It’s been over a month now! Time definitely flies when you’ve been laid up with illness adjusting to new food’s and water and surroundings… when shopping for fresh milk, produce, and chicken (like killed, plucked and iced in a cooler the same morning) becomes a daily routine… and searching for a flat to call home consumes most afternoons and evenings. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, and though it hasn’t all been easy, each day this feel more and more like home…
Malaysia was great. Beautiful. Restful. By the time we recovered from jet lag and realized that we were really enjoying ourselves, it was time to pack up and make our way toward “home.”
We’re here. And life will never be the same. Everything is different, the sights, the smells, the food, the clothes, mannerisms and social norms, where and how to shop… most things are foreign and anything familiar is expensive, inconvenient, or inappropriate. Some of it we love. Other things are difficult. Some days my heart is filled with excited anticipation, and others, I long for the comfort of familiar things.
Day by day, we are seeking to be renewed, shedding the ways we have been conformed to the world, striving to recall God’s promises, and encouraging one another with truth and remembrances of His guidance, perfection and grace.
There are so many people. Everywhere. Our American concept of personal space is continually being challenged and stripped away. In some ways, it’s beautiful… no one’s uncomfortable, it’s refreshingly welcoming and inviting for people to be unconcerned with how close you are or how close you are to their things. In other ways… it will take some getting used to; Standing in an elevator with people so close I could hear and feel each one of them breathing… Stephen being literally hugged by a man reaching over him trying to place an order… rubbing shoulders as we make our way through the evening streets.
The streets are crowded and busy and the first time we had to walk across the road was one of the most frightening moments, ever. The vehicles don’t stop until you’re actually walking in front of them. It became less frightening with every excursion, though I’ll admit that there were times when I seriously just closed my eyes and filled with prayer bolted across to the other side. But now, I’m comfortable and confident to walk on my own, or usher my little herd through the traffic. When it’s too far to walk, we cram into Ola’s and auto rickshaws. The drivers zip in and out of spaces I’m certain we should not have been able to fit into, mopeds get so close we could touch them with ease, and it’s totally normal to come to a stop as cows or goats cross in front of you.
When we first got here we were without internet and had no phones. Getting SIM cards activated required our passports, a local reference, and an in-person address verification. The day we went to purchase two pre-paid cards was the first time we separated the family into two rickshaws. Addresses here are only so helpful. You’re better off communicating landmarks than remembering addresses because no one can navigate to an address. We told each of the drivers to drop us at the 11th cross; a straight shot just six blocks ahead. When we got out of our rickshaw we scanned the road in search of the second auto… but they were nowhere to be seen. Fright grew as we waited, and waited, and waited. I walked across the road to get a better view and couldn’t locate them. Stephen ran all the way back to the 5th cross and appeared back drenched in sweat and fear in his eyes. All I could do was pray as he then ran up the road in the other direction.
Luckily, as they navigated the streets, I was wearing a bright red dupata that Courtney spotted from down the way. The driver had turned onto the 11th cross and took them down a block or two. Oh, the praises in my heart… the tears of relief that Stephen cried when he returned from the 18th cross to see his family, safe and together.
We are quickly understanding that we never could have predicted the experiences we are having and our expectations of ourselves, each other, and the people around us have to be held so loosely as we learn, figure out, and adapt to our new culture.
Retrieving a package from Fedex literally took us a day and a half; Hours on the phone, paperwork, hours at a Fedex office, more paperwork, a letter to the Deputy Commissioner, and finally a visit to the airport where the package was held up in customs. One of the phone calls was purely for my entertainment I’m sure… It took Stephen at least ten minutes to give his email ID. Over and over he repeated the letters,
“S, T, E, P…”
“OK, S, T, E, C”
I was seriously laughing out loud!! Oh the patience He is growing in us. Some of our packages showed up in bags. Boxes torn open and all the contents dumped into the bags. At first, we were pretty angry, but it ended up being a both a great reminder of the grace we all need as well as a reminder that the grass withers, the flowers fall, and all this will perish… but God, His word will last forever.
The food is great, but the food all the time… I’m discovering just how much food can be an idol. We crave cheesy pizza, a cup of Craftwork, good chocolate and greasy beef burgers (not that I even ate those in the states!), and Torchys (oh my gosh a pint of queso!). We hired a cook this month so that we could try different dishes and I could learn how to cook what’s available. This coming Monday one of the neighbors is going to teach me how to make Chicken Angara and homemade chapati. I’m super thankful for the help because the hardest part is not knowing what half of things in the local stores even are, and anything I can find that is familiar is probably imported and cost’s a ton more. I’ll figure it out. I’m beginning to recognize which stores I can get different things at. I know where to go for special imported items, I know which butcher has beef and where I can quick grab some chicken on the way home. I know where to find good produce and even have some favorite vendors at the markets. And last week I learned which brand of milk to use (because the other bags we were previously buying are apparently risky and left outside throughout the day. The locals don’t drink them straight, but boil them first and only use them for chi or other cooked foods and drink. So thankful for that tip!) GF is actually really hard to find, but we’re managing, and there’s definitely plenty of rice!
The streets used to be overwhelming. We still find the smells difficult to bear sometimes, but the chaos is fading and I love getting out… I love the colors. I love the children everywhere. I love when people want to talk to me. I love the faces; when language is a barrier you sure pay a lot more attention to facial expressions and body language. I love the lady who irons clothes at the little stand just outside the gate of this building. I love the security guard who always wears that grey/green shirt. I love our new friends. I love my friends son who kisses us all farewell every time we say goodbye. I love the smell of the white flowers that the lady sells in front of the temple. I love dates, and fresh mangoes, and the smell of food wafting from the kitchens as I walk through the building. I love phirni. I love walking to the market. And… read our newsletter to hear specific stories about what God has been doing.