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. My Shutterfly page will have a new album shortly containing all my snapshots from this most un-ordinary day.


The Mama said...

Ug, didn't expect to get emotional. Knowing you like I do, I'm confident that you periodically stop, look around, and recognize what an amazing experience God has blessed in you and Sam - I mean it that way. You are being blessed and you are blessing others. You bless me with every picture and every word you share. You are having an experience I can never hope ... well, we can always hope because God does amazing things. But, I don't see a Far Eastern experience in my future! He blesses me in many other ways and I'm pretty content to share your life in the Far East. Now, if He blesses Rick with enough Continental One-Pass miles for a couple of tickets to Thailand...

It is absolutely amazing that you are there when China is hosting the Olympics and that the President came to your 'slum'. However, I can't quite see you as Zacchaeus, particularly surrounded by little Thais!

I am also not surprised in your concern for the neighborhood vendors. It is one of your gifts to always see the need and want to help. You are doing that at your school. Just think, if one day even one of your students is able to pursue further education and get out of the slum, she or he could change that slum, and the world, forever.

Can you tell I'm in a contemplative mood today? Carol spurred me and you gave me a jolt also.

I am blessed in my friends - in person and via telecommunications!

Enjoy your weekend with Sam!

Terri said...

I was going to say exactly what Daphne said, but cannot begin to say it as eloquently as she did.

We have talked many times about you blooming where you are planted and that is exactly why you are where you are at this particular time. No accidents. Praise God for giving you the opportunities you have already had and also those that have yet to come! Happy 31st Anniversary a little late; I'm so glad that you two have each other to love and complement each other. You are an incredible duo! What a blessing you are to others; we truly count ourselves blessed being such a close part of your lives.

deb buck said...

Hello I'm a friend of Doug and Georgene and the other blooger commenting on their travels. I miss their blog so much they said to read yours to get my "Blog fix". Hope you don't mind. We had lived in Singapore in '99 - 2000 and Doug and Georgene came to visit us also. Enjoy this wonderful adventure and I hope to meet you someday. Debbie

Georgene & Doug said...

WOW! What a fantastic event! You are where you are suppose to be! Those children need you.
After having been there, the children are so blessed and lucky to have you on their side.
Be nice to my friend Debbie!!!!