My close friends know that I cry easily. Toll House cookie commercials. Episodes of Criminal Minds. YouTube videos of people saying “thank you” to their moms. I cry all the time – but never in front of other people. So I will remember this day of the trip as the day I cried in front of everybody. Our team met in John and Kathy’s room after breakfast to debrief from the previous evening. The women shared our insights about our experience in the clubs, and the guys talked about some of the conversations they had with people at the cafe. There was a brief pause after everyone shared, and then John turned to me to ask if I had anything else to say. I had been reflecting internally on my experience as an Asian woman on this team, and so I began to share aloud. This was something I had blogged about and spoke briefly about with a few individuals, but it was not something I had spoken publicly about with the whole team. I talked about the difficulty of being a part of the group, how (at least for me) my being an Asian woman seemed to complicate the dynamic. I know what goes through my head when I see an Asian woman and a white man walking down the street in Bangkok, so I was concerned how people perceived our group or whoever was walking beside me. An unfortunate consequence of my looking like everyone else in Thailand. I silently carried this burden of protecting the image of everyone else in the group, particularly the guys, and consciously separated myself from everyone else. Maybe if people don’t see us walking together, they won’t assume the worst about them. It was a heavy burden, one I placed upon myself – and probably unnecessarily so. I anticipated some issues being Asian on a trip to Thailand, like Thai people assuming I know the language and local customs, but I was unprepared for this particular struggle and how emotionally difficult it would be. I cried as I shared, and Kathy said they would not have known what I was going through had I not said anything. Sophie prayed for me on behalf of the team, praying that I would experience freedom to be a part of the group without concern for what other people were thinking. I really appreciated her prayer and also the people who shared comforting words and hugs with me afterward. I was also very thankful for those who (even before I shared this with the group) made conscious efforts to catch up to me when I walked by myself in the red light district (sorry, Mom). That simple gesture meant so much.
After such an intense Friday, we tried to make Saturday a little less demanding. We started our day at the Chatuchak weekend market, which was overwhelmingly extensive and busy. I don’t think it’s possible to see every booth in one day. There are rows and rows of vendors selling everything from clothes and handicrafts to food, housewares, and antiques. We also saw a cat with a live mouse in its mouth and an Asian man with dreads. All in a span of one or two minutes.
After a morning of shopping, we joined Silk’s brother Hunk for lunch. (The restaurant where we had lunch asks its guests where they are from and then stick a flag of their home country in the dishes. The image at the top of this post is our American-claimed pad thai.) We were unsure if we would be able to connect with Hunk during our trip, because he had been sick and because he was facing opposition from his wife, who is not a Christian. Over lunch he spoke about the struggle of remaining faithful to both God and his wife when she sometimes forbids him from going to church or meeting with fellow Christians like us. However, he says, “Don’t feel sorry for me. I am not a victim. I am a victor in Christ.” Pray for Hunk, his wife, and his dream for the two of them to take the gospel to China.
Upon returning to the hotel, we began packing our luggage for trip home. It was hard to believe that we would soon be leaving Thailand. After packing, Sophie and I went on our own excursion to one of the malls to experience the fish spa, where you put your feet into a pool of water and have small fish nibble the dead skin off your feet and legs. It was the most bizarre sensation that tickled almost unbearably at first and grew more comfortable after time. We were glad we decided to go for 15 minutes instead of the full 30, because we would not have been able to last that long! Before going back to the hotel, we swung by the food court for some Thai iced tea and informal debriefing about the trip. Once we got back to the hotel from the mall, it was time to head out again for dinner at another mall. While most of the group went for pizza and fancy desserts (I’m really going to miss spending so much time with people so willing to share food with me!), I decided to go for one last order of pad thai. It will definitely be interesting going back to the pad thai in America… We also went to the gourmet market within the mall, where I picked up some snacks to take home as gifts and for myself.
As we walked through the market, a few of us talked about wanting a time for the whole team to debrief about the entire trip. When we got back from the market, we all changed into our pajamas and met in John and Kathy’s room to talk about what we had experienced over the last week. We shared our “High Five” – the top five moments from the trip. We all mentioned worship at the YWCA on Sunday morning – our first encounter with the incredible power of God and a morning that set the tone for the rest of the trip. Other highlights included Loy Krathong, worship with the Nightlight staff and volunteers, and seeing how each of the members of our team have grown throughout the trip. During our debriefing time, we also reviewed the words of knowledge received by and for us prior to the trip, and it was great to see how God had fulfilled those over the last week.