Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Tonight is the last night that the remaining members of the October travel group will be here with us at Promise Home. They have done so much work while they have been here and we have had many adventures too.

The first and most stressful adventure for one of the group was the emergency appendectomy that she had to have last Friday night. Shana missed had been sick with a cold and Thursday she began to feel better so she came to visit with us at the home. As the afternoon wore on, she started to look like she felt worse and worse so we took her back to the hotel. She was in pain and remained so for the entire night. When I went to get the group on Friday morning, she did not come down and was in a lot of pain. The staff at the hotel kept a watchful eye on her during the day and make sure that she was not getting worse. As a group, we decided that we needed to take her to the clinic that evening, however when we arrived, a staff member had already taken her. We arrived at the clinic in time to take her to the hospital to take an X-Ray.

There was a large group of folks who stayed with her during the x-ray and then the other procedures she needed to determine what was wrong with her. It was around 9:30 in the evening when they determined she indeed need an appendectomy and that surgery would be necessary that night. They decided that surgery would be at 10:00 pm. Shana was wheeled into the operating room and Max, who had volunteered to stay overnight with her, went as well. Some of the group went home for a few things and to make calls to family back in the states. Our friends, Jermsak and Da took me back to Promise Home to collect some blankets and a pillow for Max and then took them back to the hospital. They promised to call me just as soon as they heard she was out because I stayed behind with the kids. Surgery was successful and took at little over an hour and a half.

Shana spent the day on Saturday recovering and when we visited, she walked the hallway with us. She looked so much better than she did on Friday. She was ready to be released on Sunday and she looked even better then. We picked her up and spent the afternoon at a local coffee shop with a friend. She said it was great for her to be out and getting around. Monday and Tuesday brought even more improvement and she looks great now. I can't imagine what she must have been feeling with all of this, being in a foreign country and having surgery but she was in good hands at the hospital, the hotel and with the members of the group. Shana is much better now.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon wandering around town. We left home shortly after lunch and found a place downtown to park. We walked around for a bit then headed to the coffee shop we all enjoy. It is Doi Chaang and they have marvelous free trade coffee that is grown high in the hills north of here. It is some of the best coffee I have tasted. The coffee shop is a warm and welcoming place and Sunday while we were there, students from the the Chiang Rai Youth Orchestra string section played a selection of music for the patrons to enjoy.  After coffee, we wandered to the area where the night bazaar is located to see if it was open yet. It was not, so we wondered to a massage place to get foot massages. We found a very nice one located on the street across from the bazaar and settled in for an hour of relaxation. Once the massage was over, we wandered over to Destiny Restaurant which was a pleasant find for us. This restaurant is run by volunteers for a group called Destiny Rescue and their focus is to take hill tribe girls and teach them a life skill so they can gain meaningful employment. The girls are the servers, cooks and kitchen staff. They are learning to speak English and the hospitality business. They also have a hair salon next to the restaurant which is teaching the girls another skill. The restaurant serves both Western and Thai food. The Western food we have eaten is delicious. They have a coffee shop in the front of the restaurant as well, so I am sure I will be spending a lot of time there. I do plan to go to the salon and have them do my hair.

After dinner, we wandered the night bazaar for a while so those who are leaving could take them back with them. We spent about an hour and a half at the bazaar looking the many stalls of goodies. We stopped at the wood shop that my friend Judy is so fond of so I could check on the owner. When Judy was still here, we learned the owner was to have a C section two weeks ago. I found the owner who was back at work and she even had her baby girl with her at a "nursery" next door. The baby's name is Fern and she is a tiny little thing. As of today, she is 13 days old. Mom told me that she followed Judy's advice and took a week off from work but she is now back at it. She needs to have her shop open to survive. Both Mom and Fern are doing well.

I was able to drive us all over downtown and where we needed to go. I am more and more comfortable with driving and knowing where things are in the city. I think I will be a pro at Chiang Rai in no time....

Until next time.....

God Bless,


Sunday, October 27, 2013

White Temple and Bethany Children's Home and then goodbye :(, October 18-19th, 2013

Friday was a more leisurely day for the group with a trip to the White Temple and then Bethany Children's home. Bethany is a group we have been sponsoring for a year now since they took in one of the girls that found herself without a home in June of 2012. They have 41 children at the home, 19 girls and 21 boys of varying ages. The children are all from hill tribes, many of which are very far away from Chiang Rai which makes it very difficult for them to go to school. Most of these children have a living parent or parents who take an active role in raising their child even though they cannot afford to send them to school or other activities.

First- the White Temple... It is a magnificent working temple that is a wonderful attraction in Chiang Rai. It is a 50 year project that started 13 years ago and every time I visit, something new has been completed. This year the wishing tags were all over the place. They are metal tags that you can write your family name on and a wish then hang the tag on a "tree". The staff will then distribute the tags all over a certain area. There are so many tags, there is now a "roof" of them along the walkway which runs along the outside of the temple. There is a gift shop and a museum which has a number of different pieces of the artists works, post cards, notebooks, hats, etc. It is a site to behold and words simply cannot do it justice.
Vannessa and I making a wish 

Wishing tree

The White Temple

The "roof" of wishes

After the White Temple we headed to Bethany Children's Home to meet the staff and the children. Last January we left money so they could expand the girls dorm so we were all anxious to see what it looked like. We were also anxious to see all of our friends once again. We had a meeting then enjoyed lunch before we toured the grounds. After the tour, we left to rest so we could return with the kids from Promise Home for the marvelous, food filled BBQ we sponsored. What a fun night it was even though it was raining (big surprise!!!!) and there were several mosquitoes that joined us that evening.
I was thrilled to see my dear Thida and see how she has blossomed into the lovely young woman she is today. She is so different than the first time I met her. Still shy around strangers but more confident with those she knows and has met before.  She is also becoming more and more lovely every time I see her. Once we arrived with the children from Promise Home, I learned that she is good friends with Palita and they spent the night in each other's company.


The older girls in the dorm- see who snuck in?

Cooking the food

The many, many meat skewers

Fai, Nina and me

Kent, Me, Thida, Judy, Vannessa and Joan

It was a wonderful evening and I hated saying goodbye. The one thing I can hang on to is that I now know how to get to Bethany Children's Home and I am driving so I can stop by to see the kids any time. Last week when I walked my kids to school, I saw several of the children from Bethany Home and they instantly recognized me. As we were walking home, a truckload of children drove by and Thida leaned out the window and yelled. As they continued on, I saw many hands waving in the back window. I am sure I will have many opportunities to see the children I have become so fond of.

Saturday was a sad day as it was the day that Judy, Dale, Kent, Michelle and my dear Vannessa were heading home. That morning they came to meet us at Promise Home and some went off to finish some last minutes chores while others stayed behind. After lunch, we piled into both the van and the car to take our friends to the airport. They got checked in easily and then we sat and simply enjoyed each other's company for a while. Found a coffee place so I could buy Vannessa one last Thai Iced Tea before she left and we sat an enjoyed them. Then it was time to take them to the gate. Saying goodbye was just as difficult this time as it was the first time I left some of them. I have a special bond with each one of the group and it is hard to see them go. Judy saved her goodbye to me till the last and that is when the flood gates opened. She has become like a 4th sister to me and I have shared so many things with her. After Judy, came the saddest goodbye, to my dear Vannessa. It is usually the parent who sends the child off into the world to do good and change it and not the other way around. Vannessa has a job in Denver that she loves and a new apartment. She is just beginning her adventures where I am winding down with mine. I have worked and had a full life doing the "traditional" thing so I was ready to try something new.

I thank my dear Vannessa for her love and support for me on this journey. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of her and miss her terribly but she is always with me, she is in my heart. I couldn't be doing this without her love and the support, good wishes and thoughts from all of you.

Until next time.....

God Bless,


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Elephants- October 17, 2013

Today we got to ride the elephants.... The children had never seen an elephant in person before, much less ridden one. It was quite the adventure. The day dawned overcast and cool so many of us had jackets, however we did not anticipate the rain that would soon start falling and continue on for most of the morning. Quite the site to see all of us in our multi-colored rain ponchos, holding umbrellas while riding elephants. I rode with the littlest member of our group, Ahmorntep and he loved it. He carried on a lively conversation with the mahout, helped him urge our elephant on when he was being stubborn, yelling at the top of his lungs, and collecting beautiful yellow flowers off the trees until a green stick bug made it's way onto his hand. Once that happened, every flower he and I were holding were immediately and forcefully thrown away. I tried to keep some only to get, "No Mom, No!" then he took them from me and threw them over the edge. We all got wet and I sustained a significant bruise on my left thigh from hitting the iron post of the seat over and over again but it was a fun experience for the kids. Enjoy some of the many photos from that day.

After we rode the elephants we headed for the raft trip on the Mae Kok. We stopped at a village before the raft and took the oh so fun walk across the ever sturdy and solid suspension bridge in the rain. What an exhilerating experience especially when a scooter passed. The walk took us to a village where we visited with the townspeople for a bit and then we walked across the bridge again to get onto the rafts below.

Palita and Shana braving the bridge first

Rafts far, far below
Once on the rafts, we headed down the river at a leisurely pace while eating the delicious meal prepared by Da and Manrutai. We had fried chicken, chicken and cashews and stir fry vegetables. Fresh fruit was served for dessert and many of us enjoyed the deliciousness of a Chang beer. The children ate and when they were done, they sat on the edge of the raft, dangling their feet in the water. This was another first for all of them. They had never experienced this before. To see their expression of happiness and wonderment was priceless. We stopped along the way at the hot springs so the boatmen could eat and that gave us an opportunity to soak our feet in the hot water for a while. That was delightful since most of us had very wet feet and it warmed us just a bit.

 When the raft trip was complete some of the group headed home to warm up and dry off while others shopped at the Karen village of Ruammit. We closed the evening with dinner at a local restaurant with our friends and the children. Gifts were shared with all. It was a wonderful day of family and new experiences.....

Until next time.....

God Bless,


Visit with Friends- October 16-17, 2013

Most of the group woke early the morning of October 16th so we could enjoy the sights and sounds of the morning market in Mae Salong. The villagers, farmers, and vendors wake early every morning to bring their vegetables, meats, and other food items to the main street of downtown Mae Salong to sell. This is one of the most interesting parts of the trip as we get to see what rural Thai life is like and the economy of the town market. There are "produce" vendors, meat and fish, coffee and doughnuts. The last is one of our favorite treats. Our group usually takes the entire table in front of the vendor when we sit to enjoy coffee. For a coffee snob, this coffee is not the best but I love it. They use instant coffee and then add sweetened condensed milk. You have it with the doughnuts that are freshly prepared for you. It was fascinating to watch the lady who owned the stand pull the dough and cut it for the two different shapes that she fries.

Market Photos:

After the market, some of the group headed up the hill to climb the 718 steps to the King Mother's Shrine and others loaded into the van for the drive to the top. I have taken the steps twice before and climb 24 steps multiple times a day, I felt I was ok to take a break so I loaded in the van with Bannessa (that is how the children say her name. V is hard for them to pronounce) and up to the top we went. We met the others from the group at the top and toured the inside of the shrine which is impressive every time. At the monument where some of the King Mother's ashes are people try to stand coins on their edges. We were told that if you could successfully stand your coin, you would have a blessed and balanced life. Well.... not to pat myself on the back too hard, I was able to stand my coin so I guess I will have a good life. :)

After the shrine we packed up to head to the border road between Burma and Thailand. On this drive we visit a bunker where the Thai army still has officers at where you can stand on the wall and gaze into Burma. Here you can also stand in two countries at once along the fence line.

The boys and me looking into Burma

Judy, me and the girls with one hand in Burma

Two places at one time

We crossed into Burma after visiting the bunker. You do not need to show your passport or complete the exit card when traveling in Burma on the road but the guards asked for the Jermsak's information because of the children. Along the way down, we stopped to look at the coffee plants and other crops that are planted closely to the roadside. We think perhaps they have these planted where they are to hide the illegal crop that may be planted further in which is difficult to see or reach. We cannot say for sure if that is the case but we suspect it may be.

After entering Thailand again, we headed to Golden Triangle where some of the group went to the Opium Museum and others went on a boat ride on the mighty Mae Kong river. The children had never been on a boat ride and they thoroughly enjoyed it. The loved holding their hands over the water as the boat made it's way through, letting the spray splash them.

After the boat ride, we headed back to town for dinner and rest because we had a big day ahead of us on Thursday. That is when we get to ride elephants and the raft down the Mae Kok river.

Until next time.....

God Bless,


Monday, October 21, 2013

Visit with Friends- October 15-16, 2013

We woke very early on Tuesday morning so we could leave the home at 6:00 and head up to the mountains and beautiful (suay) Mae Salong. On the way, we visited the monks who reside in an area of villages that are spread apart and they ride their horses to the villages to collect their alms. Monks do not work and therefore they rely on the townspeople and visitors to provide their daily food and any monies they may need for other items. When you visit their compound, you can purchase a number of pre-packaged items to give to the monks and these are all things they need to survive. Monks get up early in the morning, collect their alms and then eat two meals every day. They eat a morning and noon meal as long as it is before 12:00 pm. They do not eat anything after that time. It is their belief that they can concentrate on their minds and bodies better while meditating if they do not have anything to eat. The afternoon is spent in meditation and prayer.

After wandering around at the monk compound we headed to Mae Salong and one of our favorite places, Little Home Guest House. On the way we stopped for breakfast. We had Fried Rice and Pad Thai for breakfast. How many of you can say that you have eaten either one of them for that particular meal?

Once we arrived at Little Home, we settled in our rooms and had a delicious lunch on the patio. The owner, his wife and son are some of the most gracious people I have ever met. They serve the best Oolong 17 tea with every meal. It is quite easy to get since the region where Mae Salong is located is well known for its tea plantations in addition to it's coffee. After lunch we headed to the Lisu hill tribe kindergarten to spend some time with the children there.


Bungalow at Little Home 

The kids and Manrutai at lunch

Joan coloring with the Lisu kids

 After spending time with the children, we went outside to make small purchase from the women of the village. They make beautiful handicrafts and having visitors come for a visit is a special treat for them. Selling the items they make is one small way for them to earn some money. They do not sell them for large amounts of money and even though there are duplicate items, you feel obliged to purchase something from each woman who is selling things.  During this visit, we met with a woman who has 6 children and is widowed. Her husband had died from AIDS and she was ostracized by the village. She was trying to see if we would take two of her sons with us to have them live with me and the other children in the home. The two small boys are twins and are only about 4 years old. It was a difficult discussion because she was not sure she wanted them to go, we were not sure it was appropriate to have two more smaller children at the home so soon after my arrival. The youngest of the two boys that are here now is only 4 and he is quite a handful. I am not certain I have the stamina or fortitude to take on two more small ones just yet.

After our visit to the hill tribe, we returned to Mae Salong for dinner. We visited the Mae Salong Villa which is one of our favorite restaurants. It sits on the top of a hill overlooking the city and the hostess is a gracious, wonderful woman. We had a lovely dinner on the balcony and returned to Little Home for a good night's rest as we had to get up early the following morning to enjoy the morning market with it's coffee and doughnuts and then walk up 718 steps to the King Mother's Shrine. More on that tomorrow.

Until next time....

God Bless,


5 Year Anniversary and Still Going Strong!!!

Good morning~ I woke up this morning and realized that five years ago today, I began the first leg of a journey that would forever change ...