Homeward bound

Bangkok to Taipei, a short layover, more goodbyes to the 7 teammates who are flying to San Francisco, and back on the plane. I have an empty seat and I’m right behind Steve for this leg of the journey. My seatmate is from Australia and is coming to America to babysit her grandkids for the summer – she’s heading to St. Louis, Kansas and will have to spend the night in LA since flights didn’t work in her favor. We settle in for this flight – here’s where we will land at home before we’ve taken off. Departing Taipei at 10:50 p.m. and landing at 7:45 p.m., all on Thursday. The flight is less than 11 hours long. Lots of movies, lots of food…we touch down 45 minutes early and sit on the runway for awhile. Steve passes me his phone and I reach Alan – my family is all at the airport already! We grab our luggage, say goodbye to the rest of the team, go through customs in a flash, and head for the terminal. I forgot how many people line the ramp area! Feels like a parade. I hear “mommy!” and see Kelsey and Jenna right away. Now I can’t wait to get to them – it felt like forever until I could turn the corner and push the crowd to the side. Ryan and Steve were right behind me. These are the most special people in the world to me – a hug has never felt better! Why does “home” feel so good?

So long, Bangkok!

We’re in the lobby at 2, ready to board the mini bus to the airport. Everyone is settling their bills (mini bar had m & m’s and potato chips – sounds like most people took advantage of that!) and saying goodbyes to Tip. She is crying…saying goodbye to her Tsunami friends doesn’t get easier. Off to the airport. I’ve seen some interesting passengers on the roads in Thailand. A Pepsi truck, loaded with crates…with 2 men sitting on top. A motorbike with dad driving, a 2 year old behind, with a 5 year old behind…little fingers barely reaching around to grab dad’s shirt. Pickup trucks full of men. Babies being held anywhere and everywhere, not a car seat in sight. Also noticed an absence of dents on cars – everyone drives VERY aggresively – that really surprises me. Horns honk all the time. At the airport, we head to the ticket counters. Someone has gone to get our tax receipts – there’s a 500 baht tax bill to exit the country. There’s a Burger King in the corner of this airport too but most of us are remembering the food on the airlines and aren’t needing to eat BK again. Exchange baht back into US currency, saving some for souvenirs. We say goodbyes to 2 of our team members who are not coming home yet. Brent and Ted are heading to Cambodia tomorrow and will fly home next Tuesday instead. We leave them and head to immigration to have our visas stamped. Off to the loading area – our flight is leaving on time, at 4:55 p.m. Some of the team found ice cream and is savoring Haagen Daaz. On board the plane is a little empty – we end up with vacant seats all around.

Last morning in another country!

Steve, Ryan and I met in the lobby shortly after 9. Decided to go shop together. Hailed a taxi and headed to the Computer Center that Tip had told us about. We were walking in the building about 9:40 and suddenly I realized a security guard was talking to Ryan and walking him back to the door. I yelled for Steve – I thought Ryan had set off an alarm or something. We finally understood that he was saying it didn’t open until 10. (The store is 4 stories tall and there were people everywhere – maybe it’s just closed to Americans?) We left and decided to stroll the street vendors. Everyone must eat out in Thailand ’cause there is food everywhere! It lines both sides of the sidewalk – way more congested than New York sidewalks. We did both sides of the street and then found an alleyway loaded with more shops. All the booths here are maybe 8′ wide and some are very long and skinny. All clothing…I have daughters who would have gone wild here. Eventually we found our way inside a store – 5 stories tall and maybe 60-75 little booths per floor. The a/c was working fine here so we covered every floor. We all came out with bags – clothing is so cheap – I can’t imagine what Thai people think when they come to the US! Bought 2 of those light skirts everyone is wearing this season – 300 baht for both – that works out to just under $8 for 2 skirts! We thought maybe we’d found the garmet district or something similar. One observation – there are NO baby strollers anywhere. A few people are carrying babies but those are few and far between. Children are not taken shopping? My backpack is full with the purchases Ryan and I have made so we head to the computer center. Again, mega store…several levels. We are descended upon by the vultures (feels like a car lot at home) and just shake our heads “no” and ask about ipods. (One of the Thai girls told us that they’re very cheap here.) We finally hear “third floor” and head that way. Walk through several shops and finally I see boxes for ipods. There are mp3 players everywhere but I’m only interested in these. Until I hear the prices. Considerably more money than at home. I go to other shops and hear the same thing. (I wonder if we were Thai, whould it have been different?) We’ve been told to bargain but I can’t see purchasing these unless they come down by half. Oh well… Ryan and I are shopped out – I think Steve still had more in him but he hails a cab and we head back to the hotel for packing.

Airport!

It’s Kelsey again! Here’s a copy of the e-mail i just got from my mom!
“Hi!!!

We’re at the airport in Phuket, waiting to fly to Bangkok.  Just found a Burger King so the entire team stuffed themselves on food that had no rice in it.  🙂

Saw three elephants in a yard on the way down.  Too fun.

We have the rest of today in Bangkok, and half a day tomorrow before we head to the airport and begin our trip home.  We just discovered that 90% of the team is flying with us to LAX so Steve, Ryan and I will have company.  🙂

The whole trip has gone smoothly, no major injuries from anyone – a few bug bites, a few bandaids, but nothing like it could have been.  The Thai carpenter came to the Lord yesterday, and one of the Burmese men who lives behind our “suburb” bungalow was led to the Lord the day before.  True lifestyle evangelism.  They saw, they observed, they desired.  Awesome.

We think it has been about 20 degees cooler than when the March crew was here, but more humid.  I was prepared for much worse temperature wise.  We are all ready for the hotel in Bangkok tonight – a shower with hot water sounds like such sinful luxury – we can’t wait.”

Beginning the journey home

Another late day – the bus didn’t come until 8:30. We’re leaving lots behind – the Thai staff will sort and distribute everything – some things will go to the Burmese, some to the Thais, still other things to the Thai staff and other things will be saved for future working teams. Just our bungalow alone left 7 bags full of items we’re not taking home. The bus headed for Phuket – a daytime drive so we could see some of the country. We opted to just eat crackers and cookies on the bus rather than have a meal at our dining place. This whole “Burger King” at the Phuket Airport has everyone a little excited! I was sitting downstairs, listening to music and watching the view…at one point, I noticed 3 elephants standing in a yard and thought “oh look, there’s some elephants” – it didn’t really register that this was unusual. Then I recovered and yelled for Ryan “HEY – THERE’S 3 ELEPHANTS – LOOK!!!” We have no pictures of that since I was so slow in registering what I was seeing. A good portion of the drive was inland, out of the reach of the Tsunami. As we started to get closer to the ocean, we were passing piles of debris, just stacked in yards. The closer to Phuket we got, the prettier everything became. You can really tell where the biggest relief efforts have been going on. Fresh paint, fresh buildings, even passed a lot of freshly planted trees and bushes. Where the tourists are likely to go – it looks great. Got to the airport without a problem, unloaded gear and said good-bye to our bus. No more magic bus rides. Checked in and we all headed to Burger King. Steve, Ryan and I were first and were well into our hanburgers before the rest of the team walked in. (Sometimes Steve is good to have around – he knew what the line would be like once the rest headed over so we went first.) The plane trip to Bangkok is just over an hour – I am sooo glad we did it in this order, rather than flying down and taking the bus back. The Thai Crusade people flew back with us. At least one of them had never been on a plane before! And here’s one for you golfers – in the middle of the runways at the Bangkok Airport, there’s a golf course. Crossing to the next hole is a bit of a challenge while one waits for a plane to taxi by! After locating our luggage, we got into small groups and grabbed taxis to our hotel. We’re all feeling like pros by this point “oh yeah, we’re at the Gold Orchid” – we’re counting the minutes until we can get under the hot shower! We relaxed there for few hours and then left at 5:30 p.m. in 2 mini buses and a taxi or two to head to the Nightime Market. Rush hour. It took forever – over an hour…and it’s got to have been under 10 miles. The traffic didn’t move at all. Even LA traffic creeps during rush hour. The mini buses dropped us off at a different location – while we waited for the taxis to find us, the smells of the street vendors started our stomachs growling. There are carts of fresh fruit (the pineapple is so sweet) and carts full of things they’ll cook for you. Woks full of oil are everywhere and rows of raw foods are sitting out on the tops of the carts. It all smells incredible and you try to convince yourself that the hot oil will kill anything that might need to be killed. We finally were all together and we headed to a restaurant that Ted knows. Tables were set up for us and we grabbed menus to decide. My end of the table was all about steak, lobster, and potatoes. The middle was more daring – I heard “squid” and “cuttle fish” but didn’t even give it a second thought. While we were dining, a group of traditional dancers were entertaining us – the costumes were beautiful – a nice way to eat a nice meal. After, we headed out for some shopping, knowing there’d be taxis at 10 to take anyone back to the hotel. Steve and I just went up and down the immediate street outside the restaurant – there’s so much to look at…the tailors want you, the massage parlors want you…I found a 7-11 and got a fountain soda…with ice! We finished up and decided to call it a night so Steve hailed a cab. We’d all been told to get business cards from the hotel – the first cab we got in didn’t think he knew where to take us so we got out. The next was more confident and off we went. He tried to take us to another hotel but Steve convinced him that was wrong. Eventually, we found our home and headed off to bed. Our Bangkok adventure is almost over!

Last day on the island

There’s been some problems in the morning with the other bungalows. Not everyone gets to the bus on time and the driver doesn’t wait. We had to go back this morning for Ted, Brenden, Andy and Scott. They were all set to hop on moto-taxis when we returned. I think they were disappointed! The morning seemed to go in slow motion – they only got 3 more rows of siding put on, it poured…but after lunch, it seemed EVERYONE came alive and started really working. I was on “chistle detail” most of the afternoon – the shutters and the windows had to have spots removed so the hinges would fit. 14 windows per house, 2 shutters per window…sawdust and splinters everywhere! Ryan (from China), Jason and I scrambled to get 4 windows complete – @ 5:30, they took them upstairs to try and get them nailed into place. Brent was on the roof, finishing the shingles. Mike was directing cleanup from the second floor. Everyone was pulled off of working on the second house today – it’s completely framed and the main roof posts are up but that’s where it sits. Wood shortage and man power was a little too divided to accomplish as much as we wanted to. We really finished at 6:30, took some group shots in front of the house and hurried to the boats. Steve’s boat had several folks diving off and swimming while their driver searched for their rudder in the muck. Esther jumped off her boat and swam over to ours. The water was really warm – Steve even went in, levi’s and all! Most of the ride back was under darkness – lightning behind all the islands, the moon was shining overhead – it was beautiful. Last meal at the restaurant – Mike thanked all of us and sent us on our way. Pickup tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. to head to Phuket – it’s about a 2 hour bus ride. Our flight out is at 1 p.m. to Bangkok. We’ve all been told that there is a Burger King at the Phuket Airport – the thought of a meal with no rice sounds wonderful!

How can it be Monday?

The final words Ted said last night were “fast breakfast and to the docks”…well, the sky opened up as we were eating breakfast and poured. We sat after we ate and Bob led us in a devotional and a prayer time. Rain ended and we headed out. Someone was fishing from our boat and cuaght a barracuda! He caught something else too but it snapped the lure off and escaped. We planed the boards for Som’s house this morning. It poured again and we all huddled under the tarps that were hung to protect the wood and the planer. It cooled the air quite a bit and ended fairly quickly. Scott replaced Jason as the master planer (Jason has been dying to get to work on the house) and we worked most of the day together. Framing is 3/4 done on the second house, the roof is mostly framed on the first house and the siding is going up on two sides of the first house. Ryan, Micah and Andy were “gecko-ing” during the afternoon – poor thing lost its tail at one point. Energy is low…we’re not going to be able to finish the houses – another team is coming next Monday – but it’s hard to not finish!