Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 2 in Thailand: So Far So Good!

After months of planning, praying, preparing, good-byes, and 30 hours of flying, I'm finally here! It was difficult to leave a lot of things - a lot of people - but leaving my mom & dad at the airport definitely wins the award for the most painful. I'm so thankful that they're so supportive of this new adventure!

It's Day 3 in Thailand and I couldn't be more enchanted by Chiang Mai. It's hot in the 80's-90's, jungly with a view of a mountain range, the pace feels slow despite the chaotic traffic (mostly motorbikes), the people are great and the food is amazing. I feel very safe, too. The most dangerous thing here is just trying to cross the street! Here's a picture of the street from my walk today:

I walked through a market yesterday and saw all kinds of food, including a table full of beetles, worms and other insects. I tried a bamboo worm, and it actually wasn't too bad until pieces of it got stuck on my tongue! Seeing the night market last night was a huge treat. Colorful lights hang everywhere, music is in the air, and there are endless numbers of things for sale. Going to and from on the back of a motorbike definitely added to the excitement!

I have the weekend to enjoy Chiang Mai, and I will get a ride to Mae Sot on Monday. I'll be there for the next few months doing ministry part time and language learning full time. It's a great place to be and I have a lot to learn. Like anything worth doing, it'll be hard but it'll be good.

More when I get to Mae Sot. Much love!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Language Plan & A Mountain Lion

Tomorrow is already the last day of PILAT! I’ve been in Colorado for the last two weeks at MTI's Principles in Language Acquisition Training program, and it's been amazing. The last week has been very busy with class, drills and spending time with new friends. I’ve had homework and papers to write, and yesterday I presented a plan for how I'll use PILAT's principles and methods to learn the language. I’m aware of the great task ahead of me to learn Thai (and Burmese!), but this training has given me the tools and determination I need to do it. Here's where the magic happens, and then me with the teachers:

In my free time, I’ve already been learning what I can in Thai, like common phrases, counting and writing their script. I haven’t memorized the alphabet yet, but I can pick out certain characters and sound out some words. Even if my reading is at a kindergaten level for now, I'll take it! They say that you take on a different personality in a new culture, and that speaking another language is like having a second soul. Time will tell what kind of Thai I’ll be!

I’ve made a point to get outside every day and enjoy the Colorado air, and I’ve enjoyed hiking with friends on a trail near the mountains. When I get extremely winded walking up the hills, I just blame it on the elevation :) I did have quite a scare a few days ago, when my friend and I saw a mountain lion cross the path about 20 feet ahead of us. We froze as we processed the image of the cougar-like figure, and reminded ourselves of the survival tips we had heard. Unfortunately, it involved not running, but trying to intimidate the animal and to fight it if needed. So, we started looking for sticks or any possible weapon, and slowly continued walking when we couldn’t find anything. At that point we thought to pray, and we can thank God that we didn’t see the mountain lion again! Nonetheless, it was a long walk home. Here's a picture from a less eventful hiking excursion after class:

Things will happen very fast from here. I’ll be back in Duluth on Saturday, and my flight to Thailand is on Tuesday. After my 30 hour flight and a +13 hour time difference, I’ll be in Chiang Mai by this time next week! Until then...

Love & Blessings!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Language Training in Colorado

I'm at Mission Training International (MTI) in Palmer Lake, Colorado, and I just completed Day 3 of a two week Language Acquisition training program called PILAT. I'm not here to learn Thai, but to learn how to learn a new language. There are about 30 of us here with destinations all over the world, and we're learning phonetics, the anatomy of our mouths, and how to break out of our 44-sound box. I have already made sounds I've never been able to make, like trilling my R, as well as sounds I never knew existed. My ear is sharpening up as I listen to other languages, so I'm able to repeat words more accurately. We've done exercises on how to build language comprehension, and today I was speaking and following instructions in Mandarin Chinese! I am convinced that this training will help me learn Thai faster and speak it better. The other reason I'm here, is that I'll implement this program as soon as I arrive in Thailand for other staff and volunteers as they learn Thai and/or Burmese. It's exciting - and terribly intimidating - to take on this project!

With perfect timing, the President of MTI spoke to us about fear yesterday morning. Minutes after I admitted to myself and God that I was overwhelmed and terrified of everything that lies ahead in the very near future - health, safety, finances, and especially failure - Steve Sweatman shared that "Do not be afraid" is the command that appears most often in the Bible. His study showed that there's always a strong presenting emotion with fear (I can attest to that), and that God will always always meet someone in the middle of it. He offers a way out ("For I am with you and will rescue you"), and usually adds something like Joshua 1:9: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go". Steve challenged us to jump into these scriptures when we feel afraid, and to let God speak personally to us through them. It has certainly gotten me through the last couple days, and has made more room for my absolute excitement for this new adventure!