Monday, May 19, 2014

Senior Missionary Conference

We had the opportunity to attend a Conference organized by the Mission President and his wife this past weekend (Thursday thru Saturday).  It was located at a National Park called Khao Yai. There were 22 Senior Missionaries and the Mission President and his wife - therefore 24 individuals.  We used four vehicles to get there. Three Vans and Presidents SUV.  I drove one van, Elder Sowards drove another and the third van was a rented van that included a driver.  Amnuay the driver was 29 years old and not yet married. Very polite and helpful. 

Senior Missionaries prior to departing to Specialized Training 15 May 2014
We departed Thursday morning early and drove to the entrance to the National Park. Khao Yai  (meaning Big Mt.) National Park is located about 200 KM North East of Bangkok.  I presented our Work Permits (proving we are residents) to the attendant at the entrance to the Park to get the Thai Admission price - 40 Baht($1.30) versus the Tourist Price of 400 Baht ($13.00). We also had to pay 50 Baht per vehicle.
Sister Meeker at the entrance to the Park with Elder and Sister Brown at the Sign
We drove a few Kilometers to the trailhead for the largest Waterfall in the Park- Haew Narok (Misty Hell) Waterfall.  We then hiked about a Kilometer to the base of the Falls. Overall the falls are 450 meters high for the three tiers.  We only saw the first tier.  It was hot and humid, but we were in the woods so it was at least somewhat shady.  The last part of the trail included very steep concrete steps to get down to the base of the falls.
Note the Steep steps in front of Sister Meeker

After the walk we returned to the parking lot and picnic area to have lunch.  Sister Seppi and the other Sisters made some wraps and Lois had made golden graham smores for desert. Yummy.

We then drove thru the rest of the park. The Park which is Thailand's oldest and best known park covers 760 square miles. It has four separate vegetation zones from rainforest at 300 feet to evergreen forests at 3000 feet. The highest point is 4500 feet above sea level.  The park hosts lots of wildlife. There is a wild elephant herd of more than 300.  We did not see any of the Elephants during our visit but we did see their droppings quite prominently scattered on the road in many spots. 

After we left the park we continued on to our hotel for the next two nights. It is called Thames Valley Resort. As you can tell by the name it had a British flavor to the  surroundings. It is a brand new place. It just opened in February. See the video from the roof top of the "castle". Very picturesque and comfortable.

Red Dragon Fly

Getting ready to go to an offsite lunch

Very calm peaceful surroundings

Sister Meeker had to take a picture of the Bright Red Blossoms

I rented a conference room in the hotel for us to meet in.  Very nice amenities. Each couple had their own microphone.

The instruction was enlightening and inspiring Several senior missionaries made reports on their stewardships.  We heard reports on the Humanitarian work in Myanamar and Laos.  We also got a report on the Family History and Public affairs efforts.  President and Sister Senior did a marvelous job on their presentations and instruction. We all came away uplifted and inspired. 

Maid from the Past

I got a phone call from the District Leader Elder Cutler in Lopburi last month.  He told us that he was on the street and saw a lady ahead of him that he felt inspired to contact.  It turned out to be Somkhid.  Somkhid  was my maid in the city of Lopburi 38 years ago. Elder Cutler told me that Somkhid had joined the church a few years after I had gone home. However she has been inactive for 6 or 7 years. She started working for the Missionaries not long before I arrived. Somkhid's husband had died of a brain tumor. She had a 2 year old daughter.  She supported herself by working as a maid at the Missionaries home 6 days a week.  She shopped for food daily and prepared 2 meals a day.  She also cleaned our home which doubled as he chapel and washed our clothes - by hand.  Her salary in those days was $50 USD per month. That was a good middle class salary in those days.

We visited her and her family on a Saturday last month. Two weeks later I borrowed the Office Van and went to Lopburi early Sunday morning to take Somkhid to church.  She met us in the driveway and we went to church together.  Several of the members their knew her. I believe she was well received.  There were over 80 people at Sacrament meeting that day.  The rented chapel was filled to overflowing.  That is a lot more than the 1 member that we had in Lopburi when I first arrived 38 years ago.
Son-in-law, Daughter, Granddaughter, Sister Somkhid and Elder Meeker
After Church was over we returned to her home where she had prepared a Thai meal for Lois and I.  It was marvelous.  I was eating her cooking again after so many years.  I do love Thai food.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mom and Dad Thanks for my Name

Elder Meeker on the Streets of Bangkok
I am aware that Mother's Day is coming up in a few Days.  Fathers Day is of course next month.  I have always been grateful for my Name - JAY.  Mom and Dad - thank you for my name.  Even as a child I appreciated having a name that was somewhat unique - but not strange.  My parents told me that I was named after a great Uncle from South Dakota.  Dad said he always had liked the name when he became aware of his uncles name. Recently at Transfer meeting I used my last name as part of my presentation to the Missionaries.  As part of transfer meeting President Senior asks that I address the Elders and Sisters regarding any administrative issues we may be having.

What does the Sign on the Median Say?

Oh - It says I cannot walk here without a ~ $6.00 Fine

So I put up the translation of my last name "Meeker"  The person who is more meek.  There is no direct translation but there are several words that are close in Thai.  I used อ่อนโยน (which translates as gentle, tender, mild, benign, soft, meek) it also translates as ว่าง่าย (which translates as meek, pliable, pliant, submissive, tractable, compliant).  But I reminded the Missionaries that I am not pliable.  I should have added except I am pliable when it comes to my family.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

BYU Young Ambassadors and Royalty

The BYU Young Ambassadors are in Thailand for 12 Days.  I was invited to chauffer the Senior Missionary couples that live in Bangkok to the first performance.  This performance was held at  the Sala Chalermkrung Theater.  So I borrowed the Service Center Mission Van.  I had intended to take the Mission Van normally driven by the Assistants to the President. However, the assistants had borrowed my keys and had not returned them.  Both their keys and my keys were at there apartment. I picked up the senior missionary couples at the Supalai Condominium (same place that Sister Meeker and I live) and then drove to the Mission Home to pick up President an Sister Senior. 

I had scoped out the route to get to the theater ahead of time. Sister Meeker did not want to be my navigator - So I recruited President Senior.  The theater is in a old part of Town not far from China town with a lot of one way streets.  After we got thru the traffic in the business part of town the 8 kilometer trip was successfully completed. We only missed one turn on the way there - President Senior quickly redirected me to an alternate route (GPS is marvelous) after taking me down a very narrow street ( more like an alley).   Pulled in the parking area and was directed to the roof of the Parking garage. The roof was only about 18 stories up.  Great view from the roof.

The Princess was in attendance at this performance. With the presence of a member of the Royal family there was some uptightness with regard to being on time and what you were required to wear.  Ladies were encouraged to wear long formal dresses. For a 7:30PM start time I left the office at 4:30 PM.  Remember this was only a 8 Kilometer trip.  We got there with plenty of time.  We had a take out snack from the restaurant attached to the theater building.  I had crab sandwich - Lois had two small pieces of room temperature Hawaiian Pizza.

Chair used by the Princess  - After Performance was completed
The Princess is royal by way of marriage.  She is the first wife of the only son of the King.
They are divorced.  But she is the mother of the 1st grandchild of the King.  As such, I understand hat the King declared her Princess forever (after the divorce).  There was a lot of pomp and circumstance when she arrived.  They cleared several rows of chairs to put here in the middle of the theater.  We were not allowed to take pictures.  But I got a couple of shots after the performance was over of the area she sat in.

Children's Hospital benifited by performance - thus Nurses and others in attendance getting their picture taken
The BYU Young Ambassadors,  entered the world stage at Japan's Expo '70. The Young Ambassadors have performed their vibrant blend of song and dance in 56 nations of the world.  Their audiences have included the prime minister of India, the queen of Thailand, and the king and queen of Jordan.  The Young Ambassadors combine contemporary music and dance for a fast-paced showcase of American musical theatre. Chosen through an extensive selection process, these talented performers offer a fresh view of America's culture and ways of life.
 The Young Ambassadors did a marvelous job. They did a 90 minute show and sang songs that all had a theme of “Heartsongs – Melodies of Love”.  At the end of the show she even gave flowers to three members of the Group, one young man, one young women representing the Young Ambassadors and the Music director.  The thing that was cool – was that after the official performance was completed the group sang a Primary Song in Thai and for the final song they sang song a that was actually written by the King.  When they started to sing that song the Thai audience got quite excited.

As I mentioned the Young Ambassadors will be in country for 12 days doing 5 formal shows.  After that they will travel to Cambodia for one show and then on to Vietnam for two shows - one in Hanoi and one in Ho Chi Min City (Siagon). Elder and Sister Manning, the Public Affairs missionaries have done all of the coordination for this trip.  I have had a few opportunities to help.  I spent a Saturday morning with Elder Manning and representatives of the tour company and the Bus company moving the group.  I was simply the interpreter to make sure nothing was lost in translation.  I also was present to translate on Monday night at 10 PM when the Sealand Container that held all (~8,000 lbs) of the equipment arrived.  It was unloaded into a standard truck in the Service Center parking lot.