Define “Hang Out,” Please

54 Commentsby   |  06.21.11  |  Chiang Mai, Thailand

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You may have noticed that we seem to be doing very little “work” here in Thailand. That’s the impression I get when skimming back through my blog posts and scrolling through the pictures I’ve posted to Facebook. You may be wondering what we’re doing out here besides teaching a few English classes, eating, hanging out, and climbing waterfalls.

Okay fine, so we’re pretty much just eating, hanging out, and climbing waterfalls. And teaching some English. But that’s exactly what we should be doing, and I promise I won’t just be using subtle rhetorical tricks and clever word choices to make a summer of having fun seem like “ministry.”

When we eat all the delectable Thai food I’ve talked about, we’re usually eating with Thai and Chinese students we’ve met at Payap University or with members of the Payap Church. Many of them also join us for dinner on Thursday nights when all the church members get together for Cell Group. When we spend entire afternoons hanging out and playing games and going to local coffee shops, then evenings wandering the city and seeing movies, we’re with these same students and church members. Many of these students start coming around because they want to get to know a bunch of “farongs” and practice their English; then, we try to encourage them to continue coming and get to know the church members so that when we leave they won’t leave too.

We’re here to have relationships with the Thais. Most of them are college-aged students, so these relationships look a lot like “just hanging out.” Everyone who works here long-term says that without us being here, very few new people would ever end up coming around to begin with. We try to welcome them and invite them to be a part of the community here, so we take group trips to spend a day at a waterfall or have dinner downtown. The rest can develop from there if they want it to. Just look at how youth ministers spend their summers; I rest my case.

And now for the cast of characters:

Tum (“Tuhm”) is studying linguistics at Payap, and he and I study advanced English from a TOEFL book three times a week. I also get a ten-minute mini-linguistics lesson because I find it fascinating and because Tum is incredibly intelligent, even if a tad awkward. He’s studying linguistics so that he can develop a written language for the hill tribe he comes from. Which is suutnyaaht, awesome.

Palm (“Pahm”) is a Payap student who wants to learn English, graduate, and one day start his own business modeled after philanthropic ones like TOMS Shoes because he grew up poor, is paying his own way through college, and wants to help other people like himself. He doesn’t have many friends, at least that we can tell, and he’s already become a regular part of our group and comes around nearly every day. He also really likes rabbits and brought his pet rabbit, Moo Grawbp (Crispy Pork) to visit us one day. That’s (mostly) why he wears Playboy glasses, he says—they have a rabbit on them. Right…

Sea Game (by the way, these are all nicknames because their given names are all exceptionally long; but don’t ask me how they come up with ones like this one) is a high school student who wants to learn English so that he can pass the TOEFL test and study in America. He’s a great teacher when it comes to learning Thai.

Iris, Ivy, Faith, Michelle, and Piiyao are Chinese students studying abroad in Thailand for the year. Remember the little aliens from Toy Story who all look similar and respond to things in unison? Well, just envision them as 19-year-old Chinese girls, and you’ve met this group. I study English with them, and Fish is continuing some Bible studies that they’d already started, and they teach us some Chinese. Ivy wants to be a tour guide, so we let her practice by showing us around, and Piiyao wants to become a professor in China. They’re all going back to China in a few weeks, and we’ll miss them.

We also spend a lot of time getting to know the church members. Ball (“Bon,” don’t ask), the other intern here, is a self-proclaimed soccer “superstar” and likes to teach us various slang Thai phrases. Berm (“Bum”) was the first member of the church here and is now an art teacher who breeds chihuahuas on the side. Then there’s Ying and Ahn and Ohn and Uhn and several others whose names sound the same except for a slight difference in vowel sound or intonation. And they’re all wonderful, even when you call them the wrong name.

Hope that gives a somewhat better idea of what we’re up to all summer. Miss you all and love you all! Now off to coffee…


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