Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Moving in a New Direction

Thailand Coming to a Close

My time in Thailand is quickly coming to a close as I will be transitioning out of my position with Sop Slavery, and heading back to the states in June.

It is hard to put into words the fun it has been living in Thailand, and the many things I've learned and experienced. I've been able to see so many cool things, and been a part of many neat opportunities.

I'm sad to be saying goodbye to this place, but excited for the future.

I'm honestly not quite sure what the next direction is for me. I'll initially be visiting family over the summer, and then from there I may pursue some different possibilities.

I want to thank everyone who has visited and read my blog, prayed for the work here, and supported me financially. I really appreciate each of you.

I am maintaining ties with Stop Slavery, and may continue to offer help on their website from time to time.

If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to share them in the comments below.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Back to the Thai Life

Thailand to Turkey and Back Again

Traveling for four out of the last six weeks has been a lot of fun and filled with great people, adventures, and amazing sights. But it is nice to be back in Chiang Mai and have a chance to catch up on things, and be a little more productive.

Ankara, the capital of Turkey, has a castle in the city center that is around 2000 years old
It started with a week long trip to Cambodia, which I covered in the last blog post. Then I had a few days to unpack, wash clothes, and pack up as many cold weather items as I had to head for Turkey.

I was able to meet up with my sister in Turkey, and we spent a week traveling through Istanbul, and then to Prague.

Streets of Prague
Coming back from Prague, I stayed on in Turkey for another two weeks checking out the local sights in the city my sister lives in, and some other nearby attractions like Cappidocia.

Each location I visited had something new to explore, or often many new things to explore. I enjoyed the time in Istanbul for touring through the amazing historical buildings that seem to be on every corner. Every stop was at a building that had been standing in that location for hundreds, or more often, thousands of years.

We stayed very close to Galata Tower. And, although it was built in 1348, seemed so apart of everyday life that it couldn't be such a historical building. We strolled past it several times, and had coffee at a cafe just nearby.

It is amazing to me to imagine that little has changed as far as the floor plan of that area in hundreds of years, which probably explains the steep, narrow and windy cobblestone streets. For almost all of my life I have lived in cities that might have had a historical building or two, but the actual city was typically 50-100 years old (or at least the construction was).

Hiking Cappidocia on a snowy gray day
Prague, which was probably my favorite city, was also filled with historical buildings, castles, churches and bridges. There was also plenty of amazing food, coffee and other drinks. It was a nice balance, to go from sightseeing at a cathedral, to enjoying an espresso or latte in a warm cafe.

I unknowingly happened to make my travel plans for Turkey and Prague to coincide with the final week of serious winter. So it was a bit of a transition to go from 100 degree weather in Chiang Mai and Cambodia, to snow and freezing temperatures in Turkey and Prague. I generally like cold, but this was a drastic change. It didn't stop me from making a snowball or two.

The trip concluded with a couple weeks at a more relaxed pace in Turkey and a weekend trip to Cappidocia. We stayed in Goreme while checking out the completely unique and surreal place known as Cappidocia and I would recommend you look it up if you haven't heard of it. Hiking through and viewing the landscapes filled with towering columns of rock, each with a room, house or even church carved into them, was a sight I will not soon forget. Check it out, its worth it.

The whole trip was an exciting opportunity to get lots of practice taking pictures of new places and fun cities. I enjoyed the challenge of coming upon a nice setting and trying to figure out the best way to photograph it. Sometimes it worked out well, other times it didn't, but I learned several new things along the way. The best way to learn something is to practice it.

Well, this sort of covers what I've been up to lately. I hope you enjoy the pictures I took while on the adventure. I am really thankful that I had the chance to see Turkey, and visit my sister and Thankful the way God worked through many different situations throughout the trip.

I'm back to my normal routine volunteering with StopSlavery for a month or so, before another adventure might pull me across the globe again.

Thanks for visiting and leave a comment if you have thoughts or questions!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Next Stop: Turkey

A Month of Traveling

The team built this church last year, and then applied a protective
coat to the wood this year along with other projects.
March has already been a busy month, with a week long trip to Cambodia done, I'm heading off tomorrow for Turkey.

Last week I was out in Cambodia with several others from the Stop Slavery team partnering with a missions team from Japan who were working on some projects in local villages.

It was a really fun time, and amazing to see the things God is doing in Cambodia with some indigenous missionaries and pastors, as well as short term mission teams from other countries.

One of the temples near Angkor Wat
It seems like Cambodia could be on the edge of many changes, including economically, and spiritually.

At Angkor Wat with some of the guys
from the mission team
I had a chance to spend most of a day touring around Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples which was a neat opportunity. I had visited Angkor Wat last year, but I was still impressed on this trip by the size, and detail of all the temples.

Although I was worn out after the trip to Cambodia, I was very encouraged from the time spent there with many amazing people.

A fast transition now leads me to my next adventure - visiting my sister in Turkey! I would appreciate prayers as I travel there, and as we then travel around Turkey and some of Europe.

Thanks for visiting and reading this short update! I'll be sure to share some photos from Turkey in the near future!

Friday, March 13, 2015

BAM! And More Travels

After a few busy weeks, I'll be back on the road (well, technically, in the air) on Monday traveling over to Cambodia for a week to visit people, an orphanage, and help out with a team coming in from another location to do some construction.

Exploring the countryside late one night
Life seems to be staying very busy since my short trip to Laos. I had a few weeks to focus on moving forward some projects with StopSlavery, and then last week I was able to join in with a Business as Missions (BAM) conference.

The BAM conference consisted of morning meetings with a guy (he had a real name, and a fake name, and I can't remember which was which, so he will just be 'guy') sharing information, tools, tips and many stories about doing business in risky locations around the world with the goal of using it as ministry.

It was a lot of fun to learn about how business as missions is one of many tools that can be used to reach the world, and especially areas that aren't open to missionaries. It was also exciting to see how passionate about doing good business this guy was, and how your business is your ministry (not just something you do to get money, or a visa) and it is sacred.

Another important point was that these businesses in struggling economies should be helping the local people. One obvious way they can and should do this is to provide jobs that have a good environment, and good pay.

Business as Missions is not the next big thing, but it is one exciting way that entrepreneurs can reach the world, and make a difference in the lives of people, both physically and spiritually.

This shot was from a lake I stopped at on the way to Laos. It was filled with pink flowers.

I am looking forward to sharing more on here about my trip to Cambodia, but I'll also be staying very busy once I get back, as I'm off on another trip for three weeks.

Thanks for checking in, and I would really appreciate prayers for the time in Cambodia, and for possible future opportunities.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

24 hours in Laos

My Experiences from Traveling to Laos for the Weekend

Last weekend I joined a few other friends to make a fast trip to Thailand's nearby neighbor, Laos. I had never been there, so I was eager to see what the country, culture and food would be like.

We took a taxi to the border of Laos and proceeded through the various steps to acquire a visa. It was a fairly quick process, and only a little sketchy, which is typical for Southeast Asia. Once we crossed over, we took another taxi the 30km to the capital, Vientiane.
A view of the town from the top of Victory Gate

I was immediately surprised as we went from very rural settings with only the main highways paved, to a full city, with a noticeably French/European feel.

The flag of Laos on the left
The roads were wide, with sidewalks wrapping around the square blocks. Many streets even had trees lining them in very ordered rows. Buildings were impressive, with balcony's and other features rarely seen in Thailand. However, none of the buildings looked very new, and it seemed as if the city hadn't changed too much in the last 15 years.

There were subtle signs of communism all around. The most obvious were the hammer and sickle flags. But the many different government buildings, some built in the style of Russian communist structures (large concrete, small windows and surrounded by iron fences) also gave it away. Visiting the History of Laos museum cleared any doubt.

I was very interested in the people who lived in this city, and country, and what their lives were like. I tried to take every opportunity to capture their activities. I wish I knew the language, so I could also hear their story.

The many cafes and restaurants were amazing. Lots of baked goods, coffee and other western foods that are a little more scarce in Thailand (although, there really are a lot of great western restaurants here as well, and CoCo's Curry).
Four cafe's in a row. Went to Joma several times and really enjoyed it.

After only 24 hours in Laos, it was time to get back to Thailand and back to the work I'm doing here. I left Laos with a new-found curiosity about the history of Laos, and with an amazement of how different it is compared to America, and even Thailand.

I hope you enjoy the sampling of photos from the trip, and leave a comment with your thoughts or questions!
Went out late in the evening to capture the Victory Gate.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Countryside of Thailand

Getting Outside the City

I grew up for part of my life in South Texas where the spaces were so wide open it would almost make you nervous. You could drive for miles and miles on straight roads and only see the occasional cow. 

While living in Japan, there wasn't quite the same space available to explore, bu there were still areas with very few people and long stretches of road winding around the coast.
And now in Thailand I've often found myself driving roads that loop out into the countryside, taking me to many interesting places and mountain views.

The other week I drove up to the top of Suthep mountain, where there was a few cherry trees with pink blossoms. It was a nice area, and reminded me of Nago mountain in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Trees on Doi Suthep
Last weekend I did the Samoeng loop, which takes you around Suthep mountain, past Samoeng village. It is a very popular drive that takes a couple hours. There are some neat rural areas with little villages populating a hillside. And there are some great views of the mountains as well.
A viewpoint along the Samoeng loop

Although I do enjoy landscapes, I'm going to be trying to share more photos of the people who live in these ares in the coming months.

Sunlight coming through the clouds over the hills of Northern Thailand.

I hope you enjoyed the photos from Northern Thailand, leave a comment if you have questions or thoughts.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Mountain Climbing

In the last few weeks I've been to the top of the first and third tallest mountains in Thailand.

But the experiences were very different.

Doi Inthanon

In late December I started off in the morning driving south. It was a 100 km drive each way, which on a moped feels a lot longer.

I use the term, 'mountain climbing' loosely with Doi Inthanon. In this case, by climb, I mean drive. (by the way, 'Doi' means mount or mountain in Thai)
The view from a little ways below the summit of Doi Inthanon.

There is a road that winds all the way up to the very top of the tallest mountain in Thailand. And at the top you are greeted with a rather unspectacular view of an old military base turned weather station, and a small glimpse of the horizon.
A little further back down the mountain there are some interesting temples with a great view, and there is a hike you can do that probably offers more opportunities for nice views (and mountain climbing).

It was a fun trip, but I was glad to get off the moped by the end of it.

Doi Chiang Dao

Doi Chiang Dao at Sunrise
Now this was some mountain climbing, at least much more so than Doi Inthanon.

I joined in with a father son group that does this trip every year. We left early on a Friday, traveling about an hour north of Chiang Mai to the ranger station near the base of the mountain.

This wasn't going to be an easy drive to the top, in fact, there are no roads to the summit. If you wanted to reach the peak of the third tallest mountain in Thailand, you had to hike there, over slippery trails carrying all your food, water and camping supplies.

But after a few hours of hiking, we made it to our camping spot for the night just a few hundred meters from the summit.

Camping so close to the top of the mountain gave me plenty of opportunities to enjoy the views, and I did, climbing up for the sunset and sunrise, and it was well worth the climb.

The following day everyone packed up and made the (much easier) hike back down the mountain. It was a great time of enjoying the outdoors, and building some new friendships.

Both mountains were a lot of fun, and offered different sights and experiences.

Sunset from the Summit of Doi Chiang Dao

I also enjoyed the chance to snap a few pictures, which I hope you enjoy!

Thanks for visiting!