On a hot April afternoon in 1994, an EVA air plane landed. Having come from Los Angeles Airport through Tai Pei, my family and I were pretty exhausted. My husband and I, our two children (then 2 and 3) had no idea what to expect from the Land of Smiles.
I laughed to myself when we got in line at immigration, because there in bold letters was a sign “ILLEGAL ALIENS”. I am, by the way Mexican American. Our two children were not too much to handle, still working off the doses of Cough Medicine that helped them sleep the long flight. The biggest relief was seeing our Rubbermaid tote lockers which made it in pristine condition. Friends from our Mission had come to pick us up. We walked down this long tunnel, to an area where you walk to many anxious faces. It was very interesting actually seeing signs in English and Thai. We got to a guest house and despite our best efforts to stay awake, passed out.
It’s a bit bizzare when you wake up in the middle of the night in a foreign country. I slid open the door, and stepped out onto the tiled balcony. I could hear people and cars buzzing by, because Bangkok afterall does not sleep. Of course there was the smell and music that had a pop beat and someone crooning away. I remember thinking that Thai had a bird sound element to it, highs and lows. Later in Thai study, when I was fluent, my teacher Lek told me that she thought English sounded long and stretched out.
It took a couple of days of rest before they felt we’d recovered enough to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by bus. I don’t think anyone is ever ready for that ride! It’s scary. They do give you snacks and sandwiches filled with sweet dried pork. Our kids, being American cutiepies were definitely an attraction. “Farang”, which means foreigner is probably the first word that any newcomer to Thailand learns. It means foreigner. Very strange for me as an American to be considered a foreigner. Funny thing too was when I could finally speak Thai, I would get, “So what kind of foreigner are you?” Because with Black hair and brown eyes,and olive-colored skin I could pass as half Thai. If I had a baht for every time I was asked…
When we finally arrived in Chiang Mai, we were taken directly to the house that had been rented for us. I thought, “How do they know what I like?” My husband honestly thought it was the shack on stilts next to the beautiful two story house we ended up occupying for over two years. We left America, land of comfort to serve the Lord and ended up living in a house better than we ever imagined. It was in a small moo baan behind the train station, near the soldiers apartments. We loved it.