Chef BoyerCee

Chef Cissy
Recently I was treated to a full day at the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School by my boss, Carol. Also along for the day were my ZOE co-worker Lynne and a long-time friend and supporter of ZOE, Shirley.

Master Chef Sompon Nabnian with his protégé

Master Chef Sompon Nabnian with his protégé

This school is one of the better known ones in the city. Most of the courses are taught by Master Chef Sompon Nabnian, said to be Thailand’s internationally-renowned TV chef. Especially enjoyable was learning about the unique way Thai dishes employ ingredients like basil, lemongrass and coconut milk curries, and a variety of different rice. Of course, there was a lot to learn about the subtle art of cooking with Thai chili peppers!

Our 6-course menu included clear soup with minced pork, spring rolls, roast duck with red curry, fried chicken with ginger, chicken in pandanus leaves, and mango with sticky rice.

Mango sticky rice

Mango sticky rice

Roast duck with red curry

Roast duck with red curry

Chicken in pandanus leaves

Chicken in pandanus

In addition we learned vegetable carving: transforming tomatoes into lotus flowers and carrot slices into decorative leaves and butterflies. For those needing instant gratification, this was our kind of day! After cooking a dish, we immediately got to take a break and eat it. If I had to choose a favorite, it would have to be the roast duck with red curry but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. A meal fit for a king queen!

Cissy, Shirley, and Lynne:  three peas in a pot?

Cissy, Shirley, and Lynne: three peas in a pot?

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All I Want for Christmas is My License Back!

Filled with the joy of the Lord ... and a tiny bit of morphine!

Filled with the joy of the Lord … and a tiny bit of morphine!

We’ve had some interesting Christmases over the past few years. There was the year of the “naked” Christmas tree when we bought and put up a tree in our living room but were just too busy to decorate so it went au naturel. Then there was the year we moved to Thailand. Since we were flying out on December 28th, by Christmas our house looked like a tornado had torn through all the rooms! Not even a tree that year. But this year may take the cake when it comes to rather memorable Christmases.

First, Cissy went in to the hospital on December 23rd for surgery to repair her torn ACL and have a partial knee reconstruction done. This was a 4+ hour operation with a 3-night stay in the hospital. So the three of us spent a good part of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Rajavej Hospital which overlooks the “beautiful” Ping River and which Elli and I are pretty sure was formerly a hotel that was at one point converted into a hospital. (One thing neat about the hospitals here are that the nurses all wear those old-fashioned nurse hats that you see in old TV shows and movies.)

Part of the Boyer Ohana Christmas tradition:  Elli reads the Nativity story from Luke 2:1-20.

Part of the Boyer Ohana Christmas tradition: Elli reads the Nativity story from Luke 2:1-20.

The second thing that made our Christmas out of the ordinary was our trip to the Chiang Mai Police Station. When we first arrived in Thailand, we were advised to make sure we always wore our seat belts and followed all the traffic laws around the major holidays. It seems that the traffic police set up “intersection swarms” during the holidays. You’ll see 15 or 20 police officers standing in major intersections with lanes coned off right before the holidays. It seems they wave over as many cars and motorbikes as possible – and then look for something for which to write you a ticket! It’s funny (not really “ha ha” funny if you know what I mean) because last year I got a ticket right around this time and had to go to the Police Station on my birthday (December 28). This year, I had to go on Christmas Day.

Elli and I were driving home from the hospital during the afternoon on Christmas Eve and we came across a “swarm.” As “luck” would have it, we were waved over. The officer came over and looked the car over a bit and then informed me that he couldn’t see my front license plate. At first, I had no idea what he was talking about so he motioned me out of the car and brought me to the front. Of course the license plate was a plain as the nose on my face. So then he started walking away from the front of my car and motioned me to follow him. He stopped about 50 feet in front of my car and then said (and I’m translating from Thai-glish here): “See! You can’t read where it says ‘Chiang Mai’ under the numbers.” This would be akin to the “Hawaii” or the “Florida” or “Pennsylvania” that runs along the bottom of license plates in many American states. Well, I must admit, I couldn’t read it, but then again, it was in Thai! And as my Dad told me when I was growing up: Never argue with a police officer; it’s just “Yes, sir” or “No, sir.”

There an interesting twist to how they handle traffic tickets here. First of all, you can pay cash right on the spot and drive away. Then everyone is happy. You’re not further inconvenienced and the police officer has a little something extra for the holidays. Or, if you like to do things by the book, you can opt to receive a ticket and then have to go down to the police station to pay your fine. So I opted for the ticket which, in retrospect, I’m not sure was the best choice. You see, once they write you a ticket, they confiscate your driver’s license on the spot. You get it back when you go down to the station to pay your fine!

Bah humbug!  The Grinch gave me a ticket and took my license.

Bah humbug! The Grinch gave me a ticket and took my license.

So on a beautiful Thai Christmas Day, after spending the morning visiting Cissy in the hospital, Elli and I found our way to the Chiang Mai Police Station, took a number, and waited for our turn to pay a ฿200 ($6.53) fine. Once we had the receipt, we went to the next counter and the officer dug through a stack of ticket copies with licenses attached and – voilà! – I was on my way, Thai driver’s license in hand, humming that oldie but goodie Christmas song: Police Navidad!

Merry Christmas! Mele Kalikimaka! and Suk San Krit Mat!

Joy to the world!

Joy to the world!

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Job 5:10

“He bestows rain on the earth; he sends water upon the countryside.”

The missionary shuttle truck passes by the royal reservoir on the way to the ZOE Children’s Home.

Every morning on our drive to the ZOE Children’s Home we pass by a local reservoir which provides water to the royal forest and the local farmers.

At the beginning of the year, the reservoir is low. But after the rainy season, it fills up to overflow, providing much-needed water through the coming growing season.

Note the reservoir spillway in the lower left of the picture – high and dry.

After rainy season the spillway is back in action.

Before ...

... after.

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Happy birthday, Drake!

Eighteen years ago today a beautiful baby boy was born. Since then, he has brought much love and joy and happiness and laughter to many. It has been a blessing to have him in our lives. We thank God for watching over and keeping him safe and healthy all these years and for guiding and shaping his life in the many areas where we’ve fallen so short.

Today, the boy becomes a man. Happy birthday, son! We love you!

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Just kidding!

Seen on the morning commute to ZOE.

A group of Americans were traveling by tour bus through Thailand.

As they stopped at a cheese farm, a young guide led them through the process of making cheese, explaining that goats’ milk was used. She pointed out a nearby hillside where many goats were grazing.

These, she explained, were the older goats put out to pasture when they no longer produced.

She asked, “What do you do in America with your old goats?”

A spry old gentleman answered, “They send us on bus tours.”

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V.I.P. Visit

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney with some of the children at ZOE Children’s Home.

“Ye have not, because ye ask not.”

So often we don’t ask because we think it’s just “too much” to expect or to believe for. And we miss out.

But last November, ZOE asked! We wrote a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand in Bangkok, inviting her to visit our children’s home the next time she visited Chiang Mai.

Touring the ZOE Children’s Home with Ambassador Kenney and Mr. Ken Foster (right), Consul General of the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai.

On a recent beautiful September day, our letter was answered in person by a visit to the ZOE Children’s Home by Ambassador Kristie Kenney. The ZOE family was privileged to play host to the Ambassador and her team which included Mr. Ken Foster, Consul General of the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, and Vice Consul Paul Neville.

Ambassador Kenney exchanging “high fives” with ZOE Ministry School students.

Ambassador Kenney proved to be a most charming guest. Her openness, down-to-earth nature and friendliness were a big hit with all of us. The children and young adults, especially, were delighted by their interaction with her. The Ambassador kicked off her shoes and joined the kids for a time of laughter, hugs, and high fives.

Discussing ZOE’s child rescue work with the Ambassador.

She displayed a keen knowledge of the subject of human trafficking and her questions about ZOE and our operations were insightful and discerning. Ambassador Kenney addressed the entire ZOE family before she left, presenting us with several lovely gifts and, in return, receiving a framed picture of one of our beautiful children. The Ambassador surprised all of us when she spoke to the assembled group in fluent Thai!

U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and Consul General Ken Foster with Americans working at ZOE Children’s Homes in Thailand.

It was a special thrill for the Americans at ZOE to meet the Ambassador. Currently, there are 35 Americans affiliated with ZOE living in Thailand. ZOE and the Americans working here value the effective partnerships we have developed with U.S. government agencies.

Explaining ZOE’s long-term vision to Ambassador Kenney and Consul General Foster.

We look forward to continuing and expanding our work in areas of common interest including combating human trafficking, helping to build resilient communities, and promoting the friendship of our two great nations.

It was wonderful to host Ambassador Kenney. And her visit was a good reminder that “Ask, and ye shall receive.”

U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney, a most charming and down-to-earth individual!

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Cobra Under the Couch

Dave looks for the snake while Drake looks at Dave.

It’s the call you never want to get …

“Dad, it’s Drake.”

“Yes, son?”

“There’s a snake … in our house.”

“Come again? Where’s the snake?”

“In our house. Under the couch.”

To quote Indiana Jones, “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes? I hate snakes!”

There I was, on the other side of Chiang Mai city when Drake called to tell me there was a snake IN our house UNDER the couch!

“How big?”

“Maybe about two feet long.”


“OK, son. Get my bamboo walking stick and just keep an eye on it. Whatever you do, don’t let it get away and hide somewhere in the house!”

Pedal to the medal, rushing home, but it would take at least 20 minutes. Start praying. Then, in answer to my prayer, God gave me inspiration: “That’s what friends are for!” Yes! I immediately called a good friend and fellow ZOE missionary whom I knew to be working at home that day. No answer! Well, I have more than one friend (at least I did until I called him about the snake). My second call was answered.

“Dave, it’s Ron. Are you home?”

“No, I’m working on someone’s house today, why?”

After explaining that Drake and Elli were home alone – with a snake – Dave said he was dropping his tools and heading to my house pronto. “I’ll be there in 5 minutes,” he said.

I was a minute away when my phone rang: “Ron, it’s Dave. Don’t hurry. The snake’s dead.”

Great! I started my car back up and pulled around the corner and into my driveway.

(Just kidding …)

When I arrived, Dave treated the kids and me to a lesson in herpetology. It turned out (rather unfortunately if you want my opinion), that the snake was a cobra. A “baby” cobra as Dave put it but one that nevertheless measured almost a yard long. Dave showed us the telltale signs of a poisonous viper and how to distinguish these deadly reptiles from the relatively harmless ones (though most snakes can inflict a painful bite when provoked).

Definitely NOT on my bucket list!

I suggested (rather hopefully) that if a “baby” snake like this one bit you it wouldn’t be as bad as if you were nicked by a full grown cobra (they average about 12 feet in length). But Dave explained that a young snake can, in fact, be more deadly than a mature one. That’s because an adult snake will inject just enough poison to make its enemy back off whereas a less experienced “baby” snake tends to latch on and dump it’s full load of venom into its victim.

All of this excitement came on the heels of me chasing a snake through our yard about two weeks ago only to succeed in causing it to slither into our fish pond. I don’t think the fish appreciated it and it definitely kept me on my toes for the next week or so as I fed the fish every morning.

So once we effusively thanked Dave and he was on his way, Drake and I made a beeline for the local HomePro to pick up some anti-snake stuff. We bought and installed heavy duty weather stripping on all the doors which we reckon is how the snake got in since at least one door had a 3/4 inch gap under it. (Is it a coincidence that this was the door right next to the fish pond?!) We also bought a top-of-the-line “Acme 3000 High-Tensile Strength, Tempered Alloy, Precision Milled Snake De-Activator” (pictured below).

Next time, we’ll be ready (because I now have Dave’s number on speed-dial)!

Acme 3000 High-Tensile Strength, Tempered Alloy, Precision Milled Snake De-Activator

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