Operation: Save Face - My Family Travels

You work your way through a mango, then discard the seed. Now you have tiny strings between your teeth, provided you just had the supermarket fake-out experience. Genuine fruit is found in the tropics.

Thailand is a beautiful country in Asia with heavenly versions of many common fruits. Wild Thai mangos have the same flavor as mass-produced mangos, without the internal strings that prohibit the fruit from melting in your mouth. The bananas’ flavor matches the rich concentration of banana chips, but the texture is simultaneously firm and gooey.

I wound up in Thailand when my school went to volunteer with ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency). When we arrived at the Bangkok International Airport, I saw a truck drive by with nobody in the “driver’s” seat. I realized they drive on the left side of the road and adapted to that concept while we were there. We spent the night at an Adventist school where my school’s former dean now works.

The next morning, we visited two Buddhist temples in Bangkok. One of them was built to house golden statues and the other temple, an unrestored pyramid with steep steps, was across the river. After a fourteen hour train ride to Chang Mai on the State Railway of Thailand; we arrived at our host village in the mountains and rested for a day and visited Wat Rong Khun, a complex of temples being built to portray modern Buddhism.

We spent eight days in the village helping them with a number of construction projects. A group of us traveled to nearby villages to provide dental services. Transportation away from the village was provided by four pickups. Riding in the cab was optional. One group built a playground. For the first two work days, we installed a pipe to deliver safe drinking water from the spring to the village homes. During remaining work days, we split up into six groups. Four groups each built a latrine/shower. The other two built water tanks.

The villagers threw a party on our last evening there. They set up a rope swing with a bamboo frame. They donned their traditional outfits and we exchanged cultural dances. Then, we all started dancing around a circle pounding bamboo staffs on the ground while percussion instruments set the beat.

After we left the village, we spent a few days exploring tourist areas. We visited the Chang Mai weekly night market. In the morning, we flew to Bangkok for supper at the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the tallest building in Thailand. Then we flew to Phukat, an island in the southeast, for a couple days where we took a tour with Newgens Travel and stayed in a hostel. We went to the Phukat Fanta Sea theme park, had supper at a fancy buffet and saw a show about a magic elephant. The next day, we went to the Patong Beach instead of scuba diving due to high winds. On our last tourist day we rode elephants at the Island Safari elephant sanctuary and saw a few animal shows before we had to leave for home.

I have three pieces of advice to anyone planning a trip to Thailand. Remember save face, remember, “Y,” and bring a calculator. Save face means grinning when something is going wrong. I expressed, “I don’t understand,” many times with an excaudated grin. If you aren’t sure what “Y’ing” is, just visit any fast food and copy their greeting. The more important you are the later you Y. The calculator will be useful if you are bartering when your exchange rate is ugly.

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