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, March 19, 2014

4. Hugs, high-fives and thumb flicks – when language or voice threatens to keep you from connecting with children, watch out for these guys! The first two were familiar, but the “thumb flick” is something I’ve learned in Malaysia and plan to bring back to the States! The younger kids tend to favor the hugs, but one of my favorite older girls (oh come on, we all have favorites!), Jacquelyn, is always waiting to give me a hug on the porch when I get home while she waits for her ride. God knows the power a hug holds. It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’ve had, Jacquelyn hugs fill the world with unicorns and rainbows.
I met this cutie at a wedding in a "kampung" or village outside KK. We couldn't speak with each other, but found other ways to communicate and become friends. 

5. Orion – my cousin in Texas first taught me how to spot “the belt” and it has since provided a place of solace for me throughout the world. Honestly, it’s silly but gazing at the constellation totally makes me think of the mice singing in American Tale. “Somewhere out there,” another is eyeing the same image, gawking in awe and submission. I’ve seen Orion from many places throughout my life and even talked with people on the phone, connected on some level with this common simultaneous sight. Stars have always amazed me, but there’s something beautiful in the continuity of seeing the same light gazing down on you from so many different perspectives.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

#3 - holidays 'n' festivals

3. Holidays and festivals – I’ve learned so many new traditions and celebrated countless new holidays throughout this year. I’m also blessed to know people from different ethnicities in Malaysia – primarily Chinese, Dusun and Kadazandusun (two native groups from Sabah) – which means I’m blessed to enjoy many different experiences. What I find particularly beautiful is that everyone recognizes and respects their neighbor’s traditions. Public holidays aren’t just for things the majority observes and everyone is cognizant of what their neighbor may be celebrating. The first person to wish me a “Merry Christmas” this year was my Muslim housemate. It’s not something she celebrates, but she knew it was important to me and that’s all that matters.

You'll find these red-topped containers with special treats everywhere at the time of Chinese New Year!

Moon Cake Festival (Google it!) 
As you might gather from the examples above, food centers around pretty much every festival or celebration, here. It's pretty great.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

back at it!

This has certainly been a year to learn not only about other people and other places, but also about myself. Well, if there’s one big thing I’ve learned about myself it’s that I am horrendous at blogging!! I don’t know if it’s the time commitment, the vulnerability in sharing something so publicly or if this is just not right for me right now. One thing I have remained committed to – partly because I really do enjoy it – is sharing pictures on Facebook. You may have run across people doing a project called “100 Happy Days.” It’s a discipline that challenges you to find one happy thing every day for 100 days and share it using pictures. As I move into the final months of my service here in Malaysia, I really do want to share some of the memorable moments, heartwarming relationships and breathtaking things I’ve witnessed on this side of the world. I just watched the movie Julie and Julia for the first time, last night. Part of the story is about a woman who sets a challenge for herself to share experiences daily through blogging. I would like to somehow combine these two efforts and share 100 things with you that have made these past several months beautiful in so many ways. I might include more than one thing in one day and my Internet could still be iffy, at times. Please bear with me, but also help keep me accountable! Thanks for reading!

Love and a hug, wherever you are.
~JB <3

1.    #1: KK – It seems like a simple yet also a HUGE thing to start by giving thanks for the entire city I call home, but it needs to happen. Last night, I had the first of what I’m sure will be many moments to come where I just stopped to soak in everything around me in the great city of Kota Kinabalu. For you Minnesota folks, it feels about the size of Duluth - perfect. I am grateful for its people, its amenities, challenges, blend of cultures, hospitality, food, nightlife, ocean view and “it’s all good” pace of life. Many people enjoy traveling, making visits out of the country or over to the capital, “the city” of Kuala Lumpur for holiday, but ask nearly anyone which they prefer and they’ll tell you: KK. It’s the place to visit. It’s the place to stay. It’s the place to be.
You could see lion dances spring up everywhere in KK during Chinese New Year.

#2: Music – Most of the music people listen to here comes from the States, but there’s just something different about it. For one thing, their deejays know how to mix it up. Tune into the radio and you'll hear top 40’s, oldies, rock, Jewel, Psy, U2, K-pop and everything in between - with a little Sabah flavor mixed in, too. I really can’t tell you how much I enjoy listening to music, here. In some cases, it’s like hearing it for the first time. Yet, at other times, it’s the song that’s been permanently embedded in my heart – and everyone’s here, too. We’ll crank the radio and gut out some Celine Dion – because when Malaynglish doesn’t quite cut it, My Heart Will Go On can apparently break all language barriers.
Dannela and I rockin' out in the back seat headed to the train station.