It had been eight days since we left Texas. We’d hit the ground running as soon as we’d crossed the ocean. We’d wake up at 3 AM (and then 4 and 5 as the week went by), breakfast by 7:30 or 8, then off to our first destination of the day by 9. Buses, taxis, boats and songthaews. Churches, outreaches, worship sets, slums, pre-schools, bar ministries, after-school programs, English lessons, prayer. Lots of prayer. Our group was running out of gas. That night, Sweet Debi (the one who always smiles) struggled to keep the corners of her mouth upturned. I couldn’t think straight-each thought unraveled before it barely began. Even my husband wanted to wrap up the music set early (“early”, mind you, was before 10 PM). We were all grateful for the home-cooked meal by our friend. The cashew chicken and steamed rice filled our bellies and immediately took us to thoughts of bed. Our team leader recognized that some rest was due if we were to continue at that pace. And we were scheduled to continue at that pace.
The next morning we were refreshed, not having to get up quite so early, since our first “appointment” wasn’t until 10 AM. Our team leader announced at breakfast: “The plans are changing for tonight. We will wrap up the day around 4 PM. Let’s have some free time, OK? ” I was surprised and relieved. I knew that one afternoon of rest would make a world of difference. And it did. I napped. Some got massages. A few hung out by the pool. Others shopped. As we gathered for dinner, Christine had another announcement: “Angela suggested we go to a place called ‘Cabbages & Condoms‘ for dinner. I know-it sounds weird, but it is going to be really cool. She said we’d love it.” With an exchange of questioning glances, we hopped on a songtaew up the hill and into a part of Pattaya we had not yet explored.
Mechai Viravaidya was born to a Scottish mother and a Thai father, both of whom were doctors. He attended college in Australia and returned to Thailand in the mid-sixties. He became a politician and activist who popularized condoms, family planning and AIDS awareness. In 1973 he founded Thailand’s foremost non-governmental charitable organization, the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), to continue the work to improve the lives of the rural poor. PDA was founded with the initial aim to complement the efforts of the Royal Thai Government in promoting family planning in Thailand, especially in areas where knowledge and access to services were scarce. Utilizing a participatory, community-based approach, PDA recruited and trained residents of villages and urban neighborhoods to provide information on family planning, including the supervised, non-medical distribution of oral contraceptives. This distribution network covered more than one-third of the country, thus contributing significantly to the decrease in the annual population growth rate from 3.3% in the mid-1970s to 0.6% in 2005. During the same period, the number of children per family fell from 7 to under two.
He is the man behind this place:
The idea behind Mechai’s Cabbages & Condoms‘ name was to make condoms as common and accepted as cabbages. The restaurant promotes the health and safety aspects of condom use in a fun and amusing manner. All proceeds from the restaurants are used to fund the social development programs of PDA.
Mechai has been affectionately known as “Mr. Condom” in Thailand; thus condoms are often referred to as “mechais”.
Also an environmentally conscious establishment, the restaurant and Birds & Bees Resort ensure protection of the environment by recycling wastewater for their gardens and trees. We even found a station in the garden where bicycles powered on outdoor lighting!
Time spent at the water’s edge, eating delicious food and reflecting on all we had done in Thailand so far was exactly what we needed that night.
Even the restrooms were fun!
We were advised to go at sunset. As we waited for our food to arrive, we waded in the small crashing waves of the shore. I couldn’t help but feel as though God was blowing us a kiss as we watched the sun dip behind the clouds.