Guess what I got in the mail today….

I’ll admit, living overseas does have its perks.  Sure, its hard to be away from home.  I hate missing out on the birth of my godson, the wedding of one of my best friends, holidays with the family and anniversaries with the boy.  There are times that I miss having a car.  Or grocery stores where I can read all the labels.  I tend to crave a good charcoal-grilled burger from time to time.  And lord what I wouldn’t give to walk down the street without smelling durian and dried fish. 

But.  But, there are things that I do love about living overseas.  For one, as anyone could guess, I love the traveling.  I can travel to new countries for nearly half the price it used to cost me to fly home from seminary.  The food, though sometimes odd and/or unrecognizable, can be amazing.  I love trying new things.  Not only does it make for a good story, but I often end up surprising myself.  Who knew that my favorite Filipino dish would involve pig’s blood?  (don’t judge – it really is good!!  they call it “chocolate pork”)  I am fascinated by the interactions of different cultures.  I’m really blessed to see that a lot in our shelter – as the Filipinas and Indonesians work out life and struggles together.  They learn from each other.  I love watching the Indonesians dance.  And the Filipinas sing. I love watching the age-old Chinese dragon dance.  Their cultures are just rich with tradition.  Tribal dances.  Traditional dresses made with deep earthy colors.  Instruments made with what is abundant in their lands – bamboo.  I love the histories of another people.  The stories of the years of oppression that make individuals and communities stronger are inspiring.  I love telling people that I live in Hong Kong – because it just sounds cool.  All my life I have wanted to live overseas, and here I am, living the dream.  Its not easy.  Its not always fun.  But its real.  I get to meet amazing people, visit incredible sites of natural beauty, and with every new stamp in my passport, I know that I am gathering more stories to tell, over and over again. 

But want to know one of my favorite things about living overseas? 

The fact that I get to vote before any of you! ha! (bet you didn’t see that one coming)  That’s right – I got my absentee ballot in the mail today!!  OH yeah!! 🙂

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Update-ish

Sorry for the sporadic blogging lately.  First, I was just incredibly busy, working, traveling, and the like.  Now, I am just so exhausted, that the energy it would take to create a new post/return emails, roll off my couch, is overwhelming.  Its pathetic, I know. 

After 3 straight weeks of working more than my body could handle, its all catching up to me in grand fashion.  I’ve been sick since the Ubuntu group left, and just can’t seem to shake it.  I know it is more exhaustion than anything. (Case and point: I had 8 hours sleep last night – which is about 3 hours more than my norm, got up the morning to watch the debate, then went back to sleep from 2 till 7pm.  And I’m still tired.)   So, that’s the big news here.  I’m sick, and tired, and just generally sick of being tired and tired of being sick.  But life goes on.

In other news, I’m leaving for the Philippines in just over a week.  I’ll be gone for just over a month.  I am incredibly excited to see my dear friend Kerr, a fellow Mission Intern, and co-founder of Team Asia.  I’ll stay with Kerr for a week at her placement site (well, her placement site AND the beach with scuba-diving, cause, ya know. Why not?)  Then I’ll be in Manila for a little over 3 weeks.  One will be an immersion with Migrante and other other migrant organizations we are connected with.  Week two will consist of preparing for the big General Forum on Migration and Development, which is (obviously) being hosted in Manila this year.  Since no migrants or migrant-serving organizations were actually invitedto this major world conference, we’ve decided to host our own counter-conference.  The last week of October will be the conference, and the first week of November I will be attending the Migrante Conference.  Busy month ahead.

When I return, I will have exactly one month and 3 days left in Hong Kong.  Even more exciting (?) than that, I will have less than 30 days before Kris arrives!!!  To say that this year of seperation from him has been difficult would be the understatement of the year!!  But I have been beyond blessed with an incredibly supportive partner, and I can’t wait for him to arrive, to meet my friends and co-workers, visit my church, my work place, and to do a little traveling of our own!

Well, that’s about all the update I have for now.  Hopefully soon I’ll be able to kick this sick-thing and post something interesting.

A #8

A signal 8 typhoon has landed on Hong Kong, sent me home early from work.  I am hoping that it will bring minimal damage, cooler weather and the chance to sleep-in in the morning!

There’s a first time for everything…

Those of you who know my family, know that I take after my father.  A lot.  I tend to say he gave me the 3-Bigs.  Big hair, big hips, big butt.  Ahhh the joys of hereditary genes.  But I also inherited from him my somewhat corny sense of humor, my love of music and travel.  I learned this weekend that I have also inherited his talent for auctioneering.  (and yes, I did just make that word up, thankyouverymuch) The one thing, however, that I have not taken from my father, the one thing that I have never been able to learn, is the very thing that has become the family joke.  My father’s ability to talk his way out of a ticket.  It doesn’t matter where he is, or what he’s done, but that man can talk his way out of any traffic ticket that comes his way.  I believe his record is in the mid-20s right now, covering at least 4 states, and any number of violations.  I, on the other hand, have never been able to talk my way out of a ticket.  I’ve tried all of my father’s tricks, and even a few of my own, but each time, I end up driving away with one of those menacing yellow slips of paper.  While my dad has connected with police officers in California over family members residing in Georgia, I’ve never gotten so much as a condolence smile from an officer. 

I remember the first ticket I ever got.  I was barely 16.  My parents were out of town, and I was in charge of taking my 6 year old brother to his Upwards Basketball game one Saturday morning.  In my mother’s van, with my little brother, sister and one of her friends in two, I pulled into the church parking lot to have an officer turn in behind me with his lights flashing.  I told my sister to take my brother on inside, and before the officer had even reached the window I was already in tears.  I knew I had been speeding (down one of the most notorious speed traps of a street known in all of Bay County), and even though I was just trying to get my brother to his game on time, there was no mercy for this new driver.  What made the situation worse, was that he made a big deal of taking his time to run my license, to flip open his notebook, to stand with his legs firmly planted by my window, for all the free-world to see.  And at the moment, all the free-world constituted all of my mother’s friends who were also dropping off young boys and girls for their very Christian game of basketball.  Walking into that church court was the ultimate walk of shame.  Then I had to face my father.  Not only did I have to come to him as a 16 year old who had just gotten her first ticket (scary enough), but knowing that he himself had managed a way out of so many similar situations, there was inevitable disappointment and teasing to follow.  (Well, honestly, what immediately followed was a week’s grounding.  The teasing seems to be what stuck.) 

Today though, oh today, was a first for me.  Granted, I wasn’t in a car, but it was the first time I have ever encountered the police, and walked away without a ticket!  I got “pulled” this morning on my way to work for, of all things, jay walking.  Seriously?  I work with women who are routinely abused, denied fair wages and this is what the local Hong Kong police want to focus on?  Catching those evil jaywalkers?  Forget the triads and never mind those silly drug lords.  No, let’s focus on the real problem at hand.  Jaywalking.  As soon as my foot hit the other side, I was met with the menacing face of the morning officer, yelling at me to step against the wall.  I was asked for my passport, which I didn’t have because I keep it in my lock box at home for safe keeping.  Well, this seemed to really anger him, and even though I showed my American driver’s license (which had he had the ability to run, he would have learned I’ve been pulled for many more offenses than just jaywalking, namely, having a led-foot.)  I explained to him that I kept my passport in a lock box for fear of losing it and that I was really terribly sorry for my offense, and that of course sir, no it would never happen again.  After listening to him yell at me for a good 5 minutes, including the phrase, “You’re not a child, you’re an adult, and should know better than to cross the street when its dangerous!” (the street was empty), I was giving a verbal warning and told to go.

After my heart stopped pounding I realized, Hey!  I didn’t get a ticket!

Score.

Ubuntu

It took weeks to score a visa.  I had to visit the visa office twice with various sets of paperwork.  Then I was sent to Consulate.  I had to go through a metal detector (which my hair barrett set off) and wait in a sub-zero tiled room for over 3 hours to fork over more money than any other nationality.   A week later, I went back through the same metal detector (sans the barrett), retrieved my passport and eagerly flipped it open to see the pale colored sticker that served as my single entry visa for Mainland China. 

For the last two weeks, the Mission hosted a United Methodist Women’s group called Ubuntu.  Its a Swahili word that means “I am human, because you are human.”  The Women’s Division and Mission Volunteers Division coupled and created this program for UMWs to go out into the world and learn about various Methodist projects, connect with other women, and establish relationships and learning through dialogue.  Its an incredible program geared towards justice and learning.  Two of my favorite things. Hosting the group here was a challenge and a blessing.  The group ranged in ages from 13-80, and for months before they arrived, our small welcoming committee agonized over every detail from bottled water to hired buses, from conversation starters to bug spray.  We didn’t exactly know what to expect as we waited in the airport with our brightly colored signs,  but needless to say, all expectations were exceeded.  I don’t know who I was inspired by more – the faith of the 13 year old girl who wrote songs about justice and beauty, or the 80 year old woman who hiked a 30 minute mountain range to go to a village church in China.  It was exhausting, hosting the group.  Nearly a year of planning went into this, and every minute of the last two weeks has been spent buying cases of bottled water, acting as tour guide, answering thousands of questions about our work here, praying, listening, traveling.  When they flew out early Sunday morning, I was so excited to be able to walk to the bus by myself, not having to look back and do head counts.  Yet I could not have been more pleased that they were here.  They represented the Church with grace and respect.  They connected on a level with the women here that is rare.  They stayed two nights in the BH, sleeping on the floor, scrubbing toilets and accompanying clients.  They cried when they had to leave.  It was beautiful to see the pure elements of this journey truly lived out.

I had the glorious opportunity to join in their journey into Mainland China as an extra observer. We were there visiting projects by the Amity Foundation. (I’ve linked to them before, following the Sichuan earthquake earlier this year.)  We saw clean water pipes, bio-gas fueled by pig waste, a new primary school, a church where the villagers stood on a cliff and sang us a welcoming song as we climbed the hill.  The roads and doorways were lined with freshly harvested corn and chili peppers, adding beautiful spots of red and yellow and orange against the deep blue sky.  The faces of the children we met were shining with dirt and laughter.  The women we met spoke as openly about communism as they did bio-diversity and community sustainability.  We saw villages, Christian villages, living out the true principles of Communism, and other villages ravaged by the effects of a market economy.  We used squat toilets and gallons of hand sanitizer.  The food, oh the vasts amounts of food, were laced with chili and odd parts of meat.  We spent our last day in China visiting the county’s biggest tourist attraction – a waterfall.  It was incredible, as the spray from the power of water drenched me.  We drove through mountains that never seemed to end.  I was sad at first, thinking my time in Asia would end without me ever seeing the Great Wall, but now I know its okay, because I saw the real parts of China.  I saw communities working together.  I saw children learning and laughing.  I saw what they call 9th world poverty amid a mind-numbingly beautiful land.  I saw the results of hard word and faith.  And I saw hope.  And fear.  And trust.  These things I saw, these people I met, this dirt I have collected at my heels – this my friends, is China.

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The benefit of being a missionary on your birthday…..

The benefit of being a missionary on your birthday, particularly a missionary with the UMC, is that your name is printed on a birthday calender.  This calender is then sent out to all of the UMC Women’s Circles, and anywhere as early as 6 weeks prior to said birthday, one begins receiving birthday cards in the mail.  The first birthday card I received arrived around mid-February.  I didn’t know if it was late or early, until I read, “For your birthday, Sept. 12, 2008.”  Well, at least the woman can never be chastised for forgetting.  In the past few weeks, I have been overwhelmed with birthday greetings via email and sparkly greeting cards from women and church groups all around America. Some from states I have never even visited!!  It is a little amusing, but mostly a great testament to the connectionalism of the Methodist Church (small plug – sorry, couldn’t resist! 🙂 

Also, when you’re a missionary on your birthday, you get to do cool things like have fried corn for your birthday breakfast in mainland China!!  hehe

I haven’t forgotten you!

I’ve just been away for the week!!  I spent 5 incredibly stretching and beautiful days in Mainland China!!  I have SO much to post about my trip (and too many pictures to share), but right now its 2am, and I have to be back at work in 6 hours, so I’m going to bed.  Just wanted to let you know I’m here, and will be posting again soon. 🙂