I’m actually here! It’s been a great first week.
One of the biggest surprises has been that it seems very normal to be here. Maybe it’s because I’ve been staying with friends from home. Maybe it’s because I’m pretty used to going to new places and experiencing new cultures, even if it is just for a short time. Maybe it’s because I’ve been mentally preparing for this. I don’t know. In many ways this has been a good thing: I don’t feel culture-shocked or homesick, I feel like I live here, not that I’m visiting. However, it also makes all the build up to leaving, to following my dreams and going where God leads feel a little over the top. Somehow, being here doesn’t feel as significant as I thought it would. But my feelings are a poor guide to reality and I know this is where God has called me for this time. I know he will use me here, as well as challenge and change me. I’m still very excited by this and joyfully anticipate what’s to come!
Anyway, the purpose of this post is really to tell you what I’ve been doing this week, to give you a flavour of my life in Thailand (so far!). I don’t quite know where to start… Maybe with a few first impressions.
I really like Chiang Mai. People are friendly (although my lack of Thai was driving me crazy within a few hours of arriving). Eating out is cheap – I’m told it’s often cheaper to eat out than to cook. I’ve really only tried a few of the food possibilities, but so far they have been good (apart from papaya salad, which I might like better in the less spicy, less salty version). Having a Thai massage is relaxing, although my shoulders hurt afterwards. Today it is quite cool, but every other day has been hot and sticky. It’s rainy season, and when it rains it really rains. Carrying an umbrella is essential.
The easiest way to get around the city is using the red song thaews, which are basically communal taxis. You flag one down, see if it’s going your direction, negotiate the fare (usually 20 Baht/40p within the city centre) and jump in the back. They are converted pick up trucks with two benches. It can take a while to get to your destination, depending on who else is using the same song thaew, but you never have to wait long to find one so they’re very convenient.
I’ve done quite a bit of exploring the city. The walled, old city of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a square moat. I’ve probably spent more time outside the walls, particularly on the east side near the river and towards Tha Phae gate. The Night Bazaar there is fun to wander round and it would be easy to buy LOTS there. So far I have been pretty restrained (just waiting for my sister to visit so we can do some serious shopping!)
Last Sunday I attended an international church just across the river and last night I ate at an American-style restaurant, also across the river. I’ve also spent some time just northwest of the moat, shopping, eating and spending time with a lovely new friend. Yesterday Lesley and Andrew took me to some hot springs a bit east of the city. It was so lovely relaxing in the mineral pool and I felt cold (momentarily!) for the first time in a week when we got out!
I have so enjoyed time with the Dornan family and also meeting new friends. I’m glad to have had a week to get over jetlag, get orientated and be fairly relaxed and I’m looking forward to starting at the River on Monday. I don’t know what my exact schedule will look like yet, but will find out soon.
I think that’s all for now. Thanks to everyone who has been in touch and/or has been praying – I appreciate all your support!