Greetings from Chiang Mai

Greetings from Thailand! We have been here for a week and a half, and are enjoying many things and learning many more.

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Before I get into the things that are different, I must say that there are so many that are not. A Thai person told me yesterday that Chiang Mai is “not Thailand”. He explained that it is influenced by the west, supports a tourist economy, and is very comfortable. It is possible to live an impoverished life in this city, as well as a very rich life. You could eat at fancy restaurants all day, shop at pristine and gigantic malls, and have a really nice car.

We are definitely somewhere in the middle.

Here is Noel a few days in eating his first “phalong” meal, including a latte. Phalong is the word for white people, literally meaning “white fruit”.

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Something that surprised us is it is much cheaper to eat Thai food out than cook any type of food at home. There are restaurants on every corner and food booths lining the streets serving dishes for $1. If you go to the grocery store, though, it is as expensive as the US. So we cook at home when we want phalong food. Mostly Mexican.

Here are Noel and my greatest accomplishments so far:

1. Buying a motorbike and learning to ride it carrying someone on the back, advancing to carrying lots of groceries and a big box between us.

2. Spending hours trying to call airlines and airports in various countries and eventually convincing them to send us our luggage. Noel’s box came a week late and was a little worse for wear:

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Also, since he didn’t have any clothes for a week, he wore Kati’s t-shirt and a sarong call a “longi”. This outfit is tradition, but not in Thailand.

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3. Attending 3 Thai lessons so far. If we think long enough, we can count to 10 in almost the proper tones and ask how much something is and say we don’t like Japanese food.

4. Socializing. We’ve mainly hung out with Katie’s Thai friends who speak English and a bunch of Phalong. There is a huge missionary community here (90% of missionaries to Thailand are in Chiang Mai. It’s nice here. What can I say?) so you could hang out with Phalong all the time if you wanted to.

Lovely Italian restaurant:

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Phalong church:

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Something weird about Thailand: You can park your car out in the lot perpendicular to cars parked in the actual stalls, as long as you leave it in neutral. Then, when the people come back to their legitimately parked cars, they just push yours out of the way so they can leave. This guy just pushed the minivan back from behind his car:

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Coming up next: Tomorrow we start teaching English to refugees at Thai Freedom House.

 

Leaving the familiar

Golden spire in Chiang Mai

I am moving to Thailand. It’s not every day that people leave the comforts of America to live in a developing country that’s so different. It’s a big leap, and I’m a little anxious about it. Already, we’ve moved out of our house, moved in with my parents for a spell, sold a car, put our stuff in other people’s garages, and quit our jobs. We’re ending our life here in Boise, for a time. Just as I see our life in Boise, Idaho fading away, there’s a new image of our life in Chiang Mai: the apartment, the scooter, the volunteer work, the language classes that sit there, waiting for us.

My wife Hannah and I are living in Thailand to teach English and computer skills as volunteers. We’ll teach people who are often overlooked by national governments and international media who live in very rural areas in the jungle. Hannah’s a schoolteacher by trade, so you might say this is her forte. I, on the other hand, talk to computers all day, so I will need to learn just a much as I teach. When we’re not in the jungle, we’ll work those organizations in Chiang Mai that can use our skill sets. Hannah will probably teach at after school programs that keep kids off the streets (and away from those would enslave them), or help with PR or administration for anti-trafficking organizations. I’m tentatively committed to writing backend software for an organization that fights government oppression of ethnic minorities.

Our flight is soon, on August 20th. Most of our logistical puzzle pieces have been put together by Hannah with a little help from me. We’ll settle into our new apartment and head out to the jungle after a few weeks (going to Phuket first). In about a year, we’re planning to head home, but perhaps our stay will be longer. We’re ready to begin this new life. If you’re interested in reading updates or seeing pictures of our travels, please subscribe.