Thailand is full of coffee artists. Wherever you go for a cup of Joe, they try to outdo their coffee competitors with creative patterns and swirls of blended foam. I hate to even stir in a spoonful of sugar for fear of ruining the coffee canvas. But since it won’t stay hot forever, I choose to capture each creation digitally.
But my absolute favorite of all time is:
How on earth?
Recently seen in Chiang Mai. We’re not really sure what these are, but our family refers to them as “bowls for the giant.” We assume that the giant was out of bowls for his Frosted Flakes and needed to restock. This friendly person offered to take the bowls up the mountain to the place where the giant lives (no one other than this driver knows exactly where for sure.)
And while it looks like no one could see through the bowls to drive, it’s not quite as bad as it seems.
It wasn’t necessary for the driver to see out his back window, because no one is silly enough to follow a man making a delivery to the giant – much less at breakfast time when he hasn’t had his Frosted Flakes.
Part of the cultural experience of traveling through and living in Asia is learning to enjoy the local cuisines, but everywhere I go, The Donald is there (as in Ronald McDonald).
I don’t really like McDonald’s, but I do like western food, and it’s EVERYWHERE! Globalization is alive and well in Asia. No matter what country I visit, I can find at least half of the following: The Sizzler, Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King, Auntie Anne’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Baskin Robbins, TGI Fridays, KFC, Wendy’s…. and a host of other American food chains. (There are plenty of British chains, too, but I don’t recognize them as quickly.) With all these choices from home, I struggle to force myself out of my comfort zone, and I’m an easy mark for whiny kids who don’t want Thai food for dinner.
Sadly, scarily, all these fast-food and popular restaurants are the most successful “development” of third-world nations that the western nations have been able to accomplish. Asians seem to love them, despite their high prices, but the only real development they bring is bigger bellies and smaller wallets (which both make me feel a little more at home).
Is this some subconscious “misery loves company” strategy on the part of western nations? Are we jealous of emerging Asian economies and trying to sabotage their populations with high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol? It’s working. Some of these countries have already graduated to the next stage in “development” – late-night infomericals for over-priced, under-used exercise equipment and weight-loss scams.
Now that’s progress!
Traveled to the U.S. this week, and when I went through customs in Los Angeles, the officer told me, “Welcome home.” As soon as he said it, my spirit exhaled. It was a peculiar feeling – the feeling of release, the feeling of putting down something heavy. It made me feel light and optimistic and….comfortable.
We’ve been in Thailand for eight months, and the best way I can describe it is that it’s like living outside your comfort zone 24/7. The people are wonderful and Chiang Mai is probably one of the best and easiest places we could have picked to live, but it’s not home (yet).
Home is the U.S. – Colorado Springs, in particular. Since I arrived, my friend’s daughter has been singing the song from Sound of Music that extols “a few of (her) favorite things!” I’ve got lots of those here. Not raindrops on roses or warm woolen mittens, but cool weather, mountains, friends, my home church, predictable driving patterns. It’s a neat place.
It’s hard living “in a country not their own.” My family is terribly jealous that I’m here while they are not. I think they would even sit through my ten days of boring meetings in my place just to have a few weeks in Colorado. So, I feel very thankful (and more than a little guilty) for this opportunity to unshoulder the burden of learning to adapt to a new culture. But maybe a year from now, when we are all returning to Chiang Mai from our furlough in the U.S., we will all think of Thailand as “home,” and we won’t be so eager to leave it the next time.
It’s my son’s birthday in a few days, and having resolved not to get one of these…
…we were kinda stuck for what to get him. You can’t replace a puppy with just anything, you know. To make it more challenging, we live in Thailand, and many of the things our son really likes aren’t available there. Since I’m traveling this week, the pull-a-rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick falls to me.
So, I set off to the Mega Mall across the street from my hotel in Manila and started praying for Pokemon. My son LOVES Pokemon – almost as much as he LOVES dogs. Chiang Mai leaves something to be desired in the Pokemon market, and I’ve kinda been thinking my kids are a bit of a toy fad anachronism. I mean, does anyone else still play with these things? I can’t find them anywhere.
But to prove that God still answers prayers, angles led me to this…
It’s the best store EVAH! Or at least my kids will think so.
I went with a list of about four different Pokemon that my son didn’t have, but I was bedazzled by the uniform rows of multi-colored pocket monsters. I thought, “When will I travel this way again? It may be now or never at the greatest store EVAH.”
So, I let the very helpful sales associates talk me into buying a few additional Pokemon. Then, I let another sales associate talk me into getting a basket, since baskets have much more sales potential than overloaded hands. At this point, I crossed some invisible “easy mark” threshold, and a half-dozen sales associates descended on me from all directions.
“Sir, what about a Pokemon button?”
“Sir, what about a Pokemon pillow?”
“Sir, what about some Pokemon stickers?”
“Sir, what about some Pokemon movies – make your son the happiest son in all the world!” (I had mistakenly let it slip that it was his birthday.)
“Sir, what about a Pokemon poster?”
“Sir, what about a Pokemon keychain?”
“Sir, Sir, Sir….”
I couldn’t resist their friendly sales pitches; I only managed to say “no” once or twice. Everything else I bought. It took them twenty-five minutes and two clerks to ring me up, and the whole time sales associates kept bringing me Pokemon hats, trading cards, figurines and one-of-a-kind Pikachu toy cars that are so rare that I’m not allowed to pay for them with a credit card – these are cash only items. They even opened some of the toys so that they could show me how fun they were to play with.
Many, many pesos later, I was allowed to leave the store. The receipt was almost as long as my arm! I could see the manager giving approving looks to her soldiers as they thanked me out of the store. They had brought in the big guy. Kudos and high fives all around (but wait until he leaves)!
Here’s the hunting party that took me down.
Yeah, I know they look friendly, but they are the worst kind of lethal. Of course, I did get something out of the deal. Here’s my haul…
And that’s how I’m going to get to be the best dad EVAH!
My oldest son (14) and I recently went to see Batman: The Dark Knight in the IMAX theater in Bangkok. We live in Chiang Mai (about ten hours away by train).
It was his first train ride and his first trip to Bangkok.
Although we arrived at the station on time, we couldn’t leave until the train had been thoroughly washed and had all its seats pivoted in the opposite direction.
The train ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok is a little like a plane ride in that there are stewardesses (sorry, don’t know the politically correct term – rail attendants?) They bring you food and blankets for the trip. The seats were a little rickety and difficult to sleep in – especially at 3:30a, when the attendant decided that the lights should be switched on so that all the floors could be thoroughly mopped twice over (mopping taking place off camera).
Dinner consisted of some rice and a little soup. Breakfast was minimal, as well. My son couldn’t bring himself to eat whatever was in the roll.
The amenities were the typical Thai style – all the comforts of home!
It was a little difficult keeping my son entertained for ten hours. We were going to watch movies, but I forgot the DVD drive for my laptop. So, we ended up doing our best to sleep most of the way.
Eventually, we made it to Bangkok.
From there, we took the Sky Train to get to the movie theater. My son struggled with those turnstile machines, twice stacking up the locals as he tried to find where to put his card.
Once we made it to the theater, we realized that we weren’t the only ones headed to see Batman. This line was about an hour long even though we arrived as soon as the doors opened. For some unknown reason, we were pulled out of line and put into a VIP line of some sort. I felt more than a little guilty skipping ahead of about 30 people, but it was the only way we were going to make the movie in time, so I didn’t protest.
Since we were in Bangkok all day until our train ride back home that night, we had a movie marathon, seeing Batman, The Mummy and Journey to the Center of the Earth. We could have saved our money, though. Batman was the only movie we really liked.
When I tell people what we did, they typically point out that there are cheaper ways to see a movie, and they are right. But seeing a movie wasn’t my only objective. With my oldest, it takes a good 8-10 hours just to drain off the talk about video games and movie trailers. These topics are always at the top of his mind.
The real payoff on the trip for me occurred as we walked home together from the train station. During the 90 minutes or so it took us to get home, my son began to open up about spiritual topics, about school and about girls. We had a fantastic conversation….the best one in at least a year. I almost regretted getting home.
The deeper conversation never would have happened without the investment of time one-on-one, and sometimes that requires an investment of money to make it possible. It was worth it, and I would do it again.