Tag Archives: Thailand

Wanted: Crocodile Hunters


Thailand, where I live, is suffering from the worst flooding in over 50 years.  My home in Chiang Mai flooded a few weeks ago, but now the floods are in Bangkok, and most of the city is under water.

An unfortunate side effect of the flooding is the escape of man-eating reptiles.  This from the New York Times World a few days ago:

Thailand is one of the world’s chief exporters of crocodile products, and farms some 200,000 of the animals at 30 farms and 900 small breeding operations, according to the Fishery Department. About 100 were reported to be on the loose in Ayuttthaya, to the north of Bangkok…authorities have put out a call for crocodile hunters offering a reported bounty of 3,000 baht, or about $100 dollars each. (Seth Mydans – New York Times World http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/26/world/asia/flood-waters-in-bangkok-shut-domestic-airport.html?_r=1)

“Don’t worry,” they say later in the article, “these are friendly crocodiles who move slowly and willingly submit themselves to capture.” (…or something to that effect.)

The three men in this photo apparently believed it, and maybe it was true.  The crocodile might have willingly slipped into their restraining system.  But I doubt it.  He looks really uncomfortable.  And he was free!  Surely the gastronomic choices outside the breeding farm were much better than the slop he was fed inside.

So, assuming that he put up a bit of a fight, do you think the approximately $33 apiece that each of these men earned for risking life and limb was sufficient compensation?  Not for this crocodile hunter.

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Filed under Challenges, culture, funny, humor, motivation, overcoming obstacles, Rewards, Thailand

An Accidental Meeting?


I’m at a meeting in Bangkok this week, and today was our first day.  When I walked into the conference room, there was an elderly English man talking with one of my team members.

Turns out (stay with me while I connect the dots), he just relocated to Bangkok with his wife for some work she does.  They haven’t found a church yet, so when he was walking past the Bangkok Christian Guesthouse and saw that a church met there on Sundays, he went in to inquire about it at the front desk.

As he was about to leave, he asked if by chance they had ever heard of an organization called Compassion.  (Compassion is the Christian ministry that I work with, and we help poor children in developing nations around the world by working through the local church.)  The man had sponsored a child in Thailand for many years through us and wanted to get in touch with us to see if we knew any recent information about her.

The person at the desk thought he was part of our meeting and said, “Compassion is tomorrow, not today.”  Surprised and a little confused, he asked some questions and found out we were having a meeting at the guesthouse, so he returned this morning to talk with us, tell us stories about his sponsored child and show us her picture.

He doesn’t sponsor her anymore, because she is now 27 years old, but we took his information and are going to see if the Thai office can get the former sponsored child and her sponsors connected.

Some people believe in coincidences.  I don’t.  It was no accident that this man wandered past our hotel the day before we got here.  God was planning a reunion!

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Taking a Stand


I’m an expat living in Thailand, and I believe that this requires me to change certain behaviors that are normal and comfortable to me in order to be culturally sensitive.  When the Thai national anthem or the king’s song plays, everyone is supposed to stand (including foreigners) out of respect.  If I hear either song, I stand.  It’s a sign of respect to the country that is allowing my family to live on its soil.

In the mornings when I’m in town, I walk the kids to school, and my habit has become that I sit for half an hour or so doing my quiet time in the school’s courtyard.  At 8:00a, the large Thai school across the street from our school plays the national anthem.  I always stand, but many times, I’m the only one.  The other foreigners typically continue their conversations, and even the Thais working at our school only stop what they are doing occasionally.

Standing is a simple gesture, but when you are the only one doing it, it’s easy to feel foolish.  I look around at everyone doing their own thing, and I wonder, “Am I over-doing this respect thing?”  “If no one else is doing it, maybe it’s not really expected.”  “I wonder if they are laughing at me.”  “Maybe they are thinking that I’m being pretentious.” “Does it really even matter if I stand or not?”

After all, there are plenty of excuses for not standing.  The music is a little hard to hear.  It’s not  playing at our school.  We aren’t Thai.  The Thais don’t even stand sometimes.  No one seems to care.  I’m having a conversation.  I’m tired.  My leg hurts…

I had an experience like this today, and I spent some time thinking afterward.  Being a Christian is a little like standing for the Thai national anthem.  When you take a stand for God, you will often look foolish to the world around you.  You are standing for music they may not even be able to hear and for reasons that they don’t particularly understand.  Even some of the Christians around you aren’t taking a stand for God.

It’s easy to second-guess yourself. “Am I being too strict about the movies my kids watch and the music they listen to?”  “Am I naive to think my kids could possibly make it to marriage without having sex?”  “Am I throwing my money away when I tithe to the church?”  “Am I being pretentious by claiming that there is only one Way into heaven, and His name is Jesus Christ?”

These doubts and questions are part of the cost of taking a stand for God.  If it were easy, everyone would do it, right?  Of course, God could strike down anyone who didn’t take a stand, but He doesn’t.  He doesn’t, because then EVERYONE would stand.  They wouldn’t be standing because they loved the Lord; they would be standing out of fear and compliance.  Those aren’t the types of followers God is looking for.  He loves us too much to force us to “love” Him back.

When you take a stand for something, you have to be willing to pay the price.  Without cost, there is no sacrifice.  As King David said when Araunah offered him his threshing floor, oxen, wood and wheat for free in order to make an offering, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)  The value of the sacrifice is tied to how much it costs you.

The foolishness you sometimes feel when taking a stand for God is part of your sacrifice.  But you can take comfort in this Scripture:

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

(1 Corinthians 1:25)

One day, every stand you took for the Lord will be seen for what it was –  wisdom, love, honor, respect, readiness, strength, adoration, devotion, courage, faith…  Insist on paying the full price.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

(1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

 

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Filed under Authenticity, christianity, comfort zone, commitment, Compromise, culture, faith, obedience, parenting, priorities, sacrifice

Volcano Erupts in Chiang Mai


My daughter built a Mentos & Coke (actually Pepsi Max) volcano for extra credit in her science class.  She also tried to include a few smaller volcanoes using baking soda and vinegar, but those didn’t work so well.  Here’s the video.

Blessings!

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Upgrade


It’s been a long year, and it’s only March.  I’ve been on the road 47 of the last 65 days, spent over 220 hours in meetings, been on 35 airplanes for over 100 hours and waited no telling how long in airports between flights.  I’m tired.  I mss my family.  I’m ready to go home.

I was the first one on the plane to Bangkok, and I had been in my seat for about ten minutes when a flight attendant came to see me.

“Are you Mr. Kientz?”

“Yes, I am.”

“May I see your boarding pass?”

“Sure, here it is.”

“Here’s your new boarding pass.  You’ve been upgraded to business class.”

“Upgrade.”

Weary travelers the world over long to hear that word.  Thos who frequent business class don’t understand the envy we economy class fliers feel when they draw the curtain between us and the priveledged.  Bigger seats, more leg room, fancy meals, better movies on bigger screens, a better blanket, a bigger pillow….ahhhh….Upgrade!

As I settled into my seat, very thankful for the unexpected blessing, I opened my Bible to John 2.  It begins with Jesus attending a wedding.  The host of the wedding ran out of wine, and Jesus’ mother brought the problem to Jesus.  In his first earthly miracle, Jesus turned as much as 180 gallons of normal water into wine that was even better than what the party-goers had been drinking before.

Upgrade.

The very next story tells of Jesus chasing all the money changers and those selling animals for sacrifice out of the temple.  He was incensed that they had turned His Father’s house into a market where people profited off the worship of the Lord, so he put together some cords to fashion a whip and began cleaning house.

Upgrade.

Chapter 2 ends with the Jews asking Jesus to perform a miracle to prove His authority.  He tells them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up.”  Of course, He wasn’t talking about the building He had just cleaned out.  He was talking about the temple of His body.  Jesus knew that His purpose was to die for our sins.  But His death was just the end of the beginning, because He would raise His body back from death to life.  He would still have a body, but the new body could fly and walk throught walls!

Upgrade.

But that’s just the smallest part, because Jesus’ death did so much more!  It paid for every sin we have ever committed or ever will.  It bought us life with God for all eternity if we will just leave our economy class seat and agree to move to first class, where we will get our own new bodies one day – bodies that won’t get sick or die – bodies that won’t be tempted to sin – bodies set free to love God without reservation or selfishness and love each other without resentment, bitterness, or jealousy and love ourselves without guilt or shame!

Upgrade.

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Filed under christianity, eternity, heaven

Why I Love My Mae Baan


You may remember my post about my confusion over a note our mae baan (Thai for house help) left us one day.  Here’s the note she left us this week:

I Want Comfort...Touch of Love...

It almost breaks your heart.  We must be the most heartless people she’s ever worked for in order for her to feel that she had to write out such a desperate call for love and attention.

I have to admit, I feel a little guilty every time I read it even though I know what she’s trying to say.  She’s learning some English, but it still doesn’t always come out the way she wants it to.

She wants the cleaning products, “Comfort” and “Touch of Love” to help her clean the bathroom.

(Even so, maybe we should tell her how much we appreciate her more often.)

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Filed under communication, culture, Culture Shock, funny, humor, Just for fun, Thailand

Loy Krathong


What’s worse than a traffic jam after a professional sporting event?  A people jam after Loy Krathong!

A few weeks ago in Chiang Mai, my family joined thousands of Thais and thousands of visiting and resident farangs to celebrate a Buddhist holiday.  We aren’t Buddhist, but this is a BIG holiday in Thailand, and we saw it as an opportunity to build some bridges and understand the culture better.

The holiday is celebrated in several ways.  Krathongs (an elaborate, little raft carrying a candle, incense and (sometimes) hair and fingernail clippings) are lit and put in the river or other waterways to symbolize the release of anger, grudges and defilements.  Fireworks and firecrackers are set off, and beauty contests are held.  But the part that we participated in was the release of the khom fai, a type of hot-air lantern.

lighting-the-khom fai-1 lighting-the-khom fai-2 lighting-the-khom-fai watching-the-lanterns-go

Near Maejo University in Chiang Mai, thousands upon thousands of these lanterns are released in unison and out of unison, and they light up the sky like a fresh, new Milky Way.

new-milky-way1 new-milky-way-2 new-milky-way-3 new-milky-way-4

The sight is amazing!  And the lanterns are fun to light (except when you get the ones made with wax, and they drip hot wax on the people below for thirty yards after you let them go).  Everyone had a good time sharing the celebration with the Thais.

Since this is an amateur sport, it should come as no surprise that some lanterns endangered some lives:

But then A11 told us she had to go.  We started to beat a hasty retreat and quickly found ourselves in a grinding, surging, waiting, jostling, immobilizing, pushing throng of people.  Some were coming, and some were going, but really neither were doing much coming or going.  It was the thickest people jam I’ve ever been stuck in.

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It was a people compactor – especially for the kids.  I’m not sure exactly how they were breathing.

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Trying to keep all three kids close to us, my wife and I were soon separated.  She had all three of them at first, but a couple of surges later, I found my oldest son next to me after he had been separated from the others.  We had very little say in who went where.  The throng had a mind of its own.

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For 30-45 minutes, we hardly moved.  A conga line of entertaining but very pushy older Thai women forced their way into any open space as they laughed and barked out orders to those around them, but still they didn’t go far.  People on the outer edges of the mass set off firecrackers and fireworks that threatened to trigger a fight or flight response when they exploded, but no one lost their cool.  These were Thais, and they tend to take everything with a smile.

I lost sight of my wife and other two children about the time we started moving.  After a few shuffling steps, I realized why we were so stuck – there were so many people trying to get into the park that the thousands going out had to exit single file.  I felt like a kidney stone having to passing through such a tiny canal.  Reaching open air felt exhilarating!

It took my son and me some time to catch up to the rest of the family.  They were so happy to be free, I think they must have broken into a sprint.  We saw an ambulance arrive while we were trying to find them and wondered how they were ever going to get to the person who needed them.  Maybe the crowd could let the sick/hurt person body surf on top and just pass him along to the paramedics.

ambulance-at-grind

I’m not much of a “crowd person,” so the experience stretched me a bit, but I do have to admit that it did bring me closer to my Thai neighbors (a little too close maybe).

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