Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Magical Moment 628, "Home is Where the Bread is"

One of the best things about visiting home, is spending time with not only the people that you feel most comfortable around, but at the places you feel most comfortable in. One of those places is my Grandma's house. She's lived there with my Grandpa since I was born, and I myself spent 6 years of my life calling that house, "home."

If you asked any of my siblings or cousins, they would tell you that one of the staple memories of our childhood, are the squirrels. They've been lovingly hand-fed for decades by my grandparents. I remember my Grandpa even naming some of them... Bertha and Clyde. Well, Bertha and Clyde have gone on to produce many generations since I was 4, but they all still know right where to get their daily meal. From my Grandma's own hand. When I went "home" last month, it was good to see that some things never change.

With me, this guy was kind of tentative. But when it's just my Grandma, she has to block the doorway with her body to keep them from coming inside!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Magical Moment 627, "Shadow"

A few weeks ago, I assisted my family in around the clock care for the family dog, Shadow. He had been diagnosed with canine lymphoma and was getting close to his final days. We made an effort for someone to be nearby at all times in case of an emergency.

Though Shadow was in his final stages, our family was only beginning to understand that after 11 years, inevitably we would no longer see his powerful, wagging tail when we entered the house, or hear his deep bark that a stranger would mistake for ferocious, but would soon learn it was only a friendly ‘hello.’

I began to think about these things one day as I ran the bike trail. The song “Awake My Soul” by Mumford and Sons came on my iPod. And my thoughts turned to my Sheltie of 14 years, Duchess, whose passing broke my heart 4 years ago. There is no easy way to lose a pet or any loved one and I wondered how my family would get through Shadow’s passing.

I came to a fork in the road - either go back home, or run an extra 3 miles - that day I chose to run the extra 3. When I came to the end of my path finally, I saw a woman walking her dog in the distance coming towards me. As she got closer, I squinted to make out the dog…it was a Sheltie. Of all the breeds in all the world, today I would see a Sheltie, a breed of dog you rarely see. I kneeled, and petted, and chatted, and smiled. That moment meant a great deal to me as I know it was not merely a chance encounter that day.

Everyone has experienced a great loss of some kind. But in those moments of loss and grief, we can always find something beautiful or significant within them. My Duchess waited for me to get home from work before she passed in my arms. When I learned of my Grandpa’s death, I was in church, sitting next to my best friend. These things are not accidents. They are gifts, orchestrated by the Creator of the Universe to help ease our pain. Because He feels pain when we do. And He cares so deeply for us, for our loved ones, for our pets, for the sparrow that falls to the ground. How painful life would be without His love.

Shadow Daugherty 2002-6/22/2013

"In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life." 
-Mumford & Sons


Friday, June 21, 2013

Magical Moment 626, "Thailand - The Leftovers!"

Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks! Since my last post, I have made a trip home to Nebraska, quit my jobs, and moved with Eddie to southern Georgia! We are here temporarily until Eddie completes a training course. While he is hard at work with training, I am exploring the music scene down here and have high hopes for our 7 month stay. :) So, I apologize for not getting around to as many posts as I wanted.

I wanted to finish up sharing about our Thailand trip with some "leftovers." These are pictures I wanted to share that made me smile, that really didn't fit into any other category of religion, elephants, etc.

On our plane ride to Bangkok, I excitedly read the electronic tour guide on my airplane screen. I was a little bummed to find out that at a little over 5'8, I may have trouble with the shopping.... "Unless you are a tall western woman." Hmmm.

One late night, our exhaustion forced us to have pizza delivered to our hotel room. It came with no less than 16 packets of ketchup...apparently a local necessity!

In Thailand, the action of putting your hands together and bowing slightly is done with pretty much every hello, goodbye, and thank you. Many statues and religious symbols are show doing this. 

And so is Ronald McDonald.

 Dogs and cats (most of them stray) fill the streets of Bangkok. This one didn't budge as we stepped right over him twice on our way in and out of this 7/11.

I've never seen such a graphic restroom sign!

And finally, I really got a kick out of this one. How would you like a spa day where tiny fish nibble all the dead skin from your feet? I passed on that one. :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Magical Moment 625, "Thailand - the Elephants"

Needless to say, my favorite part of our Thailand vacation, was our week long volunteering at Elephant Nature Park!

The logging industry was banned in Thailand in 1989, leaving thousands of elephants unemployed. These elephants are now used for tourism. You may have heard of elephant shows featuring the animals playing soccer or painting pictures with their trunks. They are no doubt amazing to watch, but the sad truth is that these elephants have gone through a series of torture and abuse to "break their spirit" by their trainers. This short clip is very hard to watch, but it will give you an idea of what the elephants in captivity in the country of Thailand go through.

The only elephants in Thailand who do not endure this, are the very few baby elephants who are first generation born in "safe captivity" at places like Elephant Nature Park. Every other elephant at this park has been brutally abused. Some have been blinded by their owners, legs broken and never properly healed, and one is even being weened off methamphetamine that she was given in order to force her to work long hours. These elephants will never return to the wild, but will live happily in a caring and open sanctuary. The ultimate hope is that their offspring can someday be taught to live in the wild.

Elephant Nature Park has rescued over 30 elephants, and has used the support of tourism to help the animals rather than exploit them. We were given jobs such as working in the elephant kitchen preparing food, or cutting corn for them. But we also had a lot of free time, and usually we worked right along side the elephants so we could stop to feed, bath, or take photos with them. (Click to enlarge) 
Left: washing pumpkins and melons, Right: the shelves in the Elephant Kitchen

This elephant showed off for Eddie

Most of the elephants here are gentle and happy to be around visitors. But there is a herd of about 5, that no longer trust humans and their behavior is too unpredictable to be around tourists. We encountered this herd accidentally, led by the elephant appropriately named Naughty Boy, one day on a small work detail. We drove a truck to a remote part of the river to collect sand. When Naughty Boy spotted the group, he led his herd toward us. Our guide immediately got nervous and told us to stay behind the truck. When they kept on, he told us to get in the truck. When they kept on further, he drove the truck towards a nearby tree house and told us to climb up!

Our group taking refuge in a tree house

That was our excitement, but there were plenty of tender moments as well. The 2 new babies stole our hearts. This is 1 month old Dok Mai and her mother. They are kept in confinement until she is strong enough to be with the herd.

And of course, 6 month old Navaan. In this video, he playfully strolls to the river.

And I found some very special elephants that didn't mind me showing my affection.

Mae Perm and Jokia especially touched me. Jokia was blinded with a slingshot by her previous owner. When ENP rescued her, she met Mae Perm who immediately accepted her. They are never apart now. Mae Perm leads her tenderly around the park and does not leave her side for a moment.

Jokia's eye, hard to look at.

This is the park's only "white elephant." She's really only about 30% white elephant. True white elephants must be turned over to Thailand's Royal Family.

The issue of elephant abuse certainly tugged at my heart and I was happy to contribute. These magnificent creatures have changed my life and made me see things in a different way. It has made me more conscious of what I do or don't support with my time and money. And has made me more aware of not only how animals are treated, but all living things.

A friend of mine so eloquently captioned this photo for me, in the words of Sir Mix A Lot...
"I like big butts and I cannot lie."

I'm sure you will see more of my elephant photos in the future!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Magical Moment 624, "Thailand - Music and National Parks!"

We stayed in the city of Chiang Mai for a few days at a hotel near the Tha Phae Gate, which is the remnants of the ancient city that dates back to the 1300s. On Sunday evenings, this gate is the beginning of an enormous walking market. This mostly caters to tourists and is a chance for them to see and purchase authentic souvenirs made by the local people. Eddie and I got the chance to go 2 different Sundays. It goes for miles and we never even got to all of it. (click to enlarge)


Here, we witnessed some pretty interesting things. At one point, a loud speaker announced something in Thai. Suddenly, the thousands of people that filled the streets stood to their feet in silence. We realized they were playing the Thailand National Anthem.

We saw and heard so many interesting musicians in Thailand. I wished I could have recorded them all.
 Left: This man stopped his traditional Thai song when he saw me with a camera
and began playing jingle bells...way to read to your audience,
my fellow street musician! He got a tip from me.

But the most interesting was this man...I was so impressed with his multi-tasking!

One of the most memorable experiences with music that I had, was when we stayed at Elephant Nature Park and I noticed an old, acoustic guitar at the office. I discovered it was one of the employees, whose dream it was to become a performing musician. I asked if he knew any American songs and he said yes. He learns them to improve his English. So together we sang and played "Stand By Me," "Poker Face," and a few other random songs (whatever we both kind of knew and I could strum...which is not much.) Funny how musicians always find music, no matter where they are.

Since we got a chance to see so much of what I do and love, we also got the opportunity to visit one of the National Parks for Eddie (who is a U.S Park Ranger). We went to Doi Suthep Pui National Park, just outside of Chiang Mai. (If you enlarge, you'll see that Eddie's hat has a US National Park crest on it similar to the one on his left.)

Here, we visited Huaykeaw Waterfall, which I enjoyed climbing and exploring. See me?

Eddie, ever the park ranger, followed the rules however. Oops.

We saw this sweet boy staying cool in the heat.

There were some great opportunities to identify with people from the other side of the world. I guess there's always something in common, no matter how different we are!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Magical Moment 623, "Thailand - the Temples!"

The Buddhist religion is an enormous part of Thailand's life and culture. We saw more temples than I could keep track of. They're beautiful and ornate. Most are open to tourists to visit. They ask visitors to cover their knees and shoulders and remove their shoes out of respect. (click to enlarge)


Another interesting aspect were the numerous Spirit Houses that were kept in businesses, homes, even open fields and roadsides. It was explained that these houses are more or less tributes to ancestors and those who have passed on. You will always see water bottles, meals, even beer or fried chicken sitting on these Spirit Houses as gifts to those gone. They may be to passed away loved ones, or to unknown spirits. If someone is building a business, they will also make a spirit house in tribute to whoever lived and died on that land before them, though they never knew them personally. 

This was a large Spirit House by our hotel in Bangkok

These workers take a break near a small Spirit House

It's also common to see monks. Buddhist in Thailand (which is around 90% of the population), the men  are required to be a monk for a period of time. We were told the minimum amount of time is just 1 week, but it's a major part of a Buddhist's life. I wanted to get better photos, but I felt a little odd trying to snap their picture. That's why these are from behind!

This group of monks sat in front of us on the plane ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

I admit, I never knew much about the Buddhist religion, and still don't really. But I learned that they do teach love and respect for all living things. This makes the common practice of elephant abuse and torture all that more puzzling, considering the elephant is not only a national symbol of pride, but a religious god as well (Ganesha). However, there are probably just as many Christians in the world who don't practice Christ's teachings of love and acceptance. I guess in any case, human nature gets in the way and no one has the right to judge. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Magical Moment 622, "Thailand - the Markets!"

We got our first true taste of Thailand in Bangkok. We knew we only had a short amount of time here and wanted to make the most of it, so we went straight from the airport to Taling Chan where we visited a floating market. This cab ride was most interesting because our awful American pronunciation of "Taling Chan" did not register with this cab driver. He made several cell phone calls (while driving through the terrifyingly chaotic streets of Bangkok) to friends who had a better understanding of English, and finally we made a connection!

We were mesmerized when we arrived and wandered around (suitcases and all) through the Taling Chan Floating Market. Here we met a Thai woman working at a stand who spoke impeccable English. She kindly offered to keep our bags safe with her while we explored unhindered. Of all the scary stories we'd heard of Bangkok, thefts, and scams, she certainly proved there were exceptions to that stereotype.

Floating markets are numerous throughout Thailand, and it's amazing to see the traditional way of selling vegetables, fruits, and all kinds of other goods. Fresh, as well as cooked food is prepared right in their boats and they sell to passers by. It was beautiful.

Daily fresh food is a must in Thailand, as refrigeration is rare in many places.

It was 100 degrees, Farenheit. The cooking raised the temperature by 10 at least!

Decorated boats

The catfish were jumping!

This is where I experienced my first meal in Thailand. And thus began my love of wandering from stand to stand, experimenting with new and strange foods on a stick! And Chang beer! Of course, for the first meal I played it safe with pork, a spring roll, and what I can only describe as a spicy hush puppy. Most markets are extremely cheap. This meal probably cost the equivalent of $1.50 and it was delish!

The Taling Chan Floating Market also had a regular street market, which was just as charming.

80 baht (Thailand money), is about $3.50 USD.

Don't you want to try something?!

The next morning before our flight, we went to one more market near our hotel. This was HUGE and indoors. It was interesting, but after a while, the mix of the smells started to get to me. There were no tourists in this area, so I feel like this is a more accurate representation of a typical Thailand market.

These are called Rose Apples. We tried one and it tasted a lot like a pear. This is 50 baht for 1 kilo of fruit. So, about a dollar a pound. She let us just buy 1 for 5 baht.

This guy was nice enough to strike a pose for the "farang" with a camera. That's Thai for "gringa." :)

These poor little guys were probably someone's lunch.

The stands went on forever. We spent over an hour here and didn't even get to half of them. There were also clothes and household goods sold here, but we mainly explored the food.

The food tastings weren't as successful at this market. We tried something that looked like a hot dog in a was not a hot dog...and it was not a bun! We finally were able to be satisfied with a toast stand. That's right. Toast, butter, and sugar. Hard to go wrong there! The nice thing was, everything is so cheap, you can try many things and not be out much money if you don't like it.

Markets are a huge part of Thailand daily life and culture. They don't buy in bulk at Wal Mart and keep it in the freezer for later, so it's important to have fresh food daily. Even the 7/11 stores have a market feel to them.

Our first impression of the markets in Thailand really set the scene for the rest of our trip. It helped us begin to understand the people and way of life. I loved walking through them, trying new things, and watching the people who made their living selling goods.