Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. ~Hebrews 12:1

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

strange(r) encounters

Have you ever befriended a stranger?

When we encounter "strange" people, it's often alarming. Most of us do a quick inventory before or as we make the initial contact: Does this person look legit? Do I have an out? Do I really need to talk to this person?

While maintaing safety precautions, I am trying to shift these gut reactions to a more positive outlook with my encounters: What is this person's story? What could I learn from this person? What connections might we find with each other?

Over the past few months, I have been blessed by countless strangers; people whom I don't know, yet gain some sense of "knowing" when I walk away. Here are three stories that share the joy of meeting strangers:

Fellow YAGM Julia and I were on our way into the city via bus. We had walked for 15 minutes and were about halfway to our bus station when it started raining. Correction: pouring. [It really doesn't rain much here - it pours.] I had a rain jacket and we were sharing an umbrella, but as we looked around and found no shelter, we faced the inevitable: we were going to get drenched. Over the rain, we heard some yelling in the distance. As we looked around, we found the source; a few people were hanging outside windows from a nearby house, yelling towards us and waving their hands. Oh, yeah! That gesture means "come" in Malaysia - not "go away!" After a few uncertain glances at each other, Julia said to me, "Well, we can go for it and this could be a really cool opportunity." Right on. We decided to accept the invitation.

A young woman, two children and an older man warmly took us into their modest home and invited us to sit down and rest. We probably looked so helpless, soaked by the rain with timid looks on our faces. Immediately, there were hot drinks in our hands and food at our laps. It was truly humbling - and comforting. From there, we did our best to communicate with Bahasa Malayu and a bit of English. [note: Julia is an absolute rockstar at BM; I consider myself fairly decent at it] As the rain started to let up, Julia and I glanced at our watches and told our gracious hosts we needed to get going to the bus station so we could get into town and meet some friends. "The buses don't run often on the weekend. We'll take you," they simply told us. And we received another undeserved, unexpected gift from our new friends.
Julia talking with one of our new friends as we get a ride into the city.
This little one was trying to sneak pictures of ME, so I decided to do the same! ;)

I recently enjoyed one week of holiday, which I grasped as an opportunity to see more of the state of Sabah. I traveled in one giant loop, which involved traveling solo and with others - but involved relying on the help of those around me each step of the way.

Riding the train with school children (more strangers-made-friends!) from Beaufort to Tenom.
I ventured to Beaufort on the train with several coworkers for a day trip and made plans to continue on the train by myself to Tenom. I waited at the station for about two hours, which gave me time to read, crank out about 20 postcards and meet my Malaysian grandmother. If my white skin and blonde hair didn't give away the fact that I "didn't belong" there, my gimonstrous backpacking pack certainly did. As I sat writing away, the woman across from me suddenly shoved a bag in front of me. "Makan." [Eat.] I say she's my Malaysian grandmother, because when I tried to thank her and say I was full, she gave me the look we all know: You look hungry and you will respect your elder. Don't make me say it again, child. Admittedly, those were the best fried bananas I've ever had. Plus, the one way we can all communicate with one another is through our stomachs.

After that, we spoke briefly and found out we were both bound for Tenom. It was a simple conversation, but it held so much love and value for me as I sat there - no longer alone. I asked my new friend to watch my things as I relieved myself and when I returned, she helped me purchase my train ticket. That was greatly to my advantage, because this Malaysian grandmother got in line before everyone - and before anyone knew what was happening with the ticket sales. Needless to say, we both arrived safely in Tenom and went our own ways with full tummies and full hearts.

The final story took place today, November 6th. I went on my usual evening jog, but unlike most days when I run with a coworker I was solo. I ran the full length of the beach and took advantage of the opportunity to do some exploring on my own. I was walking around taking pictures of the crabs when a fisherman came up to me in his boat - right from the sea! I'm not sure if he thought I was trying to sneak pictures of him (which I might have been... sort of. hehe!), but the next thing I know he's pulling a squid out of the water and asking if I want a picture! "Sure!" I excitedly exclaim. Then, he proceeded to walk towards me, holding it out - for ME to hold! It was so expected, but actually quite thrilling. After taking a few pictures of me, I asked if we could take a picture together. This led to a conversation in broken Bahasa Malayu and sharing of names. I hope to visit the resort down the road someday, not to stay there or eat at the restaurant, but to visit my new friend Brian in the kitchen.  
You can see Brian in the distance - but you can also probably tell I was trying to capture the crabs in the foreground.
Crabby dude.
The unexpected joy of holding a live squid ??
Ha! Selfie with Brian and Mr. Squid.
Kawan saya, Brian.
Brian's boat with the beautiful scenery.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

still alive! ;)

Uffda! It's been awhile since my last post. Life is so busy here and I'm finding that writing is something that hasn't taken priority. I LOVE taking pictures and if you're on Facebook, I hope you've enjoyed some of my "stories" here through those.

In an attempt to get everyone caught up, I'm going to just let you know what a typical week looks like, now that I've settled into a fairly regular rhythm:


6AM(ish) - wake up; go jogging or swimming at the beach; come back and get ready for the day

7:30 - school starts! *I rotate around to various departments and areas at SMC, which I can talk about later in other blogs

7:40 - exercise with students; this usually involves walking and stretching with some variations (like dancing!!)

8:30 - school gets rolling - teaching, baking, therapy, etc.

10AM - break! All the students eat something from home or from the canteen, which usually means a healthy portion of "mee goreng" (fried noodles), hot dog, fried baked goods, cookies or cake [yeah, not the healthiest eating habits, which is why I bring a carrot and/or apple every day, now]

10:30 - school resumes

Noon - one hour break for lunch and "rehat" (rest)

1PM - back to school; the afternoons look much more relaxed and "go with the flow" (again, I will talk details in later blogs)

3PM - school's out! Teachers (including myself) stick around until every student gets picked up, with the exception of a few who hang around for "tuition" or special tutoring/care; our work day ends at 3:30, so I'm free to leave by then

3:30/4 - rehat! I truly take a nap every day and there is NO SHAME! It's glorious and good for the soul. After napping, I will do anything from grab a snack, chat it up with my housemates, go grocery shopping, upload and edit pictures, e-mail or FaceTime people, write postcards - ha! basically anything but blog, I guess. ;)

5:30(ish) - go jogging with my co-worker (either the beach or an awesome park nearby called Perdana)

6:45 - dinner alone with my housemates; I sometimes make my own food, but there's usually food already made and it's insisted I eat that (noooo problem!)

7:30 - chillax - talk with housemates, watch a movie together, do laundry, back to photo editing or reading; FaceTiming

9/10 - beddy bye time!


*** seriously, Saturdays vary so much, I'll have to fill you in on some specific weekends. However, here are some of the things I've done for the past few:

  • Dusun wedding - a traditional Malay wedding in the "kampung" or village where several of my co-workers' families live
  • Chinese wedding - complete with "tea ceremony" and the tradition of giving and taking money from the bride and groom
  • Rafflesia flowers - one of my co-workers has an uncle who runs a center where you can view the world's largest flowers in the wild - love me some jungle trekking
  • Western groceries - did some "guilty pleasure" shopping and made a few purchases to share with my new communities, including Blue Box [Kraft] mac 'n' cheese, pretzels and gummy bears
  • Beach day - this wasn't actually on a weekend, but a holiday excursion with friends from church in the middle of the week (so it felt like Saturday)
  • Eklektos - this is the student-led worship service at my church; I wish I could make it there every week, but other opportunities make that difficult so I get there when I can! 

6:30AM - wake up; get ready for church; get a ride from my lovely friend, Connie

7:30 - church at BCCM KK (E) *the "E" stands for English

9:30 - fellowship after worship and head to breakfast with one of several wonderful groups I've found myself connected with

11AM - done for the day! At this point, I gauge my needs for the rest of the weekend and decide whether to 1) ask for a ride home 2) take the bus home from wherever I am (this often fails and people insist on driving me back) 3) figure out what the people I had breakfast with are doing for the rest of the day and tag along! This could entail meandering about in one of the malls, going to a movie, heading to someone's house for games or relaxing, bowling, etc.

9PM - sleepy time

Now that you know what a "typical" week looks like for me, I look forward to sharing more detailed experiences with you, including: people, places, challenges and puzzlements. 

I really want to try and be more intentional about blogging, so feel free to call me out and/or help keep me accountable! I give you permission! ;)

Peace and love from Sabah,

Prayer requests: 

There is a couple at my church who is expecting their first baby around Christmas. He is Singaporean and they want their baby to have Singapore citizenship, so they are going there for the final two months of her pregnancy; they leave on Monday! Please pray for their safe travels and a continued healthy pregnancy.