Family Christmas

Since I had some photography responsibilities on Christmas Day, we celebrated Christmas a day early. We spent the morning opening gifts and eating together. Jacen passed out the gifts this year, and we took turns opening them. We were all quite happy with our gifts.

091224 Christmas Gifts

091224 Christmas Gifts

Santa Jezzy

Jezzy got a new outfit for Christmas, which she'd like to share with you:

091224 Santa Jezzy

091224 Santa Jezzy

091224 Santa Jezzy

Photo Shoot

This holiday season I've been asked to do several photo shoots for families we know. Here are some shots from one such shoot of a family who lives in our neighborhood:

091110 Photoshoot

091110 Photoshoot

091110 Photoshoot

Pictures: Christmas Party

Last week we went to North Chiang Mai University and threw a Christmas party. We taught the students Christmas carols, played games, made crafts, and performed the Christmas play. Ann taught the students to make Christmas tree ornaments, Jacen was a shepherd, Emmy an angel, and I was a wise man (and a photographer). Overall it was a fun-filled afternoon.

091209 North Chiang Mai University Christmas Party

091209 North Chiang Mai University Christmas Party

091209 North Chiang Mai University Christmas Party

1 Kings 9b, 10, and 11

Still studying in the book of 1 Kings, I've posted my commentary on these chapters on the family website.

Pictures: Emmy

I took some pictures of Emmy earlier this month. These are in the rock park, a grassy area in our neighborhood.

091206 Emmy Portrait

091206 Emmy Portrait

091206 Emmy Portrait

Jezzy goes nuts

Tonight Jezzy was as animated as I've ever seen her. She saw a dog out in the yard and went completely berserk, barking and barking and jumping all around. That went on for nearly 5 minutes, until she charged the glass door, rammed into it, and realized the dog in the yard was her own reflection.


I keep a gallery of my best pictures on my website, and this evening I updated it with 8 new pictures. Take a look.

Jacen plays ball

The local international school has a rec league where they graciously let homeschoolers participate in sports. With the soccer season over, Jacen decided to give basketball a try. They had a game on Thanksgiving afternoon--the school is international, so doesn't get off for US holidays--so I brought my camera to try and get some good shots. His team, the Bobcats, are undefeated going into the final week.

091126 Bobcat Basketball

091126 Bobcat Basketball

What we have here... a failure to communicate.

Ann's sick, so the kids and I went out to eat. We tried a new place on Middle Ring Road. I ordered water for everyone and a chicken dish for myself. Jacen ordered a shrimp dish (or so he assured me). Emmy wanted sate, so I asked the waitress if they had any and then ordered it when she said yes. Then I ordered two side orders of rice--it still weirds me out when I find a restaurant where rice doesn't come with the meal--one for me and one for Jacen.

Well, we got the water. I got my chicken dish and rice. Then they brought out a plate with steak and veggies. We discussed this for while, but couldn't figure out why we got it; it wasn't sate (little strips of meat grilled on a stick) and it certainly wasn't shrimp. Finally I asked our waitress what it was, and she assured me it was steak. Ah. Sate. Steak. They both start with "s" I suppose. But I swear I was speaking in Thai when I ordered the sate. The sauce on the steak was too spicy for Emmy, so she let Jacen eat it, which was just as well, cause his shrimp and rice never came. Of course, that meant Em never got any dinner. She settled for a bowl of noodles at home.

Sigh. All those months of Thai lessons...

Bring a Girl?

I'm studying in the book of 1st Kings for my quiet time these days, and I'm currently working on chapter 8, where Solomon dedicated the temple. As he chose to hold the dedication during the Feast of Tabernacles, I'm doing a bit of studying on that Feast. Using Libronix, my favorite Bible study software, I found an article on the Feast in a book called "The New Manners and Customs of the Bible." On page 118, I found this amusing quote: "The three great festivals or feasts were Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. On each of these occasions every male Israelite was commanded 'to appear before the Lord' and bring a gift offering with him: 'Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed. Each of you must bring a girl in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you' (Deuteronomy 16:16–17)." Hmmm. Bring a girl, eh? [Freeman and Chadwick, Rev. ed., 1998]

I am not a chew toy!

I was wrestling with Jacen on the floor this afternoon. Jezzy, as is her wont, snuck into the fight through the back door, nipping at Jacen's feet and hands and pulling on his shirt. After one particularly successful nip, Jacen yelled, "I am not a chew toy!"

Doi Inthanon: Part 3

After a stop at our third waterfall, we went to the summit of Doi Inthanon. We had to stop about a kilometer short of the top and walk the rest of the way, because the road had washed out. Here are the kids at the top, 2565 meters above sea level.

091114 Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon: Part 2

Our second stop was another waterfall, Mae Klang. It was not the most impressive waterfall at the park, but it was still nice. Did I mention we took Jezzy with us on our family vacation?

091114 Mae Klang Waterfall

Once again having a Thai driver's license (and speaking a bit of Thai) was a big help. Instead of paying the usual farang (westerner) price of 450 baht, we only paid 145 baht to get into the park.

Doi Inthanon: Part 1

Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand, so we set out last Saturday to have a family trip to the top! First stop along the way was Mae Ya, the highest waterfall at Doi Inthanon (280 meters). It was a beautiful site.

091114 Mae Ya Waterfall

A nearby sign make us chuckle: "Danger! Strength water. Don't swimming." As we continued on we saw men threshing rice in a field; they tied the rice stalks to sticks and beat them upon a wooden threshing floor. It was like stepping back in time hundreds of years.

No Logos 4 for me

As a long time user of Logos' Libronix, I was excited to hear that version 4 had arrived. My excitement is much diminished. I downloaded the free software upgrades to try them out. The PC version loaded and runs, but it runs s-l-o-w-l-y. I have have a 2 year old iMac running Parallels 3; Libronix 3 runs smoothly, no problems. Libronix 4 is too slow to be usable. I also loaded the Mac version, and it also runs...sorta. It's alpha software and acts like it; basic functionality is not there, and it crashes all the time. Perhaps newer versions will work well--I certainly hope so!--but for now I'll stick with version 3. Sigh.

Is there any chicken left?

I went to a Thai restaurant to pick up lunch today. It's a place that sells "gai yang," which is fairly similar to rotisserie chicken. But here's the deal: They sell the chicken until they run out, and they don't make any more that day. So you have to come early in the day, and your first question is always: Is there any chicken left?

Ann sets a new record!

Specifically, she set the record for least number of bites of a Thai meal. Thais love spicy food, way hotter than Mexican food. Not long after we arrived here in Chiang Mai, I ordered soup one evening for dinner. I could only take 7 bites (slurps?), even though I bought a Coke to cool my mouth down. That record stood unchallenged for 7 months. Until tonight. Ann ordered a Thai cold salad tonight, and it was so spicy she could only eat 3 bites. A new record. :-)

Libronix 4 - Free!

Logos' Libronix has been my favorite Bible study software for years. They've just upgraded their engine to version 4, and although they don't advertise it on the front page, you can get this new engine for free. Of course, they'd like you to upgrade to a new version of one of their nice packages, but if you already have all the books you need, you don't have to. The engine comes in both a PC-version and not-yet-ready-for-prime-time Mac-version. If you want to see everything the new version can do, take a look here. If you're serious about studying your Bible, take a long, hard look at Libronix.

Loy Krathang: Day 1

Sunday night we went downtown again to see Loy Krathang. We watched Khom Loys and Loy Krathangs being launched, fireworks shot up all over the place, vendors selling every thing imaginable (including some fireworks to us!), a kids beauty contest, and some Thai dancing. The kids even got to ride a small Ferris wheel. Though it was a bit dangerous at times--a khom loy nearly burned Ann and too many fireworks were too close--we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

091101 Loy Krathang

Pragmatic Religion

We saw this Thai gentlemen releasing a Khom Loy next to the Ping River during Loy Khrathang. Notice the interesting juxtaposition: He's wearing a Buddhist charm on his wrist and participating in a Buddhist holiday. At the same time, he's wearing a cross, the symbol for Christianity.

091101 Loy Krathang

In western culture we would tend to observe that Buddhism and Christianity are mutually exclusive and pick one or the other. But Thais tend to be more pragmatic, picking and choosing bits and pieces of whatever works. As a friend said, this man has all his bases covered.

Loy Krathang: The Prelims

Technically, Loy Krathang doesn't start until Sunday night, but we went downtown on Saturday to see what was going on. Loy Krathang is the name for these little bamboo rafts that the Thais release into the Ping River.

091101 Loy Krathang

The origins are probably rooted in animism, where the Thais worshipped a river goddess and asked for her blessing. The holiday took on Buddhist overtones, and the rafts are lit to honor Buddha. The general belief is that when the rafts are released they take away the badness in a person and/or they grant a wish. In this, Loy Krathangs are similar to Khom Loys, and there were plenty of those still being released.

091101 Loy Krathang

Whatever one believes, Loy Krathang is an excuse to have fun. What water is to Songkran, fireworks are to this holiday. The uncontrolled lighting of fireworks in crowded areas is rather dangerous, but perhaps that's part of its appeals.

Water attack

Ann was playing tug-o-war with Jezzy on the porch last weekend. When the dog got hot, Ann decided to give her some water. Some of the water got in Jezzy's mouth; most got on her head.

091025 Jezzy

But Jezzy had her revenge.

Humpty Dumpty Meets Transformers?

So these posters started springing up all over Chiang Mai last week. Some sorta conference, I suppose. If I had to guess, I'd say the theme is the danger of allowing nursery rhyme characters to have progeny with giant robots.

IMG_1345091025 Humpty Transformer

Releasing the Khom Loy Lanterns

Once the prayers are finished and the lanterns are full of hot air, the Buddhist releases his lantern, hoping his troubles and misfortunes float away with it. It joins a thousand other lanterns into a majestic flight viewable for miles around.

091024 Khom Loy Lanterns

091024 Khom Loy Lanterns

1 Kings 2

Continuing in my study of 1 Kings, I've posted chapter 2.

Lighting the Thom Loy Lanterns

Every year in Chiang Mai they begin the Loy Khratang festival by releasing Thom Loy lanterns. This is a Buddhist ceremony where families release mini hot air balloon-like lanterns into the night sky, praying that the lanterns take their bad luck and misfortune with them. Though I say "mini," some of these lanterns were 5 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. The larger ones were made out of a polyester material; the smaller ones out of tissue paper (like the stuff you put into a Christmas bag).

First, a family unfolds the lantern. The bottom of the lantern is a rigid ring from which a flammable coil is held by wires. The coil is set on fire, and the fire fills the lantern with heat.

091024 Loy Thom Lanterns

The family raises the lantern high, says a prayer, and then releases it into the night.

091024 Loy Thom Lanterns

Although many people released their lanterns one or two at a time, whenever they wanted, the main Buddhist ceremony, complete with chanting monks, responsive chanting, and group prayers, released a thousand lanterns at once (more of that in the next post).

1 Kings 1

I've began a study of 1 Kings, and my work with chapter 1 can be found on my website.

My dog is a combat professional

Today my dog viciously assaulted an unarmed carrot. We had read that Yorkies like carrots as treats, so I cut off a small piece of one and gave it to her to eat. She licked it a few times, shook her head as if the smell irritated her, and then began her assault. With an impressive array of combat moves, she snapped at it, held it down, and slapped it across the room. The fight lasted about 5 minutes, and when our dog was convinced the carrot no longer posed a threat, she let it go. I'm pretty sure this carrot won't bother her again.

5 minutes of fun

Wanna have 5 minutes of pure fun? All you need is a 2 inch piece of Scotch tape and a Yorkie. Put the tape on the dog's nose and watch her go nuts trying to get it off. Or put it on her tail and watch her spin in circles trying to get it. If you don't have any tape, a ball will work.

091011 Jezzy Playing

Swim Meet

Our kids have been swimming with the swim team at Grace International School, and yesterday they had their fall swim meet with other international schools here in Chiang Mai. Though the weather was hot--at least it wasn't raining--the kids had a blast swimming and hanging out between events. Jacen swam the back and breast strokes; Emmy freestyle and breast.

091009 Swim Meet

091009 Swim Meet

My dog is a pacifist

We were at the vet this week getting yet another vaccination--I swear this dog is getting more shots than my children ever did--and in walked someone else with a kitten. Jezzy is in Emmy's arms sitting not 2 feet from the cat. Never once did she bark, growl, or struggle to get out of Emmy's grasp so she could tear that cat apart limb-by-limb. Sigh. My dog's a pacifist. Or maybe she's just a product of her Thai culture. ;-)

090919 Jezzy

Microscope: The Unexpected Benefit of Living in Thailand

We took Jezzy to the vet today for another vaccination. While examining her, the vet noticed she had some dark-colored ear wax, which is usually not good for dogs. The bad news: Jezzy has ear-mites. The good news: The vet put a sample of the wax under a microscope and let us see the ear-mites. We could actually see them moving around! How cool is that?! We'd never get this kind of love with an American vet. Anyhow, the diagnosis is good; ear drops for a week, and she'll be fine.

090919 Jezzy

My Dog is Claustrophobic

Jezzy rarely barks, but if her ball rolls under the TV stand, she'll bark for us to get for her. It's not that she can't get it herself; she's small enough to get under there. I think she's claustrophobic, which, if you know anything about the origins of Yorkies, is totally ironic. They were bred small back in England to be ratters; some thought they were better than cats. Yet my dog doesn't like getting in tight spaces. Sigh.

090919 Jezzy

Ephesians 4

In my quiet time I've been studying in Ephesians 4 lately. I've finished translating and interpreting 4:1-16, which I've posted on my website. Let me know what you think in the comments.

My Dog is a Kleptomaniac

So we finally bought a dog last week, keeping a promise we made to Emmy a long time ago. She's a 4-month old Yorkie who alternates being full of energy and napping contentedly in someone's lap. She's also a kleptomaniac; she's got this odd habit of putting stuff in her cage. Like a squirrel who can't store enough nuts, she hides anything she can bite: squeaky toys, rawhide bones, Hot Wheels cars, her collar (when it's off her), her leash, a spare straw, whatever.

090903 Jezzy

Road Trip: Pong Arng Hot Springs

After the Sri Sangwan waterfall, we went back down the road a couple miles to the Pong Arng hot springs. They were a pair of natural hot water springs coming from underground. The water was scalding hot and smelled like rotten eggs. The flow hot water was combined with a flow of cold water and the result was diverted into a couple pools where people can get in and soak.

090815 Pong Arng Hot Springs

But if you're thinking about going to the springs, realize there are rules to obey. My favorite? Don't be a loud nois (sic)!

The Market: Part 2

In a previous post I wrote a little bit about the market I buy fruit from. Fruit's not the only thing I buy from this market, usually I get lunch as well. The lady I buy lunch from is Khun Moonban, and she was also recommended to me by my Thai friends. Now when you look at the picture below, don't be fooled by the simple-looking work conditions. This lady makes the best phat phak ruam gai (stir fried mixed veggies) in Thailand, and that's my favorite dish. Whereas some food vendors make their food early in the morning and leave it laying around in open containers (can you say flies?), Khun Moonban makes hers fresh every time on those piping hot skillets.

090821 Khun Moonban

Road Trip: Sri Sangwan Waterfall

So after our failure in finding the Mon Hin Lai waterfall, we set off to return home. Along the way we saw signs to a different national park, one with the Sri Sangwan waterfall. We decided to head that way and see what we could see. This waterfall was well-marked and easy to find. As it was part of a national park, there was fee to enter, and the fee for foreigners was 10 times that of nationals. Fortunately when I flashed my Thai driver's license, I got charged the nationals fee.

The waterfall itself was not that tall or amazing, but it was still nice.

090815 Sri Sangwan Waterfall

What was cool about this park was the way the designers have cleverly split the water so that it criss-crosses its way throughout the park. The result is a lush tropical garden that was fun to walk through. Some of the bamboo plants were staggering in their height. Overall we enjoyed this park, and we should probably return some day when we can walk through the rest of it.

Road Trip: In the Middle of Nowhere

After frolicking in the Buatang waterfall, we set off to find the Mon Hin Lai waterfall. We find the right mile marker, err...kilometer marker. We found the sign pointing off the main highway. But then we couldn't find anything else. There was supposed to be a park headquarters, a trail for hiking, and the waterfall. We drove all through the countryside, but we couldn't find anything. We even called a Thai friend for help--they have cell coverage in the boonies!--flagged down other motorists, and had them talk by cell; all to no avail. We never found it. We did see great views of the countryside.

090815 Looking for waterfalls

Road Trip: Buatang Waterfall

We took off bright and early Saturday morning on a road trip. Our primary goal was to find the Mon Hin Lai waterfall, a 9-level, 100 meter tall set of falls, and along the way we hoped to find see several other sights as well. The area we drove to was about an hour north of town. Our first stop was the Mae Ngud Reservoir, which supplies water to Chiang Mai. It was a huge, earthen dam. Our second stop was the Buatong Waterfall which is fed by the nearby Ched See spring. The clear water goes down three levels over limestone rocks, which made for a great wading area for the kids. As it turned out, this was probably the highlight of our day.

090815 Buatang Waterfall

After a quick picnic lunch, we took off again.

The Rest of the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens

Since it was the Queen's birthday, and since that makes it mother's day, and since Ann is a mother, and since she was with us at the gardens, and since we were at the Queen's gardens, we got into the gardens for free and got a free lunch, a plate of rice and chicken. Not a bad deal. So we spent a little extra money buying ice cream and soda to cool us off--it was a long walk. The kids, of course, enjoyed the ice cream immensely.

The final part of our walk took us to a small waterfall in the gardens, which the kids played in for a while.

090812 Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens

And then we headed home. Of course, no outing in Thailand would be complete without seeing at least one elephant walking along the side of the road.

Flowers at Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens

The final stop in our Grand Family Adventure was the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens, northwest of Chiang Mai, Thailand. It's the first botanical garden in the country, and you can read more about its background and its attractions. Although you can drive through the gardens, we left the truck at the entrance and walked the 4 or 5 kilometers, taking one break in a gazebo to wait out a thunderstorm.

My favorite part was the plants and flowers, which were available in a dizzying array of variety. There were carnivorous plants, water plants, cacti, tropical plants, variegated plants, and a whole bunch more I couldn't even hope to identify. Perhaps my favorite was this lotus, a water plant:

090812 Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens

Tat Krok Waterfall

Not long after the sign for the Tad-Yoy waterfall was a sign for another waterfall, Tat Krok. We decided to give it a try, so off we went again. We found several interesting sites along the way, including a very twisty tree before we finally found the waterfall itself. Perhaps the cutest thing we saw was this little guy:

090812 Tat Krok Waterfall

Tad-Yoy Waterfall

Today is the Queen's birthday. Which means today is also Mother's Day. Which means today is also a holiday. So, having the day off, we decided to have a Grand Family Adventure. Ann looked at a map and found neat places to explore outside of Chiang Mai, so we filled the truck up with gas and took off into the mountains towards Somoeng. If you've ever driven in the mountains of West Virginia along the back roads (interstates don't count), then you know the kind of driving we did today.

As we drove we saw a sign that said there was a waterfall ahead. That sounded good, so we stopped and plunged into the jungle. We were immediately greeted by this forlorn sign.

090812 Tad-Yoy Waterfall

The less than totally well kept signed should have prepared for the condition of the pathway we would have to traverse upon. Jacen and I found some sticks to widen the path at times. But after a short walk and a climb down a few rocks we made it. The waterfall itself wasn't too big, but it was nice to admire for a few minutes.

We climbed back up, and I went to the top of the falls to see what was there. I found a tree with these strange-looking fruit. Anyone know what it is? Leave a comment with your best guess.

090812 Tad-Yoy Waterfall

Dinner in a...bag?

If you had told us a year ago that we would regularly be eating out of a bag, I don't think we would have believed you. Yet here we are. Want to hear a Thai person's perception of reality? Poor people eat out; only rich people eat at home. It's simply cheaper to eat out, so we eat out a lot and do takeout a most days a week. And take out means dinner in a bag. The dishes in the picture below are sweet-and-sour chicken and stir-fried veggies with chicken served over the ever-present white rice. There's a little too much MSG and oil in there to be healthy, but at least there's a variety of veggies. And both were delicious!

090804 Dinner in a Bag

Rice Fields

While Chiang Mai may have a population of a quarter million or so, it still very much feels like a country town. I was driving to a friend's house yesterday when I came across these rice paddies, tucked away in a small piece of farmland between two neighborhoods. The fields around here were flooded a couple weeks ago, and now the farmers are beginning to plant their rice.

090803 Rice Field