Friday, August 30, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Every Week is an Adventure by Elder Sowards

I asked a sister to speak in sacrament meeting this Sunday. She told me she had prayed to have the opportunity to speak in church, and this invitation was an answer to her prayers.

On Wednesday, we went to visit a less-active member who is a returned missionary. She teaches school 
at a school of about 100 students K – 12, out in the country, and is going to school on weekends to get her teaching certificate. Thailand passed a law that all teachers must be certified. 

Finding her house was not simple--it took 45 minutes to arrive there-- and some of the roads were not wide enough for 2 cars to pass. I would never have found it but the elders quorum president went with us.  We came unannounced, as we didn't have the sister's phone number. She was very busy trying to enter student scores into the Internet for national testing. (Yes, they have Internet out in the sticks.) She tried to be a good host, but was really pressed. We had a short visit. At least now we have her phone number. She is also the sole supporter in her family including her aged mother, two

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our Newest Grandson

Don't let him fool you--he is happy to be here. The newest addition to our family is Theodore, born 5 August. His mama is relieved to have him home after a 10 day stay in the hospital.

Red hair and cleft chin. Hmm. Where did that come from? ;-0

I love this picture.

My Kitchen

Here is my kitchen so far: the refrigerator that welcomed us when we moved in. Love the pink color? A desk the owner left for us, and the styrofoam our clothes washer came packed in we use as a shelf. I really like how I can stab the knives in it. Large spoons are hanging from plastic spoon handles also jammed into the styrofoam. It works. So we have a microwave, toaster, a sandwich maker, and a thermo pot for heating water. I keep pots in the two green clothes baskets.

No sink yet.

We are thankful for what we have.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Little Work, A Little Play

by Elder Sowards

Elder C, who had been in the hospital for four days, was released on Friday. It cost about $800 for a private room, blood tests and an ultra-scound. He has a bad intestinal infection but has recovered. Hopefully that will teach him to not eat worms.

We finally got the internet at our home! Joan received her new Apple computer (the old one gave up the ghost). Now we will be more productive. We also hooked up our washer on our back porch. We we have to run the exhaust water on the lawn (the earthworms don't like it), and run a power cord from inside the house. It works and we can finally wash clothes at home. 

Now, if we only had a kitchen sink.
Add caption

Friday night we went to Bangkok to a Deseret Book hosted concert to hear a group called Beyond5. (Picture of our Ayutthaya group at R) They are young men (15 to 19 years in age) and very good dancers, singers. They played the music very loud and had lots of flashing lights. Their songs had positive lyrics. We took our branch youth and advisors to see it and everyone had a good time.

Saturday morning we were up early to help with a branch service project cleaning a member's yard. We cut down 3 foot high grass that grew between her house and the riverbank--a space of about 20 feet. It was a good opportunity to serve and see how our members live. The elders helped and even gave a first discussion to some of the member's neighbors.

We then went with two elders to a hospital to give a blessing to a member. We thought we knew where the hospital was, but we spent two hours driving up and down the super highway to Bangkok in crazy traffic before we finally found it. The elders had never administered to anyone in Thai. I had the opportunity to teach one how to anoint and then I sealed. My Thai isn't that great but the spirit compensates for our weaknesses. When we go to hospitals we are sort of celebrities. For a Thai to have 4 foreigners show up all dressed in nice clothes and to visit only him, is special. The nurses treat us with much respect.

This Sunday was not filled with as many unexpected happenings as usual. One speaker for sacrament meeting refused to come, as he is afraid to speak. Another one (his son) was too sick (or afraid) to come. We still had 2 speakers lined up and they gave good talks, but short on length. We asked the two new missionaries assigned to our branch this week to bear their testimony. One has only been in Thailand a few days. Both did well. After four short speakers, there was still twenty minutes left. 

One section of the ancient palace ruins
Baby Theodore is now home after
a 10-day hospital stay.
The 1st Counselor in the mission presidency had come to visit again. He called on his wife to speak, and then he finished the meeting with a good talk.  The real surprise came when we had a family history fireside after our usual potluck luncheon. The fireside wasto help the members do family history. The surprise was that Joan was on the program as one the speakers (Joan forgot). Then Joan surprised me by asking that I translate for her. I can do OK with regular church terms but terms like the Spirit of Elijah, 4-generation records, etc. are not so easy (for me). I also get emotional when talking about very special spiritual experiences and that makes it harder to translate. We did OK as a team. I could have been better prepared with time – Joan is always good-to-go to share family history experiences.

By Sunday evening I was wiped out!

Monday we went with a member to a market to find some fabric for Joan's dress at Von's wedding reception. This is a Thai market, not usually visited by tourists. People seemed surprised to see us. We then took the material to a less active member who is a seamstress. She said she will make the blouse for Joan. We gave her a picture of the blouse Joan wanted, and she took measurements. She said it will cost about 150 Baht ($5.00) and would be ready tomorrow. We’ll see how it turns out. 

The member took us to see the ancient palace ruins in the middle of the city. Beautiful!

Best wishes to all and a BIG THANK YOU to all who helped and prayed for Chris & Kristy's new baby Theodore. Members here here in Thailand even prayed for him, not knowing our family but knowing of our concern.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Queen's Birthday Celebration

by Elder Sowards

The 12th is Mother's day in Thailand. It is the queen's birthday and they celebrate it as mother's day. They celebrate Father's Day on the King's birthday in December. Mother's Day is a bigger holiday here than in the US – people have it off work. We went to a school event where one of our members was dancing in a program. We think we were the only foreigners there – "we" being Joan and I and two young elders. We were treated as special guests.

Elders Trabing and Omer with Oui's dance group at the Queen's
birthday celebration
It was actually several schools doing the program, each having a Thai dance group perform. The dancers were all in beautiful costumes. After the program, they played the national anthem and the Queen's song. Then at a set time the mayor of the county lit a candle and from it, all other attendees had their candles lit. We were each given candles. I was told that all over Thailand at the same time people were lighting candles. After a few words from the leaders, they set off fireworks. It was more than a school production but a community event. Joan wore a turquoise blouse today. As it turned out, that is the queen's color and many people had the same color on at the celebration. Joan fit right in.
On Tuesday the elders asked me to take Elder Chambers to the hospital. He had a high fever and was sick to his stomach. He was tested for Dengue fever but they said it was too early to tell. At times he was delirious. They put him on IVs. Scary to think about losing a missionary. On Wednesday, we found out Elder Chambers didn't have Dengue fever – a big relief. It was an infection. He was released on Thursday and on Friday headed out to his new assigned area. Sorry to lose him here in Ayutthaya.

Life is an Adventure in Thailand

Ayutthaya primary children and board pose before
Chem's baptism
by Elder Sowards

We have rented a little house in a nice neighborhood near the church. (We still lack a kitchen sink.) However we discovered the first night that there is a nightclub behind us. Even through there is a small empty lot, a few buildings, and a road between us, the music is still very loud. They start about 10:40 PM and play to almost 1 PM. Is it OK to pray for something to go out of business, or for them move to a different place-- like Nome Alaska

We are getting to know the town much better and where the members live. We have many less active to visit.

Sundays have become even more unexpected. I think I should just start expecting the unexpected. For 2 of the last 3 Sundays my 1st counselor has not come to church – for good reasons. This last Sunday he showed up just before we were to start and said he could only stay for sacrament meeting as his house had caught fire during the week and he still had urgent repairs to make.  I applaud his self-reliance but felt hurt he hadn’t told me. Actually it was a blessing that the fire didn't burn his whole house down with his wife in it. He works in Bangkok during the week so he wasn't here when it happened. She was blessed to be safe and they were blessed that it wasn't a major loss.  Still, it is hard to run the branch with no counselors present (I only have one) and the branch clerk has come late the last few weeks. It is harder to council in Branch Presidency meeting with only myself.

Besides the counselor showing up late this past Sunday, it was high council speaker Sunday, but the high council person assigned did not show and another came instead. I don't know the high council members yet so I didn't know it was switched until just before the meeting started. I need to know how to pronounce their name correctly. The 2nd counselor in the district also showed up; then the 1st counselor in the mission presidency came in. He then presides. They all spoke in sacrament meeting.

There were many other surprises during the block. I am still struggling to understand all that is said in Thai and when I get asked a question in a meeting in front of everyone – it is hard to think clearly to know what was asked and how to answer it correctly in Thai. Everyone is understanding and tries to help, but I sometimes wonder if they go home from church and comment about why the branch president said, "an airplane brought the silver plates in a taxi." Or worse!

We also had an 8 year old baptism Sunday. It was not a convert baptism but the son of a member.. It is always fun to interview 8 year olds about the gospel. (He gave all the right answers.) It was a wonderful baptism.

I ordained a young man a priest. So now we have one active priest in the quorum.

By the end of each Sunday I look back at the great plan for the day when it started, and then was blindsided by an NFL linebacker, a charging elephant, and wild water buffalo.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Today's Facts of Life-- in Thailand

1. Ants co-exist with us on a daily basis.
 I'm not sure what spilt matter these ants find
 so attractive, but I awoke to find this almost perfect circle.

2. A person is more likely to die a traffic related death in Thailand than the USA.

3. If you wait too long to fill a parking space, someone else will squeeze in before you--even when you have the turn signal on.

4. Not all houses are created with kitchens. I still don't have a kitchen sink
5. Missionaries finish their service and new missionaries come to replace them. This week we said goodbye to three "jobbers" (missionaries going home): Elders Mateos, Buss, and Staten finish honorable missions and return home.  Two sisters; Church and Itri also "jobbed". We welcomed 22 new elders and sisters from the MTC.

Below: Sister Yui visited Ayutthaya, where she was baptized, before leaving for the Provo MTC to start her mission on Temple Square. I told her the beautiful girls serve on Temple Square.

6. Not all clothes washers are created equal. I have a new one that am thankful for, but hooking it up was a challenge--proving again that Elder Sowards is amazing. The user manual came in Thai script only. Fun, huh?

7. If the menu says "steak" don't envision the thick juicy one you ordered at Black Angus. Expect thin cut, and tough.

8. Geckos leave droppings. Thai geckos (jingjoke) leave larger droppings than Arizona geckos.

9. Motorbikes own the street and the sidewalk.

10. Nightclubs have a right to play loud music past midnight--every night of the week. Pray for rain. Rain cancels the band.

11. Some Thai customs are too beautiful to let die. Piglet and Iris dressed in traditional Thai celebration dress last Monday--Thai Mother's Day--the queen's birthday.

12. Don't expect to find American brands of food, and even if you find it, it will be three times the cost as at home and will not taste quite the same.

So, there you go. Sawadii kha.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Great American Cookie Experience

This week's Saturday youth activity "cookie bake" was to start at 10 AM. The elders were in charge and said they would buy all the ingredients.

Everyone arrived by 11 AM. Then the elders went out looking for missing ingredients. (Eye rolling here.)

They started with peanut butter oatmeal no bake cookies by mixing ingredients in a bowl.

"Shouldn't we put this on the stove to cook?" I asked.

Before cookies went into the oven
Elder Omer, Note, Phleng, NaNo, Elder Unsworth, Not pictured:
Elder Chambers and Trabing
"Oh, really?"

We found an oversized pot in the kitchen.

The activity became more comical from there. No oatmeal. Off to the store--again. None available in the local convenience stores.

No milk. Off to the vender next door.

Back again. They boiled, mixed, and poured the mix onto a cookie sheet to cool--without oatmeal. Peanut butter oatmeal-less no bake cookies.

Yummy tasting peanut butter fudge.

Did I mention the Thai people in general don't care for peanut butter? Hmm.

Next came Hershey thumbprint sugar cookies. No Hershey kisses. Off to the store. Substitute M&Ms. The oven never got very hot. Baked extra long.

Everyone nibbled politely on the finish products. Wrinkled noses. So much for the American Cookie experience.

I personally thought both cookies turned out delicious.

Friday, August 2, 2013

In Our House--Finally

We are in our house in Ayutthaya! We still don't have a kitchen, and I hope our landlord will come through. The attitude here is I'll get to it when convenient. The house has three bedrooms upstairs and a living room and the room for the kitchen downstairs.

It is a nice gated community that is peaceful and quiet--until 10PM when the nightclub starts up its live band that plays until 1AM. The first night, what a surprise when I crawled into bed only to be accompanied by a loud drumbeat! Gracious! I thought they would never end, but they did at 12:41, thank goodness. Now we have a fan to drown out the noise. It does a decent job, too. I think of all the people who bought homes in this beautiful neighborhood in the daylight, only to discover, as I did, it is a nightmare at night.

We had a great rainstorm last night that took out the electrical power. Elder Sowards and I decided to go grocery shopping, which was a great time to go because hardly anyone was there.

Every day is an adventure!