Category Archives: life on the foreign field

Voice

Today, I walked down the trail, looking up at the pines, unable to express what was happening inside of me. “Give me a poem, God,” I pleaded.

 

Pines, amber and green, slanting upward

Light spilling into gleaming bars

Silence steals from heart to mind, silence whispering;

Hush—for even the forest has a voice.

 

And across the blue and golden ranges

Forests lie unrobed in light’s un-aging glory

Rolling, far-flung, and rolling, further and rolling

Hush—for even the mountains have a voice.

 

Twilight lies low on the mountain’s edges

Pinks and blues, outlined on the ridges

Gray and blue; and gray fog rolls, sealing the night

Hush— for even the dusk has a voice.

 

The forest and the mountains cry out day after day

The dusk and the night shout of glory

The mind grows silent, the silent heart alive;

Hush—hush! Even your Maker has a voice.

 

Photo credit: pixabay.com

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I Am From (A Tribute to Bravery)

“What is poetry?” I asked my ESL students, leaning on the desk behind me. (featured photo credit: pexels.com)

The answers varied.

“Good thinking and writing.” “If someone loves someone.” “It has points like a song.” “A way to thank someone.” “You want to say something, and you find another way to say it.” “A short sentence that has much deep meaning.”

And then for the next few weeks, we worked on writing poems. Personalities kept on peeking through, as some of them grinned to themselves and laughed gleefully every now and then. Others pursed their lips and puckered their brows, while carefully penciling in the words, or gazing into space with a faraway look in their eyes. Today we read them off and made a few final touches.

My students are only “my” students for an hour and a half each week and even less than that since they are split into two groups and I teach each group for 45 minutes. Each one is first year physician’s assistant in training, a program at Earth Mission Asia (EMA). They will study  in Chiang Mai for about 8 months before leaving in December to continue their training in Karen State. Earth Mission Asia is a program that works to provide medical training and care for the people of Karen State, Myanmar. For more information, visit the above link and consider supporting them financially or in prayer here.

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Above photo credit: Earth Mission Asia

I met these students in August and have seen them almost every week since then. And I just like them. Some people you have to work to like, but there’s something about these students that is so easy to like. Many of them come from mountain homes in Karen State and some of them have spent time in the refugee camps along the Thai/Myanmar border. English is their second or third language.

I don’t know all their stories, but the poems they wrote opened a door into their lives.

Looking over them tonight one last time, I think I know a bit more of what poetry is.

It is a glimpse into the tapestry of life itself. It is a tribute to bravery.  It is embracing heritage and past. It is realizing that the person that God created you to be is in fact a beautiful person. It is hope.

Below are a few of them. They are based on the “I Am From” template, found here. I posted my own poem like this in August, here. For this activity, I adapted the template slightly, and also encouraged them to deviate from it if they felt like it. With their permission, I am posting the poems here.

While I know that posting ten poems all at once is a whopper, I can’t bear to cut any of them out. I love them and I love their bravery.

(Because of security reasons, I needed to remove some phrases here and there from the poems. While this makes me sad because I know how much these experiences played a part in their lives, I do not want to endanger any of them when they go back to their home country.)

Based on the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.

I Am From

-by Saw Hsar Eh Say (Year One EMA Student)

I am from the white cup on the table, from the guitar on the wall.

I am from the wooden house near the mountain and from the aroma of coffee’s sweet smell.

I am from dogs playing under the house, from the mango tree whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from praying before meals and from eating noodles.

I am from “where will you go?” and “when will you come back,” and singing gospel songs.

I am from shy and quiet. I am from Ye and Man Aung village and betelnut.

I am from my mom and dad talking a lot to each other.

I am from studies at the school with friends and my grandmother dying and God’s picture on the wall.

I am from happy and talkative.

I am from hot windy summers and cold and raining.

I am from all these and more.

 

 

I Am From

-by Pa Tall   (Year One EMA Student)

I am from Shan Dot village and from axes and machetes.

I am from a small bamboo house in the mountains of Karen State, from the aroma of flowers.

I am from cows and oxen, from bamboo, jack trees and mango trees, whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from inviting villagers to eat together and from eating chicken boiled with rice.

I am from “go to work” and “what are you doing.”

I am from shy and talkative. I am from Shan Dot village and Him Ma Wa village, and rice and soup and pounded chilies.

I am from my brother falling down the tree and breaking his right hand.

I am from Christmas concerts and fleeing from my home and bamboo baskets.

I am from noisy and sensitive and serious.

I am from hot and raining.

I am from all these and more.

 

 

I Am From

-by Kaw Tha Blay   (Year One EMA Student)

I am from pots, from pictures.

I am from a small bamboo house surrounded by mountains, from the aroma of fresh wind.

I am from cats, from the banana tree whose long gone fronds I remember as if they were my own.

I am from Karen tribe and from eating fish paste.

I am from “Ta blu” and “Ta po” and “Oh My People”.

I am from sensitive and hilarious. I am from village and rice.

I am from wanting to fly by plane.

I am from trucks and knives.

I am from noisy and quiet.

I am from hot, cold, and wet season and trees all around.

I am from all these and more.

 

 

I Am From

-by Naw Moo Hsar Paw   (Year One EMA Student)

I am from a hot place beside the dam.

I am from the wooden house beside the mountain and water, from the aroma of bananas.

I am from cats, birds, chickens and dogs, from the banana tree, betelnut tree, and mango tree, whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from praying before meals and Christianity and I am from rice porridge with meat.

I am from “ta blut” (thank you) and “see you next time.”

I am from talkative and noisy. I am from Ler Wah and Hsa Ti township and soup.

I am from being born in the bamboo house near the river.

I am from praying with my siblings, and from not enough food, and my parent’s wedding picture on the wall.

I am from talkative and hilarious.

I am from very hot in the summer and not too cold in the winter.

I am from all these and more.

 

 

I Am From

-by Pa Chit     (Year One EMA Student)

I am from the small village of Kaw Thoo Lei in the mountains of Karen State.

I am from the bamboo house beside the river in the jungle, from the aroma of flowers and tree flowers.

I am from goats, from banana trees and betelnut trees, whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from Christianity, and from eating fish paste and betelnut.

I am from “gaw ler gay.” (good morning)

I am from no education and poor education. I am from Dawe Loe village and rice and vegetables.

I am from my grandfather dying in front of my eyes.

I am from riding buffalo with my cousin, and from guns.

I am from quiet and shy.

I am from hot, cold and rainy.

I am from all these and more.

 

 

I Am From 

-by Paw   (Year One EMA Student)

I am from Lah Kyo Koe.

I am from the bamboo and wood house in the jungle around the mountains, and from the aroma of flowers.

I am from cats and dogs and pigs, from coconut tree and flowers, whose long gone petals I remember as if they were my own.

I am from eating together every time, and I am from eating rice.

I am from “sleep” and “eat” and singing God songs.

I am from shy and quiet. I am from villages and mountains and smoke and betelnut.

I am from singing in the church with my family.

I am from playing games with my friends as a child, from my father having to go to the clinic, and rice.

I am from happy and loving.

I am from hot weather.

I am from all these and more.

 

 

I Am From 

-by Poe Baw   (Year One EMA Student)

I am from the worship room, and from an old bicycle.

I am from a wooden house in the rice fields, from the aroma of my mom’s curry smell.

I am from pigs beside the house, from the teak tree whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from Karen New Year, and I am from eating Ta Ka Paw.

I am from “gaw ler gay” and “ta blut,” and “eh na.”

I am from talking nicely and funny speaking. I am from Kwee Lay village and rice and soup.

I am from having severe asthma as a child, until my mom gave up on me. But I know God loved me and He saved me so I can live until now.

I am from bicycles and hats, from the book store, and from the Bible.

I am from noisy and talkative.

I am from weather that is too hot.

I am from all these and more.

 

 

I Am From 

-by Poe Dah   (Year One EMA Student)

I am from Kaw La, from Lay Ther Kou.

I am from a wooden house in the mountains of Karen State, from the aroma of rice cooking.

I am from horses, from coconut trees whose long gone fronds I remember as if they were my own.

I am from saying good night and praying, and I am from eating rice porridge.

I am from “I’m hungry” and “let’s eat” and God songs.

I am from normal talkative and funny. I am from Lay Ther Kou and Kaw La and betelnut.

I am from people singing a gospel song and Christmas songs and mortar and pestle.

I am from happy and loving.

I am from cold places.

I am from all these and more.

 

I Am From 

-by Soe Thein    (Year One EMA Student)

I am from rice, from red shirts.

I am from wooden houses in the mountains, from the aroma of flowers.

I am from cats and dogs, and coconut trees and betelnut trees whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from every week going to work, and I am from eating rice, fruits and vegetables.

I am from “ka nah mo pa ka kluh” and “mee sae” and country songs.

I am from shy and talkative. I am from Mae Wai and Dwan Le town and vegetables and rice.

I am from my mother getting sick.

I am from buying a football and Karen shirts.

I am from noisy and some quiet.

I am from rainy.

I am from all these and more.

 

I Am From

-by Yuu Yuu       (Year One EMA Student)

I am from one table and two chairs on the ground and a jar sitting on the table.

I am from the wooden 16 foot house crowded on the plain, from the aroma of beautiful white flowers.

I am from a group of oxen passing by the village, from the fairly big mango tree whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from children first for meals and from rice and green foods.

I am from “ka na moe” and “pa ka lu” and “mee soe soe” and “Pa Ka Sa Ah Blu Ah Poe.”

I am from talkative and quiet. I am from Wai Swe and Yaung Houng and bananas and tea.

I am from a day when I traveled to a big city, and the family pictures on the wall.

I am from normal people and kindness.

I am from dry summers and wet raining.

I am from all these and more.

 

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photo credit: LH

Kaleidoscope

Close to a year ago, I wrote a poem about my world being on my desk, here. This is a similar poem, now a year later, and this time, it’s in my backpack. 

Photo credit: Pexel

 

My world is in my backpack

Stuffed into pockets and corners and zipped compartments

Crammed until I can hardly close it.

 

Every now and long forgotten items surface

Like the chicken bones my friend found in a pocket one day

Or the little bag of sticky rice I forgot for weeks,

Not unlike the skeletons in the proverbial closet.

 

My world is in my backpack, or at least a ¾ part of it.

 

Crumpled on the bottom is the linguistics quiz

With the mysterious .5 marked off of it,

Several baht coins scattered about unceremoniously

With one lone Abraham Lincoln penny still holding its ground;

Flashcards from aforesaid linguistics prep,

Harmonica that helps release the ache on lonely moonlit nights,

And a long-forgotten packet of fisherman’s friend lozenges;

Socks for when the air-conditioning becomes too much for me

(And when I need the comfort of something cozy again).

Notes from doing a movie analysis needed for my final paper,

And my faithful Kindle which is to me what Friday was to Crusoe;

Crumpled up paper about faith with a chocolate smudge

With a list of children’s names on the back from VBS, reminding me that yes, I was at home this summer.

Breathsavers that I think must have come from my sister’s dresser drawer

From back home in that creaky second story that turns frigid on cold winter nights

(And I really should give them back to her because I completely forgot I had them.)

A crumpled-up business card for a souvenir shop that I can only think came from that Thai lady

The one I met at the airport in China when my flight home was canceled

And she made me cry with her kindness  when we heard the news at 2 AM.

My phone, my key ring that holds 7 keys (of which only 2 I use),

2 USB sticks, eyedrops for when the long drives on my bike are too much;

A receipt for a latte at Start Up café, and at the same time, one crumpled up receipt from

Dunkin Donuts at the Dwight D. Eisenhower airport in Wichita

When I bought a latte on my way back and drank it while reading the card from my mom,

And crying while I ate the cookies that the little blonde boy brought over for me

Just before I left, and he asked me matter of factly,

When the airplane was coming to pick me up?

A lone key that used to be for the old lock on the gate,

A leftover paper from English class with a list on the back

Of items I need for my residency papers.

A flashlight, a pencil a friend gave me just before exams

And a post card my Japanese friend gave to me of a cityscape from her trip to Hungary.

A scissors, a set of watercolor pencils, and a pad of watercolor paper

Just in case, you know, I ever find myself somewhere with nothing to do.

Sunglasses for those long drives to IGo at 5:15 PM,

And two energy bars to sneakily eat at coffee shops when I am too stingy to buy food with my coffee;

Two packs of cards to play games with my English students;

Crumpled and folded and fingered notes from the presentation on nonverbal communication,

When I bent and crushed the papers in my hand, no, not nervous at all.

The planner my friend gave to me at Christmas

That says “The Best Year Ever,” and I think I believe it

Even though the year has been thrown into a backpack

And juggled around through customs and airports and classes

From farm world to city world, from one life to the other.

 

My billfold with 3 different drivers licenses, 2 Thai and one American,

My blood donor card I haven’t used for years,

Along with my student ID and my Bangkok Bank card

And about 10 others I rarely use.

My little catch all bag from a Thai friend for Christmas, full of pens

And a spinner, and highlighters and pencil sharpeners and sticky notes,

With the keychain that has the word “Jesus” on it,

From my friend who has left for the cornfields of Indiana;

A paper left over from Aj. Tony’s survey about how many languages we speak

(And I still can’t decide how many it actually is);

 

Then finally the little miniature airplane I made out of the gold foil

That wrapped the chocolate my friend from Ho Chi Minh City gave me last weekend.

I finger it and lift it up, give it a whirl,

Watch it glimmer,

And wonder.

If I Would Tell You…

 

If I would tell you what a river was like

If you’d never seen one before,

Then I could tell you that it is water

That runs between two shores;

And how it starts with being a spring

And ends with being a sea,

But I am afraid I cannot explain

What a river means to me.

 

If I could explain silence and strength and song,

Paint it with brown and gold and blue;

Mold peace and heartache into a bed

For this wide river to run on and through;

Then weave a scarf from the moonlight’s beam,

And capture the life-strength of a tree,

Then maybe, just maybe, I could explain

What a river means to me.

Currently for my creative writing class at Payap University, our homework is to write an hour a day. About anything. Today as I sat beside the Mae Ping river, this is one of the things I wrote. 

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*Photo credits: Melissa Weber

 

Gifts of Summer

I was looking through my folder of updates that I send to people at home and found the one I wrote just after I got back to Chiang Mai from my summer at home. 

I cried. 

It was hard for me to adjust back into the swing of things here in Chiang Mai after my colorful summer at home. But once I was adjusted, I almost forgot about it. And that makes me sad, that I would forget something that beautiful. 

So I decided to share it on here. 

I miss them. 

Gifts of Summer

(May 12-July 28)

Lights from the Chinese airfield are bright in my eyes at 4 AM. The floor is hard, yet not too hard to sleep. Something bites my feet and I wonder what kind of insects would inhabit the carpet of Guangzhou airport. 11 hours down and 6 more hours to go until my rescheduled flight leaves. The night has been long, but the people who befriended me have been kind. We have our own little Thai corner in this Chinese airport, these disappointed travelers and I, and we dream our troubles away.

Home feels just right. It is Monday morning and I wake up to a drizzle on the roof. A robin’s rain call echoes. Dad comes striding in over the lawn after fetching the newspaper after the morning’s milking. Smells of breakfast drift up to my jet-lagged body. Life feels good.

The little blonde boy holds the strawberries in his hand and laughs with delight. We sit on the west porch and first munch our fruit, then wash it down with “coffee” which is flavored milk in Grandpa’s mug. He is quite pleased that he uses Grandpa’s mug. “Now we have to watch the birds,” he says, meaning the swallows that swoop over the lawn in the morning.

The night is soft and cool. The train whistle splits the evening air. We run laughing, breathless and barefoot to meet it at the crossroads. Its thunder drowns our heartbeats and we savor the power harnessed by man.

The fork clinks onto the plate of pie. One coconut, one peanut butter chocolate, one apple. The pie case door thumps as it shuts. Ice tinkles as it is scooped into a glass. Someone laughs. The smell of French fries and a thousand other fried things drifts up to the front. I clear the leftover pie plates from the table. Put the tip in my pocket. Scrape the food into the trash. Scoop ice. Fill waters. Grab silverware. Smile. “Would you like anything else to drink besides water?”

The volleyball thumps onto the cement floor before hitting the fence with a “ching.” In. Next serve goes into the net. The spicy smell of evergreens pervades the air, the air is cool and the moon is bright tonight. It is late. I should be in bed. But tonight I am 16. And I am having fun.

The motor throbs in the early morning. The sunrise glows in the east. Cows crowd into the barn. Wipe the dirt from the teats, dip them, strip out a stream of white milk, wipe them clean, put on the milker, dip them, open the gate. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

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They come streaming onto the benches that squeak under the weight. 28 bare feet wiggle as 14 mouths sing the old German songs of Summer Bibel Schule. I relive my childhood in those days, remembering how the big boys used to sing the refrain of “Nur das Blut das Lammes Jesu,” and how deep and scary their voices were and how awe-inspiring they were to little first graders. Then we sing, “Herr ich Komm” and I remember the little jumps we liked to add to the chorus, and wonder how exasperated our teachers must have gotten.

Thistles blow in the wind. The wide sky touches the green world around me and grasses wave. Thrust the spade down. Dig up the roots. Clip off the pretty purple flowers and put them in a bucket. Breath deeply and stretch. The air is medicine.

“Sing it again!” she says fascinated, her eyes bright. I sigh and launch into the 31st rendition of “Boom di ya da” in Thai. “Chan chaub du pukao, chan chaub du talee yai…”

The wheat field sighs. It is pregnant with its harvest and only awaits the teeth of the combine. Elevators seem dominate the horizon, even though there aren’t any more than before. Tractors, trucks and combines drone late into the night. The harvest lures me, calls me, fascinates me.

5:00 AM. June 20. My sister’s cell phone rings and I hear her answer it sleepily from my room. It is my older sister, Susan. “Happy Birthday,” she says.

9:49 AM. June 20. I answer the phone at my sister’s house. “Happy Birthday,” says my brother in law. Evan Samuel, born June 20. Yes, happy birthday!

The bean row is long. Longer than I have ever seen before. And there are 6 of them. Stretching all the way from Pleasantview to Yoder. Yet a feeling of satisfaction fills me as I wipe the sweat off my face and look at the fruits of my labor. It feels good.

Mozzarella sticks. Onion rings. French fries. Mountain Dew. We are not eating healthy this afternoon. Two excited boys share the booth seat in front of me. We eat our fried things with relish, laugh at ten year old boy jokes and sing the worm song as we suck the onions out of the breading. Happy Birthday, Davon.

Creak of the saddle. Sunflowers in my horse’s bridle. Laughter of friends. The night is soft. Lights create crazy silhouettes of rider forms running through the dark and dust. We gallop through the dark, and gallop and gallop and gallop….

Itch….. itch……. Itch…itch… Itch..Itch.Itch.Itch.Itchitchitchitchitchitchitch. The red rash reminds me that I am not immune to poison ivy after all. Itchitchitchitchitchitchitch…..

The cravings come at odd times, late at night when people on the other side of the world are eating their spicy, mouthwatering, lime-juice laden, cilantro-decked food over fluffy white rice. I eat an egg sandwich. And munch cereal.

Cancer. The word splinters the joy of summer with shock. Breast cancer. Brain cancer. We discuss the implications with furrowed brows and hushed voices.

We cram into the cabin as rain drums outside. Twenty-five Hershbergers in one cabin is quite a feat. And quite noisy. The left-behind ice chests finally arrive and we eat the creamy ice cream it contains, savoring the cool before we sing some songs. We have this moment to hold in our hands.

Colors go wild. The wake of the boat swathes white into the blue of the water as we skim along the surface. Red bluffs and blue sky, bluer water and white foam, green grass and white gulls. A gull follows us for a while. We do a loop in the water and I put my hand out to feel the spray. The little blonde boy falls asleep.

Six of them. I count heads again to make sure, make sure none of them bobbed beneath the water too long. We splash in the water and laugh, chasing sticks bobbing on the surface, savoring life.

It was summer. We lived it. It was good.

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Cha Kiow Yen (Green Tea Lattes)

There are times when writing ideas pop into your head willy-nilly, without being beckoned or called, and they seemingly write themselves in your brain before you even sit down to type. But then there are other ideas that seem to bubble and simmer beneath the surface for ages before they shape themselves into words. These are the things I hesitate to write about, deeper things, because I am still trying to formulate convictions about them.

So when that happens, they will simply have to simmer for yet a while longer. And you get the more light-hearted posts like this one.

I got terribly distracted on Saturday afternoon. I had a deadline for a group project due at midnight, and I was the one responsible for the final revisions to the project with the rest of the group getting their work to me at 8 PM. At 2:00 PM I wasn’t even started with my part of the project. But I kept on getting distracted, and oh, so sleepy.

So, I decided to fix my sleepiness with a cha kiaow yen fix. “Cha Kiow” in Thai means green tea. Green tea lattes are a cheap commodity here, with good ones easily bought along the street for about a dollar. Green tea has amazing healthy properties and are  rather addicting, and I find myself drinking one almost daily. While they contain some caffeine, it is less than that of coffee and gives me energy without making my hands shake. To cut down on expenses, as well as make them a wee bit healthier than what you find on the street, I went on a mission last spring to find out what goes into those green drinks and how to do it yourself.

I was rather surprised at the ingredients of a cha kiaow drink. Gigantic amounts of sugar go into them, which explains why I have found only a few select places that I can get the drink “unsweet” enough to suit me. I toyed around with the recipe until I found out what suited my taste buds and my conscience. Below is the result.

 

Here’s what you need.

1 cup of hot water

1.5- 2  TBSP of green tea leaves (Cha Tra Mue brand)

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1 tsp of sweetened condensed milk

1.5 tsp of creamer melted in a small amount of hot water

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Around .25 cup of evaporated milk (more or less)

.75 cup of milk

Boil the water.

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Steep the tea leaves in the water for at least 3 minutes (I often do longer).

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Strain the water and pitch the old leaves.

Mix the small amount of hot water with the creamer and add the sweetened condensed milk first and then the evaporated milk.

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Pour the milk mixture into the tea.Watch the poetry of the colors mixing.

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Froth the milk (if possible) and pour it on top.

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Add ice if you want some. I tend to be quite jealous of my green tea and don’t want to give any room for ice and the result of its melting, so I like to cool my tea or even partially freeze it before mixing it together.

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You can change up these drinks to suit your taste. I have made them with ice, without ice, with cream instead of evaporated milk, etc. Cream is harder to get here, so hence the Thai substitute of canned evaporated milk.

Not too long ago, I realized that part of what makes the tea such a lovely green is additives and coloring. So much for being healthy. I still drink it, but sometime I do want to experiment with a loose leaf green tea of a higher quality. Especially for those without the Cha Tra Mue brand available, that would be something to try.

I’ve started to reuse the plastic cups and caps and straws that the bought drinks come in. This is very handy and saves on money as well. 🙂

After my cha kiow making, I finally went back to work. It really did help, by the way.

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*thanks to Melissa for letting me borrow her camera again.

Impressions of a Journey

  1. Goodbyes are heart-wrenching and color my entire trip from Wichita to Dallas to Los Angeles to Guangzhao to Chiang Mai.
  2. The lady at the counter furrows her eyebrows as she searches for my visa in my passport. “We can’t let you get on the plane if you don’t have a visa and a reentry permit,” she says. I flip through the passport and find it, breathing an inner sigh of relief when she nods her head and wishes me the best.
  3. The floor of the new Wichita airport is shiny, even in the bathroom. I find it interesting that as I sit on the toilet, I can see the reflection of the person in the opposite stall. This is funny and hilarious until I remember that they can see me just as well as I can see them. I finish my business quickly and leave the room.
  4. I watch the last of Kansas soil disappear from the window of the airplane and cry. The girl beside me is heading home after a year in Ghana, working as a volunteer with agricultural projects.
  5. The plane landing in Dallas is rough. After we land the little girl in front of me loses her lunch. I offer her a bag to put in some more of her lunch, and try to hold my nose shut inconspicuously. Her mom thanks me and sighs. They have only a few minutes to catch their next flight since this flight was about 20 minutes late.
  6. In Los Angeles, I check the screen to see my flight’s schedule. Someone sneezes in the distance. An airport worker sitting close to the screen shouts out, “Bless you!” I grin at him, thinking this is probably the last time in a long time I will hear those words in relation to a sneeze. (you don’t say “bless you” when someone sneezes in Thailand. I don’t know why. You just don’t.) He grins back.
  7. 6 hours down. 8 more to go. The air is dry, the quarters are close, and I wonder if I will go crazy or not. I sleep instead.
  8. The Chinese man on the one side of me and the Vietnamese man on the other side enjoy their food with great relish and sound effects. I block it out and enjoy my food with great relish and zero sound effects.
  9. The toilet paper in the airplane bathroom has somehow unraveled several squares and is on the floor. I freshen up quickly and head back to my seat, only to look down in dismay at the foot-long trail of toilet paper that has stuck firmly to my shoe and followed me back to my seat.
  10. Someone sneezes on the plane. The Vietnamese man says, “Bless you.” I giggle inwardly.
  11. I feel good when we land in Guangzhou, China, better than I have ever felt before after a 14 hour flight. This airport and I, however, have trust issues stemming from a 17 hour layover, flight cancelations, and exorbitant food and coffee prices when I flew home in May. I begrudgingly buy a yogurt parfait since I have some Chinese yuan I have no other place to spend, but dig out my Vietnamese coffee filter I brought specially for this occasion. The airport has no cold drinking water, but hot and warm water instead. I make my coffee with the hot water and chuckle an evil chuckle to myself as I drink it and enjoy my little rebellion and protest at ridiculous coffee prices.
  12. The parfait is delicious, perfection in itself. The coffee is…. ok.
  13. I meet a Belgium man and his Thai wife. We become friends as I help him connect to airport wifi. His wife, when she learns I speak Thai, begins to ask me questions about my lifestyle and dress. Thinking I am a sister, she asks, “Can you get married?” “Yes,” I say, and wonder at her reaction. “Really?! Really?!” I don’t wonder for long. It turns out that she has very serious matrimonial designs for her 30 year old half Thai son and feels that I would fit right into that design. She goes down the checklist: I speak Thai. I speak English. I even speak some Northern Thai. I have good manners. I study at Payap, (her son is a graduate of there). She asks my age and date of birth. I fit the specifications exactly. She cannot understand why I do not jump at the chance.
  14. I still am not sure if I am ready to land in Chiang Mai yet or not, but my flight is leaving and I must board.
  15. The flight to Chiang Mai is made interesting through conversation with my backpacker seatmate. He is an intelligent conversationalist and talking with him is fun and easy. He has traveled the world extensively.
  16. The sky is beautiful. The Chinese boy in the seat behind me looks at it and says, “Hen piao liang!”
  17. Doi Sutthep greets me as we land. I feel a thrill of happiness. Eight friendly faces greet me as I come out of customs. Eight hugs make me feel welcome.
  18. I am glad to be back.

*photo credit: pixabay

Dispelling Commonly-Believed Slightly Exaggerated Myths about Young Anabaptist Females Living in and Working in a Cross-Cultural Setting in Southeast Asia

*Disclaimer: Not all of these myths or the shattering thereof are applicable to all mission workers or others in volunteer service around the globe. I speak of my own personal experience and those in my household in Asia.

*Disclaimer 2: This is not to prevent people from asking me about some of these myths. I don’t want people tiptoeing around me, afraid of saying something for fear that they voice a wrong assumption. This is only an effort to put some light on the truth of what it is like to be a young Anabaptist female living in and working in a cross-cultural setting in southeast Asia. People tend to put workers of that mold on a pedestal. Pedestals can become very lonely at times.

  1. We are strong, independent and don’t need others.

While we may appear strong and independent, it is because there may be a slight element of truth to that. We have been forced to become strong and independent or at least appear so because there are others looking to us for guidance. However, seldom a day goes by when I do not check my email, wishing for an encouraging email or a simple “hello, I am thinking of you.” I also am grateful for each and every one of the older couples on my Asian side of the world who offer me a comfortable shoulder to cry on if I need one. 28 year-olds can feel a lot like 5 year-olds at times.

  1. We don’t have personal problems or doubts

WRONG. Mission workers can be some of the most messed up people in the world. Your problems do not magically melt away the moment you step foot on foreign soil. In fact, they are usually compounded. Working in missions usually means working with people, which means the junk inside of you gets stepped on. A lot.

  1. We don’t want to get married.

This is a big one. I’ve had various friends over the years make the statement or assume that I am so focused on my work and I have so much purpose in my life that I don’t want to get married and that is why I am not married. Sure, back when I was 13 years old, I drew a picture of what my life career was going to be and it included sitting at a desk writing with cats on my shoulder and in every part of the room. I labeled it “Old Maid Writer.” While it looks like I am well on my way to that goal, I can also say that I have grown up a bit since I was 13. Yes, we are passionate about what we do, but we are also women with personal dreams and desires. While giving up work to become a wife and mother would require some refocusing of the mind, we also believe that the calling of being a wife and mother is every bit as important as being a full-time mission worker.

  1. We are living in mud huts and eating plain rice every day. We are usually scared for our lives.

Sadly, no. While I would at times prefer the mud hut to the city life I live, it’s not the case. Yes, there are some conveniences we miss about living stateside, but we really are a pampered lot. We have a microwave, internet access, mail from the other side of the world that can be delivered in about 10 days (ok yes, it does get lost at times), fast food restaurants, shopping malls bigger than anything I have ever seen in small town Kansas, coffee makers and beds to sleep in. We do experience the occasional rat or snake and food poisoning, but majority of our lives are not spent looking over our shoulder to check for a tiger or a guerilla (the human kind), and the main things that keep us up at nights are the cats fighting on the roof and the spicy Northern Thai Larb that we unscrupulously devoured at 8 PM. We even forget to lock the gate at times.

  1. We don’t get cynical or discouraged about the work we do.

Nope. See number 2.

  1. All our prayers are answered on a daily basis and we see miracles happening every day

God is the same God on that side of the world as He is in America. Sadly, we are also the same people and if we don’t let God have free rein in our lives in either place, He will not work like He wants to. Yes, sometimes more miracles may seem like they happen in foreign countries, but that usually happens when we place ourselves in situations that require a miracle. The main miracles that I see happening on a daily basis is the sun coming up and me being able to breath and live out another day without losing something or forgetting something. (ok, so that last miracle doesn’t necessarily happen on a daily basis.)

Are there any I missed?

I Think I Shall Still Remember

When I am old and gray-haired and stooped

I think I shall still remember

How we sat on the balcony tonight

Beneath a cloud-shrouded moon

In an ocean of sky;

How our spirits sang and swooped and soared

In awe,

And how the lights glimmered on the mountain

As it listened to our song

As all mountains do.

 

Yes, I will remember how the rain, light-footed

Came dancing down, teasing us

While the wind played in our hair, sweeping

To the tune of the songs we sang.

And the raindrops rested on our glasses

Forming little half-moons in the glimmer of light

Fairy lights,

While in the distance the mountain slept

Yet in its sleep still listened to our song

As all mountains do.

 

And there was laughter and there were tears

Spun together in harmony of song

And our prayers floated up like dandelion dust

Caught in the night wind; driven by worship;

Our hearts soared to heaven and our spirits blazed

With fire,

While the mountain sighed in its sleep

And listened to us dream of heaven

As all mountains do.

My Baanies *

To the fine bunch of ladies that I do life with…. I live in a house with six other girls, all of who are volunteers at Wisdom Tree Home, where I used to work. This is a glimpse of what life looks like in our creaky old house. 

 

Oh, we live in a house of seven girls

And bonny lassies are we

Seven girls and a dog (who cries when we leave)

All footloose and fancy-free

 

Where we’re from…

Lori and Crystal speak Dutch with each other

But Lori speaks it more to the dog

Nancy speaks Platt Dietsch when she talks with her mom

And leaves the rest in a fog

Kim hails from Canada, and so does Melissa

And Brit is a Buckeye at heart

She tries to speak Dutch but Thai comes out

Her brain can’t keep them apart.

Judi comes from where it’s cold all the time

And we like the way she says “sawlt”

We mimic the Canadians and the Thais and each other

And don’t always speak as we ought.

 

On Saturdays…

Brit goes to the market

And Judi goes to the mall

Where she walks and she looks

And buys nothing at all

Melissa goes to a coffee shop

Kim goes out with a friend

Crystal goes to the pool, and Lori,

Lori does homework till her hair stands on end.

 

Oh, we live in a house of seven girls

And bonny lassies are we

Seven girls and a dog (who cries when we leave)

All footloose and fancy-free

 

In the bathroom…

When Lori’s in the shower, she studies Chinese

And Brit plays songs in Thai

But Kim and Nancy play ukulele on the floor

By the tub where the echo rings high.

Judi sings songs like “Country Roads”

And also sings the song about the rose

But the dog outside outsings us all

When he misses his friends and howls out his woes

 

What we’re like…

Judi likes to kill things like mosquitos and snakes

But spiders make Brit turn white with fear

She’ll stand on her bed and shiver and shake

Till someone comes to smash it. Oh dear, oh dear!

Lori’s in a rush and can’t find her keys

Where Kim left her laptop is quite unknown

Brit wants to take a picture to send to her dad

But now she can’t do it cause she can’t find her phone

 

At a coffee shop…

Brit likes to journal and Nancy watercolors

And Kim always makes a new friend

Crystal studies Thai and Melissa writes an update,

And Lori does homework till her hair stands on end.

Kim swigs coffee, all black, by the pot

But Judi likes hers with cream

Brit walks the line between coffee and tea

But Melissa drinks just water, or so it would seem.

 

Oh, we live in a house of seven girls

And bonny lassies are we

Seven girls and a dog (who cries when we leave)

All footloose and fancy-free

 

At night…

Brit and Melissa go to bed early

Where Brit dreams amazing things

Crystal hums in her sleep, and all the rest

Wait to go to bed till the dtukae** sings

Lori sleeps up top at the end of the stairs

Where the others fear she’ll fall out of bed

Kim sits on her balcony where she sings all night

And Crystal smacks roaches in her room till they’re dead

 

In the future….

Melissa will get married and have 8 Chinese boys

That keep her on her toes and all look alike

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Brit will adopt kids, and kids, and kids

Half of which will be two-year old tykes

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And Kim will lead worship in a Chinese town

With her husband who’s 6 foot 4

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While Judi sips coffee at her own little shop

On the edge of the Grecian shore

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Nancy will marry and move to the States

Where she’ll make fajitas like a very fine wife

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Crystal will move to Africa’s horn

Where she’ll look after orphans all of her life

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While Lori  rides her horse from village to village

As she teaches in the mountains of PaiS_4927041878515

But for now we live in this shaky old house

Together and happy, here in Chiang Mai.

 

Oh, we live in a house of seven girls

And bonny lassies are we

Seven girls and a dog (who cries when we leave)

All footloose and fancy-free

 

* “Baanies” is a play on words that comes from the Thai word “baan,” which means “home.” Instead of saying “homies” when referring to our housemates, we call ourselves the “baanies,” which is another play on words in the English language, since it sounds like “bonnie.”

** a dtukae is a large lizard like creature that likes goes “Dtu! Gaa! Dtu! Gaa!” at night.