Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chiang Dao

Part of my job with CAM is visiting HIV/AIDS patients at their home. We provide them with much needed emotional and spiritual support. Today we were accompanied by 2 members of the Uniting Church in Adelaide Australia. Michael and Anna. Both of them are pastors in their church. Our destination is Chiang Dao which is a 2hr drive north of Chiang Mai. We often pass vehicles like this loaded up to the sky. There are many times that the backs of trucks are filled with poor Thais and Hill Tribe people being shuttled to work sites. In Chiang Dao we will be visiting 2 families that have multiple members infected with HIV/AIDS. We also bring food and some clothing to help the families.

The trip up to Chiang Dao is a beautiful drive along the lush green mountains that follows the Ping River. It is hard to tell in this picture, but there are 2 farmers on the left side of the picture. They are working the fields located on the upper edge of the mountain.
When farangs arrive in the village the kids are sometimes shy. I tried to talk to this young girl, but she apparently felt embarrassed or maybe it was my poor Thai language abilities.
This is Sanan in the red shirt(my boss at CAM) and John and Anna conversing with some of the local villagers. Sanan has been here so many times that we have to stop several times to chat with the locals along the way to the families we intend to visit.
Some of the smaller Thais curious about the visitors to their village.

It was interesting listening to this family's story. The mother on the left has had HIV/AIDS for approximately 11 years and her daughter next to her is 11 years old and is also HIV+. The gentleman on the right of the picture is the uncle. The father passed away some years ago from HIV/AIDS. The mother is very sick and emaciated and will be going to the hospital soon to start a second line of ARV's. Unfortunately when patients start the second line of ARV's there is difficulty with compliance due to the fact that the medications often make you feel worse for the first few weeks to months.
I asked how old the family members were and was told they were not sure the mother thinks she is around 38, and the daughter was 11 or so per the mother. How could you not know how old you are? I've never met anyone that didn't know how old they were.
This is the interior of their bamboo hut, which is very sparse. How would you like to be sick as a dog and have to live in these conditions? Everytime I go on these home care visits I thank God for all the blessings that I have in my life. I can't imagine my life in some of these peoples shoes. I am also amazed at how gracious and generous they are too, despite the fact they have so little to give.
The gentleman on the right side of the picture is the local church leader and he often coordinates cares for the patients that CAM visits. For instance, he will make sure the mother in the previous picture gets to the hospital and he will also help translate for her since she is from the Lahu hill tribe and they speak a different language. Not to mention it is much more difficult for Hill tribe people to access the health care system here.
This cute little boy was startled by all the huge white visitors and clung to his HIV+ mother. I'm not sure how long she has been HIV+. Her 1st husband died from HIV/AIDS a couple years ago. Her second husband was not around and I'm not sure of his status.
This is the local church and also the place where we took a break for lunch. We were able to reflect on all that we had seen and we were amazed at the resilience of the Chiang Dao community. I will be going on home care visits every month and look forward to building relationships with the people we visit.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thai for Dummies

This is Kaew our language tutor and Shelly at the local coffee shop "Wawee" where we meet for our thrice weekly lessons. That means lessons three times a week. We initially picked this coffee hang out for its tranquil environment with birds chirping and the soothing sound of their rock waterfall. Not to mention they have great coffee and they are experts at IV's to get the caffeine in just that much quicker. We take turns each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I mangle the language for 2 hrs first to warm Kaew up and then Shelly gets to hurt Kaew's ears for an additional hour.

I started learning to read and write in Thai months ago and now Shelly is just starting to learn. I feel her pain and frustration at the start of learning how to read and write. I know it seems crazy, but they do have rules in their language. Just getting a grasp of those rules is the fun part.

In the Thai language they have 44 consonants and those consonants are divided up into classes. High class, Mid class, and Low Class. This is important because each class has specific tone markers attached to it and this shows you how to pronounce the word. The names of the consonant classes (high, middle and low) are completely arbitrary. For example, a low class consonant can generate a high tone and a high class consonant can generate a low tone. Neat, huh!!!! There is an algorithm that you can follow to decipher how to pronounce a word in a easy to follow manner. Oh, sweet innocent Brett, so trusting, so loving. I would almost rather have shards of glass in my eye.

Oh, hey look here is the Thai bible! It is a great book and does explain things in simpler terms which is great for a simpleton like me. Just to let you know there are 32 vowels and 4 tone markers in Thai. Every Thai syllable starts with a consonant. Although the consonant sound comes first, the vowel may be written before, above, below, after or around the consonant depending on the vowel. Also the Thais have no breaks in between words so it is one continuous stream of letters. That is why it is so crucial to memorize where the vowels are located because that will help you know where a word ends or begins. Ahhhh...... good times!
You probably can't tell in this serene picture of two people having a conversation and enjoying some smooth rich coffee, but Shelly's brain is actually imploding at this moment.

There are some pluses too, it's not all negative. For one thing there are no verb conjugations in Thai, we just add time markers. There are no articles like(a, an, the). There is no verb "to be" with adjectives, so she is beautiful would be "She beautiful. I like this one the best because it fits my Cro-magnon mentality. "Me go store", "Me like food"
This is a page of reading exercizes from the "Thai bible" and astoundingly Shelly and I both can read and understand them. I guess there is hope for us after all. Of course it takes us a couple of hours to read one page, but we can do it.
Ahhhh.... learning languages. Thai has been an extremely difficult language to learn mainly due to the tones. Thai language has 5 tones (mid, low, falling, high and rising). The same word can be spoken with 5 different tones and they mean completely different things. For instance (Mai) could be mile, new, no/not, ...,right, and silk depending on the tone you use.
So, sometimes it's frustrating when you are talking to someone and you know you are using the right word, but they keep looking at you like you have an arm growing out of your back. Some people can't seem to figure out what you are trying to say because of the wrong tone used even though the context is clear.

Even though I'm complaining about the language I do love studying Thai with Kaew. We have good days and bad days when it comes to language, but we are going to stick with it since we know we will be here a long time and we think it is important to really know the language. Maybe when the girls have another year under their belt they can tutor us. It's just a thought.

Sawat dii khrap gap choke dii na khrap
Love Brett

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Oma and Opa's visit to Thailand

Welcome to Thailand! We met Oma and Opa at the airport on July 5th and shuttled them to our humble abode. They were very tired and needed to rest. Acacia and Anna were absolutely excited to see their Oma and Opa! Anna for the last few days kept asking in the mornings "is Oma and Opa here yet" We had to keep reminding her that they will be here soon. Finally, the day arrived.

The girls greeted Oma and Opa Thai style, with fragrant leis placed around their necks. We still can't believe they are here. The first few days we took it easy on Oma and Opa so they could get used to the time change. We had a lot of fun activities planned for them and the girls couldn't wait.

We visited a Tiger sanctuary on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. They have adult tigers and cubs that you can pet for a 15min period.How awsome is that!! If all that petting gets you hungry they have a restaurant that surrounds the tiger cage and you can eat while watching the tigers. I wonder if that is really a good idea having food served around tigers?

This is the market just outside our moobaan (neighborhood). We shop here quite often and sometimes the girls get free fruit from one of the vendors. So I guess they can buy things with their good looks. I always thought that was a myth about buying things with your good looks. I think it only works with little blond cuties.

Girls day out for tea and scrumpets or something like that. This is a nice tea house on the banks of the Ping River. Shelly, Oma and Acacia enjoyed a relaxing tea and had a great time.

Oma, Opa and the girls enjoying a day out in Lampang which is a sub district just south of Chiang Mai. They saw temples, rode a water buffalo driven cart and took a cruise on the river.

Oma, Opa and Acacia visiting Daddy's work at the Church of Christ in Thailand AIDS Ministry (CAM) office.

"Khum Khantoke" is a touristy dinner show with traditional Thai dancers, music and fun. It is a great place to get your fill of Thai food and enjoy and entertaining show.
They do dances from all the regions in Thailand and from various hill tribe groups.
The girls loved the show and hammed it up for the Thai performers. The girls were dressed in Thai attire, which illicited oohs and ahhs from the Thais. This was one of the last nights in Chiang Mai for Oma and Opa and we wanted them to see traditional Thai dancing.
Acacia and Anna love imitating Thai dancers like the one you see here. I hope someday they show a real interest to actually learning Thai dance.

Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!! The beautiful islands in Thailand!! This is Railay Bay in Krabi. Oma and Opa met us here after they took a 4 day tour of the temples in Cambodia. This was a nice place to do nothing but relax, which Shelly is quite aptly demonstrating here. Good technique Shell!!

The beautiful beach and limestone mountains that surround the Krabi Province. This place was picture postcard perfect. If you look closely that is Oma,Opa and the girls playing on the right side of the picture

The major form of transportation around the islands are these long tail boats. You have to be very careful where you sit because they rock side to side very easily. The girls loved riding in the boat looking at the craggy rock formations all along the coast.
Acacia and Anna enjoying the scenery!!!
Acacia holding the sun so that it wont set and we can enjoy a longer day. Thanks Acacia!
I went on my own one day to a secluded bay that was a haven for rock climbers. I had to traverse a steep rocky trail to get here, but it was worth it.
Opa and Anna playing in the sand.
The girls having a great time on these swings. I was going to try it, but I thought I would break it. So, no go for Daddy!

Anna and Oma enjoying the wonderful pools. They actually had two pools. The one where Anna is by herself is right next to the beach and the one with Oma and Anna together was right next to our room. Cool, huh!
A crabs eye view of the beach.

BANGKOK! This is a view from the temple "Wat Arun" or the "Temple of Dawn". The river is the Chao Phraya which snakes throughout Bangkok. The temple is crazy steep to climb and can be a little scary.

Oma,Opa and myself riding a "tuk,tuk" to the Grand Palace. This was Oma and Opa's first "tuk,tuk" ride. Congratulations.
Anna, looking at all the ornate fixtures and Buddhist images. Some people were taking pictures of her instead of the temple.

The largest reclining Buddha in the world.
The amazing temples at the "Grand Palace" This place is a must see!!!
Oma and Opa standing in front of a golden Chedi. I don't know if it is real gold, I doubt it. Man, is it shiny. It almost blinds you looking at it with the sun reflecting off it.

We had a wonderful time with Oma and Opa and wanted to thank you for creating such fun memories with us. We all miss you and love you very much. Thank you for everything. Love the Faucett Family