Saturday, April 20, 2013

Our First Week in Bangkok

by Elder Sowards

We lived from Sunday to Friday in The Unico Premier Metrolink Hotel next door to the Church office building. On Friday, we received our assignment to stay in Bangkok and help promote some of the missionary programs being instigated here, so we moved into an apartment. It is a spacious place with 2 large bedrooms, a beautiful wood floor and 2 bathrooms. There is also a room off the kitchen that is the maid’s quarters that includes a squatter toilet with a shower—but we don’t have the maid. We didn’t know the squatter was there until we found the hidden door.

We have a tiny clothes washer but no dryer. In AZ that wouldn’t be so bad because clothes dry fast. Not so here. We have no hot water in the kitchen except a devise that looks like a rice cooker that heats and keeps the water warm. We have a gas stove, a microwave, and refrigerator.  Both bathrooms have an instant heat water heater and neither unit works very well. However taking a lukewarm shower in Thailand is OK.

Because it was the biggest holiday of the year – Song Kran, aka  “Water Day,” we could not get the internet for our apartment or the kingsize bed provided by the owner. Our apartment had been young elder’s quarters and had double beds. So, we put 2 doubles together. The holiday started Friday and lasts till Tuesday or maybe Wed. We have a large living room – dining room area. To cool the apartment we have 3 different a/c units that we only turn on when we are in that room. We spend most the time in the bedroom which includes desks for study.

We went shopping to buy supplies for our apartment, and that was an experience. We found a Tesco (like a Wal-Mart – sort of). We needed bed sheets and bought a bed set. However, we found that a “set” in Asia consists of one fitted sheet and two sets of pillow cases – no top sheet. We’ve since been told Thais use duvets, and that top sheets exist but are hard to find.

American food is available, but expensive. A box of Grapenuts was almost $10. A small bag of chocolate chip is about $10 too. We did buy a small jar of peanut butter at an escalated price.

The mission had transfers on Thursday. There were 32 new missionaries and 19 leaving, so it was a big event. They keep the new missionaries separate from the others until the meeting started. Then they made a grand entrance. Everyone stood and clapped as they filed in. The mission president and his wife spoke, a song “Remember Thailand” was sung by a longtime member to the departing missionaries, and then the new companionships were announced. There was great energy for the new assignments and sadness to lose those missionaries departing. I could tell the type of missionaries the returning ones were by their tears as they realized their missions were ending While we held the meeting a strong storm raged outside – lost of rain, thunder and lightning. It made me think of Heleman 5:12.

Some backstory: On Wednesday were given an assignment to go up country to a town and serve there. On Thursday the mission president change our assignment to work in Bangkok during the week, and then attend a branch 60 miles away each Sunday. Later we learned he had awakened during the night and knew the first assignment was not right. We are to help prepare for a general authority visits in May and to help prepare districts to become stakes so we can get a temple by the 50th anniversary of the church in Thailand – 2016.

Our first Sunday here, we arrived in Bangkok and went straight to the hotel to drop off our luggage, and then to the Asoke Ward to attend Sacrament meeting. They bishop asked Joan and I to bear our testimonies. We both did in Thai. Yesterday we had general conference broadcast – a week late. One could listen to it in English, Thai, Cambodian, or Hindi. Thai was provided with headphones along with the English. Even a week late, it was wonderful.

There are several senior couples serving here. In the mission office are the Jones, the Mannings doing public affairs, the Tabors leading family history and Marvels doing employment, gardening, and the Goodsons have taken over for the homeward bound Nordas and are over humanitarian work. Each couple also serves in branch/ward callings.  They are willing to help do anything the mission needs and are wonderful people. Several are on second and third missions. The Goodsons are on their fourth. There are several Thais in the Church office side of the building. In one of our next posts we will share about them.
This is a great view of Bangkok from the mission secretary's apartment.

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