Hello everyone! Despite my disappearance on here for the past couple of weeks, Jaimie and I are alive and well! We're about three weeks in to our time in Southeast Asia, and have been pleasantly surprised already with how much we love it here. From the food, to the architecture, to the people, we've found ourselves amazed, humbled, and inspired many times over.
We had initially planned to only spend 2-3 days in Bangkok before leaving for other regions of Thailand, but as our time unfolded, we met some friends, discovered new things, and found that 2-3 days wasn't nearly enough time to do Bangkok. We stayed in a couple different boutique hotels near the tourist part of town, which allowed us to explore several of Bangkok's BEAUTIFUL Buddhist temples, the Royal Grand Palace (we even saw the King's processional drive by one day!), and several artisan coffee shops, which was fun. Bangkok is a wild place with insane drivers, street vendors, and markets, but a really fun energy. After those first couple days, we found our way to Somprasong 4 Church of Christ, where we knew several of our friends from the States had volunteered before. This ended up being a huge blessing, as we were inspired by and connected to some wonderful people. Two families in particular stood out to us, one being a refugee family from Pakistan and the others being Gary and Michelle Ford. Gary and Michelle are from the States originally, but have been missionaries in Bangkok for the past 2 years, with Gary also working in Bangkok through the AIM (Adventures in Missions) program about a decade ago, where he became fluent in Thai. They were such an encouraging and fun couple to us, showed us how to navigate Bangkok better via the BTS (metro rail), gave us many tips on places to go and see, and most importantly, showed us where to find the best coffee!
Spending time with the Pakistani family was perhaps our favorite part of our time in Bangkok, particularly given the state of the global refugee crisis. They shared their heartbreaking story of why they were forced to leave their home, only to arrive in Thailand as illegal immigrants, as Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that does not recognize the UN refugee status. Thus, the family must stay relatively hidden for fear of being deported while their case for refugee protection can be granted, a 3-5 year process. Although the Taliban nearly killed their daughter which forced them to leave their home country of at least 7 generations and arrive to a new hostile environment for refugees, they remain steadfastly hopeful and faithful. You can read a full story of this family here. Despite their circumstances, these were some of the most generous, loving, and kind-hearted people we've encountered. They invited us in to their one-room home as honored guests, fed us a delicious Pakistani meal, and allowed us to join in celebrating the birthday of their youngest daughter (yes, it included Jaimie doing her princess party songs and dances with the birthday girl, who knew all the words to Frozen)! The faith, joy, and perseverance of this family is truly remarkable. This experience opened our eyes to the bigger things of this world, and gave us faces to put with "refugee crisis." As the crisis rages, please continue to consider the faces of those fleeing places of danger, and be open to receiving them with compassion, love, and understanding.
All in all, we rather enjoyed ourselves in Bangkok, certainly much more than we anticipated. Knowing that we'd be traveling long-term, one of our largest concerns was having a lack of community. Thus, it was fun to be with another couple around our age that could show us around, share stories over a cup of coffee, and connect with. Bangkok was a whirlwind of a time, as all the sights, smells, and sceneries were simultaneously overwhelming all the senses, yet so exhilarating all the same. We will be using Bangkok as a staging/portal city for the rest of our trip, so we will be passing through on a few more occasions, and we look forward to visiting our new friends each time we do!