DUDES!!!! Jet lag is still making this adjustment very difficult. I woke up at the ungodly hour of 1 AM, completely awake and ready for breakfast. We have all struggled to stay awake, but Andy and Jen have given us lots of work to occupy our tired minds and bodies.
Today, we planned to get everything ready for all of the Christmas festivities for this afternoon and tomorrow. We needed to go to the market to buy all of the last-minute supplies for baking and games. This adventure required us to split up-- Jen went to the Big C while Andy took all of us to the local market on the other side of the canal. If you look at Isaac's pictures, you will see some of the amazing things we saw as we walked through the slums, including fish, crabs, turtles, and edible bugs. We also took canoes across the canal.
The market itself is filled with people and a huge variety of food. It is divided into sections very much like a grocery store. One was dedicated solely to rice. There was white rice, sticky rice, brown,wild, etc. It was wrapped in plastic or loose in giant wooden barrels. The colors were so aesthetically pleasing and artfully arranged. There were many foods that can be commonly found in the USA, many that were unique to Asia, and others still that were distant relatives to our familiar fruits and veggies. It was a fascinating experience. The market was also teeming with people, both Thai and Western. Many vendors followed us around because they adore children, are were particularly interested in playing with red-headed Jude and Reuben. This also happens frequently on the streets. The people are curious and want to hold their hands or touch their face and say "Narak." This means "cute" in Thai. Their culture is very affectionate toward children, and we are a spectacle everywhere we go.
On our way back from the market, we passed through a huge amulet market that took up several blocks. Tents lined the streets very much like food vendors. Andy explained that these amulets were not jewelry. Thailand is a Buddhist country, and they worship these amulets as idols, believing they have magical powers.
After we regrouped at the apartment, we frantically started baking and planning. This afternoon,we were asked to prepare a game for the school children who would be receiving the shoe box presents at the Samaritan's purse program. We were expecting from 90-200 children, so we had to be really creative and plan a few games just in case things didn't work out. We also baked cookies, cake and pumpkin pie for the Christmas parties tonight and tomorrow.
At 3:30, we all went downstairs to the sanctuary for the program. We practiced singing in Thai and helped set up. At 4 pm, the children all filed in. Before the program, we were asked not to take any pictures of the children during the program. This was simply to avoid cultural discomfort. So, we only have pictures of the boxes themselves. During the program, the pastors of the Muang Thai Church led the children in a variety of silly songs, Christmas songs, and then a short story. Andy later translated this, saying that it was a story about a wall dividing land. On one side, there was paradise. The other side contained scarcity, death, and sadness. The animals on this side desperately wanted to get to paradise, but had no way through the wall. Eventually they find a door, but they must give up the sin clinging to them. This is a beautiful metaphor for the birth and gift of Jesus. The children were enthralled by the story.
After storytelling, we played the game "I am a Christmas Tree" in which the children worked together to make giant Christmas trees with their bodies on the floor. It was hysterical to watch them gleefully toss toilet paper-tinsel all around each other's heads. The group with the best trees received gift bags with presents. At first, I didn't believe this was a good idea, but the children started going through the bags and sharing the gifts with their friends and siblings who did not win. It was so touching to see them eagerly share their winnings. Following this activity, we passed out shoe boxes. When the children received their gift, they were ushered outside to eat dinner. Once we finished,we all joined them to watch them try on new shirts and show off their new toys. There were no tears of jealousy, nor any snatching things from each other as many American children are occasionally known to do. They rejoiced in each other's happiness, and it was truly inspiring.
After this program, we ate dinner: part 2 with the church's 20-something's group. I found myself drawn to two young girls, the granddaughters of the pastors, who dragged April and I all over the sanctuary and compound to admire puppies and ornaments. It was a lovely party, but we were all so exhausted that we left after an hour or so. Now, everyone is asleep and I am hoping to head that way soon. Before I go, I wish peace to each of you faithful readers. Christ be with you on this Christmas eve night, and may joy find you in the morning. Who knows what tomorrow may bring!
To all you Englewood folks: Remember the Christmas Kangeroo? Well, this year, it's the Christmas Gecko!! They are everywhere in Thailand, including the May's apartment walls. :)