02 December 2007

Journey to Bethlehem

Every year our Church in Thailand puts on an amazing Nativity celebration called "Journey to Bethlehem". I've really never seen anything like it. For my readers who have been with us from the beginning, you may remember me posting about it last year. It made for quite a week! But, before we get into that, here's a few from the rest of our week:

We just couldn't wait any later than Tuesday afternoon to get Jack and Scarlett back together after a week of not even seeing each other! We went over and were welcomed by a backyard picnic with a cake made especially for Jack. It said, "welcome back Jack". I'm sure it seemed like much more than a week to sweet little Scarlett. They had a great time playing together, and it is always fun to catch up with Heather and Jim.

Thursdays are a GREAT day for going to the market because the Thursday Market is open right by Jack's school. Clever name, don't you think? I wonder if it's only farangs that call it that? Anyway, after I drop Jack off at school, Jane and I usually head over there to see what's for sale, and we usually see many other mothers there doing the same sort of thing, although usually without child in tow. My friend, Sukma, is like me. We always have our little ones with us and people are worried when they see us without them. It's a bit of a challenge to take them to this market, especially now that they've temporarily narrowed a good part of it. Sukma and I went together this week and had a great time. The best part? Jane and Brandon LOVE being together. If we didn't already call enough attention to ourselves, now people were stopping to take pictures with BOTH of them! I love to see Jane find a friend she looks forward to being with so much, especially when I look forward to being with Brandon's mother just as much!

We had a very "Jack" moment on Thursday. Jack saw Janie's juice box straw and asks, "can I have that? Do you have any more?". I tell him "yes, and no, I don't have any more". He proceeds to take it and cut it into small pieces. A few minutes later, he approaches me with the tape asking, "can you tape these on?". He thought it was awesome to have "real" claws, so he could pretend to be a lion, lizard, cat, or whatever else. I don't know how long they lasted, as he was heading into quiet time shortly after, but I was impressed by the innovative mind of my 4 year old. I'm 27 and I don't think I would have thought to use a straw for claws.

Other events of the week? Jack came running out of his room on Thursday evening after throwing up all over his bed in his sleep. Not fun. We were up with him most of the night watching him be sick like we've never seen before. The next day when I called the school to say I was keeping him home to make sure he was over it, I found out he was one of at least 5 who were out that day with the SAME THING! I later have learned that even more children had it, and much worse than Jack. Some kids in his school were in the hospital, sharing rooms, receiving IV drips for their dehydration. The school administration was doing everything to pinpoint the problem. I tend to think some things get blown out of proportion here (e.g. the doctors being a little anxious to admit people, give meds, etc.), of course Jack got over his quickly, so that's probably just me being insensitive. Like when I was young and my sister, Joanna (love you, Jo!), used to always say she was car sick just so she could sit in the front seat. Yeah, right. Then one time, my dad had to pull over for her to throw up. Oops. I was a little more understanding after that. Anyway, sending your kid to school just comes with certain risks, such as picking up this bug that's going around. I'm hoping everyone will be there tomorrow feeling healthy and normal.

So on with the "Journey". This production literally takes hundreds of people to produce, everyone volunteering happily. They make the inside of our church barely recognizable with sheets painted with Bethlehem scenery. Each room has a different theme with different characters and speakers. Here's how it works. People walk into the parking lot, go to the first booth where they pick up a card with a time on it for when they can go through the journey in either Thai or English. They then can go and buy their "money" for 30 baht (90 cents), which is a small pouch with rocks in it. The rocks will buy fruit, food, drinks, ice cream, or cookies. I didn't eat much last year, but this year since I was there for at least 4 hours both nights, the kids and I ate dinner there both times, and it was delicious!

Tours for the "Journey" started every 5 min. from 6:15 until about 9:30pm. A guide would take each group from room to room which featured angels, wise men, King Herod, shepherds, the inn keeper, and Mary and Joseph. The characters were singing and speaking about their experiences during the time of Christ's birth. It's a fantastic way for children to get familiar with the Christmas story and a very touching experience.

This is our sweet friend from Sri Lanka. He pretty much followed me around all night, both nights, and I was happy to have him! I can see where a nanny would come in handy in situations like this because the kids wanted to run everywhere, and there were a LOT of people. He was extremely helpful to watch Jane while I was running here and there, or especially on Friday night when I was performing, he watched Jane the whole time. He is always SO happy and he and his brother call Jeff and I Auntie and Uncle. If I didn't already just want to adopt them into our family, I do now!

Besides the "Journey" and all the food, there was a stage with entertainment going on all night. Like I said, I played for a bit with Sister Alice Quan on Piano and a vocalist, Sister Breeze. I should have gotten a picture with Alice too, since she is becoming one of my favorite people ever. But, here is me with Breeze. I've met very few people who are as sincerely touched by music as she is.

Jack and Jane were so patient with me as I needed to rehearse with Breeze and Alice on Friday night. They ran around and played with whoever was there. It was nice to be in a contained room for a while. Of course, the cookies didn't hurt with keeping them grounded! Jack loved the shepherd's hats again this year, and much to Jane's enjoyment, they also provided angel halos for the girls!

This is Sarah Quan with the kids while I rehearsed with her mom. Sarah is 11 years old, but acts like she's a very mature 18 year old! She helped me while I was at her house earlier in the week too, and the kids love her. Sarah is also an extremely talented violinist! At first, it felt crazy to talk with the Quan family because they have Chinese origins, but they are as American as I am (parents grew up in Boston)! I'm just used to all Asians I come into contact with having an accent! I can't say enough about how much we LOVE this family!

Here's Jane being admired by many, as usual. On the left is Dpu from Nepal, middle is Balkrishna, and we've never met the woman.

Jack and Jane were thrilled to see their friend, Pinky, come to the church on Friday night! It was fun to have friends that we know from church and friends from elsewhere all there together!

My friend, Catherine Beck, was a guide for the "Journey". I was asked to do this as well, but was sad to realize it just wouldn't work because Jeff was an angel (very fitting, don't you think?) this year and was involved from start to finish! I just thought Catherine was looking good in her shepherds outfit. Nice!

Also on the stage was this awesome group of missionaries called "SYS", which stands for Latter-Day Saints, in Thai. These Elders were so great, and were the show stoppers for both nights. More about them later...

This is Jane as she watched the Elders being silly and singing songs. She LOVED them. I think we have a new "groupie" on our hands.

Jane LOVING her ice cream. I walked her over to the ice cream booth with a rock to buy it, but was visiting with someone and wasn't paying attention. Of course, they give her 3 SCOOPS! She's never been more excited. I should have gotten a picture right when she got it!

Saturday night was a little more laid back because I wasn't performing or lugging my violin around with me everywhere. We were thrilled to have many friends come to see Jeff do his "angel" thing and enjoy the festivities! Just when I felt like I would going to lose it trying to keep my kids by me, Jeff's friend from work, Pink, showed up with her friend, Lisa. They were so excited to see the kids, and Jack and Janie warmed up to them very quickly. They arrived around 7:30, I think, but couldn't get into a tour until 8:50, so they just ate and played with the children the whole time! Such sweet girls!

Not too long after that, Anutra, Koong, and Bird showed up as well. They brought all kinds of things for the kids to play with from Ko Kret island where they had been during the day. So, for at least an hour, my kids (and any others who were interested) played with these bubbles. Jane was getting pretty good at it after a while!

Anutra brought this toy turtle made out of a coconut shell. When she told me she bought us a pet I started to get a little nervous because I know on Ko Kret they've got all kinds of critters. I was relieved when she pulled this out! My kids love it.

Jack couldn't get enough of Mary and Joseph last year, and it was Jane's turn this year! She kept going in and out, in and out, insisting I take pictures every time. Mary and Joseph were extremely patient and welcoming! This stable is here for picture purposes, as well as Mary and Joseph to sing sporadically. I kept thinking this might warm Jane up for Disneyland in less than a month! Yahoo!

I don't believe I've introduced Kurt yet. This is Jack's friend who just moved into our ward. He moved here with his Mom and Dad from the Philippines, and he and Jack have become fast and best friends! They are both very silly, very physical, and good boys. I love to watch them play together, and Kurt's parents are priceless! They were both singing as angels with Jeff both nights too, so Kurt was there with his Grandmother. As rough and tough as these boys are together, it's hilarious to see them never part ways without a tight hug. Kurt even kissed him on the cheek the other day.

This is the whole cast. Can you find Jeff up on the top row by King Herod? These volunteers sacrificed so much time and energy participating in this! Hours and hours of rehearsals and performances, not to mention all the behind the scenes work that's been going on for months! Very impressive! Last year about 3000 people attended this event. We haven't gotten the count for this year, but I suspect there were even more. It was incredible. Notice Jane watching in awe.

It was so much fun to see Jane enjoy the performances so much. She would just sit and watch the singers, totally content! This makes me excited for taking her to the shows at Disneyland. Can you tell it's on my mind a little bit?

Anybody else just let your daughters plop down right on the asphalt? I'm learning that I'm a little bit of a laid back mom. Maybe too laid back.

So, the missionaries... I was so impressed with what they are doing. I went and asked them if their mothers had been able to see what they are doing with their talents. They all looked at me as if a) they'd never thought of it or b) their mother's wouldn't be at all interested. I thought this was funny, but probably the same response my brother would have given (Jesse, am I right?). I told them I was going to share my video with their families, so I needed their email addresses. Honestly, if this was my brother or son doing this, I would LOVE to actually SEE it, not just hear about it. So, coming soon will be some video clips of these performing elders.

With the passing of Thanksgiving, and this wonderful Nativity experience this weekend, the Christmas season has finally began! But, I have to admit, it's hard to feel it when it's still hot, there's no snow, and just the thought of sitting by a fireplace makes me break into a sweat. After leaving church today (by myself because I had forgotten something and sent everyone ahead), I ran into a Thai man I had met over the weekend. We stopped and chatted and finally exchanged names. As we said our goodbyes, he turned back around and yelled, "Sister, Merry Christmas!". For some reason, that little farewell is what has finally triggered the season for me.


Jennifer said...

Journey to Bethlehem sounds very cool. What a nice way to spend the weekend. It reminds me of all the nights I spent at the Visitor Center.

As far as your upcoming Disneyland trip - is it just your family or are you meeting extendeds too?

Think of any questions you have and what week you will be coming and e-mail me. I'm sure I have a list of insider tips to make the Disney adventure even better. I'm excited for you to come with your kids.

Bryce Jr said...

Loved Jack's claws. And the story about your sister faking motion sickness for shotgun.

In high school, I used to walk home for lunch after suffering through the first half of the day and see a "sick" younger sister running around in the backyard. Oh man, they soon learned to lie down before I got home and moan a little when I walked in the door.

Hi Jeff. Miss you guys.

Team Hanni said...

What a cool production! How great that you got to all be part of it.

How exiting to go to Disneyland! Are you flying to CA and then right back to Thailand, or will you get to see some family??? FUN FUN!!!

I love Jo - I was the carsick one growing up too. Nobody put me in the front seat. Smart girl!

Great post today! Adorable kids!

Kellie "kiki" Openshaw said...

Wow, you have the greatest activities over there!
Are you going to Disneyland Hong Kong?
I love your posts, you are a beautiful writer.

Mindy said...

I probably should clarify about Disneyland! I guess I didn't mention much about it yet. We are heading to Hong Kong after Christmas to visit our temple. VERY EXCITING! We have decided to make a trip to Disneyland while we are there, also very exciting! So many fun things to look forward to this month!

Malia said...

Wow! I've said it before, but I really, REALLY love reading your posts. It makes me wonder how I get so stuck doing the same thing every day...or is that the difference between America and other countries? I'm not sure...but reading your blog sure does make me so happy! I love it!! Have I mentioned how beautiful your children are??

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