Friday, May 22, 2015

Living into the Future

Skype is amazing.  On a regular basis, we can talk face-to-face with our friends and families who are scattered around the United States and other places in Asia.  Because of timezone differences, it usually works best for me to get on in the morning so that my parents or brothers in the States can talk to me in their evening.  Since we are 12-15 hours ahead (depending on timezone and daylight savings), if I call on a Monday morning, it is still Sunday night for them.  I often like to tease that the future forecast for them is looking good since I'm already there.  =)  I'm a Skype-time-traveler!  My parents, of course, ask me how the stock market is going to close the following day.

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Our motorbike registration
It's true... I just might be overdoing my time-travelling prowess with being only 12 to 15 hours ahead, but what if I was 544 years ahead?  Wouldn't that be a bit more sensational?  Well, apparently, we are now more than three weeks in to year 2559 here in Thailand.  Although you will still see 2015 used around town, a lot of things are dated using the Thai Buddhist calendar.  Just like we start counting our years from the birth of Jesus, the Thais and other surrounding countries that use the Buddhist calendar begin their dating system from Guatama Buddha's death.

So, we are learning to work with two different calendars.  We find that many of our official documents and registrations use the Buddhist calendar including things like our car registration and work permits.  Meanwhile, we get to live 544 years in the future!

And finally for you Trekkies out there, that puts us somewhere in Season 1 of the original Star Trek Series.  You're Welcome!

As a consolation prize to those of you who follow the Gregorian calendar, be content with knowing that you've finally made it to the year that Marty McFly went into the future.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Living into Thai Culture - A Peek into April 2015

We made up for our relatively quiet March with a lively April.  Here is a peek of some of the things we got to do this last month.

We moved into our new house on April 1st.  I've already talked about this a bit in my house tour.

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Easter was really different for us this year.  We had no family around, no special Easter services, no egg hunts.  In fact, with our move happening just a few days before, I didn't even think about Easter baskets (although I did manage to find some candy as a special treat for that morning).  We had a special breakfast of french toast, and then we headed over to the border.  

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We wanted to show the boys why we are here in Thailand, and pray over the people that are crossing the river to try to make better lives for themselves.

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We saw people's homes that exist in No Man's Land (the section between Thailand and Burma), and discussed what it might be like to live there.

Then we went to the house church here in Mae Sot, and ended up at the Burmese Sunday market for street food for our Easter Feast.  Definitely a different holiday for sure, but good.

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Blurry photo, but it was yummy!

The following week was our three-month-iversary in Thailand which meant we needed to go in for our visa renewal.  We are currently working on getting a one-year visa, but in the meantime, we need to continue to get three-month renewals until the longer visa requirements are satisfied.  Unfortunately, immigration put us through the paces, and it was a long, drawn-out day with them continuing to ask for more and more copies of every document that we had.  Thankfully, we walked away with a new stamp in our passport allowing us to stay longer in country.

As a reward, my brother-in-law, Dan, arrived that evening to visit us.  He was able to stay for three weeks, and it was really great to have him with us.  We took him to see practically everything there is to see here in Mae Sot, and in turn helped us get out some more too.

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One Thai holiday that I'd really been looking forward to is the Songkran festival that celebrates the beginning of the Buddhist New Year.  What began in centuries past as a blessing of water imparted to people by Buddhist monks has now turned into a three-day country-wide water fight.

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The group getting ready to go downtown

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Watch out!


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Getting soaked

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What I looked like at the end.  They also like to cover people in chalk

The week after that, we had Phil's parents here too.  So, we had a mini-family reunion since Dan was still around.

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Me and my mom-in-law

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Phil and his dad.

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N and Dan

One of the outings we did with his family was going to a couple of waterfalls.  Since it is the end of dry season, they weren't huge, but it made for some fun hiking.

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Can you find Z?

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N showing off

Waterfall
The waterfall really was beautiful

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The boys also went on a small man-made lake

More pictures can be found here!  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Burmese Egg Curry

IMG_20150504_183555One way we're embracing our new life in Thailand is by enjoying the local food.  Seriously, this one is so easy.  Thai food is amazing.  But we've discovered even another new gem - Burmese food.  The population of Mae Sot is 80% Burmese, and some of the foods here are incredible.  The recipes are usually pretty simple, healthy, and bursting with flavor.  There are exceptions, of course, but we've been generally pleased by the culinary pleasures from this country that finds itself nestled between Thailand and India and whose food reflects this geography.

Here is one of our new favorites.  I posted it on Facebook a few weeks ago, but it's worth mentioning again.  This is particularly good with duck eggs, but usually we just use our chicken eggs.  We also substitute rice oil for the peanut oil and often forgo the chiles to make it more kid-friendly.


Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 large eggs or extra-large eggs, preferably free-range
1/3 cup peanut oil or unroasted sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
2 small shallots, minced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ teaspoon Red Chile Powder, or to taste
2 medium tomatoes (about ½ pound), finely chopped
2 teaspoons fish sauce
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 or 3 green cayenne chiles, seeded and sliced lengthwise into 3 or 4 strips each

Method:
Place the eggs in a saucepan, add cold water to cover, bring to a boil, and cook at a medium boil for 8 minutes. Drain the eggs and cool in cold water. When the eggs are cool enough to handle peel them.
Heat the oil in a wide heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tumeric and stir to dissolve it. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle when a drop of water is dropped into it, add the peeled eggs and fry until golden and a little blistered all over: cook on each side in turn, then try to balance the eggs on their ends to cook the tips. Frying the egg is a fun little task, quickly done, and it makes them very attractive. With a slotted spoon, lift the eggs out of the hot oil and onto a plate. Cut them lengthwise in half and set aside.

Pour off all but 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil (the oil can be used again for stir-frying). Heat the oil remaining in the pan over medium heat, add the shallots and garlic, and fry briefly, until translucent. 

Add the chile powder and tomatoes and, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, cook at a strong simmer until the tomatoes have broken down into a softened mass, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the fish sauce and salt, then taste and adjust the seasoning if you wish. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the chile strips, and stir. Place the eggs cut side down in the sauce and cook until the oil sizzles, about 3 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Our House in Town - with Video

Over on our family blog, I posted about the house that we lived in for two months out in the village from Mae Sot.  It was a small concrete home with little ventilation, and it was difficult to live life when we were constantly seeking refuge from the heat.  There were things we liked about it though.  We spent a lot of time coping with our new way of life together.  In some ways, it was a really good bonding time for our family.  We all slept in the same room, and it was nice to be together so much.  We learned how people live while being located further away from the city, and we were constantly surrounded by the beauty of Thailand - gorgeous hills and farmlands accompanied by cows, goats, pigs, water buffalo, and of course, chickens.  We learned how to be more grateful for simple pleasures.

Our life now is much different.  Life is easier living in the city.  We have A/C in a couple of the bedrooms, and we have a lot of space.  We no longer live with th idea of "coping" being our constant thought which has allowed us to think more about how we can contribute to the Charis Project.  We also now have room to host guests.  In the one month that we've lived here, we've already had Phil's brother stay with us for three weeks and his parents here for one of those weeks.  There was plenty of room to spare.  We live within walking or biking distance to almost everything we want to get to.  It's quite a change.  I do miss having the close proximity to the boys, but we've found that we often have the boys still in our room.

Here is a new video of our new home:



Now that we are in our long-term house, we are trying to figure out what "normal" is going to look like for us.  Our almost year-long transition is finally coming to an end, although I know that things are forever changing here.  Yet, our family is settled now, and we are grateful.