Written in the Back of a Taxi-Truck
I have been able to call home twice. It’s great to hear Julie and Natalie’s voice. They have had a lot of snow in Michigan since we left—over a foot. No school on Tuesday. Here it’s 90, and my nose is sunburned. I’m writing today on my battery-operated keyboard in the back of a truck.
We’ve been encouraged to switch taxi-trucks each day to get to know the whole team better. So today I and two other U.S. team members climbed into the truck with all but two of our interpreters. I am sitting on a bench seat across from our host, Kiatisak Siripanadorn and his daughter, Grace (Kesarin is her Thai name). Beside her is Weeranuch Prukamnuay (Akah). To my left is Yupin Wichativanol (also Acah), and to my right is Kenaz Selorio (a Thai-speaking Philippino whose English is excellent. He says he owes it all to Sesame Street, “Burt and Earnie did this to me!” he laughs.)
We just stopped along side of the road and Paul Chermer, an Acah pastor and translator jumped on the back deck. He likes to ride there, holding the luggage rack ladder. Between all ten of us, there is enough English to laugh and have a good time as we travel together. They are helping me spell their names as I type, and they don’t mind that I’m doing this during our 4-hour trip. I can type in spite of the bumps, but please forgive my spelling errors and the random free flow of these thoughts. Tonight, I will have time to do little more than download this text and hope for the best when I hit publish.
I have found that I have very little time to “write.” When I get back to my room, I have to begin preliminary editing and downloading each day's video footage onto my DVD burner. There is about 2-3 hours of work each night before I can turn the lights out… when I do sleep, I’m sleeping well.
We are on our way to Huay Nam Khun, this is a four hour trip—one way. So this day we’ve been told we will be on the road 8 hours. It’s hard to imagine riding in the back of a pickup truck all the way to Waterloo, Iowa from West Michigan, but that is what today holds for us. (This is not a question of comparable distance. It is a long ride because it is up miles and miles of “switchback” mountain roads, some so steep we will have to get out of the truck and walk about half a mile. We were very tired the first three days but have now hit our stride.
Now that we are refreshed, I can better explain just how tired we were those first days—and silly things happen when humans mix sleep deprivation with anticipation of the unknown. About half the team has taken this trip before—the lead doctor has been on all but one of the nine trips. For others it’s their first international “air travel” experience. Because we traveled west, with the sun, we snuck up on tomorrow so cleverly (crossing the International Dateline) that our “today” seemed over before it happened.(The reverse will happen when we return. We will leave Bangkok on Friday, February 1st; spend more than 24 hours in the air (or running through airports); and then arrive home—ON FRIDAY—in time for supper with our families. They will be a sight for sore eyes after what will literally be the longest day of our lives!
Meanwhile during those first few days our bodies thought it was midnight when our watch said it was noon. Add to this, the inherently exhausting schedule of rising early each morning to load our three caravanning taxi-trucks, riding in them for 2 to 3 hours in various directions (but always the last “leg” of the trip goes up into the winding hills until we can hear the little trucks chanting “I think I can. I think I can.” Sometimes we have to “disembark” to hear it say, “I thought I could. I thought I could.” Leaving us in the dust to walk up the long hill where it waits at the top.
I hope my words and later my pictures can capture a fraction of the “adrenal joy” that comes from reflecting Christ's love to people who understand simplicity, whose lives are not buried by "things," and whose attitudes reflect daily dependence on God (or various understandings of the unknown). You can't imagine the thrill of having grateful men, women and children climbing up out of the winding paths and fields of dreams as if God said, "If you build a temporary clinic, they will come."