Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wherein I discuss my armpit hair.

Let me just say, I hate roll-on deodorant; the hair in my armpits always gets stuck in the ball, and it hurts like bejiminy.

Okay. So you didn’t need to know that. But it’s pretty much what’s on my mind at 12:23 in my bed at the beautiful, 1960s era Porn Ping Hotel in Chiang Mai. I came back to my room after a long day shooting video and photos at the orphanage, followed by a long afternoon of wandering around the city, followed by a long evening of shooting video and photos around the Chiang Mai night market.

It’s pretty warm here, and after a 16 hour day, I really needed a shower. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my deodorant, and I was forced to purchase a cannister of some Thai-brand girly roll-on deodorant at some 24/7 quickie-mart -- called, inexplicably, Fat Bird -- adjacent to our hotel. The upside of the story is that I’m clean, fresh and only missing a few dozen armpit hairs.

I’m sorry I haven’t blogged much over the past couple days. We really haven’t had a lot of time. When we’re not shooting, we’re shopping. Or eating. At any rate, our hotel, the oddly named Porn Ping, is great. Much better than our last place. We’re two blocks from the night market, and the breakfast buffet is quite good. I think we should stay here everytime we come to Chiang Mai.

We’ve had a great time with the kids at the orphanage. They’re quite different from our Cambodian kids. None of the kids in Chiang Mai have been in our care for more than five months; 20 of them have been in the facility for less than three weeks. Some still cry every day. They miss their parents, their village and their familiar surroundings, bleak as their former life might have been. The vast majority of our kids are without any parents at all, and have gone hungry for much of their young lives. Now that they’ve got three square meals a day and a huge family to care for them, a few of the new ones are just a bit overwhelmed by the change, even though it’s positive.

Some of the younger kids are very aggressive, and show inappropriate behaviors of all kinds. They hit and kick and take things from the other kids, and try to pick our pockets. Some are painfully shy, and a few don’t really smile at all. But I’m not discouraged. As a matter of fact, seeing the new kids act this way reinforces my belief in the value of the kind of loving home we’re providing for the children. The difference between kids who have recently come straight from the streets and kids who have been in one of our orphanages for a few months is astounding. And the difference between the kids who have been in the Chiang Mai orphanage for a few months and those who have lived as a family in, say, Battambang for a few years is night-and-day.

I know that, by the time I return to Chiang Mai, the kids will have made extraordinary progress. What a joy to be a part of such a process.

It’s difficult, though, getting so intimately involved in the lives of kids who have had it so bad. We’ve taped a couple of interviews that have left all of us -- the interviewers and interviewees alike -- sobbing. One of the teenage girls told us how, after her father died, her mother married a man who despised her because she had belonged to another man. He sent her away, and she lived homeless and hopeless, hungry and scared every day. She wanted to continue her schooling, but had no money for a uniform, no means of transportation, and no food in her stomach. She regularly considered suicide.

One day, she heard a rumor that some Christians were starting a home for orphaned children. She met Tutu Bee, and once the funding came through for the orphanage, she was accepted. Today, she’s excelling in school, helping to lead worship in church and providing loving care to the younger kids at the orphanage.

So many of the kids make a point when they’re telling their story to promise good behavior and hard work in school, as if they still believe that all of this is too good to be true, and is somehow contingent on their ability to please us. Soon, they’ll all realize that this is their forever home, and that they will be loved unconditionally by their caretakers and by us.

Well, tomorrow we’re going to take the kids up into the mountains. Apparently, there’s a beautiful waterfall in which Luke and Tutu want to let the kids play. After that, we’ll leave some of the kids with the caretakers to play in the river, and take some of the others to visit their home, a Lisu village about two hours from Chiang Mai. We hope to get some great video and to interview some of the Lisu kids. Having them back in their hometown should make for compelling storytelling.

But it’s about 12:55 a.m.. I’m wiped, and I need some sleep. Hopefully I’ll be able to post this before we leave for the hills.

Peace. Goodnight.

6:48 a.m.

Well, it’s a beautiful day in Chiang Mai. Blue skies and about 70 degrees. I’m sitting on a bench outside the internet cafĂ©, hoping it opens at 7:00. If not, this post will have to wait. Please pray for our team as we wrap up our trip. Right now, everyone’s happy and healthy. We’re all a bit ‘traveled out,’ and my dad and I miss our wives and kids like mad. We’ve gotten almost all the footage we need. If today goes well, we’ll have everything we need in Thailand. We have a couple of interviews we need to do in Cambodia. Pray that our last week is fruitful.

As I was writing that last sentence, I was passed by a barefoot Buddhist monk. A handsome boy of about 10, he was wearing a saffron-colored robe and carrying a bowl for rice. In Theraveda Buddhism, the monks are only allowed to eat what people give them, so every morning the monks wander the streets asking for food and alms. In exchange, people receive merit, which will presumably get them a better lot in their next life, or at least offset some of their bad actions in this one. Fascinating, but sad.

I’m so thankful that I don’t have to worry about my karmic balance; that my bills are paid in full, and that I can do good things out of love, not out of fear. Thank you Jesus!


By the way, Kori, I can’t seem to send emails from this machine, but I AM reading the ones you send me. Thanks. I love you.

And mom, email dad. You can send it to your own email address and he’ll be able to download it.


dee said...

John I have sent an email to our account, it does not show up here yet, but maybe you can find it in cyberspace!!


John McCollum said...


I'm not sure you're doing it right. Dad tested it last night and it showed right up.


dee said...

What should I do? I do not see his or mine?
Love you both.

PS when do you leave for PP and when(our time) do you leave?

Jeff Cannell said...

John, I have been enjoying your writing so much!! I can't tell you what thatpicture of Vanna has done to our family. When Kathleen first saw it, she, in tears asked me why he can't come and live with us. I was crying too b/c I feel the same way she does. I (tried to) calmly
told her that Jesus has him there and that is his home and it doesn't mean we can't love him, just b/c he's far away.

Anyway, all that to say, please don't stop writing and sending pictures. It's doing us a world of good.

We miss you, John. Bless you. Adrienne