Some of the most enjoyable times on our trip have come when we have had the chance to spend time with people we have some sort of home connection with. It is so nice to be able to talk to people who know your world. Our last three days in Chiang Mai we had such an opportunity. Vance and Juanita Frankamp are the in-laws of John’s cousin, Hannah (who is married to Ben Frankamp). A little less than a year ago we learned of their residence in Thailand and determined that we would try to meet up with them if it worked out. The timing couldn’t have been better for either of us and we had a great couple of days with them. They were so welcoming, giving us a room of our own, making wonderful breakfasts, running us to the store and the doctor, and taking us to an incredible ribs and pizza joint (and some tasty Thai food places too). What we enjoyed the most, though, was getting to hear about and see the work they are pursuing and the difference they are making for many hill tribe people. There are a plethora of projects they are working on including teaching business classes and a micro finance/credit workshop in addition to aiding children’s homes by building water filtration systems, teaching sustainable farming practices, helping find financial sponsors for individual children, and providing support to the house parents. It was really exciting to see this type of work being done with such a strong emphasis on self sustainability. They work to empower the locals and give them knowledge and resources to eventually be fully independent. Vance and Juanita see their role as facilitators and are careful to work through the local people in order to not overstep cultural bounds. We spent a day seeing one of the homes they are working with, a village where many of the kids come from, a family they’re working with who wants to start another home, and elephants. This area is has many elephant parks where tourists can come and feed, bathe, ride, and play chess with elephants (cannot confirm the chess playing). On our way back to Chiang Mai we stopped off the main road and got to admire these elephants that were standing less than 100 meters from us. We finished off the day by going to The Duke’s for beef ribs, cornbread, french fries, coleslaw, baked beans and a wood fired pepperoni and sausage pizza. As much as we have loved Thai food, we enjoyed this taste of home.
On our final morning with Frankamps John needed to go to the doctor for a chronic sore throat. They recommended an American doctor who worked at a Thai hospital in town so we headed over for a walk in appointment. We wouldn’t normally blog about a doctors appointment but this one was special. It was really easy to navigate through the hospital with Juanita’s help and within 20 minutes John was in the doctors office. After greeting the two of us, the first question he asked was, “You’re not related to Howard Macy, are you?” Both of our jaws dropped in disbelief. John kind of chuckled and said, “Actually, yes, he’s my uncle.” As it turns out, Dr. Gregory Greer was a student of Uncle Howard’s (and didn’t claim to be a very good one) at Friends University in Kansas. As we talked a little more we found out his home church in Kansas is also our friend Rachelle’s home church, where her dad is the pastor. It was crazy! What a fun connection and John walked away with a $9 payment and a relatively clean bill of health.
We really appreciated our time with the Frankamps and even got to relax in their neighborhood pool our last afternoon. What a great break from the hustle and bustle of travel. We look forward to seeing them stateside next time.