Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fall in Thailand!

Ok, so the title is a bit misleading.  As we remember our previous years in the States, the months of September, October and November conjure up memories of pumpkin spice lattes, sweaters, pumpkin patches, and Thanksgiving.  We would rake leaves and make them into a big pile for the kids to jump in.  Our neighbors house was perfect for this too, and the crisp Autumn air was always so welcoming.

In Thailand, not so much.  If you ask me what the weather is like, 99.99% of the time I'll tell you "hot".  It might also be rainy, but it is definitely hot.  This month we are moving into the "Cold Season", but as Phil will tell you, it's not cold.  It's more like the "Not Quite As Hot Season".  This means that our lives here don't have the same rhythm as it did in the States.  We get to explore waterfalls and play in the swimming pools all year round, but we do miss the changing of the seasons.  It's easy to forget holidays when they are simply a date on the calendar instead of the whole country (and weather!) helping you anticipate it.

 Here is a bit of what the last bit of our "Rainy Season" looked like (I'm pretty far behind on our monthly updates, so be prepared for a longer post.):

Every so often, we like to go to Mae Kasa Hot Springs.  It's just a park where hot water bubbles up and follows a little waterway around the park.  You can also supposedly boil eggs in the water, but even after waiting longer than an hour, our eggs never boiled.  There is also some fun hiking in the surrounding area.

Mae Kasa Hot Spring

Suspension bridge that leads to a little spirit house

Our eggs that never boiled

I've already written about our "Big Water" experience, but it was quite an adventure for the boys.

At a friend's house

The reservoir the day after they let the water out that caused the flooding

We have really embraced all the good "eats" here.  We quite enjoy going to the night market.  They boys always want to get their smoothies.  We've also discovered a roti stand walking distance from our house that we like to go to in the mornings.

Getting smoothies at the night market

Roti Take-Out by our house

For my birthday, we drove a couple of hours away to Sukhothai.  The Old City is the ruins of the former kingdom of Siam, and the whole place is beautiful.  We spent three days (two nights) there. We rented bikes for one of the days to explore the whole area, and spent both afternoons playing in the pool.  It was a nice break.

One of the ruins from approximately 1200AD.

The boys!

Enjoying the pool at our hotel

We biked all over town

Our bananas ripened on one of our trees.  Apparently, this type of tree only fruits one time so in order to harvest the bananas, you cut down the entire tree.  (Banana trees grow like weeds here.  I probably weed out 5-10 trees every few weeks.).  We got a lot of bananas.

It takes two people!!

The Harvest

Doc Brown and Marty McFly arrived in our present time, so we celebrated the fact with introducing the boys to Back to the Future.

It was quite intense.

I'm still not sure what this was about.  Apparently, three men dressed up as a water buffalo while people danced and played music all the way around our neighborhood.  Other people were collecting money.  I think it was for proselytizing Buddhism, but I'm not sure.

This is our street.

I guess we really like Mae Kasa!  We went back there with Phil's brother Dan and our friends.  We also found the waterfall that is about 2 kilometers away.  It was amazing.

Hagelberg Guys

Waterfall with concrete pool at the bottom

Playing in the "pool" at the hot springs

Some Ongoing Happenings

After the "Big Water" incident, we began hanging out more in that village so our boys could play with the kids there.  They have made some fast friends, even though the language barrier gets in the way at times.

Zach learning the rock game

Phil's also been asked to play the bass again for a monthly worship night that our friends put on.  It's great to see him playing music again.

Playing bass with good friends

This is another village that we spend a lot of time in.  We go there to help the kids in English and we even got to bake cookies with them.  (There is no electricity in this village, but one person has an LPG oven!)

Baking cookies for the entire village while learning English words

Phil teaching English

Alisha was helping with the Feed a Mother program with the Charis Project.  These sweet boys liked to meet the car to take the food to their mom.


The Charis Project is also opening up a community center.  There was an old table that needed to be sanded.  We found some good helpers.  =)

Hard at work
Phil has been talking with a lot of people in town about how best to use his computer skills.  He's got a lot of things in the works, and hopes that he can understand the situation here better so that his work will be most effective.

Working with a friend

We've been hosting house church two weeks each month.  The last few weeks have been very busy.  We've had 40-50 people each week.  That means a lot of shoes on our doorstep!

Listening to the Kids Talk

We continue to homeschool.  We love the simplicity of what we are doing right now.  We don't use many textbooks, but I do have some.  I brought this Writing book out and just left it on the table.  The boys were excited to try their hand at some of the writing projects in the book.  It may have been short-lived, but I loved how they are self-motivated and enthusiastic (most of the time) in their learning.

Writing a short story.  It was really short.  =)

I LOVE that both boys love reading chapter books now.
They continue to astound me in their learning.

We spend most of our time at home.  The boys have lately enjoyed the water frogs they discovered in our water pipes, and have been making homes for them.  We've also had a couple of Karen girls move in next door for a season who love to come over to play.


I love the thanaka on her face!

November has been busy too, but that's a blog post upcoming!

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Sometimes it's just too much....

Paris, Baghdad, Beruit....

ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda....

Sometimes, I think we'd all be better off without the globalization of social media.  How much can any one person empathize with all the pain in each part of the world?

My life on the Thai-Burmese border means that I focus a lot on what is going on inside Myanmar. The Irrawady, Democratic Voice of Burma, and Free Burma Rangers continually give me updates on the scores of human rights abuses that happen just on the other side of the border town I live in.  I hate that almost every day some new disaster strikes.  Even with the election that brings hope to their country, a 55-year old grandma and a 15-year old boy were shot on Election Day by their own army while walking back from their rice paddy.

I cry for the refugees.  I cry for the thousands of Burmese that live in my town.  I hurt for the thousands more Syrian refugees that are fleeing ISIS.  I hate that this same terrorist organization causes more stable people to distrust the refugees coming to them because "the refugees might be terrorists."  I hate that hundreds of innocent people have died in Paris.  I hate that there have been suicide bombings in Lebanon and Iraq.  I hate how broken the world is.

There is terror, disease, pain, and hurt all over the world.  Everything aches.  We focus our attention and our prayers on the places that we know and are familiar with because we were not made to carry the weight of the entire world.  But at the same time, we need to have a heart for the world.  I like how this blog challenges us to "not lose the opportunity to grow".  Who can we notice that needs us now?

My heart is breaking.  I find comfort that my God's heart breaks for the same things.  This was not His plan for the world, but that He desires to make all things new again.
Isaiah 58 NIV
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 
11 The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Burmese Fermented Tea Leaf Salad

IMG_20151009_155254.jpgI love the title of this Huffington Post article: Burmese Salads Are Better Than Yours.  It is so true.  I've already mentioned just how much we are enjoying Burmese food here, and their salads are amazing.  We find that they are often unique and addicting.

One of the most interesting is also one of the most popular among the people here.  Fermented Tea Leaf Salad is a combination of various dried nuts and legumes with fermented or pickled tea leaves.  It's definitely an acquired taste, but it grows on you.  I typically buy the dried ingredients and tea leaves already fermented and seasoned at the Burmese day market, but it is possible to make it from scratch at home.  (It probably wouldn't be as oily this way as well).

Here is a recipe I found online:

Makes 2 Servings

¼ to ½ cup fermented tea leaves
1 tablespoon dry shrimp powder
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 large julienne plum tomatoes
1 cup very thinly sliced cabbage
1 teaspoon fried garlic (see note)
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons fried dried peas
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
2 to 3 teaspoons lime juice
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon minced bird's-eye chili or other hot chili, like a serrano
1 to 2 teaspoons fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
Cilantro leaves, sliced fried garlic and whole green chilies, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in large bowl, and mix well. Divide between two plates, and serve, with garnishes.
To make fried garlic, slice as many cloves of garlic lengthwise as desired. Saute slowly in peanut oil to cover until garlic is lightly browned on both sides. Remove from oil, and place on paper towels to dry. Refrigerate in tightly covered container.

Or you can cheat and buy the kit on Amazon.  It's still not the same as buying the "kit" that I can get at the day market, but it looks simple and easy.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Gift of Availability

These last nine months have been hard.  We came to Thailand thinking that we'd find some direction in what we can do here.  Our theme here of "eventually" played out as "eventually we'll find purpose", "eventually we'll have a role."

Instead, it's been nine long months of more and more "eventually", but the question became more of "eventually into what?"  Is there even something "eventually" for us?

We've discovered though in our waiting that we've been given a gift.  Not one that we were looking for or even desiring, but a gift nonetheless.  It is the gift of availability.

I had been looking at it the wrong way around.  I was looking at it as not having meaning or a role.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Why did I think that I could possibly make a difference?

But, I was noticing something strange.  I wasn't bored.  My days felt full.  There was always something happening, but they were always one-time things.
Making cookies with some girls in the village
We could make ourselves available to others.  We could step in when our friends needed someone to help them with their bread and flowers ministry.  We could open our home for house church on Sunday afternoons.  We could coordinate and bring meals for a friend who was watching over a very sick child at the hospital.  We could invite a new family over for dinner.  We could...., We could...., We could.....

This is a gift.  If we had a big role and days filled up with a packed schedule, we would not be able to be spontaneous.  We would not have met some really amazing people here or learned a lot about what the needs and ministries that are going on.

As much as I want it to be, our kind of life is not quantifiable.  I can't check off those boxes on a To Do list.  I can't pinpoint a role here or say "this is what I'm doing".

But, that's okay.

I still don't know how to really answer the question "What do you do here in Mae Sot?"  Yet, I know this is where God wants us right now. We can just keep our hands and hearts open to the needs that visit us on any given day.  And, if we go through some days or weeks that seem to lack meaning, that's okay too. It just means that we are available when we are needed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bread, Flowers, and Big Water

One of my flower deliveries
Shortly after we moved into our long-term home here in April, I began getting flower deliveries to my house on a weekly basis.  Some friends of mine, Kelli and Stephen, invest in a migrant village next to their home, and one of the ladies in the village sold flowers at the local market.  Kelli was able to help her with her business by helping her deliver flowers weekly to the farang (Westerners) here.  We were one of her customers.

Kelli realized that she could help some other women in the village by teaching them to make bread (a real treat here in Thailand!) and selling to the same customer base as the lady who sells flowers.  This gave a job to two more moms beginning in June or so.

So, when Kelli and her husband had to go out of town for a few weeks, I was asked to step in and help.  The women already knew how to bake the bread, so they just needed me to be there to let them use the oven, and drive them around for the deliveries.  I would get the added bonus of being able to practice my Burmese language with them and step into a short-term ministry role.  I was pretty excited about the opportunity.

On Thursdays, I'd pack up the boy's homeschool materials, and the boys and I would head over to Kelli's house for the bread baking.  One of the lady's sons would be there sometimes and he would play with N and Z a bit.  But, I soon learned that village life is very unpredictable.

The vaccine clinic
The first Thursday, a big van pulled up to the house.  Some official looking people came in, and one of the ladies I was working with showed me what looked like a vaccine form.  I thought that she might want someone to take her to the clinic because someone was sick (I know that Kelli and Stephen sometimes help with transportation of this kind).  Turns out, the van was actually a mobile vaccine clinic there to help the people in the village for the morning.  The front of the house suddenly turned into a makeshift clinic.  They were there for a couple of hours, and then left.  It was neat to see how their house could be used for so many purposes.

We did deliveries of both the bread and the flowers on Friday.  It was interesting trying to get around town with people I can't communicate completely with.  The women were great though, and very patient.  Kelli left me great instructions and maps so it wasn't really much of a hassle.

The second week, though, we had our big surprise.  Thursday was uneventful, but Friday brought a whole new set of challenges.  The city was worried about the reservoir overflowing so they decided on Friday morning to let the dam out a bit.  The migrant village is a couple of kilometers away, but it is in a low area so it was severely flooded.  I learned the word for flood in Burmese that day (yei chei) or Big Water as I probably said it a hundred times.

As I drove up to the village, I saw just how wet it was.  I thought about driving down the street (after all, I have 4WD), but in hindsight I'm glad I parked a couple of blocks away on higher ground.  By the time I walked up to Kelli and Stephen's house, I was waist-deep in muddy water.  I was in constant communication with Kelli by phone as we talked about what I needed to check on.  Their house was high enough that no water was in their house, but the village was completely flooded.  We went ahead with our deliveries and noticed that a lot of places in Mae Sot were also affected, but none were as bad as the village.

The flooding at Kelli and Stephen's around 9AM
The water was way down by 3PM

I brought the rest of my family to the village as we wanted to monitor the situation.  There were rumors that they were going to let out the dam again, and we didn't know how that would affect things.  (Thankfully, this didn't happen).  N and Z were in the swimming clothes and enjoyed floating down the street (now a river) in a bucket.  We all arrived there around noon.  The water was still higher than knee-deep.  We finally left a bit before 4PM, and the water was mostly gone.  We were able to make sure that everyone had a safe place to eat and sleep, and to be able to notify our friends that their friends here were okay.
N in a "boat"
We don't have adventures like this very often, but this one was for the books!
The reservoir in June
The reservoir in September (the day after they released some water)
You can find Kelli's version here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

July and August

It's time for a picture post!  Here's what we've been up to the last couple of months.

July found us in Chiang Mai again getting our one-year visa!  This is a huge blessing as we no longer have to be thinking about the next step in this process for another year!  We still have to do work reports every four months and residency check-ins quarterly, but those are more a matter of routine and not as disruptive to our daily living.

We had to go get some more visa photos before our trip

Even though we spent a lot of time just waiting around the immigration
office, we did manage to find a playground.

We also got our new teammates as neighbors!  They moved in to the house across the street from ours at the beginning of July.  They have kids the same ages as the boys, and we've been having a lot of fun with them.  We also went adventuring with them to the waterfall we had visited first in April.

There was a lot more water this time.

New friends!

We are still trying to find our fit here.  We've been spending a lot more time learning the language (Alisha is learning Burmese and Phil is learning Thai), but we've also had a few other things that we get to do.

Alisha helps out by delivering produce to some of the birth class graduates.  It has a double-effect of being able to help these moms get the nutrition they need while they are pregnant and nursing and also gives us a chance to check in on them in their homes to make sure that they are doing well.  Alisha has found herself a few times taking people from some of the further away villages to Mae Tao Clinic to get the help they might need.  Often kids have diseases like Dengue or pneumonia, and their parents don't know how to get to the clinic to help them.

Children's Ward
Phil's been teaching ESL to the kids in one of the villages too.  All four of us get to be around for this, and it's fun watching our kids interact with the kids in the class.

Phil teaching colors
We also hosted house church for a while.  We took a break when Alisha went back to the States, but our house is still available as a back-up for now.  We'll have to see what that looks like in the future.

The pile of shoes at our front door during church.

In August, Alisha left Phil with the boys, and travelled back to the States for her brother's wedding.  She had a great time seeing friends and family in both Seattle and Southern California.  She also got to visit both of her "home" churches: Bethany North (in Seattle) and The Crossing (San Diego).

Girls Night with friends in Seattle

Hanging out with my brothers!

My brother's wedding was beautiful!  I now have a sister, and my brother,
Nate, has married into a wonderful family.
Love you, Shannon!

My parents at the reception!  Don't they look great.  =)
We are also going to be moving into doing a quarterly prayer letter instead of every month.  If you want to get our prayer letters, please let us know in the comments or Facebook!

More pictures from July and August can be found on Flickr.