50 Things You Should Know About Bangkok

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Now that I’ve been in Takua Pa a few days, I feel like I can sufficiently sum up most of the things I learned during my two-week stay in Bangkok. Consider it a guide to some life lessons that you can now avoid when staying in Bangkok. The following is a non-comprehensive list of the things I learned, observed, or was told while in Bangkok:

  1. You’re going to sweat. Get over it.
  2. The one day that you finally decide to wear a tank top and shorts, since you’ve realized that all the locals do, everyone else will be wearing a t-shirt and pants. Apparently it’s cold outside.
  3. When the locals are sweating profusely, you know it’s hot outside.
  4. Drivers in Bangkok are 1000 times crazier than Montreal drivers. Yes, you will fell like you’re going to die sometimes. Pray extra hard.
  5. Riding a motorbike taxi is both terrifying and thrilling, in cycles. When other cars are around, you will think that you are going to die. But when the road is clear, enjoy the rush of excitement as your hair flows in the wind.
  6. Almost all of the monks I saw were on their cell phones. Interesting.
  7. Never layer shirts. That’s just asking for extra sweat in places where you’re already going to sweat anyways.
  8. Thai people love to smile (awkward smiles for the win!), but don’t mistake this to mean that they are always happy.
  9. Thai people don’t like confrontation, and try to avoid it at all costs. (My kind of people!)
  10. A smile is a perfectly acceptable in place of a sa-wat-dee (“hello”) in most scenarios. (Do I fit in here, or what?!)
  11. Never say anything bad about the kind. And really, why should you? Look at what the Thai kings throughout recent history have done for the Thai people!
  12. You won’t fully understand the love and reverence that Thai people have for their king. There’s nothing else to compare it to that would help you understand it. But be respectful – stand for the King’s anthem when it plays in the movie theatre before your movie, and stand still when it plays across the PA system in the parks and metro stations.
  13. When Thai people don’t understand you, they laugh. What a great way to break the ice, right? (I honestly fit in so well here!)
  14. If you go to the famous temples, don’t expect to experience authentic Thai Buddhism. You may feel like you’re exploiting a culture – I most certainly did. Go to a local, non-famous temple. You’ll gain a better understanding of the relationship between Thai culture and Buddhism.
  15. When you go to temples, BE RESPECTFUL. I can’t tell you how much I hated myself for being a tourist when I when I saw people step over and around people on the ground worshipping, just so that they could take the “perfect picture”.
  16. Talk to Thai people. Not only are they super nice, but they have so much wisdom about the places you’re exploring!
  17. According to every Thai person I’ve spoken to, if you’re from Canada, then you’re either from Toronto or Vancouver. Sorry to my friends everywhere else – apparently you live in places that don’t actually exist.
  18. There are a lot of cute little kittens walking around the city in need of some lovin’. Pet them and love them, even is it goes against your better judgement.
  19. Things here are super inexpensive!
  20. If you convert the price of something to Canadian dollars, then it may seem super cheap, but people who live here could still think it is expensive.
  21. Everything is relative. Try to understand all perspectives.
  22. Don’t be a tourist. Look for an authentic experience.
  23. There are a lot of ex-pats and missionaries living here. You won’t feel too much outside of your comfort zone. (Although I’m sure it will be a different story in Takua Pa!)
  24. Jet lag sucks. You won’t be able to avoid it, but make the most of the time you spend awake.
  25. Keep a journal – you’ll want to remember each and every little quirk you come across!
  26. People do fitness classes and go to the gym in the park. Some of the fitness equipment looks like it belongs in the playground – don’t laugh at this. Also, don’t take a picture if there is anyone using the equipment, as much as you may want to.
  27. People here dress a lot less modestly than I thought they would.
  28. When English music is playing somewhere, swear words don’t get bleeped out like they do in Canada. It’ll catch you off guard the first few times you hear it.
  29. Not sure if it’s just my abnormally long legs, but people here seem to walk incredibly slow.
  30. A Thai massage is basically you paying someone to tickle your feet for an hour.
  31. Once your masseuse figures out that your feet are ticklish, he’ll exploit it at every opportunity to have a good laugh. Laugh along. :) (Although if you’re being tickled, than you really don’t have much choice but to laugh!)
  32. Learn to speak Thai, so that you can understand when people are making light-hreated jokes about you in Thai.
  33. Wear sunscreen. (I really need to work on this one…)
  34. Tip your masseuse well. They’ve earned it!
  35. Go to church. You’ll gain some perspective of God in a Thai context, and it’ll remind you of how great our God is.
  36. Go shopping at the markets. Try to haggle, even if your as awful at it as I am.
  37. Street food is delicious. Consume in copious amounts, since it’s supa-cheap, and you’ll walk it all off anyways!
  38. Eat dinner for breakfast. It’s what all the cool kids do.
  39. Taking three showers in a day is completely acceptable.
  40. Drink lots of water – and then once you think you’ve had enough, drink more!
  41. There are both really good and really awful smells around the city. Try not to let your face show your thoughts when you move from one to another.
  42. When you come across a cockroach in the street, and you will, stare it down until it scuttles away. If that doesn’t work, run for your life!
  43. When an unknown liquid substance drips down on you while walking in the streets, do not try to think of all the possible things that it could be. Ignorance is bliss in this case.
  44. If you’re foolish enough to forget how to use chopsticks half way through a meal, like I did, be cool. Casually observe how the people at the table next to you do it. If you’re alone in the restaurant, just stab at the food until it stays on the stick.
  45. When a train ride is supposed to take 2 hours, don’t expect it to take any less than 4. Bring snacks.
  46. You can buy anything from one of the billion 7-Elevens in the city.
  47. People have absolutely no problem staring at you , even if you catch them doing it. Commence staring contest.
  48. Be flexible.
  49. Embrace the bizarre.
  50. Enjoy. :)

Yes many of these are generalizations. Many are also jokes. But I learned all of these things the hard way. Bangkok is awesome. You should go!

Live. Love. Travel.

You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful

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Yes, I’m quoting One Direction. No, I am not a huge fan of theirs. But the song provides an appropriate title to sum up what’s been on my mind today. Don’t hate.

Sometimes I don’t think I’m beautiful. I’ve always struggled with body image stuff and feeling like I’m physically beautiful. I don’t have people always telling me how beautiful I am – never have. Now that’s not to say that it’s necessary, and this post most definitely is not me looking for people to tell me I’m beautiful. But I think that this is an issue that females as a whole often struggle with, and I gained a little more perspective on the issue today.

This afternoon I visited an organization called Night Light, which works with women in the sex trafficking industry. They employ women to provide them with an escape from the sex trade industry, with jobs making beautiful jewelry, t-shirts, and flowers. Anywhere between 55 and 75 women work there at any given time. Amazing, right?

Night Light goes into the red light districts in Bangkok and builds relationships with women who work there, eventually providing them with their information and how they can help them escape their current conditions. Women who respond to this call Night Light, and as a condition of employment, they must leave the sex trade, attend daily chapel, work in one of their areas of business, join a counselling group, and join in with all sorts of other support systems in place.

The work that Night Light does is truly inspiring. What was completely discouraging though, were some of the statistics about the sex trafficking industry in Thailand. Apparently having sex with a Thai prostitute has become a pretty popular bucket list item for many men travelling to Thailand. Last year, there were around 23 million tourists in Thailand – both men and women – and approximately 8.5 million of these people were men that went to Thailand either specifically to participate in the sex trade, or participated in it while they were there. Three out of every four men that travel to Thailand participate in the sex trade. Staggering numbers. My view of male tourists in Thailand has forever been tainted.

Women that get involved in the industry are often from outer provinces, and are coerced into it by their parents. Interesting family dynamic – it is the responsibility of the eldest daughter in a family to take care of her family financially; the eldest son should be making merit for the family, by becoming a monk (so says the Buddhist religion). So you can imagine that after being forced into this industry that a lot of women feel ashamed, and lose their self worth. They may not feel beautiful or valued.

The truth that Night Light is pouring into these women – that they are built in the image of God, and are so incredibly beautiful – is one that I think all women need to hear. Women in this day and age seem to think that beauty is how you dress yourself, or how you paint your face up, and that the only way you will feel beautiful is if a man tells you so. But the truth is that we are beautifully and wonderfully made, and that can never be changed. Sure, we may get a little tarnished with the weight that the world places on us, but that’s nothing that a little heavenly polish can’t clear up!

You, yes YOU, are beautiful. And don’t you ever forget it!

 

 

If you want more info on Night Light, check out their website: http://www.nightlightinternational.com/bangkok/

The Power of a Smile

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Well, I’ve been in Bangkok for about a week now, and I figure it’s about time I stopped doing new and exciting things so that I could write about doing said new and exciting things! I did plan for my first post to be light and funny, but that post will have to wait. Something a little heavier has been weighing on my heart today.

I thought I understood what extreme poverty looked like. I’ve seen homeless people on the streets of Toronto. I’ve met people in Ecuador that have almost nothing. But what I saw today resonated a little further along the lines of poverty, and I’m not sure how to feel about it.

Let me explain. Today I finally made my way to Sukhumvit Road in the evening, which is pretty much tourist/party central in Bangkok. Walking down the streets, I saw a lot of homeless people begging along the sidewalk. Many had deformities of sorts, some were women with young children, and some were elderly. One man with an amputated leg was sprawled out on his stomach in the middle of the sidewalk, clanging a metal bowl on the ground to beg for money.

Now if you know me, you know that I have a personal policy to never give money to homeless people. Don’t think me a horrible person – I won’t judge you if you do. But I personally would not feel good knowing that I am in fact fuelling someone’s alcohol or nicotine addictions. I do however give food to homeless people I meet, if I have any. I’ve even been turned down for fresh food that I’ve just picked up from the farmers market before (again, why I don’t give beggars money). I also like to talk to homeless people; hear there story. I don’t understand how people can glaze their eyes past them on the road and pretend they don’t exist. I feel like the worst person in the world if I do that. Every person has value, no matter what their situation is. So this is how I deal with poverty in a North American setting.

Now fast forward to my time in Bangkok. The whole not speaking the language bit is already tripping me up, and I’m still in a big city, where lots of people speak at least some English. What am I going to do when I get to small-town Takua Pa? How can I reach out to a person, and hear about their life’s story, when I can’t communicate with them past a Thai “hello”? On top of that, I come back to my rule of not giving out money. It’s harder for me to follow that here, because a dollar can go so much farther than it does in Canada. A person could easily get 3 meals a day for a dollar, so I feel like it would be so easy for me to give people money. But then my development studies kick in, and I’m reminded that feeding a person for one day will not help them a month from now. I’m then faced with the dilemma though of wondering whether or not the person will be alive in a month if I don’t give them any money. So, do you see my problem?

I know I’m a sucker for a sad story, and I know that people on the streets are often said to exploit the fact that they have young children or disabilities to play on the heartstrings of tourists. But still. I can’t help feeling helpless in the whole scenario. I want to do something, anything, but I’m really at a loss for what would be the best move to make. All I know that I can do is look each person I meet right in the eyes and give a warm smile. Hopefully they’ll understand that to mean that they have value and that people care. Thai people love to smile.

Buddism is the dominant religion here – actually, it’s more a part of the culture than it is a separate religion. With my understanding of how Buddism works, people living in poverty don’t have much of a hope inside of them for a future. They believe that they did something bad in a past life that has put them in their current situation, and there’s not much they can do about it. (Anyone can feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this – I’m still learning.) Jeremiah 29:11 says: ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ “ This verse hangs on the wall in my Grandma’s bathroom. Bathrooms are a great thinking space (yes, I’m weird – I’m okay with it), so I often ponder this verse. This is a verse that I want to help others to believe. That people who are willing to settle for their current conditions – that they would see the hope for a brighter future that comes from Jesus. All I’ve got is a smile, but hopefully it’ll be enough to send the message of hope that comes to us in Jesus’ name.

My Missions Profile is Live!

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My missions profile is now live! Click the link to check out what I’ll be doing in Thailand, and to see some of my prayer requests. My profile is also where you can easily donate towards my missions trip, so if you are able to do so, I am sincerely grateful for any donations! All donations are tax-deductible!

Keep me in your prayers!

http://www.paoc.org/donate?mID=497

Off to Neverland!… Or should I say Thailand!!!

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Well, it’s official. Actually, it was official a couple months ago, but now that I’ve purchased my flights, I can officially say that I will be heading out on a missions trip to Thailand in January. I touch down in Bangkok on January 21st (I’m going to go forward in time a whole day – time travel for the win!), and will start to make my way back home on May 2nd. To save you from having to do the math, that’s 101 days. Or 2,406 hours. Or 144, 375 minutes. You get it. It’s a pretty long time.

Some may think I’m crazy. I’m okay with that. Others may think it’s great that there’s someone who’s willing to go out and meet the world where they’re at, because that’s definitely not you. That’s also okay. But regardless of what you may think, I have no clue what it makes me, other than obedient. This opportunity has been completely laid down by God, and I’m just walking along the path laid down for me.

To say that I’m excited would be an understatement. I leave in less than 34 days.

As with most mission trips, things are a bit chaotic right now, but I know that I’ve got the Lord on my side. Things will work out in time.

As for what I’m going to be doing while in Thailand, I’m going to be serving in a small town called Takua Pa, located in the south of the country. I’ll be hosted by another mid-termer, Kelvin Chan. The guy seems pretty awesome. Check out his blog for more info on life in Takua Pa!

http://lifepassions.tumblr.com/

(Be forewarned – Kelvin says it like it is. Don’t expect some romanticized, fluffy version of what we like to think doing missions work is all about!)

As the time I’ll be there is during the Thai summer (hello, constant sweating!), I’m going to be helping out with planning and then running some VBS style day camps for a bunch of kids. I may also be able to help out with the tutoring of some kids to help get them into school.

Now if you know me, then you know that I love camp. So words cannot express how pumped I am to be helping out at a camp in a different country! While my knowledge of the Thai language is a little lacking (okay, a lot…), kids are kids. Smiles and laughter and playfulness are universal.

I’m so excited for all that this trip has in store, and for all that God is going to reveal to me and do in me.

Send some prayers my way, and to Takua Pa and Kelvin, that things will just continue to work out to God’s glory!