“If you eat two bannanas a day, you won’t ever be depressed.”
“Its true!! Look at the monkeys!! They are never depressed, are they?!”
How did we not figure that out before? So much cheaper than Prozac.
“If you eat two bannanas a day, you won’t ever be depressed.”
“Its true!! Look at the monkeys!! They are never depressed, are they?!”
How did we not figure that out before? So much cheaper than Prozac.
Tomorrow afternoon I have to head back to the Dreaded Evil Agency with Eli again. This time to retrieve her airticket home. These guys just never learn. Hopefully this will be a peaceful encounter, sans the police.
All night I laid in bed, staring at the slats of the bunk above me. ” Tomorrow is the day we have been preparing for, the day we have been fasting for, praying for, waiting for. Easter. Hope fulfilled.” Around 3:30am Kelli climbed down from the creaky top bunk and shuffled out into the common room to read. In the half room connected to ours, Julie clicked on her light and I heard her rustle through her journal for a blank page. It wasn’t long after that the Ascension House staff started making their final preparations for breakfast; slicing tomatoes and apples, washing the grapes, warming the pancakes and boiling the water. The guys set up the tables out on the porch, only the house light lit to guide them in their task. I continued to lay there with growing anticipation. Easter.
We went up to the mountain the afternoon before, to wait for the Easter Sunrise Service. We ourselves had made preparations for a big day. We had taken off the day from work, make arrangements for a place to stay, read the stories, prayed the prayers, fasted the fasts. It was all leading up to this morning, long before the sun even rose. Finally, I couldn’t lay in my bed anymore. I was up, and so was everyone else. We were quiet, respectful, but busy. Flipping on lights, setting out food, gathering candles, finding shoes and sweaters. Standing outside the chapel, its blue roof lost in the unbroken morning sky, we tried to get our bearings and figure out which way was East. The singing started. A door slammed to represent hurried excitement as the women and disciples rushed out to the tomb. Prophecies read. Hope. We lit our candles and walked in a jagged single file down the stone path to the cross. From the church grounds, through the woods, we walked silently through the stone opening that lead to the clearing. The cross stood waiting. Empty. We could see the beginnings of the morning creeping into the sleeping city below. There was no sunrise, but there was light from behind the clouds that mercifully withheld its rain. A symbol of remembrance in the form of bread and wine were passed around. Greetings of peace and joy followed.
“He is risen.”
“He is risen indeed.”
A closing prayer. The blowing out of candles no longer needed. We marched down the broken steps slick with mud to the breakfast waiting for us. The waiting has ended, because hope is here.
I think of the waiting the disciples did, with the women cooped up in a small room. Waiting for the soldiers to come and take them away. Waiting for the nightmare to be over. Waiting for word as what to do next. Waiting for the Sabbath to be over so the women could set to the sad task of preparing the body. I imagine that Mary didn’t sleep much that Saturday night either. I am sure she tossed and turned, rising well before the sun, arriving at the tomb at the first light. But her anticipation, her preparations, what she waited for, was not hope. In her sorrow, she did all she knew to do. To say goodbye. From the moment the blood and water flowed from the spear, to that very morning, Mary had been waiting to say goodbye. Then, standing outside of the empty tomb, expensive spices sitting unused on the ground, she didn’t know what to do other than to weep. In all of her waiting, had she really lost her hope?
“Mary!” Jesus exclaimed. She finally recognized him. “Teacher!” He called her by name. She recognized his voice. The oils and the spices would stay unused. They were no longer needed. All of her anticipation, all of her preparation, she was glad to abandon. Hope fulfilled.
While some may think that I blog to make everyone jealous with my stories of riding elephants through the tourist-jungle of Thailand – really, that’s not it.
My title is “Walk With Me.” When I first started blogging, back in the days of the Bartending Seminarian, it was a way for me to connect with people that I was fond of, but otherwise had not had much or regular contact with since college. I enjoyed the updates, pictures and silly discussions on pirates vs. ninjas. Over the years (can you believe we have been blogging for years!?!) over blogs have each evolved and become a little deeper, a little more introspective. There have been really great discussions – sometimes I felt like I was sitting in McAlister’s, or Panacea, listening to the sarcasm and wit of dear friends.
As of late, I’ve noticed a trend – well, I think its safe to say we’ve all noticed a trend, that when we post the things that are painful to write, or are deeper than a weather-update, the comments seem to be lacking. I don’t know that I can speak for everyone, but when I post the harder stuff, the deeper stuff, the things that make me think – I’m doing so because I want to share my thoughts, and because I want your input as well. There are things that I write, and things that I post. When I post its because I am wanting to draw my friends into conversation.
I also want it to be said that updates, pictures, silly surveys (see post below), and such like of the which are fun and great and have a place here too. Because honestly, we’re fun people - so why shouldn’t we share our fun sides on the blogs as well? But, I miss the discussions that used to take place here. While I didn’t participate in the politics discussion because that’s a topic I usually steer away from, it was good to see people out and talking (umm, commenting) again. I don’t have to be reminded that we have crazy busy lives with a collective 4 babies on the way, three degrees in the making, and a wedding. And then we have jobs. We lead busy lives. But. The people that I have on my sidebar – the blogs that I check faithfully – are people that I genuinely care about and am interested in what is happening in your life. So, know that I am always reading, even if I don’t always comment. And I am going to try to get better. And I hope you will too. I’m not just saying here at Walk With Me – but in our community of blogs.
There has also been the comment that sometimes there are no comments because we feel intimidated on certain subjects, or feel like we don’t have a place to say anything. Or that some things are just too personal and they are conversations to be had in person. Well, yes, that may be true (about conversations being personal – I’m pretty sure none of us have a valid reason to feel intimidated – you all are pretty stinkin’ smart!). I am guilty of feeling intimidated. There are times that I feel like I having nothing to contribute, because my knowledge on the subject is lacking. But, I learn from you guys. And conversations over coffee are a luxury. And maybe blogs aren’t the place for that, but if not, then where? Just because I don’t get to see you all very often, doesn’t mean I want to miss out on communicating with you.
So that’s my rant for today. Not applicable to all, I know. Just know that if you are on my sidebar, its because I value what you have to say. So I hope that next time someone in our community posts something thoughtful, we, particularly I, can take the time to let them know we appreciate their thoughts.
Also, blog and blogging are not recognized by the blog-spellcheck. Odd.
Because I had waaaay too much chocolate and now I can’t sleep and am instead posting a meanlingless blog, knowing this will probably get more comments than my well-thought out ones….
I am: up way past my bedtime
I think: I’ll regret that tomorrow
I know: all the words to the Rent Soundtrack
I hate: my alarm clock
I don’t: any clue why I ate so much chocolate tonight
I can’t: believe I’ve been here 8 months already
I can: almost stand on my hands (just a few more yoga classes….)
I will: be traveling to 5 countries in 8 months
I won’t: forget my camera (ha! David! ha!)
I miss: clean air
I fear: not being able to express myself
I feel: the presence of God more now than ever
I hear: more languages on a daily basis than I have in my entire life
I smell: fish the moment I step out of my flat
I crave: open space
I wonder: when I’ll get around to doing the dishes?
I regret: little
I love: playing card games
I dream: of seeing my boyfriend soon
I care: so much that sometimes it hurts
I always: check my email right before bed
I am not: easily labeled
I believe: in God’s Grace
I sing: loud when I’m alone, and not at all when others are around
I smile: when I think about my dogs
I laugh: at my own mistakes
I collect: friends and magnets
I play: like I’m strong
I write: things I know I am never going to share
I await: the hope of Easter
I cook: haha, no really, I don’t don’t
I trust: more than I used to
I intend: to sleep more than I do
I search: for my keys in the bottom of my purse
I look: at myself in the mirror less than i used to
I shout: instead of Tide or All
I whisper: prayers over people I work with everyday
I conquer: fears of insecurity and lonliness
I listen: mostly to chick music, but occassionaly to heavy metal
I live: by Grace
If you haven’t read the previous post, which you probably haven’t, because most of my loyal readers were sleeping during my harrowing ordeal, please check out the post below first. Otherwise, this one won’t make a lot of sense.
After two hours of soliditary confinement, my hero(s) finally arrived! After calling everyone that I knew in Hong Kong, I realized that a) I don’t know many people here; and b) nearly everyone I DO know was on Lantau Island today – which is a good 30 minute ferry ride from here. So. I called in the Baklas. Well, the Bakla and the Bakla-wanna be. If you don’t know what a Bakla is – than that last sentence is not nearly as funny to you as it is to me. Just know that I’m laughing – cause Bakla = funny stuff.
I interuppted $20 all-you-can-eat Napelese lunch day for my Bakla friend and had him come rescue me from my prison.
<—- Bakla wanna-be friend and Bakla friend waving and laughing, because they apparently thought this was funny. Maybe was funnier from the outside….
So I learned two things today:
1. As much fun as it is to be independent, sometimes a girl needs rescuing.
2. There’s no need to be a Rapunzel when you have Bakla on reserve!
I am currently writing this post while imprisoned in my own home. That’s right…all 267 sq. ft of my apartment have me confined. Shut in. Stuck. Sigh.
I have someone staying with me this weekend, and when she left this morning, she locked the front gate. What she didn’t know was the the gate had an automatic lock, and by physically locking it, it slid the deadbolt over. The deadbolt, I should mention, cannot be undone from the inside. I’ll have to admit, I didn’t know that either. But I do now.
(this is the culprit gate…very secure, no?)
So, I sit my little flat, thankful for an internet connect, with the door open, the gate locked from the outside, waiting on a hero to come rescue me.
Oh if only I were Rapunzel!!
Today I experienced the hard part of my job.
I got a call while I was in a meeting about a client that I had been helping. Her agency had possession of her passport and was refusing to return it. Its all-too common for agencies, and sometimes even employers, to confiscate the migrant worker’s passport, employment contract and bank book “for safe keeping.” When an agency takes these worker’s documents, it often means they are trying to force the individual into an unnecessary loan, or that they already have a loan to pay for the agency fees (that are illegal by Hong Kong standards, but since they are technically incurred in the country of origin, not much is done about it). When it is an employer that takes the documents, it is because they are trying to keep their employee from running away. All domestic helpers are required by Hong Kong law to live in the residence of their employer, which as you can imagine, lends itself to possibilities of abuse and maltreatment without supervision or refuge. There is no limit to work days in Hong Kong (not just for migrant workers, but for all workers), so its not uncommon for a domestic helper to say that they work 16-18 hours a day, while being on call 24hours a day. Even in my short 8 months here, I have already lost count of the letters I have written to the Indonesian Consulate, asking for their help in retrieving passports from agencies and employers. But, we are ”encouraged” to seek the Consulate help for retrieval of documents only when the migrant worker has terminated or has been terminated from the contract. ”Eli” is still employed, so I was asked to accompany her to the agency, hoping that a fresh face would help the situation. Eli had already been down the the agency twice to try and retrieve her documents with no success.
When we arrived at the agency, we were told by the middle aged Indonesian woman with fancy nails and streaked hair to wait on a sagging couch covered with a white sheet. A Chinese woman sat behind a desk, speaking in Cantonese with what appeared to be a potential employer inquiring about the hiring process. Two young Indonesian girls sat on the couch on the opposite side of the room, near the coffee maker. About 10 minutes later, the head agent came in the room. He hardly even glanced at Eli, and act as though he didn’t even see me. Eli told him, in Indonesian, that she wanted to get her passport and bank book back. Without looking at her, he hastily shoved a piece of paper onto his desk and asked her, in Indonesian, to write a letter saying that she would pay her loan. He had not even asked her name, and while there is the possibility that he recognized her from her two previous visits, there was no question in his voice, it was a demand. Eli translated what he had asked, and I asked her if she had a loan. She told me that she had been in Hong Kong for three years and had no debt – that she had paid for everything upfront before she left Indonesia. So I told her to absolutely not sign anything. Eli turned to the agent and shook her head, told him that she wouldn’t sign anything. This made the agent frustrated, and he ignored her, flinging things around his desk to show how he felt about her refusal. Eli asked again for her passport, and again he told her that first she had to sign saying that she would pay a loan. She looked to me for help, and so I spoke up, in English, with all the respect demanded of an outsider.
“Sir, my friend her just wants her passport. Do you think she could get that, and then worry about sorting out any loans with the loan company?” The agent glared at me.
“This is not you! You are not her! You are not me! What are you doing here! Why are you asking this! I did not ask you to be here!!” I could feel the hatred seething through his clenched teeth. The potential employer gathered her purse to leave, glancing with concern in my direction. Confusion in her eyes she quickly slipped past the angry agent.
“Sir, I am not trying to cause any problems. But you have her passport, and that is illegal. All we want is to get…”
“Out!!! You, I don’t know you! I don’t trust you!! Get out of my office!! You have no right to be talking to me!!!!” The rest of his tangent was in Indonesian, so I have no idea the hateful words he was spewing at me. What I did not miss however, was the fact that he was no more than 4 inches from my face, and his voice was not just raised, he was screaming. For what felt like hours, but in reality was probably only two or three minutes, he screamed in three different languages. First in my face, then he moved over to Eli and began screaming at her things that I did not understand, and she didn’t translate for me. I kept trying to interject, to assure him that we wanted no trouble, that we only wanted what was legally Eli’s. Every time I opened my mouth, he moved back over to me to scream some more. My heart was racing, all the blood had rushed to my face, I was trying to keep myself from shaking. I wanted to appear calm and level-headed. At this point the Chinese woman behind the desk spoke up, I thought to help calm down the angry agent. Instead, SHE started yelling at me as well.
“You must leave now!! If you do not leave, we will call the police! We do not trust you! You have no right to be here! Get out of our office now!!” While she was yelling, the Indonesian man began pacing around the room, yelling to be heard over the woman’s rising voice. The two young girls on the couch were absolutely ashen, afraid. The receptionist with the fancy nails didn’t even look fazed. Eli reached in her pocket to pull out her phone. The agent quickly crossed the room and lunged at Eli, attempting to force the phone from her hand while screaming, “You cannot call anyone! No phones!!” But before he could reach her I jumped in between them, pulling the soccer mom arm out, keeping her behind me, and his malicious face in front of me.
He marched the door and screamed for me to get out immediately. I told them I was not leaving without Eli.
“Fine! Take her! We don’t want her!! You get nothing from us!! Leave now!!” I told them that I was not leaving without Eli, and Eli was not leaving without her passport. The man walked towards us again. I looked at Eli and she nodded towards the door. There was no sense staying where we weren’t welcome. We stepped right outside of the door frame. They left the door open. With shaking hands, I asked Eli for her phone and called 999 (the Hong Kong version of 911). With the angry agent in my sights, I explained to the police over the phone what had just happened and asked for their assistance. We were told to wait downstairs for them.
About ten minutes later, we were accompanying two very calm officers back up to the 20th floor. The man was slouching smugly in his chair, but as soon as he saw the officers behind Eli and I, he jumped up to usher the officers in the office. I was in between the two of them, but the man pushed me without touching out of the office and slammed the door in my face, barely missing my nose. For the next 20 minutes I listened through the locked door and thin walls as there was more yelling. I heard a phone ringing over speaker phone, a mix of Cantonese and Indonesia, no English.
Eli later told me that the agent told the officers, in Cantonese, that her mother had called the agency that morning, crying, worried about Eli, asking the agency to look after her, to take care of her. Luckily, Eli’s employer of three years is Chinese, and Eli is fairly fluent in Cantonese. She was able call the man’s lie for what it was – a deception in fear and guilt. Eli told me that her mother had never called the agency, but has been encouraging her all along to stand up for herself against this evil agency.
At the end of the day, Eli emerged with her passport and employment contract. The agent claimed they never had possession of her bankbook and ATM card (though Eli’s employer can witness to the fact that they took it). I helped Eli go to the bank to cancel her account, and she treated me to McDonald’s.
She kept saying, “I am so sorry you were yelled at.” I kept telling her I was so sorry SHE was yelled at.
Eli also kept saying, “Today is my lucky day. It really is. Its my lucky lucky day. I have my passport, and you helped. Without you, I would not have been allowed to leave that office with it. It is my lucky day. Thank you.”
This is not an exception to the norm, unless you account for the fact that Eli was so brave, and refused to give in to the fear that man was trying to shove in our faces. Sadly, I meet women every day who have been abused by their agencies in this way. They are molded into puppets through fear and intimidation. They are forced to pay 7x times the normal Hong Kong rate in agency fees, have unnecessary loans forced upon them, are given promises of jobs in exchange for currency, have their passports and bankbooks and other personal documents confiscated. While I am still trying to calm myself down from today’s ordeal, I can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be 19, coming from an abusive employer, sitting on that sagging couch with an angry agent who won’t offer the help that’s offered in their fliers. No wonder our shelter is always over capacity. No wonder our office took in almost 1,000 cases last year alone. While there are still conniving hate-filled people like that agent in positions of power over the vulnerable migrants, injustice will continue to occur in Hong Kong. The women here are taking a stand against this, have been for years. And today, I was proud, even through my shaking, to be standing with them.
When I got my tattoo, a lot of thought went into what I knew I would carry with me the rest of my life. I wanted it to be something that was meaningful of a certain period of my life, but not something that I would regret in 30 years. I looked at picture after picture. I interviewed everyone I knew with a tattoo. “How did you decided on that particular piece? What does it mean to you now? Would you do it again?” And most importantly, “Did it hurt?” I checked out several studios around town, talked to many artists, checked health ratings and techniques. I figured out from word of mouth where was good, where to stay away from, who to look into.
Kris’ brother, Joey, is a tattoo artist in California. He told Kris to make sure that the artist I went to used a certain kind of ink, a certain kind of needle. I took Kris and Nathan with me to look at numerous portfolios. Were their lines clean? Did their colors bleed? Did they only do the same type of tattoo? I did my research.
Then it was time to decide what I wanted.
My life has been defined by Grace. I love that word. There are times that I have been shown great measures of Grace – from my friends, from my family, from complete strangers. There are times when my soul felt so weary that it was only by the Grace of God that I could pull through. There was a time in my life, a good semester-chunk, that I watched the world around me turn upside down. In the end, it was Grace that allowed me to land on feet, instead of my head. Even just to hear the word spoken makes my heart flutter a little. I love Grace. Also, I was in seminary at the time – so the idea of having something to mark that time in my life seemed appropriate. Thus I ended up with:
It means: “By His Grace,” in Hebrew. Obviously.
And I love it. Two years running, and every time I catch a glimpse of it or someone asks me what it means, I smile. I love explaining what led me to that point, what still carries me today. I love remembering that point in my life leading up to actually marking myself as a person of Grace.
Its a small, and sometimes hidden, reminder of who I am. That became very apparent to me two weeks ago when I came face to face with who I was not. I am not a person of Shame. All I need to do is look behind me and remember, I am a person of Grace.
Well, the Lord was willin’, but the creek still rose. And when it overflowed the river banks and the modem hit the wall, I sat down on my lime green couch and sighed.
I’ll admit, Thursday night, I was not a pretty picture. I’ll spare you the details, but I hit a low. And in the end, I was ashamed at my own reactions to pain and loneliness. Even though there was no one around to witness my tantrum, I blushed and tried to hide my face behind my hair. Exhausted, I tried to sleep. I woke up the next morning with a weight on my heart. I didn’t want to swing my legs over the side of the bed. By Sunday, I was tired of lying to myself – I will still carrying the Shame of my own inadequacies.
Now let me say this: Shame is not an emotion that I know much about. I’ll be truthful and admit that there haven’t been many times in my life that I have felt Shameful. There are times that I am embarrassed, sure. And I am often sorry for my words or actions. But I think Shame is something that runs deeper than feeling sorry for hurting someone’s feelings. Shame runs as deep as grief. And its just as taxing. For me, Shame comes, not when I’ve let down my best friend (guilty), or lied to my parents (guilty) – but rather, it comes when I’ve turned my back on God. It usually happens in times when I am spiraling down in self-pity, loneliness and/or anger. Times when my Creator most wants me to draw me close, to sooth my soul – those times when I pull away, when I scream or cry or ignore it all together. It is after those moments that my body and my heart give in. And then I feel it – that Shame for my un-dependence, my lack of trust.
I went to church on Sunday hungry for something other than this gnawing feeling. My church is a 30 minute train ride out of the city, on the top of the mountain. When I have enough time I hike up the mountain, as to spend that time preparing myself for worship. This Sunday I made a point of giving myself enough time to hike up – because I knew that otherwise, I’d be a mess during the service. When I got to the top, I walked towards my favorite spot – the prayer labyrinth. Even when I can’t hike up, I always try to walk through the labyrinth. The repetition of following the lines, not worrying about where I am going, helps to calm my mind and my body and leads to some really great times of prayer. This week was no different. Except, it was. As I started to pray, I felt God telling me to just listen for a moment. I wanted so bad to just confess my shame, my guilt, my fears, my anger – but God was telling me “I already know. And I still love you.” With each step I took, leading me towards the center, I felt my soul lifted. That may sound weird. But its true – the more I listened, the better I felt. As I quieted the dialogue in my head, I could hear the things God was wanting me to hear: the birds, the water from the fountain, the leaves blowing, my feet shuffling in the gravel….small things. Things of beauty, serenity. Peace. Grace.
I am not a person of shame. That is not who I am. Not just because I choose not be filled with shame – because truthfully, once its dealt out, I tend to hold on to it a little too closely. No, I am not a person of shame because God has told me that I don’t have to be. That I can be a person of Grace instead. I choose Grace. I’m glad God chose Grace.
“When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone. Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit up Jonah on the beach, and it did.” ~Jonah 2:7-10