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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS