Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Smanlons.

About two weeks ago, I came home from working in the village to find a handsome visitor waiting for me on my front porch! Andrew flew to Thailand and made his way to my house, with little help from my teammates! We spent a few days in my town in Thailand, he was able to travel to the village we work in, eat at my favorite places, meet my friends, feel the ridiculous heat, and we just got to spend time together. It was wonderful.

On Thursday, I took him to one of my favorite restaurants, it's a long walk, but the view and chicken and cashews is worth it! The restaurant overlooks the lake, the wooden bridge, and the Mon village on the other side of the lake. On the walk home, we fought off a few dogs and then stopped at the little grocery store and got ice cream cones. It started to storm off in the distance on our walk back so we decided to sit on the porch and watch the lightening when we got home. We sat there chatting for awhile, but Andrew just kept saying the same thing about how he liked the way the lightening lit up the mountains. I agreed the first couple times, but then just thought he was being weird. Then (almost getting folded up in his chair) he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! Of course I said yes, I'd have been crazy not to. He traveled literally around the world to see me!

P.S. Yes, I deleted the last blog. Rough couple days for sure, but I'm doing alright now. Thanks for the prayers.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'm not sure why my pictures are cut in half, but I figure half is better than nothing... so here are a few more.

me- being fed cake by my small friend

the outhouse on the edge of the garden

the view from the garden

Esther and Nono in the garden


It's been nearly a month since my last blog post, so I figured I'm due. Things have been fairly busy around here- starting transplants, digging compost pits, finding cow manure, chasing kids screaming "poisonous snake!". You know... all the normal things workers do. 

Planting is a bit tricky here. We've gotten quite a bit of rain lately which has made the ground much easier to work. I've been preparing beds in the children's home garden but I'll wait until the end of April to plant, that will be just before rainy season starts. Hopefully we'll have just enough rain to produce some tasty tomatoes. I've also ordered 20 pineapple plants to plant the last week of April!

Courtney and I have been spending a little time with a
 Burmese woman in town here the past week or so. She's really funny and seems to just enjoy our presence. We brought a watermelon to share with her today. Her daughter about had a heart attack. She ate nearly half and kept lifting up her shirt to show us her full stomach. So cute. This woman is pretty poor. The grass roof of her house is totally holey - which especially stinks because rainy season is not far off. But she's always in a good mood and happy to see us!

I had my last rabies shot today! I think we need to have a party.

I guess that's all for now. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Last week was the eye clinic, and I'm sad to say that the boy I wrote about in blog post from last week wasn't able to be helped. The doctors said that they just couldn't do anything to restore his sight. I really hope that even though we couldn't help his eyes that he would have been able to feel our love and that we truly care for him. He traveled a long way to get to our village when he heard about they eye clinic, so I don't know if I'll ever see the boy again, but I sure think about him a lot.

This week I visited an NGO called Generation Journey. They have asked me to help them with an agricultural project. I'm really excited about the opportunity, but there is so much to learn before I can help! I've found that I know very little about tropical agriculture! I will probably be working there one or two days a week helping out. I was also went to visit a man from our church's plantation. We call him Pomelo Man. He has a pomelo plantation and amazing gardens! These are some of his gourds. The one being held up by bands is about the size of a 3 year old child.

Generation Journey's Website:

I Miss Frankie.

So the day before yesterday, I was walking to my language lesson and I got bit by a dog! It literally came out of nowhere and bit my ankle and the bottom of my heel. Ouch. So I hobbled to my team leader's house - it was the closest place. He wanted to rush me to the hospital on the back of his motorbike. Instead I called Cindy, the nurse on our team and she came to check me out. They took me to our little hospital in town which was a cultural experience in itself.
The check-in room, waiting room, and emergency room was all the same room. The doctor looked like he was seventeen and was wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt. The nurse was so sweet, but was dressed like a nurse in a horror movie. They did the usual weight, measurements, are you single or married, etc. Then laid me down to scrub my wound out. They told me that I needed to have a rabies shot and a tetanus shot! I told them that I didn't want a tetanus shot, that I was up to date. But then the nurse came at me with two needles! I called my team leader, Nelson, over and told him to tell the nurse that I did not want the tetanus. Nelson looked at me and said "I paid for it. You have to get it." Okay. So I did. So, two days later, with two sore arms and a gimp foot, I think I'm on the recovery path. And my dad is sending me a nightstick.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


While walking back from town this afternoon, Courtney and I were stopped by a small crowd of Thai kids (well, they looked young, but turned out to be in their 20s). They wanted to interview us to practice their English. So we sat down outside the grocery store, prepared to answer a long list of interesting questions. By the end of our interview, we were goofing around with them and having quite a lot of fun. They asked for our email addresses, told us they'd email us, and offered to drive us home on their motorbikes! I am so excited about this because I've been praying for girls our age to hang out with. I want to be a part of the community here - not just hang out with all of the foreigners. Plus, Courtney and I were just talking over lunch about how we wanted to make friends here! Thank you Lord! So pray that they e-mail us and that they'll want to come over for coffee!

This is also exciting because it's the same way I met my two best friends in North Africa. Sarah and Koutar stopped my friend and I and asked if they could interview us. And just about everyday after that we hung out with them! I'm really hoping this turns out the same!

Ok, I haven't posted anything in awhile and I'd like to blame it on the electricity and internet being out, but that was really only for the last 24 hours so it's a questionable excuse. I've been taking language lessons nearly every weeknight with Nima - an incredible woman who really needs to write an autobiography because she's got quite the story. So it's sometimes hard to study there, because I just want to know about her life. She's a great teacher and I feel like I'm learning a lot - but there is SO much to learn.

Tomorrow in a neighboring town there will be an eye surgery clinic. Some visiting eye doctors will be seeing patients that have some real serious eye problems and hopefully changing their lives through surgery. I will be helping out with that. Just administrative stuff, taking names, making sure the doctors have what they need, etc. Thankfully some people from the village we work in were able to make it across and will be having surgery this week.

One is a boy who is probably about 13 years old and seems to be completely blind. I'd never seen him before, but he heard about the clinic and came to the church this morning to be taken to the clinic. This kid is brave and clearly feels like this is his only hope. I don't think he knew anyone on my team but he got into the truck -not having any idea where (geographically speaking) we were going - and not knowing anyone, without a parent. He looked really scared but something in him looked hopeful, even excited. I mention him because I want to ask for prayer for him. I'll see him tomorrow at the clinic and maybe after that to keep you posted on how things turn out for him. He's so young. He has a whole life to live with or without vision. I pray that his eyes will be healed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

My New Home

Here are a couple pictures of my new home. The first is of my home, the second of the view from my front porch. I really want to include photos of the children, but for safety reasons I have to be very careful about what I post.

Oh, and here is a picture of my house gecko.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


So today...
It's real hot. Wow. Maybe the hottest day yet. We've been in our new home now for about 5 days.

My house is so cute. It's tiny -glorified dorm room really- but way above what I had expected. No kitchen, and a three-in-one bathroom...about the size of your coffee table. Still, my home is much above the average living conditions in my town- which I have really mixed feelings about (mostly negative, except the selfish ones that make me glad that I'm comfortable). It is on a hillside overlooking a banana plantation. I have two house lizards, one anole and one gecko. The gecko's tail looks like the Wicked Witch of the West's tights. It gives me the creeps...but it has cute little suction cup fingers and toes!

On Saturday and Sunday we went to the village that our team works in. It doesn't look like it at all but it's bigger than Central Lake - about 1,900 people live there. They have a really iffy water supply now but our team is working on a water supply project that should finish at the end of this month. It's really cool how the program is set up, Mercy Teams International (our organization) is basically loaning them the money to put it in, and they will slowly pay it back, giving them ownership over this huge project.

There is also a medical clinic, school, and children's home in this village that our team help run. This village is where I will be working. I'll be landscaping the school grounds with help from some of the older boys in the school. I'll be teaching them a little about agriculture through this landscape project. I'll also be teaching a few classes on agriculture.

My project is very overwhelming and intimidating. The area I'll be landscaping is a huge mound of dry, cracked clay, there isn't much extra water, and all the plants are foreign to me! But I was reading in Matthew this morning - the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand with just five fish and five loaves of bread - and I decided I might only have five-fish-worth of horticulture knowledge, but God will use that five-fish knowledge and multiply it enough to do the job, just as he multiplied the fish to feed the crowd. If I commit myself to Him and give Him my five-fish-knowledge, I know that something amazing will happen...and it probably will be nothing like what I expect, but way better!


We spent about 12 hours in Bangkok - collecting last minute things (coffee!), enjoying some pad thai, and taking a side trip to one of Thailand's biggest red light districts. In this one area, about the size of a city block there are over 4,000 prostitutes - keep in mind that the ones that were counted were the ones that could be seen. Many, many more women are kept in hiding, literally locked up in cages. And it's not just women, but also many young girls - as young as four years old.

Yes, some of these women have chosen to go into the business, but many have been sold into it at a young age (sometimes under false pretenses), and even stolen from their families and taken into these places. The majority of the women are unable to get out, they are indebted to their pimp and unable to repay their debt.

So obviously, even after all of the stories I've heard from friends who have been there, books I've read, and photos I've seen - this was really eye opening. We went in to pray for the area and simply to educate ourselves - to help make sex slavery real to us. Not just stories we read or photos we see, but real. The best part of the night was that we ended up staying with a Jesus-loving family who's whole life is devoted to giving these women an alternative. Giving them somewhere to go if they choose to (and are able to) leave. Teaching them practical skills and helping them get to a place where they can live on their own. But this is just a start...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

We're flying out to Bangkok this morning! We will arrive to our new home tomorrow night, after a seven hour bus ride. Hope you all are well and I'll post another message as soon as I have the internet!

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Well, I've made it. I've been in Singapore for a few days now, after visiting my cousin in Japan. We had an amazing time - he took me all over Tokyo and up into the mountains to a volcano and a hot spring! The best part was hanging out with him and his girlfriend, Sachiko - they were great hosts and even better company.

Now I'm in Singapore for orientation. I'm staying with a fantastic host family. My host parents are my favorite part of Singapore. They are so funny and very welcoming. I feel completely at home. Plus, there is a built in espresso machine in the kitchen. What a great idea. And we've had some great food, the best being coconuts filled with vanilla ice cream!

Orientation is going well. We've been talking about safety, finances, the different places we each are working, and just generally about living amongst the poor.

It's already almost midnight here so I'd better hit it! I just wanted you all to know that I am alive and I am well!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I just finished packing...and everything fit! I thought it was probably too good to be true, and it was. My bag is about 5 lbs overweight. So I tossed some batteries, a couple books (sniffle), and some other odds and ends out...hopefully it'll be just right.

I'm leaving here (Northern Michigan) in about an hour to stay the night closer to the Detroit airport. I fly out tomorrow morning at 8 am. I fly to Tokyo to spend a couple days with my cousin, who lives there. Please just pray that everything will go smoothly and that the flight will be fairly painless. :) Thank you all for your prayers and support!

Now I'm off for my last snowmobile ride with my pops! I'll be sure to post some photos from Japan!

Friday, January 9, 2009

two weeks!

In two weeks, I will begin my journey to southeast Asia. I will be living in border village in Thailand for a little over three months. I'll be teaching farming in an orphanage and working on landscaping the orphanage grounds.

Two nights ago my community group at Barefoot threw a going away party for me. It was great. I was able to say goodbye to some good friends, eat some real tasty Thai food, and share about my trip. I was able to talk about the orphanage and the children I am going to teach.

These children are from a forgotten people group. They aren't allowed to get passports or leave their country, but they also aren't really allowed to stay there. They are an extremely persecuted people. These children have witnessed their parents death because of their ethnicity. They have no one. This is about as much as I know now about these children, but I'm really looking forward to getting to know each of them and learning their stories as well.

Thanks for the prayers so far and please continue to pray for the children, the nations, and my team in SE Asia.