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Thursday, April 4, 2013


Have I ever mentioned that I have the best husband ever?  We arrived in Paris, took the train to our hotel and he asked me to go sit down and wait while he checked in.  There around the corner were our wonderful friends, Don & Sue!  What am amazing gift from him to have contacted them and arranged the visit.  What a wonderful gift for them to take the time out of their busy lives to drive to Paris and spend a night and day with us!  I feel blessed to be surrounded by people who love me.
A Sue claims, "The best way to experience Paris is on foot."  So we spent the day wandering neighborhoods, sampling pastries, sipping coffee and sharing meaningful conversation.  It was just a little catch-up but in this international life we have to grab the opportunities to spend time with those we love because we are scattered all over this earth.  How can we pray meaningfully for people we don't invest in?  It takes conversation and listening to understand one another's heart.  Only then can we pray with purpose.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Last Day in Thailand

I have been taking photos like a mad woman, but I realize there is no way to capture the beauty of Thailand. 
Today Chad did a massive five dives starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 9 p.m.  He saw eels, swarms of barracuda, a sea turtle, rays and loads of other things.  He was delighted to spend a day under the water.
Today I wandered around the town soaking in the atmosphere.  Scooters dodging in and out, people playing in the water, fish cooking on an outside grill, massage oil  and incense lingering in the air.  My camera hung around my neck and I found myself mainly drawn to the water, wadding in until my dress was soaked, taking pictures of the boats.  The boats are dashingly colorful.  Bright hues contrast with pastels.  Ribbons tied around the sacred bows float lazily in the breeze. 
I wandered into one of the many massage places along the beach.  An old Thai woman knelt beside me and commanded me to undress.  Unlike the fat women bathing topless on the beach, I am not comfortable with my nakedness.  I used my bartering skills to convince her that my one piece only needed to come off to my waist.  She chuckled and complied, I'm sure a bit amused at my conservative nature.  The one hour oil massage was so relaxing that I fear next time I will strip completely uncaring what the world sees!
Tomorrow we will take the two hour boat back to Ka Samui.  I will sit on the deck taking in the last of the tropical sea.  We will board the plane and return to Bangkok. Sleep the night and board another plane.  I hope I have the opportunity to return to this magical country.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sailing Away to a Deserted Island

 We are on Koh Tao Island, a diver's paradise.  That was our plan for our time here.  At $25-30 a dive including all equipment, it is one of the cheapest places we have visited.  But due to a series of errors and forgetting the dive computer we both had to take the refresher course with homework and everything.  Thank goodness for the Internet  because every question we were a bit unsure about I just googled. No digging through the book to find the answers when they were just a click away!  After a session with the instructor we had to complete 20 skills underwater.  This was the beginning of the end for me.  Having to sit there submerged, take off your mask and buddy breathe while trying to understand the underwater scuba lingo of the instructor was incredibly draining.   We already know my forte is not foreign languages and it apparently it gets worse if I'm in a claustrophobic situation.
With the refresher course completed, the boat changed locations and we were ready to do some diving.  The water was warm with great visibility. The first challenge for me was getting down. I have a miserable time equalizing my ears. I fight blinding headaches and pain in my ears.  I slowly work my way up and down the rope, hopefully going more down than up, trying to equalize the pressure.  I tried every trick I have been told - swallow, pinch your nose and blow, grind your jaw and lay horizontally.  I finally made it, but by that point I think I had swallowed a ton of air and continually found myself floating up. The first half of the dive was great. Lots of colorful fish, interesting coral and the best little cotton ball things in bright colors (Christmas tree worms)  When you passed over the coral they would pop down into their holes.  Pop, pop, pop.  Then slowly they would begin to sprout again.  The second half of the dive was miserable for me.  I became nauseated probably because of all the air I had swallowed.  I know you can puke into your regulator and still breathe fine, but who really wants to test this out while sitting on the bottom of the ocean floor?  Then suddenly the ocean started spinning.  I couldn't discern which way to swim.  At the same time I felt as though I was spinning in the opposite direction.  Fortunately this did not make me feel panicked, rather I kept breathing and tried to signal to Chad that "I'm dizzy" and "Please hold my hand" -two signals they did not teach us.  Chad of course having no clue what was going on thought I was trying to point out a cool fish.  The dizzying slowed and I found that if I focused on one person and didn't turn my eyes to look at anything I could swim without dizziness. 
Now that I am safely on land and have had a good night of sleep to evaluate the situation, I am not inclined to think I will ever go diving again. I gave it a good go and I feel no desire to put myself in that situation again.
Dinner was marvelous. We walked through the stalls of coffee shops, T-shirt stores, bars and restaurants and picked a beachside BBQ with fresh fish nestled in ice laying ready for the grill.  Roasted cashews and squid for an appetizer, girly drinks, waters, barracuda and red snapper prepared with Thai seasonings for the main with a sunset over the ocean to die for all for only 30 bucks.  
We hopped on our moped and enjoyed the night ride back to our hotel.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Playing With Animals

The conference is done so today is Chad's choice on activities:  stay in the city and tour all the things I did over the week, or hire a driver and get out of town and visit a few of the things we had read about.  Because "out of town" activities include animals, it was an easy choice for Chad!
We began passing stands selling bags of salt.  Large bags and much larger bags.  Sea water is pumped onto these fields.  Over several months the water evaporates and sea salt is left behind.  They rake the salt into little mounds then I guess they bag it and sell it along the road.  They probably export it as well and it's probably sitting in your cabinet!  Of course we bought a bag.  5# was the smallest bag and now I look at it wondering when we will use it.

We spent the morning in a boat checking out the floating market.  I had heard it wasn't that great, but I loved it!  In a city of canals boats are the traditional transportation.  It only makes sense then that you would load up your boat with your goods and sell the products to others in town who are floating by.  Boats laden with fruit and spices and trinkets passed by.  There were even grills and open fires with meat and noodles cooking.  Chad enjoyed a lunch of "river food"!

I think the Tiger Temple was Chad's highlight of the trip.  What began with a monk originally rescuing one tiger grew until the place became overrun.  I actually never did see a temple but rather a large safari like property with different areas for the animals to roam and play when not playing with humans.  First we were taken to an area where several large tigers were laying around.  They were on a chain with an employee at each stake to care for the welfare of that tiger.  We went up and petted one while a volunteer happily took pictures.  It was a pretty quick step up, pet the tiger and move on set-up but just being that close to these huge creatures was amazing. 

Next stop was the tiger cub room.  Around 6 tiger cubs from 2 months up to 6 months were playing here.  They just let us in, gave us a few instructions then let us play.  These tigers were just like little kittens   Life is one big game to these little guys.  The rolled around and chased toys and had a little growl that really wasn't that intimidating.   Chad just played and wrestled and had a wonderful time.  The cubs were amazingly gentle with their paws.  They would bat a bit at you but never put out their claws.  Soon the bottles came out and we got to feed them their lunch.

Next stop was where the really large tigers were laying around.  Here they take you up to a tiger, pick-up his head, have you scoot under and plop the head down on your lap.  Thunk.  These tigers seem a little too docile.  The guide claims it's because they are well feed and taken care of.  I don't know - possibly?  Regardless, it was an unforgettable experience to be that close to a tiger, to sink my fingers into their fur and give them a good belly rub.

Bath time for the elephants!  After hauling myself onto her back in the middle of the river I was handed a scrub brush.  I quickly realized this was just a game for the already very clean elephant.  She seemed to think it great fun to fill her trunk with water and give us a good dosing.  The river was warm and the air warmer.  It was loads of fun.  The guide told me to hold onto her ears and so I innocently did, not knowing what was coming.  The next thing I knew I felt myself thrown into the water, lifted out and thrown in again.  I simply couldn't hold on and tumbled into the river.  The game was "see who can hold on the longest".   Chad did quiet well as she tossed her head from side to side - down in the river, up and over on the other side.  We tired long before she did and so we decided to have a little game of splashing before posing on her trunk.  

Seated high on her back we rode out of the river, up the path and down the road.  I was surprised with how safe I felt perched up there.  Much better than riding horses.