Serving in Southeast Asia

May 24, 2013

It’s true, travel broadens the mind.  And it creates scope to deepen and rediscover the power of relationships along the journey. This trip to Southeast Asia that I am on right now with three young college students is all about building and strengthening relationships.  


I haven’t slept so well in a long time.  After local language lessons that make your head feel like it will explode, I am usually ready to nap!  And we sleep well after long days going out to minority people’s villages where we teach, we hike over mountain passes to visit families, or to collect flowers and plants to cook for lunch.   Sitting in the local café talking with those locals who want to practice their English requires a lot of energy but is so enjoyable.  We are learning to talk more slowly, enunciate better and simplify our language some.  The heat and humidity take a lot out of us too. 


This past week, reading The Good Earth by Pearl Buck enlightened me to some of the very things we are seeing here.  We are in a huge farming area – banana trees as far as you can see along roads.  Mango orchards, corn, rice fields, pumpkin patches.  The local people make fun of Westerners because we eat the yellow/orange fruit of the pumpkin plant.  They only eat the flowers, leaves and stems.  Yesterday we peeled these and fried them up for lunch which we had along with snails that the father of the family we lunched with had gotten out of the local river.  Have you ever eaten corn on the cob with chopsticks?  They cut it in sections and eat it like that.  It works well!  Also, we saw the graves that are set up on the hillsides so they will have good views that I had read about.  


My legs have been sore from all the mountain hiking.  It makes it difficult to use the squatty potties that most of the places have.  But the fresh air and all the exercise feels good and the students I’m with are really enjoying it.  And it’s been a great way to get to know some of the local people as well as see the focus areas of the workers here. 


Today we taught English to young students at a school in a minority village.  These children go to school all day and late into the evening with a three hour break in the mid afternoon.  They were so attentive and well behaved.  Many of them live at the school and only go home on Sundays, walking over the mountain passes to their villages.   The teacher we are working with is the only Witness in this village.  One of our goals of being there three or four times while we are here is to encourage her.  It’s an hour and a half bus ride each way for us but beautiful scenery all the way.


We are multi-dimensional travelers and I see afresh how we experience things in our own individual ways.  It’s interesting to watch each of our team members learn and interact with people here.  They are each quite different but just the same effective.  When we were going to teach in the classes today, we split up to teach in two’s.  Someone commented that I put the “two talkers” together and the two “quiet ones” together.  Yes, but it worked well.  (Guess which category they put me in?)   Since we are all trying to learn some of the local language, I see a couple of us learn more by repeating and repeating phrases.  Another seems to just pick it up by sitting back and listening as well as observing. 


Tonight we were back at the café sharing.  On Friday night, there is open mic time.  Tonight one young lady dedicated a Taylor Swift song, to us.  She was so sweet and did a great job.  Now it’s time to get some rest.  Our day started at 7:00 this morning and now it is after midnight.  Quite typical of our time here but I wanted to take a little time finally to share some of what we are doing with you since we have been here over a week now.  We have another nine days before we head home. 


All for now,