Bangkok International Airport
Landed in America (LAX)!!
Big big plane
Heading to ATL!!!
No way we can count how many cups of coffee we've had...
We even had another Delta in-flight pharmacy moment! During a conversation with one of the friendly flight attendants while we were taking a chance to stand up and stretch our legs (trying to prevent a DVT!) we were able to learn that she was recently diagnosed Graves’ Disease and answer many of the questions she had. Kind of a long story, but it’s amazing how small talk can lead to a meaningful connection. Just another thing to look back and smile about!
Leaving Thailand was bittersweet and we spent lots of our time on the plane rides and layovers reliving our trip with a slideshow of nearly 4,500 pictures and counting our blessings for all the experiences we received…
· 39 days in Thailand
· 12 planes flown
· 15 modes of transportation used (tuk tuks, planes, speedboats, vans, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, a bamboo raft, a fishing boat, an elephant, the Sky Train, songthaews, Krabi truck and our own 2 feet)
· 5 sunsets seen
· 3 sunrises greeted
· 8 islands hopped
· 1 mountain conquered
· All 4 regions of Thailand explored
· 10 wonderful Thai pharmacy student friends forever
· 4 awesome fellow exchange student friends made
· 6 presentations given
· 1 conference attended
· 13 different pharmacies and healthcare facilities observed
· 6 markets bartered
· ~1000 baht saved with our bartering skills
· 8 malls shopped
· 13 temples visited
· 100s of orchids and flowers adored
· 5 tigers touched
· 2 elephants fed
· 5 new fruit obsessions made (jackfruit, pineapple, mango, coconut, and banana)
· Too many coffee frappes, scoops of ice cream, cups of tea, and Thai sweets to count
…and thousands of smiles exchanged with people from all over the world during our time in Thailand. It is no surprise to us that this country is often referred to as the Land of Smiles!
America has its share of smiles too, and none bigger than the ones on our faces when we were welcomed back in Atlanta by our fabulous parents. We have missed our families so much. It is so good to be home!
Now that we have reconnected with our moms and had the chance to give them their surprise presents, we have two final stories to share about our trip that we had to keep secret until now.
The first story is of Megan’s mom’s Thailand gift. Mrs. Zeek collects nativities from the Zeek family’s travels all over the world, and so it was our mission to find one for her in Thailand. The country is over 95% Buddhist, so this posed quite a challenge. Luckily, our connection with 1999 HSOP graduate Dr. Kelli Johnson led us to an adorable pottery shop in Chiang Mai called Mengrai Kilns. Dr. Johnson knew about this shop from her missionary friends. Mengrai celadons, or pottery, are made entirely by hand, one piece at a time. No two pieces are the same. They are produced only in the ancient city of Chiang Mai, so not only was purchasing this gorgeous Thai style nativity an exciting accomplishment, but walking to the shop through the historic streets of the Old City was a fun adventure! Megan has gently carried the box set by hand on five different planes, and was thrilled to be able to give her mom such a special present and genuine story. Mrs. Zeek was of course thrilled too!
Surprise for Mrs. Zeek!
Erin’s mom’s Thailand gift was also a very special surprise. Shortly after Erin was born in Bangkok, her family moved to Chiang Mai. In 1990, a man in the Night Bazaar by the name of Paradorn Threemake drew a picture of Erin and her brother, Bryan, with nothing but a pencil. He is an incredible artist, and this likeness has hung in the McCreary household foyer for 25 years! Before Erin left for this trip, she took a picture of the drawing and the man’s name. Even though it had been so long, she had a brief glimmer of hope that he would still be in the Chiang Mai night market. Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, we set out the very first night to find him. Before leaving Mahasarakham, we had our friend Boss write for us in Thai the phrase “have you seen the man that draws with pencil?” Erin showed this piece of paper and the picture of her previous drawing to every artist we encountered. Even though we stumbled across several artists that first night, we were not successful. The second night, we explored a different area of the market and found some men sketching. One of the men read our note and looked up and said “Oh yes! He sits right over there!” We could not believe this was happening…we had found him! When we walked to his booth though, he wasn’t there. The other artists said he was at a dinner party and to come back in a few hours. When we returned later, he still hadn’t arrived but the artists assured us he was coming. We wandered around to shop some more, and much to our surprise one of the artists had come to find us in the market to tell us the man we sought had returned! It was so fun how the entire section got into Erin’s story, and it was truly incredible to finally meet this man. When Erin showed him the picture he had drawn 25 years ago, he was so excited. We met him at 11PM on a Saturday, and by 10PM on Sunday he had drawn a gorgeous picture of Erin, her brother, and her sister! Erin’s mom was absolutely blown away by this gift, as she is super sentimental and misses life in Thailand. It was hard for both of us to keep such juicy surprises, but we are so glad we did and even happier to be able to bring home a piece of this special country with us to share with our families.
Found the artist, 25 years later!!
Needless to say, the smiles on our faces could not be any bigger. We will remember this trip forever and have definitely changed for the better as a result of this experience. Thank you for following along with us…we hoped you have learned, loved, and laughed as much as we have throughout this journey! We will return one day so this is not the end. For now, this is a pause to reflect on the past six weeks and look forward to the rest of 2015 with a broad and radiant smile.