Monday, May 28, 2007

one knife

there is something about finding delight once again. i didn't realize how delightful life could be until i slowed down and began to understand and take notice of the surrounding life burying itself deep within my pores.

you see, we have one knife. in the mornings when we arise, we run to the local market for some calcium enriched soy milk, make our way back to the room, wash some mangoes, rambutan, lychee and oranges. we sit together outside on our porch. while one peels and cuts the mangoes the other sits, waits, laughs and enjoys. the one holding the knife who has committed themselves to mango mutilation pokes piece by piece and we feed eachother. i know that sounds silly, but i wonder what life would be like if we had two knives and were able to peel, cut and eat our mangoes independently.

after five months of hibernation we brought out our mini-ipod that my dad gave us as a going away gift (a free promo gift he received from krogers). yesterday we laid in bed together, listening to damien jurado, love drug, U2, neutral milk hotel, etc. together. with one ear phone in my left ear and the other in his left we shared our afternoon together, sang together, danced together (although this took some tricky agility) and smiled. i wonder what life would have been like yesterday afternoon if we had a t.v. to watch or even two ipods to listen to.

we have one small room that is matted with tiles from ceiling to floor. much different from a "western" bathroom, everything is open. there are no walls or curtains to separate the toilet from the sink or the shower. all is open. well, the lice are still taking up residence in my (now blond - different story) hair. truth be told, i let it go for too long without maintenance and the babies got bigger and the bigger laid eggs and the eggs became babies and the cycle continued. well, three nights ago as i was taking a shower i decided something needed to be done about it. at that time jake came in and i shared with him my bug issues. together, no separated by walls or curtains we pulled out our only comb and began the process. i then took the lice killer comb and followed his tracks picking those heathens out one by one. with two combs we stood in our open bathroom for an hour picking bugs out of my hair and being amazed at how many and how big they are. i wonder how that night would have been had we had walls and curtains to separate us from what we were doing/trying to do.

most days we are without an engine-run mode of transportation (unlike today we which rented a 125 honda and toke a ride up into the mountains to hike throughout the waterfalls, yeah.) therefore, our primary way of going from one place to another is on foot. the days when we rent a bike there is always a part of me that misses walking. passing by hundreds of food and junk carts at a time with jake's right index finder interlaced in my left hand pinkie. we talk (with feeble results) with various vendors, pet hedgehogs and rabbits, play with little children and discover spider-webs and flowers. i sometimes wonder what life would be like if we had a car to take us everywhere we thought we wanted to go and missed all the discoveries woven throughout the side streets, alleys and people along the way.

we have one knife right now. it brings me delight.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Northern Thailand Travels
Mae Salong, a small village found in the northern providence of Chaing Rai. What you see here is what you get: mountains, a one road small town founded by the Chinese in the 60's after they were thrown out of Burma after fleeing China. A small town primarily founded on opium trade, it wasn't until the mid-80's that Thailand began to recognize it as it's own city and began to invest in it by providing alternative sources of income, bringing in tourism among many other hosts of things. I on the other hand, hope that things never change - it's breathtaking.

So, for part of our tri pwe rented a Honda Wave 100 to cruise along the hills of Northern Thailand (and cruising was exactly what we did with both laughter and tears - from both ourselves and the engine). With a much needed road-side stop (for our butts as well as our engine) I accidently ran through a bush of thorns with my feet and found no less than 50 thorms stuck in, through and between my toes... it hurt like a mother.

Our Honda Wave 100 after one of it's feats of climbing up and down muddy hills while towing aprox. 300 lbs. of weight on it's back.

Although it may look super-imposed, the green was just as green pictured here as it was in person...

One of our night drives together...

Our way "home" the next morning as the dew was rising, the clouds were begining their dance to the heavens and the roads were carrying us away.

And then there was the Sunday night market. With this just ebing one of many roads, alley's and side streets filled with entertainment, music, food, crafts, pictures and the list could go on and on - our night last night was one of walking, laughing, eatting and being amazed at how such a simple town can turn into a fancy night festival once every week.
Chaing Mai at a glance...

Our first morning in Chaing Mai we were walking around trying to find a cheap nice place to stay during our time here and low and behold, we ran into a parade of ants carrying their manna for the next month... this was our second scorpion sighting to soon be followed by our most recent cobra sighting (which we did not capture on camera p.s.)

And then there was Bud's... our little treat for ourselves... branched out of San Fransciso Bud's has taken on the hearts of many in Chaing Mai, including Jake and I. What cannot be fixed with a hot chocolate sundae and a green tea/strawberry ice cream taco... delight.

Our view from our fourth floor suite. Some may call it a one room shack. But to us, it's perfect. With a view like this, how can it not be.

So, for the past week Jake and I have spent our time traveling with Derek and Niti around Northern Thailand, spending a majority of our time with Niti's immediate and extended family (all of the Akha tribe). Although we enjoy shopping for our food, even more so we have learned to enjoy hunting and gathering for our food. Although we were treated as honored guests during our entire time, there is something contagious about gathering up leaves, mushrooms, fruits and vegetables as we walked the hills. There is something freeing and tenacious about searching out for worms, stringing them and going after fish with a stick. On a side note though - Jake and I are rookies. By the end of our time, we hadn't independtly caught any fish, I found one mushroom and while Jake did our laundry one evening I went out and had a lesson on gathering leaves and herbs (which I could barely identify on my own by the end of my lesson). This picture is of Niti's mom, being the pro that she is.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

It's been awhile...

So I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you a couple of things I've/We've been struggling though over this past week.

Thailand (Chaing Mai) is beautiful, convienent, conventional and simply refreshing. It's not India. It's not Morocco. It's different.

To say that there are no poor people here is a statement I would like to make after four days of being here and not being hit-up by any beggers or seeing men, women and children sleep out in the streets, sidewalks and parks. Yet, that statement is not necessarily all true. After talking to a local social worker and some friends of ours who grew up here/live here, my assumptions though have proven to be pretty much substantiated.

There are those here who live in "poor" conditions, but to live on the street in a "destitute" poverty is an unknown, unseen. There is not "hunger" here as we experienced in India or Morocco. It was shared with us that is beacause Thailand is fertile ground, filled with fruits and vegetables, pulses and livestock. No one goes hungary. The government is run "well," in that medical needs are cared for, kids go to school, most adults are self-employed/employed by bigger business. It's an overall "functioning" community.

People are kind to us here. Six days in and we have not yet been laughed at, yelled at (well, except for this crazy lady in the night market who screeched at us when we walked away from her table uninterested in her products), made fun of, harassed, mocked, etc. In fact, I didn't even know (after nine months over-seas) how much we were yelled/laughed at, made fun of, harassed, mocked, etc. until all of those daily moments we had become accustomed to had disappeared. People are nice here, like really really nice.

There is fresh air here. It's clean, there aren't piles of trash to step through, urine on the sidewalks to step over (many men in India have not yet mastered the use of a private urinal stall yet and prefer to ofter relieve themselves on the side of the roads, sidewalks, etc. - which I guess there is a reason for when many of the men who do so often don't have toilets at their disposal to use), pollution in the air to clog your nose, lungs, ears and eyes with. It's so beautiful... so very beautiful...

This is where my heart and mind gets confused. I want to be here. I like it here. It's exotic and different while still being familiar and comfortable. It's not India. It's not Morocco. Yet, I love India. I love Morocco. When I think of the experiences I had there I often cannot help but praise God for the mercy he has given us to have been able to live and learn from our neighbors and friends there. And in the midst of looking back at all of the obstacles we encountered while there, I still have nothing short of fond, beautiful, stretching, exciting, joyful memories of our time there. I think there's something to this, for God says that when we choose to enter into "suffering with others" we choose to enter into life and love with him, inside his skin. There is a reason our times in India and Morocco are rembered in our hearts and minds the way they are.

So why do I want to stay here so much? And why do I struggle with wanting to stay here so much? I don't want to cheat God by remaining in a place where we want to be rather than in a place where He may want us to be (although we have no clue where that is right now). We're struggling... Yet, there is a part of me that rejoices in the struggle in order to learn and grow closer in my relationship with my first love as well as with Jake.

I'm kind of at a loss right now I guess you could say.

On that note: We're looking for employment here. We are feeling as though we may need a fiscal year as well as a year of rest and routine. It's a fertile place for Jake to get an English teaching job, yet for a number of reasons, we are running into a couple obstacles, still they are not all set in stone. Please pray for us. A simple request from a simple heart.

Know in the meantime though that we just paid for our first "apartment." It's a one room hotel that has a king sized bed and a balacony that looks out over the beautiful mountains and city of Chaing Mai.

This morning we got up with the sun and ate oranges, mangosteins and peanut butter and jelly snadwiches in bed looking out over the balcony.

Thanks for your love.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Yeah, internet again...

So we had a little time before meeting our friends for breakfast, and thought that we would update the blog a little bit again.

First up, a guessing game. This is an object that we picked up in India. We can tell you that it at one point used to be alive. Now it is your job to guess what it is, what it was, where it came from, and how it came to our possession. Come on, get creative, and give us a story.

Fruit in India is dirt cheap, and amazing. There is nothing like a banana that was allowed to ripen on a tree, instead of being picked green so it can be shipped a few hundred miles just to ripen off the tree on a grocery store shelf.

Due to the awesomeness of the fruit here, we ate a lot. Here we are suckin' on mangoes. Ummmm.....

Now here we are suckin' on watermelon on the back step of our little hotel room at the Salvation Army in Calcutta.

Jessica says, "this one's for you, sisters." We went to what sounded like a really cool museum in Calcutta, and it turned out to be kind of lame (mostly it was a huge showcase for dirty dolls donated from around the world). However, there were two floors of these models depicting Hindu mythology. Each floor had 61 window frames, each one containing models telling a portion of the story.

This one was one of our favorites... sorry it is blurry, I think picture taking was against the rules, so we had to sneak it in as we could.

And here we are in Bangkok. Huge bridge, lots of temples, totally different people, and a totally different culture. Jess and I did not realize how resensitized we had become to bare flesh until we were walking around the streets here. Morocco and India are both very conservative compared to Bangkok, and it has been a long time since we have seen so much cleavage and incredibly short skirts and uncovered flesh. Wow...

In related news, today, for the first time since September, Jessica and I are wearing shorts. Yikes...

Traveling today, post again sometime soon.


Monday, May 07, 2007

we arrived safely into Bangkok yesterday.
we only have two mins. left on our internet time.
thank you for your prayers and we'll up-date soon.

love us

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pure photos II

Holy crap this was a great movie poster. On the back of many of the busses down south. I have no idea what it is about or what it says, but perhaps either Sumitran or Pavittran could help us out with some translation if they are reading.

With the company of prep boys in tight jeans and a seven year old girl dressed in a sari, Jake and I took a log over-due trek up an amazingly beautiful mountain range in the Nilgiri Hills...

Gnanamanickam family + 2 foreigners

For some reason, I understand her grief when I look at her.

Beautiful enterance into an old colonial British cemetary (which we hopped over the gates to get to and wander throughout)

Well, Biss-ha!
Pure photos

Our chief mode of transportation through the southern portions of the Indian sub-continent. Uncle Shack, if you are reading, this one is for you.

Sunset over the tea plantations and valleys of Tamil Nadu.

Jess and I...

Just being ourselves...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Another picture-less post.

Sorry, I just don't trust the "virus-free" status of these public access computers enough to plug my camera into them.

No pictures but man do we have a lot of stories.

After spending about a week total with the Gnanamanickam family in Coonoor and the NWTWS, we headed back north through a nice little town called Mysore.

That, however, was just a stop on the way to one of India's largest cities, Bangalore. We were only in Bangalore long enough to change railway stations, hit a guy with our rickshaw and get a bite to eat before hopping on the 36 hour train ride to Calcutta.

Yeah, I am not sure if you read that right, but the rickshaw we were riding in actually hit a guy. His shoulder pushed in the frame on the left side of the carriage, his face hit right on the windshield, and he was sent sprawling. By the time I got out of the back seat, blood was pouring out of a split in his scalp that stretched from his eyebrow back and up about 3 inches on his head.

The man looked like he might have been drunk or homeless or both. We tried to help and ensure that he was ok, but after just a few minutes we were pushed back in a rickshaw and whisked away. This is where the conflict comes in. We feel that if he had been of a higher class or caste, more fuss would have been made about retaining the driver, calling the police, calling an ambulance, commandeering another rickshaw to take him to the hospital, etc... But we don't know this. It is just a feeling, and something we have discussed, and something born out of some experiences here.

All that aside, we have now been in Calcutta for about 3 days, and we are finding it much to our liking. The food, ambiance, the poverty, the sights and smells, and the general spirit of the city just feels good to us. It is nice to go somewhere strange and have it feel familiar.

Too many stories, and as you can tell from my writing tonight, I can not articulate well right now. Just know that we are doing well, and we are eagerly anticipating our change to Thailand in just a few days.

Jake and Jess