When I first started blogging I loved to document the unique things we saw everyday. We were constantly discovering new places to visit, and interesting things to spend our time doing. Somewhere in the two years that we've been here, my blogging focus has drastically changed. Maybe it's because things that once seemed odd, now seem normal. Or, things that surprised us, we now expect. Maybe it's because it just takes time to discover what really matters. I don't know what it is, but I've just noticed it, and although it may not be as fun to read about, I couldn't be happier. Looking through my last several weeks, I've realized that my focus has been almost entirely on people, rather than things. We always knew we loved the Thai people, right from the beginning. I've never been anywhere that could compare to the generous, warm-hearted people we've met here. I have tried not to grow accustomed to it, as I've known I will be returning to a country where for the most part, people are nice, but keep to themselves. After two years, how could I not absolutely fall in love with people here? This post is dedicated to people that we love, some of whom are pictured here from our week's activities. I wish I had pictures of everyone, but honestly, how could I possibly? At least this is a start.
We had a very memorable Family Home Evening on Monday night with two of our favorite Sri Lankan families. We always leave this family feeling physically stuffed with food, and spiritually fulfilled. Jeff shared a lesson, they sang a Sri Lankan song for us, we sang one of our favorites, we played a game, and then we ate and ate while we visited for as long as we could. I was kicking myself for not remembering the camera, but luckily, we have other pictures with them, like these that were taken at our ward Christmas Party on Friday.
And Brother Leon's family who was also with us...
There's something about this sweet sister. We can communicate very little, mostly through her son's translation (thank you Nitharshan, you are awesome!), but she has become like a sister. She has taken care of me, given me countless hugs and kisses, and become someone I'll never forget. Why she and I were dealt such different circumstances in life, I'll never know. We are equals as daughters of God, yet in her life, she has experienced things I can't even imagine. I admire her strength and faith through such trying times. I don't know how she does it, but I do know the Lord has a plan for them.
When we went to dinner, I delivered some fabric that my friend, Alice, had bought for her so she could make a dress for her daughter. She showed up to the Saturday night Stake event with a darling dress she had made for JANE! Can you believe this women? We couldn't keep it off Jane, so she wore it Saturday night We made sure Jane and Abby got a picture in their matching dresses on Sunday as well.
Jeff's had many chances to teach with the missionaries while we've been here. It's been an awesome opportunity for him, and I've loved having him be out with them as well. This is Susi, who he has met with many times, and was able to baptize several months ago. Susi is on his way to being a Canadian citizen (yay!) next week, after spending a week in IDC (Immigration Detention Center). We were thrilled to have one last chance to visit before he takes off just a few days after we do. I wish I could see all our refugee friends safely off, before we go. If I could have anything for Christmas, that would be it.
Thiva is also on his way to IDC, then off to Canada! We've got to start planning this Bangkok reunion in Canada so we can all meet up! (On a side note, when we were visiting our Nepalese friends in IDC this week to say goodbye, we ran into another friend who was going in for a week before his flight to Canada. It's nice to know that as awful as this IDC is, there will be many friends in there together this week, which is probably a huge part of their optimism as they enter.)
Brother Thasi we've gotten to know just recently, but he's great. We were happy to have him in our home recently, and hope he'll keep in touch too!
The You family is from Taiwan and have always been so incredible. Angelina is Jane's same age, and they get along really well, even with Angelina speaking mostly Chinese. Sylvia and Ryan run our nursery now and I love knowing those children are in such good hands!
For the last six weeks or so, I've been working with our newly formed French class in Primary. These three children have won me over! I have loved teaching them, training our friend, Taylor, to be their teacher (as he's one of the few french speakers in the ward), and spending time with these sweet siblings. They are full of life and LOTS of energy! Luckily, Taylor happens to be a professional boxer, so he can keep up with them just fine. They speak just a little more English than I do French (and if you know me, you know I don't speak French!). Luckily, I've learned that language barriers don't always need to be a problem, particularly with children.
Tuesday was going to be our "down" day in the week. It wasn't, which turned out to be a good thing. Napa and Nan met us at the church because they had bought a cake for Jane. While we met with the Stake Presidency, they took the children to the market for some toy hunting. It was a blessing for Jeff and me, and the kids had a blast.
We met up with them and Dipu for some dinner and to see the Christmas decor at Central World. It was a late night, but very worth it. Oh, how we love them!
Wednesday, we had a dinner date with our dear friends, Khun Anutra and Khun Bird. We were also thrilled that Koong came along, as Jack has always had a crush on her, and her on him. We had a fantastic meal that I took lots of pictures of, becuase the food was so exotic looking. Clam chowder with actual clam shells in it. Is that cool, or am I just really sheltered? We went for a good one of all of us outside the mall with the Christmas decor. We love these three, and can hardly believe we have to leave just two weeks before Anutra's graduation! What timing!
One of the things on Jack's list of things to do before we leave was to spend a day with his friend, Sasha. We had a holiday on Wednesday, so we had a fun lunchtime playdate, where we we hoped the kids were getting their fill of each other. These four just LOVE to play together.
Another on his list was to go over to Issac and Lucas' home to play. Luckily, Catherine volunteered to have him over, and even picked him up from school for me on one of our moving days. What an angel! Jack loves these boys, and I'm happy to know that we'll see them this summer as they have their leave in Utah and Idaho before starting their next job in DC. Plus,the movers accidentally packed one of their favorite toys Jack was borrowing. Oops. Like I said, they just pack things too quickly! Notice Elder Harmon in the background. Love that guy.
Friday was Jack's Christmas program at school. He was SO excited for what they had prepared, and why not? He got to spike up his hair and spray-paint it purple and grey! They did a lipsync, then sang some Christmas songs, and he got to hold this cool guitar the aide made for him.
Jack also was asked to do a special performance on his violin as part of the program. He was so excited about getting up on stage for the first time. He made one false start, but handled it perfectly. He played fantastically, and the audience went wild! He was so pleased with himself, and I loved that he had a chance to share his talent with others. That is why we have talents, right? I'll probably post the little video of his "Jingle Bells" sometime this week.
I just had to put this one in, aren't they cute?
Jack's special friend, Sonami, was sad to say goodbye. They had several playdates over this school term, and I became good friends with her mother, Akiko, as she helped me several times when I was in a bind. Another person I couldn't possibly repay! What a fun friend and a good family. Jane couldn't stop from cuddling Jack this day. I love it.
Saturday night at our Stake event, "Joy to the World", Jeff and I participated with a choir. Jeff sang of course (they always choose him to sing and I'm happy he's so willing!), and I played my violin on a few numbers. Doesn't Jeff look sharp in his choir get up? It was a fun group, and they really sounded great.
Jack has made many special friends here, but one of his favorites has been Sister Wendy Anderson. When we got a ride home with her and Bishop from the airport after seeing some friends off a while back, Jack sat with her and they visited the whole time. She's been a favorite friend ever since. He adores her, and she's such a natural. I loved the moment when she explained that she was just like the all-grown-up Wendy in the story of Peter Pan. Her home is always open to little boys. Jack loved that. She and Bishop have been like family the entire time we've been here. They're on their way to Saudi Arabia for two years, then hopefully back to Cardston where we're hoping they'll let us come and visit.
Sukma and the kids attended our Christmas celebration and the kids had one last night together. It was really fun, but sad to say goodbye, as always.
The kids were watching the stage performances here, I think. Notice Jane in her new dress, with her long socks. Remember, she started out the evening in pants, then couldn't resist her new dress. I couldn't decide if she looked like a candy cane or an oompa-loompa. Either way, she was cute!
The Neilsen family I've written about before. I love this family. Jeanette is such a super woman as she home schools all her children, teaches them piano, speaks fluent Thai, and is the most patient woman I've ever met! She's amazing, and I don't know how she does it all with her husband traveling the world much of the time. We're thrilled they have ties to Utah, so we know we'll get to see them again the next time they visit.
This is the Dzandu family. Eric, the father, is fantastic. His wife passed away some time ago, and he's raising his two children on his own. They are such great kids, and I've especially loved getting to know Patrick in Primary. They travel for several hours each way to get to church, and also make it for nearly all the mid-week activities. Amazing.
I broke down today as Jane had to say goodbye to Dipu, Napa, and Nan. It's almost harder for me to watch my children say goodbye than it is for me to do it. They've loved Jane and Jack like their own. Actually, Napa was telling some sister missionaries that came into Dipu's shop a while back that Jane was her daughter, as she showed off the "Janie shrine" at Dipu's desk. The sister laughed knowing full well who Jane was, as her family in Utah is my sister's neighbor. Oops! Napa knows she's not Jane's mother, but she certainly loves her like family! How could I, as a mother, not just absolutely love people who love my children like they do? I've never seen anyone care for them like this who wasn't family. It felt almost wrong to walk away after saying our goodbyes.
The DeJesus family, Curt, Crisse, and Neil. Jack and Curt have been good friends since they moved to Bangkok from the Philippines. To finish off strong, they took Jack for most of Saturday to the park and market, and they got some solid playtime in. Jack came home exhausted with a live fish and ice cream all over his face. Was that a good day or what? Crisse and Neil have stayed with us a number of times, and we will miss them all!
I had the perfect opportunity to get this picture of Jack's primary class during the transition. They are such sweet kids! From the left: Isaac, Lucas (or vice versa), Jack, Sophia, Carissa, Abby, Curt, Daniel, and Molly, and in the front, their teacher Naorwat. I was sad that their other teacher, Sis. Maskovich was still wrapping things up inside the room. She's been a fantastic teacher for this high-energy class.
On a happier note (my coping strategy), we do have high hopes that we will see Dipu and Napa again, as Dipu's hoping to take his custom tailoring business to Utah for small periods each year. So, if anyone's in the market for a good suit, look no further. He is the best.
When we first arrived here and I started to meet all these embassy families, I was totally jealous. I would LOVE to move around every two to three years, living in interesting places, experiencing the cultures, and meeting all kinds of people. Honestly, if that's all it was, I would love it. What I didn't think of is all the goodbyes they have to say every time they leave. My heart just couldn't take it. Maybe after a while I'd get calloused to the whole thing, but would I really want to be that way? I could pick up and move to a different country, attempt to learn a new language, and get used to living away from home, but I could never get used to leaving so many people behind. I don't know how they do it. For now, I'm sad to go, but I'm overjoyed to have this experience to remember for the rest of my life. I want to remember and keep in touch with everyone, but realistically, I know that doesn't always happen. No matter where we go, or who we hear from again, I will always have amazing memories of people we love, and who loved us in a way we never could have expected.
We leave a big chunk of our hearts in Thailand as we begin our journey home. We will continue our blog, (although eventually we'll have to change the name), not so much for our family and friends in Utah, who we started if for, because we hope we'll just be with YOU! We will continue it for all our family and friends in Bangkok who have now spread out all over the world. Thank you for being a part of our adventure, we've loved to share it with you and hope to make more and more memories as a new stage of our life begins.