Ann Spohnhauer

September 18, 2016

Dear Friends, 1st Pres. Partners, Monday Evening Ladies, Colleagues, Neighbors, and Students, 

 

A very, very long-overdue greeting from Chiang Mai, Thailand! This update comes with gratitude for your thoughts, prayers and financial support; please know that this missionary service and journey would not be happening without you. Time is flying by with no end to the business in sight, so I’ll just cut to the chase and give you a list (in no particular order) of what has kept me too busy to write sooner!

 

Finally, rented a furnished house (see link below to pictures) but needed to purchase everything for the bathrooms, bedrooms (guest room for you all to come visit), and kitchen (including a convection-microwave—rarely a built-in oven here); however, I do have a western kitchen (no hot water in kitchen) which means it is “in” the house as opposed to being “out” on the back porch (keeps the heat down in the house). Purchased a used, low-mileage 2015 Nissan March that still has two years of warranty so needed to learn to drive on the left side of the road, use left hand to shift, learn not to turn on the windshield wipers when you want to turn on the blinker 🙂 and look to the left for the rear-view mirror. The millions of motorbikes/motorcycles swarm like flies/ants around you at every stop light and while driving on the roads they are always a danger in your blind spot on the left. Very often the driving is through local villages/neighborhoods/moobaans which are on very small one lane roads—very grateful for a little, tiny car. Yes, I have very good car insurance!

 

Things I’ve had to figure out and that have kept me busy: hunting down good-old refried beans (found them at my local grocery store finally); Visa stuff: residency visa to buy the car, every-90-day visa checks in person (the US may want to take note), in-person visit to authorities to obtain a permanent work permit; laundry: nice little washing machine on the back patio but no dryer so learning all the best techniques for hanging clothes to dry on a rack…then it rains violently 😉  there is an instant hot water heater in the shower (trust me, that would have been a deal breaker, and I would have been on the next flight to the US if there had not been); I talk to and enjoy the company of two tiny geckos that slip into the house somehow, but they stay up on the top of the very high ceilings and eat little bugs, so we are friends; I do not appreciate the insane little, dinky, tiny, speedy, moving-in-all-directions-at-once nearly invisible ants that can move in in under 30 seconds and move a dead bug on the floor, stick to an infinitesimal piece of stickiness on the counter, and worse of all (this is gross so beware) invade a recently-removed, sweaty piece of clothing (bras are their all-time favorites, and if you don’t have your glasses on, you put it on before you realize they are there—so gross!); where to go to get a haircut; the fact that you can’t drink the water that comes out of the facets, so you spend much of your time pouring water from a purchased bigger container into smaller containers that fit in the very small refrigerator; believe them when they say they have no idea what a “top” sheet is (I didn’t believe them and spent days looking for one—I would have been happy to find one that fit into a bassinet)…it is hot and a bit muggy here—it is monsoon season (but it only rains like every four days-we get less rain here in the north, but when it does rain, it would put Paso Robles under six feet of water—I have not figured out where all the water goes, but within an hour after it has stopped most every street or walkway is dried up???), anyway, because of the 87 degree temperatures that feel like 95 because of the humidity, most people sleep with the air conditioners on really cold, so instead of a top sheet (you knew I’d get back to this, didn’t you!), people use a huge, heavy comforter (don’t feel bad if you don’t get it; I don’t get it either)…well I can’t sleep with air conditioning, just a fan for me, but that means I want a top sheet…so the first person who comes to visit me is required to bring me a king- and queen-size top sheet—you will be glad you did!; you pay your rent by going to the bank that your landlord has an account at and deposit the money directly into his/her account then take a picture on your cell phone of the receipt and text it to the landlord 🙂 …and you want to pay your electric bill and cell phone: go to the local 7-11 (yes, a while back 7-11s took over Thailand and there is one at least every half mile on either side of the road) and hand them the bill and the money or give them your cell phone number;  speaking of “either side of the road,” they have very few cross streets on the major roads, so you have to go until you find a legal or illegal place to make a U-turn so you are on the correct side of the road; every Thai person smells like Downey fabric softener—the stores are loaded with it and even at a great distance you can smell it when you pass someone—cleanliness is a huge thing here; you do take your shoes off before entering any home and walk barefoot in their homes and often this is done at some restaurants and businesses…there is a dedicated foot washing spigot in the shower. I’m sure there is much more, but this is enough for now.

 

There is incredible beauty here seen in both the people and the outdoors, and I will write more about that next time. For now, I have included some pictures I’ve taken on walks and at the Royal Flora International Gardens –change to English in upper right corner (Grace International School-GIS bought each teacher a year pass so that we can go take long relaxing walks there). There is also a picture of “Buddy” my Betta fish…Bettas are indigenous to the rice paddies of Thailand…note: rice paddies are everywhere in among the neighborhoods, everywhere.

 

Next update I will also tell you more about Grace International School and its mission and what the churches are like here in Chiang Mai (I’ve attended four). However, I cannot write to you without sharing a few thoughts. To teach here we have had to learn about a number of cultures: missionary kids (MKs); third-culture kids (TCKs)—they don’t belong anywhere, not in their home country because they have not grown up there, not in Thailand because they are not Thai, so they actually create an international culture of their own; the South Korean culture because 27% of our students call that home; and the Thai culture because we live and work here and the majority of our support staff are Thai and 10% of our students are Thai. Yes, I have even learned some Thai words and phrases and there is a lot more to come. The GIS students are the most respectful, appreciative, academically focused, wonderful young people in the world! When the bell rings at the end of class, nearly every student stops and gets your attention and thanks you!!! Incredible!!! Most of the students’ parents are involved in various church-planting, translation, village assistance, or discipleship ministries here in Chiang Mai, in other areas of Thailand, or in the surrounding countries which includes dangerous work in Burma and China. A few times a week, I will start each class with prayer and daily make connections in our literature to biblical themes and texts.

 

I will end with a short story and prayer request. About a month ago on a Saturday morning, I was just musing to God about the emptiness of my house (you all know that my house in Paso Robles always had students and young people living there or visiting)…I was not in any way asking God to do anything about it, just realizing that it was so. That evening on my walk at sunset, I heard my name being called, and two of my senior students were walking behind me. We joined up and walked and explored together for a long time, then on the way back there is a little local place where you can get smoothies, so I treated each of us to one. It turns out that these students live in a Korean dorm just down the street from me (about 50 of our students live without their parents in dorms in the area) because these two students’ parents are missionaries in dangerous locations (Burma and China), and it is time for these students to attend a school from which they can matriculate to a four-year university (they have been either home-schooled or have attended village schools in a third language up until coming to GIS last year). Last weekend, they asked if they could come over to my house, so I fixed them nachos, guacamole and all, and we made homemade chocolate chip cookies together and ate them warm with ice cream and my chocolate sauce. So, please pray for Esther and Paeng…adjustment to living in a dorm away from their parents, safety for their parents while they minister to the needs of people living in dangerous circumstances, success in mastering English as their third language, direction for where they should apply to college and the finances to achieve that, and pray that the Lord will use me to be a surrogate parent as needed, an affirming teacher of their diligent academics, a mentor who shares with them the love of Christ, and a much needed friend.

Please consider this an official invitation to come and visit me! Right now there seems to be some incredibly low-cost flights ($551-$1000) directly to Chiang Mai on China Eastern (not a terrible airlines but not the best either) and a very good one Cathay Pacific. Once you get here, everything else will be covered for you except a meal here and there (ranges from $1.40 to $4.50<–best restaurants) and admission fees to amazing places (range: $2 to $10). Queen bed in the guest room just for you, and we can make more room for more people if necessary! Anytime from now through the end of January is a desirable time to visit Chiang Mai. I am off the week of October 22-30 if anyone likes spur of the moment and will be off at Christmas time also…but come even if I am working! If you are interested in visiting this summer, I will be back home in Paso Robles for June and July, but my house here will be available to anyone along with the car.

 

I’m sure my students will understand tomorrow that their papers are not graded because I needed to send you an update 😉  But, I really had better get to lesson planning and grading now. On my walks and on “my” Sunday mornings, I pray for you all and will be studying along with you as you study The Story (Amazon.com works anywhere in the world!). I loved all of your reply emails when I sent my previous update…hint, hint!!!

 

May the Lord richly bless you, delight you, watch over you, grow you, and work in and through you,

Anne