Thursday, July 25, 2013

How did I get here?!

I technically know how to answer this.

Flights From:

  • Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur

  • Kuala Lumpur to China

  • China to Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles to Minneapolis
But, as five days have passed being home in the United States...I find myself in shock and disbelief.

1. How does my room have all of this STUFF in it
  • What can I possibly use all this STUFF for?

2. Where did my new handsome nephew come from?  How about my tiny new niece who is only a week old?
  • I took Family and Consumer Science in High School so I also know this technical answer...but out of two nieces and one nephew...I have missed the birth of them all.  At least I saw and touched the pregnant belly that was my first niece.  These last two we far fetched realities for me while I was in Malaysia.
3. Where's the rice?
  • My body and I are missing our two-three daily portions of rice.  But- my mom DID cook brown rice for supper tonight!
4.  At least in Malaysia I had a cell phone!

5. What? People sleep in rooms by themselves?
  • I miss my Malaysian roommate Hailley
6. Don' worry my Malaysian friends (especially the pastors) and my Grandma Geri-- the doctor took a look at my face
  • Filled my prescription drug today and will be going to the dermatologist soon
  • (No need to worry anymore!)
7. I can drive?!
  • Perfect!-- I stayed in the right side of the road and everything!
  • The air-con is it's almost like I can experience Malaysian heat in my car!
  • I could go for a car buddy to sing along to the radio with or fake speak Chinese....kawan..
8. Washing Machine
  • Today I washed my clothes and didn't have to scrub them with a brush first 
  • Also...the water fills by itself! Not you sticking a hose in it and waiting until its full!

My time or transition is going fairly smooth!  I've been staying awake during the days and sleeping at nights.  I don't think 5:30 is obscenely early, so I will take it!  I think of my Malaysian friends and family everyday and am so grateful for them and all that they have done for me over the last 11 months.  They have taught me so much and filled my heart with joy.  Now I can take what they have taught me

Friday, June 21, 2013

Conquering Fears

I began my journey to Kota Kinabalu on Wednesday after school.  My task was to flag down the bus I had already bought a ticket for on its way out of town.  The thought of flagging down the bis green coach bus made me sick with nerves- what if I missed it? I've never done anything like this yet.  After making it on the bus I was able to settle my mind, but the winding mountain roads kept my stomach twisting.  After all, I had been sick all week anyways.  The  closer I got to KK the more I noticed the dark sky that meant rain.  I was dreading the idea of walking in the rain without an umbrella when I was already sick, but the rain let up enough for me to take on the walk to the bus terminal a little way across the big city.  When I started walking I gained my composure.  I almost forgot what it was like to do something like travel alone!  By the time I made it to the bus I was confident enough and walked up to a man to ask about the bus I needed to take.  Upon arriving to my destination- Tuaran, I waited for a bit at a restaurant until my fellow YAGM friend could find me and bring me to her placement sight.  I played an embarrassing attempt at rocks and enjoyed the competition of the girls at their home.  I even sat through a group home meeting and the next morning a devotion and staff reflection all before heading on our way to Kundasang.

On Thursday afternoon we headed to Kundasang where a small mini bus brought us to a handicraft market before bringing us to a resort for the night.  We slept nestled in a cabin among pine trees, a rare sight, and looked at Mount Kinabalu looming not too far off in the distance.  Kelly's and my nerves were pretty intense as we both couldn't believe that we were actually climbing a mountain.  Both of us realized that its nothing we ever thought about doing before.  Luckily between me blowing my nose and some wonderful conversation we were able to distract ourselves from the mountain in the distance.
Friday morning came and we woke up early.  We ate our breakfast and were on our way.  We arrived at Kinabalu Park Headquarters, checked in, and waited for our climbing permits and guide.  We started our climb around 8:30 am.

Even while beginning our climb I was in disbelief that I was climbing a mountain.  We kept our spirits rather high, breaking out into song here and there.  Our guide seemed bored as he was constantly sending messages on his hand phone.  On average he goes up the mountain twice a week, so I am sure we were beyond slow for him.  We quickly made friends with other guides who I think we're fascinated with how fluent we were in Malay.  They would be found waiting for us at rest stops and joking with us as we climbed the trail.  Around 3:oo pm we made it to the rest house for the night.  We had an activity briefing at 4:00 for something called Walk the Torq, which means you go down a section of the mountain with harnesses and pulleys.

We ate and attempted to go to sleep around 7pm, knowing that we had to be leaving by 2:30 am to start out climb to the summit.  I couldn't sleep because the rest house was so noisy, I think I managed a few short hours.  Breathing through my nose was noisy and almost impossible--this really didn't help anything!  We woke around 1:00 and started packing the only essentials we wanted to bring, Kelly and I only bringing one bag we alternated carrying.  We ate breakfast and set off with our guide a little  before 2:30.  Our legs and bodies were tired.  At one point the trail ends and you have to use a rope to pull yourself up on the rocks and then continue on up the steep rocks with the rope.  At one point Kelly hit a slick part and almost fell, but our guide was really quick and held her up.  That was our only close call.  About one KM for the top I had to convince Kelly and myself that we should continue.  I was having a lot of trouble breathing and at one point made Kelly walk me through the process of breathing in and out.  We made it to the top around 5:30 am.  I couldn't believe we made it!

After taking some pictures we waited for the sun to rise and started our journey back down.  I even some some people running down.  I think they were crazy.  We had to reach our last checkpoint at 8:00 to be able to do the Walk the Torq activity.  Kelly and I were not convinced that we were up to such a task but decided on doing it anyways.  I am so glad we did!  I remember at first telling the trained the was no way I was going to look down, but he said that at some point I would have to.  He's right.  I did and the view was beautiful!  After some force, he even made me stand on the mountain face with just the support of my harness.  I was terrified and almost cried, but eventually made myself do it.  We worked our way down a small section of the mountain in 1.5 hours before going back to the rest house, eating our second breakfast, grabbing our things, and heading back down the mountain at 10:30 am.  The way down started out easy but turned into pure torture.  Kelly and I turned sideways with every step and used our walking sticks for extra support.  We moved slowly and with caution and exhaustion.  We made it to bottom at 3:15 pm.

It's been on week since my mountain journey.  My legs stopped being sore after only four days.  I am still in disbelief that I stood atop the highest peak in Southeast Asia but with the help and support from Kelly and the need to believe in ourselves, we made it to the top.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Climbing to New Heights

Our two week school holiday has ended and yesterday everyone headed back to school.  I was beyond excited to be back in the classroom but was hit with some kind of bug that left me with a fever, sore throat and runny nose.  Never the less I have been able to make due.

On Thursday a fellow YAGM, Kelly, and myself will begin a journey to Kinabalu Park headquarters and prepare ourselves to climb Mt. Kinabalu Friday-Saturday.

If you asked me a year ago if climbing a mountain was on my bucket list I would have laughed and said "no way!  I'm too afraid of heights to even think about it!"

10 months later-- after crossing a swaying bridge everyday and doing a canopy walk twice I am determined to conquer this fear of heights.

I never expected to face so many fears in such a short time.  Some  days I sit down and wonder what happened to my well planned out self.  This year has taught me to be sporadic, to take life as it comes and to take chances--Things that would have otherwise been hard for me within the comfort of my normal surroundings.

With that said, I am still a bit frightened with climbing this mountain, I am sure I am no where near prepared and my head cold has not yet cleared up.  These things will all be sure to make the experience all the more memorable.  I can't wait to share the end results with you next week.

Please keep Kelly and I in your prayers as we take on this new adventure.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Predictions Revisited

These were my predictions before I came to my site.  With the advice of a friend, I thought I would revisit them.  Let's so how far we've come!
  • That my students will teach me more than I can teach them
    • True.  I am met every day with smiles and an eagerness to take in all that my students can.  They are infectious and rub off on me until I can't help but join with them in laughter.  My students have also been wonderful teacher's for me as I learned a new language.  They were so patient and kind while helping me learn and feel like I belong.  
  • That I will somehow learn to like spicy food
    • I officially put some chili sauce in my friend noodles these days.  The ground up chili's in lime juice are still on my "too hard to handle" list.  One day I accidentally bit into a small red chili pepper and that was the complete opposite of a delight, especially because I ran out of water by the time this mishap happened.  
  • That "service" will take on a whole knew meaning
    • Need and service have indeed taken on new meanings.  Financially the people of Malaysia are fairly well off.  They are surrounded by an abundance of resources and with Family as the top priority of many people, many are able to get by just fine.  Beyond my role as an English teacher, I would say that my secondary responsibility is just to love on people.  Which is incredibly easy because they are so willing to accept me.  Also, I have been opening my heart to all sorts of people and learning alongside them.  This has been a great journey where I am able to walk alongside people and be with them in times of sorrow and joy.  I'm learning that service means sometimes all that is needed of you is to just be present.  
  • I could get fantastic at hand-washing clothes (I'm super slow now)
    • Mer-- I tried it for awhile, but we DO have a washing machine.  Though, I do soak all my clothes first and scrub them with a brush before tossing them into the washing machine.  
  • Living in community will be a highlight of my year.
    • This is for sure true.  For the last few months I have moved into a different room to be with one of my housemates who is the same age as me.  Being in community has its perks (cooking together!) 
  • I will try things I would never try at home (food and more)
    • This list is so long I just don't even know where to begin.  But- I do have to say, I still haven't made myself try liver or the strange fermented fish.
  • Malay will become second nature (my language skills are still minimal)
    • I officially struggle to transition back to English if I have been in my city for too long.  If I spend two months in my town, without seeing another native speaker it takes almost two days to get back to a suitable form of English.  
  • Grace and Love will take on many forms and faces.
    • I see this in my students and I see this in my friends.
  • I will learn and grow in what it means to be me
    • To be honest, the first half of my year I saw the most growth within myself.  This is when I tried all of the new foods, was doing devotions every day and was really transforming into what I think I was meant to be all along.  The second half of the year has been more of a struggle for growth.  I already know what I like to eat and all my devotion books are already finished.  Now everything I do has to be very intentional and that is where I am finding I am struggling. 

The Path Traveled

If you don't look closely, you won't see the path that leads to the kampung that marks the home of our school.  The path actually just continues on from an average bus stop.  In the mornings you will find orang kampung (village people) waiting here for mini buses, pick-up trucks or ever lorries to climb into by the masses on their way to work. 
The path is narrow and on both sides there are looming walls of tall thick grass.  When someone walks in the other direction you often find yourself stepping into the grass to let them walk on by.  The path is strewn with rocks and boulders of all shaped and sizes, some are jagged and some are smooth and slippery when wet.  When it rains the path is difficult to navigate and many children just trudge through the murky water that marks the way.  Others try to break the tall grasses and lay them down to protect their shoes or slippers.  For those who are barefoot, it's unlikely to phase them.  The path leads the way down a slope at first and then eventually to a bridge.  The bridge is long and it sways.  There are boards that are broken and some that just don't fit.  There is water below, some days brown from rain, and some days rather beautiful, once you get past all of the plastic and rubbish floating about.  The path finds refuge for many animals, from small kittens I want to take home with me, to smelly dogs and big cows with pointy horns.  
The people that walk the path are varied.  Small students finding their way to school with their friends, Adults walking to the bus stop to go to work or to the market.  Korean Missionaries, teachers, church  members and even police officers find their way here at times.   If you happen to be around in the morning, chances are you will spot some men carrying massive bags of beras (uncooked rice) or lada (small chilli peppers), students helping to carry the day's food for school, a young man or two carrying a rooster or a chicken (I learned cock fighting is a big thing here).  In the afternoon you will likely spot kids hiding along the path or chasing you on the path just to say 'goodbye', 'hello' or 'good morning' (no matter what time of day it is). One man has a bucket tied behind the seat of his bicycle with fresh fish to sell to the people in the kampung and if you happen to be walking the dirt paths at the right time you might run into the man who has fixed a grill to the back of his bicycle and goes around in the late afternoon to sell satay.  In the afternoon the path will be less traveled as most people will be inside hiding from the heat of the midday sun.  Those who dare go about do so with umbrellas. 
I've come to find this path absolutely beautiful in the variety it is graced with.  When I walk this path I know it will lead me to a place where I am welcomed and embraced to be with students and teachers whom I love and who love me in return.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

English Week

Each class took an English quiz
(I have never seen students so excited to take a quiz before)

BINGO and translation/crosswords puzzle for grades 4-6 and 2 afternoon classes
New English songs for grades 1-3

Guess the action for grades 4-6
Guess the sound for grades 1-3
Spelling Bee

spelling bee


all students

Number 1 for crossword puzzle!

Murut Wedding

April 12, 2013
 wedding couple with cousins

cousins in traditional dress

family of the newlyweds and friends (Ashley and Nam Dae)

 "gifts" sort of..still learning how to explain this..

food and drink after the wedding