If you love me half as much as I love you
You wouldn’t worry me half as much as you do
You’re nice to me when there’s no one else around
You only build me up to let me down.

If you’re of a certain age you’ll recognize this old Hank Williams song. It haunts me from time to time. The tune is simple and the words strike a lover as maddeningly true: the inequality of love, with one loving more than the other; the stress of it all, especially if you’re insecure and worry-prone; the hypocrisy of it as well, when like J. Alfred Prufrock, you prepare “a face to meet the faces that you meet; and the inevitable heartbreak–expectant hope, hope dashed.

This post isn’t about  love, though. It’s about a couple of bugs. Only the last line speaks to this week in New Mexico. It’s just that when that line came to mind so did the other three. They’ve had a secure place in my memory for decades. They’re somehow inseparable and sometimes, very seldom of course, they seem more appropriate than one wants to admit.

But today it’s the “you only build me up to let me down” line that expresses my vexation. That’s what Santa Fe did to Joy. She’s been excited about coming here ever since we first decided to give it a try. The town is one of the Southwest’s best-known art centers; it is also the site of “the world’s largest” (though not very big) encaustic art museum. It may be the only one. Since Joy’s a practitioner of this art form, Santa Fe’s the place for her. So it seemed, that is, until the bugs attacked.

Santa Fe’s Downtown Square in the winter. Doesn’t appear all that artsy–until you start looking in on the many galleries.

But first a word about encaustic art, which you may not have heard of. We hadn’t until Joy took up the habit. It’s painting with hot wax. Joy had to leave this method behind in favor of painting with cold wax while traveling. It’s hard to stuff a pancake griddle, a propane torch, painting boards and brushes and containers of wax into the one suitcase each of us is allowed. Even cold wax requires considerable luggage space, as I reported last week, so she’s not been painting at all for a couple of months. Photography took its place.

This well-sculpture tree grows in our patio.

That’s why she was so eager to land at last in Santa Fe, where we’ll stay long enough for her to set up shop. BUT, “you only build me up to let me down.” We were settling in nicely when the bug hit. Influenza B, the doctor labels this second one. It’s an exclusive kind of vermin that  attacks only humans and seals. You know the symptoms: congestion, cough, runny or stuffy nose, nausea, diarrhea,  itchy and watery eyes, sore throat, low fever, fatigue. Joy, who is nothing if not thorough, scored a perfect 100 on the checklist. And yes–before you say it–we both took our flu shots last fall. As a rule they’re only 25% effective anyway. Joy went with the majority.

This flu runs its course in two to seven days. Joy, a perfectionist, appears to be going for the full count.

Influenza B is pretty hard to isolate, since the infected person is contagious a full day before symptoms appear and remains contagious for five days after first coming down with it. You see the danger I’m in?

The gate to our Santa Fe home swings open for our guests. You’ll meet some of them in subsequent posts.
Our place is easy to find. Just look for the blue gate.

Two trips to Urgent Care. The first wasn’t for Influenza B but for a different bug, one the doctor thought she brought to Santa Fe with her from Thailand. The symptoms didn’t appear during our brief sojourn in Honolulu, but took immediately to the drier mountain air. The clinic gave her some good medical care and sent her home with several prescriptions and a cheery, “If these don’t work, come and see us again.” They didn’t and she did. The second time she received the Influenza B diagnosis—and the confession that she probably picked it up in the waiting room during her first visit.

It was easy to see how that happened. Even before the doctor delivered the verdict, I sat in that same waiting area dodging germs, cringing at the coughing all around me, and hoping for the best. I was impressed by the democracy of the place. I watched them come and go: the elderly, the little children, the men, the women, the white people, the brown people, all malfunctioning in some way. Since this is the American Southwest, there weren’t any Asians or African-Americans in the mix. But if they live here and they visit this clinic, they’ll probably get the flu, also. There’s no discrimination.  There is a kind of quiet, unspoken fellowship among the afflicted. We feel each other’s pain, though we don’t talk about it. We just stoically wait our turn.

I don’t know how most of them got here. We came by Lyft (like Uber only cheaper and certainly less notorious—Uber hasn’t enjoyed good press in the past few months). We’ve been getting around pretty effectively by bus lately, but Joy didn’t warm to the allures of a 30-minute bus trip (not counting the wait at the bus stop) when a 10-minute Lyft ride was available. So her husband, ever the generous sort, paid 10 times the fifty-cent bus fare to insure her comfort.

When our turn came, we were ushered into the examining room. Both the physician’s assistant and the doctor came in bearing some of Joy’s symptoms: cough, watery eyes, hoarseness. It’s the junipers, they explained, not the flu. Apparently the juniper allergy has been hitting with a vengeance of late. My own reactions offer testimony.

And what does the sympathetic husband do while sitting with his wife, waiting for the summons? He reads. And what does he read? Ursula LeGuin’s No Time to Spare, a compendium of meditations on various subjects by this famous author, now a mid-term octogenarian. Her first section is “Going over Eighty,” her perceptive, often cranky, always astute observations on what it means to be elderly. Her musings seemed somehow appropriate to this not-yet-eighty-but-teetering-on-the-brink reader who offers his septuagenarian wife a sympathetic arm as she contends with the weakness of the flesh.

Here’s one sample: “I’ve lost faith in the saying ‘You’re only as old as you think you are,’ ever since I got old.” She makes the valid point that you never hear anybody over seventy say that. “Younger people say it to themselves or each other as an encouragement. When they say it to somebody who actually is old, they don’t realize how stupid it is, and how cruel it may be.” And how completely wrong-headed.

Just one more: “If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.” Inspiring thoughts for a person sitting in Urgent Care’s waiting room, hoping to get some relief from the flu that, I recently read elsewhere, hits children and the elderly especially hard. It even causes a person to think you are, in fact, as old as you feel.

I’m writing this two days later. The prescriptions are doing their number. Joy’s body is perking up and so are her spirits—she’s pretty certain she’ll be able to attend next week’s painting class. She’s paid for it and she’s not going to waste the money if there’s any way she can help it. I also think she’s eager to return to the kitchen, not so much to take up cooking again, but to escape mine.


I thought you’d like a sample of some of Joy’s encaustic paintings. Here are a few of my favorites. These are three-dimensional, almost completely painted/sculpted of wax, with some other media lightly mixed in.

Leaves in a brook.
Coral–wax coral.
Dancing ginkgo leaves
Joy’s return to encaustics, her first new painting in Santa Fe. It’s still in the ugly stage. The finished product will be a thing of beauty. It’s always fun for me to watch the transformation from the indistinct beginnings to the final presentation

CRUISE DATES FOR 2019. Join us for one or all of them!

January 13-21. Celebration Cruise to Cuba in the Caribbean
See for details. In the Search window, type Celebration Cruise.

January 30-February 21. Holland America’s South America and Antarctica Cruise.          See for details.

October 19-27        EO’s Blue Danube River Cruise – The Hat is the lecturer.
Web page for this cruise is not yet available.  Coming soon. Watch this spot.


Wherever we’ve traveled, whatever we’ve seen, the Hat has enjoyed it most when accompanied by Mrs. Hat.

We returned to the USA last week when we landed in Hawaii, but somehow still felt we weren’t fully in America yet. Though a large city, Honolulu, with its wonderful ethnic mix and tropical ambiance, is not quite like any other place we’ve been. Islanders enjoy the difference. They are proud to be Americans, they assure you, but they revel in being distinct from “the mainland.” So did we. We also luxuriated in the abundance of drinkable tap water and hot showers—and spoken English!

We’re now on the mainland. After a couple of days of re-entry adjustment in Albuquerque, New Mexico we moved on up to Santa Fe (altitude: 7500 ft) and are comfortably ensconced in our adobe-style home. We feel like natives. Here, too, we can speak and understand the language. We recognize the cuisine, drive on wide paved streets where traffic laws are observed, and have lapsed back into our familiar rituals: cereal for breakfast, popcorn in the evenings, writing and painting.

Our first Santa Fe sunset

Joy gave up painting when we left Australia in early January. Carrying the art supplies overloaded her already overstuffed suitcase, so she left them behind. The day after we arrived here she went shopping for their replacements. Her studio is now the kitchen table, a familiar transformation. (Have I ever mentioned that artists are messy?)

Here’s the kitchen table–tidied up for this post. In the middle: Is this Joy’s first Santa Fe encaustic art piece? No, she left a gluten free tortilla in the oven a little too long. I’m suggesting she offer this masterpiece for sale. Bids, anyone?

We already miss the public transportation we enjoyed in most countries. In America, especially Western America, a car is a necessity. We rented one for our first two days here—shopping for groceries and other necessities demanded it. Today we’ll try the city bus. And Santa Fe boasts of both UBER and its worthy competitor, LYFT, which are successfully competing in a taxi industry grown complacent. When guests come we’ll rent a car; otherwise, we’ll see how well we can get along without one.

I said we feel like natives. That’s both a positive and a negative statement. Some initial observations on returning to the lower 48:

1) When you live in the States it’s easy to forget there’s a bigger world out there. These days Americans are all about America. “Make America Great Again” is not just a political slogan. It is, unfortunately, a cultural obsession. For the most part, we Americans live for ourselves, with little concern about the fate of the rest of the world. We are hugely contradictory. We glory in being the Leader of the Free World. But we don’t want to lead. We just want to prosper. Leading requires attending to the welfare of the led. It means sacrificing for the good of the whole, in this case the rest of the world. Lately we don’t seem to be up to it.

2) We miss world news. This is related to #1. In other countries, television regularly—and in some depth—reported what was going on in other countries, not just the one we happened to be in at the time. On American TV, viewers are barraged with a steady diet of sex scandals and vacuous entertainment and the political scheming of party-liners dedicated more to winning than governing. We’ve just been back a few days and already we are homesick for the bigger worldview we enjoyed out there.

3) We are living through a revolution. We watched the Academy Awards Sunday evening. Jimmy Kimmel remarked that the first ceremony 90 years ago was 15 minutes long. This one ran more than three hours. That was a minor difference, however, compared with the cultural sea change between then and now.

2018 Academy awards stage.

The stage setting was symbolic. Its massive too-muchness, thousands of reflecting crystals bedazzling the eye, struck this viewer as the epitome of opulent kitsch—and an unintended reminder that more is not always better. And the actors? The Academy paraded the greatest display of diversity I can recall in these annual shows, touting the rising empowerment of women, LGTBQs, Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, Asians, Indians, Pakistanis (the list goes on) and celebrating the triumph of artistic and moral freedom. As you know, I applaud the mutual acceptance of differences, but I can’t help pondering what this triumph bodes—and where we can find the glue to hold us all together.

4) It’s the revolutionary nature of these changes that has so unnerved the body politic. While Hollywood celebrates and magnifies the changes, Mid-America is mostly frightened by them. Old values seem trampled, old sureties destroyed. So in Washington and elsewhere the pros and cons are doing vicious battle. They agree only in their absolutism, their dividing everything into two camps, “those who are for me and those who are against me.” The fine art of compromise disappears; compromise feels too much like defeat when you’re scared.

5) Against this negativism we must state the positive. Just as we found good people all around the world, we have been impressed by the abundance of them here as well. Honolulu welcomed us; we’re already at home in Santa Fe. While the swamp grows swampier in Washington, ordinary citizens everywhere still live decent lives and cry out for decency in their elected representatives. The rise of unelected teenage leaders in Florida gives us hope; they are challenging the whole nation to come to our senses regarding the weapons of mass destruction that now so frequently mow down innocents, including  school children. These kids bear listening to, since before long they’ll be writing the laws. In some ways they make the future look brighter than the present.

Millie takes The Hat in hand. It’s a fair question these days: Which generation is leading?

So I end on a positive note. It’s good to be back in the good old USA, if only for awhile before we take off again. I like the song, “It’s good to be an American.” I could also sing with equal gusto, “It’s good to be an Australian,” and it’s good to be a Brit and a Dane and a Cambodian and a Brazilian and a Kenyan. You get the idea. Our nomadic life has taught us to feel increasingly at home in this world—in all of this world. We aren’t content just to make America great again. We can boom out “God bless America” with our compatriots, but we also pray God will bless the whole world and not just us, the privileged few. I read somewhere, “God so loved the world that he gave…”

What these journeys have taught The Hat so far: Look beyond the confines of one’s immediate situation to the big wide wonderful world out there.

[Joy hasn’t had the opportunity to take many New Mexico pictures yet. Santa Fe, she says, is still too cold and brown. “When spring comes, I’ll be out there recording and sharing.” Below she offers a retrospective of some unforgettable faces she caught being themselves.]

JOY’S PICK OF THE PICKS: faces remembered

The past meets the future: George Widmer holds his great granddaughter.
New Zealander lectures us on Trump’s election.
Globalscoper Whitney’s enthusiastically cheers some Mexican wrestlers.
Velcro grandpa Ed entertains at family vacation in Branson.


Blowhole on Oahu’s eastern shoreline, just north of Honolulu.

To allot just four days for a visit to Hawaii is almost criminal! For years after our introduction to the islands I’ve said that if I could I would go to Hawaii every year. That hasn’t been possible, but the desire has never left. This state is simply breathtaking, whether one is on Oahu or Maui or Kauai or the Big Island (Hawaii).

So it was only natural to break up our return journey from Chiang Mai with a layover in Honolulu. When Dr. Nancy Pace invited us to stay with her and her husband Mel Kaneshige, we couldn’t say no. Nancy, a public health physician, has served on CMF’s board for many years. Mel, an attorney, has retired from hotel management (specializing in property acquisition and development for his company). They are a dynamic duo, volunteering in a host of worthy projects. Mel’s a native of Hawaii, where he and Nancy have lived together for 35 years. They have two adult children, a son in Hawaii and daughter and her husband in Florida.

Good friends Dr. Nancy Pace and Mel Kaneshige

Weeks earlier Nancy told us Ron Arnold, Kaimuki Christian Church pastor, had been hit with pancreatic cancer and needed to reduce his preaching load. I wrote him we’d be in town over a weekend. Could I give him a little relief by preaching for him? He accepted. It was an honor to speak for this pastor. A familiar chorus, “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place,” could have been written of the Kaimuki church.

We arrived in Honolulu around noon on Friday. Our route had taken us from Chiang May to Bangkok on Thai Airways; there we overnighted, boarded Korean Air’s flight to Seoul for a layover of several hours, then took the red-eye from Seoul to Honolulu, to be greeted by Mel and Nancy. How glad we were to see them! They drove us to their home and then released us for a few hours of rest before my preaching assignment that evening.

On Saturday they showed us a bit of Oahu, particularly the famous East Coast from Diamond Point northward, where the surfers were doing their thing. As is so often the case, pictures can only give a hint of the beauty.

Sunday morning: two more worship services. They were inspiring in themselves, but the morning was made even better because we got to see Marie and Nofo Eletise, Hope International University graduates who were on campus during our time there. Marie’s the daughter of longtime friends Mike and Susan Maxson. Nofo is a Samoan whose infectious smile puts everyone at ease. Both are on the Kaimuki ministerial staff. It was a happy reunion.

Then as the second service was about to begin, in came Russ and Barbara Galbreath. Russ, now retired, was minister of West Seattle Christian Church for many years. We served together on the North American Christian Convention committee for several terms. The pastor of his former church is now Worth Wheeler, who grew up in Central Christian Church in Mesa (and whose parents faithfully follow this blog). I had the privilege of marrying him and Beth in LaPine, Oregon, where her father, Rich Butler, was the minister. This was a double treat, because Rich was a youth group boy when I was youth minister in Portland’s St. Johns Christian Church—clear back in the ‘50s! What a small, wonderful world, and what fun to trace these connections from the Galbreaths to the Wheelers to the Butlers.

While I’m name dropping, let me add one more. During the services it was announced that the president of FPM (Financial Planning Ministry) would be with the church the next weekend to help people  prepare their living trusts. It’s a free service offered by the church and FPM. Mike Prior is the president in question. More importantly, Mike, who worked with me for many years on the staff of Central Christian Church, is our velcro son. You’ve met him on these pages before. I was sorry to miss seeing Mike in Kaimuki; we were here together about ten years ago, when we teamed up to teach and preach. I urged the congregation to tell Mike next Sunday they had just met his “dad.” When they see the dignified sixty-year-old, six-foot-three-inch, gray-haired statesman they will question whether he could be any kind of relative of mine, velcro or otherwise!

On Sunday evening Nancy and Mel hosted a dinner for us and our mutual friends David and Marsha Van Wagenen. Following David’s management career with Western Airlines, he and Marsha became CMF missionaries in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they served for 30 years. While we had worked together in CMF, this was the first time we’d been together socially. What a treat! All four of these dedicated Christians made their faith-decisions as adults. When they gave themselves to Christ, they gave totally. There’s nothing merely “nominal” about their Christian walk.

Marsha and David Van Wagenen

On Monday Nancy treated us to some more sight-seeing, starting with one of her favorites, Honolulu’s Punchbowl, more formally known as National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

This quotation is from Abraham Lincoln’s famous letter to Mrs. Bixby comforting her on the deaths of her sons in the Civil War. It stands at the base of the statue of Lady Columbia in the cemetery.

Punchbowl is another Hawaiian beauty spot. Originally, the cemetery was the resting place honoring Americans who died in World War II and Korea, but it was later enlarged to include Vietnam War victims as well. There are now 53,000 graves for veterans of the Pacific Theater and their dependents in this meticulously groomed cemetery, which takes its name from the Punchbowl Crater in which it’s nestled.

The National Cemetery. Look at these manicured trees.
Though his statue stands in Honolulu, Father Damien actually ministered to the lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Then he became one.

In addition to the inspirational sites we visited, Nancy insisted we sample more mundane offerings of daily life in Honolulu. That included a delightful Vietnamese lunch followed by “shave ice”—which is a lot like our  Snow-cones but more finely shaved—and malasada, like a really delicious donut without the hole!

Nancy and Mel invited us along to their morning ritual, also: coffee and scones at their favorite coffee shop. Joy took the picture, but she couldn’t eat the scones. So I helped her.

Nancy and Mel drove us to the airport—in the rain!—in ample time for our 10:45 PM flight to Los Angeles. In more than ample time, since our takeoff was delayed by two hours. The reason was a first for us: the plane couldn’t take off because the door to the gray/black water holding tank was frozen and the airport had no way empty it. It gets pretty cold at 35,000 feet, where the deep freeze stopped up the sewage. The plane had just come in from Los Angeles and was leaving Honolulu for its return journey.  Apparently American Airlines hadn’t prepared for this eventuality. We were put on hold until someone figured out how to thaw the ice. Our flight attendant said she’d never heard of such a thing in her 17 years of flying. As I reported once before, in our globe-circling days on the loose we’ve experienced more such airline delays and excuses in America than anywhere else. Doesn’t seem proper, somehow.

The delay caused us to miss our connection in LAX for Albuquerque. BUT—it offered another serendipitous meeting. As we settled into our seats (Row 10 A and C), right across the aisle (Row 10 D) sat Lee Gierman. Delightful surprise. We have known Lee since our Arizona days, when he was business administrator for the Pantano Christian Church in Tucson. Since then he has been the remarkably effective senior minister of Lake Sawyer Christian Church in the greater Seattle area—where he was our kids’ pastor when Ed and Kim lived in Maple Valley. As you can imagine, we had a good time catching up with each other. Lee has retired and he and Sandy are back in Tucson–and he’s begun preaching for a small church in the area. Hard to shut us preachers up!

One strong impression Hawaii makes on the visitor is this: Racial integration is the norm, not the exception, here. America has no other state quite like this one. Polynesians, the original Hawaiians, laid the foundation. Then along came Caucasian missionaries who announced themselves as prophets of a new religion and stayed to profit from their labors.  These were the early haoles. Wikipedia calls haoles the “individuals who are not descendants of native Hawaiians or other ethnicities brought in to work the plantations.” On the original foundation the civil structure was built up with Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Portuguese immigrants and, in more recent years, others from all over the globe. The result is a variegated population that coexists by tolerating and learning to respect one another. It’s a sometimes uneasy mix, admittedly, but it’s a refreshing break from the mainland’s current xenophobia. When Captain James Cook first came to Hawaii he was met by this welcoming spirit. Only a year later he was killed. You have to work at tolerance; it doesn’t come naturally,  as one quotation from the Punchbowl’s mosaics asserts:

A good reminder in the cemetery that wars alone can’t solve the basic human problem.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned our visit to Pearl Harbor, a “must see” for visitors from the mainland. The truth is, we didn’t have time. It deserves a full day. Fortunately, on earlier visits to Honolulu we gave the day to the site where so many in America’s military service died during the Japanese attack that opened the Pacific Theater of World War II. It was a sobering experience. In Hawaii can be found the best and the worst of the human story.


This strutting egret turns a disdainful back to the photographer.
Roy’s preaching lei, presented as he stepped up to preach, and Nancy’s treasured native hat., a memento of one of her missions trips.    Wouldn’t The Hat look nice in this one?
Wild red and yellows nestled in the ocean cliffs
Bridesmaids on the sea cliffs.
Oahu’s eastern shoreline.



We didn’t expect to meet this particularly observant ostrich in Thailand. We met his kinfolk in Australia.

Joy spelled out the lawsonsontheloose program before we ever set out: We must live for at least a few weeks in a place so we can absorb, if ever so briefly, something of its culture. In SE Asia, that meant pausing in Chiang Mai. We liked Thailand when we looked in on it earlier. It represents SE Asia to us. It’s cooler and less densely populated than Bangkok but with a large enough ex-pat population we could get by with English as our only language (I repeat,  so we thought!). In addition, we’ve been informed that ten SE Asian countries have adopted English as their lingua franca to facilitate trade and communication. What has really impressed us is Thai  gentle friendliness. And for whatever it’s worth (I know, it’s quite beside the point), Thai Airways has long been one of my favorite carriers. That’s reason enough to spend some time in Thailand!

Barbecued chicken Chiang Mai-style. I’d have had it three times a day if I could; it’s that good.

We have not been disappointed. We had heard and now believe Chiang Mai is an excellent retirement location. In fact, while here I read that Costa Rica, Mexico and Thailand top the list of desirables for American retirees. The US dollar stretches remarkably in this country, particularly when you “go native” in food and clothing. The weather reminds us of Payson, Arizona in the summer: hot by day but, because the region is mountainous, cool temperatures set in after nightfall. We’re here at the best season of the year, they tell us, so we’re aware it might be quite otherwise later in the year.

Horizon Village landscape

While this is a fairly normal city with its share of congestion and construction and noise and dust, it is generally fairly clean by Asian standards and filled with and surrounded by beauty spots.

Chiang Mai is an old city. You can see vestiges of its earlier importance as the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom (from its founding in 1296 to 1558) in the walls and moats and plethora of Buddhist temples—which we admit we didn’t rush around to see. At this stage of our wanderings we’ve just about met our quota of temples (one major one to see, though: Doi Suthep). We appreciate the TLC with which the government and people care for the 500 that are everywhere throughout Chiang Mai.

Thanks to our friends Tony and Kristin and Preston, we got to see something of the countryside outside the city, where we were impressed by the lush greenness, the “feel” of a rain forest without, at least while we were here, the constant rain we expected. We quickly adjusted to seeing the myriad of temples and the countless markets, huge and small, and the always nearly clogged city streets. You don’t plan on going anywhere quickly.

The Hat (in his new bonnet) tries to keep up with Kilian. The 77 years between them give Killian a slight edge in the race.

We deliberately turned down the usual tourist trips. We wanted to be among the people—and the people rewarded us. We did make a couple of exceptions. The first was with the Courseys, who took us to their favorite retreat center, Horizon Village. What a treat that was! Beautifully landscaped. Quiet. Serene. A rewarding escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Joy’s pictures only give a hint of the reality.

Horizon Village bridge.

Chiang Mai isn’t paradise. A big reminder of what human beings can do to natural beauty is the Ping River, which flows through the heart of town. It’s polluted. Two culprits are blamed: periodic droughts and waste water. Not much can be done about the former; not much is being done about the latter. That neglect is blamed primarily on the overlapping, contradicting departments that are supposed to be monitoring and managing the waste. So fish are being poisoned, raw sewage flows freely and builds up along the riverbank, and you don’t see anyone swimming. Flushing clears the stream somewhat, but not during a drought. Closer attention is paid to the many rice paddies, where individual farmers feel responsible for the stewardship of their plot of land.

Working the rice field. It’s a romantic scene, but the work is backbreaking, never-ending, with two crops a year the norm.

We’ve learned a new appreciation for sticky rice (kôw nēe*o or kôw nêung). I’ve always liked it but didn’t know the rice actually comes from the plant “sticky.” I thought some kind of added nutritional glue held the rice together. Nope, it’s a quality of the rice itself. We also learned that northern Thai cuisine is the least spicy of Thailand’s several schools of cooking. What we did notice is the distinctive difference between the Thai food we love in the States and the native dishes we’ve eaten here. Both delicious, just different. The curry dishes I’ve tried here (Joy mostly avoids them because of gluten) are noticeably milder, with spices I have trouble distinguishing but have no trouble enjoying. My first choices? Kôw soy, wheat-and-egg noddles in curry broth and sâi òo*a, generously-spiced grilled pork sausage that resembles spicy Bratwurst.

We haven’t  just been eating Thai food. I already told you about enjoying Mexican here. Above is a Vietnamese meal friend Tony introduced us to.

Thailand celebrated Chinese new Year while we were here, February 16. We first saw preparations for the celebration in Hong Kong, splotches of red in the shops and streets. You’d think Chiang Mai was Chinese, so seriously do they take the occasion. Actually, Thailand has always had a rich Chinese heritage and today has a large Chinese population (69 million residents of Thailand, of whom about 14 percent are ethnic Chinese). Warorot Market, the city’s most popular shopping area, is also known as Chinatown.  Chinese New Year’s appears the day  is observed mostly in spectacle, worship, shopping, and eating.

After reading our last post, Loretta Green asked to see the Thai pants Joy bought in the market–for three dollars and change! Here is one of them.
Dada giving Joy her second Thai massage. You’ll note the Thai pants are not only inexpensive but versatile.

Preston took us to Blessings Church on Sunday morning, a small Thai congregation that the leader, Pastor Boon, founded 30 years ago. We’d never have found it ourselves, tucked away on a side street of a side street in a small suburban village. We found, though, a welcoming group who made us feel immediately at home. Preston translated, so we were able to follow the sermon fairly well.

Pastor Boon baptizing a young believer in Christ while others wait their turn.

Preston and Kristin are busy people. Here’s how Kristin describes her work: “I have a passion for education and for helping at-risk, underprivileged or marginalized youth. Primarily my work is in anti-human trafficking and education.” She works at a children’s home for pregnant high school aged (or younger) girls who’ve been rescued from human trafficking. The home provides a safe shelter to live in, free education and guidance in becoming independent. Kristin teaches English to both the girls and the Thai staff; this linguistic skill will enable them to double their starting salary. The curriculum includes Bible, discipleship and spiritual growth. Kristin also teaches English at the Juvenile Detention Center for girls.

Preston’s work falls into two categories: 1) community development and discipleship using CHE (Community Health Evangelism) and DMM (Disciple Making Movement) in a few villages around Chiang Dao, north of here. A current focus is a natural pig farming project and working with the villagers in addressing some water supply issues. He also is heavily involved with the Thai church, where he took us Sunday. In effect Preston works with three groups:1) people outside Chiang Mai who often move to the city for work; 2) the local church inside the city; and 3) people who live and work in Chiang Mai itself.

Preston with Killian–one of Preston’s most important jobs.

Preston concentrates on the very poor, cooperating with them in their farming, aquaponics, and other “hands-on” projects. His is passionate about building relationships with Thai friends, hoping to help them grow spiritually as they grow more secure financially.

Dave and Andrea Buechler

We received an email from Jill Widmer Noble urging us to get in touch with David and Andrea Buechler, Pioneers missionaries supported by her church (Northwood Christian in Springfield, Oregon). So we did. What a treat! Turns out Dave went to Northwest Christian University, our alma mater–about twenty years after we left. In the States he had two vocations,  pastoring several churches and working with incarcerated youth. Then in mid-career he felt the call to missions, specifically to Thailand. He’s right back with his two loves, working the church and with troubled adolescents. He’s here as an English teacher. Andrea’s parents were missionaries with Arabs in Morocco and Southern France. Today she works beside David, exercising her gift of hospitality . They have a son and daughter-in-law and a grandchild in the States and another son with YWAM (Youth with a Mission). Sixteen-year-old Reuben lives with them in Thailand. We had so much fun at our first coffee date we immediately scheduled a second for the next day, which ended with popcorn at our house (about all the food we had left this late in our sojourn.

About Jill Noble. Many readers of this blog remember George and JoAnn Widmer, lifelong friends and Velcro family members. Jill’s their daughter. We got to know her better than ever last December, when we were with  JoAnn during her final days. The Buechlers admire Jill in the same way we admire the whole Widmer family. Jill reports that George and son Mark and his wife Pam are traveling now in the southwestern states. We’ve been impressed with George’s courage and determination to keep going after having to part from the love of his life since their school days.

One of the many temple buildings on Doi Suthep.

We departed on Thursday. On Wednesday Preston, Kristin and Killian picked us up for a trip up the mountain to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most famous Buddhist temple.  The temple takes its name from Doi Suthep, the mountain on which it sits overlooking the city. Legend has it that in a dream the monk Sumanathera was ordered to Pang Cha to look for a relic. He went as told and found a bone that many claim was Gautama Buddha’s shoulder bone. It had magical powers. Sumanathera demonstrated its powers to the king–but the bone failed to cooperate. The king told the monk the could keep his bone.

The new Hat starting the climb. He’s the guy in the red shirt.
First view of the temple at the top of the steps
Temple has special meaning to many visitors.

King Nu Naone of Lan Na got wind of the relic and invited the monk to bring it to him. And it was done. That was in 1368. Once there, the bone broke into two pieces; one was enshrined in a temple in Suandok but the king placed the other on the back of a white elephant and released it into the jungle. The elephant must have sensed there was something special on his back, because it climbed Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times and collapsed, dead. An omen, it was said. King Nu Naone immediately ordered a temple built on that site.  And it was so. It is this same site, greatly enlarged with numerous gold-leafed shrines, that we visited.

This Buddha, one of more than we could count, meditates in sylvan isolation.

We climbed the 309 steps to the top, shed shoes, properly covered shoulders and arms, dodged throngs of camera toting, selfie-snapping tourists, and studied the dozens and dozens of Buddhas and their praying adherents. I confess I’ve tried to understand Buddhism in its manifold forms, but I remain a respectful outsider grateful for the opportunity to make this visit.

300+ steps require a rest occasionally–even of the younger members of our entourage.


Orchids everywhere in this beautiful country.
Nature takes strange turns
Palm leaf detail
Three monks ascending to the temple steps.
Even monks have to do laundry!
Wooden sculpture watches over Roy and Kristin as they discuss what they are seeing.


Chiang Mai city center walking bridge over medieval moat.

OK, “nosing around” is a terrible pun. The truth is, though, my nose has pretty much dictated the agenda this first week in Chiang Mai. For the last 18 months or so I’ve been monitoring strange comings and goings on  the top of my ample probiscis. A suspicious growth there had to be removed three years ago or more. Lately, a reappearance, so as soon as we settled in, thanks to a new friend here, I checked in with two more doctors (a dermatologist and a plastic surgeon, numbers 4 and 5 in this series). Result: the most extensive biopsy I’ve ever experienced. A three-and-a-half-hour surgical procedure. I thought it would be the usual snip snip. That was last Wednesday. I return this Wednesday for the report.

The Hat’s nose. Joy hoped the procedure would reduce its size but instead she says it now looks bigger than ever.
The Hat’s new pillbox. It’s not been a good week. I asked the pharmacist for some daily multivitamins. This is what she gave me. I know what “geriatric” means.

Preston Coursey met us at Chiang Mai’s International Airport and drove us, with an intermediate stop for groceries, to our new home in the Chonlada Land and House Village, an elaborate residential development north of town. As we gained admission through two guard houses I nearly gasped. This is so not our kind of residence. What hath Joy wrought? The answer is, she had discovered the value of the Thai Bhat. For one of our lowest rents since we’ve been on the loose she rented a spacious two-bedroom three-bath house with both a Western and a Thai kitchen. Not everything works (one burner out of four in the Western kitchen, the electric one; one out of two in the Thai kitchen on the back porch). But we have space.

Chiang Mai Airbnb, our home in Thailand for three weeks. When considering cost of living, this would be a good place to retire.

Most of our immediate neighbors are Thai, so conversation is limited. We have become well acquainted with one, though. Here’s how. From time to time I’ve reported times not of being lost, exactly, but perhaps temporarily misplaced. That happened again on our first morning here. Out for my walk, I felt secure with my GPS. I also paid careful attention to where I was going so I could find my way back. On my return, though, I came to a confusing intersection (they look pretty much alike). Which way? Not to worry. Check the GPS. But–it couldn’t find my house, either. Wandering around, I spied a young woman walking her dog. Could she help me? Dada (that’s her name—she’s an old friend now) didn’t understand at first, then she did and began giving me rapid-fire directions in Thai.

DaDa, Tony’s housekeeper, is going to Thai massage school. Here she is ready for Joy’s treatment. Joy gave her high marks.

It’s amazing how animated two people can be while miscommunicating. She was determined to help me, would not let me go on by myself,  and finally with sign language and unwavering insistence she led me to her own house, that is, the house where she’s housekeeper. She sat me down in the living room, made several trips up the stairs to implore her boss to come downstairs and bring his English with him.

Tony the rescuer/tour guide.

Which he did. I told him later what a compliment she had paid him. She knew he would come to my aid because he’s that kind of guy. Nothing doing but that he would drive me around the neighborhood until I recognized 189/123 Chonlada on Soi (street) #6 (though there’s no sign at the intersection to identify #6). He dropped me off with an invitation to afternoon tea. We accepted.

Then Tony (Antony Moundcote-Carter), retired Classical Systems Architect at the Center for Addictive and Mental Health in Toronto (he’s an IT geek) appointed himself our personal caregiver, with our grateful acquiescence. He recommended the hospital for my nose, deposited me  there for my consultation (stayed in the waiting room with Joy all Monday morning), then drove us to the mall to have the lens replaced in my glasses and get a sim card for Joy’s cell phone, and assorted other errands, including an Apple store visit for my laptop’s adjustment. Tony retired here four years ago in part because living is so inexpensive but also because as a Buddhist (he once studied to become a monk) he could pursue his religious practices in a supportive environment. I wasn’t surprised to learn he had devoted much of his career to the health industry; he likes helping people. We’re a good match. We like being helped by the likes of him.

Chiang Mai city bus service. Thanks to Tony’s services, we did not need to use this mode of transportation.

Back to Preston Coursey. We had looked forward to spending some quality time with this CMF missionary couple. We didn’t know Preston well, but I’d known his wife Kristin all her life. Her mother and father met at Milligan College when I taught there. Her grandfather was what I called my “next door neighbor” preacher in Oregon in the 1960s. I pastored in Tigard, he in Lake Grove. In the days when I was also teaching at Tigard High School, about once a month I’d take the long way home from school to stop in at the home of Don and Beth Alice Johnson and their three little boys, one of whom was Greg, Kristin’s father. (I would tease the boys, from time to time threatening to toss them in the garbage can. How was I to know Greg would grow to 6’3″ and not forget my threats?) Kristin’s grandmother Beth Alice was an early role model for Joy, her favorite among ministers’ wives.

Preston, Kristin and Killian in the gardens of nearby Eat on Earth Restaurant.

There’s more. Kristin’s great-uncle was Jess Johnson, president of Milligan College when I was vice president; and before that pastor of St. Johns Christian Church in Portland where I was his youth minister; and before that pastor of First Christian Church in Tillamook, where, he later loved to tell people, I was the Junior Church preacher.

There’s still more. Kristin’s great-grandfather Walter Johnson was a barber, my barber when I was a boy. When we moved from Oregon to Tennessee many years later, we bought Walter Johnson’s house (in Johnson City, of course) and made it our home for eight years.

We had a delightful evening at a nearby restaurant with the Courseys and Becca Schaefer, a fellow CMF missionary. She and I had met when she was commissioned but had never spent any time together. She’s from the Indianapolis area. Her pastor is Graham Richards, whom I first got to know in his native England as a student at Springdale College. Since then he interned in the States, married an American girl back in England, and eventually made his way back to America for good. One more connection: The associate minister at THRIVE (formerly Central Christian Church in Carmel) is Scotty Daily. Scotty grew up in Mesa Central Christian Church during our years there; his father was one of my associates on staff after he ministered for several years in England. Small world. And wonderful.

Becca and Phil

Becca introduced us to Phil. Becca came to Thailand to work with children with disabilities. Her ministry is inspiring. She gives herself daily to  children society discards. In addition to the other children she serves, she is Phil’s foster mother. A charming thirteen-year-old, Phil is a victim of cerebral palsy. He has almost no control of his body; arms and legs flail as they will, head moves without intention, feet are more helpful than hands. Yet Phil is endowed with intelligence, a keen sense of humor, and a strong will. Becca sees progress in his development. He wants to learn to feed himself; she’s determined to help him acquire the skill. That’s an immediate aim. Her long-range goal is to equip him in these teen years so he can get a job. Ambitious. And admirable.

Chiang Mai Sunday Night Street Market before the crowd thickened.

On another evening out we took in the Sunday Night Street Market in the heart of Chiang Mai. It’s a bargain shopper’s paradise, a non-shopper’s nightmare: streets closed to vehicular traffic but clogged with the human kind, all inspecting every stall’s offerings, pushing on to the next, sucking up the oxygen, heating up the already hot atmosphere, and convincing themselves they’re having a wonderful time.

Sunday Night Street Market music

Truth to tell,  they–and we–were. Joy did splurge. Bought two cool Thai pants that look like pajamas. Squandered over three dollars apiece on them. Forced me to buy a hat that cost almost seven dollars. I had to hurry her away from the place before our taxi money was gone. Got out just in the nick of time.

The biopsy came back negative. No skin cancer. No reduction in nose size. One reason to smile.


Our caregiver/tour guide Tony is equally conscientious in caring for Kami, his Alaskan Husky, and Kami’s best boyfriend, Mr Mee.
Hospital lobby full of orchids. Very peaceful
Sunday Night Market crowd  in front of Buddhist Temple. Chiang Mai boasts 500 Buddhist temples.
Thai market has how many kinds of rice?
Our first view of the Chiang Mai mountains. They had been covered with haze for days. 



Hong Kong hills, valleys, rain and haze

For years Joy has longed see Hong Kong. She’d heard it’s a Mecca for shoppers. I thought we had doused that dream when we gave up our home. After all, why buy things when you have no place to put them? I’d been to Hong Kong a couple of times and found it yet another large city with confusing currency and daunting language barriers. Besides,  since I have never had any interest in shopping as a recreational sport, you will understand that we spent three days here only because I’m a dutiful husband who likes pleasing the wife.

Hong Kong skyscrapers. Tall and mighty (and skinny).

I even gave her an additional day. We planned on two. They became three when I discovered I had booked our hotel for the night after our cruise ended the day before. I caught my mistake in time to correct it, then carefully explained the generous impulse that extended our stay by another 24 hours. She expressed surprise and gratitude. Unfortunately, she reads our blog, so now she knows the rest of the story!

We didn’t shop but majored in photography.  We had hoped to have some stunning pictures to show you. Hong Kong is a remarkable visual feast–when the sun shines. It didn’t. The cold caught us  unprepared.  for the cold. Hotel rooms here, at least those I’ve stayed in, are unheated—unless you ask for a space heater, which we did. We had left our winter coats behind in Australia, thinking the remaining 2017-2018 itinerary would be in warmer climes, so we layered up each day before venturing out.

Hong Kong Cosmo Hotel, our home for three days. We’re on the 27th floor. It would be the penthouse suite if the hotel had a penthouse and our home had more than one room..

The warmth of the hotel staff compensated for the coolness (literally) of our accommodations. They met our every request with dispatch, carefully helped us plan our itinerary and city bus jaunts, and made us feel at home. In spite of their helpfulness we still managed to see more of Hong Kong Island than we anticipated. We knew we’d gone too far when the bus stopped with us as the only remaining passengers. The driver was another really helpful guy, though. He led us to the right bus, which departed just before we could get on it. He flagged it down and explained our plight. The new driver in the new bus made certain we arrived at our destination and got off on time.

“The Peak” is Hong Kong Island’s vista. Chinese entrepreneurs take full advantage of this tourist attraction. A giant mall covers the hilltop. I enjoyed this once-threatening outing, because we can’t buy anything! It turned into a photo opportunity. Not a long one, though, because it was chilly up there.


The Peak boasts of its beautiful city view. The Hat agrees








We met this chap while trying to get warm at The Peak. He is  a Harvard PhD , 27 years old, had just given  a speech in China and  was now in Hong Kong to see the sights. His doctorate is in nuclear physics. In this conversation, I did the listening!



Vanessa from England and Alany from California met in Paris a few years ago and now travel on holiday together every year. We met them on the bus descending from The Peak


Our Hong Kong days were quietly spent. The weather didn’t entice us to put in long days touristing. We caught up on a backlog of email and writing, took in an art gallery, checked out St. John’s Church (Anglican), sampled a variety of Chinese restaurants (including a Mexican one), tried our hand at bus and Uber transportation, went to The Peak, and strolled the Promenade, and marveled at the energy of this unique semi-independent city-state perched on the border of mainland China.

Hong Kong “Soundscape,” an artistic addition to the shoreline Promenade.
The description of Soundscape captures the marriage of art and politics in this place.


Tai Chi whenever and wherever the moment calls for it.
Hong Kong City Center Park: a place to stop for a moment
Hong Kong takes disease control seriously.
Flight from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai. This elderly gent is praying, of course. [Warning: Never travel with a photographer.}
This elderly gent isn’t The Hat but a Hong Kong resident who has found warmth and serenity in St. Johns.


Our cruise ship: Holland America’s Volendam

In our last post we told you about our visit to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Here are a couple more pictures from there.

The centerpiece was the visit to the former Presidential Palace, now called Reunification Hall. It was here that the North Vietnamese tank #390 crashed through the front gates on April 30, 1975. The “war” would soon be over.

The famous Vietnamese tank.

Like me you probably watched that event on television and felt the sadness of a long, futile struggle coming to an ignominious ending. The building remains in good repair—we quickly toured the reception and dining rooms of the President’s quarters as well as the basement, which is still full of the American-made telecommunications equipment and other memorabilia.

Vietnam museum’s depiction of the salvaging and repurposing of war materials.

At the City Museum, a rather anachronistic mid-19th century French colonial building in this very modern city, we examined more artifacts of Vietnamese culture in general and the “American” War in particular, including pictures commemorating the communist struggle for power.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) today, as seen from the observatory platform high up on the Bitexco Financial Tower.

We told you we were on a cruise, but we also spent many hours aboard excursion buses:

A familiar sight at every port. One of these awaiting buses is ours.

Hue was our next excursion, where we looked around the Imperial City of the Nguyen emperors who reigned from 1802 to 1945. The Citadel is a pretty impressive place, beginning with the Mon Gate which we passed through to reach the main pavilion, the Palace of Supreme Harmony (an ironic name for a fortress/capital, don’t you think?). The Palace is largely a ceremonial venue, resplendent in ornate columns and furnishings of red and gold. The Tet Offensive of 1968 took its toll, but restoration work continues.

Entrance to the Emperor’s tomb–which he personally designed.

We also took a quick look at an imperial tomb nearby, this one built by Nguyen Dynasty Emperors. It served as a place of recreation and then finally as the final resting place of Tu Duc—although apparently no one knows exactly where he is buried—to prevent robbers from desecrating his grave. If we hadn’t been told we were at a tomb I’d have thought it was simply a smaller palace replete with the lake, gardens, hunting grounds, and other ornate buildings. My democratic/republican convictions have trouble reconciling how well the emperors took care of themselves in life and death and how little thought they gave to the conditions of the peasants who supported them.

BTW, Tu Duc had 104 wives and concubines, but left no heirs. It’s amazing to think that he could have tried to get progeny from so many women, all of whom apparently were infertile. It surely could not have been his fault. He was the emperor, after all.

Several times our guides explained the prevalence of ancestor worship in this predominantly Buddhist part of the world. It would take a foreigner–

Ancestor worship encourages extravagant cemeteries.

at least this foreigner–some serious time and study to separate the strands of religious observance here: Buddhism, animism, ancestor worship, Christianity, Islam, communism, and other minor ones.

Nets for night fishing

It was in this area that we observed a fishing technique new to us. The above nets are submerged at night to capture the prey, then lifted very early the morning to get the fresh catch to market.  Apparently this time-honored method works well.

Vietnam in soccer finals; bars reverberated with the shouts of the fans.

The most memorable sight in Da Nang was the many crowds glued to large screen televisions set up in shops along the street. By their enthusiastic roaring we were sure Vietnam was trouncing Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup games. We weren’t alone in our conclusion. On board ship that evening the assistant cruise director announced the victory, only to have to apologize the next evening for his mistake. Uzbekistan scored in the last 20 seconds to defeat Vietnam. We were sad.

Ha Long Bay’s most photographed island or rock

From the first day we began planning this SE Asia cruise Joy insisted we get to Ha Long Bay if we went nowhere else. She and Candy had been in Vietnam in 2011 but missed this stop which other tourists in her group insisted was a must. So we went, taking a luncheon cruise aboard a converted fishing junk and exploring Thien Cung Cave.

Ha Long Bay’s grandeur

This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s easy to understand why. Our boat passed by many (I lost count) of the 3000 limestone islands that dot the bay. This is the count our guide gave us; the brochure said otherwise: “Ha Long Bay is dotted with an estimated 1,969 islands spread over 900 square miles.”

Ha Long Bay

Our guide exaggerated some other facts as well–or was it my unreliable hearing?– so I’ll stick with the brochure’s number. The full name is Ha Long Bay of the Descending Dragon. The guide had some tall tales to tell about the dragons, also.

I was satisfied that Joy had made the right decision; the bay alone was worth the price of admission, which included an excellent seafood lunch. I liked it all. Joy wasn’t excited about the fish served with head (including the eyes) intact, but the meat was good.

Thien Cung Cave

Then came the Thien Cung Cave. Over the years we’ve explored several grottoes. I’d rank this one at or near the top of the list—although Joy reminded me of the magnificent Oregon Caves, which she thought even more dramatic. Her pictures capture something of the splendor, but this is a case in which “you had to be there.” I felt the same about the bay islands.

Cave stalagmites

The brochure warned: “You will stop at Thien Cung Cave and wander through the cavern to marvel at its stalagmite and stalactite formations (suitable only for the agile).” I’m happy to report we were among the agile.

As our cruise ended we did not enjoy saying goodbye to the delightful people we met aboard. Here are four of our favorites, the Bodners (Marty and Gladys) and Brintons (Michael and Elaine) from Victoria, B. C. Three of them are retired school teachers and Michael’s a retired civil servant. Their zest for life is contagious.


Asia cruise friends. A rare incident: the Hat (minus hat) spins a yarn for the captive audience.


Rice paddies provide the Vietnamese diet’s staple.
Farmers life near Da Nang
Poles that secure tires in which oysters grow their pearls.
Da Nang street sweeper
Buffet sweets. Nothing here is gluten free.
Varieties of Vietnam’s fruit. ALL GLUTEN FREE!



Thailand Sunrise

This voyage is my penance. Remember my report a few posts back on how I saved $1500 on flight tickets from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Melbourne, Australia? All we had to do in order to achieve such a feat was to take the 56-hour route from Campinas (by car) to Sao Paulo, then go by air to Orlando, Florida; to Los Angeles, California; to Sydney, Australia; and finally to Melbourne. Remember how I said I knew I had to make it up to Joy somehow? My quickly devised plan was to take her on a cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong with stops in Ko Samui and Laem Chabang, Thailand; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Phu My (and Ho Chi Minh City), Nha Trang, Da Nang, and Halong Bay, Vietnam? This plan would cost a whole lot more than the $1500 I saved us. Well, the plan worked. Our marriage is still together. There are worse things than doing penance. Divorce, for one.

At first blush our ship had all the appearance of a floating old folks’ home, the inmates in varying degrees of decrepitude shuffling along from meal to meal with compulsory stateroom naps in between. We feel right at home among them. The ship was newly renovated just before this cruise. It’s in good shape, but the decor is muted, appealing undoubtedly to people who don’t want any visual violence in the decorations. (I might not have noticed it if my younger wife, with her eye for color and beauty, hadn’t pointed it out.) Each evening’s entertainment is also subdued: no exotic dancers, no throbbing disco and strobe lights, no edgy Broadway extravaganzas. They feature instead a concert pianist, for heaven’s sake. And a violinist! As I said, we belong here.

(I wrote the above observations early in the cruise. As time went on I noticed more younger people; I also noticed that the on-shore excursions were totally subscribed. These oldsters and their younger traveling companions paid good money for this cruise and they were determined to get their money’s worth. So were we.

We thought we’d have a little time in Singapore, our port of departure, but our plane left Jakarta late which meant a late arrival here. Add to that tardiness our taxi driver’s confusion—he drove us to the wrong marina—which meant missing closing time at the right one’s gate by five minutes. Fortunately, our patient (and subsequent fairly well tipped) porter knew how to lead us, bags in tow, through the terminal maze to the upstairs gangway. All we can tell you about Singapore is what we saw through the taxi’s windows. Joy has only mentioned that a dozen times, followed by, “I’d sure like to see more of Singapore sometime.” Another addition to the bucket list.

Child of the fishing village in Cambodia

Our first stop, after a couple of sea days, was Ko Samui, on Thailand’s southern coast. It wasn’t to see the town, though. We were pretty desperate to find an internet cafe. The connectivity on board the ship is so bad even the crew advised us not to waste our money on it. Later, others who did buy time told us we had been well advised. So we went ashore. We had a post to send, probably the only one we’d be able to get out during this two-week cruise, and some correspondence to catch up on. We did get last week’s blog post off and took a quick look at our email, but had to postpone answering until later. This is the most disconnected we’ve felt since going on the loose. I’m afraid we’ve been ensnared by the allures of cyberspace. I remember when being aboard a ship felt like a wonderful retreat from all responsibility. Where did I go wrong? Anyway, after several minutes of hard labor at the computer, I returned to the ship while Joy toured Ko Samui’s plentiful sidewalk shops offering the same touristy stuff you can find everywhere else. Sometimes I just don’t understand…

Laem Chabang, our next stop, was a surprise. We had made careful arrangements for this one, since it was advertised as Bangkok’s port. Bangkok was a top priority. We were to connect with Mark and Princess Bernardino and their fellow Globalscope campus minister Michael Tomczak. We’ve been on the loose since May 2016 with a goal of visiting all CMF Globalscope ministries. By fall of 2017 we had met with the leaders in all of them but one: Puebla, Mexico; Birmingham and Nottingham, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Brisbane, Australia; Santiago, Chile; Montevideo, Uruguay; Valencia and Salamanca, Spain; Tübingen and Freiburg, Germany. The one exception was Bangkok. We promised ourselves we would not abandon our globe-trotting until we’d visited here, too. Mark and Princess hadn’t been able to attend the annual Globalscope Celebrations which bring together these leaders from around the globe; visa complications kept them away. So, since they couldn’t come to us, we’d go to them.

Laem Chabang docks

We chose the Volendam because their propaganda promised a couple of days in Bangkok—we thought. We wrote the team we were coming. Could we meet them, take them to dinner, be briefed on their work? We told them we’d be docked in Laem Chabang. Could they name the time and place for our dinner and discussion? They could. They did. Not until the day before we arrived, though, did we discover that Laem Chabang is not a section of Bangkok. It is not even near Bangkok. They had to drive 2 1/2 hours, book hotel rooms for an overnight stay, and then drive back the next day. Can you guess how the arranger of our travel plans (that would be me!) felt when I discovered what I had asked of them?

Bangkok Team

They were gracious and forgiving and our brief time together couldn’t have been better. In addition to Michael and Mark and Princess we were able to meet their beautiful boys and Princess’ brother Preacher (Princess and Preacher are their given names, by the way). The Bernardinos are from the Philippines, Michael from the States. They all fell in love with campus ministry when they themselves were university students and, in spite of the challenges they face as “aliens” working on this predominately Buddhist environment, they are being rewarded as the young people they work with respond to their love and teaching. Meeting them was a positive conclusion to our Globalscope visitation project. We’re ready to do it again!

Exterior of Sanctuary of Truth
The Hat studies the ornate carvings in the Sanctuary of Truth. That’s a construction hard hat on top of the regular hat.

Pattaya was our chosen onshore tour from Laem Chabang—we’d been to Bangkok proper before. Intrigued by what we’d heard of the Sanctuary of Truth, we signed up on the excursion that included it and a quick look at the city itself. Joy’s pictures capture a bit of this remarkable pseudo-temple.

Artists still producing for the sanctuary of Truth

It’s the brainchild of Lek Viriyaphant. The all-wood 105-meters-high Sanctuary has been under construction since 1981; 250 wood carvers ply their trade here, enhancing the exterior and interior with jaw-dropping sculptures of gods and goddess and symbolic representations of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions and philosophies. Mr. Lek is dead but his elderly son presides over this privately owned tourist attraction which is as much a tribute to the family’s business acumen as their interest in religion and philosophy. Paying crowds throng the place.

Sanctuary of Truth requires very tall ladders

I was eager to see Pattaya again to neutralize the bad impression of my first visit here. Then I was attending a conference of Christian leaders, a positive experience. One evening, though, three of us skipped the session to get a better look at the host town. Often in business travels I arrive at the airport, am whisked to the conference hotel, attend to business from early morning to late evening, and am whisked back to the airport without learning anything about the city. So we went out for a look-see. What we saw was one an unforgettable, heartbreaking scene. We drove past blocks where crowds of women, some very young girls, were on display, scrubbed and draped and painted as provocatively as possible for the sake of the shopping tourists (men, of course) ready to buy what the girls were selling. I’m the father of girls, as were my companions. After awhile we couldn’t stand it any longer. We were back in our hotel room by 9:00, subdued and dejected. We’d seen all we wanted to see of Pattaya.

Pattaya from the city’s vista point.

That’s the memory I wanted to erase. This trip helped. Pattaya is a boom town, with new towering high rises and other buildings dominating the once quiet beach front. The resort city seems loosely stitched together by a tangled maze of telephone and electrical wires. The vista point reveals the secret to the city’s growth: a long strand of sandy beach, an almost irresistible lure for city dwellers in Bangkok to the north and tourists from all over the world.

Our only stop in Cambodia was in Sihanoukville. The ship’s cruise director and others repeatedly warned us pampered Westerners in the language printed on the list of tours : “NOTE: Life in the third world: be prepared.” We were prepared. We’d been in other third world countries. We hadn’t been to Cambodia, though, so we decided not to stay in the port town but signed up for the “Town and Village Exploration” excursion to Kampot Town, stopping on the way to visit a local pepper plantation.

Cambodia. The Hat checks out the pepper plantation.

We learned Kampot pepper is “renowned as one of the best peppers in the world.” This pepper (as in “table salt and pepper,” not the green and red vegetables) is shipped far and wide.

Pepper plant
Cambodia river homes

Kampot is a riverside town featuring only a couple of buildings left over from the French colonial period, which we walked by but didn’t find as interesting as the large tourist restaurant where several busloads of us were treated to a feast including local fish, shrimp, squid, clams, rice, vegetables, jackfruit—and black peppers like those we saw on the bushes at the pepper plantation. They were served and eaten like the other veggies. It’s an acquired taste. The scarcity of buildings from the French colonial period reminds us that the Vietnam War was also fought on Cambodian soil.

Cambodia river village

If you are of a certain age you remember the horrible Killing Fields of Cambodia. We didn’t visit the burial places (I saw the movie; I didn’t mind not going to the actual fields.) Our guide said that after the demise of Pol Pot’s murderous regime, Cambodia had only one lawyer. Only 53 teachers. The “intellectual” class had been decimated. And not just that class. Out of a population of eight million, two million were killed. The population now stands at 15 million; the majority were born after 1980 and have no personal memory of the genocide. Have you noticed a recurring theme in these posts? We have yet to visit any place that has enjoyed uninterrupted peace.

Another surprise was Angkor Wat. Early in our planning I told Joy that something I really wanted to see in Cambodia was this famous Hindu temple, the world’s largest. It was named in the advertisement, also. Turns out we could have gone there if we wanted to take a two-day excursion from the ship and pay too much money in addition to what my penance has already cost me. So we skipped it. We have gained so much else on this trip we can’t complain about this omission. Besides, I’m learning how important it is to carefully read the fine print!

For those who lived through the awful days of the Vietnamese War (over here it’s called the American War), a visit to Ho Chi Minh City (which we knew as Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam) was imperative. We saw Tank 390 on proud display; this was the vehicle that crashed through the gate of the presidential palace, signaling the imminent defeat for our side. We saw the hotel building with its helipad on the roof where Americans and sympathetic South Vietnamese were rescued from the angry mob below. We paid a brief visit to the city museum, taking in its display of instruments of war and reading the story as told from the Vietnamese point of view. Sobering. Choices had to be made; we couldn’t go on all the tours, so we did not climb down into the tunnels (250 miles of them!) in which N. Vietnamese soldiers slept and ate and recovered and prepared to emerge to fight again. And again.

If you hadn’t known of the war you wouldn’t have guessed it just driving through this bustling metropolis of 12,000,000 people—and 8,500,000 scooters and motorcycles! It’s a thoroughly modern city. As in Cambodia, most of the population is youthful; many of the buildings are new. Construction cranes are everywhere. The communists may have won the battles but capitalism obviously won the war.



Beautiful pastel large eggs on doorstep of fishing village
Buddhist monk at sanctuary of Truth
Kamport market fish lady
Fishing village fishermen
Cambodian gas (petrol) station
Prayer Tree at Sanctuary of Truth


Welcome to Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Somewhere I read Garuda Indonesia was a backwater national airline not quite up to keeping company with the majors. Based on our flights to and from Makassar, we think the critics got it wrong. From the first friendly greetings at the check-in counter through the boarding process to the onboard creature comforts and solicitous crew and trouble-free flights, our experience was as first class as you can get anywhere when you buy economy tickets. Oh, there were some snafus, but they weren’t exceptional. Well, maybe a little. We required some assistance from the help desk in Melbourne on our way to Makassar because the day before Garuda had notified us our return flight from Makassar had been cancelled. The airline automatically moved us to a later flight. Thoughtful not possible. The new flight had us arriving in Jakarta 15 minutes after our connecting flight departed for Singapore. Hence our trip to the help desk. After some confusion, the attendant went to work, rescheduled us to the earlier flight we requested, and we breathed easy again.

We thought our troubles were over, but we then left Melbourne an hour late, which reduced our connection time in Jakarta, so we practically ran down the long, long concourse as the announcement came over the PA system, “Final boarding call for Garuda Flight 717 for Makassar.” This came after a polite golf cart driver offered to carry us to Gate 20—and I just as politely declined. “We need to walk,” I explained. But then we had to run! Sometimes our crises are not the airline’s fault.

John & Juli Liles

We were greeted by a stutter of Js—the Liles family. Juli jumped out of their van to greet us, John to load our luggage. Then we met most of the rest of the Js: James (11), Joshaya (8) and Joel (pronounced Joe-ell) (5). We met Jona (13) later. Thus began a whirlwind of activities as John and Juli made certain we learned as much as possible of Makassar and their work here.

Liles guys at play

This was a long overdue visit. I had fun explaining to their Indonesian friends that I’ve known John since before he was born. I first met his parents Ona and Ruth at a CMF board meeting in Mesa before they left for service in Ethiopia, where John was born. They later returned to Mesa for a short stay when the Communist revolution forced them out of Ethiopia. They then moved on for distinguished service in Indonesia, where John and his siblings Naomi and Philip and Rachel grew up. Joy and I reconnected with John when he was a student at Hope International University during my time as president there. After graduating he returned to his real home in Indonesia, met and married Juli, a native of Sumatra, and eventually settled in Makassar where together they founded and now operate and teach in a small but growing elementary school along with their extensive work among the poor. Ask me if we’re proud of this energetic, visionary, dedicated couple! I should add, from all we could observe, they are also exemplary parents. We enjoyed hanging out with all these Js.

Indonesia banana market. The rain doesn’t interfere with the trade.

We didn’t pick the best time to visit, just the one that best fit our travel schedule. It’s rainy season here. By rainy season I don’t mean what the term means elsewhere, as in San Miguel, Mexico for example, where the rains come predictably late every afternoon but the sun shines most of the day. By our last day here we hadn’t seen the sun, and torrential downpours didn’t discriminate between day and night. As Oregonians, we welcomed them.

Traffic on side street. It’s more crowded on the main thoroughfares.

A comment about traffic. If there’s a good time to try to get somewhere in this city, we haven’t found it yet. (3:00 AM, John suggested; we didn’t test his hypothesis.) A ten-minute trip regularly stretches to an hour. If there are any rules for the road, we couldn’t detect them. Still,  every driver seems intuitively to know when to go and when to yield. U-turns occur everywhere; drivers play “chicken” while foreign passengers hold their breath.  Once again I was happy I wasn’t driving. The secret to survival is rather simple, it appears. Drive slowly, take turns, never panic and don’t lose your temper. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Makassar is the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, Sulawesi island’s

Liles home

largest city, and the fifth largest in Indonesia. It lies just across Makassar Strait from the island of Sumatra. (Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it; we hadn’t either before the Liles moved here.) From 1971 to 1999 it went by the name Jung Pandang, which is still often used interchangeably with Makassar—to this traveler’s confusion. The population of the greater metropolitan area is about 2.5 million. And they’re all going somewhere else at the same time.

Dutch traders arriving in the early 17th century left an indelible stamp on the culture of Makassar. They replaced the Portuguese—earlier colonial masters—to capture the lucrative spice trade. The Sultan of Gowa (the name of this general area) lost his power as the Dutch took over. They renamed the city’s fort to Fort Rotterdam and in general ran things. For awhile. Gradually, though, Dutch power ebbed as Arab, Malaysian, and Chinese traders gained increasing independence. In time Makassar became a trading center for most of eastern Indonesia. Wikipedia quotes author Joseph Conrad’s assessment of Makassar as ”the prettiest and perhaps, cleanest looking of all the towns in the islands.” Then came World War II and the Japanese occupation. An uneasy independence followed as a succession of dictators like Sukarno and Suharto assumed control. Regardless of who is running the country, what is immediately apparent to the Western visitor today is the dominance of Islam. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country.

Inspiring church service in Makassar.

On Sunday morning the Liles took us with them to Every Nation Church, a strong body of about 200 worshipers. Several things impressed us: 1) the very full room; 2) the youthfulness of the congregation; 3) the enthusiasm of the worship—they all sang and many of them bounced and danced as they sang; 4) the excellence of the worship team, band and vocalists; 5) the friendliness of the people; and 6) the invisibility of the pastor.

He was there but took no part in leading the service. He looked on, I suspect with pride, as the young men and women he has been mentoring led the service, including the sermon. Of course we understood very little—our grasp of the Indonesian language being zero, but John quietly translated into English for us. The scripture was one of my favorites, Ephesians 2, emphasizing our unity in Christ and our dependence on grace and not merit for salvation. The sermon gained added poignancy since we were among only a handful of white faces in a sea of brown. We listened to a message that was all about including minorities like us regardless of our sinfulness, our marginalized status, our race and color, and our lack of spiritual merit. It seemed particularly timely for us Americans. We were glad to be here.

Then John and Juli gave us another treat. They had arranged a leisurely Sunday dinner with two other ex-pat families: David and Ruth and their children, and Brandon and Wendy and theirs. I think I counted 11 children. In the way they played together it was obvious they were good friends. The three families meet and eat together often enough to be a source of encouragement.

Sunday lunch with friends

We are wealthy here. The American dollar is worth 13,500 rupiahs. More than wealthy—we are millionaires. On our last evening Joy and I, wanting to say thanks for their superb hospitality, took John and Juli on a double date to an upscale restaurant. We spared no expense. The whole meal for the four of us came to $45. Earlier we shopped for some clothes. Didn’t buy any. I’d have had to shell out up to $6 for a shirt! There’s a limit, even for millionaires.

First day of school

We got to see the Liles’ school on Monday. It was the pupils’ first day back after their holiday vacation. After starting with a student population of seven two years ago, the steady growth has brought the number to over 40. Teachers are both Christian and Muslim, the Liles’ believing that the best way to teach mutual tolerance and respect is to minimize the us/them polarity.

Gentle John–school master–loves and teaches.

It’s an openly Christian institution that accepts Muslim students and Muslims on the faculty to share the teaching load with their Christian colleagues. The Bible is part of the curriculum; so is daily chapel.  From what we saw, the result is a pretty happy, well-integrated faculty and student body with a strong but not overbearing Christian emphasis.

Wooden Boat waits in port for storm to pass.

Makassar boasts a large wharf for all-wooden cargo vessels. Designed as oblique Us—high in the prow, low in the middle and rising again to an abruptly truncated stern—when loaded the center rides just above the surface. We crawled around one of them. Its load was cement!—ballast was not going to be a problem for this boat. I think three families make their living and their home on it. The toilet is self-flushing. There’s nothing below it but the sea.

Wooden Boat dock attracts kids to their neighborhood swimming pool.

So much more to tell, but this post is already long, so we must bring it to a close before we’re quite ready to go, just as it was on our final morning. John transported us to the airport before 6:30 Tuesday morning, where we bade farewell and gave thanks for this time we had together. At that hour, the traffic was manageable. It would slow to almost a halt just fifteen minutes later.

P.S. Because internet availability is so spotty on our cruise in SE Asia, it may be a couple of weeks before you receive our next post. Thanks for your patience.

Speaking of patience: We aren’t pleased with the quality of today’s pictures. Something seems to have been lost in transferring them from camera to blog post. Hope they look better to you than they do to us. We’re sending this to you from a small village in Thailand.


RoosTer and his reflection
The Hat
AND? How much is this papaya?
Indonesia meal wrapped in leaves