February 2020 Update

 Feb. 3 , 2020

              In our Redemptorist novitiate at De Soto, Missouri, in 1958-59, we used to call February the tunnel month. February had miserable cold, damp Missouri weather; strict Lenten fasts, and seemed to be a year long month. There were no creature comforts in February in those long, dreary days. It was a time when anyone who doubted they had a vocation to be a Redemptorist usually made up their mind to stay or quit sooner rather than later. February for me in Thailand though, reminds me of my journey to Thailand, completed on Feb. 2, 1966, 54 years ago. Thailand has greatly changed since then, and I am happy I was here to experience it all; good and bad.

               The children are getting ready for final exams and the closing of the school year in early March. Older boys and girls finished junior high are considering their choices of senior high school, or vocational schools. They are guided in the decision by Brother Keng and Brian O’Riordan. Older kids are choosing their college education. In the meantime our nurse Kate is accepting some boys who have come back, very ill from no taking their ARV medicine. One boy was just released from the hospital with TB; another boy is still hospitalized with a brain tumor. Other boys are thin and run down from refusing to take ARV drugs. I finally had to announce that anyone who refuses to take their ARV medicine, will not be sent on for further study. I bluntly told them that they would have no future, and were not worth the time and money, because they would get sick and die soon. Unfortunately, no one seemed to listen. It is very frustrating, since they can see the suffering and death of those who drift back to die with us. All are unnecessary deaths. Both boys and girls are guilty in the stupidity of not taking the ARV medicine, and are mostly kids who have been studying outside or have jobs.

              Fr. Ole has started a band of girls playing ukuleles. He is having tryouts soon. Some of the girls are surprisingly good. One of our departed boys, Nong, is in a band in Nongkhai and comes in to teach older boys to play guitar. And my great niece, Bonnie Shea, who is a junior at college, Dartmouth, is here for 3 weeks teaching girls how to play soccer. Bonnie is a player on the Dartmouth women’s team.

              The northeast of Thailand consists of one third of the country, and up here on the Mekong River, we have not had rain for over 4 months. The Mekong River is the lowest I have ever seen, and our ground water rises and drops with the river. Dust and smoke pollute the air, and there is no relief in sight.

              The latest news from our House of Hope is bright. The 20 wee occupants are healthy and eating and drinking well, and have not been sick, despite the cold weather.  Usually, this time of year, babies are crawling little babbling snot factories. But they are warm and snug in their flannel p.j.’s.

              We wish you all a blessed Lenten season, and pray for you daily. God bless you all.

Father Mike

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