In an effort to lighten the recent mood of this blog, I thought I’d share a little about the Partners’ Staff Retreat that we were at this weekend. Here are my thoughts and comments:
– The hotel is very nice. It’s more of a resort, really, with multiple swimming pools; sprawling gardens with ornate bushes, flowers, and sculptures; a lake with paddle boating; bicycles for rent; etc. We enjoyed an afternoon of paddle boating on Saturday and thought that was pretty lovely.
– It reminded me a lot of family camp at Miracle Camp. I’ll just leave it at that and let you read into the positives and negatives 🙂
– Friday night we did a “culinary endeavor” (not a craft, because this has been highly criticized in the past…). The theme this year was Partners’ Garden, so we had to use vegetables to make a model of ourselves. I’ll leave out comments and simply show our final products:
– We really loved getting to meet all of the Partners’ staff. All of the national directors from Australia, New Zealand, America, England, and Norway flew in; the directors, Steve & Oddny (who started Partners and are now working from Norway and on global speaking tours), were there and it was nice to meet them! Even just to have all the international staff and national staff all together was fun. We have quite a few local staff hired for sewing, cleaning, finances, translation, visas, gardening, farming, etc. Some are Thai, but all are ethnic–so perhaps they are Thai-Karen, or Thai-Shan, etc. Others are completely ethnic and legal; and still others are ethnic and illegal. The entire conference was translated into Thai or Burmese, which is fun. The little table in the back with each of them having headphones is just fun to see–it feels like a minuscule UN conference! This is actually one of my favorite things about our Mae Sot office staff meeting every Monday–to have the entire thing translated. It excites me, for some reason!
– We got to do a little shopping in Chiang Mai (the big city for us, with all the amenities!). We managed to find both and oven and some speakers for Stephen to enjoy music and record with. The oven isn’t really a full size oven, which is pretty expensive here. We opted for a HUGE toaster oven that will hopefully work alright. The advantage is it being electric (better here) and still being big enough to fit in a pizza pan or casserole dish. Stephen’s very excited for homemade bread and fresh cinnamon rolls!
We also stopped by a pseudo-garage sale. One of the Partners’ staff members lived in Chiang Mai for quite a few years before moving back to Canada with his wife about three years ago. They had planned on returning when she finished school, so they stored some things here. It’s now looking like they’ll remain in Canada and he’ll continue as the national director there, so they cleared out their storage and sold some things while they were in town.
Worked out well for us! We got some lovely pans for our new oven and even a few Pyrex dishes (real treasures in this country, particularly to be second hand and thus affordable). Stephen bought his already-stocked toolbox so we now have a few basics in the house. The best part, of course, was the free box, where we found this cell phone!
Now we don’t have to purchase another one here, but we can each have one when we’re in different directions. It comes complete with the theme from “Outnumbered” as a ring tone. (Did anyone else play that math computer game as a kid, or was that just my family?) It also has this in “Messages”:
– We had a talent show on Friday night that was hilarious for many reasons. Some of the staff kids did a few Justin Bieber performances, yet we also got a crowd-involving performance of “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me” with motions. Oh my. And, my personal favorite, Sweet Home Alabama performed by an English guy (?), which Stephen loved whether he’ll admit it or not. It was also quite great that one of the Karen guys thought it was “Sweet Home, Come on Obama”…
It was really pretty wonderful, mostly to see what we’ve joined! We are encouraged to continue to learn more about what Partners is doing and see the incredible impact they have on the Karen and Shan people. It’s amazing to hear of the work that is being done through Partners all along the Thai-Burma border and well into the Karen & Shan states of Burma. I was again reminded of what a small cog in the wheel we are of something making such an impact, but thankful to play even a role at all.