I went to Thailand twice and I just realized that in both occasions, I went there at around Christmas time. What a coincidence!
Thailand is very popular among travellers. It has everything that travellers want – low cost but good quality accommodation and food. It is also easy to get around. Culture wise, it’s rich. Landscape wise, it has nice beaches and mountains. Local Thai people are famous for their ‘Thai smile’ (not 100% true but they do smile more often than those people in the west). It’s indeed an ideal place to stay or travel but before 2009, I had never thought of travelling there. Interesting, right? That’s mainly because I had some other places on my priority list. The reason I went there in 2009 was because I was curious about the life of a missionary or a lay missionary. Hence, I joined a group of people from the church and went to visit a lay missionary there. Being a lay missionary, she didn’t stay in Bangkok or any other popular tourist places in Thailand. She stayed in the northern part of Thailand called Lampang. My Thai friends said they had never been there before but they knew that that place was famous for horse-drawn carriages. When we got there, we gave it a try. After all, we were ‘tourists’ even though we had a ‘mission’.
Life of a missionary had always fascinated me. Little did I know that I’d become a volunteer in Cambodia and worked with and made friends with some lay missionaries. I think, after all, we are all humans. As a volunteer, we all worked as we’d do at work but it’s just that we did it for ‘free’*. That’s all. Eventually, this world will go back to a barter system where everyone will do the same – work for resources, not for money which is just a number or a piece of paper.
(*When I say ‘free’, I didn’t mean $0. We were given some contingency money which was not enough for us to enjoy a luxurious spa but enough for us to buy necessities like sanitary pads, toilet paper (by the way, it is a rare good in Cambodia because local people use water instead. So, you can imagine, during COVID-19, they didn’t have the same problem as we had with toilet paper), food and we were given accommodation, occasionally. With that amount of money, I was very careful with my spending. So, sometimes, when there was no accommodation for me, I had to be really careful and researched for the cheapest but clean hostel in Cambodia which was surprisingly quite hard to find in some places such as Phnom Penh.)
I am going to shrink our 7-day trip into this blog. Brace yourself for a long one. Don’t worry, I will share many pictures here. 😊
When we arrived, the lay missionary greeted us and took us around to familiarize ourselves with the surroundings. After that, we’d go wherever she took us including the classrooms in the villages where she taught, etc.
I wonder how many people really understand the meaning of Christmas nowadays. That reminds me of Linus from the Peanuts gang. He even dropped his security blanket when he presented it at one stage. 🙂
Could the kids speak English? Not really. The mission was not entirely about teaching them English. Teaching was only part of it. The main objective was to inspire the kids (not to convert them) and to show them kindness. Some of the kids were abandoned by their parents. The lay missionary said, ‘some of their fathers are drunkards and domestic violence is common. When the priest says the Father in Heaven loves them like their fathers do, it’s hard for the kids to resonate.’ I get that. I think they changed the way the message was conveyed in the end.
However, the lay missionary also told us some teenagers used the kindness of the priests. That made the priests sad but c’est la vie. Like what Mother Teresa said, keep loving people. It shouldn’t stop you from being kind to others.
For the whole time, the lay missionary drove us. She drove a pickup truck. It’s very common in Southeast Asia for the passengers to sit in the cargo bed. That’s where we all sat. The kids sat with us too. The roads weren’t very smooth at all so you can imagine what it was like to sit in the cargo bed. Yes, bumpy rides all the time.
The lay missionary couldn’t read Thai well and we were extremely hungry after a long day so without a second thought, we randomly pointed at something on the menu. The waiter said in Thai with a smile, ‘that’s sauce, not food.’ 🤣
Christmas is the busiest time for the priests regardless of where they are.
Everything was very flexible in the village including the time for Mass. The priest would go to the villages on time, sometimes a little late, but in some remote villages, the villagers were not aware of time. So, when the lay missionary arrived in those villages, she hit a gong to assemble the villagers. This was what she did when we all arrived there.
Thai silk is very famous. Thanks to Jim Thompson. In fact, all the silk in that southeast Asian region is very similar. Take a look at the one in Cambodia here.
This was how I spent Christmas in 2009. It was full of fun and joy and it was meaningful.
As for my second trip in Thailand, it happened after I finished my volunteering assignment in Cambodia in 2019. Wow! Exactly 10 years. Let’s check it out later.
Guess where I’d go to after Thailand? 😊
Stay tuned. 😊
23 – 29 December 2009
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