July 29, 2007

Simpsons and Silk

Updated story below!
So a couple of cultures represented in this post...
First one is American...
The Simpson's Movie was released here this weekend.
It probably disappoints both of our mothers that we're happily smiling with this dysfunctional 4 fingered, yellow-skinned cartoon family.
So we apologize to our moms for liking the Simpson's even though they both tried real hard to keep their animated antics off of their respective family TV's.
That said, the movie was funny, but not SUPER funny.
But funny.
Kinda nostalgic- like the wrecked ambulance in the background at The Springfield Gorge.
And hilarious as the 98% Asian audience we watched it with thought a LOT of it was funny.
Like when the Flanders kid asks if Buddha is gonna be in Heaven and Ned says "No."
That got a big laugh from the Chinese crowd, interestingly enough.
So it was fun to experience American TV in a movie theater in Asia...

The next cultural experience was going shopping for material for our Hari Raya outfits.This is obviously fits in the Asian culture category.
Hari Raya is the celebration of feasting after the fasting month of Ramadan.
Hari Raya isn't until October.
I (Sharon) went with Kakak as shopping in Asia for clothes is mostly left up to the women just like in the US.
But I'm actually a bit late in picking out my material for my new outfit.
Families get whole matching outfits just like Easter in the US.
It's a huge deal to pick out your material and get your outfit sewn.
But since seamstresses are SUPER busy with everyone's orders, getting them in after August is pushing it.
You do NOT show up for a Hari Raya celebration in an old outfit.
So, after going through tons and tons of GORGEOUS silk patterns, I finally found one I liked.
Since we were in an Indian silk store, I'll go ahead and confess that I dreamt of getting a saree made for myself (Indian woman's traditional outfit that is feminine and flowy and fun)
But I stuck to the plan and the budget.
After picking out the material and lining for my dress,
in true Raya form, I picked a matching color for Anthony's outfit.
(The gray is the material for Anthony, the girly pattern is just to show they match...er...coordinate)
Last year I bought a store-bought ready-made one a couple weeks before, and Anthony had to borrow a Baju Melayu (men's outfit) from Abang.
Abang is tall for an Asian, but still not as tall as Anthony.
This year's festivities will NOT include Anthony's ankles showing.
So, stay tuned to the blog and come mid-October, the Raya outfits will be done and you can see them here in all their glory.
So we took our material to the seamstress to get measured, etc. When we went to the ladies house and opened up the material for Anthony's outfit, we discovered that it was VERY see-through. Even more so than the chiffon of my material. It had all of us fooled (until we opend it) for looking like a common similar material that's used a lot. After the initial discovery and the embarrassment of an old woman laughing at me, Anthony and I went and found a different material and had him measured this morning.
I must say, it's always humbling maneuvering in a culture that isn't your own. You have to take it in stride and asking for help with things that no one else here needs help with (like picking out material) is part of life.
Side Note- This morning at the seamstress's house, Kakak shewed the lady's cat away from the material (we sit on the floor here). The seamstress said, "Oh, but that cat is such a good cat." which we took for code for "Don't mess with my cat." A few minutes later the same cat came walking in the door with a GIGANTIC lizard in it's mouth (lizard was over a foot long). The seamstress screamed and picked up the nearest object to her on the floor, a broom, and hurled it at him. Hilarious!

July 24, 2007

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After Chiang Mai we caught a late flight to Bangkok, and since our flight to Phnom Penh was leaving early the next morning we decided to make like European backpackers and sleep in the airport. And by airport, I mean THE COLDEST PLACE ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET. I'm pretty sure I saw a snowflake... inside... cause, you know, it was cold... pretty sure.

The next morning we hopped on our super-cheap Air Asia flight and arrived at Phnom Penh at 8am, where we quickly noticed that nearly everyone was carrying $20 US and a passport photo, neither of which we had. Come to find out you need both for a visa. We decided just to wing it through the first line where you turn in the visa application and passport photo. We found out that if you don't have a passport photo of yourself (for them to keep) the fee is $1 USD or 50 Thai Baht. The funny part about that is $1 US = 33 Thai Baht, so they made like an extra 50 cents off of us. The next part was the $20 US in the next line. Obviously if we didn't have $1 we weren't gonna have $20 (or $40 for the both of us). The great part was that I could see not one, but TWO ATM's about 20ft after the immigration line. Here's how the conversation with the guard went:

Anthony: "Excuse me, would it be alright if I walk over there and get out some money for our visa?"

Guard: "No, you need a visa to get over there."

Anthony: "Yes sir, I know, but I need $20 to get a visa."

Guard: "That's right."

Anthony: "So, can I go?"

Guard: "No, you need a visa."

Anthony: "But I need the money first in order to buy a visa. I'll leave my bags here and you can watch me."

Guard: "I'm sorry, you can't go over there without a visa."

Vicious cycle.

Luckily a nice American named Paul graciously paid for us and another British couple who had no clue about the $20 visa. We paid him back 20ft later.

After checking in to our hotel, we took a motorcycle taxi into town. That's right, "a" motorcycle taxi, as in "one" motorcycle. Three people. One motorcycle. Actually, 4 people if you count the baby, which we do. I can actually hear our family collectively gasp.

Here's some sights around town. This is an unfinished temple. From what I understand, it was started years ago but the money ran out, so they just left it. Gotta love third world countries.

Here we are looking mighty fine after spending all night in the sub-freezing Bangkok airport (that pink Mickey Mouse T-shirt looks mighty familiar... look at the elephant show pictures on the previous post taken the day before). We were in a tuk-tuk and headed back to the hotel when we took this picture. Unfortunately, our driver didn't understand where our hotel was (a few miles outside the city) and we got a nice tour up and down the Mekong River and Downtown Phnom Penh before he finally figured out where the hotel was. We see it as training for the Amazing Race one day.

Pretty typical scene of Phnom Penh: lots of dirt, various Buddhist shrines, tuk-tuks and SUV's (although a Rav-4 does not count as an SUV - but there were Land Rovers and Land Cruisers everywhere) from all the NGO and UN workers.

Here's where the post is going to get a little sad, but you can't take a trip to Phnom Penh without learning about their horrifying recent history. Back in the late 70s, Cambodia experienced a terrible genocide at the hands of its own leaders. You can read about it here. I'm not sure how to comment about genocide, other than it shows how completely evil man can be. Around 2 million Cambodians were killed by other Cambodians. Many were tortured and held captive at the prison below (at what used to be a high school).

The Khmer Rouge took pictures of all the captives at this particular prison camp, all of whom (except for 5, I believe) were either taken to the killing fields and executed or died in the prison. The prison has thousands of pictures lining the walls, much like this one:

After being tortured, the prisoners were taken to the infamous Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh. When the Vietnamese freed the Cambodian people from the Khmer Rouge regime, they discovered this field from its awful stench. This monument is where many of the bones and skulls found in the fields were laid to rest.

Over 9,000 victims were found in this field alone, all buried in shallow pits.

You can still see some of the victims' clothing lying around half-buried in the mud and visitors are still finding human remains.

The rest of our time was spent swimming in the hotel pool, so I'm sorry to end this on a down note. Genocide will do that. It's hard to wrap my mind around such an evil thing. But I do know that God offers us the chance to trade our hearts, which are bent towards hate and evil things, for the perfect goodness of Jesus Christ, which is mercy, love, and forgiveness. What a hope we have in Him!

July 23, 2007

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our week in northern Thailand was filled with a lot of meetings.
But the week before going we had several friends in town...
So Anthony took advantage of the flight there...
The view of the mountains from our room was gorgeous.
Thai massages are famous... here's my (Sharon's) feet before a 45 minute Foot Reflexology. There's no pictures after the part where they wash your feet because, well, I was distracted by the amazing foot massage.
Chiang Mai also has amazing western restaurants. And not your average chains like Chili's or TGIFriday's... they're authentic places with home cooked food.
Like these authentic quesadillas.
Delisioso! (Or however you spell it...Dora would know...so would Cara...a little help from the bff?)
There's also some fun historic things to see...
Like this wall that used to surround the old city of Chiang Mai. There is a moat that runs in front of the entire length as well. So you pick up on the local lingo when asking where something is... like, "The Salsa Kitchen (where quesadilla above came from) is inside the moat..." and so on.
Chiang Mai is too big to fit within the wall now, but the remains are interesting nonetheless.
Here's us in the also-famous Night Market. They have lots of fun stuff to buy for really cheap. Like t-shirts and what not (my shirt says "Coca-cola" on it in Thai...I bought it there the night before)Here's Anthony (on the right) with a friend proudly displaying their night market gems.
It was robot tshirt day.
Thailand is also famous for Elephants.
We went out to an Elephant park one morning and were treated to a delightful show.
Here's the Elephants entering...
They did all kinds of neat things, but one of the best was painting.
Several stood in front of easels and painted some rather beautiful pictures.
Here's me feeding them. (There's a banana curled up in his trunk...he just took it from me)
And this one is fun because the elephant on the right put his trunk around my shoulders like a human does in pictures. Hilarious. The not-so-hilarious part was the elephant snot left on my neck afterwards.
One wanted to put a hat on my head. The hat is on, but this is actually a shot of it 'tapping' it down the rest of the way like an adult would to a child. Except, I don't think elephants can do very many things gently, as the taps felt like they were gonna give me a concussion. Well, maybe not THAT strong, but still...
We left Chiang Mai later that night and spent the night in the Bangkok International Airport to make it easier to make our flight to Cambodia early the next morning.
That's right...on the floor in the airport. Wouldn't have been that bad except at night they crank up the air conditioners to chill it down for the next day of doors being opened and what not, so we nearly froze. We have no pictures of it, but you can reference the one of Anthony sleeping above, but imagine us colder and not as comfortable as sleeping on a airplane tray table.
The next post will be about our weekend in Phnom Penh (Puh-nom Pen)... stay tuned!

July 14, 2007

The Riverseses...

We're unsure of exactly how a last name that ends in "s" is supposed to be pronounced plurally...
But now that there will be 3 people in our family we figure we might need to figure it out.
Or not.
Your math is right...2 Rivers parents and 1 baby Rivers equals 3 Rivers.
Or the Rivers Family.
Or the Riverseses.
They all sound good to us!
Our baby will be here somewhere around February 15th and we'll be putting lots of pictures of him/her up on our baby blog ...until then they'll look like thisCute little blob huh?
Again, go to our baby blog to read more about this amazing blessing.
Or you can click on the link to the right that says "Little Rivers"
You'll have to go there to read about baby stuff as we're planning on keeping this blog as our 'cultural blog'...even though at times baby stuff will most definitely encounter cultural stuff and for those times we'll just choose which blog we want to post the story on.
So you'll have to check them both out.
We're super excited to share this journey with you!

July 06, 2007

July 4th in disguise...

So for July 4th we didn't see any fireworks, or eat any BBQ
(although there is a new Tony Roma's at our favorite mall)
Instead, we just saw a movie.
An incredibly awesome movie with really cool special effects.

So while we enjoyed the movie along with the other movie-goers,
we were secretly enjoying the July 4th holiday as well.
It didn't mean anything to anyone else that it was July 4th.
I mean, except that July 4th happened to fall on a Wednesday
and that means RM6 ($1.75) movie day at the "Cineleisure."
So everyone was happy to be watching the movie.
But we were the only ones reveling in the American Heroes of the movie and the fact that OUR country- the land of the free, home of the brave, fighters of alien-robot invaders- was the one that defeated Megatron.
Happy Independence Day!