the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

Filtering by Tag: culture

Crowned with Laurels ...or Silver

The name Lori means "Crowned with Laurels", taken from a term used to give the winner of a contest a wreath on their head. It is not a wreath of leaves, but my Lori was recently "crowned" for a different honor many years in the making. For years, Lori has loved looking at the beautiful Akha headdresses on the heads of our close friends. But she wouldn't buy one.

Her reluctance reflected our ministry goal to incarnationally meet the Akha where they are spiritually, physically, emotionally and culturally. Although there were, and always will be, obvious differences between ourselves and our Akha friends, we did not want to show up and throw money around to make our outer appearance seem more seasoned, more accepted, than we actually were.

Our first truck was testimony to that, as was our first Akha home, and the fact that we didn't have a bathroom in our hut for the first year.

In the same way, we didn't want to just walk in and buy amazing Akha costumes and parade around in them as if we were Akha, we wanted to grow with our people incarnationally. Through the years we slowly received gifts of beautiful Akha bags and clothes, we purchased simple and then more ornate Akha coats and built our appearance as our language and relationships grew.

But Lori still didn't have a headdress.

A few months ago we were going through our things and came across some old US silver coins that Lori's grandmother had given her before she passed away. These pieces had new meaning to us after spending so many years inculturated with a people whose traditions lie in passing silver coins from generation to generation. We knew that we wanted to add these pieces to Lori's headdress when the day finally came.

And after 9 years of full-time service, after naming 3 children and spending countless hours laughing, crying, teaching and learning in the Akha language, the day has finally come.

We bought Lori an authentic Akha headdress (made of metal, not silver) which she will wear "out" for the first time at the Akha Outreach graduation 0n March 1st.

The process of buying a headdress is involved because once you have found one that meets your standards, it then has to be customized to fit to your head... which means more Akha community! So Lori brought out her new headdress at the Women's Conference last week and all the women joined in in customizing her crowning Akha glory.

[gallery link="file" order="DESC"]

Even this headdress is something that we will continue to build into through the years. We will slowly add real silver pieces to replace the metal ones, attach additional silver chains and ornaments and personalize it to my beautiful wife.

But for now, our American Akha beauty is very satisfied.

Green leaves also fall

We've been to many funerals in 9 years serving as missionaries with the Akha people. Some of those early funerals were shocking experiences, like the time when I was awoken, placed on a motorcycle and driven to a neighboring village without any understanding what was happening until I came into a hut and saw the body of a woman who had died from AIDS on the floor, a casket beside her, and a family of mourners looking for a pastor. Other funerals were almost comical experiences, like the time when Lori and I tried to walk with two 60-year old women to a funeral during rainy season, only to arrive an hour later covered head-to-toe in mud and the butt of every joke that the mourners told that day.

But as the years went on and our Akha family grew, we have gone from being outsiders observing a funeral to mourners attending one. But nothing has been like this past month.

We have been to Maesalong three times in this past month. We have taken part in a funeral each time.

It has been very hard. Not for those who have gone on to peace, but for those of us who remain behind and who feel their absence.

We lost an Akha mother, who has cared for us and for teams that have visited our village. Who loved and served the church, her family, her people and even strangers until she succumbed to her battle with kidney failure.

We lost an Akha grandmother, who invested her life into her grandchildren and held tightly to Akha traditions, never removing her headdress, even as she held tightly to her Saviour until her advanced years took her peacefully.

We lost an Akha brother. A young man, and one of our first and greatest village friends. One whose massive frame held a gentle spirit, and who always would put others ahead of himself. He was taken from us shockingly, when his poor decisions and the irresponsibility of another driver took him from us suddenly.

It is in these events that we know we have become knitted together with our family here. When our tears fall alongside theirs, when we question "why?" together.

And we answer the "Why?" together as well, by sharing peace from the Author of peace; by the life of the community that goes on; through the Word that brings hope; and through the truth woven into the fabric of Akha culture through their proverbs:

Falling is not solely for yellow leaves, green leaves also fall

- Akha proverb -

To every thing there is a season.

Please join us in prayer for our Akha friends and family in Maesalong as we walk through this season of loss together.

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Our newborn boy, Age-2

At 13:50 on December 31st, we welcomed the newest member of our family. Jak was born at a healthy 3.9 kg (8 lb 10 oz) and 58 cm (23"). Mom and baby were both champs and we have loved every minute with him.

JakJakobBaby Jak

Less than 24-hours after his birth the messages began coming in from our Akha friends via texts and Facebook: "Your son is 2-years old!" "Happy parents of a 2-year-old!" It was a modern twist on a cultural phenomenon that we have witnessed for years. The Akha calendar follows a 12-year agricultural cycle with an animal representing each year, similar to the Chinese zodiac. The animal year you were born on is your age-1 year. So Jak was 1-year old when he was born on the last day of the Akha year of the Dragon* and on the next day, the first day of the Akha year of the Horse, he turned 2. All this before he was 24-hours old as we count!

We were able to observe another wonderful tradition this past weekend, but this was one that we have seen before with Abigail and Izabel. When we went up to our Akha village in Maesalong, Jak was given his Akha name, Yaelah (Yaerlanq), by the elders of our village. After he was named, all the people came up and held him, shook his hand, greeted him in Akha by his name, and placed money (20-100 baht) and/or boiled eggs into his hands. This is a beautiful tradition in Akha villages where neighbors can bless a family with money and food without it seeming like charity... very similar to our casseroles and baby showers back in the United States. It is beautiful and humbling when our friends who have so little are so generous to us.

Akha grandmaAkha Jak AqkaqzaAkha naming

We truly love our life with the Akha!

* Actually the Akha year for 2013 wasn't Dragon but another mythical creature that we don't know an English equivalent for.

My Girls Eat Worms

Life with our Akha friends has been full of adventures, from arriving at a funeral covered in mud to extracting teeth, from naming children to burying loved ones. Each of these adventures has been a part of the history we have built here over the past seven years. As we have patiently earned relational equity, God has continued to change and challenge us in ministry, and most recently He is challenging us to oversee production of Akha language media - movies, clips, music - and empower the Akha people to share their own stories and lives. We're doing this in partnership with Project Video and Akha Outreach Foundation under the banner of Akha Outreach Media. We are in the middle of dubbing a major production, the Book of Acts, into Akha, but because it is the season for bamboo worms we paused the Acts project to put together a short video to teach the lesson of James 1 which teaches about our path from Preperation to Pain to Perseverance to Perfection. The video is centered around a typical Akha experience: the gathering of bamboo worms in the early fall.

Our entire family went up for a weekend to work on this film with our Akha team of actors and production crew. In our 7 years here, we have grown comfortable eating what we like to call "exotic" foods, but can still relate to the many people who would simply call them "gross". Intestines, fat, skin, hair, blood, fermented meat, raw meat, birds, dog, bugs and worms have all become common encounters. A few of these items have become favorites, but some still require a big breath before I dive in. Bamboo worms fall in this last category.

But our girls have grown up in a world where a bamboo hut is more common than a skyscraper, and where bamboo worms are as much of an annual experience as a turkey at thanksgiving. So it is through their eyes that I want to share with you the joy of eating bamboo worms:

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT2KYsaMlQc']

Traditional Akha Vocals :: presented by Akha Outreach Media

We have been asked numerous times about traditional Akha music and singing. As we cannot even begin to imitate this beautiful musical style we haven't been able to fully communicate what it is like. However, for the AOF 10th Year of Ministry celebration we cut a recording of one of our Akha pastor's wives singing her version of John 3:16 in the traditional Akha style. We hope you enjoy it!

Traditional Akha rendition of John 3:16 Recorded for Akha Outreach Foundation's "Great is Thy Faithfulness 10-Year Jubilee" by the Akha Outreach Media team

[audio:http://vernonjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/01-Yoha-3_16.mp3|titles=Akha Traditional rendition of John 3:16]

©2010 Akha Outreach Media :: Used By Permission

The Akha and the West: Relevantly Traversing the Cultural Divide

Many of you have read or heard some of our ministry philosophy "catch-phrases" here on our journal or as we have communicated with you in person. The study of the Akha culture, and the inevitable parallel study of my own American culture has led to a number of cross-cultural keywords that have become very important in my worldview. The biggest keyword that has emerged is Relevance, and I want to unpack it a little for you today. Please bear with me until the end because my heart is to communicate these ideas clearly. I want to start by sharing an excerpt from an insightful article entitled "Why we don't go or send much anymore" by Dr. Patrick Johnstone of WEC International (link goes to a repost of the article on John Lambert's blog):

Why we don't go or send much anymore... The Cultural Price

We are the “instant” generation.  We look for quick solutions.  Yet the Lord Jesus had to earn the right for 3 years of ministry through 30 years of manhood.  Without missionaries becoming one with the people to whom they minister, how will they ever earn the right to communicate the gospel?

Earning the right takes time – 7 to 10 years by my estimation.  Some missionaries never last that long.  Sacrificing our way of doing, being and living is hard.  When I was a missionary in Africa, some Africans would say, “That missionary loves us, but those others don’t.”

(emphasis mine)

My immediate reaction:

The Akha People: an ancient culture in a digital age.

There is no question that we in the west are part of an "instant generation", and as digital-age missionaries to a pre-modern culture, we are constantly changing states, speeds and worldviews as we attempt to communicate to our unique world(s).

In working with the Akha we say the following statement all the time and, although it is admittedly an oversimplification, it is largely true: Relationships in Asia, and specifically with the Akha, have no relevance until they have history. Dr. Johnstone uses different terms, but the same idea lies within his article when he says a missionary has no "right to communicate the gospel" [relevance] until he has "one"-ness [history] with the people.

This doesn't mean that we don't correctly handle the Word of Truth as we build history. But too often we feel like we have all the answers, our pride gets in the way and we think everything has to get fixed now. Working in Asia we must realize that until we have history the words we speak have no weight - even if they are true.

Experiences with the Akha

In our Akha village, we have showed the love of Christ by spending a majority of our time sittingdrinking tea, discussing the weather and the cropslearning the Akha language within the context of community, and caring for physical needs without cost or discrimination as we experience the minutia of life within a community in order to build relevance. It is slow. It is unglamorous. But it is necessary to affect a community towards healthy long-term growth.

Slowly Gaining RelevanceOur ministry has only recently, after nearly six years of building history, earned enough relational relevance to be a resource of accountability, exhortation and truth in love in a way that will be productively and actively received by some of the people around us.

Unfortunately, this process of patience means that there have been many times where we have seen dysfunctional behavior that is unable to receive input from any source which is not equally as dysfunctional. So, in these times, we have had to stand silently, brokenhearted, so that we might maintain the relationships and history we are building, which, in turn, will give us the relevance to minister restoration to that dysfunction in the future.

The beauty of this worldview is the closeness of the community and the willingness to function in unity. The downfall is that dysfunctional behavior is also universally shared. Relevant voices of influence must show their commitment to unity within the community over a significant period of time without sharing in the same dysfunctions in order to effectively communicate functional life.

Experiences with the West

It is still true in the west that community and companionship are the key factors in administering life-impacting change, but the decision to include or exclude someone or something from our community is made nearly instantaneously. (The exception in this case is the influence of the core family-unit, but in my observation many people in America are even distancing themselves from those nuclear-family relationships that were once such powerful influences in the lives of an individual.)

The Instant CommunityThese "instantaneous decisions" have led to the onset of the online community phenomenons of blogging, forums, and social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We in the western world are much more comfortable extending our attention and trust to someone or something with whom we have no history. We might respond to attraction, position, interests, goals, occupation, production, association, or marketing in our decisions to join or include others in a community.

Online communities make the world smaller, and that small world allows us to communicate globally without moving geographically. Personally, I have a list of missionaries from around the world that I connect with for advice, prayer, exhortation and empathy - but I have only met a few of them face-to-face.

The blessing of this openness to immediate inclusion is that we are free to give and receive the ministry of the gospel in the brief moments of community when our lives glance off of one another in the thousands if not millions of connections we make. We can quickly form meaningful relationships that have immediate positive impact on our lives, and receive Godly encouragement from near stangers. The downfall of this worldview is that we become judgmental, quickly dismissing as irrelevant things that don't capture our immediate attentions and passions and quickly accepting as valuable things that are at their core damaging but packaged to manipulate our passions.

Defining the Difference

Perhaps the simplest distinction between the Western world I know and the Eastern (Akha) world I have come to learn can be summed up in the following statement:

In the West, you earn the right to share life experiences with an individual by communicating your relevance to that individual immediately and effectively. In the East you earn the right to be relevant to an individual by sharing life experiences in a shared community over an extended period of time.

As for me and my house...

Being RelevantWe must exist in both worlds. The world we come from and the world we have been sent to. It is important for Lori and I to continue to engage in our Western culture, even as we minister in the East. So we strive to be transparent, available, and vulnerable in our efforts to communicate via these "instant" platforms: Our blog: The Vernon Journal; Twitter (Paul); Facebook (Paul | Lori); Tumblr (Paul | Lori | Abi).

Through these mediums, we try to frequently communicate our otherwise slow ministry to those of you who cover, support and partner with us while we geographically remain in the midst of that ministry. We know that there are thousands of causes, ministries and opportunities out there to partner with, and we want you to know that we value your partnership and desire to share with you how your partnership is furthuring the gospel in us, among the Akha, and throughout the world.

How do you connect with your communities? And how can we best communicate our lives and experiences to you and your communities as we minister to the Akha?

Village Life: Sharpening the machete

Paul & Abi sharpening the machete. We've had a bit of a blogging dry spell recently (and by that I mean "I've had a bit of a blogging dry spell." Thank goodness my husband has the motivation to post every once in a while!). Any how, I'm trying to get back into the blogging groove, so I just thought I'd share this cute picture of Paul & Abi sharpening the machete in front of our village home (hut). Not only is it a super cute picture, but I think it's a good representation of our life in the village. People are always asking us what we do in the village, and well, sometimes it's just this: doing life, village style.

Akha Food Overview and a Recipe (Reblog)

reposted from a guest blogging article written at JasonRuggles.com Food Friday: Eat like an Ahka

FOOD FRIDAY: EAT LIKE AN AHKA

Posted on 29. Jan, 2010 by April

As we’ve mentioned more than once, last month we went up to an Akha village for a few days to experience their culture.  Part of that was, of course, their food.  My favorite part was using chopsticks to eat it all. :) Since we only ate Akha food a few times, we decided to bring in an expert to tell you all about it. Lori Vernon graciously agreed to be our guest blogger today to teach us about Akha food and even share a recipe!

Guest Blogger: Lori Vernon

Guest Blogger: Lori Vernon

Akha food is fairly simple compared to Thai fare. Most Thai dishes seek to find the perfect balance between many different flavors (sweet, sour, spicy, salty, etc) using a multitude of ingredients like coconut milk, curry paste, lemon grass, chili peppers, fish sauce, sugar and lime to name a few. Most Akha dishes, on the other hand, are savory and have very few ingredients. Akha dishes rarely use more than salt, garlic, chili pepper to flavor the main ingredient. However, this doesn’t mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that Akha food could be considered bland. Quite the opposite, Akha food is very flavorful and spicy!

Of course, rice is the main staple for the Akha people. At a meal, each person has their own bowl of rice, and the accompanying dishes are served family style. There are 5 categories of Akha food; a traditional meal would include at least one dish from each category.

1. STIR FRIED:

This category can vary greatly. Any combination of vegetables, eggs, meat or beans can be stir fried for an Akha meal. An Akha favorite is a spicy stir fried minced pork dish called sa byeh which is the exception to the “simple-ingredients-list rule” and has many herbs including a special type of tree bark. It is almost always eaten for special occasions like weddings, funerals and festivals.

2. PICKLED:

Greens can be pickled when the crops are in abundance and preserved for use at a later time. Often pickled greens are also dried and reconstituted when ready to eat, increasing their shelf life even further.

3. BOILED/SOUP:

Greens, squash or potatoes are boiled with pork and bones to create a savory broth soup. The Akha also make a thick rice porridge soup with chicken that is eaten to celebrate the birth of a child or to feed to an invalid unable to eat rice.

4. DIP:

The Akha use a mortar and pestle to create very spicy dips to be eaten with fresh vegetables, or spooned directly onto the rice. The most simple version would contain tomato, salt, chili peppers, green onions & cilantro. However, we have tasted many variations of this dish including ones that contained crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, fish, dried beef, and bamboo worms. This is a dish that is different at every house, because each family has their own secret recipe.

5. RAW:

The dip mentioned above is generally eaten with a variety of fresh greens and vegetables. Some commonly served items from this category include cabbage, green beans, sweet pea greens, cucumbers, mint, thai eggplant and other herbs. (which I don’t know how to translate into English.)

Eating Akha Style

Eating Akha Style

If you’d like to taste a bit of Akha food, here’s a simple recipe you can try at home:

Spicy Akha Peanut Dip

This is normally made with a mortar and pestle, but since those tools are not commonly available in American kitchens, I’ve included instructions on how to make this using a Cuisinart (a blender may also work.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small clove of garlic (optional, depending on how much garlic breath you’re willing to tolerate)
  • 3 medium plum tomatoes or one large American Tomato
  • ¼ cup of roasted peanuts
  • 1-5 Thai chili peppers to taste
  • ½ tsp of salt (or to taste)
  • green onions, chopped
  • cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Boil/blanch tomatoes and chili peppers for several minutes… until the tomato skin splits. Remove from water and let cool.
  2. Chop peanuts roughly in a Cuisinart.
  3. Peel skin off of tomatoes & add tomatoes in with the chopped peanuts.
  4. Add blanched chili peppers and garlic clove. Use the pulse setting to chop/mix.
  5. Add salt to taste
  6. Remove from Cuisinart.
  7. Stir in chopped green onions & cilantro to taste, reserving a small amount for garnish on top.
  8. Serve with raw vegetables or over rice.

- Lori Vernon

Rice, Bamboo and the Akha

The Akha way of life is centered around rice. It encompasses every aspect of their lives.  Preparing the fields, planting, harvesting.

every meal every day every month every year

It's no wonder that rice is the center of religion, culture and celebration in the Akha world. But, if there is a secondary symbol of importance in the Akha community, it is bamboo.

Bamboo provides tools and toys. Secular and sacred objects.

If rice is the focus of the Akha way of life, bamboo is the function of that life.

In our village the children learn at a very young age how to turn scraps of bamboo into functional creations. Boys of three and four years old create woven masterpieces to complete the homes and tools of their minor kingdoms. Their education in the vegetation and animalia around them is extensive, any Akha child of age can easily forage a meal while walking through the jungle.

This interaction with the world around them builds a community and identity among the Akha people, and will continue to be important to them wherever the evolution of their culture leads in the years to come.

Spinning Cotton

Living in an Akha village is a constant discovery of talents and craftsmanship. Whether it's a man making a bamboo ladder, women creating ornate Akha stitch work, or the simple, pure skill of the machete as a daily tool. The other day while Lori was out in the village she came across another incredible sight. Our Akha grandma had picked cotton off of the tree behind her home and was spinning it by hand into yarn.

Here are a few moments of her incredible skill:

It's truly a blessing to live among these people.

How to Take a Village Shower

Recently I've been thinking about how much you (our beloved readers) still don't know about our lives in Thailand! Even after three years of blogging, we haven't begun to scratch the surface of all the interesting things we see and do on a daily basis. So, I'm hoping to start blogging a bit more about everyday topics (in addition to the special events and stories that we already try to post) to help help you better understand our lives and ministry to the Akha. I've often been asked how I bathe in the village, so I thought I'd give you a step by step tutorial on the process! When I first arrived in the village, I had no idea how to shower at the public wells and had to walk about a mile to our Akha mom's house to bathe in her indoor bathroom. Luckily, some of the young women in the village took pity on me and taught me all the ins and outs of bathing modestly in public! Of course, with our new house (We promise a video tour of the finished house is coming soon!) we have an indoor bathroom, so indoor bucket showers are also possible. However, I actually enjoy being outside and have become quite accustomed to showering like this, so I still prefer sarong showers (weather permitting).

Remember to click on the pictures below in order to read the captions and view the full size photo.

Shower SuppliesBamboo towel rodWashing my feetWashing my hairPutting my hair upSarongGetting WetWashingRinsing offFixing the PVC pipeWashing my faceReaching for my towelChanging sarongsTalking with my friendWalking up the hill

The Ladder Man

Having lived in Thailand for three years, we've become pretty accustomed to some of the odd sights that overseas living has to offer. However, some things still surprise me. Take, for instance, The Ladder Man. We occasionally see these guys around town, but this one happened to be selling his wares in our neighborhood recently, so I took the opportunity to snap a picture for you! I often wonder how he can actually make a living as a mobile ladder salesman. Although, I confesss, I'm probably looking at it from an overly American perspective....The Icecream Man is one thing, but the Ladder Man just wouldn't fly in America! On the other hand, I guess it does make sense here; most Thai families have a scooter instead of a car or truck, so they can't simply run to the local store and bring a ladder home... the ladder has to come to them!

Building a Home with the Akha (Video)

Our director is off to Singapore tomorrow to teach on the subject "Communicating the Gospel in a Pluralist Context" for Haggai Institute. I have had the privilege to help him prepare for these 8 lectures: we have been working on the powerpoints for months, and intensively over these past two weeks. The time is upon us, however, so ready or not (hopefully ready) he is off to teach leaders from around the globe.

We have visitors and teams coming beginning tomorrow through the remainder of this month, so that gave me today to get caught up on some of our communication to all of you.

We mentioned a few months ago that we were building a new home in Mae Salong. The home that was built for us upon our arrival was built to last 3-5 years. With our three years up, we decided to build a home that will last us closer to 10 years as we continue to live and work with the Akha.

Once again, our village was incredibly generous, donating their time and expertise to our need. Our new home features such ammenities as cement on the floors (it's not level, but it's not dirt!), an indoor bathroom, indoor running water (when available), and electrical outlets and lights in each room. These modern conveniences are still coupled with bamboo walls and a grass roof, which we love and will probably never go away from (it's so much cooler!).

It's a huge blessing for us as a family and also for the village who are now using our first home full time as the village community house.

We have a video of the entire construction process - take a look...

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For those of you who are wondering, the song (Big House by Audio Adrenaline) is an homage to our old Campus Crusade days at the Colorado School of Mines. Good times, good times... but you probably had to be there.

I'll get a video tour of the "lived-in" house up on the site next (who knows when, but it's my next project).

Thanks for following our lives here at the Vernon Journal!

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HELLO OFFICER

Still waiting the arrival of our baby girl - have you made your prediction yet? - I have been spending the morning hours (before Lori is up and able to face another day of lugging around a basketball-belly) by reading my news feeds and checking my new favorite social network - facebook.
HELLO KITTY armbands will be required attire for Thai policemen who break the rules
This morning, while reading through my 120+ subscriptions, I came across a great article that I felt was worth sharing. It seems that the Thai police, in an effort to curb more serious offenses such as abuse of power, illegal bribes and mistreatment of the public have decided to crack down on the policemen who commit minor offenses such as littering, parking in illegal zones and tardiness.

The punishment? The offending officer will be required to wear an armband depicting the schoolgirl icon "HELLO KITTY" for an entire day.

"Simple warnings no longer work. This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offense, no matter how minor," said Pongpat, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok.

"(Hello) Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It's not something macho police officers want covering their biceps," Pongpat said.
Full Story (Yahoo)

The punishment is "in-house" only, as officers will not be required to wear the armbands in public, but as we all learned as children peer pressure can be a powerful motivator... I think the measure will be effective.

HT: Boing Boing

What the World Eats

I have come across this article a number of times as I have been browsing through various Missionary Blogs on my Google Reader, and wanted to pass it along to any of you who might be interested.

Time has put together a photo journal from a book by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio entitled Hungry Planet. The book itself is a photographic journal and cookbook looking into the family table around the world. Time has taken a glimpse into this book with a photo slideshow entitled "What the World Eats", and I encourage you to take a look at it.

One word of caution: the most relevant information given is that of "Favorite Foods". Although the "Food expenditure per week" is interesting and can show what economic slice the pictures are taken from, without a basic cost-of-living from the region it's difficult to tell whether you are looking at poverty-level or luxery-level spending. For example, a single adult who makes $500/month in Thailand is very wealthy in Northern Thailand, where a meal at a Thai "restaurant" costs less than $1 and a nice home can be rented for $100 a month.

It was also interesting to me how much more money families with teenage boys have to spend on food. Yikes!

So go take a look and see where you think you might be able to live (those meat and cheese countries look really good to me)...

The Akha Wedding

The Akha Wedding ceremony is a long process, beginning in the wife's family village and ending in the husband's family village. The big "wedding" event occurs in the husband's village with the "Wife Celebration". There is a lot to be told about this event, and for Lori and I there is still a lot to be learned about this event, but today I just want to share some pictures of a young Akha bride and groom from a wedding ceremony in our village. Specifically, I want you all to see the long, involved process that is the donning of the traditional Akha headdress and attire.

An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride Putting on the Akha Headdress Putting on the Akha headdress Putting on the Akha Headdress Putting on the Akha Headdress An Akha Groom The Groom's Family An Akha Bride and Groom The young Akha Groom The Young Akha Bride

Beautiful, is it not? We were honored to take pictures for two weddings in our village just before Lori became sick, and promised to put together a video slide show of the pictures for both couples' families. We are planning to head back to the village this weekend to give out the finished videos.

It is a strange world the Akha live in today - they sit on dirt floors in their bamboo huts and watch family wedding videos on their televisions. Talk about an ancient-future experience.

Preparing the Feast

It's the season to celebrate the new rice harvest in Akha villages. It is difficult to describe all the sights and sounds and smells that you experience in the village, but we wanted to show you a small glimpse into the festival at Mae Salong. Here we have some of our neighbors preparing one of the dishes for the festival meal. They do everything in community, and here they are gathered around on a salah chopping up vegetables. Look at that young boy go! He's only about 11 years old, but he knows his way around a knife.

Enjoy!

Akha New Rice Festival : video

The Akha Rice Festival

It is time for the rice harvest in Thailand, and to the Akha that means the celebration of the Haw Shui Dza (New Rice Festival). This celebration goes much further than the celebration of Rice, the staple element of the Akha diet, for they celebrate all of their harvest. Coffee, tea, corn, tomatoes, vegetables and fruits are part of the celebration. The harvest is a time of plenty, and though every year has its difficulties for the Akha, this is joyful time.

Yesterday we received a special treat and were able to go to Lawca Akha (Elephant Mountain Village) for their new rice celebration. This is the largest Akha village in all of Thailand and one of the most traditional Akha villages in Thailand, and we were honored to be invited to celebrate with them.

It's a rough road to Lawca, but it was worth it as we enjoyed singing, dancing, playing on the Akha Swing and - of course - the traditional Akha celebration meal of minced spicy pork (sa bieh), salsa (sa pi), soups, vegetables and new rice.

the Road to Elephant Mountainthe Firstfruitslaying out the feastLori and Jan enjoying the New RiceAkha Teenage Girls washing dishesAkha kids peering at the cameraAkha kids peering at the cameraAkha Swing FestivalElephant Mountain Akha Swing Festival

Moon over Mae Salong

I know it's been a while since we posted some pictures, we've been having problems with our Olympus camera and one out of every three or four pictures we take is ruined. This, of course, has really frustrated us and so we have been relying heavily on our phones for day to day pictures.

The other day, however, Lori decided to just force the issue and use our camera whether it ruins pictures or not because she wanted to capture some of the Northern Thailand rice fields before they are harvested later this year. She will post some of the pictures she has taken when she gets a chance, but for now I want to share a few of the pictures I've taken recently, and I am even posting a video!

We've had a lot of cloudy, misty days up in Mae Salong and the full moon this last week just made for some spectacular views of the Akha Swing in our village. Unfortunately, we missed the swing festival this year (we were at a wonderful conference in Chiang Mai), but these pictures are still pretty cool ::

Moon over Mae SalongAkha Swing with Moon in BackgroundAkha swing against the moonlight

Here are a few pictures from last July when my parents were here and when the Foursquare Team from California came to our village to do an outreach project. You can see the Akha women scraping bark for the savory Akha Minced Pork, the Akha women playing "Dress Up the Pala" with my mother (note the fake hair sewn into the Akha Headdresses), and an elder from our village giving out snacks that the team brought for the kids ::

Akha women shaving bark for Minced PorkAkha women dressing up a pala guestAkha Man giving treats to Akha village kids

We are also leaping (ok, stumbling) into the 21st century with a video post. It's not much, just an incredible rainstorm... everyone in the village holes up at home when storms like this come. You can see our waterfall, our moat and a real cutie waving hello.

This is a DivX encoded file, if you have problems viewing it I recommend downloading the BSPlayer (it's the best media player for all your video needs).

Right click on the picture and choose "Save Target As" (Internet Explorer Users) or "Save Link As" (Firefox Users) to view the movie ::

*** Update. Just click on the image link and then click play ***

Akha Village Rainstorm : Video

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