Friday, 9 December 2011

Living Life

The words below were in my brother's newsletter recently and I thought they were cool and decided to include them here. They embody the gist of a million books on sale today. Some may consider that Christmas is a good time to expect, ask for, or experience a miracle, but the life my bro lives is a YWAM one: miracles are a way of life and his newsletter was full of them! I encourage you to hope for God's best from now on. Faith is just a decision away...

You might like to C&P this or print it off and place it somewhere to remind you of ways to honour God with the life you've got. I encourage you to read it s-l-o-w-l-y and absorb each phrase instead of speed reading and writing it off as frou-frou. There's some pieces of gold in here...

Living Life

Life is not a race, but indeed a journey.
Be honest. Work hard. Be choosy.
Say "thank you", "I love you", and "great job" to someone each day.
Go to church, take time for prayer.
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh.
Let your handshake mean more than pen and paper.
Love your life and what you've been given,
it is not accidental -
search for your purpose and do it as best you can.
Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you aspire to be.
Laugh often.
Appreciate the little things and enjoy them. Some of the best things in life really are free.
Do not worry, less wrinkles are more becoming.
Forgive, it frees the soul.
Take time for yourself - plan for longevity.
Recognize the special people you've been blessed to know.
Live for today, enjoy the moment.

Bonnie L Mohr

Decide: Are you in a place of wanting to increase your faith, or are you mired in unbelief? Do you believe God can help you overcome your unbelief, and see Him work good thing in life through you?

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10v10

 Le voleur vient seulement pour voler, pour tuer et pour détruire. Moi, je suis venu afin que les hommes aient la vie, une vie abondante.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Mixed Messages

Recently I read a set of novels by a very well-known author. I luuuurved the books completely and have been recommending them to friends, but one problem I had during the reading caused a conflict within for two reasons.

1) There was some serious head-hopping going on.
2) Head-hopping is supposed to be a no-no, but this world renowned author is getting away with it when it's known for being a dirty great big fat no-no.

I realised this "dual rule" scenario happens quite a bit and have reached a conclusion whether it is correct or not. If you have a view that happens to be the right one, please, leave a comment and set me straight. Opinions on head-hopping are incredibly mixed.

Head-hopping is a big publishing industry no-no for the sole reason it causes reader distraction and interrupts the flow of the script and sentiment. Supposedly, books are to be written mainly from a single character's viewpoint for any number of reasons. Yet in this three part series I read every character in the book seemed to get a look-in, and I know for a fact that kazillions of these particular books have been sold in spite of this.

Was I distracted? Yes. Lots, in fact. Did it stop me from reading and turning every page with baited breath? Not at all. The story was too darn punchy. Did it interrupt the flow and make me backtrack? Definitely.

It's not the head-hopping (or crossed points of view) that gets me, but the fact the author gets to do it and everyone else who writes a book is deterred from ever doing so because they're probably going to botch it up entirely. What's good for the goose is not good for the gander. There are two different sets of rules: one for the published and one for the up-and-comings of the world.

My beef is this: So far I have had a great big fat handful of proofies read a certain story I wrote and only two have picked up on the apparent head-hopping. Part of me wants to fix this up so it's pristine for a potential agent who will undoubtedly pick on such misnomers. The other part of me wants to leave it as is because for those who have not found the occasional change in POV distracting, there has a been a power in it and they have loved knowing what someone else in the scene was thinking.

(The irony is that the two literaries picked up on it, and everyone else who would fall into the category of 'general readership' of the book's future market did not)

Hmmm... I am loathe to make the changes the story 'needs' because of the feedback I've had so far, but I know I'll probably polish the POV to please the agents and future editing eyes that will be cast over the MS in the days to come. It doesn't gall me, but it does make me go all lowbrow because I've read successful head-hopping as well as bad. Clearly it should not happen in every single scene on every single page because that would just be nasty, but if it happened once in a while, would that be so confusing?

Until I can find the absolute golden rule, I'll probably write to satisfy 'them' rather than me because the POV correctness will be advantageous in the end...

What say you? Is it only men who find POV distracting? Do women follow better because we can concentrate well on six different things at once? What's the permission for writing changing POV well? If a famous author is causing distraction but gets away with it, how can a pre-piblished author who does it well find any hope? What makes head-hopping work well?

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." James 1v2-8

Mes frères, quand vous passez par toutes sortes d'épreuves, considérez-vous comme heureux. Car vous le savez: la mise à l'épreuve de votre foi produit l'endurance. Mais il faut que votre endurance aille jusqu'au bout de ce qu'elle peut faire pour que vous parveniez à l'état d'adultes et soyez pleins de force, des hommes auxquels il ne manque rien. Si l'un de vous manque de sagesse, qu'il la demande à Dieu qui la lui donnera, car il donne à tous généreusement et sans faire de reproche. Il faut cependant qu'il la demande avec foi, sans douter, car celui qui doute ressemble aux vagues de la mer agitées et soulevées par le vent. Qu'un tel homme ne s'imagine pas obtenir quoi que ce soit du Seigneur. Son c  ur est partagé, il est inconstant dans toutes ses entreprises.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Day 11: Departure at 19:15:00

For our final day we lived large with a trip to the zoo and yes, saw an orangutan. Not being into monkies much, I guess Mowgli was an ok sort of chimp. There's probably enough wrong monkey ID in there to get me in trouble with certain people (Orangutans are neither chimps nor monkies!!).

Yep, mm-hmm.

On the way to the zoo on the freeway somewhere between 80 and 100kph, ever so slowly a black ute pulled out right in front of us, cut across our lane forcing us to brake hard, he cut across the next lane, causing cars behind to brake hard, and maintaining his snails' pace, pulled into the turning lane. This earned him a hearty thumbs up from our driver who also gave a big wide smile and with amused surprise, turned to my husband in the passenger seat as much to say, "Wow! Get a load of that, eh?" Such is the manner of the people in the land.

Amongst all the usual zoo animals we did see some gorgeous maccaws and these are birds I love. I want one but could never care for it long enough because they have a 70-80 year lifespan. It's the kind of gift you give when someone is born or will it to them for after you're gone.

I first became acquainted with them while reading Linda Chaikin's Buccaneers series more then ten years ago and during a trip to Oahu discovered they have more character than you could wave a sunflower seed at. They are a funny and savvy package dressed up in a bird's body (no 'bird brains' here!).

Rex, one of the red maccaws at the zoo was a former 'actor' and appeared in Hollywood movies but the keeper did not say which. When he played dead it was cute because the keeper would 'shoot' him, he'd drop flat on his back, and then after about six seconds his head would pop up and he'd look around as if to say, "Are we finished yet? Can I get up now?" Too cute :) They are such smarties.

Back at the hotel we packed as a wedding was in action on the grass not far from the bay window of our hotel room. It's always a question of whether it's Muslim, Christian, or Catholic. On this occasion there was no question as to the belief behind the speak. I went outside to get some clothes put out to dry right as the minister was asking, "What kind of Christian do you want to be? Do you want God to be a Santa Claus Father Christmas God, or do you want Him to be real in your life?"

Definitely no question whatsoever, and it was food for thought to depart on.

Our trip was fantastic and a blessing of the best kind, making us feel very cherished, yet for me there's a certain awareness that not only can God do greater things than these, but it's my position here on earth to honour Him with my best at every turn. There's so much more to life than how we live it and I reckon He expects us to take hold of it for His Kingdom's good. Living like He is the supreme Santa Claus being in the sky is just plain shallow. I pray He will take me into the fulness of His will for me, and that with the grace only He provides...

Decide: "What kind of Christian do you want to be? Do you want God to be a Santa Claus Father Christmas God, or do you want Him to be real in your life?"

"From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it [as a precious prize--a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought with most ardent zeal and intense exertion]." Matthew 11v12

Depuis l'époque où Jean-Baptiste a paru jusqu'à cette heure, le royaume des cieux se force un passage avec violence, et ce sont les violents qui s'en emparent.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Day 10

Discovering Jim Thompson was a pleasant revelation, and if you love handbags, toilet bags, sunglasses cases, lipstick cases, silk scarves and other pretty things, you would get an endorphin rush in this store like I did. These items are not for the fainthearted, nor are they for the frivolous. These are exclusive items for the discerning fashion palet because they cost a lot, and they are quality of the highest order.

(not my photo)
The bags range from teeny tiny to large and have various designs and prints to choose from. The design mainstay is scenes of ancient Thai life in action and in particular, lots of elephants, which seem to be his trademark. I found a nice plain black t-shirt with "Jim Thompson" in rhinestones for about $130ish. Nice? Sure... It would outlive every other tee in your closet. Only when I got home did I discover Jim Thompson is first and foremost known for high fashion silk home drapery. I couldn't buy the whole entire shop but being a reader did settle for the biography ($22). You see, the man responsible for the birth of the modern Thai silk trade vanished in 1961 while on a walk in Malaysia. I love a good mystery and aim to read that as soon as I finish The Land Below The Wind.

Being our second last day in the place that has fuelled such praise to God for His blessing on us, and a real love for the people who never ceased in showing kindness (we could learn a lot), we spent it in a keen awareness that the clock was ticking and therefore we chose to relax. It always seems that when you're doing nothing or very little, the clock moves that much slower. I took the time to catch up on the journal and admired the view as much as possible (now perfectly embedded in my mind).

In the evening our whole group stole into the downtown district for dinner for the last time and ate fish out of frypans, which was a very novel experience. It was only slightly rushed, for the men in our group had an appointment to keep with a man who hired out guns. Paintball ones that bruise even the toughest ego. Us wives and kiddoes had shopped for an hour while they crouched, aimed and fired, and came back in time to see our menfolk were still at war with one another. Quickly we could see that if this war were real, we would all be very widowed by now.

Aware they being watched, their performance changed only slightly but one of them tried to do a big bodyroll over an inflatable log but only made it halfway, getting beached on his own belly and bringing a laugh from us standing behind the protective net. We couldn't help but think of real war, a concept so far removed from our beautiful holiday in this gorgeous place.

After the war was over and they'd used up all the ammo, protective beach footwear was removed from their crotches (yes) and overalls were stripped down, shirts were proudly hefted and trophies of dark purple bruises and welts were displayed. The kids were only slightly horrified. If their dads were laughing, this was good enough for them. They were sweaty, tuckered out, and pumped to the max. All for $17 plus ammunition.

If only real war were so cheap.

Decide: What are your wars made of? Do you ever remind yourself we war not with flesh and blood but with the other realm?

"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm." Ephesians 6v12-13 

Car nous n'avons pas à lutter contre des êtres de chair et de sang, mais contre les Puissances, contre les Autorités, contre les Pouvoirs de ce monde des ténèbres, et contre les esprits du mal dans le monde céleste.
C'est pourquoi, endossez l'armure que Dieu donne afin de pouvoir résister au mauvais jour et tenir jusqu'au bout après avoir fait tout ce qui était possible.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Day 9

Please, you must forgive my tardiness in writing. If I were one of those bloggers who made a message out of everyday life occurrences, it would read like a mish-mash of Nicholas Sparks meets Susan May Warren and they get invited to dinner by Tom Clancy. Seriously.

So moving right along...

This day seemed a good one for getting out and about, like really out and very much about, and we made the lengthy and dramatically beautiful trek by Avanza into the mountain region. Like the grocery stores of other countries, the cars are of equal interest to me. Yep, it's just one of those things I love to check out. Rather than bore you with the technical details, Toyota's Avanza is smaller than an Overlander/Kluger but bigger than a Corolla and not a van, but seated eight of us. It's a very matter-of-fact vehicle that handled the bumps pretty well.

And in this land there are serious bumps that proved to be well-known to the driver. The bumps and dips must have been intentionally created by eXtreme construction workers who had it in for cars, shock absorbers, and passengers alike, men who were living surpressed dreams of working on rides at a theme park. We'd be flying along the freeway at 100kph and the driver would brake at the sight of a bridge down to about 30, we'd go ka-whack over the bump and he'd floor it back up to 100. At first it was weird, but we quickly got used to it as part of life for getting anywhere, because especially in the instance of a bridge, there was always the downward ka-whack to consider at the other side where the road joined again.

The ride up the mountain was breathtakingly beautiful. Everything was deep green, dropping away then rising up in glorious picturesque splendour in so many different shades of lush. Every turn saw us oohing and aahing just as we had from above days earlier when we'd taken the flight in the chopper. The same teeny mishmash houses of wood, tin and/or concrete were now roadside, proving to us they were indeed very colourful and usually no bigger than a small apartment. The only BMW I saw the whole trip was outside one such house and clearly had not been driven in some time. Only the telltale grille made it recognizable amid the wad of disused goodness-knows-what stacked against it and the plants growing up and around the fenders. It was such an ironic image.

Because of the trucks and small flatbeds making the trip along the steep mountain roads, the drive up was slow at times but no one was complaining with the gorgeous jungle views outside the window. At home we grow pretty things or native plants in sandy soil where terrain is flat. These guys were growing papaya and durien and edibles they could use or sell, which seemed like such a good idea and far more practical.

Of all the things we did on this trip (we were gone the whole day) some experiences stand out more than others, and the durien tasting was one of them. The fruit is pronounced "jurian" and look like this:

  (not our photos) 

These things look like a warning on a tree. Why would you open this? Like, who tried this first and thought it might possibly be something you'd want to eat? If you see them in this state, I suggest leaving them alone and no one will get hurt. If you are an adventurous soul and do decide to open the fruit, please, please have someone else open it for you, do NOT get it on you or on your clothes (unless you are preared to run behind the car all the way home), and have handy a pack of Mentos and some scented wipes. I'd been in contact with these fruits before but the others were keen to try. We stopped at a roadside where the seller obviously propagated a tree at home. The back of his trailer was full of these spiky odd-shaped pods, and at the cost of RM10 (about $3), he put on his gloves and opened one for our group.

If it looks like a kidney or some other bodily internal organ, I assure you that the taste is everything as pungent that you could conjur. My hubby declared it to have the sweet note of a mango but the strong finish of a pile of onions, but in my opinion that is way too kind. Let these images tell the story because the faces say it all...

The caption with this woman's photo should read, "What crawled into this fruit and died??!! Don't make me put it in my mouth!!"

The smell is bad and yet one in our group decided he didn't mind it. I couldn't believe it! Even the teksi driver was telling us how they are banned in hotels and cannot be brought onsite.

Back in the car, overtaking was a real Borneo experience, because unlike home, they don't seem to police the road rules because their rules seem to be that of martial law. There are few speed limit signs and every move made seems to happen by unconscious mutual agreement with the car in front or behind or ahead. Overtaking on the way up or down a hill with a blind corner coming and no gap between cars to pull back in is dealt with by sheer courtesy, and oncoming cars will even slow down for you until you are let back in. No one curses (at least not openly) and there's completely no road rage. There are plenty of thumbs up and only very rare horn honks. In brief, you won't die and it's all good. Please, pull out in front of me so I can smile at you and wave!

On the way back down the mountain we saw a section of road that had dropped away and sunken beneath the tarmac that wove through the jungle like a ribbon, and we actually drove around this one whack-worthy bump. Not even the teksi's shocks could take the next ka-whack. During an eXtreme overtaking section, there was nowhere else for us to go and at speed at about 80kph on the way down a decent incline with a hairpin bend in sight, the kids in the backseat very much felt the next ka-whack, and ground out a "Whoa!" that made us all laugh - not to mention the passenger in the middle without a seatbelt hit his noggin and released a pretty funny, "Oww...".

Our teksi driver gave a small wry smile that grew to a more openly amused grin. "Sorry."

Yeah right. It might have been hard to swallow if we weren't laughing, too.

Decide: Is life better when you can see the bumps, or when they take you by surprise? What smells in your life that you might need to get rid of yet have been living with for some time, managing to convince yourself that odour of decomposition might not be coming from within?

“Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!” Colossians 2v21

Ne prends pas ceci, ne mange pas de cela, ne touche pas à cela!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Day 8: Ka-chow!

We'd spent every evening differently but not through active choice. It's just how things were turning out, and it was very relaxing to be so carefree. The grounds of our accommodation were glorious in the daytime, but at night they came alive in a pristine way that was very much the stuff of romance novels. Balmy night air... palm trees swaying slightly in the breeze straight off the ocean... perfect island silhouettes and blazing sunsets... It's a wonder we haven't all returned home citing babies due in 8 months time.

But honestly? Nighttime changes the place and it's beautiful. Even if you'd just broken up with your first love I think this place would forever manage to hold seriously cherishable memories. Breaking up may or may not be easier over dinner, because dinner in Borneo always turns out to be very distracting. Since everyone on the trip was and is very much quite well-glued together, dinners proved to bring some degree of excitement, the least of which was by no means the amazing hotel fare. It was here and not out on the street that we discovered the national pastime of Kacang.

I don't quite understand the love-affair with sweet corn, but this place adores it. In the same way some American friends of mine found eating pumpkin with dinner a bit of a head-tilt, eating sweet corn as dessert or a snack was one for me. Iced Kacang contains huge helpings of sweet corn among other things and after the dish is brought to the table, the instruction is to mix the whole thing up into a slushie.

It came to our table for dessert as a huge mountain of shaved ice swathed in grenadine which gave it a glorious berried hue. On the top of the mountain peak was a generous scoop of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream topped with crushed nuts. Hiding under the ice mountain was a curious mixture of berry jelly cubes as firm as jubes, deep purple jelly cubes of caramelised wheatgrass, more chopped nuts, sweetcorn, sago beads known as 'pearls', and I think there were some bean bits in there somewhere.

This things seriously goes from bad to good. It looks like something yummy gone wrong. You stir it all up, serve it into your own bowl (in our case), then eat it. Truly, the proof is in the pudding - and they do call it a pudding!!

Let's step back. Where I come from, dessert has many identities and most of them are formulaic and neat. They are presentable and very much French influenced, not to mention puddings are firm and somewhat cake-like, and eaten with cream or custard. This dessert looked like afterthought leftovers but the taste was amazing. Let's now analyse, and again with photos that are not mine because we negelcted to take any.

Ours started a little something like this, only with a scoop of ice cream on top:

...and by the time we were scooping it out of our bowls, looked more soupy like this:

It just looked... wrong. But the taste was confusingly right! The dominant flavours were the sweet corn and the nuts combined with the sweetness of the grenadine. The sago pearls and wheatgrass jelly were subtle flavours neither here nor there and I concluded were more for a "mouthfeel", and I could see why the chef had presented this dessert in the most western way possible. Were it brought to the table looking more traditional...

...I think the chef would be faced with returned plates.

Ice Kacang was a dessert to be experienced and I'd make it here at home for sure, because in summer it'd be more refreshing than ice cream on its own. The shaved ice provides a crunchiness and the various textures make it a real mystery in the mouth. It's Agatha Christie meets Nigella Lawson on a diet because there's nothing in this to add to waistlines or hips at all. That sole scoop of ice cream on top doesn't do a thing.

Decide: If you are what you eat, how would you describe yourself? Do you need a little more adventure or will you grow old in a boring but tried and true way?

"Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
      Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
   I will strengthen you and help you.
      I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." Isaiah 41v10 sois pas effrayé,
      car je suis avec toi;
      ne sois pas angoissé,
      car moi je suis ton Dieu.
      Je t'affermis,
      je viens à ton secours,
      pour sûr, je te soutiens de mon bras droit qui fait justice.

Day 7: Up & @ 'em!!

This day was probably the most memorable by far. Awake at 6am, we breakfasted and teksi'd out to the airport. This was funny to me because the guy who called for our teksi was named "Hail". Classic. Even funnier was that the two of our travel buds coming with us on this occasion got our bling taxi from day 3 and were as stunned as we were by the fixation with the sparkles.

At the airstrip we were weighed and sat before a safety DVD. After this we were guided out to the tarmac and to the chopper that would be ours for the next hour. Only one in our party had been in a chopper before whereas the rest of us had no idea what to expect. Seated and buckled in, we adjusted our headsets and tuned them in until we could hear each other, and then we waited.

Overhead the rotor was as loud as a HD DVD in BluRay with Dolby surround sound. This was the real deal, and we were sittin' in it. The doors on either side were shut and we could hear our Management pilot making final checks and talking to the tower. There was no warning as to when we'd finally lift off and so we sat calmly as if in our car for extended minutes until suddenly it felt like we were picked up by a giant hand! The chopper turned and very suddenly took off across the tarmac where only moments earlier large passenger planes had been taking off behind us.

Like a scene from a Vietnam war movie, we were crusing just above the ground, tail up and nose down at full pelt, lifting only slightly as we came to drift above rooftops and the freeway. The pilot cracked a small wry smile as we couldn't help but holler our bliss. It was fantastic! The remarks that flowed through the headsets were to the effect of:
"Omigosh! I just found my new and expensive addiction!!!"
"Aaaaugh fantastic!!!"
"This is awesome!!!"
"Aaaaaugh!! I want one!!!"

Elaborate sentences to fully express our concise feelings at the time. No wonder the pilot was smiling.

Take off was the best, like fully. THE BEST. The velocity and power were terrific and exactly how it looks in the movies is how it is, I promise :) Unlike a plane where the speed picks up gradually for takeoff, in a chopper the pace is instant. It's a real rush. We were grinning outside our faces, and even our kids were pretty stoked.

Moving across to the mountain that gives our destination its name, we saw below us rivers and un-surfaced winding roads, as well as tracks across the tops of ridges in the undulating terrain that plunged 1,000ft below. We were 5,000ft above sea level and eventually this far above the surface of the earth. That was the on the way. For the return trip, the pilot proved he had something else in store. The jungle was green as green could be, and tumbling down the mountain were large waterfalls that looked like mere rivulets from our lofty place above the clouds. We oohed and aahed without ceasing. The pilot had us at about 80 knots.

(Not our photo)
Nearer the mount the air grew noticably cooler and we shut the windows. The clouds were made perfectly white by the sun high above. Everywhere there was beauty and we marvelled at the creativity of God's handiwork.

As we listened to our pilot's check-ins with the tower and realised we were making our way back, it slipped out he'd flown for the military for 30 years. Husband asked, "How close can you go down to the trees?"
Pilot replied in his deep Kamahl voice, "How close do you want to be?"
"I can do that."

Trust me when I say he did. We could count the leaves! Husband then asked if he could do any sweeping passes or bank left and right. Believe me when I say he so totally did. At 120 knots. Watching the jungle meet you fair and square out the window as you bank a mean, deep left is sensational, especially when you're face to face with it at a parallel angle. Using the "SicSac" never entered anyone's mind. The ducking and weaving was way too cool.

Houses below put our modern western homes to shame. The colours of the walls and the rooftops flickered between pink, beige, brown, blue, orange, white, red, jade... It was like the Med in the jungle and the only thing missing was stucco :)

Landing came quickly and again, with precision skill. With a spin and a few clever swoops he reverse parked the chopper in a manoeuvre purely for our enjoyment because he so did not have to do it. By then he was just showing off and we wanted to take him home for keeps as he no doubt knew from our effusive praise. Only after we landed did we learn he'd also flown for Bear Grylls, holding steady as he rappelled up and down ropes to and from the Borneo jungle.

How long will it be before we can indulge again in our new addiction? Only time will tell, but it was a really special treat to say the very least.

Decide: Are the things that rock your world within reach, or do you have to make time and effort to enjoy them more often than you currently experience? How hard is it for you to pursue a dream?

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29v11

Car je connais les projets que j'ai formés sur vous, dit l'Éternel, projets de paix et non de malheur, afin de vous donner un avenir et de l'espérance.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Day 6: Pearls of Wisdom... in a Cup?

The day began slowly and by now I was hoping to get out more and experience some of the sights. I was feeling over-relaxed. After all, it was day 6. If you're anything like me, if you're not doing enough, you eat. In this case, eating was being done by the pool, which was more than lovely. However, being squadron poo-bombed by little black birds whose droppings hit with albatros force and seemed as though they had been dining only on chutney tended not to make me feel so relaxed.

Mercifully the chutney poo washes right out with a bit of cold water. The smarting body part that was struck by the incoming bomb takes a little longer to recover. Perhaps it was the little birds' stomach acids working an acid peel effect and not the velocity with which the poo hit?

Friday night was flame throwing night, and no, this event was not sponsored by chilli-eating little black birds. It's a show put on by the hotel for the entertainment of their guests, and by night it's quite the spectacular amid the backdrop of the indigo sky and coconut palms in silhouette. The bongo beat could be heard from as far away as half a kilometre in the balmy night air and we ooga-booga'd our way across the grass to take a look on the way to catching a taxi into town.

At the big mall we met up with some other friends, and Mr. Valley was proclaiming the wonders of having just scored dinner for the equivalent of three dollars. One fun thing we discovered was the strangely wonderful and albeit rather confusing "Pearl Iced Tea." On this occasion we chose mango (rather than lychee, peach, sweet corn, vanilla, or chocolate) and the first sip was very refreshing. But why do they call it a 'pearl'? Let's see.

(Not our photo)
The first clue is the fattest drinking straw known to mankind. The second is the choc-chip looking things in the bottom of the large cup. What comes up the straw as something of a shock (mid-sip of a satisfying gulp of iced mango tea) is a pearl. No, not a real one, although there are enough freshwater pearls in this place to warrant the use of the real thing. The larger than pea-sized ball that traverses the straw into your mouth arousing great suspicion is actually some kind of jelly jube thing a chef we met likened to sago or tapioca.

Unpleasant? Au contrare. A whole collection of them in your mouth tastes suspiciously of maple syrup. They dissolve quickly and are really, really amusing. There's actually no other word for it. It has to be tried. It's a bit like plonking a handful of round gummy bears into the bottom of your watery milkshake, leaving them for half a day, then sucking them up and chewing. With the reactions we were giving to this unusual new drink, our friend quickly went off and bought one. Word of mouth is almost as big as mouth feel :) The pearl tea was experientially profound.

Decide: When did you last try something new and out of the ordinary? What can you find to try that really won't kill you after all? It might just be something you wouldn't like to live without ;)

"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!" Matthew 13v45-46

Voici à quoi ressemble encore le royaume des cieux: un marchand cherche de belles perles. Quand il en a trouvé une de grande valeur, il s'en va vendre tout ce qu'il possède et achète cette perle précieuse.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Day 5: Island Interrupted

Ok, so you see a small diversion in the title plan. The wordsmith is me is alive after all. I couldn't help it ;)

On this day our menfolk left their ladyfolk beside the pool in search of adventure (wait, I want to come, too!!), and we watched our offspring enjoy the water and get in on some adventure of their own. To start out, we hung out in the room for a bit, and besides, it's too gorgeous not to enjoy. Remember that view I mentioned? It only got better and better with each passing day.

The kids' TV shows are pretty much what you'd find anywhere with one exception: Soccer brainwashing. There are cartoons exclusively about soccer in this country aimed at varying age groups and it's scary. Sport can be hazardous to one's health at the best of times, but will a kid sit there and watch two olderish men discuss an up-and-coming soccer match over a cafe table? Evidently, yes. Conversation between the various shows goes like this:

"Did you see the game last night?"
"I want to play for Malaysia!"
"I got a ball so I can practise properly."
"I'm going to watch England win."
"South Africa will beat them!"
"You're dreaming!"
"You just wait and see!"
etc, etc.

It's not just a cartoon. It's soccer indoctrination. Now I know why there are riots after games...

Back in the real world I was talking to one of the many gracious hosts working a kiosk near the pool and spotted the headline on the local daily newspaper: Beggar Throws Baby Into Sea. I pointed to it and perused the first few paragraphs and asked her to explain to me what it was all about. She said the woman (beggar) is an asylum seeker who cannot find work and because there are no prospects for her or her baby, she tossed him (about 16mo) into the sea. As authorities went after the baby and tried to capture the mother, she then threw herself into the sea.

Another headline showed a deceased man flat out on the concrete as police and medics were about to cover him up with a sheet. He'd jumped from the fourth floor and was having "personal problems" according to a neighbour. I was only slightly astonished at what other countries deem acceptable for front page images. But truly attention-getting was that while we were in this idyllic place with every whim catered to, not so far away were real people with problems the same in every country around the globe, and they're feeling the exact same emotions that life is bad and the badness is inescapable. In short, they have no hope.

I went back to the friends beside the pool and shared what I'd learned, not feeling guilty in the least for breaking into the beautiful reverie. My heart asked how different life on earth would be if only we listened to our Creator and did not ignore His ways or His plans for our lives. What if we used our freewill for choosing Him? How much more effective in my part of the Great Commission can I be?

Decide: Are the things that intrude on your moment the things you should pay more attention to? Where are you wasting time, and what things should you be saying no to in order to be fully effective for God's kingdom?

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16v13

Agar se demanda:
   ---Ai-je réellement vu ici même le Dieu qui me voit?
   Et elle appela l'Eternel qui lui avait parlé du nom de Atta-El-Roï (C'est toi le Dieu qui me voit).

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28v18-20

Alors Jésus s'approcha d'eux et leur parla ainsi:
   ---J'ai reçu tout pouvoir dans le ciel et sur la terre: allez donc dans le monde entier, faites des disciples parmi tous les peuples, baptisez-les au nom du Père, du Fils et du Saint-Esprit et apprenez-leur à obéir à tout ce que je vous ai prescrit. Et voici: je suis moi-même avec vous chaque jour, jusqu'à la fin du monde.

And so where's the problem?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Day 4

Getting drinks by the pool has proven to be one of the many luxuries I wish I could take home. The weather by now has also improved so much that we can not only make out the rooftops and jetties on the nearest island, but if we squinted we could also tell you how many people were meandering there. It's unbelievably fine and God has turned it on for us in extreme measures. Apparrently last week it was raining.

At the big mall we'd joked about the name of shop that was completely unmissable.

b.u.m. Equipment.

Hmmm, I mused with one of our friends. What do you suppose they sell? Her reply: "Yeah. Like, maybe, toilet paper?"

Actually, it was a clothing shop. I love this place :)

So, day 4 yeilded a great taxi with a friendly driver (bling free this time) who took us past a chocolate factory he insisted made the best chocolate in all Malaysia. He drove us to the marine park where, very sadly, the work of conservation was echoed by the usual rundown appearance. They are limited by the money they don't have, but the guy who became our guide assured us things are slowly on the up and people are starting to pay attention to the needs of their environment. We felt happy for him because he takes his job quite personally and he was a wealth of completely unboring details. The place was deserted save for us, and we got a very informative tour.

We saw many of the creatures we are acquainted with at home such as sharks, turtles and an array of fish, yet the highlight was by far the Horseshoe Crab. It was intriguing enough when he showed us one of 15cm diameter. Cross over to the next tank and he showed one of Goliath proportions - and I got to hold it! That baby weighed a ton. She was about a foot across and heavy.

These things are amazing. They have an almost impenatrable shell, have ten eyes, resemble a round stingray with a long pointy tail, and their underside is like (in my mind) a large version of a Hunstman spider's hairy legs. Our guide told us their "blood" is worth so much to the medical industry and can be tapped, valued at around $15,000USD a litre (a quart) because the anti-bacterial fighting properties are off the planet. They are kept indoors at the park to avoid blackmarket theft, and to save lives.

Are they deadly? Yes, if you decide you might like to eat one. He explained that only recently a family of four had died after catching one, cooking it and eating it. The toxins within the crab killed the whole family. He said it's not worth eating one for the trouble involved in cooking it, which takes about 8 times to go through the heat to kill off the toxins. Any normal housewife will tell you that even cooking something once may be waaay too much effort ;)

Decide: What amazes you about Creation? Do you think God minds if we tap His creatures, or do you think He hoped we would because He knew we'd need to?

"If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast." Psalm 139v9,10

Et si j'empruntais les ailes de l'aube
      pour me réfugier aux confins des mers,

     là aussi ta main me dirigerait,
      ton bras droit me tiendrait.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Day 3: ***Bling***

Day 3 was warmer than the previous two, and more beautiful. The islands filling our horizon were growing ever clearer to the point where items on their beaches were starting to become more defined. Maybe it was the jetlag, or maybe it was the sheer relaxed atmos, but by 2pm we had hardly moved a muscle and didn't entirely feel inclined to do so.

Before breakfast we'd kicked back and watched a teency bird outside our window in the garden, tucked in amongst some leaves of a plant we didn't know the name of. He was having the most tremendous time bathing and frisking in the heavy drip-drip-drip of a steady stream of water flowing from the balcony above after the tropical rains the night before. The leaves of the plant he was in slowed the stream to a pace more tolerable to his tiny frame, and it was as if he knew where to come and did so regularly. For the better part of ten minutes we watched him, loving that we could, loving that there was no need to rush anywhere, enjoying Creation.

When we finally did go out, we left the hotel in a taxi. Our driver was keen to practise his English and I was keen to make sure I wasn't in a jewellery shop. His car had more bling than Beyonce. More than the Queen of England, in fact. The dash mat was quilted sateen and studded at regular intervals with bling. The gear knob was replaced with a bling-bling version and wore a wide collar of blinginess. The roof interior held a tissue box with a cover of studded blingy-bling-bling. The posts of the headrests were cuffed with blingy collars. Hmmm...

His phone rang. Take a guess what it looked like.

Ok, to be honest, it might have just been a plain Samsung or Nokia. I was distracted by the blingiest seatbelt covers I'd ever laid eyes on. In fact the only blingy seatlbelt covers I'd ever laid eyes on. And the rearview mirror surround that bore a license plate similarity, except with bling. It was wearing a belt. Made for rearview mirrors. Made of shiny black patent plastic with a blingy white buckle.

I was feeling quite stunned by the time I got out, though not blinded by the glare of the faux diamantes' excess. Every girl knows diamonds are a girl's best friend, however I'd never quite known them to be a taxi driver's best friend also. He was a lovely guy and when we asked if he had children, he said, "One woman."

One girl?

"Yes! Girl!"

What a classic.

I love being in other countries and learning the people :) The differences are why we go.

Decide: What was the last thing you saw that broke the mold of your expectations, or gave you pause? Did you go with the flow and admire, or cringe with confusion?

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6v26

Voyez ces oiseaux qui volent dans les airs, ils ne sèment ni ne moissonnent, ils n'amassent pas de provisions dans des greniers, et votre Père céleste les nourrit. N'avez-vous pas bien plus de valeur qu'eux?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Borneo: Day 2

For me, one of the highlights of visiting another country (or even another suburb) is visiting the supermarket. In my opinion, this common act is an insight into how the people live and operate, and also how they like their everyday items presented. I love seeing it.

Our first encounter with a downtown Borneo supermarket was on the ground floor level of a five story complex, not counting the basement where the food court was which proved to be an experience all its own. The supermarket would wait until after lunch.

Down in the underground it was like one big giant smorgasboard of Asian food and more rice than you could poke a pair of chopsticks at. Our senses were assaulted with every sight and smell, and the heat was unbelievable. Imagine your local mall basement is turned into a grand scale eatery with all the food on open air display, not a caucasian in sight, and you're the only person not wearing sleeves on your tee shirt, and you've got the general idea. The shell-shocked kids in our midst settled for bowls of 2-min noodles.

Our bare arms earned us ladies quite a few looks and we felt a bit conspicuous. We felt better when a woman with shoestring straps came down with her husband and did the rounds of the stalls. Phew! It wasn't just us.

After this late lunch we went upstairs and I got my meander through the supermarket. Mainly we bought drinks and sweets, but this is the best part. I love seeing how they shop, what they buy... Do they fill their trolley or grab just a few items? Is the food unhealthy or strange or cheap? How is it displayed? How much does it cost? How is the packaging different? etc.

I must admit that when one of our friends pointed out the neatly plastic-wrapped apples displayed on what we use as a meat tray back home, I felt this was unusual indeed. It took me a few days to work out they don't buy their fruit at the supermarket but the actual street markets, which is better value and much tastier. Off the shelf, however, I picked up mango and lychee juice boxes, but also snavelled a pack of M&Ms. Hilarious!

The best part was seeing an in-store advertisement for Sunsilk over the shampoo display. Sure enough the woman on the placard was grinning like women do in hair commercials. Her skin was a flawless shade of soft light brown. Her eyes were glistening a deep, alluring shade of chocolate. Her hair? Hard to say. Her entire head and every lock upon it was under a headcovering. Being split between Muslim and Christian, headcoverings in Borneo are a dime a dozen.

I guess we'll just have to take her word for it.

Decide: What do you take for granted everyday that someone else would find delightfully unusual and even inspiring?

"You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways." Psalm 139v3

Tu sais quand je marche et quand je me couche,
      et tous mes chemins te sont familiers.