Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet, Lititz, PA

It has been a year since we have been at Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet and this was only our fourth visit to dine there. When we get to Lancaster County that likely hosts more buffet restaurants than anyplace else in the U.S., it is always a challenge to decide which buffet to go to - and you know we have been to most, if not all of them. We were recently there and would be there for six dinners and my first thought was to go to Oregon Dairy's buffet. In case you wonder about the "Dairy" in the name - the restaurant is part of a complex that includes a dairy and ice cream stand, a supermarket, and this restaurant. The location is off away from where the tourists will notice it and it is up on the top of a hill from the route that runs in front. From the road you can not even see what is above and you may pass the sign at the entrance road without even noticing. This does not seem to bother the people who own this complex as it is a very popular place with the local people in this area.

Diary of a middle aged man

I created a short (< 3min) animation video and posted it on YouTube called "Diary of a middle aged man".

It is reflections and musings of a middle aged software engineer ( NOT ME :-)     )
It is inspired by the Adrian Mole series by Sue Townsend.

If this is well received, I might do more videos and make a series out of it.
So Watch,enjoy and share.

And Subscribe to my youtube account. Please.

Wine Connection Restaurant

Most of the time, if we eat out, we eat at cheaper Thai restaurants or local seafood places. We like the kind of places where we can all eat until stuffed and the bill won't be more than 1,000 Baht for the family, normally much much less than that! We tend to avoid restaurants for tourists or places that only sell "Western" food. Partly because I am a cheap skinflint, partly because we don't like "fancy" places where you pay for the appearance rather than substance of the food. Best Thai food is to be found at local restaurants that don't worry too much about presentation. However, of course now and then we do fancy something a bit different. I have an English belly and it seems my kids have inherited this too, mixed with my wife's absolutely Southern Thai belly - her favourite food is Gaeng Som, a very spicy and sour curry.

Anyway - Wine Connection is a big chain of stores all over Thailand. They started off selling wine. The first store in Phuket was in the Chalong area and there are now lots of branches in Phuket. I am not a wine person, but I have bought wine there quite a few times for parties. They expanded a few years back and started doing restaurants. I always thought of it as an expensive place for expats and "Thai people trying to be fancy" to eat, and we'd not eaten there before last week. We had gone to the Central Festival mall (just outside Phuket Town) to watch a movie, then found that the movie we wanted had stopped its run the day before. My daughter mentioned Wine Connection, and I found out she had eaten pizza in there with some friends .. not too expensive she said. So we went to have a look...

Wine Connection

(above) Outside Wine Connection in the Central Festival mall

A quick look at the menu outside .. Pizza starting at 170 Baht, pasta dishes around 200 Baht, and lots of meaty things (lamb, steak) at higher prices. No Thai food. The pizza and pasta seemed very well priced. My daughter assured me the pizza was good, so we thought we'd try. If you convert these prices to my old UK pounds, it's cheap - just over 3 pounds for pizza, 4 pounds for pasta. Yeh, if you are on holiday, Thailand is very cheap! We ordered a pizza each for the kids (are you sure you can finish it?) and I ordered fettuccine with chorizo. Drinks? Very happy to find some German Weissbier on the menu (which cost nearly as much as the food, but what the hell, we're here now!)

Inside Wine Connection

(above) Inside Wine Connection

Food came very quickly, but then again it was just before midday and not at all busy. My pasta arrived first and I was actually surprised by the size of the plate - often these slightly fancier restaurants have artistic, but small portions. The pasta was very tasty and went down very well with a German bier (yes I know it would go better with wine, but ...)

Fettuccine with Chorizo at Wine Connection

German Beer at Wine Connection

(above) My lunch - Fettuccine with chorizo and some very nice beer :)

The pizza is a kind of litmus test for me. I like pizza. I like good pizza. I can happily stay away from chain pizza places like Pizza Company. The kids got their pizza, and of course Dad took a slice to check the quality. Looks good, tastes good, thin and crispy, plenty of cheese. And of course the kids had no trouble finishing off the whole thing, they eat like horses!

Pizza at Wine Connection

(above) Good pizza!

Wine Connection is now on our list :) Actually the pizza was better and cheaper than Pizza Company. Bill was 880 Baht for 3 people - my wife skipped, she had her curry waiting at home :) There are several places we eat semi-regularly in the Central Festival mall. Often we use use the food court (4th floor, same floor as the cinema) Wine Connection is on the 2nd floor, same as many chains like Burger King, KFC etc.. We have eaten many times at the Fuji Japanese restaurant, and also the Zen Japanese restaurant. Many people come to Central at the weekend - a good hideout in the aircon on a really hot day, and a place to go on a rainy day! Shopping, a movie, a good meal, Phuket has certainly embraced the mall culture :) I'm not saying we spend that much time here, but we can't go out exploring every weekend!

July 24, 2015

Hi All,

We will get better at letter writing. This letter is way to long for you to read, but we will just hit the highlights next week.

We hope you saw our transfer video. https://youtu.be/_7hxzp8bVtA

The pictures are members in Roi Et that remember mom and dad when they were there as missionaries.

Love you all.

Dear Family and friends,
We have been here in Thailand for 12 days although we feel we’ve lived a lifetime already.  The pace here is set at full speed every day all day.  I sometimes glance out the window here at the mission office and try to look for a break in the constant movement of people and taxis, buses and motorcycles but have failed to find one.
Our three new missionaries that we met in the MTC before coming here were due to arrive at 11:40 at night on Tuesday.  We were just leaving for the airport when we got a text message that said that Sister Mon’s visa was stamped wrong and they wouldn’t let her on the plane.  She had to return to the Provo MTC.  She is the sister from Burma that we fell in love with at the MTC.  She is so tiny but stood and bore her testimony to us on behalf of the saints in Burma.  She said at the very end of her testimony, this I know, this I know.  We were heartbroken and so was she that she couldn’t enter back into Thailand on the same Visa.  Everyone is working here to get her a new visa as soon as possible.  Because the other 2 missionaries wouldn’t leave Sister Mon alone they missed their flight to Thailand and were stuck in Los Angeles for 16 hours.
Early the next morning we left for the airport to pick up Sister Yang and Elder Noyce.  They were so tired and frazzled but just smiled from ear to ear.  Sister Yang must have hugged me a hundred times just like she did when we met in the MTC.  I love her.  She is amazing.   Elder Noyce is a great young man.  He is a big football player and looks like the line not just a linebacker.  He told us that he came here to work and he came here to be obedient.  Love him already!
We had to take them to get their bloodwork and work permits completed.  We had to have our own done as well.  Supposedly we can’t get our shipment from home until we have a work permit.  Here is hoping.  I can’t wait for our family pictures.  Right now we have nothing on the walls.  We have a few pictures we show when introducing ourselves.   Everyone here loves the red hair. And also the big blue eyes of the grandkids.
We had the new missionaries making street contacts their first day.  It is amazing to go anywhere with our missionaries here.  It takes an hour to go 5 minutes away because they literally stop and talk to absolutely everyone.  They ask them if they would like to have their sins washed away or if they would like to know about Jesus Christ or if they would like to come to church with them or would you like to be truly happy in life.  Sister Yang, our new sister missionary was incredible.  She would start talking to someone and they would say no and keep walking and she would turn and walk with them and no matter what would give them a pass-a-long card with the directions to the church and the phone number of the missionaries on it.  If they refused to take the card she would set it in their cart or on their books they carried or slide it in the window where they were working.  I was impressed at her “no fear” attitude.  They had a great example to follow on the way home from the airport that morning.  Our AP’s are incredible.  Elder Arne actually rolled down the window when we were at a stoplight (which take F O R E V E R to change) and talked to a motorcyclist and actually got his phone number and gave him a pass-a-long card.  They had 4 more baptisms again yesterday, one of which Dad taught on his first splits with the AP’s.
We finally made it home later that night and had to finish preparing dinner for the new missionaries, AP’s and Office Elders.  I cannot believe how much the Elders can eat.  They are always always hungry.  We had the new missionary training the next day.  I think it went well.  We definitely will do better with each one.
Transfer meeting.  Any return missionary reading this needs only the one word “Transfer” to get their mind to reflect on their mission and what a terrific day this is every 6 weeks. (Please watch the video we posted.)
When Kelly and I walked in it was amazing to feel the energy in the room.  It was like we had to cut a path in the excitement to get through.  It became very contagious.
We started with the new missionaries coming in to roaring applause and a standing ovation.  Called To Serve was the opening song.  I had practiced and practiced that Hymn in Thai and felt pretty confident until the missionaries broke the speed limit with how fast they sang it.  I managed about the last word of a phrase and got a fourth way through the chorus when they began a whole new verse.  ENERGY!!
We had the joping or leaving missionaries recognized next.  Sister Black and a Khon Thai sister named Sister Sumitraa  were recognized by their previous companions and trainers or trainees.  I was amazed at how emotional we were with the tributes after only knowing them for less than a week.  I feel we loved all the missionaries before we even arrived here.  We have prayed for them and prayed to love them since we first received our call.
Next we introduce the new missionaries which included us.  You have to say everything in Thai.  Your name, where you are from, and what you like and then everyone claps and carries on like you said the most amazing thing.  Which if you think about it, anything I can actually say in Thai is amazing.
I spoke first about the difference between sacrifice and consecration, when Ammon was teaching King Lamoni about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  I compared King Lamoni being willing to give up all he “possessed” (material things) to him being willing to give up all his sins (his will) to know the one true God.
Dad spoke next.  The missionaries absolutely love him already.  He talked a little about the history of the church in Thailand and the translation of the Book of Mormon by Sister C.  He said was it mere chance that every needful thing fell into place so the Book of Mormon could be translated and the gospel shared in Thailand in their language?  No.  The Savior is hastening the work of Salvation in every nation and every land and every tongue and to every people.
Before starting the actual transfer Kelly projected on the screen the top 5 reasons why he thought his first week in Thailand was successful. This included a keeping a pace so rigorous that he wore the APs out. Dad got a good picture of them sleeping on the plane. The Assistants have vowed, “Game On” and are going to find a way to get President Johnson back.  They have seen the Papa J for Life T-shirts so I am somewhat worried.  Don’t be surprised Jalynn if you get an email from them asking for a file marked Papa J.  (But don’t give it to them).
I will try to have dad send a video clip of the Tim Tam Slam.  Needless to say Dad was a hit.
I will have all of you kids know this though…two sisters bought me a plastic apple and a  plastic strawberry to sit on my counter in the kitchen here.  So fake fruit is a big deal here.  Everyone can hardly wait until our shipment arrives with my ceramic pineapple.   So take that!
We left the transfer meeting with the AP’s and Sister Black.  We had dinner with Sister Black and Sister Lor and Sister Yang.  Dad calls it “Girls night out” and he survived.  He actually loved it.  We laughed so much.  They were so funny.  They would lean across the table and ask questions like “ what do you do to relieve stress?”, and other random questions and then would make us promise to drink Coca yen or coca ban.  A chocolate drink poured over ice or blended ice.  They were positive it was the cure for anything and everything.  I actually had two sisters bring me one today here at the office.  They wanted selfies of me drinking it with them.  Shockingly I don’t care for the drink at all.  I know I am a death by chocolate kind of girl but it didn’t do much for me.  We took Sister Black home with us to sleep for a very short time before her flight home.
We took Sister Black to the airport at 3:30 the next morning.  See why we never sleep here?  It was actually as hard to watch her leave as it was to watch her and her companion say goodbye after dinner.  (that was heart breaking).  And we have to do this every 6 weeks, but we also get to have new missionaries every six weeks.
Saturday dad had a stake Leadership meeting.  He spoke with Elder Woo and Elder Khanakham.
I took the subway for the first time here and went with 2 Sister Training Leaders from the Din Daeng  district.  They made me breakfast and we did companion study together.  I love them.  They helped me with my Thai and helped me get the most out of my own personal study time as well.  The sisters have an awesome approach when it comes to street contacting.  They try to help people first, like pull grocery carts into the elevator for people or one sister held a wheelchair for a girl with broken toes while her friends helped her into the chair, and then they start telling them who they are and what missionaries do and then they ask them if they would like to come to church with them.  Everyone listens to them because they were so nice to help them first.  I was impressed and vowed to always be kind and to always be fearless when sharing the gospel.
Sunday we made it to church at the Thonburi branch.  We both had to speak in sacrament meeting again.  I think this is something we just need to plan on each week.   I spoke in Thai again.  I think they just like the fact that I at least try to speak their language.  I went to Gospel Principles class and then to Relief Society.  I am amazed at how many sisters and obviously men there are that are single.  I pray we can set a good example and teach them how important it is to be married and have a family and to want to be with them forever.  Dad tried to go to Sunday
School but members wanted to do their temple recommend interviews while he was there.  He said I can do it after church but they said oh no that is when we eat, do it during Sunday School.  After church they had a huge spread laid out of Thai food.  We brought a lunch and had no intention of eating their food but they insisted.  Before we knew it we had a bowl of hot rice in our hands and we were eating a little of everything there.  I prayed that if I didn’t offend them that I wouldn’t get sick because of the food.  It worked.  Neither of us got sick.  I did hide a few questionable things under my rice like fish most likely not cooked and some kind of a hot dog thing in the middle of a soft roll.  I finished and thought I was good and then they handed us a huge bowl of coconut milk with fruit in it and huge black beans.  Oh well I ate it all.  We are so busy here that we don’t ever eat on our own so I pretty much try everything that is offered because I am so hungry.  It is funny but it is so hot here that after we walk home we are drenched in sweat and dehydrated and the last thing we want to do is eat dinner.
I was doing dishes after the luncheon while Kelly was helping the Elders with an investigator.  The sisters were so nervous that I was doing dishes and would take turns coming over and trying to get me to stop.  I told them in my broken Thai that I had 4 daughters and 1 son and this is what I always do.  One sister said “you are very good example”.  I will do dishes every time, you can count on it.
Tonight is Family Home Evening with the Senior couples in the office and dinner is Banana Splits.  No complaint!
We had a welcome party here at the office today for lunch.  The Thai people have parties for everything.  I swear we have already had at least four welcome parties here already.  Today we combined with a Birthday.  This sister is Thai and she said she couldn’t believe she was turning 40.  She did not look a day over 22.  I have the hardest time deciding how old the Thai people are.  When they are old they age quickly though and look much older than they are.  Doesn’t seem quite fair but they just work so hard every day and have such hard lives that it takes its toll.
I’ve got to quit writing this novel (Dad Halstead).  I will start doing a condensed version of an email for the faint of heart and a comprehensive version for my journal entries and for family.  There is honestly so much that happens in one day that I find myself asking Kelly all the time, “what day is it?”  Time and days just seem to blend together.
We leave tomorrow to fly to Roi Et.  We will try to visit with some of Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s old friends on Sunday after we meet with several districts and the missionaries serving there.
In short, ha ha, we love it here.  We love our missionaries they are far above any expectations we may have had coming to this mission.  We’re feeling very blessed these days and can’t help but wonder if Heavenly Father has favorites.
Love you all so much!  We love hearing from you!  You are always in our prayers.
Mom and Dad

Justice League: Gods and Monsters review

You've seen Batman: The Animated SeriesJustice League, Batman Beyond, Superman: The Animated Series, or Justice League Unlimited, right? Assuming the answer is yes (and it really should be), that means you're familiar with Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett's work. Now the two have teamed-up to deliver a character-driven mystery that's sprinkled with creative fan service, loaded with exciting action, and packing a legitimately interesting approach to DC's trinity.
There's been a wide variety of alternate universes over the years; we've seen everything from Batman in a different era to Superman being raised by a different family. At this point, bringing something 100% original to these characters would be a herculean feat, but Timm, Burnett, director Sam Liu, and Geoff Johns (a bonus feature explains how he helped build the story) have managed to present an alternate universe that leaves me wanting to see so much more of it. Where will the remaining characters go from here? What changes have been made to other heroes and villains? Can these characters slowly begin to resemble their iconic counter-parts more and more, or will they never be able to reach that heroic level? This is a world where things aren't completely upside down, but they're just different enough to breathe so much more life into this place. Morals have shifted, the cosmic mythos is altered, and things aren't going to go so well for many familiar faces. The Justice League's three members are Gods compared to regular humans, but does killing their enemies also make them monsters? Or is a lack of transparency and trust what truly puts them at odds with humanity? I love the way the conflict between the Justice League and the U.S. Government is explored - there isn't a lot of blunt exposition and it escalates naturally - and I'm left seriously hoping we get a sequel at some point. There's still so much potential on their version of Earth.

Overall, Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment's direct-to-video projects have solid voice acting. There's some films where certain characters fall flat, but there's been far more hits than misses, thankfully. In Justice League: Gods and Monsters, the performances are definitely solid and that's hugely important because this is a movie that relies on character development and making sure these individuals are compelling instead of just being colder and more violent versions of characters you already know so well.

Tamara Taylor's voice manages to capture Wonder Woman's strength and vulnerability equally well. Whether it's yelling in combat or temporarily letting her guard down, it just wasn't jarring when Wonder Woman switched from a fearsome warrior to someone far more relatable. Benjamin Bratt's voice further solidifies the fact that we're dealing with a totally different version of Superman. The Man of Steel still sounds confident, but instead of speaking in a way that give listeners a feeling of hope, there's more mystery in his dialogue - there's something especially scary about a man who can talk calmly after killing his enemies, after all. You can really tell this is a guy who thinks he knows what he wants (he's tempted to rule humanity with an iron fist, yet never choose to do so), but he's still torn over whether or not he's doing the right thing. He wants you to believe he's firm in his beliefs, but deep down, it's obvious he's far more torn than he lets on. Bratt's lines absolutely did this character *ahem* justice. And Michael C. Hall as this darker version of Batman? I mean, we're talking about the voice of Dexter as an emotionally distant killer. Come on, it really doesn't get more fitting than that, does it?
Everyone may be familiar with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but Justice League: Gods and Monsters' take on these heroes are quite different - it isn't even the same people wearing the costumes. Because of that, this movie has the difficult task of revealing three new origin stories while also building an overall story. Luckily for us, these origin stories don't interrupt the flow of the bigger picture. Instead of feeling like jarring flashbacks, they unfold in a more natural way and the handling of Batman and Wonder Woman's earlier tales are a nice reminder of just how much this narrative relies on character instead of big events and spectacle. On the surface, these characters are colder and darker than their famous counter-parts. However, this story is able to humanize all three of them in different and equally effective ways.

The new designs are also a satisfying way to make it crystal clear we're leaping into a whole new world. Batman may still be swift and skilled, but aside from the signature ears and wings during flight, plenty of changes - like the goggles that aid his eyes - help this character stand apart from the Dark Knight. The same holds true for Wonder Woman's armor. I won't go into where it stems from (spoilers, obviously), but it's a clear reflection of someone who isn't from the same place as Diana Prince. Meanwhile, Superman no longer has his signature chest emblem (something Batman doesn't have, either!) or flowing cape. The way his coat waves is a nod to Big Blue's design, but overall, this Superman feels like a more grounded and practical approach to this individual. He isn't here to inspire; here's here to crush the opposition. There's no need for bright colors with him.

There's a lot of cameos and familiar items floating around, so viewers with a good amount of DC Universe knowledge are going to be pretty pleased with just how many people and recognizable things were sprinkled into this story. Some are nothing more than "Hey, I know that person!" kind of appearances, but it's still cool they packed so much in here. It's especially interesting how they handled one popular villain, but I won't get into that because, you know, spoilers.

Liu makes sure all of the action leaves an impact. From immense, super-powered strikes to jaw-droppingly harsh acts of violence, every encounter finds its own way to make an impression. Each "hero" fights differently - Superman's a blunt tank; Batman's agile and precise; Wonder Woman's frighteningly good with her blade - and the director's able to present all three kinds of action scenes in equally enjoyable ways. A slugfest between titans is every bit as jaw-dropping as Batman leaping around or Wonder Woman deflecting a barrage of projectiles. It's all thrilling and there's plenty of it. There's some especially over-the-top stuff in here as well and man, it's a blast.
My biggest criticism of this movie is one that also applies to many other superhero stories: it doesn't seem likely at all that the villain's elaborate plan will succeed. The buildup is excellent and there's a fair amount of surprises in the mystery, but once everything is revealed, it begins play out in a pretty standard - albeit enjoyable - manner. While it does remain focused on character - that, along with morals, is easily the most important part of the story - I would have loved to see some more creative twists once the villain's plan is put in the spotlight.

The Blu-ray's special features are definitely worth your time. There's an extensive look - 11 minutes and 45 seconds long - at next year's Batman: Bad Blood. This movie already had my interest, but after watching this feature, I'm legitimately excited for it. Going into the feature, all I knew about Bad Blood is who's directing (Jay Olivia) and who's voicing Batwoman (Yvonne Strahovski) and Batwing (Gaius Charles). This feature reveals so much more of the story - something I won't spoil in here - and goes into great detail about who's involved and what kind of roles they'll play. I will drop one incredibly minor and vague spoiler, though: Nightwing fans, it looks like you're going to be happy.

There's also a 20 minute feature about the various alternate realities DC has created. If you're looking for must-read alternate tales or simply want to hear some of DC's talent explain what makes stories like Kingdom Come special, it's most certainly worthy of your attention. Additionally, there's a feature which explores how Gods and Monsters was created. It's a very insightful look into where the idea came from, how the characters were designed, and what makes this universe worth exploring. As if nearly an hour of extra content wasn't enough, there's also an older feature about the history of Darkseid and the New Gods - there's a big emphasis on Jack Kirby's work, of course - and two relevant episodes of Superman: The Animated Series and Legion of Superheroes.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a must-watch for both new and old fans of DC's animated projects. Thanks to great designs, a sharp script which focuses heavily on character, and a variety of intense action sequences, Gods and Monsters is a movie that deserves a spot in your collection.


Justice League: Gods and Monsters is currently on sale digitally and the Blu-ray/DVD will be available July 28. It's rated PG-13 and, thanks to some graphic kills and language, it certainly earns that rating.

Bang Pat Fishing Village

We do like taking drives off Phuket island, over the Sarasin Bridge and into Phang Nga Province. Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand, but Phang Nga is 8 times bigger than Phuket, so we are still finding new places to visit not far from home. Phang Nga has plenty of well known places like Khao Lak, James Bond Island, Lampi Waterfall and much more, but recently we've been exploring some lesser known areas. A few weeks ago we took a drive around the Khlong Kian area which is itself about half the size of Phuket and has some lovely views. To the east of Phang Nga Town, off the main road to Krabi (a road we have driven many times) you find Bang Pat. I first heard of Bang Pat about 4 years ago when I saw it on a Thai TV channel, and have always intended to stop there, but somehow never got around to it until last weekend.

I knew that Bang Pat has some restaurants, but on this little trip we decided to eat first, and then go check out Bang Pat. We had lunch at Dairy Hut Seafood, a very nice place in between Phang Nga town and Bang Pat. We've eaten there several times before. The turning off the main road to Bang Pat is about another 6km past Dairy Hut on the road towards Krabi. The turn off is not too well signposted, but it does say "Bang Pat" in English, just not in huge letters! Then there's a 10km drive on a small road through little villages, passing lots of agricultural land and lots of shrimp farms as the surrounding area becomes mostly mangroves. At the end of the road - a car park, toilets and some stalls selling food. I was surprised to see so many cars! Can this place be so popular. It was hard to find a parking spot, must have been at least 50 cars there. Then I realised it was the first weekend after the end of Ramadan. And Phang Nga is a largely Muslim area, so Bang Pat was full of local families out for a big celebration meal. I would imagine any other time it's not so busy. I was a grey day also, with some light drizzle in the air, not ideal for photos - this means I think we have to go again to get more photos and try a restaurant when it's less crowded.

Bang Pat is a fishing village built in the mangroves just at the entrance to the open sea (part of Phang Nga Bay). Seafood is the business around here - fish, prawns, crabs, shellfish. The village is on the other side of a wide mangrove creek, so you walk over a bridge, about 150 meters over to the village.

Bridge to Bang Pat

(above) Bridge over to Bang Pat - it was quite busy when we visited!

Bang Pat Village in Phang Nga

(above) View of Bang Pat village from the bridge

It's not a big village, smaller than the well known Panyee Village in Phang Nga Bay. My first thought was that it looks a little run down, although I think the grey skies did not help! We turned left off the bridge and I went off exploring the side streets.

Bang Pat Village Mosque

Young dudes hanging out in Bang Pat

(above) Bang Pat street scenes

We found several houses with caged eagles (or brahminy kites?) outside. See photo below. Not sure if these are being kept as pets or if they are somehow used to help with fishing. If anyone reads this who knows the answer, please do let me know!

Eagles kept by locals at Bang Pat

The restaurants were very busy on this day. I think on a sunnier day, could be a very nice place to have a seafood lunch. I counted about 6 different restaurants and also saw one sign for a homestay. An article in a local news site from 4 years ago says there were 10 homestays. I think maybe that was a little ambitious, but the restaurants at least seem to be running and fresh seafood is certainly guaranteed.

Restaurant at Bang Pat

(above) Restaurant at Bang Pat

My family at Bang Pat

(above) And all the family enjoying some exploration :)

OK, there's not a huge amount to see here at Bang Pat - it's not a day trip on it's own, but combined with a few other nearby things it's worth a visit. It would be an option for a lunch before renting a longtail boat out into Phang Nga Bay for example. We just wandered around for about 40 minutes and then with more rain coming in, it was time to drove home. From our house about 90 minutes to Bang Pat (we live near Phuket Town). Just about anywhere in Phang Nga is OK for a day trip or even a half day. On this day we did not leave home until nearly midday. And as I said, I think we need to return to try some food and see the place on a sunnier day!

Bridge across the water to Bang Pat

(above) Heading back over the bridge - look out for mopeds! It was a popular day for local Muslims to visit. Looks like people were having a fun day out!

Bang Pat - Location Map

Lunch at Old Country Buffet

I do not often write about lunch at a buffet. We have been to OCB for lunch in the past a few times but that was a long time ago. One of the problems that I see with lunch at a buffet is that it is far too much to eat for lunch - unless you are not planning on having dinner afterward. Well, we had an event to be at that was going to go from early evening until after 10 pm and we decided that we would go to OCB for lunch and this would be a meal to keep us for the day until this event was over late that night.

SDCC 2015: Thoughts on the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer

As expected, a new Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer debuted at San Diego Comic-Con. Almost 4 minutes long, this video shows off a ton of new footage, dropping not only more of the conflict between Batman and Superman, but also revealing a whole bunch of new teasers. Based on what I've seen so far, it looks like a good percentage of fans enjoy the trailer just as much as I do, but if it's cool with you, I'm going to take a moment or two to explain why I'm so excited for this film.

First and foremost, I love how DC and Warner Bros. is using the Battle of Metropolis from Man of Steel to construct its new cinematic universe. What occurred in MoS is a big deal and it should have enormous ramifications. Far too often movie franchises will have surreal events occur and then they're glossed over. "Yay! The day is saved! Now, what's the next global threat?" Instead of racing forward and focusing on the future, DC and WB seems to be taking this big event and giving it so much more weight.
Just imagine if what went down in Metropolis actually happened in one of our cities. Aliens make a very public arrival with a clear warning - which would be startling enough - and then they begin to terraform the Earth, killing thousands in the process. Pretty terrifying up, yes? As if that wasn't shocking and frightening enough, it's revealed one of those absurdly powerful aliens - too formidable to be defeated and/or restrained by our militaries - has been living on the planet the entire time. Once the dust settles and the villainous aliens are defeated, this titan who has been hiding on our planet still remains. How do you know you can trust him, especially when the devastating battle killed so many innocents? Sure, a vast majority of the deaths came from the World Engine, but as viewers, we were given a much clearer picture of what really happened in the fight. To top it off, this person saved the day by snapping his enemy's neck. Now he's just roaming around the planet and we have to take his word that he's never going to flip out and destroy us all. Naturally, the word would have mixed responses to this seemingly invincible being. Some would think he's here to save us from every little problem and he'll always be there to help, no matter what. Others may loathe him. Many will be afraid of him. There would undoubtedly be plenty of polarizing coverage as talking heads influence people to either love or loathe Superman. This plot point is huge and it's so refreshing to see a majority of this follow-up movie is playing off of that tragic event (and in a remotely "realistic" way, too) instead of just reducing it to a few references and then moving forward with a totally different narrative.
Seeing how the Battle of Metropolis impacted Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne - the trailer reveals he's a man who has already endured great loss - was surprisingly powerful. The way he runs towards the destruction as everyone else flees it is a reminder of just what kind of man he is. How many close friends (and maybe even a loved one?) did he just lose as his building collapsed? Then the way he grips a child as he looks towards the sky - presumably watching Superman and Zod fighting or just gazing at the destruction they've left behind -  is powerful stuff. From his view, he can't tell it's Zod who's blasting apart the building with heat vision. He just knows Superman can do that, and that's a major problem to him. Even though we know they two heroes will end up as allies and they should solve their differences with their words, this trailer makes us really appreciate where Batman's determination is coming from. Plus, we all know Lex Luthor is going to be pulling some strings, right?

Superman is now thrown into the spotlight - something he tried to avoid for years and years - and based on the drastic reactions he's receiving, it's easy to understand Jonathan Kent's concerns that the world isn't ready for someone like Superman. Despite a noteworthy percentage of the world throwing nothing but vitriol his way and an overwhelming amount of darkness and tragedies occurring across the globe, the trailer shows Superman isn't shying away from doing what must be done. When politicians point the finger at him, he's willing to meet them head-on about it. Now, what he says has yet to be revealed, but showing him going out of his way to save others (he saves astronauts from a failed rocket launch, goes to what appears to be a ginormous flood to aid people, and he is spotted saving someone else from a fire) you can see he isn't turning his back on this world, despite it throwing so much hate his way.
We didn't see much of Wonder Woman, but the little we did see leaves me feeling confident that she'll be an impressive powerhouse in the movie. It looks like at least twice she's hit quite hard (the first shot shows her in front of a damaged Batmobile with a trail, so it seems like she was knocked into it) and then she recovers like it's nothing. I mean, the look on her face after she takes a hit? If that's not an "oh, it's on" face then I just don't know what is. It's clear they make a point to hide from us who Wonder Woman is battling and, thanks to some editing, they make it seem like Superman's the one blasting heat vision at an armorless Batman. However, I think they're fighting whatever the big bad is in those scenes - presumably a twisted, reincarnated version of Zod. This could make him a new version of Bizarro (I could picture Lex saying the being is "bizarre") or Doomsday. Maybe even Cyborg Superman or Metallo with Lex Luthor involved! The brief shot of the Batwing reveals a devastated landscape, so I'm guessing that's thanks to Superman and Wonder Woman battling this big bad. Or perhaps it's just a trail of destruction left by this new foe. Either way, it looks like these three are definitely teaming-up to take on whatever Lex Luthor creates. And based on this small sample of footage, I'm stoked. Then again, it could just be Wonder Woman and Batman battling a somewhat mind-controlled Superman (if Lex Luthor has Zod's body, he's studied Kryptonian physiology), but I really hope that's not the case. The whole "heroes fighting because of mind-control" plot device has been used so many times before; I'd much rather see them unite against one powerful enemy.

Additionally, this version of Batman looks like he's going to be pure fan service. There's a little nod to the iconic The Dark Knight Returns lightning cover (2:56), and seeing him use his grappling gun and briefly fight goons was totally thrilling. I appreciate Nolan's trilogy, but this version of Batman looks epic. Not only will he be a brilliant inventor and tactician, but from the looks of things, he's also going to have some serious combat skill.
One scene brings up some questions: "desert" Batman fighting soldiers with the Superman logo. The most common and logical theory is those troops are the cinematic version of The Dark Knight Returns' vigilante group called the Sons of Batman. It seems these rogue soldiers worship the Man of Steel and kill people in his name (they're seen executing helpless people). I'm thinking that the "Batman" they're fighting isn't Bruce (it's worth noting the chin looks different), but instead a man who's inspired by Batman as the Dark Knight stands up to the unstoppable God called Superman. It's tough to tell for certain, but if so, that could mean as a human dares to oppose the all-mighty alien, regular humans will rise against this group of soldiers who are sporting Superman's symbol. One can only assume that Batman and Superman will eventually find a way to put an end to that senseless and bloody madness. Or, this could simply be Batman trying to stop them and he's captured. (Possibly on purpose since he's crafty like that and knows it would bring Superman right to him.) If so, that could explain the shot of Superman going to their base. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

Holy teasers and fan service, Batman! The Robin costume immediately has me - and a gazillion other people - wondering if the first Batman spinoff will be inspired by Under the Red Hood. Seeing as that movie has the potential to look into the past (new mythos building, people!) and also offer an action-packed and compelling story in the present, that's an approach I'd love to see adapted for the big screen... especially if Ben Affleck is directing! Yeah, people still love ripping on him for his older work like Daredevil and Gigli, but his latest work is excellent (The Town, Argo, Gone Girl) and that's what matters. I was already sold on him as Batman, but this trailer further boosts my faith in his performance.
I'm not here to make you change your feelings about this upcoming movie. Man of Steel was polarizing and if you still feel skeptical about Batman v Superman, so be it. Only time will tell whether or not the movie will live up to the hype, after all. But me? I can't help but support what I love. And this new trailer? Yeah, I definitely love it.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens March 25, 2016.

Batman/TMNT crossover comic announced: 5 must-haves

First, IDW Publishing made the child in me feel all kinds of nostalgic with Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening's very entertaining Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters limited series. Now, the publisher has joined forces with DC to create a crossover that makes me want to throw the planet's entire supply of confetti in the air: Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not only were these my two favorite franchises back when I was a kid, but now I'm approaching the age of thirty (this August!) and, thanks to some excellent comics, video games, TV shows, and movies, I still adore these two franchises.
CBR landed the exclusive announcement, announcing the series will have six issues and the creative team is James Tynion IV and Freddie E. Williams IIHere's the official synopsis:
"In the ongoing power struggle between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, General Krang, and the Foot Clan, allegiances have shifted and the battle lines have been drawn. Krang concocts a plan to rid himself of both the Turtles and Shredder by transporting them to another dimension, where they land in the dark and dangerous streets of Gotham City. It isn't long before they encounter Gotham's most famous resident, Batman. The Caped Crusader may be their only hope of overcoming their enemies and getting back home. But not before they encounter a whole cast of Gotham's most infamous rogues."
If you can't tell by now, this news has me seriously thrilled. So far, this is easily the biggest surprise to come out of San Diego Comic-Con 2015 and it is without question the one that has me the most excited. The two released images - one above and one below - look awesome, and as terrific as seeing this team-up may be, it's going to take more than these heroes sharing the page to turn this into a memorable adventure. Only time will tell how the story is handled, but for now, here are five things I'd love to see in the limited series.

Character-driven, not plot-driven
When you have characters visiting another dimension, there's of course going to be a pretty big plot going on. How'd General Krang manage to pull this off? How will the Ninja Turtles (and presumably Shredder) get back to their own world? These are two huge questions which deserve a whole lot of attention, but at the end of the day, everyone is purchasing this story for the characters, not how the crossover happened and how it'll be resolved. The bigger picture will likely take more predictable (but probably fun) beats, but the character moments is where this limited series will have a chance to really impress. Batman's dynamic with the Ninja Turtles has so much potential! Mikey could joke about Bruce's serious demeanor or possibly even admire him; Raphael may get jealous or frustrated; Donatello could relish the chance to work with someone so brilliant; Leonardo may grow to respect Bruce's tactical mind and drive. In the end, they'll of course all bond and respect one another, but the conversations and the situations they'll produce are sure to be legitimately interesting.

Meanwhile, Shredder has a whole new city to conquer. Who will he get to follow him? Who may he view as a threat? Sweet mother of all that's holy, could we see a Shredder and Bane alliance?! I can't help but feel like Joker will pop up and, if he does, I sincerely hope he doesn't make a fool out of Shredder. The Clown Prince of Crime has had plenty of time to shine. This limited series not only has a chance to put the Ninja Turtles' personality on display as the interact with the Dark Knight, but it also has the chance to step up Oroku Saki's formidability and see whether or not he can provide Batman a legitimate challenge in the hero's own city.

Don't hold off the big meeting until the first issue's cliffhanger
There obviously needs to be buildup as the story and characters are all established, but we're all here to see the heroes interact. Saving that big meeting for the cliffhanger of the first issue? Not a cool move. I understand they'll do what they can to make the overall plot satisfying, but it would be hugely appreciated if they can effectively present all of the details and then have this meeting occur before the issue ends. Also, an intro page can be used to give the basics about all of the characters to save space and reduce exposition.

Interactions with other heroes in Gotham
The solicitation reveals we'll see more of Gotham's villains (which is so exciting), but what about Bruce Wayne's allies? A well-written Alfred interacting with these teenage mutants could be brilliant and delightfully lighthearted. Or what about Damian tossing some rude comments their way? Mikey and Raphael's reactions could be pure gold. The journey can give us a lot of insight into the Ninja Turtles and Batman, but these extra characters have the potential to make things all kinds of fun. If Shredder's forming an army and getting a chance to mingle with Batman's famous rogues gallery, then witnessing the Ninja Turtles interacting with Alfred, Damian, Nightwing, and others could be a real joy - especially if they all join forces for a massive battle in the end. That would be an overwhelming amount of fan service, wouldn't it?

Batman vs. Shredder
If Batman and Shredder are in the same city, Batman and Shredder need - yes, need - to have a jaw-dropping melee battle. We know Shredder and Splinter are the best fighters in their universe, but how do they hold up against the Dark Knight - one of DC's most gifted fighters? I'd place my money on Batman winning - even if hand-to-hand is a stalemate, he has several gadgets that are game changers - but still, this is a chance to show that Oroku Saki's skill is great enough to take on the Caped Crusader. Then, that means Master Splinter can as well. As someone who spends far too much time discussing "who would win in a fight?" - because I'm an adult like that - this is an important opportunity to show us how the IDW combatants stack up to DC characters.
There's no need to pander
By now everyone knows the Ninja Turtles love pizza and have dated (yet still awesome) catchphrases. There's no need to pull Batman into those things and make him look a little silly by suddenly learning to appreciate pizza (note: Batman's favorite topping is justice) or getting him to unenthusiastically say "cowabunga" when the villain is defeated. There's natural ways to acknowledge these things without making it feel forced. For example, Michelangelo could make a joke about how the pizza in Gotham is terrible. Could the things I'm complaining about be used and work? Totally, but I'd prefer to see the crossover avoid the obvious.

Bonus: Stealth!
Master Splinter has taught the Ninja Turtles to rely on stealth. Batman? Yeah, he's kind of the master of stealth. It would be amazingly cool if there's at least one solid scene of Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles using stealth to infiltrate an enemy stronghold and they're able to take out a number of goons without even being spotted.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will go on sale this November. Yes, I will absolutely review it!

First Transfer Meeting

10 days after the got there they had their first transfer meeting!  Nate Bartling from Kaysville, UT lives in Thailand and is able to film all of the transfers.  Thanks Nate for capturing these precious moments!!  You can follow him on YouTube at My Mate Nate.

Mortal Kombat X: Predator review

Predator, the fighter I was rooting for back when it wasn't certain who would appear in the Kombat Pack (sorry, Spawn fans), has finally stepped into Mortal Kombat X's bloody world. Given the fact the alien's a skilled combatant who's loaded with all kinds of weaponry, it's really should come as no surprise that Predator makes a solid addition to NetherRealm Studios' evergrowing MK universe.
Now if we could get a Xenomorph in the game...
Predator's three variations are Warrior (brutal close combat), Hunter (healing and the ability to set traps), and Hish-qu-ten (gains use of the signature shoulder cannon). While these obviously benefit three different gameplay styles, one surprising thing is Predator doesn't have unique combos for any of the variations. On the plus side, that means there's less to memorize and the character is "easier" to master since each of the three variations have the same melee attacks and combos - it's just a matter of how you'll work in the different new special moves to make your opponent suffer even more. But on the down side, that's kind of disappointing. How great would it have been to use the Predator's impressive strength in new ways for the Warrior variation? Or the Plasma Caster at point blank range to conclude a harsh combo with the Hish-qu-ten variation? Or what if the Hunter variation had a combo that ends with trapping your enemy in a net, leaving them temporarily open for an extra combo? There's so much potential here - the Predator is heavily armed, after all - so to have no unique combos is a bit of a letdown.

Even though Predator's lacking unique melee attacks across his three variations, the special moves shared by all three are still satisfying. Obviously, Predator has the ability to cloak - no real surprise that was picked as a move or what it does - but Scimitar Stab is ferocious and exactly what you'd want to see from a Predator. With the ability to lunge forward pretty far, the Predator impales his enemy with his wrist blade, slowly lifts them up and abruptly throws them away. It's savage, it's swift, and it has the Predator doing his memorable noise. All in all, that one never gets old. While it doesn't have as much fan service as the wrist blade toss, Smart-Disc is a hugely effective special move. Instead of throwing the disc directly across the screen, the Predator tosses the bladed weapon into the air. From there, it waits for a moment or two before launching after its target. If the Predator is knocked around, the weapon falls. Otherwise, it seeks out and stuns its target. This is probably the biggest and most creative surprise for the character. I fully expected the Smart-disc to be incorporated, but I assumed it would be a relatively standard throw. Well played, NetherRealm.

The combos he does have are pretty simple yet still good fun. I'm glad the Combi-stick is utilized to give the extraterrestrial a little more reach and his one very easy combo with the pointy melee weapony is appropriately cool and effective. It's really easy to juggle with the Predator and all of his listed combos are easy to execute. Best of all, they all feel true to the character. From the way the Predator walks towards his enemy to the handling of his attacks, it's obvious NetherRealm put a lot of love into bringing the iconic movie character to life in to the video game. You can also tell NetherRealm had a good time naming Predator's combos. From "ugly mother" to "CONTAAAAACT," the names are likely going to make any fan of the movie(s) smile while looking through the move list for the first time - I sure did. Oh, and his throw is beyond cruel. The way he uses his wrist blade is relentless.
At least "Carl Weathers" has a fair shot at winning this time around.
Warrior - my favorite variation - is simplistic and focuses on an aggressive tactics. With the mask removed, this is the Predator when he's ready for some vicious hand-to-hand combat. This one's all about blunt damage and giving your enemy no room to breathe. Meanwhile, the Hish-qu-ten variation - which equips the shoulder cannon - can be used by clever players at just the right moment, but honestly, it's clear this is what the spammers will adore. This variation only gives Predator the ability to fire forward, downwards (you can alter the range by holding the direction) and upwards. You can also aim with the laser sight and fire whenever you're ready. In the right hands, this can serve as a game-changer. In the wrong hands, it'll be obnoxious. Thankfully, you've learned how to counter spammers at this point, right? Last but not least, the Hunter variation takes the most talent to use well, so if you're an especially skilled and tactical player, this could be your go-to variation. The ability to lay traps is guaranteed to manipulate your enemy's movement and if they do step on the trap, they're left vulnerable. Plus, the ability to generate some extra health - especially while your foe is stuck in a trap - doesn't hurt.
If only the Predator mimicked Dutch's "stick around" line after stabbing someone.
Just like with Jason Voorhees - another movie character who doesn't speak English - Predator's intros don't offer a lot of variety. As a fan of the alien hunter, seeing the Predator roar and get ready for a fight is consistently awesome, but the way characters react to this new fighter isn't all that entertaining -  based on what I've seen so far, that is.

I'm left with really mixed feelings on the ending. On one hand, the development is huge for the Predator and it gets my mind racing with all of the ridiculous and over-the-top possibilities. On the other hand, it seems somewhat out-of-character and I'm guessing an honorable Predator wouldn't want to make things too easy for himself. Yeah, the Predator has technology that makes a fight unfair for its opponent, but they often relish a challenge, too. This development seems to imply the Predator will never have a proper fight again; he'll have no problem obliterating all of his prey with ease. I would have liked to see the ending go in a different direction, but it's still an amusing twist.
I ain't got time for pacifism. 
Even though Predator's first fatality is solid (as if stabbing someone in the gut isn't enough, he then slices off the top part of their head with the Smart-disc), it's pretty swift. Yes, it's a fine way to humiliate your friends and it's cheerworthy the first time around, but when we're waiting this long to play as a character, you can't help but expect more. The Predator's generic win sequence is more satisfying (it includes the signature spine rip and then adding the skull to his trophy room). Thankfully, the second fatality is much, much better. Using his should cannon - and we get a glimpse of his vision as he locks on - the Predator systematically blasts apart his enemy. That one offers a little more fan service, feels more brutal, and it definitely feels like a fatality that holds up to all of the other combatants' ridiculously over-the-top finishers.

When it was announced Predator would be included in the Kombat Pack, it's ridiculous just how excited I was. Seriously, I wrote about it at least twice. My expectations were way up there for the deadly extraterrestrial and overall, I think NetherRealm Studios has handled the Predator very well. The animations, sound effects, basic attacks and combos all feel true to the character. You can really tell the developer picked the Predator as an extra fighter because they're fans of the character - this was a passion project for them, not just a fighter that's getting tossed in there mainly because fans demanded it. I mean, just look at what happens if you pick "Carl Weathers" Jax and "Commando" Johnny Cage! Would I have liked more unique moves with each variation and a more jaw-dropping first fatality? Yes. Do I think everything else about the character is excellent and all kinds of fun? Absolutely. NetherRealm Studios, you've made this Predator fan very happy.

Predator is currently available for download if you have the Kombat Pack. For everyone else, he'll go on sale July 14.

July 4, 2015

July 4, 2015

Dear family and friends,
How is everyone this 4th of July?  Did you end up going camping?  We want to hear all about it.  Apparently no one in Thailand celebrates the 4th of July, but of course we are in Thailand.  Do not worry, Dad and I took turns walking down the street and throwing candy at each other.   We love you all and wanted to send a quick email to let you know all is well.
Sorry to disappoint those of you who hoped going on this mission would be a break from Kelly’s crazy Schedule and that he would finally have all kinds of time to sleep.
We arrived in Thailand after a grueling 26 hour flight.  We were met at the airport by President and Sister Senior holding up the angel Moroni sign.  We got a small glimpse into how the new missionaries must feel when leaving home and going so far, far away and feeling tired and emotional on top of it all.  The Seniors drove us to our mission home at about midnight.  We tried to unpack but finally quit and tried to sleep at about 2:00 a.m.  The Seniors met us at 9:00 the next morning to go over the details of the mission home.  After a quick rundown on the home we left for the service center and mission office.  Kelly spent just under 2 hours with President Senior and I spent the same with Sister Senior.  Funny but she kept asking me “did you get all that?”  and then she would say “of course you’ll forget all that and that is probably for the best, just do it your own way”.   The Seniors are just wonderful and have left such an incredible legacy.  I’ll admit it was just as hard on us as it was them to see them walk away from the office to catch the subway and not look back.
We put on our Thai missionary badges and became best friends with the Assistants.  We are so impressed with them.  They dare drive in Bangkok and are actually good at it.  The steering wheel is on the right side of the car and you drive in the far left lane not the right.  I find myself closing my eyes quite a bit.  The speed limits are merely suggestions here, it is pretty much every man, car, truck, motorcycle, scooter, tuk tuk and taxi for himself.  The Assistants are so obedient too.  One always gets out to help back out the vehicle which is in the handbook of course.  They are so respected and loved by the missionaries.  We overheard so many phone calls when the Elders were checking in and each time the Assistant on the phone would say I love you, goodbye.
We had to leave for our first meet and greet with missionaries.  We did the first one with all the zones in Bangkok.  That was an amazing experience!  Kelly spoke first about how much he loved and respected President Senior.  He had them pause and write a letter to the Seniors right then and sat down and waited.  After gathering the letters He talked to the missionaries about his style and his personality and his experience and told them they can have both his and President Senior’s styles and build on that and move forward.  He talked to them about change in the church.  As an example he talked about when President Hinckley died and President Monson became the prophet.  They each had different styles, President Hinkley had a huge focus on temples and President Monson taught about rescuing the one.  The church benefited by both prophets.  Then we stood up together and began to introduce ourselves with some pictures.  We talked about our own backgrounds.  Dad even showed the picture of him dunking the basketball.  They loved it all most as much as him telling them that some of them would keep their hair and some would not.  I shared growing up in a military family and living all over including Japan.   Next we showed our temple wedding picture and talked about meeting at Weber State while singing in the institute choir.  We introduced the family next.  They loved you all but payed particular attention to Jalynn and Jace’s pictures when we mentioned with emphasis that you were both single.  Dad said that he would give them your numbers only after their exit interviews should they be interested.  Sorry everyone, but next was the HIGHLIGHT…the GRANDkids!!!  Emphasis on the GRAND.  I am not the only one who thinks they are the cutest ever!!  We finished with the things we like to do.  Dad showed 2 pictures of him fishing in Alaska, somewhat impressive until the next picture was my whopper of a halibut, all 108 pounds of it.  I bow and thank you all.  Then we showed a few pictures of the places we’ve traveled to together.  Then to finish we shook hands with all the missionaries and I hugged every sister missionary.  This took longer than our presentation.  It was not surprising but still amazing how much love we had for the missionaries.  The sisters were quite tender telling us how much they love us and that they’ve been praying for us.  Some of the Elder’s told Dad that they were going to be obedient and work hard and do anything He asked of them.  The amazing thing was that each meet and greet we found missionaries that we met their parents already or someone had a tie into them somehow.  We were able to make the connection with each of those missionaries like Elder Frodshom, Ryan Davis, Sister Hayes (whose parents are new mission presidents in Costa Rica.  We met in the MTC.)  and Sister Morgan who was one of Dad’s companion’s nieces and Sister Beckstrand who’s grandparents are in our stake at home.  We say this all the time but the church really makes the world a small place.
That night, after the meet and great we traveled forever across Bangkok and had the opportunity to teach with the Elders and Sisters. I taught an investigator with the Elders. It was a great lesson. I was pleased that my Thai is coming back quickly. I was able to understand all of the lesson. The Elders asked me to share some feelings and my testimony. I felt good to break out in Thai and everyone understood what I said. Mom taught with the Sisters. Mom is amazing and actually shared some of her thoughts in Thai. We didn’t get back to our home until 11pm, but it was a great day.
The next morning we left at 4:00 a.m. to catch a 70 minute plane flight to another meet and greet in Chiang Mai. This is in Northern Thailand.  This was another great experience.  We walked in and they stood and sang called to serve in Thai.  (Thank you study buddy that sang called to serve with me over skype so I could learn it.) When I served as a missionary in Chiang Mai 33 years ago the small branch met in the living room of a home.  They now have a beautiful church building on a beautiful piece of land and have progressed from 10 members and investigators to 2 branches of 200 active members.  The missionaries were wonderful and so excited to experience “Many More Miracles”. 
In Chiang Mai, Kelly and I split up and he taught with the zone leaders and I taught with the Sister Trainers.  We had the sweetest sister who was ready for baptism.  The Sister Trainer would talk to her about how important it was to have faith in Jesus Christ and then ask inspired questions of the investigator.  Every time the investigator would turn to me and say in Thai, “I want her (meaning me) to answer that.  I actually was able to bear my testimony in Thai about how faith in Jesus Christ leads us to act and that leads us to know Him and trust in Him.  She must have deflected 3 questions to me.  She hugged me after and wouldn’t let go.  She would just look up at me and smile shyly. I (dad) had the opportunity to teach a recent convert with the Elders that is getting ready to receive the priesthood. I actually taught with Ryan Davis, one of our Zone Leaders who is from Kaysville. It was exciting.
We had lunch with the Chiang Mai district missionaries after.  I have had some hot Thai food already.  (well hot to me).  We have been starving with our schedule so I just eat it.  My lips were numb for some time but it was actually delicious.  The Thai people turn everything into an event that has Thai Food.
We caught another plane to Khon Kaen for another meet and greet. This was a 90 minute flight.  We met with all of the missionaries in north eastern Thailand. We also met the Elders and Senior couple serving in Laos.  They absolutely love serving there all alone and have smiles from ear to ear and couldn’t say enough times how much they love their missions and the people there.  The people in Laos are so faithful and strong in the church.  It is the same in Burma.  They have sent out 20 or so missionaries from their branch of 100. We had dinner with the Senior Couples and the District Presidency and Assistants and then had to hurry off to catch our plane back home to Bangkok.  We got a great picture of our Assistants out for the count on the plane.  They vow to get us back when we least expect it.  Crazy side note….we are so tired but don’t sleep much.  We wake up and check the time and say its only 2 and then do the same thing at 4 and then get up by 5.  We do exercise at the gym downstairs in the morning so that is good.  Kelly and I wear fitbits and will start a healthy competition soon.  Winner gets mango and sticky rice.  I will win!!!
This week we will have transfers and a meeting tomorrow and training to do for the trainers and a big dinner by yours truly and  more missionary training and lots more.  We did go to church today after getting lost trying to find a district branch.  Long story short, we trusted the GPS in the mission car and shouldn’t have.  We were 2 ½ hours lost and then had to rush back to make it to the Asoke branch for the block and 4 baptisms.  The meeting started and it was fast Sunday but they invited us to speak first.  I went first and a cute little Thai gal ran up to the pulpit to bring a microphone to translate for me and Dad waved her off and she just smiled real big.  I bore my testimony in Thai.  I was shaking all over but did it and they loved it.  Then Dad spoke and he sure had the gift of tongues.  Everyone said he speaks Thai perfectly.  It really gave Dad confidence in himself and the Lord that He can do this because it is the Lord’s work and of course He will help us to accomplish His work.
We attended a baptism after Church. The Assistants had four baptisms. The service was nice. Many members came out to support the new members. I met two sister members that are still members in the Asoke branch that I served in 33 years ago. They have been faithful all these years. They were both so excited to see me. They remember me well, mainly because of my red hair and because I am so tall.
The Assistants came over tonight to report.  They gave us a book of miracles from May.  This book was a collection of the miracles the missionaries experienced in the month of May.  Then they gave us another book of miracles but every page was empty.  They promised to fill it for July.  They are incredible at encouraging and setting the pace with the missionaries and they love serving.  They told me that the country was going to love me because I try to speak Thai and that they will help me study and continue to learn.
Dad is asleep sittiing up next to me and it is 10:30.  We need to be to the office tomorrow by 8 so I need to get him to bed. (I (dad) am up at 4am working on everything that has to be done.)
This is long but there is so much to tell.  Suffice it to say WE LOVE IT HERE!!  Love the missionaries, love the members, love the leaders, love the investigators, love each other love you all and Love to serve the Lord!!
To illustrate the change of scenery, picture img0103 attached is the view from the window in the shower in our bathroom. We are in the big city.
We want to hear from you all so may I remind you that when you were on your missions we didn’t miss writing to you ever!!
We love you all so much.  Please take care of each other and Grandmas and Grandpas.
We will write again soon.  Email us and we will set up skype time with you all.
I will have Dad send a few pictures.  Love you Jami, Jenica, Jalynn, Jace and Jaden.  Love you Devin, Jeremy and Jared.  Love you Annie, Ellie, Dodge, Linen, Sailor, Scout and Ellie Jayne.  Love you Ethan, Aaliyah, Corbin and baby Squire.  Love you mom and dad Halstead and mom and dad Johnson and love you siblings and family and friends.
Love you,
Mom and Dad
XXxx OOoo