Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year

New Year's Eve

We spent New Year's Eve in Hua Hin (3 hours from Bangkok)--a small city where most of the tourists are Scandinavians and wealthy Thais (and thankfully mostly families--no "party culture"). I'm happy to announce that even though it's hot and sunny I'm healthier than ever. For those of you who don't know, I suffered from a debilitating sun allergy/autoimmune disorder for the past 8 years, which I have turned around with diet and lifestyle changes. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from it--it taught me to value every minute of life, with an understanding that there are no guarantees of tomorrow.

"Letting Go" Lantern Ritual
We brought in the New Year on the beach with a Swedish family who had already made friends with all the locals. We watched as the Thais released sky lanterns (like mini hot air balloons--the flame from the candle heats the air inside the rice paper lantern, causing it to rise). It's a beautiful ritual--they are sending up all the challenges and troubles of the past year. They let them go so they can start over, free of trouble, free of worry. This is so much better than what we tend to do in the West--holding onto all our troubles and worries as though they are part of who we are, when they only hold us back.

I am trying to learn from the Thais--to just let go of the old and welcome in the new! The Thais also know how to have fun. They were shooting fireworks everywhere-the big fancy loud ones. It was a bit crazy trying to dodge them.

Our Projects in Laos
Tomorrow we leave for Bangkok, where we'll shop for some of the items needed at the schools in Laos. Then we'll catch a train to the Laos border, a bus to Pakse and a ferry or longboat to the island of Muong Khong, where we will check on the kindergarten school we helped last year, and begin this year's project.

Getting 17 District Kindergarten School Leaders Together
This year we are doing something exciting. We're having a meeting with the heads of all 17 of the district's kindergarten schools to get to the bottom of what they really need, the real challenges the children face and the best ways to help. We find a lot of charities have good intentions but end up helping in ways that don't have a long-term impact. Our focus in on making sure everything we do helps the children over the long term. After the meeting, we'll be working to help one kindergarten school, in the same way we did last year. We have already earmarked a couple but we are going to tour them and make sure the one we choose has strong leadership and a good long-term outlook. We will keep you updated!

Happy New Year to you all. May you fill this year with joyful experiences and adventures, learning and growing and soaking up LIFE!

All the best,
Shawn and Thanou

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