Monday, December 16, 2013

The Island Experience


This entry will backtrack a couple of weeks because once we left Thailand, we were pretty much out of range of internet connections.  That was not a bad thing, because it let us experience island life in a fuller way, detached from our normal communications.  After 6 weeks of life in busy Asian cities, we were ready for a close look at rural village life.

Our launching point to the islands took place from Singapore.  A company that specializes in island visits, known as ethnotours,  arranged a couple days’ worth of orientation and language learning for us.  We learned how to introduce ourselves in a local language and tell a bit about ourselves, and use various different greetings and other survival terms.  After being language teachers for the previous month, it gave us insight to have the shoes on the other feet.

We stayed on two different islands, three nights at each place.  Home stays had been pre-arranged, as well as some simple work projects.   Try to picture a small island with about 2-300 people, most of the houses built over the water on wooden or concrete posts. It took less than 10 minutes to walk around the first island.  Electricity came only by generators, for a few hours at night.  We ate what the islanders ate, which consisted of a variety of rice and seafood dishes for three meals each day, plus some other tasty dishes.  It was surprising to see how many ways shrimp, squid, and small fish could be prepared (and eaten with fingers).  We slept on mats on the floor with the host families and bathed with buckets and dippers with the only drainage being the splits in the floorboards emptying into the ocean.  On the second island the ladies on our team all experienced bathing at the public wells!  Discreetly of course, and with lots of laughter. 

It was so special to get to know the families who hosted us, and their children. They were very welcoming to us as foreigners.  Each island had had only had minimal visits in the past from outsiders.   We communicated mostly through Indonesian translators, who were assigned to each of the houses where we stayed.  We were free to ask them questions about their ways of life, and vice versa.  We saw how funerals and weddings were handled communally.  We visited a little primary school and taught some impromptu English lessons.  Our Northwestern students were natural magnets to the children of the village, and it was hard to find a time where their hands were not being held by little kids.  Simple hand games were a hit.

We agreed that the highlight was a “closing” ceremony at the first island stay.  An active arts and dance troupe performed on an outdoor stage for us.  But not only that, they invited us to rehearse and take part in it ourselves!  The men joined one group, and the women joined another group.  We were all dressed in traditional clothing, and our girls made up beautifully.  Our women’s dance told a story about different aspects of village life – the ocean and paddling canoes and other women’s activities.

 Life in the villages was both hard and good.  We contended with some discomforts like mosquitoes and spiders and cockroaches and not using TP.  We were perhaps stretched in new ways, being wearied from previous weeks of travel.   But that was overshadowed by learning to know people and a way of life that was so different from ours. It was like getting to be part of a living cultural anthropology textbook.    Spiritual insights were gained as well, and some of our students expressed lessons God was teaching them about themselves and about Him and prayer and dependence on Him.  



Our lovely ladies are in blue
Our guys in green

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Posting on the Blog

Dr. Morgan has asked us to post this message to notify family and followers of the Team that they are unable to access the blog from their final destination.  We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, but trust you understand.

Pictures will be posted after their return.  The Team is safe, well, and excited for what is to come during their last destination.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Team is safe!

This message was received from Dr. Morgan and is being posted stateside as it may be a day or two before they are able to post:

We are safely in SE Asia and no longer in Thailand, having left as scheduled Saturday night. Other than a massive traffic jam on the way to the airport we were not directly affected by the current political protests. We are now in training in our next country for the final phase of the internship. Everyone is well, missing new Thai friends, and looking forward to what's ahead.


Friday, November 29, 2013

A Student's Perspective

(This is written by Northwestern student Caity)

Before coming to Asia for this internship, I had barely any idea what to expect in any of the countries we were going to. The two weeks in China were a little hard for me for a few reasons, one being that I got sick the second week, and another being that I’m not a city person, and China is rather crowded with people and tall buildings. So heading into Thailand, I was worried that I would hate it and be miserable for all of November because Bangkok is “another large city filed with millions of people everywhere.” It would be crowded, noisy, hot, and humid. I was excited for a new culture, but I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. However, Thailand was not at all what I expected. So much has happened in the past month, I don’t really know where to begin. So, I’ll highlight a few of my favorite memories from the trip.

My first favorite memory is when Maly and I got to have communion with our cell group the first Sunday in Thailand. There was something beautiful about being able to worship God on the other side of the world with Thai believers. When Kwan, my cell leader, was praying, even though it was in Thai, I could feel and share her thankfulness and joy that came from knowing Christ and His sacrifice for us.

My second memory is from one weekend when we went to the crocodile farm and zoo. I got to feed and sit on an elephant, but more importantly, I got to feed and pet a baby tiger! I can check that one off my bucket list. I also can now say from experience that I am allergic tigers. J

Another weekend, my cell group took a mini road trip to the beach in a different province. We spent a Saturday and Sunday relaxing and enjoying one another and the beautiful creation around us. It felt like a family vacation, and in a way, it was. When I woke up Sunday morning, I heard all sorts of tropical bird sounds outside- it was pretty cool. And then I got up, went outside, and saw house sparrows and pigeons. Go figure. J

My fourth favorite memory from this trip is when I got to have Thanksgiving Dinner with John and Laurie Hill. I have known the Hills my whole life, but I hadn’t gotten to see them since they moved to Northern Minnesota several years ago. Laurie (or Mrs. Hill as I call her- old habits die hard) was one of my first teachers when I was little kid at church. She taught me about music and Jesus, two of the most important things in my life. Who knew that they would show up to teach English at the same school in Thailand I was teaching at? It was a blessing to be able to share a meal and a good conversation with them after so long, and I hope they enjoy Thailand as much as I have.

Finally, I have many wonderful memories of spending time with students. I went to see two movies with my students (something I hadn’t expected but greatly enjoyed), shared lunch with them every day, played games with after class, and generally just hung and made friends with them. One of my students insisted on buying me a little something at most of our meals, whether it was a smoothie, coconut ice cream, jack fruit, or some other form of fruit or treat. I tried to tell him that he didn’t have to do that, but he insisted saying that Thai people love to take care of their guests and friends, and besides, he liked to watch me eat Thai food because I wouldn’t be able to do that in America. J I love my students, and I’m going to miss them.

There were countless other adventures that our team went on with our Thai family from Santisuk, and there were so many fun nights spent laughing with my teammates at nothing while grading essays for our classes. Our team grew closer this month, despite our crazy schedules that usually didn’t line up with one another very well. But I feel blessed to have had this experience in Thailand, and I definitely want to come back to Santisuk in the future, if I can. God surprised me by making me fall in love with this country and the people here instead of being miserable all month and wanting to go home. The staff at Santisuk and my students made Thailand home for me this month, and it’s going to be very hard to leave. However, I am excited to see what God has planned for us in SE Asia, and I can’t wait to go home and eat some potatoes and cheese. J

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Strangers and Aliens

(by Garry)

In both China and Thailand we are frequently and openly referred to as “foreigners.”  Even official signs sometimes designate different lines for foreigners and citizens.  This sounds rather strange to our ears, but it is not meant rudely or negatively. It is just the way we are categorized in these cultures. It is also a good reminder that, as Christians, we are “foreigners and aliens” in this world (I Peter 2:11). American culture constantly tries to press us into its mold, but Jesus calls us to live a different kind of life – a life that feels not totally comfortable in this world. Spending time in another culture, where we so obviously are different, is a good object lesson of this biblical truth.

Monday, November 25, 2013

English Camp

A few pictures from "English Camp", which was a day-long event at a high school in a Bangkok suburb.  Our Northwestern group taught/sang/played sports and did fun English-language activities with over 200 high schoolers. 

Celebrating Mandi's 23rd Birthday

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hokey Pokey



You…put…your…right…hand…in…you…put…your…right…hand…out…you…do…the …hokey…pokey…


It was an amusing scene.  Speaking in exaggerated slow motion, one of our Northwestern students began to teach a “new” song in a small auditorium full of attentive Thai adults from some combined classes.  After a few moments, the whole group was up to speed and having a great time acting out the song complete with motions.  This was part of an event called “English for Fun” built into yesterday’s classes which included games as well. Self-consciousness gave way to laughter.  Most class sessions fall into more traditional formats, but this was an event that helped build rapport and make a relaxed atmosphere.

The downstairs lobby at Santisuk English School is usually a gathering point for students  (remember, these students can range anywhere from high school student s to business professionals who come daily for their two-hour English classes, which happen from 7 a.m. through 9 p.m.)  Before or after class, many will stay to “hang out” with our Northwestern “teachers” to do more informal English practice or to plan the outings they want to do together.  Yesterday, a young woman, a lawyer by profession, told me she has started taking classes to improve her English for her job.  Because she likes the way the courses are taught and the friendly atmosphere, she is looking forward to joining a social outing this weekend with a mix of Thai and Americans.

Tomorrow our Northwestern team will head out to an outlying community to do a full day “English camp” at a Thai high school.  All the students in the school will rotate through several stations manned by our team to do sports and games and other activities, all aimed at improving English.