Archive for May, 2010

h1

Finally!

05/31/2010

After four and a half weeks, the ceiling in the girls’ room is finally fixed. We will spare you all the drama behind why it took so long and just enjoy the fact that it is repaired. The girls haven’t slept in there yet because it still smells like paint, but their furniture is out of our room and the hallway and its rightful place. We have never enjoyed a slab of sheet rock more than we do right now.

And here are some recent pictures to show you what we have been up to lately.

Ann and I are so grateful that we were able to get away for one night on our 10th anniversary. We went to Chiang Rai for a night. Ning stayed at our house with the girls and the rest of the team helped coordinate meals and getting to school. We are so thankful to our team for making this happen. We are blessed to be surrounded by such great friends.

Here is the view from our hotel.

We enjoyed good steaks (there is no such thing in Phayao) at a nice restaurant. We were the only ones there, thus we had to take pictures of ourselves.

The next day was Esan’s birthday. He had a Star Wars theme. It was a great party. Princess Leia and R2D2 showed up for the festivities and especially enjoyed the light-saber popsicles.

And Meg loved blowing bubbles.

The other day we went out and bought helmets for the girls. I then took Brynn on an inaugural ride down the street to 7/11. She cried at first but then loved it once we got going.

Meg, on the other hand, was not too excited. Thus, we never made it out of the driveway. But, she loved wearing her ladybug helmet.

One day Brynn didn’t want to go to school, so we enticed her with a motorcycle ride to school. It worked. And now she loves going to school on Daddy’s motorcycle. (Grandparents, I am being extremely careful, I promise.)

Since we enjoyed getting away for one night so much, we told the Fikes and Binkleys that they need to do the same. So, a couple of nights ago the Fikes boys spent 24 hours at the Reese house. I actually got all five kids to sit and read a book together a few minutes.

And then things got crazy with the markers.

On a different note, I would love prayers for my grandparents. They are not doing very well, especially my grandmother after having multiple surgeries in recent weeks. It is surreal being so far away and hearing periodic reports about how they are doing. A huge part of me wants to head that way so I can be with them. Please pray for healing and peace for both of them. Thank you.

h1

Family Life in Phayao

05/22/2010

We continue to learn a lot about this little town called Phayao. I wish I could communicate all the insights we are gaining, but I don’t want to write that much and you don’t want to read that much. But, I do want to share some of the major things we are learning. Below you will find a report on our research related to family life in Phayao (click the link below for a pdf version). Chris, Haley, Ryan and I all conducted interviews on this topic and spent days synthesizing all the data. Ryan then did a great job of writing up a summary of our findings. He also explained our methodology of research. It is a bit long, but I at least wanted you to have the opportunity to see what we are doing and learning. We also have a few other, much shorter, reports I will post later on. This one, though, is fairly comprehensive and will give you a good perspective on what our research looks like.

Phayao Family Research Summary

h1

Ten Years, Baby!

05/20/2010

Derran and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary today and we can’t stop smiling! Ten years! What a milestone! I am so thankful for the man that Derran is. I love being his wife. The years have shaped and molded us into a better team with a deeper love than we could have imagined ten years ago. Thank you Lord for ten wonderful, challenging, joyful, sharpening, fun years as Derran and Ann Reese. Can’t wait to see where the next ten will take us! I love you more today Derran Reese than I did the day I married you, and I didn’t think that could be possible. Happy Tenth Anniversary!

h1

Update on Situation

05/19/2010

Thank you for your prayers on behalf of Thailand. And we ask that you please continue to pray for a peaceful resolution.

Today appears to have been a significant turning point. The government was able to push out the protesters from their central location in Bangkok. A number of the red shirt leaders surrendered. However, some protesters dispersed and began setting some buildings on fire in Bangkok. Protesters in two northeast provinces also set buildings on fire. Chiang Mai was put on a curfew tonight, but it was primarily cautionary in nature.

So, there is a lot of uncertainty in the air right now. However, most of the rioting seems to be coming from a smaller sect in reaction to the government push to end protesting in one particular area of Bangkok. We will see how things progress tomorrow.

We have seen a few protesters in Phayao, but it has been peaceful. Most everyone we talk to just wants it all to end peacefully. They want life to return to normal throughout Thailand. Thank you again for your prayers.

h1

Pray for Peace

05/16/2010

As many of you have seen on the news, Thailand is in the midst of some serious political turmoil. It seemed like a few days ago that things were headed in a good direction. However, the past 4 days have seen a turn for the worse. We are writing to ask you to pray for this situation. There is some hope that negotiations could happen tomorrow, but it is tenuous. Please pray that they will happen so that the violence will stop.

For us personally, we presently feel safe and have not been affected by the events in Bangkok. It seems to be contained there, for now. However, we do know people in Bangkok who are near the situation and people here who have loved ones in Bangkok. So, we ask you to please lift up the innocent people caught up in the violence. And please pray for the leaders of both sides to find a way to compromise and bring peace to this situation. Thank you for your prayers.

h1

Highlights

05/11/2010

We’ve had several fun things going on these days.

#1 First, the girls’ Nonnie and Poppy came for a visit for 9 days, and we had a great time with them. The girls were thrilled when they came around the corner and through customs at the airport. It did their hearts so good to be showered in hugs, kisses, laughter, and of course, lots of presents! We showed them around Phayao, they got a good feel for our lives here, and then gave it their big stamp of approval. We also took them to ride elephants! It was the girls’ first time. And, though they cried and were nervous for a lot of the half hour ride, they still talk about it and want to do it again! At one point, (after I’d given Brynn the big speech about this being really fun and she was going to ride it, like it or not), I started getting nervous up there, too! I scooted closer to Derran and kept giving him the nervous laugh and the “Are we going to be ok? If I fall, will I just break my leg or my skull too?” questions, and he finally said, “Ann, you need to pull yourself together, I can only deal with one nervous female up here”. I pulled myself together and had a good time. As did our almost-4-year-old.

#2 We got to go celebrate the wedding of a good friend in Chiang Mai over the weekend. They are a beautiful Christian couple, and it was a beautiful wedding. We’ve known O, the groom, for many years now, and just recently met the bride, Nid. It was so fun to see old friends at the ceremony and celebrate such a sweet couple. Here’s a picture of them and one of us giving a blessing to the couple during the string-tying ritual. (Here, Thais tie string around the wrists of the married couple as a symbol of being unified and as a way to bless the new couple.)

#3 And finally, we celebrated Brynn Kylar Reese turning four on May 9th. She has been talking about her birthday for MONTHS now, and we are all glad that it finally arrived. We celebrated her little life with pink donuts, a Princess party, a pink cake with pink icing, and much conversation about how she has grown and changed over the years. It is so cliche to say it, but I can’t believe she is four! I remember watching the World Cup holding Brynn as a newborn and thinking the next time the World Cup would come around this little bundle would be four….and here we are! We had her party in our neighbor’s yard because they have a lot more room to play. I found out a few hours before the party that they weren’t even going to be there–they were so sweet and wanted us to go ahead and enjoy ourselves whether they were there or not. They gave me the keys to their little schoolroom and made available anything we  would need. I was sad that they couldn’t be there, but was so blessed by their hospitality. Our team came and brought balloons and food and added such joy and fun to the party. All of our kids love each other so much, and it is a joy to watch their relationships grow. We played games, ate cake (that I created earlier that day) and cupcakes (that the girls decorated), and enjoyed time together. Last year we had a swim party in the backyard with pizza.  This year our party had grilled pork on a stick, sticky rice, glass noodle salad, and fresh mangos. Little different, but another fun celebration of Brynn! My only complaint was that it was so blasted hot even at 6 in the evening. Ok, even at 8:30 when we were cleaning up it was still so HOT! But Brynn enjoyed herself thoroughly. Well, except for the dress-up relay race when she wanted to put the gloves on correctly, with every finger in its place, which just doesn’t happen in dress-up relay races–so she gallantly pushed forward and finished that leg….then went and cried in the corner for the poor gloves that weren’t put on correctly. Girl after my own heart–if it doesn’t work just right, she and I have a hard time recovering. (Reminds me of a Schlitterbahn story our first year of marriage and a race with Derran’s family that didn’t go so well….) It’s safe to say, the Reese girls don’t necessarily thrive in competitive situations. Something to work on this year! Our sweet neighbors all came and that made us feel loved and accepted by  those around us. They gave Brynn gifts and stayed to talk and enjoy watching the kids play. We went to bed last night grateful for our little Brynn and the joy she is to us and to all those around her. It was a fun evening.

Roof update: We’ve been assured that it will be fixed this week sometime. We’re not holding our breath. I mean, is it really so bad to have a closet in your hallway, mattresses leaning against the wall in our room, and three beds crammed in the guest room? Laughing it off….laughing it off.

Bug update: Here are some shots of us eating some bugs a couple weeks ago. Apparently they only come out after a very hard rain (like the night our roof caved in), and are a real treat around here. Our neighbor fried some up, and we tried a couple….not too bad for a bug. Kinda salty. Crunchy. I’ll stop now.

Cute pictures update:

Sweet Meg–so funny and sweet. I just love this picture!

Precious Brynn–here she is catching up on some reading in a book her Daddy left on the couch….like father, like daughter….we like to start our girls reading at very high, contextually appropriate levels…:)

h1

“Being Thai”

05/05/2010

One of the topics we have spent time researching these past few months is the notion of Thai national identity. We began by interviewing people and asking broad questions like “What does ‘being Thai’ look like?” and “What words or phrases come to mind that are associated with ‘being Thai’?” We took some of those initial findings and conducted three focus groups—one with elderly women, one with college students, and one with high school teachers. I thought I might share some reflections we’ve had in light of that research. (And thank you to the 2 people who are going to keep reading past this opening paragraph.)

Throughout the interviews and focus groups, three words surfaced as being extremely significant in people’s view of Thai identity: king, religion and nationality. To be Thai means to love the king, love religion (Buddhism) and love the Thai nation. Almost everyone we talked to described the strong connection between “being Thai” and loving these three ideas. Their importance cannot be overrated.

But, if you paid attention in 8th grade Thai History, you would not be surprised that these three words top the list. In the beginning years of the 20th century, Thailand (called Siam at the time) was trying to become a unified nation. The monarchy tried to unify the previously disjointed kingdoms into one nation-state. A primary way to do this was pushing for everyone to rally around the idea of “love our nationality, love our religion, and love the king.” Over the following decades, these three concepts became part of everyone’s vernacular. In fact, children still recite this “creed” every morning before school.

In light of the historical significance of these three concepts, it did not surprise us that Thai identity is wrapped up in a strong love for the king, loyalty to their nation, and devotion to Buddhism. It helps explain the common phrase we have heard many times before: “To be Thai is to be Buddhist.” Part of this is due to the long history of devote Buddhists in this area, and part is due to the push for national unity based upon a common religion.

Beyond those three ideas, we also noticed a strong desire to hold onto traditional Thai values. Many people described “Thai-ness” in terms like generous, charitable, and respectful. These attributes are easy to observe as you live among Thai people. And these values are part of the reason we wanted to move here. When we talk about discerning ways in which the kingdom of God is reflected in Phayao culture, these characteristics quickly come to mind.

There are three other ideas that emerged which I find noteworthy. First, Thai people have a strong affinity towards longstanding traditions and rituals. Thai identity is formed by the relentless engagement in these particular customs. And these customs lead to cohesion among the communities of people who faithfully carry them out.

Second, “being Thai” means being people who are unified/harmonious. This attribute seemed especially significant among the people we talked to. Division and discord are frowned upon by people here. Thus, great effort is given to maintaining smooth relationships and presenting yourself and your community as harmonious with everyone.

Finally, a significant characteristic of Thai identity is the strong sense of gratitude people feel towards those who have helped them. For example, adult children will often financially provide for their parents and almost insist that they live in their home after retirement. This type of “paying back” is a way to show gratitude for all the help and care their parents provided over the years. Being a person who is ungrateful is one of the most dishonorable traits a person can have.

While I could say more about our research on Thai identity, this might give you a sense of what people in Phayao value. But more importantly, it might help you get a sense of the struggle we face in imagining what “being a Thai Christian” looks like. And all this can be daunting at times. Thankfully, his grace is sufficient for us, for power is made perfect in weakness.