Wednesday, October 9, 2013

More differences

And, alas, there are more! In fact, some were brought to mind by my dear friends who commented on facebook.  They too have been in transition and walked between cultures being changed and molded by the languages, the food, the climates, and the people.  It's all for God's glory to see His intricate handiwork in this world.  Never does the amazement wear off.  So, this list will continue, most likely not to it's end, but just as differences percolate through the grey matter.

7. cross the road or not to cross the road?  That is the question.  Actually, it's more a matter of who has the right of way and WHERE to cross the road.  This is a rediculously confusing question.  It became a normal and almost comfortable place to be in the middle of traffic when crossing the road.  And, if all else failed, there was always "the hand" (like a stop actually did stop traffic).  Cross walks, not so much.  Maybe on a main road, but even then, it's just a suggestion.  So here... oh man, I am a confused road crosser!  What in the world to do? I have an inexplicable sudden drop of self confidence when crossing the road while walking.'s feeling a little complicated.

8. Cellophane or celofane.  That is a plastic bag, or a plastic cover, depending on the context.  They are used for everything and readily available (and now, they are also biodegradeable).  Of course, here, each bag costs 5 cents, so it's best to plan wisely and bring your own bag, unless your needing more "grocery bags" for random uses in your home.  

9. Keeping to yourself.  It became quickly apparent that the best thing to do on the occasion that I found myself walking alone was to keep my eyes either on the pavement in front of me or to look like I was texting (maybe I really was, but maybe not!).  This was to differ attracting even more attention and stifled many of the would-be-vocal-attention.  But here, now it's awkward.  When passing someone while walking, if in exercise attire and the passer by is also in exercise attire, clearly a greeting is due.  However, if this is the average Joe, well, it's just awkward.  How far away were they when you noticed them?  Did they see you?  Do you smile at them or give them the cold shoulder? Maybe just sort of go with their lead and follow what they do...  haha!  Oh, it's so funny.  At least looking around at the surrounding area doesn't usually illicit too much attention. 

10. Rice.  While there are definitely families here that do eat rice daily, mine has decreased it's consumption a little.  The selection is substantially less in the typical grocery store and people just aren't as concerned with it.  In fact, if a typical American should miss having a meal with rice they don't usually find themselves on a rice hunt so that they are truly satisfied. :)

11. Only whitening toothpaste?  You know the saying, "They grass is always greener on the other side."?  There couldn't be a truer saying for our unhappy, ever comparing human nature.  Dark skinned people want to have light/white skin and white people want to have tan skin.  How is this problem solved by making soap, powder, lotion, and anything else you might imaging with whitening capabilities.  Of course, we "white" people like to tan (cancer free, naturally).  

12. Dusters.  What do you think of when you hear that term?  Some that is used to dust your house, correct?  Not exactly.  Actually, it's a piece of clothing.  Specifically one worn by a woman and might be better recognized as a summer dress or, occasionally, a house dress.

Maybe more later. :) 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Same Same, but Different

This is a phrase I learned from a friend who had traveled in Thailand.  The word they say for the English equivalent of "different" sounds like "same same".  So, it's now a joke and a common phrase in Thailand.  It is also a good analogy for the bigger picture of cultural differences.

As i've spent time immersed in a different culture these last two years.  The most common reaction is to categorize everything as similar or completely opposite, so that it can be tied to something familiar.  Does that make sense?

There are soooo many things that were different initially in the Philppines that have now become common to me, but are definitely different in this culture.  Here's a little list of them.

1. no bowing!  This is used when moving inbetween people talking.  Ideally the passer by will bow low enough that the people talking will not see them, thus not breaking eye contact with one another.

2. Clean up after yourself! Whether dinning in a fast food restaurant or fine dinning, the waiters will always take away the dirty dishes and trash.  So, if you have been a waiter at a fast food joint and found yourself cleaning up after an unthoughtful customer, just think that they may be from another country and not know of their blunder.

3. Pointing ...  Directional gestures are just not as straight forward as one might think.  You see, in the Philippines the acceptable way to point was by making kissy-lips in the desired direction.  In the States this generally makes people feel a little uncomfortable and possible confused why you won't give a little directional help!

4. Attention!  May I have your attention please?  You might think the most logical way to get a person's attention is to yell their name or a general greeting.  This is not so the world over.  I learned to clap for people very far away (yelling is incredibly rude!) or, if closer, to make a kissing sound or a "shhhhht" or "ssssssst" sort of sound.

5. Spoon and maybe a fork: These are the most common utensils aside from hands.  Hands are always available, but maybe not always proper.  Spoons are especially available for everything from noodles to chicken.  And, the spoon is always used to deliver food to the mouth, never the fork, even when using a fork.

6. Individual vs. Community: It's amazing to look back and see just how much my outlook has changed.  This is a pretty common comparison world wide!  Personally, I went from just wanting to go on an errand by myself (in the Philippines) to always enjoying the company of a friend. So, here I am again in the individualistic culture.  Can't imagine the scandal of me walking down the street by myself!  Yet, it is a wonderful freedom to be able to stand "on my own" as a single woman.  Hear me clearly, because I do say that carefully.

Well, that's all for today.  Hopefully blogging will become a little more regular. :)  Kudos to people who blog regularly!  :)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Red Moon Rising

"The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord." - Joel 2:31

Looking for a book to challenge and encourage you?  Red Moon Rising is one such book.  One of the girls I live with handed me a book one day and said, "I think you would like this."  She couldn't have been more right!

Through the weeks of reading and digesting the tail of a willing man who followed God my heart was so challenged!  How often do I put God in a box?  I pick out the people God should use.  I decide where ministry would probably be most effective.  Often, my comfort zone is at the root of all the choices.  Even though seeking His face is a continual longing, sometimes that longing is suspended or overshadowed by my small view of who God is.  

It was so encouraging to read an honest account of the good days and the bad days as God started to call people and from a ministry today known as 24-7 prayer.  They are all across the world!  Prayer is so precious.  Every foreign minister knows the necessity and power of prayer.  If you want some encouragement to press on, you might find a copy.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fading fantasy

"To the woman He said:“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” -Gen.3:16

A few friends and I just took a little journey together to, of sorts, to Libera from the comfort of the living room.  We watched a BBC presentation "Toughest Place to be a Midwife" (click to watch on YouTube).  It's fascinating because of the fading fantasy with the beauty of "the natural".

For some reason, it is very common to think that the "closer" to nature we get the more beautiful things become.  This is really an odd thing when one considers that the Scriptures say that creation is groaning under the curse. Of course, i love a holiday in the country, away from the hustle, bustle, and grim of the city, yet there is something to be said for not despising the many blessing we are surrounded with in modern technologies.

This theme is carried through in anthropology, medicine, humanity focused efforts, and many more.  The thought is that the more rustic and "un-touched" by civilization one lives it's more beautiful, peaceful and perfect.  To leave these behind is really the peak of living, so it seems. Unfortunately, this perspective is, in my opinion, skewed through the lens of "plenty".  I'll explain.

The midwife in the presentation volunteers to spend two weeks in a clinic in Liberia, away from her private hospital maternity ward in England.  She talks briefly about her expectations and excitement for "having her world shook up a bit".  The understanding you get (and any midwife can concur) is her desire to see "real" natural birth in contrast to her current job where she happily serves woman to the best of her abilities and available technology while keeping things as natural as possible (and i totally understand her heart in this as it echoes my own!). 

The site that greets her and the many experiences that follow are certainly shaking her world in ways she couldn't have imagined.  Instead of seeing beautiful natural births, a sad reality is uncovered and raw.  Woman are coming to a free clinic because they cannot pay for a hospital; it's not out of the choice of options that they are having a "natural birth" it's just the way it must be.  While the clinic is staffed with very capable midwives and doctors, their supplies often lack due to the deficit in funds and the continuing effects of a war ravaged people.  

Woman die of complications that are a result of poor home care, traditional beliefs/medicines with brutal side effects, or simply lack of available intervention.  And the hands behind the work, well, they are underpaid and probably often under appreciated, yet they are also a glimpse of sunshine because they work purely for the work, not so much for the unpredictable pay.

In this, it becomes clear that "closer to nature" isn't that beautiful, glossy, full color photo of perfect greenery with little flowers of color set against a backdrop of a perfectly blue sky.  It's a reminder, yet again, that this wold is hurting and full of needs.  

Yet, in the midst of being overwhelmed by so many needs the LORD reminded me that He is faithful.  None of this escapes His notice and it's not my place, or any one person, to fix it all, but rather to seek Him and point people to Him right where I am. 

There is no guilt in being born into abundance, for that is the LORD's provision, however, there is great responsibility to use that position (even if it seems small) to His glory for the praise of His name.

Friday, February 22, 2013


There's too much to write and not enough time. :) This is my friend's clinic in Bugnay.  It's a very rural village in the mountains surrounded by rice fields.  Enjoy!

A little sun after riding on top of the jeep and catching some rays on the 3 hours up to the mountains.

This great vantage point is from our perfect, but slightly uncomfortable seat on top of the jeepney...didn't know there was such a thing as "student drivers" here!

See the village?  We walked over to visit some people and see their homes. 

These guys have "free" range.  They are somewhat fenced in by building baby-like gates across the walk ways.  People climb over, but pigs can't.  It's not 100% effective...

Just chillin. Literally, it was cold. 

sorry it's sideways...  This is Crystal, hostess, tour guide and amazing woman!

Walking between the rice fields.

See the bridge?  That's where we're headed!

And, it's a pretty fun bridge.  You can rock it back and forth for a little added excitement. 

Headed home.  A little sun kissed, but filled with joy from an encouraging visit.

Crystal was asking them if the raspberry-like berries were edible...they said they tasted sweet...Hmmmm.

Monday, February 18, 2013


It appears to be a harmless hard boiled egg except for the lite blue tint in the shell.  This is balut.  A duck egg that has been fertilized and then is cooked before the chick is fully formed.  Sound strange, and it is a little.  It might help if you think of it more like sof-shelled crabs.  

In two years of living here I've successfully avoided eating this delicacy and have, instead, listened to horrorizing tales of first time experiances and how it scars people for life.  This seemed sufficient.  I was a little curious, but not so much so as to subject myself to a potentially unhappy situation.  Although, there was one comment by a chef and foodie who said that it really just tasted like concentrated hard boiled egg.  Curious.

The opportunity finally came.  While visiting some friends here waaay up North.  They were eating balut and said there was some for me, if I wanted it.  So, why not?  

It's really not that bad at all.  Especially with a little vinegar and salt added.  Mmmm.  The flavor is a mix between liver and egg.  You chip a little of the shell away and drink some liquid (don't know what it is and don't care to know. hehe)  Then the rest of the shell can be chipped away as necessary to eat it.  The yolk is super rubbery...over cooked in the world of hard boiled eggs, but just right with balut (i guess).  Vinegar and salt are reapplied as necessary.  

So, overall, the experience was good and will probably be repeated.  Branching out isn't always so bad!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Giving when you have nothing.

"for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21:4)

Rice.  To some people it's like gold to other people, they hardly notice it's existence.  I just received a bag of about 2kilos of rice this morning as a gift of appreciation. Wow!  This may not sound amazing, but it is.  It's a gift of the heart and it represents so much more!

The generosity of the "poor" never ceases to amaze and humble me!  They are so giving, not because they have endless resources or live in abundance, but rather because it is an expression of their heart.  They are truly rich in spirit.  They give, not really of the physical, but rather of the not-so-tangible, expression of the heart.  

It's challenging, no?  Maybe it's my "cultural background" that gives me an edge of stinginess, or maybe it's really that my heart isn't always in the right place, therefore there is no expression of really giving myself completely and freely.  

After all, what is a bag of rice?  To someone it's their whole day of food.  Oh, maybe they'll add a couple little dried fish or some soup, but really rice (disregarding nutrition at this point) makes up the majority of a meal.  it's really giving a lot.  The rice that was given to me will require her to buy more rice for her family.  Ponder that a while.  It's quite significant and it reminds me of another gift that is given freely. Jesus.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Words in a Sunset

This is a beautiful glimpse of a breath taking sunset last night.  The clouds were rolling in and the sun was shining through.  As I drank deeply, scanning the beautiful landscape that spread out before me, standing at the front of the clinic my mind pondered the Lord's heart.  

This was the only break in the clouds where the sun was shining through.  It was just a highlight in the midst of a darkening sky that was covering the earth below in it's shadow.  The scripture says, 

"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry." (Psalm 34:15)

He is not blinded by the dark, His ears are not made deaf by howling wind, rather He is keenly aware of the needs of His people.  He has even made provision for those who dwell with the righteous!  This is seen all the way from the beginning.  This truth is especially vivid in the O.T. when the Israelites were leaving Egypt.  The LORD made provision for the "alien" among them and has continued to do so!  Praise the LORD.  

Rejoice in the glory of the LORD because He has called you forth!  As you see Him poured out before you praise Him.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:4-10)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Communication in the little things

Imagine playing Bball with that view!  They did this all day long.

It didn't seem like a large difference, really.  Exchanging the "v" for a "b" in pronunciation seems to trivial, especially when it seems to be common in many languages. Don't be fooled, it can be the difference between communicating and not.  Here's a little story to help.
Violet (my friend and roomie) went to the market and made our last stop the egg/chicken lady.  We told her we wanted to buy some eggs.  She quickly replies, "Fibe? Fibe?"  With no needed explanation I knew she was asking, "Five? Five?"  I replied, "Twelve."  "Fibe?" She asked, again.  "No, twelb."  I corrected.  And with this she quickly counted out a dozen eggs.
It's such a small thing.  It's not complicated, no clearly pronunciation is needed, just the awareness of the more commonly pronounced "b" instead of 'v".  It happens all the time, most commonly with number such as, "pipty-pibe" (55) and "seben" (7).  It's all English in the formal sense, but there's a little difference in pronunciation that makes all the difference!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tabuk!  This is a new adventure.  For three weeks a friend (and roommate) and I will be spending some time at a maternity clinic to visit some missionary volunteers.  It's very rural, hence the rice fields everywhere!  And so pretty.  Life has a whole different pace than in the city.  It's slower and much quieter.  There's the occasional radio or tv that can be heard, but overall is quiet.  
Today will be our first full day here after some great rest (16 hours... probably enough sleeping) and we'll head out to explore with a guided tour.  
There are lots of stories from our travels, but those stories will have to wait.  :)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Michelle, the one who remembers

Something about her stayed with me.  Maybe it's that she was a Filipina with some of the longest dreads ever and they were a messy mass, maybe it was the tattoos on her arms and legs, maybe it was the myriad of bracelets and anklets.  Maybe, it was that she told me she would bring me a bracelet when she came back.  Or maybe the LORD just allowed her to remain in my mind.

Everything about her is very counter her culture.  I don' know how she found out about Mercy, but probably the way most of the patients do: word of mouth or they just see the sign.  She is always the last prenatal on her day and she's actively seeking something spiritual to fill her void.  To this end, I did pray for her at the end of her prenatal.  Especially as she said that she would be going to another island (Cebu) for some festival and she and her bana would be selling bracelets, anklets and necklaces.

This prenatal was in December, so through all of January she was on my mind.  What was she doing?  Had she seen the One for who she really searched?  The cough she had that was probably from smoking before she was pregnant, was it a sign of other lung problems?  Would I ever see her again?

The clinic here runs such that there are a team of midwives assigned a particular prenatal day, so we might see patients only once, then again we might see them lots, it just depends.  And, when they come to the birth room they are served by the current shift (unless the woman has become a continuity patient, but that's a different story.)

This past Tuesday I was working on prenatals.  We started just after 9:00am.  There were lots of patients and one by one they were all seen.  Occassionaly I wondered if I would see her...and if I would recognize her (there was one other gal with dreads, which are certainly a defining factor).  We were almost done and i was cleaning up my bed when I hear a teammate behind me say, "Kelly..."  I turn around to Michelle!  She came.  Her dreads, her inked skin and charms galore, she was here! She smiled and said, "Hi Kelly."  What joy flooded me heart.  And she said, "I brought this for you from Cebu."  

This just amazed me.  I don't really know her, she doesn't really know me and why she would remember me when she was on a 3 week vacation is beyond me, but she did and she was true to her word.  Just as she said, she brought back a bracelet.  As she left and said good bye, by name to me and the midwife who had done her prenatal, she promised the other girl a bracelet too.  

Now the bracelet reminds me to pray for her and her searching heart.  She's very dear and had such a bright personality, but there's no doubt of her need for a Savior.  What a joy it is to speak to the King on her behalf that she would know Him.  She's not due for a few more months, so hopefully we run into each other again during prenatals...maybe even her birth!