My wife, Anna, and I, have been living and working in the Cambodian Bible Education Centre in Phnom Penh since late July last year. In January 2012, we took an opportunity to have a change of scenery, and spent 18 days visiting Thailand.
First we arrived in Pattaya (two hours’ ride southeast of Bangkok) to spend a week with brother Adrian Marangon. Adrian is actually a distant relation-by-marriage of Anna’s, but we had met for the first time just a couple of weeks earlier, when he had come to the Cambodian Bible School. This time we got to meet him on his home turf.
Adrian lives in the upstairs of a small gelato factory that he has established. He has two young women on his staff, Jin and Auy, who he has begun instruct about the God of the Bible, so while we were there we helped Adrian with teaching them. Each morning, before they started work (which thankfully isn’t as early as most Cambodians start work!) we spent an hour or so reading and discussing a chapter of the Bible. In addition, at the end of each week, Adrian sets aside an hour or two to study a lesson from the CBM correspondence course – we managed to squeeze in two while we were there. The two girls are very enthusiastic and eager to learn, so we pray that God will be with Adrian as he continues to teach them. We really enjoyed our time there visiting them (and tasting their gelato).
Chiang Mai and the new BEC
Leaving Pattaya, we boarded the bus late in the afternoon for a fourteen-hour overnight bus trip to Chiang Mai, stepping in from the tropical heat and hurriedly pulling on socks and woollen jerseys, before settling into our seats, huddling under a blanket, then waving goodbye to Adrian, in that order. (If you hadn’t guessed, the bus was air-conditioned, to the most extreme of Asian standards.)
In sharp contrast, we were warmly welcomed into the new BEC at Chiang Mai by Terry and Karen Nutter and Hannah Ogden, and treated to a day out that included cuddling tigers and stroking pythons. We actually just the one day in Chiang Mai as early the next morning we were on a bus again for the four hour trip north to the town of Mae Sai, on the border of Myanmar.
Mae Sai and Myanmar
We arrived and settled into our cutely rustic accomodation, which teetered on the bank of the Sai River. We were within earshot of our Burmese-speaking neighbours, and close enough to be woken up by a Burmese rooster, crowing less than 20m away. (The idea of land borders is still something of a novelty to those who’ve grown up Down-Under with 2000km of sea between them and any foreign territory.) We soon discovered that our guesthouse happened to be in the perpetual shade of an enormous north-facing cliff, and thus five degrees or so cooler than the rest of the town — probably delightfully cool during the peak of summer, but in January, well, single-digit temperatures come as quite a fright when you’ve been in the tropics for the past six months.
The next day we walked over the bridge and into the Burmese town of Tachileik (a ten minute walk away, so long as there’s no queues at the immigration counter), spent an hour or so looking around, then crossed back to collect new 2-week visa stamps in our passports.
The reason for the week-long visit to Mae Sai was that Terry had arranged with an acquaintance, who is a lecturer in a seminary over the border in Tachileik, Myanmar, to teach their students for the week. So a contingent of about 25 students walked over to Mae Sai, and Terry and I took turns teaching the course God’s Master Plan over the course of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, the students were joined by another dozen or so from Myanmar who were pastors or teachers at the seminary, including one old man who they said was the first pastor to preach in this district. So for the final two days we taught about the Return of Christ and the Kingdom of God, explaining many of the details of the hope we look forward to.
Each day Terry and I taught the whole group from 9am – 12 noon, and again after lunch from 1pm – 3pm. Then for the last hour or hour-and-a-half at the end of each day we broke in groups: Terry and I with the young men; Karen, Hannah, and Anna with the women, so that they had the opportunity to ask questions and probe further on topics that interested them. We had some very interesting discussions, and it was very exciting to see their evident enthusiasm for knowing more of God’s word. The main difficulty that we had was that very few of the class had much English, and we not yet having had a spare moment to master Burmese, we were very dependent on two or three of the teachers to translate for us: they did an excellent job, but I think we gave them a very exhausting week.
We really enjoyed our time there and only wish we could have more to do with these lovely people. They bade us quite an emotional farewell and presented us each with some small gifts to remember them by. Early Saturday morning we departed for Chiang Mai, but arrived a little later than planned, as our original bus had an accident, and then its replacement collected a flat tyre. But we survived the rather speedy and swervy ride and the shot gear box, and returned to the BEC with a couple of hours to spare before our overnight train to Bangkok and thence home to Cambodia.
David & Anna Todd