Wednesday, April 25, 2007

China 2

Someone asked me where I was seeing Jesus over here . . .
That's (obviously) not always an easy question to answer - but for me, it is most certainly in the people


They are all just precious and sweet :-) and when I get back, I am certain I will be bowing my head slightly at everyone and telling them "shi shi" (which means thank-you)

We arrived at the Shantou airport about 2 hours early for our second flight of the day; this one to a different part of China (called Dongguan) For those of you who dont know (which is probably most of you) -Shantou is a middle-of-nowhere airport with a grand total of three check-in counters and one security screener . . .

Now middle-of-nowhere isn't exactly a desirable airport location in any part of the world, but it's particulary undesirable in China. Not to mention the fact that our flight was a little over an hour delayed - so we were there for three whole hours. I'm ashamed to admit it, but at one point I almost started to cry (I'm such a snob!) There were some strange bugs swarming around me while I tried to quietly read my book and ignore the various and potent smells wafting over to my dirty blue plastic chair from the small coffee shop across the hall. Finally, to escape the bugs - I decided I would go to the restroom - a big mistake, because all I found was a hole in the ground. Mortified, and certain I couldnt use it without falling into my own - umm "stuff," I hurried back to my dad, who simply laughed and teased me that I needed a "throne."

I gingerly sat back down on the edge of the bluish colored seat and sanitized my hands (and this from a decidedly non-germphobic person)when suddenly a very small little Chinese boy runs right up to me and yells "HU - LLLOOO" in a surprising loud voice, waving energetically the whole time. He's probably about 2 years old, and his sister (who looks like his twin) runs up behind him and also waves. I look up to see their mom smiling and dipping her head towards me :-) I grin back at the two little ones and offer them a wave in return. They immediately give me an excited thumbs up and wave again, all the while yelling "ByE BYE" loudly - and run back to the safety of their mom's legs. They repeat this process several times; their beauty and simple joy completely distracting me from the strange bugs buzzing around my head and the strange smells stuck in my nostrils . . .

The people in China who have to deal with us English-folk choose their own English name: names like Sunny,Cherry, and Lovely are especially popular. My favorite name by far has been "Tweet" (poor girl, I wonder what made her pick that name?) It was at a factory on this trip that we met Miss Candy (sounds like a stripper right?) Because they don't speak much English and I dont always know what to talk to them about, I tend to just smile a lot. When my dad left to use the restroom, Candy told me, in broken english, that she was "very glad to meet you today; you are very humorous." Perhaps seeing the question in my eyes when I smiled and thanked her, she continued "you always smile!" Her sweet words were an encouragement to me, because I continually hope that somehow I can have some sort of impact on the people I interact with over here.

Later on in our trip, we are riding the train from one Fair/Market building to another. From where I stand gripping tightly onto the red handlebar, I have a clear view of a young couple sitting with their baby. There is clearly something not quite right with their child; his head (which is proportionally far too small for his body) tilts towards the ceiling at an unnatural angle, and his wide open mouth and slightly distorted features expose some sort of physical deformities. Despite his lack of what the world would define as "beauty," the boy's parents are lavishing him with affection - their own faces just as open-mouthed in delight as their son's. They regale him with loud noises, cooing and clapping - both of them stealing the boy from each other's arms to hold him close and kiss his small head. . . Watching them, I have a big smile on my own face - because this is how I imagine God loving us: with shameless joy and delight that has absolutely nothing to do with what we look like or how we perform. Instead, He is desperate to hold us close, to love us with hugs and kisses, protecting us from the dark and dangerous world around us - the world that tells us we're not good enough, that we don't look right, or that we should act differently. I think if we look into the face of our Father and rest in His arms, we will notice that His songs and words of love and delight seem to drown out all the words of all the rest of the world.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

China

For those of you who are not yet sick of hearing about my travels . . .
:-)

I know I am China the moment I get off the plane. It's the smell, potent enough to invade even the normally sterile airport: a distinctive mixture of fried rice, bamboo, garbage, and B.O. (actually I'm not sure what it is, but I would imagine that it could come from these thing . . )

Dirty seems like the best word I can conjure up to describe China as a whole. I know it's not a great word, but it's the only thing that comes to mind as I stare out the window of our taxi. Everywhere I look, buildings are smeared with soot and grime drips from the windows even after a hard rain. Garbage piles litter every corner, line every wall and blanket the floor of any "yards" that might be found outside the shacks. Decomposing and rotting piles are topped with styrofoam and plastic and the occasional banana peel, which I'm more than certain would smell terrible (although I don't roll down my window to check; besides, I'm rather used to the smell by now) I wonder why they don't just leave it outside in big green cans like we do - surely someone else will take care of the problem for them . . .

Chickens run amok through houses and streets, and some of them hang by their necks in hastily established cafes, complete with brightly colored plastic chairs and makeshift tables. Outside one cafe, I watch as several guys play pool on an aged and disheveled looking pool table, and wonder how they can possible shoot straight on the sopping wet, slightly torn felt top; not to mention the way the table sags in the middle as the result of a giant crack . . .

Tarps and mis-matched sheets of metal and wood are propped up by crooked sticks and bamboo to serve as their homes. Something that looks suspiciously like black garbage bags are used in an attempt to cover the cracks and holes this haphazard construction inevitably leaves (they should really use their garbage bags for all the trash in their yards I think, before realizing that perhaps they would rather keep out the wind and rain from their semblance of home)


Life here seems built around the factories, gleaming fortresses surrounded by barbed wire fences and gaurded by serious looking men in heavily starched uniforms. The workers' housing lies directly next to the factories: grungy looking buildings with clothes lining every window pane. Outside the door to every factory we visit is a shrine of some sort. Filled with candles, statues and apples, it is usually made of beautifully carved and laquered wood which shines a brilliant red- in stark contrast to its grey and brown surroundings. Somehow it is this image which fills me with more sadness than anything else I've seen: People in terrible conditions putting their hope in something that can never rescue them. . . . I want to save them myself, tell them the Truth about Jesus and the mansion made of gold they could move into someday -- but instead I just smile widely at them with all the warmth and kindness I can muster. For some reason I am surprised when they smile back - I suppose I expected them to be resentful because they are making beautiful vases for me, vases which will probably never sit with fresh flowers in their own homes . . . But instead, they grin and giggle at me, before shyly ducking their head in welcome. Uncertain of my accent and pronounciation, I quietly tell them "ni ha" (which I am fairly sure means hello) - they giggle louder, and I hope it's with me rather than AT me :-)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is boring . . .

Actually that's not true - Hong Kong is one of the most active, far-from-boring places I've ever been. . . it's just so much more like home than anywhere else we've been so far. But even just looking out my hotel window, I know that boring doesn't describe this place accurately: the panorama of my windows reveals rolling mountains with bright pink and blue structures built directly into the side. Skyscraper after skyscraper dot the mountain side on the right half of my window, and more container ships than I can count fill the harbor on the left. Every high-rise window sports an airconditioning, dirty windowframes and clean clothes hung out to dry. Most windows also house dead or dying plants and other knick-knacks.

Hong Kong is actually, now that I think about it, a strange mixture of old and new. Gritty homes and streets mix with gleaming high-rises and colorful advertisements. Brand new buildings sparkle high above the harbor, boasting names on top like Bank of America, T-Mobile and AIG . . . Yet juxtaposed nearly on top of these brand new buildings are shorter, grittier, older buildings that could stand a good pressure washing.

Everything here is built nearly on top of each other, into the mountains such that a good snow would render the city incapacitated. The city streets consist not of flat grids like Atlanta, but of winding, hilly roads that snake in and out from roadside fruit stands selling frogs and snakes for dinner, to giant McDonalds and Starbucks.

Several times we drive past an immense graveyard, spellbinding in its enormity. Graves cover an entire side of a looming mountain. Like the apartments and other buildings, the graves are nearly stacked on top of each other to maximize space - providing an eerie blanket of gravestones as far as the eye can see.

In other news, I got a job offer today while we were visiting the Hong Kong fair -- Roberto (one of our vendors) asked me to do their website for them . . . in Tuscany, Italy! :-) I dont know how serious he was, but I spent all day dreaming about living in a 100 year old house in the Italian countryside . . . now I just have to convince some friends that it's the perfect place to start our community ;-)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Philippines


There is a hardness to the Philippines that is missing in Vietnam. Although both countries seem equally poor, there is an optimism and hope in Vietnam that has been long since eroded here.

No one here drives scooters, they all drive cars - but with the same disinterest in road signs, lanes, or any sort of traffic rules. Everywhere you look are shanty-towns, hastily and ill-constructed villages with rusty tin roofs and lopsided windows. Women stand outside in too-high heels and too-short skirts (not that Americans dont wear that too . . .) yelling for their children to come in from playing barefoot in the streets.

On the front dash of our taxi sit two small statues: one of Mary, and one of Barbie.

At every traffic light you are assailed by the poor, selling water and begging for money: a lady holding her baby presses her face against the window of our taxi, looking sad and motioning that she needs food. I cry, and my dad gives her a dollar.

I sigh in relief as we pull up to our hotel. A dog sniffs our car for bombs and they look underneath with a mirror tied to a stick. Strangely, I feel less, not more, safe. Once past security though, it's easy to forget what's outside our hotel. BMWs and jaguars are parked out front, they open our doors for us and we walk into the glittering lobby where we check into our rooms. My room is right next to the Imperial Suite, the very room where the wife of Ferdinand Marcos was discovered with her thousands of shoes. I feel a small pang of guilt about the fact that I can see Shanty towns from my balcony, but I assauge it by taking a nap in my feather-topped king size bed. . .

Our Lord was obsessed with the poor and marginalized -- how is it that I can feel so little for these people, assuming they are drug dealers and prostitutes (the very people Christ would be ministering to) and preferring to keep my distance out of fear. But what am I afraid of? That maybe it is in these very people that I will discover Christ? That maybe they will force me to change my perspective, to change my lifestyle, to take seriously the Bible's command to love and serve the poor?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Vietnam



We're getting ready to leave Vietnam after spending less than a full day here . . .It's a little sad because Vietnam is my favorite stop on our trip. I dont really know why - maybe it's just how utterly and completely unlike America it is. I'm fascinated by the chaos of this place; I'm in love with the people; and I DID like the food (although this time it made me slightly ill)

I wish I could describe perfectly what it's like here . . . you drive down roads lined by shacks, houses, old buildings, junkyards and barbed wire fences. Everything lies inches from the busy road. Scooters (the preferred mode of transportation) weave in and out with amazing precision, along with a decided lack of attention to road signs, white lines in the street and even the direction of traffic. Loud honks signal bikes to get out of way of cars, and even louder honks signal cars to move aside for trucks.



The shacks lining the streets house small shops hawking wares which I cannot even imagine anyone here needing: beautiful clocks next to brightly colored backpacks and Adidas t-shirts; gleaming wood furniture and sturdy safes (to hold what valuables I wonder?) Carts vaguely reminiscent of hotdog stands offer corn on the cobb and fresh fruit; women squat on street corners in traditional hats, unidentifiable smells wafting from their waffle makers and kettles. We pass an old man sewing with an antique sewing machine on one street corner. A surprising number of these stores (if that's what you can call them?) offer internet connection; likewise, a surprising number of unkept looking Vietnamese in tattered clothing carry cellphones. It is surprising to discover that the trappings of modern society reach even here . . .

We weave in and out of small roads which seem more like allys, with chairs set-up stadium style in cafes and large empty rooms filled with hammocks. I cannot imagine living such a life - sleeping in hammocks surrounded by 20 to 30 other people, in the 96 degree humid-heat, amidst the constant honking and distinctive scents of this place . .

Every so often we pass a guard in his communist uniform - his stiff clothing and rigid posture in stark contrast to the chaos of his surrounding citizens. Likewise, we will sometimes pass a lush, beautiful garden surrounding an even more lavish home - always flying a large Vietnamese flag on top. I am glad that communism is working so well for these people (sarcasm here). . . I am reminded of Shane Claiborne's words that if we as Christians took what Christ said seriously, then Capitalism wouldnt be possible and Communism wouldnt be necessary . . .

Despite the oppressive heat and squalid conditions, the Vietnamese people remaind irrespresible. On every street I see women carefully and proudly sweeping out their crowded "storefronts". Children walk hand-in-hand through the dust and swerving scooters - eating ice cream cones. And when I walk through the factory, nearly dying from heat stroke (or so I think), wearing a Vietnamese hat, the women working on the vases we are buying, they nudge each other and giggle loudly - before pointing to my hat and telling me they like it :-) I really do love this place!

if you want to see more pictures you can check them out here

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

lately

Lately the Lord's been taking the things I've always believed or always assumed, and He's been turning them on their head. But I suppose Christ has always been an upside-down sort of God - where the first are last, to save your life you must lose it, and where masters wash their servants' feet.

We live in this culture where it's all about getting to the top of the ladder, accumulating the most stuff, and being the best at everything (whether it's your job, having the most friends, being the most beautiful . . .) - not only is it exhausting, but it's dangerous! I've spent my whole life climbing the rungs, passing all those who told me I couldnt do it, or that I was too ugly or not "fun" or whatever . . . I just assumed that once I made it to the top of the ladder, then I'd be truly happy. But the truth, I'm discovering, is that Jesus is standing at the bottom of the ladder telling us that blessed are the poor, and the meek, and the last -- I want to be where Jesus is - and that means getting down to the bottom of the ladder.

But what does that look like in my life? What does it mean to start putting others before myself - to stop looking for ways to be prettier, more popular, or more well-liked - and start looking for ways to serve, to love and to care for others. I think my life would look drastically different than it does now if I really put all of the things I've been learning into practice. It's a little scary and disconcerting, actually, to think about making the changes that go against everything the World insists we should be doing . . . but I am desperate for Jesus and I know that I cannot live without Him. If to get to Him I need to climb back down the ladder, then I will start today by praying for the strength to do so!

Monday, April 16, 2007

World Travels . . .

Well who knew that I would be this WIDE awake after spending nearly 21 hours on a plane!?! and that doesnt even include all the customs, security and baggage claim time! Anyways, we arrived safe and sound in Hong Kong - where it is nearly midnight - but my body seems to think it's closer to noon . . . so we'll see how the whole sleep thing works out for me.

Everyone keeps telling me how exciting it is that I get to go to China - but to me it just seems tiring! Dont get me wrong, I love experiencing other cultures and seeing cool things -- but the more accurate description of it all is exhausting! We fly 9 times in just 2 weeks - not to mention a 12 hour time difference which takes 12 days to adjust to (just in time to go back and re-adjust all over again!) I am also sad to leave my hubby behind for so long, and Maverick, and our new house too. Luckily, Adam has a crazy next couple weeks to end his college career so it's good timing for him, as long as he can stay focused without me there to nag him (he's probably glad!)

Anyways, I've been thinking about some cool stuff that the Lord's been teaching me and laying on our hearts as a couple . . . but more on that later :-)

ShareThis

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...