August 31, 2007

Happy 31st of August!!!

Here, that's like saying, 'Happy 4th of July!"
It's Independence Day...and not just ANY Independence Day...
today marked 50 Years of Independence!

So that meant a parade.
There's lots of fun colorful pictures, so just click to make the ones bigger that you want to see.

We woke up early to make it downtown for the BIG parade. (by "BIG" we don't mean Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade Big, we mean, um, well, less big than that, but better than say Wauchula's Annual Homecoming Parade...)

The super cool things (for us anyway) were all the foreign dignitaries that showed up and the aircraft. The foreign representatives cars were all parked along a main street...we tried to find flags of some of the countries we knew (Cara this is why I told you to look here)

If you look on the screen, you'll see a tall white guy... That's Prince Andrew of England! The Sultan of Brunei was also there (his entourage was proof that he is worthy of his, "More money than the Sultan of Brunei" saying...if you can come up with more pomp than that man, then you must have money...sorry no pictures..we were too mesmerized!). The Prime Ministers from Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as the President of the Philippines were all in attendance. There were other important people there, but some were more important than others.

We had planned on watching fireworks that night, but apparently the baby decided to have a growth spurt and (so I've been told) the ligaments in my hips hurt. But there's a huge fireworks display this weekend, so maybe we'll make it to that.
As always...stay tuned....

August 24, 2007

Riang? I don't think so...

Here's another post from our 2 week stay in a village about 3 hours from the city...

This is a "Riang" bug.

Riang means "happy" or "fun"
It's basically a cross between a Palmetto bug (in Florida...very noisy bugs in trees that make noise at dusk) and a cockroach. It flies around very crazy-like, like its having fun.

You must know that, thanks to a combination of the fact that roaches are gross and my mom is scared to death of them and instilled a healthy dose of fear in me for roaches, the "Riang" wasn't what I called fun.

Between our host holding it (and subsequently taking it outside and releasing it instead of killing it which was my recommendation) the Riang bug flew back inside and into my hair. Needless to say the family we were staying with got a good show of a white lady freaking out!

Then my wonderful husband lost his mind...

August 21, 2007

"To the bat cave!"

Mt. Smile is actually a mountain that has a very extensive cave system within it. Part of it is accessible without equipment (a nice boardwalk on the inside).The mountain is so cool as it literally just shoots up out of the's flat until you get to the entrance of the caves. Like any cave there are bats inside, but they were all asleep when we went in...ya just gotta be careful and not touch the rocks too much- there's only one place bat poo goes- down.

Here's us inside the caves (sorry, this was the best our camera could do)
It got pretty dark inside. Here's from the inside looking out:
It was a great place to look around and explore.Back down at the campgrounds (where we had been taken the day before in our banana suits) the festivities were still going on. Dressed in normal clothes hardly anyone noticed us - it was so fun! These ladies were playing "Tolak Tali" or "Rope Push." They also had "Tarik Tali," which is "Rope Pull," what we Americans know as "Tug O War," but this particular version you have to turn around the other way and 'push' the rope. Only the ladies did it this way. It was interesting - way more people fell down "pushing" the rope than "pulling" it. Lots of fun.
We hope you enjoyed this post... it's proof that we really do enjoy the culture when we're not thrust to the front in situations that get us stared at. It was a very pleasant experience exploring the caves and watching the field events from the sidelines in relative anonymity.

August 19, 2007

20 minutes and banana suits

So when we set out at 9am for the wedding with the ginormous pots, (read post before this one) we were only supposed to stay for 20 minutes.

Our host said, "Oh, I just need to go by and say hi and you guys can greet the family. They're preparing right now for the wedding so it's real casual. Then we'll go up to Mt. Smile. It'll only take about 20 minutes."

20 minutes?

Yeah right.
When white people show up things change. But we had no idea just how out of control it was gonna get.

Mt. Smile was having a huge carnival type thing and we were looking forward to it.

Keep up with the math...we got there at 9am...

At 11:10 or so we finally left the wedding site with 2 borrowed traditional outfits (Both yellow, mine looked a lot like the surface of the sun) and instructions that we were to go put them on, I was to put on make-up, a lady would then come and assist us with a few of the details of the outfits and we were to return to the wedding at 12 to be the Best Man and Maid of Honor for the bride and groom.

We already felt weird as people looked and talked about us like we were dolls to be dressed up, but then to find out we were taking the place of the best friends of the bride and groom and we didn't even know them made us feel horrible! But all the women in charge were insisting and they wouldn't take no for an answer.

So back at the house we put on the basics of the outfits.
Anthony's boxers showed through his pants, and the waist of the skirt I had to wear could have fit a 3 year old snuggly.

Then the lady showed up to help us.
And things got worse. (You must remember it's 1000 degrees outside)

She got out the head covering for me.
But it wasn't a regular one (like what she's wearing)
It was the kind a BRIDE wears...and ONLY a bride.

You can see the excitement all over my face.
Then luckily she brought out a waist covering for Anthony, so it hid his boxers. But men only wear the waist thing at their weddings and on the first day after Ramadan. They wear jeans and shirts to weddings. They also brought a traditional Muslim hat for Anthony to wear, except they couldn't find one to fit him so it sat funny on top of his head. He also didn't have any shoes to wear but flip-flops so several men asked him straight up with a disgusted tone in their voice, "Why are you wearing slippers?"
While we were getting dressed, the village leader came over.
Here was the short dialogue which insured we'd have one of the most awkward and frustrating afternoons since we got here (we're laughing about it now, but weren't then)

Village Leader- "Where are the white people? They need to come up to Mt. Smile and get interviewed right now."
Our Host- "Oh, they can't come right now. They're dressing up right now in traditional outfits and have to go to a wedding first."
Village Leader- "Oh really?! Then just bring them up to Mt. Smile wearing the outfits!"


So off to the wedding we went.
EVERYONE was pointing to us in our banana outfits and saying, "Pegantin! HAHA!" (Which means "BRIDE!" or "GROOM" was so humiliating. We've been to several weddings and this was definitely out of the norm which is why we were so embarrassed)

Check out the hat and the "slippers"... (it would do no good to try and explain they are from JCrew)
And this us eating at the seats of honor.
By this point Anthony's back was completely soaked through with sweat.

Then it was off to Mt. Smile.
Here's some of the crowd at Mt. Smile.
There were a couple hundred people there.
And we experienced another dose of "PEGANTIN! LOOK! PEGANTIN!"
Since we're taller than 90% of the population here and were wearing the brightest outfits in the history of the world, everyone was staring at us.

The supposed interview that we were to have (because they wanted to interview white people who could speak Bahasa) was slow in coming. Then our Host finally found out after another hour or so that it was a newspaper interview and that the reporter wasn't even there yet.
So we left.

Safe to say it was the longest 20 minutes of our lives!

August 18, 2007

A Quick Game

These past two weeks have been quite eventful - we stayed with a family in a village far, far away from the big city. That always equals fun. So instead of making you sit through one very long post, we're gonna break this thing up into small, ADD sized pieces.

We were invited to a wedding this past weekend. Here's a picture from the pre-wedding set-up:

This is a pretty standard looking pot, right? Cooking up some pretty standard Asian food (chicken curry).

Guess how big it is.

A gallon maybe?

Oops, sorry, this is Asia. I mean 4 litres?

5 litres?

Big enough to fit an entire chicken in?

Take another look, this time with a full sized person next to it:

Yes, I promise that's an adult. I have no clue how many chickens are in that thing, but the chicken population of this village has definitely taken a hit.

August 09, 2007

Satu Tahun! Woo hoo!

It's been 1 year since we set foot here.
1 year.
Satu Tahun.


365 days of summer.
365 days of looking at mostly Asian faces and realizing they're not all the same.
365 days of no central A/C 
365 days of not calling it "A/C" but "air con"
365 days of driving on the other side of the road.
360 or so days of realizing it's not the "Wrong" side of the road, just the "other."
1 year and 2 days since seeing America with our own eyes (it takes 2 days to get here)
1 year to get over what we thought we left behind and realize we just traded up.

I had an expatriate friend (expatriate is what you call people who don't live in their home country...we're expatriates!) recently write very eloquently about all she thought she was leaving behind when she moved to Southeast Asia.  She put it so I'm gonna use her idea to talk about our 1st year living overseas.
When we left 1 year ago we had sold both our cars, our new gorgeous leather furniture which we thought we had done SO well by having when we got married, most of the barely used wedding gifts we had received just 2 years before, 95% of Sharon's shoe collection, most of our clothes, and a couple of job offers that would have afforded us a house and enough to pay off credit card debt without either of us having to work 2 jobs.

We said "C ya later" to our families, our friends, basically everyone in our life that speaks English clearly and effortlessly.  The people we love, who know us, know our family, know our hearts and what makes them 'tick.'  

We left behind Wal-mart, Target, malls with parking lots (as opposed to stuffy hot parking garages), shoe stores with shoes in our sizes, restaurants with menus we could read easily and know instantly what the menu was talking about when it said "Fried Chicken," "Hamburger," "Pancakes," "Blueberry pie," and "Dr.Pepper."

Some things we didn't realize we were leaving behind.

Like our sense of control of situations.  Boy, when you can't speak a language and don't understand "normal" routines, your sense of independence drops and frustration rises.  You do realize how AWESOME it is that when you order fried chicken at a restaurant in the US, you KNOW it's gonna come out as a whole leg, a whole breast or a whole thigh?!?  We had no idea we'd get here and be confused when (once we finally figured out how to say "Fried Chicken") they brought out the chicken and it was cut into unrecognizable, almost unedible pieces with parts like "neck" and "feet" that had never been included in a definition of "fried chicken" before.


When there's a calling on your life to do something or to go somewhere, especially when you're a child of God, it's amazing the perspective that you can gain in a year.

We felt like, and still do, that we were SUPPOSED to be here.  We had to trust a still small (but persistent) voice that said this was the right thing to do.  He promised us that He would be faithful to us if we were faithful to Him.  All we had to do was sell all our possessions and follow him.

I've heard it said (Thanks HY for the reminder!) that "You can't out-give God."

If that isn't cliche, I don't know what is.

But this year he's proven it.

We gave up a lot.  
We gave up things a lot of people aren't willing to give up for that voice.
But that doesn't make us better.
I mean, it's made us better, but not 'better than so-and-so..."
Just better because we've been given back LOADS more than we ever gave up and we now realize how small a sacrifice leaving home really was.  It's made us better.

Our house is the equivalent to a town-house in the US.
We drive 1 car (not 2 like in the US) but it's way nicer than either of our cars were.
We have new friends here that we've worked hard at becoming friends our thankfulness for DL, Laura, K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, Justin and Daniela has shown us really what a gift friends are.
Before we took friendships (with people like us) for granted.
So we're sorry to all our friends back in the US.
We're MUCH more grateful for you now.  Ya'll truly are a gift.
We've always said we wanted to be the kind of people that "travel."  The past year we've been to 4 countries that are not our own...places we NEVER could have afforded to go before. Wow.  And the country we live in is so beautiful.  We left Florida palm trees and tropical breezes, for Southeast Asian palm trees (and banana trees, mango trees, etc) and Asian breezes.

Pretty great, huh?

But we've been given even MORE!
We have a sense of peace that is overwhelming sometimes.
I can't explain it.
But it's a gift.  And it's given day after day...sometimes a few times a day if we need it.
We've gotten to spend like every day together for the last year.  Before we'd high-five a couple times a day and shove a bunch in on the weekends.  We know each other better now, our marriage is stronger.  
It's stronger because we've had to learn together.  
Learn to grocery shop
learn to speak
learn to drive
learn to be thankful 
learn what in the heck we're supposed to do when we visit in local people's homes.

We make less money now.
But it's amazing that that hasn't affected us at all.
We've even gotten completely out of debt since arriving and are saving!  How do you do that when you take a 35% pay cut?

We're also now bi-lingual.  We use that term loosely of course, but wow! What confused and frustrated us a year ago is normal now.  Even when we come across new situations (which still happen of course) we now have the vocabulary to at least ask what's going on or how to do something.  What an AMAZING sense of fulfillment to feel like you 'fit' in another country. The sense of accomplishment FAR outweighs the frustration and anxiety in the beginning.

When we got here there were only 2 of us.  Now there's this new little (guy?) who isn't even out yet, but is already making his presence known.  All you parents out there know what we're talking about, but its absolutely amazing to think about the life God is giving us.  He could have given us a baby in the US, no doubt, so I'm not saying it's because we came here that he did.  What I'm saying is, we've got another perspective to look from when thinking about our baby.  Experiencing our own life in a new way, and now waiting for this new little baby, helps us see that life, and the ABUNDANT life we lead is all in God's hands.  I think we would hope different things for our baby if we had never come.  Make sense?

We are so glad we came.
We really think we would have missed out on the biggest blessings of our lives by saying "no" to the still small voice, or ignoring it.
Now that we're here we can't imagine not being here.
We can't imagine being in the states right now and feeling the same satisfaction and sense of fulfillment as we do here now.
Not that everyone should come.
But some should.
The first step of saying, "ok" is the hardest.
After that, God starts giving so much of himself and his blessings that the thought of "We're giving up SO much, we feel so deprived" never enters our minds.  It's like we say "Ok God, we're gonna sell our cars...that's HUGE." And then He responds with, "Ok Anthony and Sharon, I'll raise you on that and give you a nicer car than the ones you're selling, a house that's bigger than one you can buy now in the states, and a life in general with way cooler experiences than you've ever thought possible.  Oh, yeah, and in all that I'm gonna give you a baby and make you bi-lingual too.  Beat that."  It's impossible! We can't out give him.  

Even if he never gave us all those things, the life we have here would still be great. But he has...and he deserves more thanks than we can give him even if he decides to take it all away tomorrow.  It's like we came to him with our arms full of 'stuff' and he asked us to empty them...then has filled them this year with things better than we could have asked him for.

What an AMAZING year!

August 04, 2007

Be Back Soon...

At least for 1-2 weeks. We're heading out to a rural village for a couple weeks and we're pretty sure they don't have internet. Don't worry, we'll bring the camera.

If you're dying for some blogs, here's one from from a family in Texas that we've never met but is usually highly entertaining: