! It's a wonderful life to be on such a foreign adventure, yet to also be able to come home to family and friends each evening via the internet.
My love you! Thanks for checking in with me and for reading these ramblings :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Planes, Trains and.....

Well actually, there were no planes today, but there were ferry boats, underground metro trains, buses, and taxis. Today was my first day to navigate China on my own and let me assure you, it was quite an adventure! First off, let me begin by sharing that we are in Shekou...a suburb of Shenzen...an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong. Since Sam was working all day, I decided that I'd jump on the ferry and explore Hong Kong. After all, since Hong Kong had had a long history with Great Britain, language wasn't going to be a problem...Right? Wrong!

I won't say that it was a major problem, but it certainly was a challenge. However, the real problem in my plans occurred shortly after arriving at the tourist information office and learning that the ferry I'd traveled on to get to Kowloon (the island across from Hong Kong) didn't have a return schedule that would meet my needs. I'd prearranged with Sam to meet up with him no later than 6:00 and since I didn't have an international cell phone (something I'll for sure have on our next trip), I had no way of contacting him to let him know that I'd be an hour late. Soooo... the rest of my time was spent trying to return to Shekou.

First, I had to learn how to navigate the MTR in order to get to the travel agency that would sell me a bus ticket. With the help of many kind citizens from all over the world, I finally made it to their office. The plan was to buy my ticket, learn the departure location, and then resume my sightseeing excursion, taking in all the sights possible before I had to leave. The tourist information office had provided me with an itinerary that included historic markets, a beautiful garden, and a temple.

Again, best laid plans! The travel agency I'd been sent to wasn't able to sell me the bus ticket I needed. I wasn't quite sure what to do at this point. I considered crying, but that really wouldn't have accomplished much, so I decided to head back to the tourist office. This time, I'm pleased to report that I navigated the MTR almost like a local (Not! but better than before...I think I made it back to the office without any help)

I explained my predicament to a different tourist authority this time, and after bouncing around a few ideas, was sent to another travel agency to purchase a ticket for a different bus. Let me tell you, it was a real step in faith to head out to that office. At this point I'd scratched all sightseeing and decided that I just wanted to get back to the hotel... the sooner, the better!

Fortunately, buying the ticket was not a problem at all this time. In fact, I got lucky and was able to board the bus right away. It was a pleasant 1 hour ride back to mainland China, and the best part was I was able to see some sights I wouldn't have seen if I'd returned on the ferry. Once I got back to Shenzen, I had no problem catching a taxi back to the hotel.

All in all, it was a good day...Not the day I'd planned, but good nevertheless. With out a doubt, the best part was all the conversations I'd had with all the good Samaritans who took time out of their busy day to help me find my way.

P.S. We just returned from a lovely Chinese dinner hosted by the staff at the Shenzen office. The hospitality extended to us made us feel so welcome and the food was delicious! We leave for Shanghai tomorrow morning.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Notice something new?

You may have noticed a few changes like the removal of my favorite Thailand picture. That was a mistake! I've tried my best to correct it, but these programs definitely have a mind of their own. After literally hours of messing with it, I'm ready to put up the white flag and go with the old saying, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em ! In its place is a slide show from Photo Bucket and I'm trying out a whole new template. I figured if I'm being forced to change, why not go all the way. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Not What I Expected

Recently, Sam and I visited about how easy it's been for us to slip into a non tourist role as we live life here in Bangkok. That's not necessarily bad, but there's so much to see and our days or years are numbered. So we pulled out the tour books once again and renewed our resolve to continue seeing and sharing the sights that surround us.

One local sight that's been on our list to see is the Royal Barge Museum. We had had a glimpse of these magnificent barges this past fall as we watched a televised annual procession of them float down the Chao Phraya River to Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, in order to offer royal kathin robes to the monks in the temple. Believe me, after viewing this royal procession with all its pomp and circumstance, I could tell that these "boats" were truly a treasured part of Thailand's cultural heritage and could only imagine viewing them up close.

If you'd like to see them up close, take a look at the Royal Barge Museum album on our Shutterfly account -
They were as beautiful as I'd expected, but what I want to write about is what I'd not expected.

What I'd not expected is to be guided through winding narrow alleys of a slum in order to get to the museum. I couldn't believe that we were actually following this sleepy local resident (bum) who had been resting on a table near the fading museum sign where our driver had dropped us off. In fact, the whole time we were trekking behind him, I kept thinking there has got to be some mistake.... Surely, Thailand's royal treasures can't be located here! I was even wondering if this was some sort of scam... To be really honest, I was sort of scared. This just wasn't what I'd expected.

Well, obviously it wasn't a scam, and we were led right to the door of the museum. After viewing the barges, we headed back through the slum to meet our driver....this time without the benefit of a guide. As we were walking, I couldn't help but think how appropriate that the poorest of the poor should be the keepers of these royal riches. After all, isn't that what heaven will be like?...the last will be first and the first will be last...Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

...Just wanted to share how thankful I am for the opportunity to have been reminded once again that life's treasures have nothing to do with barges or any other "thing", royal or otherwise, but instead life's real treasures are people...even people disguised as bums!

The Icing on the Cake!

Three weeks ago yesterday, I began what has continued to be an amazing experience with the Thai health care system. I've been completely checked from head to toe and am thankful to report that I have a clean bill of health. However, I just have to share the icing on the cake from this whole experience. It was when the endocrinologist called me on a national holiday to report that the biopsy of my thyroid nodule turned out just fine. I couldn't believe it! First of all, I expected a call from his office staff rather than a personal call from him, and secondly, since there was no urgency in the report, I would have totally understood waiting until after the holiday to call. Anyway, enough about that...just glad it's behind me and that it was so painlessly easy for a medical procrastinator like me to catch up on all those important screenings!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Never in my wildest dreams...

Recently, I've been blown away by just what's possible these days. For example, a few days ago I had my first "virtual" babysitting job. Let me explain...Vanessa had come home with Riley and to her dismay, there were no convenient parking spaces near her apartment. She not only had to unload Riley and all the baby "stuff", but also an ice cream birthday cake for Trey...too much to carry in one load. She was nervous about leaving Riley in the apartment alone in order to go back to the car for the cake, so being the creative girlie that she is, this is what she did-- She called me using her cell phone as she has an international phone plan. Next, she turned on the computer and Skyped me. After, being sure that Riley (secured in her car seat) was visible to me, she left the apartment locking the door behind her and taking her cell phone with her as we were still connected. Sooo...The end result was she was able to hear me talking and singing to Riley...Riley was never out of my sight and could hear her Grandma singing her favorite songs (Vanessa was coaching me on what to sing), and Vanessa was assured that she was O.K. for the few minutes it took her to return to the car. Amazing!

The next experience that really got my attention was my trip to the doctor's yesterday. You are not going to believe this but I promise you every detail of it is true! After being here since July, I decided that it was time to establish a relationship with a family doctor. Those of you who know me well, know this is not my favorite thing to do. In fact, I can be creatively negligent when it comes to having routine well woman check ups. Anyway, my friend, Gini, made an appointment for me to meet her doctor. The appointment was at 9:00, and I figured after a brief consult, I'd be directed to an appointment desk in order to schedule a time for an initial check up. Wrong!

The short version is I left the doctor's office, which is in a local hospital, at 4:00 PM.

The long version is nothing short of miraculous! First of all, I began my appointment at 8:45 by completing a minimal amount of paperwork and having my blood pressure, height and weight checked. Next, I met with the doctor at her desk while she completed a family history and discussed my health needs. After that, I was sent to the lab for routine blood, urine... tests. I then returned to the doctor's office, and she performed the most complete physical I've ever had. Following this exam, I was personally escorted to various offices within the hospital for a mammogram, chest x-ray, bone density measurement, ultrasound (breasts, thyroid, upper abdomen), and an EKG. After a brief break for lunch at one of the many restaurants within the hospital (I chose Starbucks), I met with the doctor again. This time, she shared the results of all the tests that had been run earlier. The good news is I'm healthy, though she wanted me to see an endocrinologist because I have a nodule on my thyroid that she'd like checked out. So off I go to visit with the endocrinologist! He takes a look at the ultrasound pictures, lab reports, and examines me. He assures me that because my thyroid is functioning properly, there's probably no problem, but just to be on the safe side he schedules a biopsy for next week. Well, I finished my "initial" visit with 2 more exams to be completed that afternoon and 2 more to be completed next week...all of them arranged by my doctor. A gynecologist completed a well woman check up for me and I ended my day with a trip to the eye doctor's office. Can you believe all that with one simple 9:00 AM appointment? One more "blow me away" detail of the day was upon checking out, I was given completed insurance forms and a detailed print out of all the procedures and exams that had been performed. You might be wondering about the cost. I know I was! Well, the total for all the physician visits and lab tests was $747.00. No wonder Thailand is becoming a medical tourism hot spot!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

American Idol comes to Thailand!

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I discovered a new TV channel this week... one that has shows like American Idol and Grey's Anatomy! Sam almost had me convinced that CNN and the History Channel were about the best available as I really hadn't taken any time to explore the channels for myself. I guess I'm not that much of a TV watcher. Anyway, his downfall was tuning into the History Channel during dinner last night. They were doing a show on the history of toilet paper. I couldn't believe it, but he was just sitting there watching them talk about wiping...taking it all in without giving much thought to the fact that we were eating. You know you're a History Channel junkie when you can watch something like that without thinking that it's a bit of an odd choice for the occasion! Well, that's when the search for another channel began and I'm glad to report my entertainment world has grown by leaps and bounds. Tonight we watched American Idol and plan on watching it again tomorrow. It was great... especially the performance of the song, "I'm Glad to be an American." I've always been touched by those lyrics, but even more so living outside of America. I truly am glad to be an American and am also very glad to have a new channel..one with American Idol :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Pictures on Shutterfly!

Now that I'm back in Bangkok, I have no excuse for not writing...well, with the exception of having over 3 months of catching up to do! Believe me, I'm working on it. For those of you who know me well, you know how I love to have all my ducks in a row. However, it's been kind of challenging lining the ducks up when I'm still trying to figure out where I am and if it's O.K. to drink the water! (I'm not kidding...I have to think before swallowing) Anyway, with setting priorities and all, I've decided it would be best to get the pictures downloaded and posted first. I hope you still remember how to click on the Shutterfly link to the left of my page :)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

And then there was Riley Lynn....

All of us have had those moments...moments when we know without a shadow of a doubt that we are forever changed. On February 15th at 6:34 PM, Riley Lynn, my first granddaughter was born, and I can honestly say, the blessing of this precious baby has forever changed me. I have a new identity..."Grandma, Mema, MiMi, Nana...." Whatever this princess of our Heavenly Father chooses to call me will forever be music to my ears!

It has been my absolute privilege and joy to join Vanessa and her family as they snuggle little Riley and juggle life's demands at all hours of the night and day without thought of much else. Only a few days ago there was world travelling, presidential campaigns, American Idol....and then there was Riley Lynn. Isn't it amazing how true love can consume all our needs, wants, and narrow the focus of all our thoughts and energy! Yes, I'm head over heels in love once again. First, there was Sam, next came Vanessa, and now Riley Lynn. My heart is full and over flowing.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Too Long!

Question- How do you know it's been too long since the last post?
Answer- When you can't even remember your login or password!

Sorry it's been so long! It's not that I haven't had an opportunity or encouragement, it's just that my brain ...heart ...has been on overload. For those of you who might not know, I didn't return to Thailand as planned on the 28th because Vanessa began experiencing pregnancy problems that indicated that our precious Jayde Lynn may be coming earlier than expected. Those problems now seem under control, but unfortunately Vanessa is currently fighting the flu...no fun under normal circumstances, but especially no fun while pregnant. The intial decision to delay my departure was a no brainer...but how long to stay has been a bit more challenging as Sam and I both were both at peace with the decision for me to return to Thailand and then come back to Texas shortly after the birth. I guess if I've learned anything this year, it's that plans really are made to be changed!

Consequently, my New's Year's resolution is to live in the moment more dependent on seeking God's purpose and pausing to experience his joy..to be flexible...striving to calm the chatter in my mind and to actively and expectantly listen to the Holy Spirit's direction after lifting my prayers to God.

Over the past 2 weeks, it has become clear that Vanessa, Sam, and I all need me to be positioned for a quick response....a 27 hour plane ride just doesn't qualify as quick!

So until Jayde Lynn arrives and Vanessa is comfortable in her new role as a mommy, this mommy will making her home in Corpus Christi with frequent visits to the best B&B's Katy has to offer :) I'll never be able to thank Tim and Terri, Steve and Sue, David and Phyllis, and Cecil and Cheryl enough for their gracious hospitality, loving encouragement, and total support. How blessed I am!

Honestly, I'll try to do a better job at keeping in touch, but just in case I continue to suffer from blogger's block, feel free to call my cell 832-248-5352. I'd love to visit.