31 August 2008

Princess, parachute, and the Peiris family

Do you ever have those weeks that feel like 3 weeks in ONE? Yes? That was ours this week! It was wonderful, crazy, busy, and filled with things and people we love.

I mentioned a while back that I was asked to play in a concert by my friend's husband. Since then, I've been more motivated to get my violin out and I have absolutely loved it! I haven't been practicing hours a day, like I used to, but whatever I've fit in has felt SO good. It reminds me of finding money hidden in an old wallet. You know the feeling. It used to be yours, but you lost it and have gradually forgotten about it, yet it was still there, hiding. Now that you've found it you think, WOW! What a bonus! I've felt that way. I love playing my violin, and being in Thailand has been the longest I've been away from it for the 25 years I've played. I'm not playing how I once did, but it doesn't even matter. I love it! And, as a side note, with all this playing, and now that we are certain we're returning to the States in December, I emailed the administrator for the Orchestra at Temple Square. I just wanted to ask him, with all the changes that have happened in the last two years, what I needed to do to get back into the orchestra. This sweet man said, "What do you need to do? Come home!". Just one more thing to look forward to!

So, the reason all of this has been in my thoughts is because the concert was this week. We had a rehearsal and short recording session on Monday night that was quite an ordeal just to get to! My baby-sitter was late (the buffer between my departure and Jeff's arrival), and I couldn't get a taxi because, come to find out, the university where the rehearsal was was SO far away! When I finally got a taxi, I'm sure he went at least 20 km in the wrong direction, and although he was always nice, I thought that he might just dump me on the side of the road and head back into the city! The taxi cost was almost 500 baht ($15), plus 125 baht ($3.50) for tolls! I was dying! I've never had to pay this much for a taxi before! Needless to say, I was also late. Nice first impression, eh?

So, to make a long story short, we rehearsed Monday, and the concert was Tuesday. It was a 12 piece string section, with a few woodwinds, a jazz bassist (very cool), and a drum set for a few numbers. It was a nice little ensemble that came together well in the end, thanks to our awesome conductor, Bundit. This picture is actually of Bundit's wife, Mary Jane, and the other soloist rehearsing with the piano during our break. I had no way of getting a picture of the actual ensemble since I was IN it! I loved being in a rehearsal again, and although it was quite grueling, it felt nice to get a feel for things again.

Until the night of, I had no idea what the concert was actually for. It turned out to be a 50th anniversary for a big company over here. And, my goodness, it was AMAZING! It was held in the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Apparently, this is not only the best hotel in Bangkok, but one of the best hotels in the entire world! (as I came home that night, my neighbor upstairs was SHOCKED that I'd never been before. I guess they go for "Sunday Brunch" once or twice a month! Yes, we don't quite fit into this expat community in oh, so many ways!) It was an experience just to ENTER this hotel. On my way to our room before the sound check which was a few hours before everyone arrived, I saw three things. People putting new carpet in the hallway, one room with a couple dozen waiters sitting in rows on the carpet watching their "coach" lay out the game plan, and the best was the waiters in the ballroom, who were actually practicing their serving. Honestly, it was right out of a movie. They got the cue from someone and each waiter around the head table presented the "main course" at the exact same time! One waiter for each guest. It was pretty impressive. I sneaked a few shots of the set-up, before the guests arrived. It was a good set-up, although I thought the fog machine was a bit much when we first arrived!

The table settings were amazing. They lit the candles (although I don't know how) on all the tall ones, and the other centerpieces were these beautiful traditional Thai headpieces called "cha-da". It was all gorgeous. Fit for a Queen. Or, at least a princess, who was actually in attendence! I'm sure I'll never get the chance to play for a real princess again in my life, so it was neat to look out and see her there. There are three princesses in Thailand, and she's the one I know as "the one everybody loves".

It was nice to play with a group again, and also exciting to have my dear friend, Mary Jane, there that night too. She was my first friend in Thailand and has remained absolutely consistent the entire two years we've been here. She's such the super-woman in my eyes. I admire her in so many ways, but the one that always impresses me the most is how she's been able to completely immerse herself into this Thai/expat lifestyle, yet keep her priorities completely in place. She's found a balance I've found to be quite rare in expats. Her voice is gorgeous, and she and Bundit are an amazing team of entertainers. They really are just one amazing family!

So, after this whole concert thing, I felt like I could finally get back to real life! Jack's been loving school, and especially loves getting a new reading book every day! He is reading quite well and is in the most advanced books his teacher has in the classroom. He LOVES school, and thankfully, school loves him too. This is a picture of Jane on the playground while we were picking Jack up. I loved the sandy feet and her toothy smile. (Heidi, doesn't this remind you of that picture of Ellie from last summer at the park?)

Swimming is a big part of our life here, if you haven't noticed. My kids love it and are always thrilled to head to the pool in the afternoons! Can you tell? We'll definitely miss having access to a pool whenever we want!

Lots of Jane pictures this week. Jane was glowing with Jeff kissing her on the cheeks yesterday. I don't know why, we kiss her all the time! But, she LOVES her Daddy, and she definitely prefers him over me when she has a choice. I wouldn't have it any other way. I love watching them together. In her hand, her favorite ice cream treat. What little girl doesn't want sprinkles?

Anutra came over this week, and as always, brought something for the kids. I was thrilled to see that it wasn't candy, but a fun sticker/sand craft. The kids, with Jeff and Anutra's help, made their creations, and a huge mess in the process. It was great fun and they were so proud afterward!

We were happy that Khun Bird could come over after work, although there wasn't much play time left! Jane always jumps for joy when she knows Bird is coming over! There's really someting special about Khun Bird, and we're always thrilled to have him and Anutra with us! It was BLT night, something they had never had before. I'm sure they were thinking our food is SO bland, because compared to Thai food, it definitely is!

Jack got "invincible" this week and got to choose something from my store. He chose a Woody and Buzz with parachutes combo. Of course, we have to do everything in twos these days! So, Jeff took the kids down while I was at the gym to try them out! Jack was, and still is, loving throwing his everywhere, but for some reason, Jane was more interested in talking to the cleaning lady! Thank goodness for bunkbeds that makes parachuting fun, even indoors! (I'll never get over the GREEN here. I love it.)

Saturday, we were invited to dinner in the home of a family we know from church. The Peiris family is from Sri Lanka, yet they speak a different language than almost every other Sri Lankan family in the ward. It was interesting to learn from them about the civil war that is occuring right now in their country. As we read the summary of their experiences that forced them to flee to Thailand, Jeff and I couldn't keep track of how many times their lives had been threatened, guns had been pulled on them, and all they ways they had attempted to find safety. This sweet family left everything behind (and they had a LOT) so they could be somewhere safe. They are currently waiting to be accepted by a third country, and as far as we can tell, it's looking good. We have high hopes that they will leave Thailand before we do, and nothing would make us happier!

Before this night, I didn't feel like I knew this family very well, but Jeff had had many chances to help Nilanta with various things and visit with them both. I knew their children, Dushan, because he's in primary (and one of the most amazing 8 year olds I've ever known) and Yohan, who is in nursery with Jane. Chandra, the mother, says that Yohan calls every little blonde doll or girl they see, "Jane". Nilanti, the daughter, is an amazing girl. She's a second mother to her brothers, and was so happy and helpful the entire time we were there. She is going to be an amazing mother someday!

From what I gathered, I'm pretty sure Chandra and Nilanti were cooking all day long in preparation for our arrival at 6:30pm. I couldn't believe all the food! Nilanta wouldn't let us serve ourselves, and now I know why. As soon as I would say, "that's enough", he would add two more spoonfuls! The family didn't eat because they don't eat until very late (the norm for Sri Lankans we are finding out), so they just served, visited, and watched us eat. It was to our disadvantage though that they had their hands free, because when we would only have a couple bites left of something, they would pile on a whole other serving. There was: fried chicken, Sri Lankan chips, fried mushrooms, rice, green salad, some other kind of cucumber/tomato salad, and french fries. Plus, before this, they served muffins and sugar wafer cookies with orange juice! Then, after this main course, they brought out guava (Jack loves this) and papaya, which I was assuming was dessert. Nope. Then, they served ice cream. I can't believe they let me get away without eating ice cream! They wouldn't take no for anything else! The food was amazing, but Jeff and I both felt like they were going to have to roll us out the door!

The whole family was so patient with the children. Nilanta kept saying, "don't worry about the children. We know children! Let them jump and play!" We were happy to be in a home where they understand that children need to be active! The kids were jumping on the bed, walking on the furniture and watching movies while we were there. Their room is just that, a room. There's nowhere else to go, but I am always impressed with how they make the most out of what room they have! Everything had its place!

As you can see in this picture, Jane is spoiled. I try to deny it, but I just can't. She gets SO babied here. They were feeding her each spoonful of dinner and holding her juice for her. We'll let her enjoy it while she can!

We loved spending this evening in their home. They are one amazing family, and I feel like I have a lot to learn from them. They have SO much love, SO much patience, and they have come together in a way not every family would, given such a crisis. We're praying that they will be accepted sooner than expected and be able to start life anew!

Church was another marathon today, and we even missed two baptisms this morning! We did have two 8-year-olds from primary being baptized in the afternoon though, and it was an awesome time for them and their families! Alaina and Sunny are such sweet girls and it was fun to watch them share this day with each other!

Jane and Napa today. Lots of love with these two, as always!

After the baptism, or pretty much anything beyond the normal 3-hour block, there's usually some kind of refreshment, because people travel so far to get here! These refreshments turned into an amazing meal that fed pretty much everyone still left in the building! People just contribute wherever they're needed, and it's amazing to see everyone so willingly pull together to make an event run so smoothly. It was a great time for people who were at church for the first time, people who come every week, and everyone in between!

We were snapping a few pictures, and I had to post this one of some of my favorite women. This is me with Jamie Matthews, Jeanette Nielsen, and Alice Quan. I've been able to work with all of them in primary at one time or another and I've loved my contact with them. Amazing women!

So, needless to say, it's been a good week. I'm continually in awe of the people I meet here. As I look back on the people I met before I've been here, they too, are amazing people! I think I am really starting to learn to appreciate people's unique qualities and gifts. I know I've always been surrounded by exceptional people. Even looking back to my growing up years, I realize I've always been blessed to be around people who have been positive influences in my life. I think it's sticking out to me more and more lately. The things I'm experiencing here, I think many of them have gone on before in my life, but I just haven't fully appreciated them until now. Maybe I'm just finally growing up. Who knows? But, one thing is for sure, when we return to Utah, I'll be seeing things through a different set of eyes. Maybe not much has changed there, but I certainly have.


The Lee's said...

Hi Mindy. Looks like you guys have been busy. McKaila was looking at pictures with me and kept saying "I go to Jane's house again" She had such a blast over there. She also is talking about Jack and Jane all the time and how much she loves them. Then she'll start talking about Mindy. Its the cutest thing. Glad to see you guys are enjoying your time. (Right now McKaila is on her "phone" calling you and asking to go to your house)

Raelle said...

Hey Sister Hilman,
Sister Knudson told me about your blog and i just had to read it. I am so glad to that you write about the ward in Asoke. I miss being a missionary there. It is amazing that Dipu and Napa are getting married! Tell them hi for me. Miss you guys. I love hearing about your family and Thailand.

Sister Greer