Welcome to PlaaPlaaPlaa!

So you may be wondering why PlaaPlaaPlaa? What are those strange fish symbols above? What is ปลา and what does it mean? In short, this is a blog site, so surely there's going to be plenty of rambling. Unfortunately BlahBlahBlah was already taken, so I had to settle for the 'Plaa'. But there's actually more to it then just ramblings. The first fish symbol is actually a Christian symbol meaning ICTHUS - a greek acronymn which means "Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Saviour". The other strange letters you see in the last fish is actually the thai word for fish which funnily enough is pronounced "Plaa". So when you put it all together, this site is going to be my ramblings in telling people about how Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Saviour in Thailand (with plenty of good stories about food in between). Happy reading.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Up Close and Personal with a Panda

Ok, so i knew that this year would be full of various experiences that i'd probably never experience back in Oz, but this one was waaay out of the blue. I guess life is all about who you know, cos tonight i just had one of the coolest experiences in being able to get up close and personal with a panda by patting and feeding it!!!

One of the guys in my cell group here is the head zoo keeper for the Panda's at the Chiang Mai Zoo (which means i can now get free entry to the zoo and to the Panda exhibit - nice connection eh?). Tonight, a few of us went around to Pi Dor's house (he lives at the zoo) for dinner, and as a after dinner treat we got to go visit the Panda's AND got more then we bargained for. Not only did we get to see them out of their normal enclosure, we got to feed and pat Lin Hui (the female panda). HOW COOL!!!

Cos Pi Dor works with them everyday, the Panda's know him and his voice. They're able to sit, hold hands, lie down and more at his command. It was SOOOOOO COOOOOLLLL!!!!! But one thing that really stood out was how cautious we all had to be in how close we were to the cage if Pi Dor wasn't with us, or if we didn't have food to give, or her hands/paws weren't holding the cage. Cos she could swipe us and knock us down and hurt us in an instant. Many of us only get the opportunity to look at the panda's from the comfort of the viewing platform at the zoo, or we have pet panda stuff toys, so our view of the reality isn't necessarily real. But the truth is, we need to be mindful of the reality of the animal that we're dealing with. If we don't treat it with care and the respect it deserves, it can knock us down. It's a bit like us and how we view God and respond to Him. Sometimes we can view God from a distance, or think of him as a cuddly bear who loves us and would never do anything to harm us. But if we look at the reality of the situation, God is a god who does love us enough to send Jesus to die for us, but it also means he takes sin SERIOUSLY, and if we keep on sinning or don't turn to Jesus, then we will have to face his wrath. Just cos we like to think of God as a loving God and don't like to think of his judgement and wrath, doesn't mean we are thinking correctly. God is a just and loving god! We have to make sure we respond to him as he deserves and demands!

Anyway, i'm still blown away by tonight. Here are a few pics of me and Lin Hui! :)

Me with Lin Hui

About to feed her some apple

Feeding her some apple

All gone now

Monday, April 28, 2008

Back Online

Having limited net access is a weird experience. One one hand, i feel like one of my hands has been removed and i feel lost and helpless, but on the other, i also realise how much of a slave i have become to technology, and the time that i once would've spent sitting in front of a computer on can now be spent with friends, learning language, building relationships etc. However, absence from the net has also made me appreciate just how much technology has helped me 'cope' with being over here while all my friends and family are back home. So, the short of it is, i'm glad to be back online and to be able to share with you all (and hear from you all) about what's been going on. I've just realised how much i do love to hear about what's going on back home and it helps me feel like i'm not forgotten or totally out of the loop. So i hope and pray that my computer won't crash again anytime soon.

So, what's been happening the past couple weeks. Well, you've heard about Songkran now, so i won't go back over that, but the rest of the time that i spent in Korat was awesome! It just got better and better as the week went on, getting to know Peace, Proud and their parents especially, Tong, Dim and host of other friends better. While it was weird at first to be there without the rest of the DPC STM team (i did feel a bit lost), that feeling quickly went away as i got to know my thai friends better and became part of the family.

One of the biggest things for me was the fact that Peace & Proud's parents allowed for them to come and stay with me in Chiang Mai for a week. It was extremely convenient that their dad (who works for World Vision) had week long meetings up in Chiang Rai the day after i was initially planning on getting back to CM, so we could all travel up north together, and he could pick them up on his way back down.

But even so, i know how big a thing it was for him to allow them to stay, so that was a huge blessing! It meant that we could hang out together, go to the zoo,

go check out and help teach english (thankfully they can speak a bit) at a Hill Tribe that a short term team from their church is hoping to help us out at in October this year,

they could meet a few of my friends, go along to cell group and a 'movie' night we had a church with me plus help me understand a few Thai soapies that they've now got me addicted to. (sad i know, but hey, i've discovered it's a great way to learn language too).

One of the other things i found really exciting about friends from Korat coming was that they could meet some of my friends up here and see what i get up to (sort of) on a weekly basis. I guess that's kinda hard as my week is never really always the same, but for them to check out my cell group, head to a special film night that my church had as a type of evangelistic night (we watched Pay It Forward), hang out with my sister and her family etc. To see them bond with other Christians around Thailand was really exciting as they also got to see how the gospel was at work outside their own city and 'bubble' of life. very cool indeed.

So during the rest of Korat, i also got to start chatting more with Tong (a guy the DPC team worked with back in December) about a mission trip his youth group could be doing up in Chiang Mai in October. It's really exciting to be thinking that we could host a Thai short term team up here. To see Thai's thinking seriously about and putting into action, evangelism to their own people is really exciting. And to know that they already have the language to communicate is a huge blessing. It's kind of weird to think i'll be hosting a thai team on their own turf - when i myself will be really limited in my thai and what i could do.... hmmmm :) hehe

It was also great catching up with other kids and leaders from the churches in Korat that we worked with in December. To hear how they've been challenged lately as Christians, from recent trips to Australia, what their plans are for the future, how they are trying to be strategic in the training of the youth now for the future and the struggles they're facing, how they're wanting to look at possibilities for future study of the Bible plus heaps more. It was just such an encouraging time generally to see the way that God is working in other parts of Thailand and how he is challenging people in their thinking of how they should best be serving Him.

God is really doing some amazing things here, but at the same time, there is so much more that still needs to be done.

On a random note, i've found another really good reason why it's good to be slow to speak! i'm fast discovering the benefits of being asian and looking 'Thai' and being mute. A few of us went out to a national park with a really a cool waterfall etc and for Thai's to get in, it was 40bht, but foreigners were 400bht! If i keep quiet, they think i'm Thai. Hmmmm, just saved myself 360bht! :) hehe

For those who are praying:
- Thank God for safe travels of late
- Pray for Dim, Tong & Ahn as they think about how they can best be ministering to the youth of Korat
- Thank God for relationships and friendships and the recent opportunities i've had to spend a couple weeks with Thai friends
- pray for the thai church and the training up of the future leaders here
- thank god that i've got my computer back
- Pray for wisdom as we start planning the short term mission for October

Here are a few other photos from the past couple weeks:

me & bang

at a really cool waterfall at Khao Yai (sorry you've gotta turn your head sideways again)

Me & Dim

"Dangerorus" - is that a new type of dinosaur i've never heard of?

the 'gang' that went to the waterfall

Tong & Shem at a 'Country and Western' theme park in Korat - hmmm, bit confused :) haha

Friday, April 25, 2008


sorry to those of you who might have visited this blog in the past week to find no new posts. it's not that i've forgot, it's that i have really limited net access at the moment since my computer's hard disk decided to melt in the korat heat last week while processing some video. very sad indeed. i'm hoping that i'll get it back next week, and will be able to update this blog regularly again - and send out my postcard.

Other reason for the lack of time to get on a computer is that Peace & Proud decided that they'd miss me to much when i left Korat, that the ended up coming back with me and are staying with me this week. ok, so maybe that's not the full reason, but sounds good i reckon. they obviously weren't so sick of me after my stay with them in korat. :) hehe it's been tops fun to have them with me. and having lived with a thai family now for a week in korat and having them stay with me for a week, i've learnt HEAPS more about thai culture(with still more to learn).

sorry this has to be a quick post, but as soon as i get time and get my computer back, i promise to update. so much has happened in the past couple weeks.

for those praying - pray i'll get my computer back soon and it'll be fixed under warranty :)
- thank God for continued opportunities to build relationships with thai's
- thank God for safe travels to and from Korat
- pray for Thai's to continue to be hungry to learn God's word and grow in their understanding as christians.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Songkran Festival

Since i first heard about Songkran 5 years ago, I've always wanted to be here for it and play. Finally, this year, i could!! Despite many of my friends from Chiang Mai telling me that it's HEAPS more fun in Chiang Mai then Korat, i've still had a BLAST of a time in Korat, and if Songkran in CM really is better, then hopefully if i'm still here next year, i'm in for a massive treat! :) haha

So what is Songkran? The best way i can think of describing it is:
- think of the best water fights you used to have with all the the neighbourhood kids when you were a kid (before water restrictions came into play). You know the ones where you could use hoses, fill up the garbage bins full of water, add ice so the water is REALLY cold when you throw it at people, run around with water guns shooting people. Even throw flour at each other
- well, multiply that by a whole city of people being involved with lots of music, food, cars
- and multiply that by 3 days!!!

that's SONGRKAN!! For those wanting more details, Songkran is basically the Thai New Year festival of cleansing. If you want to read more about it, check out this wikipedia linkabout Songkran.

Songkran for me started when i came to Korat. We went over to Peace & Proud's Aunty's place (i've been staying here with Peace & Proud's famiy while i'm here), where we did a traditional sprinkling of water onto the hands and feet of those in generations above you where you wish each other long life. We actually did it quite often at various relatives houses and other close friends. We then did it at church as well where all the adults were seated and all the 'kids' got to sprinkle water on them.

What started as a traditional ceremony IN church then turned into a waterfight IN church. Pretty amusing really, but hey, i guess that's why they have tiled floors over here. Easy to clean.

Tong & Nick after rolling in the mud at church

I can't imagine having a festival like this in Australia at all. But it was great to go around the city with the guys here from Korat. Even though we had plenty of fun throwing water at each other, spreading 'powder' on each others faces, getting stuck in the biggest traffic jams i've ever seen, there also opportunities used to give away these free foam 'hats' saying that 'Jesus Saves'. Who knows if people understand it or not, but hey, it's a good opportunity all the same.

Despite being hot season over here (and here in Korat, it's seriously HOT!!! Each day has had a bit of welcomed rain. Last night it bucketed down like i've never seen, and i actually found myself shivering in the back of the ute as we went back to the office at the end of the days fun. Getting hit by ice cold water when you're already cold in the back of an uncovered Ute is something else! i'm surprised now i'm not actually sick :) hehe.

Unfortunately Just cos of the amount of water that was being thrown around, i don't have nearly as many photos as i'd like of Songkran. I did manage to get a bit of I've got a bit of video footage through a plastic bag which i'm still trying to work out what to do with.

It's also been great to spend more time with friends here in Korat and get to know them more and get to know their families. It's one thing to come here with the team from oz, but to come here on your own and stay with their families has been awesome. a huge eye opener to other parts of Thai culture, hospitality and family life. It's actually the first time i've 'lived in' with a family here, so that's been really interesting and cool. I might even have a couple of them come back to CM with me this weekend which could be really cool.

Anyway, here are a few snaps from the past few days of fun...

Peace & I after walking through the city

my usual self shot

Fun outside the World Vision Office in Korat

More fun outside the World Vision Office

Me & Boong up to mischief

a group of people we gave "jesus Rescue's' Hats to

The remnant after the day of 'warfare'

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A new found meaning to my name...

i'm sure that it comes as no surprise to many of you that even Thai people think that i'm a bit odd. For some reason personality quirks seem to cross cultural and language barriers which i'm actually finding highly amusing. I'm often caught making water drop noises, or 'whistling' with my hands, or flicking pens around my fingers - you know, the usual. But it's enough for my friends to tell me that i'm 'strange' (in a fun way - i hope :) haha).

Anyway, tonight after cell group (we changed it to wednesday this week because of Songkran) a few of us went out to dinner. I'm not sure how it started, but they started calling me 'Deb-or-ah' (as in the 3 syllable version of my name). To which i tried to correct them by saying no, it's just Deb-ra. Unfortunately Thai aren't always the best at saying names, so it ended up coming out as Deb-baa - to which there were roars of laughter. Apparently the word 'baa' in thai means 'crazy, mad, insane' - ie Deb is crazy, mad, insane. Perfect fit right? Well, if that wasn't enough, there were a few other words which we were trying to translate too, so they asked me for an 'example', and can you believe the thai word for example is....wait for it....'chen'!!!!

So the short of it is:

Debra Chen = an example of what it means to be crazy, mad and insane!!

:) haha What a classic!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What's been happening?

So the past week feels like it's been non stop with trip a day trip up to Mae Sae (the Burma border) which is about a 4hr drive each way, then an overnight trip to Mae Dang - a tribal village that one of my friends from church is from, then back to Chiang Mai to say goodbye to Keir at the airport as he went back to the US first (Oum will head over as soon as her visa comes through - hopefully (for her) in the next month). Then today was kinda nuts with an early morning call from Buu asking if i might be able to take her to the hospital as she was needing to get a cyst cut out from her eye and was (understandably) unable to ride a motorcycle back home after the operation. So the morning ended up waiting around the hospital, then a quick lunch (of pad thai), off to school for my thai lesson, where i also ended up getting a call from my friend Kim who was stranded on the other side of town cos she forgot to fill up so her motorcycle ran out of petrol. So i had to go rescue her, then came home for a couple minutes to drop off some stuff before heading out to the movies - but the neighbourhood kids decided to take advantage of my arrival home and came over to play with my hamsters. (by the way, i've just discovered that one of my baby hamsters only has 1 eye :( very sad!!!) Anyway, finally managed to sort myself out, get to Airport Plaza, ate my first KFC meal here and watched my first Thai movie at the movie theatre!

So despite feeling like i'm always on the move at the moment, i'm really enjoying the time that i have to be able to build relationships with my Thai friends - whether it be on long car trips, waiting in hospital waiting rooms, swimming at the pool, over a KFC meal or riding bikes with no brakes around a village in the dark (where the roads have pot holes galore) - i think that ride actually got my adrenalin pumping more then any mountain bike ride i've done! :) haha There have just been so many opportunities for us to get to know each other more, to share with friends 1-1 about about things that really effect our lives like relationships, the gospel, whether or not they should/shouldn't go out with a certain guy, ideas on what to teach some tribal kids up north in a series of 10 minute Bible talks. I find it amusing that I've been asked for relationship advice on waaaay too many occasions now. Sometimes language is still a major barrier to me being able to say what i really want to say. But at the same time, it's been great cos my friends have been so willing to teach me more about Thai culture and even Christian Thai culture at that. I'm still being challenged daily to work out what is cultural vs what is biblical. And to work out what to do if it is cultural rather then biblical - but because that's how the Thai's think now, is it better to leave it as it or challenge them in their thinking - but at the same time risk appearing to be a foreign missionary trying to push on them my western 'christian values'? But what do i say when they ask me what do i think and keep pushing me for an answer cos they really want to know? It's been an interesting, challenging and fun past few days.

Here are a few happy snaps from the past few days:

in the back of Mac's car on the way to Mae Sae

this is Mac (if you turn your head sideways)

Crazy english foods you can buy at the markets (if you can't read the small print at the bottom of the pack, it says: "We like the new taste. We need the quality and we need the best food. here you will find what you want. You are the new man. How delicious can not forget. Special taste."

with Kim & Wood at Wood's mum's house in Mae Dang

Wood with his dog and one of the dodgy brakeless bikes we rode around the village

camping out at Mae Dang

my first KFC meal here - how civilised!!

so you don't get coleslaw here, you get tuna salad instead...hmmmm. ok, it was actually quite tasty tho

So, i'll also be heading down to Korat to visit some of my friends who i met in December during the DPC mission trip. I can't wait as it will be over Songkran - the national holiday week of water fights - seriously!! i can't wait to play!! :) haha all my friends here think i'm nuts wanting to go to Korat during Songkran as it's apparently the most fun up here - but hey, there's always next year.... :) So if i'm not able to post anything for a while, that's my excuse. But i promise to update you on Korat as soon as a i get a chance.

For those who are praying;
- thank God for the continued opportunities to build relationships with Thai friends
- praise for the provision of so many great Thai friends who i really enjoy spending time with
- for continued language learning - that i'll learn quickly so i can communicate better
- for wisdom in what to share and how to share it
- for safe travels as i head down to Korat this next week
- for my friend Buu as she considers how and what to teach the tribal kids
- for other friends with 'relationship issues' that they will seek to do what is glorifying to God

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Meeting 'Royalty' at Baan Tawai

Can i begin by saying how disappointed i was that we were told we weren't allowed to take photos once the wife of the Prince arrived (so sorry, i have no evidence this happened). But the whole experience kind of has so many great analogies that could be used in a talk one day.

So it started last week when i went to visit the disabled workshop with some visitors from Australia. Boonchu asked if i could go down again on Wednesday afternoon to take some pictures for her cos some 'important' person's wife was coming. Of course i couldn't quite work out who's wife it was, but hey, i had a free afternoon, so why not go and see what the fuss is all about.

So i rock up just after my lesson and the first thing i notice is that i'm way 'underdressed' in a green t-shirt and jeans while everyone else is in their 'yellow' shirts (or pink or blue kings shirt) or in traditional thai dresses. Hmmmm...... ok, so it must be someone special coming to visit. Where can i go and hide? :) So we go set up the display in the Salah on the main street and wait for the arrival of this 'wife'.

The Salah that we're in

As we're waiting, the level of security around us slowly begins to increase. There are all these men in black suits, Military Police, normal police, we're getting told to collect our shoes and position them elsewhere, to turn off our phones, to put our camera's away....so who is it that's coming cos this is getting pretty serious in terms of what we are and aren't allowed to do. So i'm trying to ask Choy (one of my friends down there) who's wife is it and looking through the dictionary, i started to get a better picture of who it was. The 2 words she found meant that it was either the King's wife (whao!!) or the 'commoner wife of a Prince'. In either case, i suddenly realised WHY the level of security was beefed up and why we had collect our shoes, make sure we were sitting on the ground and not even on a chair, sit in a certain way so that our feet were pointing away from the 'princess'. It was all to make sure we were in a position of respect, that we were acting appropriately.

It was also really interesting to see how all my thai friends were feeling in anticipation of meeting the Princess. As they saw her walking down the street towards us, you could see them wiping their sweaty palms, trying to work out what they would say to her when she arrived. As she arrived, they were clearly struck by the fact that she came to visit, showed interest in their works and asked them questions. It was quite amazing to see this 1 lady walk down the street with an entourage of about 50 people, meeting the locals, getting down amongst the people, seeing people respond to her appropriately (not to mention the many shopping trolleys that miraculously appeared out of the blue to collect & transport all the gifts that she was receiving from all the local businesses - good to see that shopping trolleys have a universal use outside the supermarkets here too).

As the foreigner there who was still not exactly sure who it was that was coming, i honestly just couldn't quite share their same level of excitement and anticipation. To me, it was just really interesting to watch their reactions and see the level of respect that these guys had for Royalty. How they just knew what was the appropriate way to act. If you understand WHO it is that you're 'dealing with', then you will act appropriately.

I couldn't help but think that if these guys were acting like this for this lady who married into royalty, what should our response be to God, who really is the one who deserves to be honored, revered. Sitting on the floor with my feet pointing behind me, being told i couldn't take photos etc. It was a real practical insight into a whole new level of reverence of what it means to bow before our maker and fall facedown before Him because he IS God. It really was a great taste of something i'd never experience in a western culture.

But it also got me thinking, as a foreigner there, i clearly didn't know what the most appropriate ways was to pay respect to this individual. I only knew cos my friends were kindly telling me what to do and how to it. If they didn't tell me, then i'd never know and who knows what would've happened. But what about people who don't know God? Who don't know who he is or how they should be responding to Him appropriately? Isn't that even more serious then the wife of the Prince?

It was funny, despite all the anticipation to the meeting, it was over in just a few minutes. As soon as the princess had moved on, everyone just started packing up and it was over. She showed interest while she met them, but what about after? How blessed are we to have a God who not only takes an interest in what we do, but is also involved in our lives, who cares for us, who sustains us. How much greater is this God of ours!

For those who are praying, please pray for those who don't know God and aren't in a relationships with him, that we can be telling them about Him so that they too can act appropriately to the God who is the creator, sustainer and saviour of this world.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sauna's in Thailand?

Ok, so there was a sauna at the pool we went to yesterday. I'm still trying to work out if it's usually hotter IN the sauna or OUT of the sauna here in Thailand - especially as we're coming into Hot Season. But cos it was there and cos my friends wanted to go and use it, we used the sauna. Can't say it's quite the same experience as using the sauna and spa after a days skiing down at the snow, but hey, a new experience all the same.