Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Layout!

I'm working on getting a new layout up and running... sit tight!

Sawadee Pee Mai!

The next stop on our trip was Chiang Mai, which is in the north of Thailand. It's one of my favorite cities in Thailand... it's got everything you need like a big city, but without the chaotic atmosphere. I thought it would be a great place to ring in the new year, and actually proved to be even more perfect than I could have hoped! We did do some sightseeing while we were up there, but those pictures will come in a later post. For now, here's a look at what may have been my favorite New Year's celebration yet!

Back in November I posted about the Thai holiday, Loy Krathong. Thais release floating krathongs down the river and they send all bad things with them. In Chiang Mai, they are known for releasing a different kind of krathong into the air, rather than the tradition ones in the water. Their's work like hot air balloons and float away until they disappear into the night sky. They also release them on New Year's Eve in order to cleanse themselves of all negative energy and get a clean start to the New Year. Seeing thousands of these krathongs lighting up the night sky was definitely one of the highlights of the trip!

We released ours at a temple, where the monks were helping all of us first timers.

Really, what could be better? If you ask me, this definitely beats out the celebration in New York City!

It amazed me that there weren't any mishaps with so much fire just floating around! Krathongs were floating mere inches over people's heads and getting stuck in trees left and right but somehow, I didn't see a single thing catch on fire. Unless you count a few of the krathongs themselves...

The view down the river, where the krathongs were being released and the fireworks were set off. It felt like it was straight out of a movie! Or at least straight out of Europe.

As if the regular ones aren't awesome enough, they even make panda krathongs! And as if THAT'S not enough, they also had hearts, soccer balls, Thai flags, and ones adorned with images celebrating the Year of the Rabbit.

My parents watching the fireworks...

Like I said, it felt like something straight out of a movie.

People looking on as the fireworks signaled the start of the New Year. It was such a different atmosphere than you find at celebrations in America. No obnoxious drunk people, no wild parties... just a happy and peaceful environment with families and cute Asian couples enjoying themselves.

Each of those little dots is a Krathong, and this doesn't even do justice to how many of them there were. I wish I could say that's a shooting start going through them all, but I guess letting you know it's a firework is awesome enough!

I'll say it again, I'll take this celebration over New Year's Eve in America anyday!

Coming Soon: A Day at Khao Yai, a National Park right here in Saraburi!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Nama Tweme

I'd been telling my parents about the kids at Future Light for months, so they were so excited to finally head up to Mae Sot and see things for themselves. As I opened the gate to the school, I was immediately swarmed by 33 smiling kids begging for hugs. I quickly found myself smiling from ear to ear and it didn't take long for my parents to follow suit.

These kids never cease to impress me. When we arrived on that first day, they were on school holidays. Tadalie (the oldest girl) was teaching the rest of the kids a lesson to make up for that lost time in school. I don't know what I was more impressed with- the fact that every single kid was giving Tadalie their undivided attention, or the fact that a 13 year old was able to HOLD their attention.

The six youngest kids had their lesson taught by Ita's (the house mother's) niece. I could tell they were antsy, but they still sat (relatively) still, payed attention, and did all of their work. Show me an American 6 year old who is that disciplined and I will bow down and kiss your feet.

Tadalie's a strict grader!

Chili playing the drum while rocking his new Nikon jogging suit...

Susa, Chator, and I!

Tastee Subs make you strong! Think they'll mail me some subs if I do an advertisement for them?

Nunu, Susa, and I think my Dad and I are in there somewhere too...

Clearly, my Mom is the civilized one out of the three of us. While my Dad and I played outside, she and JoJo worked hard on making a whole world out of clay. Which they did ALL day.

I'm starting to think Tada doesn't know how to stop smiling =)

We gave the kids glow sticks one night and they only stopped playing with them when they were told it was bedtime. They were definitely a hit!

My parents, just outside of Future Light, watching the sunset over Burma.

We got official "Future Light Home School" t-shirts printed for all of the kids and the staff. I designed them, a family friend printed them (thank you, Fana!), and my parents lugged them all the way across the world. They were months in the making, so I was so happy to finally have them in my hands. I was even happier to see how good they looked on everyone, especially when the kids accessorized with those awesomely big and grateful smiles they like to wear =)

Susa being a ham, as usual...

Adam looking nice and healthy... check out all that hair!

I swear Chator gets cuter every time I go up there...

The older girls were fascinated by a growing Christmas tree my parents brought for them. When I told them it was brought here from America just for them, I thought they were going to explode from excitement.

Naychee LOVED my parents, and the feeling was definitely mutual! She gets my vote for "Most Improved" since the first time I was there.

We gave the kids bubbles but they went through them pretty quickly. Being the little geniuses that they are, they made their own replacement bubbles out of water and soap... and dirt.

Bubbles and short sleeves in front of a Christmas tree? Welcome to winter in Thailand!

I think I've been replaced...

Solid proof that even my mom had an amazing time... all dressed up AND posing!?!

My Dad lit up by the headlights of a motorbike as the sun sets over Burma... the perfect end to a perfect few days in Mae Sot =) Nama Tweme, Future Light!

Coming up next: New Year's in Chiang Mai!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas in Bangkok

This year, I got the two best Christmas presents I could ever ask for- a visit from my parents and the chance to help and spend time with some amazing families in Bangkok. The visit from my parents was courtesy of my entire life's savings and the opportunity to help those families was courtesy of the amazing Dwight Turner (who will henceforth be referred to as Saint Dwight). Saint Dwight is the patron saint of Bangkok slums, and has been helping a (rather large) handful of families put food on their tables and money in their landlords' hands. He took it upon himself to make Christmas special for these families and asked for some help in making it possible. That's where I come in. I "sponsored" two families and was rewarded by getting to spend Christmas just hanging out and getting to know them. My parents arrived on Christmas Eve, so the three of us headed to Bangkok on Christmas morning to enjoy the first leg of what turned out to be an amazing two week tour around Thailand.

On a normal day, these families struggle to put food on their tables. On Christmas, there was so much extra food that the kids fed it to the birds.

How could you not smile with that cutie in your arms?

Enjoying some french fries near the river in Lumpini Park.

Bird-feeding is now a spectator sport.

Holding his ground while the birds close in...

Christmas dinner for the birds!

They took a time out from bird-feeding to be hams for the camera...

They're all such beautiful kids.

Enthralled by Harry Potter in Thai... who wouldn't be!?

Donations, donations, donations...

...donations, donations, donations...

I'm thousands of miles from home but I still got to spend Christmas with one big, happy family!

You can read more about the day here and contact St. Dwight or myself if you'd like to help these families out!

Stay tuned for the next stop on our tour de Thailand- Mae Sot! Where my parents got to meet my favorite kids =)