Saturday, August 30, 2014


This past Wednesday I took a 10-hour high speed train trip, traversing half the country from south to north. Tomorrow, Sunday, I take the same train back down south 10-hours.

Then I turn around and leave on Tuesday morning for a trip to Hong Kong, this time for a biopsy on my neck lymph nodes. I'll have the out-patient procedure at the doctor's office Tuesday afternoon and hope to get the results back within a week. I think my flight back will be on Thursday.

Of course I hope it is not cancer, but it is definitely something beneath the skin of my neck. Please join me in praying that the "something" goes away by the healing touch of God. That Harvard degree hanging on my Hong Kong doctor's wall won't mean a thing if God is not involved in the healing process. If you see this and will join me in praying, I'd love to hear from you somehow. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A bump in the road

I pretty much never touch my neck, so it was odd that I did so on the evening of Sunday, August 17. A lump was on the right side. Not knowing if that was normal, I checked the left side. Nothing. Lack of symmetry, hmmm, that's a bit suspicious.

The neck ultrasound the following day showed 6-7 swollen lymph nodes on the right side, one on the left. I could only feel one, but others lurk deep below.

Might be nothing, might be an infection, and might be something really bad. If the lumps don't disappear in about a week, I have to leave the country to get a biopsy; an American doctor living in Asia is advisor for my case. In the 10 days since I first noticed it, the knot hasn't gone down in size.

Well, whether I have an infection or worse, my prayer is that it will go away and become normal again so I can carry on doing important things. I would love for prayerful believing friends to join me in praying for this latest dart from the enemy to go far away from me. Thank you.

Ephesians 6:12 
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Qwerty is boring

Why have a QWERTY keyboard when you can have a W-keery-piuto keyboard instead?

(For some that don't live their lives on keyboards and may not know, QWERTY keyboards are so named because the top row of letters, from left to right, are q-w-e-r-t-y.)

Yes, the Mac computer above is mine. You too can prettify your computers, cell phones, iPads, etc. here or here. But let's get back to my story.

The above MacBook Pro is a 2008 model and was purchased new in January 2009 with all the bells and whistles (translation: it is worth fixing). It worked awesomely until my overloaded computer burned out the hard drive. 

I went down to the authorized Mac dealer in town (we have several ... we also have several unauthorized ones, but I went to the real place and they were very professional and careful). 

When they told me how much a new hard drive would cost, my heart sank a little. Obviously the downward movement of your heart shows on your face, because the guy told me in a low voice that he could order me a non-Apple hard drive with greater capacity for about 10 percent of the cost of a new Apple hard drive. I thought about it deeply for about 1 second and told him I was in. He ordered the part and it got replaced a few days later.

I took the computer home, turned it on and used it for a few days. I turned off the computer to install some new software, but I couldn't turn it back on. Back to the repair shop.

The cable to the start button had broken. They have to replace the entire keyboard. Cost? Seriously high. I asked them to order it anyway, but Apple no longer has it in stock. It's only six years old and they no longer make parts for it.

The Apple guy suggests I take it to a local independent computer shop. (Apple doesn't have parts for Macs, but the local computer repair shop can order parts. What?) The local computer dealer orders a new keyboard from Shenzhen and the next day it's installed and works like a charm.

Perhaps now is a good time to tell you that the perfect eyesight I enjoyed most of my life has suffered from age-related causes. I got some awesome bifocally-type glasses in July, but I am not in the habit of wearing them yet. So that, plus the fact that I don't have to look at my keyboard much to type, explains how a whole month passed before I noticed that my brand new keyboard, that works perfectly, has the appearance of a wqerypiuto keyboard instead of an old-fashioned qwerty one...obviously designed by someone who needs to get his eyes checked too. I suggest he gets that done on his way to English class, since he obviously needs to attend one if he's going to continue making keyboards with the English alphabet on them.

I quite like my new keyboard ... an emblem to remind me that I live in a very weird place.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The calendar says summer, the thermometer disagrees

This is the weirdest summer ever. Last year we were sizzling in the hottest heat wave since records had been kept. This year, August temps are only in the 70s and 80s range. I suspected the cooler weather would only last a few days, but it has lasted a few weeks and the forecast shows no change. I have never in my life experienced a summer this cool. It feels weird, and wearing summer clothes is out of the question. In August. I don't know how to act.

I know the weather was cooler in America some this summer too. What's going on?

Chinese people find it amusing that foreigners (that's us) always want to talk about the weather. But I just do, I can't help it.

(Like my butterfly photo?!) :-)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bath time!

After slogging through the mud, a reward awaits the dirty elephant ...
… a bath!
Surely this is the most enchanting thing I have ever seen in my life. Those big blobby beasts were as playful as Pekingese as they rolled over in the water to get baths.
They LOVED bath time! Their trainers use buckets to throw water on them and then used hand brushes to scrub them clean. Kind of weird, but I'd rather watch an elephant take a bath than almost anything because they are so dad-gum cute!
Look at the elephants in the middle, all sprawled out across each other! Haha, these elephants have tons of personality to match their hefty weight.

And this post my friends, will be the last one about elephants for this trip. There are 10 elephant camps around Chiang Mai, so if you ever go, I absolutely recommend the Maesa camp.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Talented beasts

I bought some bananas and sugar cane to feed the elephants. I tore off one banana and fed one elephant. I tore off another banana and fed another elephant. Apparently that's not how they like to do things. One elephant stole the remaining bananas out of my hand and ate the whole bunch in one gulp. Another elephant stole the entire set of sugar cane and ate it in one gulp. Their trainer said he'd take my photo, but then he wanted some tip money for doing so. The elephants took the tip money out of my hand too. Then the trainer told the elephants to give me a hug.
Is he poking his tusk in my ear? I actually can't move here, they've got me pinned to the post. The one on my left put his wet snout on my left cheek and (yuck) elephant kissed me. I screamed like mad, as did other people, including grown men, when it happened to them. The elephants apparently thought it was funny.
 I see you!
Elephants can play soccer. He kicked the ball into a soccer goal. Another elephant shoots basketballs. Some can play the harmonica. They can dance and swing their trunks in wild circles like you'd swing a lasso.
Four of the elephants painted while we watched. This elephant painted a picture of an elephant. The trainers put the paint on the paintbrushes, and put the paintbrushes in the elephants' trunks, but the elephants did everything else themselves.
This elephant painted a landscape scene with flowers. The final product was beautiful, much better than what I can do. I left feeling a bit defeated knowing that elephants are better painters than I am.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Most fun ride in the world

 Nice sentiment, poor grammar.
 The elephant trunk can do lots of things...
Someone gave this elephant a bunch of greens to eat as reward, and he's about to devour it all in one bite.
The elephant saddles go around their necks and around their tales. Look at that mud they tromped through!
 Mud! We climbed up and down hills in northern Thailand's forests.
 Here I am with my elephant (named Poo Dok Ding).
 He was trying to freak me out with his trunk. 
Downhill was a bit scary. I had to hang on for dear life so I wouldn't slide out of the saddle seat. It would have been a bit of a fall. I've taken lots of different kinds of transportation in my life, but this is, hands down, the most fun ride I've ever been on!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A glimpse of northern Thailand

If you leave Chiang Mai headed northwest towards Myanmar, you'll encounter some of these kinds of sights. Above are young migrant workers loaded into the back of a pickup truck as they drive through the forested areas of the north.
 Pictures (like this one) of the Thai king and the queen are frequently seen.
 Beautiful mountain streams
 Kids dressed in their traditional mountain tribe clothing.
I don't think they wear traditional garb all the time, I think they were told to wear this for the sake of tourists passing by.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Me and Poo Dok Ding

Saturday morning, I explored the northern Thai forests with Poo Dok Ding, the elephant. He's called Dok Ding for short. In the photo, he doesn't look real, but oh my, was he ever real! I hope to tell you more later, but I am short on time. I had to head back to my hotel for a shower (which I just had) so I can catch a night flight this evening.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Snapshots of Chiang Mai, Thailand

 Wooden objects for sale at the Chiang Mai Night Market.
 Brightly colored handmade items are the most common items for sale at the night market.
This is not the night market, but it is Toppae Gate (pronounced top-eye gate). You have to look hard, but take a look at the clever little handlebars on this bike!
I bet you've never seen a drum set quite like this one before, made out of plastic tubs and trash. It was actually quite functional, and this guy could sing and play very well. His first song was "Achy-breaky Heart." Surely most of this odd set up is to draw interest from tourists, but he did seem a little embarrassed to be making a living on this poor looking set. I got the feeling he'd rather have a different kind of employment.
 Colorful soft drinks are for sale near Toppae Gate, which is near the city wall and moat.
A little boy waits for a lady to make a tropical drink. Drink and food stands can be found all around town during the day and in the evenings. This is a food and drink paradise. The rest of the world ought to give up sharing recipes and just adopt Thai recipes for everything.
If I saw these clouds in Texas, I'd head for a storm shelter. But here these clouds are common, and may or may not produce heavy rain. In Chiang Mai, I'd go out if I saw these clouds. This was taken from the window of my hotel room though.
 I went to the Art Cafe today. Good food and a nice setting!
 Here is one of hundreds of street stalls that sell Thai food.
I was passing by on the sidewalk and saw people inside a spa with their feet in a fish tank. The minnows eat your dead skin. Or at least that what entrepreneurs would like you to believe. Plenty of tourists think it is interesting enough that they pay to have the little fishies bite their legs.
 A stone elephant overlooks the moat in Chiang Mai.
There are three kneeling elephants overlooking the moat. Elephants are everywhere around here, and really cute too.
Most restaurants are open-air sidewalk cafes with inexpensive delicious food. This one has water jets that cool people off.
A woman at the night market checks her cell phone while waiting for people to buy her flip-flops. The first customer of the day always gets a deeper discount when bargaining. They slap the bills from the first customer on their goods, thinking it will bring them good luck. I'm not into the superstition stuff, but I do indeed like being the first customer of the day and getting better prices!
In the corner of the concrete you'll see some incense sticks. The dish of food and incense sticks are there to appease some false god who can neither smell or eat. But all is not lost. At least the birds find nourishment in the food left out.
I am riding in the back of a tuk-tuk (pronounced took-took), a motorcycle taxi. They're noisy, but otherwise I like them. Hopefully the windblown look is popular in Thailand, because after riding in their public transportation, it's impossible not to sport said look.
This is a songtow, which is a pick-up with a cover on the back. It has two pews, one on either side, and you climb in the back. These are cheaper than tuk-tuks. Real taxis are few and far between, so I have to ride these to and from the airport sometimes too.

More later!