Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Feels Like Christmas!

4 out of the past 5 years we have lived in countries where Christmas is not widely celebrated. It is very surreal to leave your house on Christmas day and realize that it is business as usual for most of the population. I don't know what it will be like here on Christmas day, but in these weeks leading up to Christmas, one thing is very different from our previous years: It feels like Christmas!

The feeling began when the weather suddenly turned chilly inside and outside our house. Then, of course, there was the traditional Thanksgiving gorging that left us feeling pleasantly satisfied and really in the spirit of the season. The real fun came when we bought a box of Christmas decorations from a family who is leaving and set up our tree. We've experienced that excitement all 3 times we've set it up! Yeah, cats and baby... need we say more? Our little one has loved playing with the Play Mobile nativity set we have since she can't break it and she can chew on the baby in the manger. We keep telling her, "We don't eat babies," but she doesn't seem to understand.

This weekend we enjoyed a really cool Christmas bazaar at a hotel. There were hundreds of people, but to add to the feeling of the season, it felt very much like a family of many people we knew. The whole expat community feel is very different than what we experienced in other South Asia locations. Maybe it's related to how small it is. Nay had a great time being passed around by many of our youth group members and other friends. Anyway, there were booths with Christmas goodies, bonfires, caroling, bands (surely we can find a photo of P.J. in his afro and sequined top to post), hot chocolate, and a pig roasting on a spit. Now that's a holiday celebration! The following night we enjoyed a lovely cantata. Two nights from now we'll be participating in a cookie decorating party, and Friday we'll be making our own Christmas treats. All in all, this is shaping up to be one fantastic few weeks!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Scary Woman

Today I discovered that I am not a woman you would want to corner on a street. There is this slightly off creepy man who regularly tries to talk to me on my road. I always ignore him as that is usually the best policy. After lunch today, however, I was talking on the side of the main road with my friend when he walked within inches of us and just stood there. This would never happen if we were two local women so clearly there is a major overstepping of cultural norms for him to do this. I became very angry and felt threatened so I loudly shouted, "Go! You go now!" It sounded more like what you would say to a pesky dog than a person. Anyway, he just smiled and continued to stand there so I stepped a few paces back, picked up a rock, and threw it at him, below the waist like any respectable dodgeballer should. That wiped the smirk off his face promptly, and he slowly backed away giving me a window to begin my speedy walk to my house. He did attempt to follow me, but my friend and I walked fast enough that we lost him.

As I feverishly walked back, I reflected on how this is something I would never do anywhere else, but desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. If you act like a dog, be prepared to be treated like one. And definitely don't mess with me!

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Rescue!

When I (Lizzy) embarked upon a grocery shopping trip today, I had no idea that I would protect someone from serious bodily harm. As larger shopping complexes come up here, a relatively new people moving feature is the escalator. They remind us of the many conveniences in our former world, but they seem to incite fear in the hearts of locals as people carefully place a foot onto the moving stairs. When Nay and I were standing by the escalator at the grocery store while P.J. was paying nearby, this older couple prepared to enter the escalator. The husband stepped on without any hitches and reminded his wife that all would be okay if she just stepped forward. Unfortunately, escalators don't work that way, and you do actually have to put your foot on a step.

Right when the woman boldly set her foot down on a step, I noticed that she stepped on the crack between two. As the front stair lifted, everything went into slow motion, and this poor lady started falling backwards. That turned into an awful spectacle of falling, crawling, squealing, and struggling grab anything as the machine continued to move. Of course, it was really only a few seconds, but it seemed like forever! Since I grew up with escalators, I knew I had to push an emergency button to stop it. Thankfully, locating it took just a second, and I pushed my way in front of other rescuers to stop the escalator. Poor Nay was screaming hysterically, but the move allowed the woman's husband to pick her up. Amazingly enough, she stood up with grace (and even a smile on her face!) and proceeded to climb the staircase to the next floor as though nothing had happened.

While the rescue seemed dramatic, the funniest part was watching the locals try to figure out how to get those stairs moving again. They repeatedly pushed the emergency button, telling each other, "You have to push that, it's the 'On' button." When I couldn't stand it anymore, I told them in the local language, "You need a key." And then, everyone reassured their neighbor, "Yes, you need a key." Only here... : )

Friday, October 2, 2009

#1 The Adventure Begins

My friend asked me to join him on a 10-day trip to visit different villages and spend some time teaching and encouraging our brothers and sisters in those villages. His sales pitch was lacking appeal: he told me there would be long days of travel, long hours of walking, nights sleeping on the floor, and meal after meal of the exact same food. Despite all those luxuries it was still a very difficult decision. I would have to leave my wife and beautiful baby girl for 10 days. In the end, we decided as a family it was right for me to go for a multitude of reasons.

So last Monday my friend and I loaded up at 6:00am for a long road trip. 11 hours and one flat tire later, we arrived at our destination where we met our local companions that would be traveling with us. Day two was eventful but not very newsworthy. We visited a young congregation, and I spoke to them in the morning. In the afternoon we had a small leadership retreat. Day three we were on the road again, heading into the mountains, and luckily we had no flat tires or any other problems. We arrived at our destination around dusk. We could go no further by vehicle since there was a river with no bridge separating us from the village we planned to reach. In the dry season they build a floating pontoon bridge, but we are in the tail end of monsoon season so no hope there. We had a short 30 min walk to the place we would sleep for the night, which was situated on a little peninsula jutting into the river that was connected to the mainland by two suspended walking bridges.

The “hotel” consisted of a ground floor eating area with kitchen and an upstairs open room with five single beds. We put our packs down and headed down for dinner. All the kids were excited to see two giant white people in their little town and were asking us to tell them a story. We were excited to tell them a story from the Truth, but before we finished our food, the electricity came on and all thoughts of a story went out the window with the switching on of the television. The television, oddly enough, was located in our room. So after dinner we joined the entire village already seated in our room for a little entertainment. Not long after we sat down a little boy put a new DVD in which turned out to be the absolute strangest movie I have ever seen in my life.

The plot started out simple enough. A rich family in the capital city has their only son kidnapped on his way to school by a group of jungle hooligans who all seem to operate on an I.Q. in the single digits. The kidnapper demands a steep ransom, but before they can make the exchange, the little boy escapes into the jungle. The scene ends with the little boy running into the jungle, and the very next scene opens up with the little boy sitting in a jungle tree-house with a beautiful woman from the city and a fawn. By fawn, I don’t mean a young deer, that wouldn’t be that odd, but rather there was a half man half goat just like in Narnia sitting in the tree house with the little boy. Where this fawn comes from, or for that matter the woman from the city, we never know. How did they meet up with the boy? That’s never explained either. Those are only minor details in the story I guess.

The movie proceeds without a plot of any kind for the next 30 minutes as the fawn, gets himself into funny situations after the woman from the city takes both the fawn and the little boy home to her mansion in the capital. The fawn tries to eat plastic fruit, shoots the T.V. with an arrow after a lion came on screen, eats an entire tube of toothpaste, and inadvertently sees the girl naked in the bathroom. All the typical things fawns do when faced with civilization. Then they take a trip to the zoo, and while at the zoo, they are spotted by the jungle hooligans who recapture the little boy and the woman with the fawn in hot pursuit. Ah, back on plot.

The movie ends with the boy’s family showing up to pay the ransom, but they never have to pay it because it turns out the woman from the city and the fawn seem to have black belts in Taekwando so they defeat the 10 kidnappers with ease. The father gives his heartfelt thanks to the fawn, and then the beautiful woman, who seems to have fallen in love with the fawn, says a tearful goodbye as he swings up into the vines and off into the jungle. Maybe she realized the city was no place for a fawn. It was a really touching moment. The T.V. was switched off, the village left us to sleep, and moments later I was laying in my bed thinking, “What in the world did I just watch?”

#2 Head in the Clouds

3:30 the next morning I was being shaken awake and told it was time to leave. I sat up not knowing what time it was and saw my buddy glaring at me from across the room. In the fogginess of my brain I thought “I must of said something bad about his mother in my sleep.” He came over to me and said joking, “Just so you know this is all your fault.” I was confused. Thankfully he added “You do know it’s 3:30, don’t you?” I didn’t, but then it all came back. The night before we were told we couldn’t get on the bus since it was a main holiday and every last inch of space was already reserved. So we would have to walk 10 hours to the village, and it was suggested that we leave between 6-7. They turned to me and asked if that was O.K., and I said “It doesn’t matter to me, we can leave at 4:00am.” It was a joke, but it was not taken as a joke.
So off we began our “10-hour” walk at four o’clock in the morning. It was still dark and very foggy, and we began to climb. 90% of our walking turned out to be uphill, and when the sun came up we were already above the clouds and would stay above or inside the clouds the rest of the day. We started off with purpose, mentally prepared for a long 10-hour trek. The scenery was, as it always is here, beautiful, and we were in high spirits despite our early departure.

At 10:00am we had been walking for 6 hours and hoped we had reached the halfway point. We asked some locals how far it was to the village. They looked us up and down and said “You’ll never make it.” Wow, that’s encouraging. An hour later we asked someone else. They again sized us up and replied, “You’ll never make it.” Our guide told us it might take five or six hours more. By this point we had been walking for seven hours, and the thought of five or six more hours was just deflating. Amazingly enough it was our local companions who were lagging behind and slowing down the foreigners. We trudged on up the hill. Around 5:00pm, 13 hours after we started walking, it began raining. I was already soaked with sweat, although it was only about 60 degrees, so I wasn’t worried about getting wet. The rain brought two problems, slippery trails and leeches. So there we were walking in the dark, slipping and sliding up and down the hills with our feet and ankles covered in leeches. At that point we didn’t care if we made it, we just wanted to stop.

At 8:00pm we proved everyone wrong. We made it! 16 hours after we set out from the river town, we arrived at our destination, a village situated on a ridge. We had covered 50-60 miles that day, by foot. I took off my socks and shoes and left a pool of blood on the ground from pulling off leeches. I didn’t care, I was sitting down, and there was no more walking to be done. That night I was reminded of the Scripture, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news.” Mine may not have looked beautiful on the outside, but what we brought with us was.

#3 Bathing in Concrete

The day after our 16-hour trek, day 5, I taught in the morning on “washing” in preparation for the “dunking” of 20 people. Then we headed downhill to a small river to accomplish the task at hand. Easy enough, right? Well, not on this trip. After walking 45 minutes downhill with the sound of the river growing louder and louder, I was dismayed at the sight of our selected body of water. The water was gray from all the rock and sediment that had been washed down from the mountains. To make matters worse, it was really fast moving, and the terrain was very dangerous. In our company we had a range of ages from 1½ years old all the way up to a few ladies in their 70s. So we headed upstream to find a smaller creek that was supposed to be cleaner and fed into the grey river. It was cleaner, for about 3 minutes before it began to rain. Not just a sprinkle, but an all out torrential downpour. So our clean river was now muddy brown, and the little pool we had selected was quickly filling with gravel and mud.

The main river on the other hand had turned to the consistency of concrete. The force of the concrete was so strong that it was throwing boulders the size of T.V.s down the river. I had taught just two hours before about the symbolic death to self, but this river would make the symbolism very real. So now our company of 40 or so people began walking downstream to yet another creek. 45 slow-moving, treacherous minutes later, we reached a crystal clear creek and found a place to build a small damn. All in all the day turned out to be a wonderful celebration of new life. Now we just had to make the hour walk back up the hill on very sore legs!

#4 My First Time in an Ambulance

The next day we walked four hours over to another village to spend some time with a different group of people. We had a wonderful time there that day as my friend talked about the cost of following Him. We had a great response, but by the afternoon, we were very tired from the past couple days and very happy that we had decided to stay in that village for the night. We were showered with hospitality and enjoyed the rest of the day relaxing and visiting with the people there. After a good night's sleep, we woke up to hear that a vehicle had been found for us to travel back to the other village so we could save our strength for the next two full days of teaching. So what was the vehicle? That’s right...an ambulance!

My thoughts were along these lines: "This should be good. An ambulance driver should be a safe driver used to carrying delicate cargo. There should be no safer way to drive around winding mountain roads than in a 4x4 ambulance right?" Wrong! About 10 seconds after the last door was closed, the clutch was popped, and the neck breaking adventure began. Keep in mind this is a dirt road that is heavily rutted from tires and the monsoon rains. There were several stream crossings, several large boulders in the road, and hundreds of chickens, goats, and people along the way. None of these things slowed down our driver. His cargo, that would be us, was tossed around like rag dolls in the back. I thought I would have whiplash for sure. My friend sat in the front seat and said that on one sharp turn we hit 32 mph. Next time you are driving, take a 90 degree turn at 32 mph, and then picture yourself on a dirt road with a 500 foot drop awaiting you if you slip off the road. Let’s just say I was preparing my soul for eternity. We arrived, but I don’t know if safely would be the word. We just arrived. Hopefully that will be my last time in an ambulance, but if nothing else at least my last time in an ambulance on a dirt road in the mountains!

#5 Home Sweet Home

We had two great full days of meetings. Each day held for us over 12 hours of work, and we definitely felt poured at the end. It was time to go home, and we were both excited to get there. We knew we had two long days of travel ahead of us, but we were ready to endure them to reach our families. Instead of our 16-hour trek, we took a 7-hour bus ride crammed into a space far too small for two 6’3” guys. Uncomfortable as it was, it was much easier on the legs than 16 hours of walking. We arrived back at the river town, made the 30-minute walk back to the car, and drove five hours back to our local friends' house. After a long day of traveling, we collapsed on our beds to recharge for our drive home the next morning. Once again at six o’clock, we set out on the road. We did kill one chicken on the way, but other than that our trip was uneventful. We even shaved three hours of our time off from 9 days earlier thanks to the empty roads!

As we were approaching the city, we finally crested the hill that overlooked the valley. The city had never looked so wonderful and welcoming before. Our trip was over, and we were nearing our wives and children. We thanked our Father for such a wonderful trip. Despite all the hardships, the work that was accomplished was very rewarding and very, very fruitful. Lives were changed, and that’s why we are here. I can’t wait to do it all again, minus as much of the danger as possible, and hopefully next time with my little girl and beautiful wife by my side.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Worst Ever Brand Name

I just saw a commercial on television that outraged me. They've recently begun marketing emergency contraceptive pills here, and unlike I've seen in the States, apparently they're allowed to market them on TV. Want to know the brand name for the new "morning after" pill? Unwanted. What! Well, they certainly are saying it loud and clear, aren't they?

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Shrew!

Some insight from our friend Paul and a little research reveal that the "not mouse not rat," noisy rodent is a shrew! Now I know why cats never actually get down to truly catching them--they are fierce fighters.

Really? That's my evening?

So tonight, the night after my bday celebrating, I was looking forward to an evening of eating, relaxing, and having no paper to write. Just as I was finishing Nay's bath, I heard this crazy screeching, not something I was unfamiliar with but certainly louder than usual. I walked with naked baby to the kitchen to follow the sound, and found the cat, Sahara, crouched in front of the washing machine. Seconds later, a squeaking rodent (not a mouse or rat) ran down the hallway with the cats in tow. I screamed and frantically ran behind trying to close all the important doors so it wouldn't go inside. I locked the cats into a room with it and promised to join them later.

After putting Nay to sleep, I grabbed my broom and headed for the destruction room where I hoped to find an already dead rodent. Instead, I found two cats looking extremely puzzled amidst a huge mess of things on the floor. So, locking myself into the battle zone, I proceeded to move everything so they could access the little fellow. It was actually really hilarious to watch him be chased around and around the same box for about 5 minutes, squeaking all the way! I was really amazed that he could get his body flattened enough to fit under a heavy cardboard box. So, what ultimately happened to this little fellow the cats did not seem to want to kill?

Now you know I've lived in South Asia too long: I brought an empty cornflakes box from the kitchen, ripped off the tab of a cardboard box, laid it on the floor, caught him, and did what? Threw him back outside ALIVE! Boy have I grown over the years.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Efficient Transportation

I don't know if you could say that this nation has gone "green." The pollution levels here seem to suggest differently, but one of the main things that environmentalists stress is the need for people to use public transport or carpooling. You may be feeling that you are doing your part by sharing a ride to work with three other colleagues in your spacious 4 four-door sedan, but trust me, according to South Asians, you are wasting space and gasoline.

Every day I take what is called a "tempo" to my language class. A tempo is a battery powered tin can about the length of a sub-compact car that carries, legally, 13 people. That may sound insane, but actually I prefer taking those because they are more "spacious" than my return trip transportation. On the way back I take what is called a "micro-bus." A micro-bus is a 15 passenger van that drives a set route just like a regular bus. Unfortunately, the micro-bus operators didn't get the memo from the manufacturer that these vans were meant to hold only 15 people. They usually contain many more than that. The other day I was returning from class when I was unusually cramped so I started counting people. I was sharing the 15 passenger van with 37 other people. For some reason, I couldn't find my seatbelt. Why did God make me 6'3"?

Difficult Days

Our intentions with this blog are pretty simple. We try to give you an insight into what our lives are like here. We try to make you laugh with the things that make us laugh here on the other side of the world, although I think we may only have a 50% success rate. We rarely bring up deep topics, or even inform you of our needs. We save all that stuff for our email updates which you can subscribe to by sending an email to us.

With that all said we do have difficult days here. Many days we have what we now call "minor" annoyances such as having no water or no electricity. Or days when it seems that no one understands a word you say. Sometimes difficult days come because this world is full of fallen humans who do you harm when they cheat you, steal from you, lie to you, or in general put their needs over the thousands of others' needs all around them. God has blessed us though. He has prepared us and strengthened us up so that we allow these things to roll off like water off a duck's back.

There are some things though, that God doesn't and shouldn't callous us against, especially the suffering of humans. Last week I was on my way to school when I saw a mother with her child on the street begging. Beggars are nothing new to us, we are quite used to them. I don't believe Jesus would feel moved with compassion for the beggars who claim to need money for food but have thought it wise to spend their money on a pack of Marlboros so they can smoke while they beg and listen to their iPod like many we encountered on the exit ramps in Chicago. This was a different situation. I don't know what this woman did or didn't do that put her in this situation, but I know for sure that the little girl, about Naomi's age, laying on the cardboard did nothing to deserve this. Her little face was covered in sores, her clothes were filthy, and her lungs were being filled with toxic fumes all day every day. My heart broke.

We are here to see lives changed. Really difficult days are those when you are confronted with the truth that not every life here is going to change. Difficult days are when you realize you can't save everyone. As you read this, your heart may be feeling heavy, but just imagine how much this breaks the heart of this little girl's Creator and Father.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Colony

Many people often ask us what it is like to live here. It’s a very hard thing to describe because everyone starts with a preconceived idea in his or her head. Some people who support us envision us in some sort of thatch-roofed hut in a small village where we have to hunt for our food. There are a few places in the world still like that, but I would have to guess it is a small percentage of the world’s population. In many countries people have traded in their straw huts for something I think is even worse: little concrete and tarpaulin hovels lined up in rows of thousands all around the developing world’s major cities (think Slumdog Millionaire). Other people though seem to envision us in a slightly poorer version of America. They are surprised to hear we have huge water, electricity, and gasoline shortages. They can’t imagine that most people don’t have refrigerators, central heating, clothes dryers, ovens, or even clean drinking water. After all, how do you live without those things? With the exception of the drinking water, amazingly, you can live quite well without all those “necessities.”

The other day we were watching the first episode of a show called “The Colony.” It was a free download on iTunes, and I can’t pass up something free. It’s a Discovery Channel show that is an experiment to see how 10 strangers manage living together in a post-apocalyptic world. They suppose a major natural disaster, terrorist attack, or epidemic disease has wiped out the vast majority of the world’s population, and now these ten volunteers are going to live in an abandoned warehouse for 10 weeks to see how they survive. They have to scavenge for food, live off the grid, and protect themselves against attacks from roving marauders (of course, on motorcycles). As we were watching the show, a surprising thought came into our heads, “Hey, this is like living in South Asia!”

So here are some similarities:

- They made the 10 volunteers arrive at the warehouse sleep deprived. Ever travel half way across the world? 20-22 hours in an airplane, another 10 hours in airports going through security checks? That’s sleep deprivation.
- They have to collect water from the polluted L.A. River to wash their clothes, cook with, and to flush their toilets. That’s pretty much how most of the world gets their water, except many of the rivers in the developing world are much more polluted than the L.A. river.
- The volunteers have to filter and boil all their drinking water. Yeah… us too. For more that just ten weeks. How about all the time?
- Since there is no electricity, the colonists gather together a bunch of car batteries and a power inverter they just happen to find laying around to run some lights in their warehouse. That is called an Uninterrupted Power Supply system or U.P.S. Many middle class families in South Asia have those for their houses. After all we do have 16 hours of no power every day in winter months. Oddly enough, we don’t have one because they are too expensive!
- On one of the first couple days of the experiment, the survivors were blessed with a heavy rain, and they scrambled around filling containers with rainwater. We fill up every bucket we have every time it rains, and just like on the show, we also put buckets under the downspouts.
- The roving motorcycle marauders attack the colony and try to steal their resources. Every week we hear about another foreigner getting their laptops stolen. So every night we have to secure our perimeter and keep all our valuables locked up. Who knows, maybe the thieves here also drive motorcycles.

All these things made us laugh. I kept thinking, “I would do really well on this show.” Then, the colonists cracked open a branded can of Spaghetti-O’s with meatballs and complained about their dinner options. Are you kidding me? Some days I think I would give my left arm for a family-sized can of Spaghetti-O’s!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Our Disappearing Neighbors

South Asians wake up early--way to early for me! Every morning the city comes to life shortly after five in the morning. By six o'clock, the little lanes around our house are alive with people fetching water, and there is a great symphony of the sounds of dishes clanging together, dirty laundry being beaten against stones, and the loudest of all dogs barking for the sake of barking. By 6:30, some kids are already on their way to school or to their extra "tuitions" (study groups) before school. All this happens everyday without fail for about nine months a year, but during the monsoon things change.

We have had a very poor monsoon this year, but on those occasional days when it rains all night through the mid morning, a drastic change happens to the morning routine. Two days ago I was standing out on our terrace at about eight o'clock (the earliest I would ever like to be out of my house) as a light rain was continuing to fall on the city. As I looked around, I noticed every house had its doors and windows tightly closed up. Our neighborhood was quiet. There were no traffic sounds. No washing, cooking, or water fetching could be seen or heard, and even the dogs mercifully had ceased their barking. Plus, our naughtiest cat decided to take the morning off for a sleep-in as well!

Now that's what I call a good morning.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fridge Clean Out

Do you ever have those days where you just need to eat all the leftovers in your fridge? Ours tends to be either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. So, what was on the menu today?

Lunch: Cream of Chicken/Tomato Soup & Taco Salad
Dinner: Chicken Stroganoff/Leftover Pot Roast Vegetables & Pancakes

Random! We feel great knowing that the only thing left in the fridge is our lunch for tomorrow.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Be Still

A few evenings ago, I sat on our balcony some time just before sunset. As I sat there gazing at the beautiful colors painted across the sky, I began to notice other finer details in the world around me. A gentle evening breeze that swayed the trees and flushed away the heat of the day, a small dog yipping in the distance, a neighbor's pans clinking as she washed them in the sink. In that moment, all I wanted to do was be still, to be quiet and rest before our Great God. I began thinking of how often my life, our lives, are filled to the brim with junk, busyness, and noise. When was the last time we switched everything off in order to listen to Him in the stillness? If you recall, when the Lord came to Elijah, he was not in the wind, the fire, or the earthquake, but in the still silence. Perhaps all the things, they may even be inherently good things, inhibit our ability to listen. I've often wondered what the song "Take Time to Be Holy" really means. Does it mean to be more careful to be perfect? I think maybe sitting quietly before the Lord is taking time to be holy, allowing Him to mold us in His presence.

After my own reflections that evening, I wanted to challenge others to listen, to switch off the television, radio, computer, and all other distractions, and just listen. Take a quiet walk one evening or sit on your patio to think and to listen. Resist the urge to plan, organize, or do anything else but listen. Maybe we'll hear what we've been waiting for.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The “Five Second” Rule

Recently, in a conversation with a friend, I discovered that the “five second” rule is not only prevalent in our home country, but also in this part of the world. Apparently, doctors even believe in this magic rule, as a physician is the person who told my friend about the rule. I explained to the lady that we also have the same funny practice, but most people know that it has no validity, especially if they’ve seen “Food Detective” with Ted Allen on the Food Network. They tested the theory and found that it is generally only applicable to dry, hard candy.

A few days after we had this conversation, the same lady and I were chatting in my kitchen when she accidentally knocked a bag of Cheetos-ish chips onto the floor. Since the bag had already been opened, the little puffs shot everywhere across the room. This lady’s face was priceless. With excited big eyes she bounced down to the floor and exclaimed, “Quick, quick! Five seconds!” in the local language as she feverishly collected the scattered chips. Then, she rolled the bag back up and returned it to its place. I tried very hard to suppress my laughter and nearly forgot about the incident until I remembered the story a few days later. As I began telling P.J. and his mom about it, I discovered that he finished the bag of chips shortly after the incident without knowing they had once been strewn all over the floor. Yuck!

So…I guess the rule applies somewhat after all since he’s still with us.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4th on American Soil

Most American embassies all around the world open their doors to American expatriates every July 4th to celebrate the independence gained over 200 years ago. Yesterday we had a fantastic time with our fellow Americans celebrating that independence with barbeque, watermelon eating contests, live music, football (and yes, I mean real American football), and a lovely array of imported American goodies like Doritos and Cherry Coke.

About 500 of us gathered at the embassy's American club situated in the heart of the city. Once you step through the gates, and the very serious security, you are officially on American soil; and it feels like it. Large open fields of beautifully manicured grass, nice wide sidewalks, a proper parking lot with spaces marked off with white lines (the only one you will find in this country), and even its own grocery store full of American goods.

It was a nice break from life here. Today is the 5th, and it's back to work. Only 364 more days till the next time we step back on American soil on July 4, 2010.

On another note, Naomi has now officially lived longer outside of the U.S. than in it. She has adjusted well to her international life. Hopefully her little brain is learning two languages at the same time. She enjoys the local food and loves all the attention of the local people who don't see many little white babies. People gush over her and call her things like queen, dolly, and princess. They buy her things when we are at stores (such as apples) and love to carry her around and take pictures of her on their cell phones. We are just worried about when we come back to the U.S. and she is no longer the center of everyone's attention wherever we go; now that will be culture shock!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Harley-Davidson's V-Rod

Harley V-Rod: Now that's a manly motorcycle name. Or Honda Goldwing, or a Harley Dyna, Softtail, or Sportster. They aren't trying too hard. They are good, solid--even iconic--motorcycle names.

So why am I talking about motorcycle names? I hope to inspire the South Asian marketing and development departments of Honda and Yamaha. Driving in South Asia is extremely exciting. The roads are as narrow as sidewalks in the U.S. If there are rules, no one obeys them, and the greatest game played on the road is "how many vehicles can we fit into one lane." These are prime conditions for motorcycles, and because of this, they far outnumber cars.

So what's the problem? The newest motorcycle names coming out these days sound like great names for little girl bicycles, you know the ones with the pink tassels falling from the handlebars. So let me share some of these names with you. Honda has a few sporty new bikes out like the Glamour, the Splendor, the Passion, and the Karizma. I mean, seriously. Who wants to say "I ride a Glamour." These are all bikes marketed towards 20-30 year old men, and it works since there are thousands of these here. Yamaha isn't much better. They have the Alba (What like Jessica Alba?). They also have the Libero. Honda definitely takes the cake with the Honda Unicorn! Unicorn!?!

It sounds pretty manly to say, "Yeah, I think I am going to take the ol' V-Rod out for a ride." You sound like an eight-year-old girl to say, "I think I am going to take my Unicorn out for ride."

If you are listening to me, marketing departments, remember that if all else fails, keep it simple and follow Yamaha US's lead. Just name bikes things like the R1 and the R6; not amazing names, but at least they don't sound like you are riding off to a tea party with stuffed animals.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Double Knots, Please

After some prodding, I, Lizzy, have decided to share my most recent embarrassing moment with everyone.

The local dress here includes a pair of drawstring trousers that are made to fit nearly any female body type from a size 12 or so down to a 0. They're covered by a long dress-like top with slits on the side. After several incidents, I have discovered that these pants are not so great for people with children, for little fingers seem to find a way untie those pants at the worst possible moment. Three times now I have stood up after having Naomi on my lap only to find that my pants were very close to dropping in public. On Saturday, I had the closest, most embarrassing incident yet. I stood at the back of a bus to make my way to the front before we hopped off. What I didn't realize was that my pants had already fallen well below my rear and were only hanging on out of luck. This means that everyone on the left side of the bus had already seen my pants falling off before I did. In my very embarrassed state, I struggled to hold Naomi in one arm while clinging for dear life to the drawstring holding the rest of my pants up and while trying not to topple over in the moving bus. When I got off, I thought, "Boy, I'm really glad I will never see those people again!" and promptly reminded myself that in the future I must always double knot those pants.

A Trip Back "Home"

Yes, we are horrible bloggers we know... This is actually P.J. this time. Usually Lizzy writes most of the blogs (She is more gifted at it than I), but I have chosen to write one to hopefully inspire/shame Lizzy to write more often. Although it is a weak excuse, our new work has kept us quite busy the last few weeks.

Since our last blog in April so much has happened. We made a trip "home" to the last city we lived. A place that we grew very fond of and have people we consider family living in it. It was much anticipated and enjoyed greatly, but at the end of two weeks, we were ready to return to our new home. That is a good sign of our adjustment.

Our old home had many benefits like fairly constant electricity, fast internet connections, good water supply, and wonderful tastes of home like McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and KFC, not to mention some truly world class restaurants. Our new home tends not to have things like electricity, fast internet (or internet at all sometimes), water, or anything at all resembling KFC (We do have good Mexican food though... something we couldn't find before). All those things aside there are benefits to our new home. The population here is much smaller, which means life here is much quieter, more friendly, and generally nicer to live in. It is much cooler here with temperatures peaking in the low 90's and generally never leaving the 80's as opposed to months spent in the upper 90's or even crossing that dreaded 100 degree mark. If you have ever laid eyes on me, you will know my body was not meant for temperatures such as those. The natural beauty here is incredible. We have extremely noisy screech owls, little green parrots, and real cuckoo birds sharing the tree outside our living room window! The city has climbing vines covering many of its walls that blossom with many different colored flowers. All this is framed by the gorgeous, snow-covered mountains we can see on clear days.

So we love our new home, as we have loved this country for the past 9 years. There are definitely many unlovable things about it, but we love it anyway. Living in a different country is always a challenge, but we try our best to focus on the positive aspects of our new country, and there are many. Of course, if asked what is the best part about living here, we would answer "the people." They are among some of the most warm-hearted, loving people we've ever met, and that's saying a lot!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things in the Pool

I sincerely apologize for the lack of content on this blog recently. It's not that we haven't had content because we have. We've just been struggling to make time to record things. Tonight's entry is a must, though, just so that we do not forget it.

Those of you who know our daughter well know that she LOVES bath time. Two nights ago when I was giving her a bath, she leaned back in her ducky tub nice and relaxed, and what pops up? A little baby log. Yep! Her first experience dropping kids off at the pool. Then, the next night...a few more logs for Dad. Then, the next night...you guessed it...more logs at the permission of her father when the official bathing process was over. All this is strangely reminiscent of a little boy, formerly known as Scooter, whose mother kept a Cool Whip bowl beside the tub to quickly grab the floaters before they contaminated her other children. Scooter, this little gal must have some of your genes!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bites and Sound Bites

So I woke up on Saturday morning with a crazy looking mosquito bite on my collarbone. It was itchy, but it wasn't a big deal. A few hours later, the mosquito bit looked like the size of one of those smashed pennies you make at tourist places and had a small tail coming off. The next day, it had an even longer, more wiggly tail coming off and was bright red...not to mention itchy as all get out. Then, it had a pink line all the way to my arm pit. At that point, we decided to put a pen mark where the line stopped and watch it. When I woke up the next morning, the line was still there, but had gone no further. Today it Wednesday, and it looks like someone slapped my collarbone. I have no idea what bit me, but apparently, it wasn't a mosquito.

As for the sound bites, I just wanted to tell you a few things that I read from the packaging of the pillows we bought the other day:

1) They are good for: "Pillows Cushions Blosters" (What's a bloster?)
2) They are very "heigenic"
3) They are made with "100% holo fiver filled cotton" (They're filled with $5 bills!)

Okay...now you can have your laugh.

Speedy Delivery

Last week we had the very exciting experience of purchasing a fridge. The one that came with the apartment had some annoying problems so we couldn't wait to purchase one that actually worked for us, especially one that could retain cool for quite a long time with the power cuts. We found the perfect two-door model that stands about 4 feet tall! How's that for super size? Oh, but wait, it gets better.

Since we have no vehicle, we asked the store to deliver it to our home after about an hour. We were still shopping on our way home when this random little man came up to us in a store saying, "Freeez." We thought he was a beggar saying, "Please," so we acted like we weren't interested. Again, he said, "Freeez," and handed P.J. a paper. Again, we said, "No," when we realized he was actually saying, "Fridge!" He was very early for his delivery, but he spotted us on the side of the road. Still, it gets better.

Lizzy walked with him to where the fridge was sitting on the side of the road, and then the guy proceeded to put the fridge on his back using a head strap. He walked behind Lizzy the rest of the way to our house and up three flights of stairs with a fridge suspended from his head! It was absolutely amazing and ended a very exciting day in an exciting way.

Green Yogurt

Just thought you might like to know what it's like to buy yogurt here... At the corner store where we do most of our staple food purchases, we kept seeing these shallow clay pots with white paper over the top of them. I wondered, "What are they growing in there?!" A few days later, I sent P.J. out for some yogurt to go with our dinner, and he returned with one of those small potted plants. Little did I know the plants were actually terra cotta pots filled with yogurt. Somehow the pot keeps the yogurt cool and also helps it not get too watery since it is somewhat porous. It tastes great and leaves us with perfect little planters for our personal use later. Their yogurt really is "green!"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One of Those Things

Whenever you move to a new country, it is inevitable that something will go ridiculously wrong in your first weeks on the ground. Our first week in India, it was an explosion of very hot spaghetti sauce of the top of our blender onto every surface in our kitchen, including P.J.'s body. We were silly to think we could move here unscathed. Just last night as we were preparing dinner, we had such an incident. To get our drinking water, we use a water cooler type system that has a large inverted jug on top of a small collection container. The pressure regulates the flow so that the top one never over fills the bottom one--that is, unless a candle falls over and burns a hole through the top jug causing major spillage from the bottom. Of course, this annoying little thing could not, no would not, have happened in the light (since we wouldn't have needed candles in the first place!). Needless to say, it was a challenge to clean up the massive leakage that was all over the kitchen floor and counter tops, as well as inside the drawers in the dark. What will happen next? We're sure more adventures wait just around the corner.

Lady What?!?

Just today, our sweet neighbors began feverishly preparing for the weaning ceremony of the baby in the house. We've yet to determine if the baby is a boy or girl. They set up a huge tent in the empty lot between our houses, and cooks set up pot after pot of delicious food in the yard as well. Around 5 P.M. a DJ showed up and began testing his music. The first on the list? Snoop Dogg and the Pussy Cat Dolls blasting loudly into our back door. The remainder of the evening brought us loads of entertainment as our dinner hour was filled with lovely sounds of local music intermingled with songs recorded from Kiss FM radio with Ryan Seacrest in the U.S. The thing that really topped off the evening and showed us that the neighbors likely had no idea what they were listening to was the song "Lady Humps" that was blasting as these innocent locals celebrated the weaning of a sweet baby. I'd say some of the anatomy to which the song refers might have been appropriate for a weaning ceremony, but the remainder of the song really, REALLY didn't fit.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Day # 2

While this was technically, the first morning waking in our new apartment, it was our second one in it. I woke at the crack of dawn with Nay and managed to make a horrible pot of chai that P.J. graciously drank anyway. The power was on one hour early so I made the tea while I washed dishes. After I showered and nearly froze because of the bathroom window that intentionally has no glass panes, P.J. rigged up a few pieces of cardboard from the TV we bought yesterday. Priorities, people! (American Idol…Wednesdays and Thursdays). Hopefully, the cardboard will stay until it’s warm enough to take it down.
After our morning routine, I set out on my own for a few hours for the first time. I enjoyed coffee while using the internet and picked up a few more survival supplies. When I returned home, however, the real work began. I began very intimate with hand washing clothing once again, only it was far more difficult this time because baby clothes really add up! It took me about two hours to wash all of Nay’s clothes and our bath towels. The towels left us looking like fuzzy blue Cookie Monsters so I decided a wash might help. Aside from being quite a spectacle for the other ladies washing clothes on their rooftops, I seemed to get back into the groove quite quickly. Speaking of laundry, I better go bring some in now.

Night #1

On Thursday morning we moved into our new apartment. P.J. quickly got to work running about town to acquire those bare necessities that would enable us to survive at least one day without leaving the place. He was literally gone most of the day, only popping in to drop off bags between stops. I busyed myself with the task of cleaning the bathroom, since apartments here are generally not clean to my standards prior to moving in. It has something to do with not sweeping out the good luck when you leave. I also managed to kill a spider the size of a silver dollar that was lurking on the bathroom curtain.
We most enjoyed being able to prepare a meal at home, although we did most of the prep work by candle light, waiting to do the actual cooking until the power came on so the hot plate would work. At the moment, we’ve not yet purchased a gas cylinder that would allow us to cook at anytime regardless of the electrical load shedding. Hopefully, we’ll get that soon.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Welcome to the Madness!

Yesterday we arrived to be reminded of just how wild South Asia can be. Here are just a few of the things that have been interesting just to start us off:

1) No task is too small for someone who really wants a job. Yesterday in the visa line, there was one man who walked around stapling people's photos to their visa applications, and it took three others to take payments and process visas for one line.

2) You may run into all kinds of cargo at the airport. There were about 10 crates of chicks peeping like crazy at the baggage carousel when we arrived. Run from the avian flu!

3) Honking solves everything. Nothing else needs to be said.

4) No matter how crowded an electrical pole looks, you can always add more wires without any safety equipment required.

5) Expect a parade at any moment that's complete with a marching band dressed in uniforms.

6) The massive unemployment rate becomes very real when you can look around at any time of day to find at least 20 guys sitting around doing nothing.

Okay. That's about enough for now. Welcome to South Asia!

Almost Famous

For those of you wondering what traveling with a baby is like, we’ve certainly had plenty of experience in the last 36 hours to tell you. When we got on the first flight, Nay cried until takeoff and then slept through landing, a train ride, and a second ticketing line. She was amazing during the flight to Korea, maybe because she’s too young to know the difference.

To get to the fame, though… people barely noticed her on the flight, but once we arrived in Korea, it was like we carried a small superstar. Small groups gathered around her and oooed and aaaahed. The best part was when the cell phone cameras started coming out. Now her picture is in the phone of many people from random strangers on subsequent flights to the airport security guards! In fact, as I began writing this post, a Korean woman on the flight came up with her camera and asked if we would take a picture of sleeping Nay for her. Despite her new found fame, she took it all in stride. We, on the other hand, need to now get used to being completely ignored because of this cute little girl. But that’s a small price to pay for someone so lovely.