Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parenting Reflections, Volume 1

So, the whole time I've been here, I've been talking about blogging about the many thoughts and issues that have come up with parenting in this place and season for me. I figured with less than a week less, perhaps I should actually start on that. There are a ton of different aspects of it that would make it an overwhelmingly long post to write or read, so I'll try to jump in on one thing for now: Control.
For any who know me well, I am a control freak in a long recovery and learning process! From the time I was a kid, I have been a pretty Type A, structured, black and white person who likes my lists and schedules and plans and structures. And, well, let's be honest, control. Even when I took the test from the Now, Discover Your Strengths book, one of my top 3 came back as Control (can't remember how that was framed as a strength exactly, but hopefully, I'll continue to let God redeem it as one). I make light of it sometimes, but it truly has been a challenge for me as an adult to release this.
There have been many seasons and layers of lessons in this arena. Becoming a parent has, without a doubt, been one of the biggest challenges to my "need" for control, as there is so much that is just not able to be controlled and that I have HAD to come face to face with needing to be in someone's control (God) who is far superior to me! So, parenting in general has been a huge challenge in this arena, but coming here to Nepal has taken it to a whole new level!

The first month here Isaiah had some sort of health issue pretty much the whole time. I was wrapping up my first trimester of pregnancy, so I was exhausted regardless of the circumstances. The travel didn't go especially easily getting here with Isaiah's sleep (or lack of), jet lag was rough and moved into a lot of pretty limited sleep nights because of all his health stuff. So, I was feeling completely depleted. And, here was my beloved little boy struggling with one physical malady after another. Now, I know kids get sick anywhere, but the possibilities of what it could be here are pretty scary, AND it was a brand new place where I didn't know how to take care of anything for him. There aren't any 24-hr pharmacies. It's hard to navigate communication and randomness at the pharmacies to even get what you want, and often it's not available here. I didn't even know how to clean stuff here when he was vomiting all over it in the middle of the night! There was no ability to even operate under any slight illusion that I had any control in it all! It was a horrible feeling that I really and truly wrestled through. I felt like I couldn't even figure out how to do the one thing I had set as my role during that time of coming--to take care of my son!

The thing about releasing control is that there is an assumption of it being released TO someone. It isn't like I had a choice to release control in this situation; it wasn't within my grasp. But, what felt perhaps the most difficult of all is that I couldn't see any control in it anywhere. I kept trying to tell myself that God was in control and praying for Him to take care of my little boy. I was trying really hard to trust that, but in the middle of the night one of the nights when Isaiah couldn't stop throwing up, and I was just completely at the end of myself, I have to be honest that I got angry. Really, really honest moment...I thought, God, I know that I need to trust that You are in control and that it never really has been within my control to take care of my son. I know I need to trust that He is and always has been in Your hands. Well, right now, you're doing a pretty crappy job! How am I supposed to feel good about that?! I'm completely at the end of myself, and I am mad that I don't see You here!

I had a pretty dramatic crying jag, followed by being so exhausted that I fell asleep for a bit. In the morning I was reminded of the story of Hagar and Ishmael. When I was younger, my Grandpa and Grandma had this old Bible-story book, and whenever I spent the night there, I got to choose a Bible story to read at breakfast. I always picked that story. I think I really loved the picture in that book for that story, and I can vividly remember it still. It's not a typical kid story to love, I suppose. I think there are a lot of reasons why God may have put that story on my heart as a kid, but one could be for my time as a mom. I turned to it in Genesis and read. Their circumstances were much different obviously. Ishmael was born as a result of Abraham and Sarah's disobedience, and then Hagar was sent away because of Sarah's jealousy. My son is a blessing and a joy, which actually made it seem all the more true that, if God would take care of Ishmael and Hagar, how much more certain that He would be there for my little boy?
In the story, their food and water runs out, they are completely alone, and they are in the desert. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic, but that is how I felt. I felt alone and completely stripped of any resources and powerless to do anything but watch my little boy hurting. Hagar went off to weep because she couldn't bear to watch her son die. Then, in Genesis 21:17, it says, "God heard the boy crying..." Even that simple phrase struck me. I didn't see action in the timing I wanted, and it made me feel like God wasn't even paying attention, but it was a reassurance of Him saying to me that He heard my boy crying, too. "...the angel of the God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, 'What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.' Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink."

Now, I didn't have any wells or instant cures pop up in front of my eyes, but I felt a renewed strength to pick up my little boy and lift Him back up to his source of strength that actually WAS seeing and hearing. It wasn't all smooth from the moment on. Isaiah continued to have some rough stuff for awhile, and he has gotten sick pretty often during our time here. Sometimes I handle it better than others. But, God hears. He sees my little boy and cares for Him, and no matter how hard I want to fight to pretend I'm in control, this place has been a glaring reminder (often in dramatic ways) that I am absolutely NOT. And, I have to trust that God is. Sometimes I see it; sometimes I don't. Sometimes it works out quickly and smoothly, but it has been the most dramatic times when the breakthrough hasn't come right away that I have been stretched and broken and brought to the end of myself in ways that I have not been before. It sucks, let's be honest, but it is necessary. I can't say that I trust God to take care of my son or to be in control in His life if I'm, even subconsciously, still holding on as if his life or wellbeing is within my control. It's subtle at times when things are easy or get resolved quickly, but in those times of greater intensity, I realize how much I have operated as if I am the one running the show.

There is much theology wrapped up in a lot of this that I could go into at great depths, but I will say just briefly that I believe deep in my heart (though it is a tremendous challenge to cling to at times) that God is both completely good and loving and also in ultimate control. I praise Him that Isaiah, though it's been rough, is in no lasting danger, and I have gotten to see God's protection over Him, even if not in my timing. So, it may seem easy at this end of things to once again say that I believe God is in control, but it really did come in the middle of things being rough. It wasn't about me learning a lesson from it. Vineyard theology of the "already and not yet" kingdom of God has been incredibly freeing and amazing and challenging and challenging to me in the past couple of years. If anyone happens to read this and wants to dig into that more, I highly recommend Derek Morphew's book Breakthrough. I had actually read it before Isaiah was born, but as we all know, sometimes things we've learned go out the window when we are experiencing something hard! Anyway, I believe that there is a very real battle in the spiritual realm, and a blog for another day is the ways I have seen that so much more vividly here, but in the midst of the battle, even that seemingly simple affirmation that God hears shook me and released something in me. I don't get to control the way God is in control of things! I have seen all the more the need to battle for my son in prayer, but I have been stripped to a painfully good place from my illusions of control in his life. It's not all gone forever, but I pray that the Lord will keep me in that state of admitting my lack of control and relying on Him in the life of my family! May He make it something beautiful in my life and theirs!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mixed Emotions

Our time is quickly drawing to a close here in Nepal, and I have found myself experiencing quite a mix of emotions. There are so many thoughts and feelings to sort through, and let's be honest, pregnancy is not the time of utmost clarity to sort through those things!
I'm sure there will much to reflect on and continue to process as we return to the States. Perhaps the single biggest thing is that we don't know whether we will be coming back to Nepal. So, there is still an uncertainty in what is ahead for us. I had felt quite anxious recently about the lack of clarity in that, but I have felt more peace lately and have realized that we don't have to have it all clear and settled yet. What we do know is that we will be returning to Los Angeles in a couple weeks and will be there until at least a couple months after the baby is due, which means we wouldn't be making any big moves before summer anyway. That gives us time that we probably really need to both process our time here and also just see how life back in Los Angeles would fit for us after this season. I just need to learn to live more patiently and graciously in the times of life that aren't so clear (which seems to be a large majority of it!). That is a challenge for me. I like lists and plans and calendars and black and white answers!
We have definitely learned some things about ourselves in this season (which is probably a long post unto itself), and that helps as we move ahead, though there is still much to process about what really God has crafted us uniquely for. I don't believe there is necessarily a concrete definite singular job/location/vocation God has for us, but I long to connect more of the pieces of our hearts and gifts with some vision of how we can uniquely be part of God's kingdom work.

Stepping back again from the big picture, there are a lot of thoughts and feelings to sort through about our time here. Even the length of time itself has been hard to wrap my brain around at times. In some ways, it feels like we just got here and time has flown by and there has hardly been enough time. In other ways, I feel like we have been gone for such a long time and been away for so much of life with those who are very precious to us.

I am feeling so excited to be back home in Los Angeles and to see family and friends and do (and eat!) things we've missed. But, I also have felt surprised recently that I am feeling sad to leave here. Again, the pregnancy hormones don't help this, but one day, I can hardly bear the thought of leaving Los Angeles more long-term, and then the next day, I feel saddened by the thought of letting go of life here and its possibilities. Ups and downs and all kinds of sideways!
Life here has certainly not been easy. I had a hard time at first here. To be honest, I was fairly miserable the first month. And, as my pregnancy progresses, I have to admit that life here is just not comfortable. I am not sure life anywhere is all that comfortable in the last trimester of pregnancy, but there are definitely extra challenges and drains to life here.
Yet, I have tried to jump in and invest in making life a joy here. And it has ended up being a joy. I mean, certainly not all fun and games. But, I have made myself at home here to a certain degree. We are approaching the time of saying goodbyes to people and even places and things that have been such a blessing (or some at least a source of amusement or adventure). The only way to avoid goodbyes being difficult is to avoid investing at all, and that is no way to live, but it certainly is more difficult to invest myself in a place and relationships that may only be for this short season. It was critical, however, in figuring out whether life would fit here (or anywhere) for me.
I have always been a very independent person, and I have known for quite some time that I am significantly an introvert. With those two things, along with probably broken ways we process some of life, I have often not realized the impact of relationships in my life. I have realized over the years, and again to a deeper level here, that I don't enjoy doing life alone. I don't need hoards of friends or tons of social connections; in fact, I get burned out quickly in that. But, I long to share life with a few people closely and intimately. I am so thankful for John, but there is also a deep need I have for female friends to really "do life" with. I had a few friends I have made here over today for a little Christmas fun time with our kids, and as I realized I feel sad to leave them. Certainly, none of these friendships has grown to the depth I would long for, but it has been an encouragement to me that, even in this short season, God has provided glimpses of that for me here. It reminds me that He has always provided for me in this area in the past. Sure, I have gone through times in a new place or a new phase or in saying goodbyes to friends moving on that have been hard and felt the absense of that in my life, but within the broader scope of each season of life, I realize how incredibly blessed I have been with deep friendships and even mentors with whom to share and connect life! Undoubtedly, the most difficult thing for me in leaving Los Angeles, even for a season, was leaving some of the most amazing and precious relationships I have experienced in life. Sharing life in parenting has been a whole new level of connecting our lives, and I am so very grateful for those the Lord has provided for me in this. And, while, even now, my eyes are welling up at the thought of leaving those for a longer time, I have also come to feel the Lord showing me how He has provided something beautiful and amazing that will be a lasting connection and blessing even if not in the same location and that He will provide for me in this wherever I am. It may take a hard season of sowing and seeking that out, and it may end with some tearing again at the end of another life season, but it has been a reminder to me of His incredible provision, as I look back at how He has provided for me in this, long before I even knew or could admit that I needed it.

On perhaps a less deep level, I am both looking forward to and dreading some of the comforts of life. I surely miss the ease of life at times, and yet, sometimes lately, I feel like life will seem quite dull in a place that is easier, and I fear slipping too easily back into being "comfortable" with life. I don't want to just remember to be thankful for what we have; I want to not just go back to having all the stuff and comforts we have. It would be easy to go to an extreme that could never be long-lasting, and I don't want to be foolish about denying what makes life work in a place, but I don't want to just slip back into patterns of what is "easy" without being intentional about what is good!

Well, I can feel myself wearing out for the evening. It was a good day of having friends over, but as I often do, I underestimated the energy involved in getting ready and preparing things the way I hoped to, so I am rather wiped out tonight, especially since Isaiah couldn't calm down for a nap today! There is much more to say/write and process in all of this, but I think I am done for tonight.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Random Thoughts

Seriously, this is a random connection of things tonight...

Isaiah has not been sleeping well at night again. Every time he gets sick (which has been often here) he goes through a stretch of readjusting his nighttime sleep to normal after he's feeling better. It doesn't leave much time of normal sleep until it seems a new bug of some sort hits, and we start over. Plus, it is getting cold at night. There isn't any heat inside, so it makes nights pretty chilly in the apartment. Isaiah is a little wiggle worm still, so it is hard to keep him covered up well. We layer pajamas and try to tuck him in, but his room is the coldest in the apartment because it's on a corner. We're hesitant to buy too much stuff that we don't know will help with only a few weeks left, but last night, we broke down, and John went and bought a big fuzzy (and pretty darn ugly) blanket for him. He insists on pushing his sleeves up, though, and he doesn't want his arms under the covers. He does frequently sleep with penguin (who smells horrible!) covering his face. Don't know how he stands the smell, but perhaps it helps keep him warm?

Isaiah and I went this morning to a big play place they have at a new mall being built in Kathmandu. One of the other moms I know had told us about it. She was talking about telling a taxi how to get there, but of course, being a determined frugal mom, I decided to take the microbus. It lets out right by the mall! Granted, you have to cram in with a LOT of other people, make a bunch of stops on the way, and then cross some chaotic traffic from the stop, but hey, it's only 15 rupees! :)
The play place was great! They had little rides, so Isaiah got to ride a train and a little helicopter ferris wheel thing. I yelled at a couple kids at the ferris wheel. Isaiah was waiting for his turn. That's not really something that is part of the culture here--waiting your turn. And lines...forget it! I know that, and I should probably roll with it a lot better than I do, but there is some sense of what feels fair (not to mention considerate) that just rises up in me every time I am waiting for something and someone shoves in front of me. This time, I was waiting with Isaiah, and a group of kids came barreling through and just about trampled him in the process of pushing past him to the ride. I lost it a bit, unfortunately. Culturally insensitive probably, but is it really just my Western cultural indoctrination that thinks it isn't ok to just roll right over a little kid to get something you want?
Anyway, other than that, the play place was really fun! There was a nice ball pit with slides into it and tons of stuff to climb on and space to run around. There were tons of things that wouldn't meet safety standards anywhere in the U.S., which always makes me laugh. But, it also made me think and wonder about the extremes we've gone to with all of the safety standards and liability issues and all. Now, there are ridiculous death traps all over the place here passed off as kids' play areas, but this one had stuff that kids could definitely get hurt on but really nothing serious, I think. I remember a ton of fun stuff that we used to play on and do in gym class and whatnot as a kid that would never be allowed now in the States. There were injuries, but I think there is a certain extent to which exploring your world and learning what is safe and what isn't and having some bumps and bruises along the way is a reasonable, probably even healthy part of childhood. I wonder if we're padding and cushioning our kids to the point that they become reliant on something external to always protect them from harm and know where the limits and boundaries are and never have to learn for themselves how to just make reasonable choices.

The mall itself made me laugh a bit. They are clearly trying to make a very modern, Western-looking mall. There are escalators and glass elevators (which seem interesting choices for a country that has electricity issues). Even the outside is clearly being laid with tiles and glass to look very hip and "nice." But, in the middle of it is some guy with a broken pile of bricks hacking at a big piece of something with a little handsaw and another guy climbing a rickety ladder to do some cobbled-up wiring. It's kind of a funny scene of bizarre juxtapositions.

We ate lunch in the food court, and Isaiah was excited when I told him he could get a cheeseburger. There were veggie burgers, buff burgers, and "hamburgers" on the menu. I assumed (apparently incorrectly) that hamburgers would be beef. It was a bit disappointing to end up with a giant veggie burger. Now, I like veggie burgers, but don't think nice smooth Boca or something akin to that. Think big hunks of chewy unidentifiable veggies stuck together somehow. It doesn't taste that bad, but the texture is unpleasant and particularly hard for a toddler to chew through, and it was a bit of a letdown when we thought we were getting a "real" burger. I told Isaiah we can go to In'N'Out when we get back, eat cheeseburgers and watch the planes. I told him Grandpa and Grandma would probably enjoy going with us since they'll be visiting us soon after we're back. He said, "Grandpa, Grandma, veggie burgers no like." He's probably right! :)

It was a fun outing, though I'm not sure if it's worth the traffic and effort of getting there. Kathmandu traffic is not pleasant. No traffic is pleasant. But there is something about sitting in a crammed microbus with the nasty emissions and dust that adds a little layer to the experience.

I am teaching Muna how to make some Western dishes before I go. Yesterday we made chocolate peanut butter squares! She is quite shy about things sometimes, so I can't tell if she thinks it's fun or not. I think she likes learning new recipes, though. One more proof of her superhuman status yesterday was when we were melting the chocolate chips. I had them in a metal bowl set on top of a saucepan with water in it on the burning. So, the metal bowl is not directly on the heat source, but it is a METAL bowl that is melting chocolate. I was starting to stir it, and she was going to take over doing it. I handed her the potholder. She shook her head and just grabbed the bowl and held on to it the whole time she was stirring! Seriously! Super human.

This afternoon, as I was cooking for a potluck we were going to, I had some Christmas music playing on the iPod. There are few things that, after 15 years since she passed, still make me miss my grandma the way that Christmas music and decorations and such do. She loved Christmas, and she made it so special for all of us! I grew up Mennonite, and to be a "good" Mennonite, you should be very simple and very frugal and very plain. My grandmother did not grow up Mennonite; she married into it. There were a lot of things that were hard for her about it, but that was one of them. Christmas was the one time of year it seemed acceptable to be festive and a little extravagant. Actually, I don't even know if it was that acceptable or if she just didn't care, and that was her one time she was going to do it anyway! Either way, it always made Christmas feel extra special because it was so distinctly different and because she just seemed to delight in it!
I love Christmas, too. I love decorating and all the special foods and traditions. (John is less fond of some of my traditions, namely the Alabama Christmas album!) It's fun to think of new traditions to start with our kids, too. I made (with much help from my parents on their last visit) a Jesse tree to do this year, and we started it today. I'm going to try to teach Muna how to make some Christmas cookies next week, and we're going to have a little Christmas fun time with some of Isaiah and my friends next week. I haven't used the iPod much since we've been here, but I can't resist playing Christmas music any chance I get. The whole season makes me sappy. That could also be the pregnancy hormones. :)

Well, that is probably enough randomness for tonight. Perhaps a more focused post soon.

Friday, November 26, 2010


It has certainly been a different celebration this year for Thanksgiving and yet one that makes me feel strangely at home here. This is certainly a place that makes me realize how very much I have to be thankful for and to be conscious of little things that I often take for granted. I am quite sentimental when it comes to holidays, and I love being able to have special celebrations with family and friends! I am so very thankful for the resources to not only have plenty to eat and a comfortable place to live but even an abundance to feast together with wonderful people God has brought into our lives.

We went Wednesday evening to the residence of the U.S. Ambassador here for a special celebration. All U.S. citizens were invited, and it was a unique chance to gather with people from our nation but on the other side of the world! Plus, we got little mini turkey sandwiches and pies. Turkey is unbelievably expensive here, so it was fun to watch everyone get so excited about some little bites of a traditional treat. A new friend of ours was invited to give a blessing at the short program, which was also a real treat for us because John and I have become very used to everyone completing avoiding anything Christian at any sort of government or secular function in LA. There was no preaching or anything, but it was nice to have some recognition of the source of all that we have to be grateful for! Without God, what or who are we even thanking? Anyway, it was nice.
I came home and started in on some baking. We have two Miracle Ovens now but still no regular oven, so we had planned some shifts to cover all the food we were hoping to make. I couldn't really picture any way to pull off pie in the Miracle Oven, so I went for pumpkin brownies and pumpkin cake. Yesterday we all spent the day preparing for a late afternoon meal here with some friends. I have to admit that I'm pretty impressed with what we pulled off with no oven and limited pots, pans, and bowls! I braised some chickens, which was an adventure for several reasons. I have never braised a chicken before. Also, I have never had to actually remove the internal organs from a chicken before. Usually when you buy them in the States, the little guts and stuff and tucked neatly into a little bag inside. It is surprisingly difficult to pull them off of the body of the bird! And, I had to cut up the chicken myself into pieces, which I have also never done, and despite the pieces being rather awkwardly cut, the meat turned out quite well. We also had mashed potatoes (made by our dear sweet Muna), dressing, cheesy hash brown casserole, rolls (purchased), gravy, hot autumn punch, and some yummy dishes brought by our friends.

One funny advantage of Thanksgiving here is that nothing is closed that day, so you can still get any ingredients you need that morning!

Some friends came over then for dinner, and we had a really nice evening together! It was so much fun to share our home with people God has brought into our lives and to feast together and celebrate and give thanks to God. We all hit a food coma pretty quickly after dinner, as none of us are used to the quantity of food or nearly the level of starches and heaviness in our food here! What fun to be able to all share together, though, some treats that remind us all of traditions and comforts of "home."

I was reminded yesterday of so many Thanksgiving celebrations growing up. My grandma has been gone now for 15 years, but I still miss her and spending Thanksgiving at her home, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. Then, I think of the year that I actually got to go to the Macy's parade and spend Thanksgiving with my college choir in New York and have my dad and grandpa come to see us there! And, I think of the years now spent in LA, serving at the Santa Monica Civic Center for an amazing celebration put on there for many who wouldn't have a celebration otherwise and sharing a meal and fellowship with adopted "family" there. So, I am thankful for many things, but I feel particularly thankful for memories, both past and new ones being created in the present, of life shared with family and friends and resting with great joy in the arms of our Father who makes a place for us wherever we are and blesses us with glimpses of "home" until we are in our true home forever with Him.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wear You Down

I wouldn't say it has been a bad week. God has definitely poured out His grace and presence on us in the midst of it, but it has definitely been one of those weeks that I feel the toll a place like this can take. Sometimes, this place just seems to wear you down.
We had a nice weekend away in Nagarkot, a small place in the mountains not too far outside of Kathmandu. We stayed in a nice hotel and had a restful weekend, though we didn't actually see the spectacular mountain views we were hoping for. Lots of fog to look at but not much view of the mountain. On the way up to Nagarkot, we took a tuk tuk to the nearest bus depot (which is really just a parking lot of random buses) and then took a bus to Bhaktapur where we expected to take a second bus up to Nagarkot. When we got off the bus in Bhaktapur, we found out there was no bus running to Nagarkot that day because one of the buses the day before had an accident. So, we ended up in a taxi. Minor gliche but far overshadowed by a fabulous shower and bathtub, which Isaiah loved, and a restful quiet weekend with fresh air.
On Monday morning, we got on the local bus back to Bhaktapur (a little nerve-wracking after having seen the one flipped over on the side of the mountain from Friday). Then we got on the bus back to Lagankhel, which takes you back through all the dust and pollution and clogs up any fresh air that might have filled your lungs while away. The bus was crowded, and when I say crowded, I mean three people hanging on to the outside of the door and people jammed in and standing over each other. Mind you, the "hawker" (as I like to call him) was still beckoning people to come on the bus. I mean, we hadn't even tapped into the space on the roof yet, so why not? Back at Lagankhel (which is the area where I go to the clinic), we just needed to get on a tuk tuk or microbus for a few minutes to get us to our road home. One microbus had just emptied out of people and tried to charge us 300 rupees! Seriously? It costs 10 for that ride! Anyway, we finally walked around the corner, got on a tuk tuk and got home, but it just felt a little astounding how exhausted we felt after our restful weekend because of the trek back home.

I ended up with some sort of intestinal bug for a couple days that gave me terrible cramps and body aches and kept me close to a bathroom. On the second day of that, a full-blown cold or viral thing hit Isaiah. He's been achey and all congested and, by today, seemed totally miserable. The night before last night, it seemed he was going to be up pretty much every hour, which meant we'd be getting up every hour, so we brought him in to sleep in our bed. The night consisted of frequent trips to the bathroom for me with sharp cramps in between and a restless, fussy toddler elbowing me and climbing on me and periodically shoving his nose or mouth into my face for a snot-covered kiss. Now, I know this stuff happens in the States as well. Kids get sick. We get sick. It just happens so much more frequently here. It was just under a month ago that Isaiah had his pukefest weekend. It took him two weeks for his sleep to settle back in, which gave us less than two weeks of him sleeping through the night again before sickness hit again. That is a tiring pattern.
So, in the midst of tired and not feeling well, I made my way to the clinic Wednesday morning for my monthly checkup. I had my glucose test last week and should've found out the results when I went in this time. We got all ready and got over there, only to find the clinic closed for the day. Now, the clinic is open every day, but they have a special time set aside for an "open house" style clinic specifically for expats on Wednesday mornings, which as I've mentioned, is a much easier experience. But given that it only happens once a week, I will need to wait a week if I hope to go in for that clinic time.
I was bummed and a little frustrated, but I decided Isaiah and I would make the trek up to the central post office to pick up the care package I knew was there from my parents. You see, no mail gets delivered to homes here. We have a post office box at the local post office. When we get a package, they put a notice in our box. Often, the notice is all that is actually AT our post office, though, as they keep larger (and, sometimes just random and unpredictable) packages at the downtown office. That is what happened this time. So, then you have to go to the local office, pick up the slip, take it downtown (which is a 30-minute trip one way on a good day), go to 15 or so stations to have random signatures and stamps and who knows what to get the actual package. I've never gone before since John has picked up the packages before, but I thought it might cheer us up a bit to get the package, so we hopped on a microbus and headed up there. Isaiah was so tired and nearly fell asleep on the way. We got off and crossed the crazy intersection, made our way to the unmarked gate at what seemed to be the post office, and when I asked the guard at the gate if it was the post office, he said, "Tomorrow." Since that didn't seem an answer to my question, I said, "What?" He said, "Today is holiday. Closed. You can come tomorrow." Oh, can I, please? You've got to be kidding me! Bleh. What the heck random holiday it was, I have no idea. They have a ton of them, and half of the people here don't even know what or when they are. So, we ventured into the market area next to that and bought a cheap pair of knockoff Puma sweatpants for Isaiah. I started to look for a long-sleeve t-shirt for me, which I had forgotten to pack for sleeping at night, but I just wasn't up for dealing with all the dynamics of the little shops in that kind of market area, so we crossed the intersection again and got on a microbus back to our area.
We headed to Higher Ground, a cafe that is Isaiah's favorite here. It was Muna Didi's day off, so I thought we'd just eat some lunch out and then head home for nap. Isaiah loves the banana smoothies there; it's his favorite. I ordered one for each of us, and the waiter came back a few minutes later to tell me they couldn't make them at that time because the power was out. Bummer.

I surprisingly didn't feel stressed from the day, which is God's grace for sure, as many of you know that I'm not the most flexible person on the planet. Top that off with not feeling well and carrying around a toddler that wasn't feeling well. But, it didn't make me stressed or angry...just exhausted. It's not one thing by itself, but it is the stream of things that are just a regular part of life here and accumulate to just wear a person down here. Ah, Kathmandu, you make me weary sometimes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Culture Clash

I was just discussing with Alana the other day how sometimes the unexpected culture clash moments come in interacting with other expats. We're all experiencing a different culture here in Nepal, so there is a common ground, but we are not all from the same culture, and sometimes it's easy to forget that until it comes up in jarring ways. I had one of those moments today.

Every Friday, Isaiah and I go to a prayer that is a bunch of moms, mostly with toddlers, so the kids also come. The basic setup of the group is that we each share about any updates/praises/prayer requests, and then we pray for each other. The kids play, usually in the same room, so it is obviously isn't the most focused sharing and prayer time ever, but we all seem to manage to connect while keeping an eye on our kids.

I hadn't really thought about it, but nearly all in the group are Westerners, and actually, primarily British and American. There is one woman who has started coming recently that is not, though. She is a VERY sweet and generous woman who loves Jesus and is absolutely lovely, so I hope this won't be disparaging to her. The cultural differences have just been notable. It reveals assumptions we make about the way things are done. I never much thought about it in the group before, but it is an unspoken norm/expectation among Westerners for things to have a certain degree of structure and order, and it seems to be agreed upon with very little or no direct communication about it. Things like taking turns and going in order around a circle to share. When a new person comes, someone usually explains just that we each share our prayer requests, and the rest seems rather understood. Now, as I said, the kids are there, so there are always the distractions of one of the kids needing attention for something, but those get addressed with a clear attempt to not disrupt the order of the group, and then the mom(s) slip back into the flow of what is happening. Again, none of this even was something in my consciousness until someone came who did not follow the same "rules." This newer woman has, the past few weeks, often gotten up in the middle of someone sharing and just started doing something, such as passing out chocolates to all of the kids. (Remember, most of them are 2 or under!) Last week, she hosted the group, and right as we went to start sharing, she turned on the cartoon network on the TV in the room there for the kids, and later, in the middle of someone sharing, she pulled out two incredibly noisy, flashing toys and turned them on and set them in the middle of the kids. It was weird to realize how shocking it felt and to realize the assumptions made of how a group like this operates.

Anyway, all of those have been sort of amusing, but today was more of a clash. The host home today had steps (marble, mind you) all over the place to get in and out of any room, and one of the little boys had quickly scampered up a few steps and fell down and banged his head. It swelled up and started to bruise right away, and he was yelping. The woman hosting gave the mother a bag with some ice, and she sat on the couch to try to put the ice on his head. Her closest friend was next to her, I was in the room, and this newer woman was in the same room as well. She was trying to tell this mom not to put ice on it; she was telling her she must put a hot rag on it instead. It was said in a tone that was surprisingly stronger than a suggestion. The other three of us tried to just say that ice would actually be good. Then, the newer woman walked over and said, "Let me see." She pulled the mom's hand back and started to press hard with her hand on the bump! The friend rather sharply told her to stop. She got a bit defensive, and the friend tried to explain a bit of why we put ice on it and that it was hurting him more to press on it, but the newer woman was convinced this was the wrong thing to do. A brief conversation followed with many awkward exchanges, including the newer mom stating that is why she didn't let her son on the stairs (even though he had actually been multiple times and had tumbled off a couple). Awkward really is an understatement for that moment.

The actual action wasn't brand new to me. When we were visiting India, a friend's son fell, and everyone seemed convinced to do the same thing. While the hot rag makes it look much worse, that part at least seems it would make sense to actually enhance the body's natural reaction to rush blood to that area. Perhaps our attempts to counteract the body's reaction is less natural and more of a measure of pure comfort. However, the whole pushing on the bump thing just makes me absolutely cringe. It might actually make sense as well, but it just hurts like heck and seems awful! Still, different modes of dealing with situations exist, but the truly jarring part was the very non-Western mode of stepping in and just asserting a way of addressing something...with someone else's child!

I've tried to think it through a bit, as it just felt so jarring to me and so completely baffling to understand the disregard for what seem like common boundaries to me. I mean, barring being a medical professional stepping in to address an emergency situation, it just seems completely unthinkable to me to just step in, pull a mother's hand away from her son (when she has already expressed not agreeing with one aspect of what you're trying to get her to do), and carrying out your own mode of handling the situation, which involves physical intervention with the kid! It connects for me with the lack of boundaries I perceive in the way Nepalis interact with kids when anyone feels the freedom to just touch/squeeze/pull/pick up a kid they don't even know. I think some of it probably stems from the individual versus communal focus of cultures. I know this woman was truly intending to help and felt convinced she was doing the right thing. Regardless of the reasons from cultural norms that led to this particular situation, it was just one of those moments that was a true clash of cultures and a shock to both parties as assumptions came to the surface as being radically different. There are reasons that phrases like culture "shock" and culture "clash" have come into use! It is sometimes just completely jarring to have those differences come head to head in an unexpected moment!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On a Happier Note

So, since my last several posts have been full of negatives, I decided I should write on some good things. The vomiting has stopped, which is fantastic, obviously! Sleeping could still be better, but we're headed in the right direction! :)
We had a very nice morning. After skyping with Isaiah's two best buddies back home, we headed out with Alana to the Summit Hotel where they hold a farmer's market every Sunday and Wednesday morning. Mainly, it is on Sundays, but we haven't been able to go the past several times we've tried, so I thought we would check it out today. It was noted that it is not very big on Wednesdays, and that is quite an understatement, but it was such an enjoyable morning. The grounds at the Summit are just lovely! And, it is set back a bit, so it is blissfully quiet! Isaiah was running around barefoot on the grass. There are a bunch of lounge chairs surrounding a nice pool. Isaiah made particular note of the older gentleman sunbathing in his Speedo! :)
There is this small bakery nearby there that people call the "Secret Bakery" because it is completely tucked away with no signage, but he had his items there at the market today, so we sat and savored delightful treats and enjoyed all the flowers and green. Isaiah and I shared a calzone, and he also ate a cinnamon roll, a chocolate croissant, and some bites of a piece of spinach quiche. And, he kept pointing at the table, wanting to eat more. No way he was still hungry, but it all just looked so good--that's my boy! :) We also bought some homemade ravioli and two wonderful fresh loaves of bread to bring home to use for dinner. What a treat!
Then, on the walk home, we found a perfect chair for Isaiah. We don't really have dining chairs or table, so it's been hard for him to stay sitting and focused at meals, but we found him a toddler-sized plastic green chair with Mickey Mouse on it, so he was thrilled!

We've been using the stroller more lately, which has been nice on several levels. Makes us more inclined to walk, and the weather is quite nice right now, so walking is pleasant. It's also easier than carrying him, though it definitely still presents some challenges without sidewalks. But, I have gotten to the point that I don't really care if we look odd or if people have to drive out around us, so we have been enjoying using that.

While I'm on happier notes, I know I've mentioned it many times before, but Muna Tamang is a huge blessing in our lives!!! Daily tasks, like laundry and cleaning and cooking and cooking prep and even shopping for food and household items, just take so much longer here, so it is a huge relief and help to have Muna working for us to help with these things. Beside just the help with the tasks, she is such a sweet woman who is very kind to all of us and whom Isaiah enjoys very much. He talks about Muna Didi quite often. She is such an incredibly hard worker! She gets five times the amount of work done that I would in the time she has. And, she's a really good cook! Dal bhat (the basic lentil meal that everyone eats here every single day) can get a little monotonous, so it would be painful if she didn't make it well, and she tries to throw in some variety with what she makes for it. It is always rice and lentils and a side dish or two, usually vegetables or beans or potatoes or something. She always does a nice job making stuff for us, and she also bakes some tasty treats. I've gotten more comfortable cooking and baking here and am learning what is available and how to use stuff well, so I've been doing more of the cooking for dinners, but it is awfully nice to have her wash and chop things in the afternoon to prepare and to know that I don't have to worry about much clean up afterward! That is what I call a nice cooking experience! :)

Tonight is my "introvert night" when I have the house to myself after Isaiah goes to bed, so I'm looking forward to a little relaxing time tonight. I think I'm going to make brownies, make a game I've been wanting to make for Isaiah, and watch some silly TV shows online. A nice end to a good day!

Monday, October 25, 2010

If Only It Had Ended There...

Add another night to our stretch of ickiness! Last night was awful!
Isaiah woke up in the middle of the night crying again (only about 45 minutes after John had come to bed after trying to deal with bank stuff), and this time, the vomiting was serious business. Lots of vomit. He was understandably so upset and just kept crying as he was heaving. Went through probably four rounds of clothes for him, stripped his bed, and went through a couple sets of clothes for me as well.
The first set of clothes got spoiled when, I kid you not, I slipped on and fell IN the vomit! That pretty much was the low point of the last few days. It probably is actually quite funny when you think about it, but I am not so much connecting to the humor of it. I actually hurt my arm quite badly because there was nothing at all to catch myself on, so I just fell hard to the floor, which is basically a cement floor with some sort of weird thick plastic sheet on top made to look like tile. I could hardly move my arm this morning, but thankfully, it is feeling better tonight and is mostly just really sore.
So, to summarize...another night with very little sleep for any of us, Pukefest part 2--back with a vengeance, and falling IN vomit. It can only go up from here, right?!

Sunday, October 24, 2010


It has felt like a long stretch the past few days! It triggers many thoughts and feelings for me with mothering that have been on my mind since we came, and I've been meaning to write about them...and someday I will, but not tonight! :) I must wait until I have energy for actual coherent communication of deeper thoughts. For now, suffice it to say that I think parenting takes trust, faith, and reliance on God to a whole new level of challenge...and parenting in Nepal is yet another level! More on that soon, but for now, just a recap of the last few days.

Thursday, when we were at this little singing group that some friends we have made here have at a home, we started to do "Ring around the Rosie." Isaiah did not want to put down the purple matchbox plane he had in his hands, and with wanting to join the group quickly and not cause a big distraction, I let him hold on to it. As we went around the circle and came to a part where we scooped up the little ones, I scooped up Isaiah, which he wasn't expecting, and the plane jabbed right into his eye. He screamed so much, and I felt completely sick. He wouldn't open his eye at all, and there was blood in his tears, and nothing outside his eye was bleeding, so I knew it was coming from inside. I honestly thought for a second that I had actually poked a big hole in his eyeball or something. He's a pretty cautious kid and hasn't had a ton of typical toddler boy incidents, but this one really scared me. I was trying to keep all my horrible worst-case scenario thought trains in the station, but they kept flooding, like what if he loses an eye or can no longer see! And, despite the logic of knowing that accidents happen, I couldn't help feeling like it was completely my fault! A long story made shorter, he did open his eyes after about 10 minutes, and he seemed to have no major injuries. I think somehow, miraculously, it scratched the inside of his eyelid without actually scratching his eye itself. I seriously believe God was protecting him in a BIG way! By evening, we were fairly sure he was ok but not wanting to take chances with his little eyes and trying to sort through decisions of what to do to follow up in a place where we have no idea HOW to do that.
I took him to a local clinic on Friday since we couldn't figure out how to connect with an opthalmalagist. A huge blessing was that, while we were there, our friend who is a pediatrician here but who we were trying not to bother with this since he recently had surgery walked past the clinic and came to talk to us, and his opinion of the situation was really reassuring. The clinic is not a fun experience; it's fairly chaotic. The appointment didn't seem all that worthwhile, but it made the pharmacy experience a ton easier than it normally is, and we got eyedrops for Isaiah, which started a whole new battle of actually getting them in his eye several times a day! Thankfully, a couple days was all that was recommended, and as long as all looks ok in the morning, I think we are DONE with those! Thank goodness for the mini M&M's my parents sent that we could use as "incentive."

So, that in and of itself, was an exhausting couple of days, but then last night, in the middle of the night, Isaiah woke up crying. It seemed like he was going to throw up, but it was just a bit of gagging and spitting up. He was having a really hard time going back to sleep, though, and after nearly an hour of praying for him and singing to him, he started to actually throw up. So, then, in the middle of the night, I found myself hand washing clothes and sheets and trying to deal with the mess on the bed. Then we realized he had bad diarrhea! We were sort of waiting to see if more was coming, and we thought we had entered the safe zone, so we took him into bed with us (because his bed had a big spot of baking soda attempting to soak up the moisture and smell). He had just started to drift off finally when I heard him start to gag. John scooped him up and hit the bathroom. Minimal actual vomit but more washing and more crying, and all of us were back to wide awake. That, thankfully, ended that stretch for the night after 2 hours of being up. I struggled to go back to sleep with him there in the bed with us. He fell asleep for a couple hours. In spite of a very short night, it seemed he woke up pretty happy, and we thought the day might get off to an ok start...until we realized that our sheets were covered in diarrhea! So, up again, rinsing, soaking, washing sheets by hand in the bathroom, running all of his stuffed animals through our laundry machine (don't bother thinking regular washing machine). And, a full blown sinus headache for the second day in a row with very few options of things to take to curb it because of being pregnant! And, those hormones don't do much for the emotional state in times like this! Poor Isaiah looked at me with a bit of shock this morning when I burst into tears after he dumped out a bin of toys on the floor!
Oh, and I was scheduled to take a meal this evening to some friends here who just went through a rough time. Could not have pulled that one off without my sweet husband's help in a big way!

It would seem that the little man's eye is healing up well, we think we have wrapped up the eyedrops, whatever intestinal drama there was seems to have been short-lived, but I find myself bracing a bit before believing that things are going to all be smooth again! And, as I finally sit down tonight, I feel the drain of the past few days. Hoping for a really good night of sleep and a low-key week ahead!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Miracle Oven Victories

So, I'm getting the hang of this Miracle Oven and, in spite of my initial feelings of mistrust, I am cranking out some stuff in this thing!
Victories to date: 3 cakes (first one a partial victory), peanut butter cookies, a couple dinner casseroles, egg casserole, cornbread, coffee cake, brownies, and currently in there--baked oatmeal.
Last week, I made the coffee cake when I hosted the prayer group that I've been going to of mostly moms of toddlers. (Side note: It was a bit short-sided of me to offer to host this particular time since it was in the middle of a stretch of our didi being on vacation and, while my Miracle Oven confidence is quite high, my competence and confidence with the weird short little wicker/straw brooms we have here, especially on carpet, is quite low!) Anyway, as we were in the kitchen, one of the girls commented on how nice it is that we have a 4-burner stove, which I forget is quite a treat, actually. I commented that I do wish we had an oven, though. One of the girls asked how I made the cake then. Well, my friend, it was a "miracle." :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Top Ten Things I Miss

So, now that I am enjoying life, I can acknowledge some things I miss from home and not just be grumbling. We certainly have access here to many nice treats and are making life work in the midst of the challenges, but there are definitely still things I miss from home. The most significant are not the "things" at all but our family and friends who are so dear to us. We are so blessed and miss them very much! We are meeting some wonderful people, but it is not the same as those we have shared life with and know as well.
That aside, these are just the "things" I miss. These are not deep thoughts. I will eventually find the mental energy to blog on some of those things, but for now, I'm choosing the top ten things I miss from home:

10. An Oven
So, I could blog just about my adventures with the Miracle Oven. I am getting the hang of it and pretty excited to have successfully completed quite a variety of food in it, but there are just times it would be nice to bake a large quantity of something in a shape other than a ring!

9. Good Popcorn
If you know me, you know how much I love my popcorn. They have popcorn here, and it doesn't taste bad, but it doesn't pop well at all. A large percentage of the kernels never pop, and the ones that do don't get that nice open fluffy popped state, so they are all a bit on the crunchy side. Oh, Orville, where are you?

8. A Variety of Fruits and Vegetables
There is a very limited range of fruits and vegetables available here. There are some new ones we've tried, such as Japanese persimmons and custard apples, but I have gotten very spoiled by the year-round abundance of fresh produce available in a place like Los Angeles! I am particularly missing blueberries lately, for some reason. Oh, and peaches--I missed peach season! And, being able to eat fresh greens! I enjoy our food here, but variety is not its strength!

7. Fitted Sheets
It's weird, but they honestly don't exist here. They always just use flat sheets and wrap them around the mattresses. They don't stay in place, especially for a toddler who rolls around all over the place in bed. Thanks to Mom and Dad for sending him a fitted sheet!

6. Vehicle Smog Inspection
It always seems so inconvenient to deal with in California, especially when you know your car is fine, but I have a new-found appreciation for the benefits of having such restrictions imposed! Oh, the clouds of black smoke puffing out of vehicles here and the nauseating smells of terrible exhaust! Bleh! :( Now that the rains have stopped (which really is convenient to not be soaked and wading through mud all the time), all the dust and grime fills the air, and riding through traffic makes me choke a bit.

5. Appliances
I'm lumping these into one category because, on any particular day, I either don't even notice that we don't have one particular item or am completely homesick for one. For example, our didi does a fantastic job cleaning our floors, but on the day that Isaiah got into the cupboard and emptied an entire box of corn flakes and crumbs onto his weirdly thin but ridged carpet, I was pretty frustrated (understatement) to not have any sort of vaccuum!
I certainly had gotten rather addicted to my crockpot, but let's be honest, even if we had one, it would do very little good with long stretches of electricity outages!
I often miss my blender, though usually I realize that it's workable without it.
A handmixer is one I often miss. I felt like my arm was going to fall off last night trying to stir up some frosting! It's not one I might use as often as others, but I realize the elbow grease necessary to compensate for its loss!

4. Sidewalks
There are some sidewalks in some places, but they often end abruptly or are very rough and broken up or have random things blocking them, and they are rather rare altogether. I wouldn't mind so much, but I have a toddler who is scared to walk on the streets (and really, who can blame him? Who likes to have motorcycles and cars whizzing right past your side and honking right as they come up to you?). That makes for some challenges getting places.

3. A Toilet That Consistently Flushes and Has a Seat That Stays in Place
I would imagine it would seem obvious why this is something I miss. They don't seem to understand the purpose of toilet seats here. They are flimsy and loosely attached, and given that plumbing and water pressure leave a lot to be desired, the whole toilet experience is less than ideal. But, at least we have more than a hole in the ground.

2. Personal Space Boundaries
I like my personal space. I have grown to be quite comfortable with physical affection with friends, but I am not so fond of way too many people crammed into very small spaces and overlapping random body parts with total strangers. It is really more of the intentional personal space invasions, though, that stretch me. It is actually most notable with poor Isaiah. Complete strangers on the street reach out and grab children, squeeze their cheeks, and move them against their will. The most awkward one was when we were at the zoo last week, and another visitor to the zoo who was getting his picture taken by friends reached over and grabbed Isaiah and pulled him over to have his picture taken with him. I have to say that, as much as I know it to be a cultural thing, there is a bit of an instinct as a mother from the US to clock the guy because it seems creepy. The one occasion that people in the US seem to feel license to pay no attention to our usual personal space boundaries is with pregnant women's stomachs. Thankfully, I can't imagine that to be true here, at least with men, or else it could get interesting and be the straw that breaks the pregant mother's hormonal back. I would feel badly (mostly) for taking out some innocent Nepali man for touching my kid.

1. Dairy Products!!!
Seriously. Water buffalo stuff is just not even the same, and even that has a pretty narrow spectrum of what's available! If they consider cows sacred, why on earth would they not want to soak up as much of their glorious milk as possible?! Got milk? No. :(

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Didi Behini Group in the Village

Didi means older sister, and behini means younger sister in Nepali. Once a month the women from the Vineyard here in the city gather together with women from one of the villages outside the city. This month it was in Kortigauw (no idea about the spelling or even a good pronunciation of it). Alana and I had been invited to go along, so Tuesday morning, we headed over to the Vineyard here in Patan to meet our didis and behinis there and leave together for this gathering. Most of the day was a complete unknown for me. I knew it was a women's gathering in a village outside the city, and that's about the extent of what I knew.
Only a couple of the women speak any English, and even those who do speak it, don't feel confident using it, so there were a lot of smiles, giggles, and nods throughout the day, and though it felt awkward at the beginning of the day, by the end of the day, it somehow communicated much more than words. Puja was one young woman who felt comfortable speaking English, so she ended up translating (loosely) some things for us throughout the day.
As we were waiting for some signal to depart, a flatbed work truck pulled into the church courtyard. One of the ladies grinned and said, "Our taxi." They started giggling, so Alana and I thought it was a joke. Turns out, it was not. We needed to take three sewing machines (the old-fashioned ones that you pump with your foot so are all part of a table) and some other things along because they were going to start a training for some of the women in this village to learn how to do sewing/tailoring. So, we piled three sewing machines and table, one large desk, two chairs, and 14 of us women into this truck and headed out on our adventure. By the time we realized just how this was all going to play out, it would have been awkward to get up and take a picture, but this shot shows our ride.

So, off we went through the chaotic streets of Patan! I have gotten some strange looks being here so far, but it was pretty amusing to see people's faces when they looked over and saw two white girls jammed in the back of a work truck with a bunch of furniture and Nepali ladies having a worship sing-a-long! I can only join in on the parts that repeat "hallelujah" and "dhanyavad (thank you) Yesu (Jesus)" and such, but we just clapped along joyfully. At one point, I thought I had found a part I could do when Sarita and some others started in with the interjected "Ho, ho" and rolled r's and "hey, hey" and such, but it turns out you sort of need to know the song to throw those in at appropriate times. :) The lady sitting on the other side of Alana seemed to think she could help her sing along if only she could look into her face and sing loudly and intently. I don't think it worked, but it was amusing. The great thing was that we were all amused--by each other, by our ride, by the jostling around and getting tossed into each other!
As we got to the edge of the city, we went past a bunch of older Newari style buildings with the intricate woodwork and blue doors and windows and then started to see the terraced fields and brick making ovens and open spaces. Then, up the mountain we headed. A big jostling truck full of singing ladies and furniture up a narrow gravel and dirt mountain road. The key is not to look down. Now, that is a ride for you! One of the girls pointed up toward the top and said, "There is where we go." I have to admit, I doubted our truck a bit, but we made it up to the top in one piece and didn't even lose the guy who was standing outside and hanging on to the door!

We unloaded the furniture at the site where they will do the training, and we gathered together and prayed over the place and over the ladies there (most of whom had met us at this spot) for this time of training for the next three months. Then we walked along the road to a home where we were being hosted for the gathering. It was a packed dirt floor with some straw mats and no lights, and we all just gathered around to sit together on the floor. Altogether, I think there were about 25 of us. We chatted a bit, and I discovered that Puja (the one speaking English with us) has two children who are 14 and 11, and there is no possible way she is older than me, if as old. She grew up in an orphanage, and her husband left her soon after her daughter was born. One of so many difficult stories.

We worshipped together with a few raggedy shared songbooks, and then Umla (one of the ladies from the city) gave some teaching. I understood very little of it at all, but it seemed to be an encouragement to the women. Then the ladies shared their prayer requests, and if the surroundings didn't emphasize it enough, I was struck by the difficulty of many of their lives. So many wanted prayer for their family members to know Jesus, and quite a few are the only believers in the households. One very tiny elderly woman shared that her husband gets angry that she goes to church; he beats her and curses at her. She broke into tears as she said it. They wanted us to share our prayer requests as well because they said they need to be praying for us, too. Before we started praying, they said we were going to take the offering. A moment of panic hit me. What in the world is an appropriate amount to put in for such an offering? There is so much need, and I have much to give, but it would be very awkward to put in a large amount as they put in their little amounts. But, at the same time, they do know that Alana and I have more money as Westerners, so I don't want to be the stingy foreigners who don't give. It would be obvious what we had given because it would be notably different than anything else put in. I prayed and reached for a bill from my wallet. Thankfully, I confirmed with Alana that we had both put in the same amount, and we hoped it would be a good balance of the dynamics for us.

We began to pray. It started with everyone praying aloud at once, which is common for them to do here. Then some women got up and began to go around and lay hands on the other ladies and pray for them. One women, clearly a leader/elder of that community, went around and laid hands on each and every woman there and prayed for them. I don't know what she was saying, but there was such fervor and sincerity in her prayers. It was so beautiful watching them all minister to each other and to receive from them and to be able to pray, knowing that God knows what each of us is lifting up to Him, even if we have no idea from each other!

Then came lunch. I had been nervous and asked for much prayer about lunch. Normally, I would never turn down a single thing put in front of me in someone's home, even knowing there may be consequences later, and I have been very thankful that God has given me the ability to eat pretty much anything pretty easily. With the pregnancy, however, I don't feel quite as free to take some of the chances with food and drink, but I just hate the thought of offending anyone with what they offer to me, especially knowing that they are offering so graciously and sacrificially out of very limited resources they have. They had made so much good food for us! We had a big plate of pounded rice (which is like a dry crunchy cereal) and several food on top and around it. There was some sort of beans in a tasty sauce, some vegetables, and something we weren't sure what it was. Then on top of each plate was a fried sweet bread ring that they called something that sounded like "sail." Apparently, it is usually made for festivals and special occasions. This emphasized how special of an occasion this was to them!
I asked Alana if the unknown saucy cubes were meat, and she said she had eaten one and thought they were made of soybean, so I went ahead and ate one. Honestly, one of the harder things I've eaten. The taste was fine; it didn't have much taste to it at all, but I just kept chewing and chewing, thinking that at some point I may just need to swallow it. Turns out it was "buff" (water buffalo). Meat seemed a little less safe to eat, though I know it is costly. Thankfully, there was only a bit on my plate, and it seemed not to draw notice to leave the few bites there. I did have to pass on the drink, as it was some sort of yogurt drink that Alana later said smelled and tasted like curdled milk. The couple of ladies around me seemed to understand with me being pregnant, and again, it didn't draw attention, thankfully. The vegetables turned out to be "pickle," and was like a spicy salad. I thought I was eating a slice of okra, but it turned out to be a slice of a chili! Couldn't quite contain my reaction on that one, but they all seemed amused by it! Since the veggies were raw, I thought about it later that it might not have been the best idea, but all through the meal, I just kept praying for protection for the baby and thanking God and asking Him to bless these women for their gift to us. Glad to report that I have had NO digestive backlash from the food! :) It really was (with the exception of the meat) quite delicious.

The woman who had prayed over each of the women started to tell us (which Puja translate) that they are brown, and we are white and have come from such a long way, but God brought us together, and we are a blessing for coming with them. We worship God, and He is the same God, the one God, and it joins us as sisters. At one point, she came over and hiked up my skirt and put her foot next to mine. She point to hers and said, "kaalo" (black) and to mine and said "seto" (white) with a lot of emphasis, and all the ladies laughed--my pasty white foot next to her dark one. And there is even so much more that these ladies' feet speak of. They are worn and dusty and show the difficulty of many of their lives. Even those who have loving families work so hard and walk so much on dusty rough roads. I had just been thinking the other day how little care I've been taking of my feet and feeling like they are pretty gross right now, but one of the ladies had commented to me in the truck as she touched my foot that it was so clean and smooth. It gives a little glimpse into the challenges of life that so many of these women face. But they are faithful. This women who was a leader there in that village is one I have seen every week here in the city at the Vineyard. It took us nearly an hour on that truck to get there, and I know most of that mountain road has to be walked before they can catch a bus. It must take at least 2 hours each way every week!
And, in the midst of so many things that are different, we all just enjoyed each other. We laughed. And smiled. And sang. And we had such a fun day together.

What seemed like a challenging ride for our truck going up turned into a roller coaster ride on the way down! Much more laughing and bouncing around into each other.

My butt is very sore today, but I am so thankful for such an unforgettable and lovely day with such beautiful women! I could hardly say anything to them, but I know for certain, they are my didis and behinis!

Monday, September 20, 2010

One of Those Mornings

I have them back home as well, but for some reason, it all feels more exaggerated here. I woke up this morning feeling dragged out and a little irritable, which is a never a good start to the day. Isaiah was well overdue for a bath, but he has been absolutely hating them lately. I'm not sure where the glee from bucket baths went, but it is gone. We were moving along ok, and then something bit him! Seriously, all of a sudden, a big red puffy bite. As if we weren't having enough drama every single bathtime! The screaming and crying woke John up, which we were trying to avoid, since he had fallen asleep late last night, but thankfully, he was a huge help to wrap up bathtime reasonably well.
I took a shower with water that was an unpleasant temperature, and after what felt like moving ridiculously slow to wrap my head around the week's budget and the shopping list, we were finally ready to head out the door. As we started walking, I realized I had forgotten to get Isaiah a snack, so we stopped at Inox department store and got a donut for him. The security guards there all know us and are really friendly, but the most Isaiah will give them is an occasional "hi" and usually "bye bye." As we walked out to jump on a tuk tuk, Isaiah started whining to eat his donut. I don't like whining. I really enjoy most things about the toddler phase...but not the whining.
We got on a tuk tuk and got him some of his donut. Our first stop was to be the library to return some books. I couldn't see out very well, so we went past where we needed to go and had to walk back. Just as we were starting to walk, it started to rain. Isaiah was actually walking since there was a sidewalk but kept stopping to whine about getting more donut. I scooped him up to try to get us where we needed to go quickly before the rain got harder. Isaiah calmed down, and we stopped to eat a few more bites of donut, which I then told him was going away in my bag to have the rest later. We climbed two flights of stairs, only to find out the library is only open in the afternoons! And the books are due tomorrow. And I'm going to be gone all day tomorrow. Ugh.
We went back out to the street. (More whining about the donut.) It was, by that time, actually raining. It wasn't pouring or anything, but I needed the umbrella, which is no small task to carry Isaiah, hold the umbrella, and cross the chaotic street. We made it across, and every tuk tuk that was going past was jammed incredibly full. Some people hop on the back and just hold on, but holding on to a toddler, an umbrella, and clinging to the back of the tuk tuk seemed more than I could manage, so we started walking to our second destination--Namaste grocery/department store. It's not as close to us as two others, but it sometimes has some food items the other two don't have, and I hadn't explored the non-grocery part yet and had high hopes to find some items we hadn't been able to find. I know where it is, but I have never walked that stretch, so I really had no idea how far it was. Too far to walk with a toddler! Should have just sucked it up and paid a taxi, but I was not about to jump in a taxi, pay them some stupid amount only to have them drive us around a corner and be there. So, we walked. Again, thankfully, there was a sidewalk, so Isaiah wanted to walk. The only downside is that I have one of those little umbrellas from Target (which seemed good when considering packing space) that really doesn't even cover one person. So, I was walking along the sidewalk, holding the umbrella out over Isaiah and getting soaking wet, much to the amusement of all who passed. He got tired, and I picked him up. Just as I was hitting the wall, we saw it. But, by that time, the whining for the donut had started again.
Well, we went in and went upstairs. There are no carts above the first floor so corraling a toddler while trying to actually look at stuff is not very practical, especially since they have a big toy section filled with brightly colored plastic junk. It's an older store than the two nearer to us, and they might actually have a lot of stuff, but it is poorly laid out, crammed in random spaces, and all looks dingy. So much for my list of that stuff! Well, actually, on a positive note, I DID find super glue, so it wasn't a total loss.
After what felt like a long time of painfully trying to search and keep Isaiah in check, I gave up, and we went down to the grocery area. Great, at least they have carts down there, right? Isaiah was happy to pull out a cart for me but had no interest in going in the cart so started to pitch a fit while being put in. The seats are narrower than carts in the States, so if they don't put their legs all the way through straight at first, they won't be able to straighten them once they're sitting. So, with a minor bit of wrestling, I had a kid in the cart with his knees and folded up and crying. I paused and tried to breathe a bit and told him he was going to have to stay in the cart. I picked him up to start over with the legs, and the security guard rushes over and reaches out to help me put his legs through. Now, I need to admit to perhaps my least shining moment of the day. I know this security guard was just trying to be helpful, and I know that it is just a cultural difference that is beyond my understanding for complete strangers to just grab children here, but in my head, the things that went through my head were 1) Do you really think I just don't know how to put my kid in a cart?! 2) Do you really think I am not going to prove to my kid on my own that I can win this battle?! and 3) Why do random people keep grabbing my kid?!
So, unfortunately, instead of thanking him for his attempt to help, what came out instead was, "Don't! Please don't touch him!!! He's FINE!" Nice. And clearly so am I. Right.
The crabbiness for both Isaiah and I continued throughout searching the grocery area, only to realize they had almost none of the items I actually needed to get. And, upon asking people for a few of the items and getting a random glance around and "No, we don't have," (as if that was really helpful after I had just scoured the area for the item), I gave up. Exhausted, irritated, and needing to get home for lunch time, we checked out the few items we had found and left.
I asked a tuk tuk for a landmark at the end of our side street, and he told me it was just up ahead a couple minutes. At this point I was totally aware of how ridiculous it probably seemed to hop on and ride for 2 minutes, but I didn't even care. After what I'm sure seemed a totally silly short ride to them, we paid and got off and walked home.
As we hit our path, Isaiah perked up and started running and giggling. Nice timing. As we got to our stairs, I realized I was approaching an urgent bathroom situation. Thankfully, we were already home, but it can take a toddler quite awhile to go up two flights of stairs.
After addressing the urgent need, I flopped down on the couch with the library books still in my backpack, three items crossed off my long list of things to get, and wiped out. I kept telling myself I would have these mornings back home as well.
So, now I am left to vent on this blog a bit, realize we all just have these mornings wherever we are, and be ready for a new morning tomorrow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Evenings

So, my love for Nepal is growing. I'm finding many things and people that I quite enjoy, and I'm taking joy in quite a lot of little things about this place. I think I find it more charming in the evening, for some reason. The main streets are bustling and full as the sun starts to sink in the sky, but the neighborhoods seem to start to settle in for the evening. It feels a bit more peaceful. There is still much activity around, but there is something in the cooling of the day and the dimming of the lights around that makes it start to seem cozier. With the exception of some random crazy yapping dogs, the noise around our home lowers.
Though the electricity shutting off in the evenings can be an inconvenience, I think it sort of forces things to slow down, and there is something sort of endearing about a greater simplicity and calmer pace, even if it is imposed by circumstances. I think it seeps into the culture, and it just becomes normal that the business of the day winds down at some point.
There are challenges to things closing down so early and to not having access to eletricity for the things I would like to do or get done. It's not convenient to have to wear a headlamp every time I want to use the bathroom! But, I feel like it is good for me to be forced to accept that a day has ended. It is certainly possible to still do the things that need to get done or that feel particularly important, but the added inconvenience to making it work to still do things makes me reevaluate whether it's actually important to do those things and, even if it is, whether tonight is the time to do them.
It can be really frustrating, but I'm realizing it is actually probably exactly what I need in a season like this, and I realize how very many things I can find to busy myself with back home and just never let the days be done. So, while it is not a natural fit, I think there is something inside of me that is thankful for what Kathmandu evenings bring. I look out at our neighborhood from our home, and though it is dark and there are not many people or much activity to be seen, I feel like perhaps I see this place more clearly in this time than I do in the bright of day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Conquering the Miracle Oven

So, I am long overdue for a blog entry. I keep having all these thoughts I want to write about, but I've been so wiped out lately that, when I sit down in the evening, I just want to veg and not think at all!

Anyway, tonight is my introvert night. :) John, Tom, & Alana are attending a discussion group about The Shack on Wednesday evenings. Tom was feeling bad and worried I would feel left out. Tom is an extreme extrovert and doesn't understand that time alone is a treasured treat to an introvert like me. So, they all get something fun for the evening, and I get an evening of time to just be by myself!

So, I thought I'd jump back in on a little blogging with something not too deep--my foray into the world of the Miracle Oven. So, I've used this word foray before, but I thought I should look it up to make sure I'm actually using it correctly, and it turns out that it fits in a funny way even better than I thought! One definition from dictionary.com is "an initial venture," which is what I was thinking. But, the first definition is "a quick raid, usually for the purpose of taking plunder." While it obviously doesn't fit literally, it kind of made me laugh about attacking the Miracle Oven last night and taking no prisoners! Ha.

The Miracle Oven is, well, not that much of a miracle. But, it is sort of brilliant, I guess. It is basically this pot that has a base with a heating stone in it. You set it on top of the burner on the stove, and you put what you want to bake in the pot, and it functions (basically) as an oven.

Don't kid yourselves, though, it is not the same. For one thing, it has a giant hole in the center, so anything you bake is going to be in the shape of a ring with a giant hole in the center! For another, there aren't any temperature settings. You're just setting a pot on top of a gas burner, so you just have to adjust the burner and take your best guess at what might be a reasonable level and amount of time to bake whatever you have put in the pot.

No one here has a "regular" oven. We may, at some point, get a toaster oven, but for now, this is the option we have for baking, so since today is Alana's birthday, I decided that last night I would conquer the Miracle Oven! Haha, plunder I shall take!

Tom bought a cake mix at the store, and I mixed that up, greased up the Miracle Oven, and baked it. I checked at one point, and it was still all gooey. Less than 10 minutes later, it had burned a little. :( Thankfully, it wasn't too bad at all, so I just trimmed a bit out of the center where it got a little too dark.

Now, if the Miracle Oven had been my only challenge in making a birthday cake, it wouldn't have actually seemed that amazing of a feat. But, then comes the frosting. They don't sell frosting here, which is ok because I much prefer homemade frosting anyway. Except, confectioners sugar is a rarity here. We expected that challenge and, on the way home from language class, John and I stopped at a grocery we hadn't been at before that we heard had some other stuff that is harder to find (like cow's milk cheese, which we also obviously had to bring home with us!). They did have "icing sugar," which is what it is labeled as here, but it comes in very small packages. I think they were 100 grams each. Not that grams holds any frame of reference for me, and for those who are with me, it was maybe 3/4 cup in a bag. Luckily, it wasn't too expensive, so we bought four bags and brought them home. So, I was basically going to make a buttercream frosting. Well, the "icing sugar" seems way less sweet than our confectioners sugar, so after dumping in all four bags (expecting I could get away with only 3), it still just tasted like butter AND was way too think to stir, which brings me to the other significant challenge in making frosting--no electric beaters. It is very challenging to beat butter well enough with a whisk, not to mention that the only whisk in the house has a handle that falls off, so you have to hold the handle onto the whisk while trying to whip this all together. Um, it did not look or taste that great! I had to add some milk just to be able to stir it, but then it was too runny, so it just ran all down the sides of the cake. Well, I put it in the fridge, and by this morning, it had firmed up enough that I could put the extra on it, scoop up what had run down the sides, and cover the cake reasonably well. I sprinkled some regular sugar on top, hoping to give a little boost of sweetness, and hoped for the best.

We cut into it this afternoon, and it tasted like a cake, which all things considered, is rather remarkable! It's no airplane cake, but I have to say, I felt a little proud of my conquest! In fact, I'm eating another piece now to celebrate. :) Happy Birthday, Alana!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Trip to the OB in Nepal
I am very thankful that I already had a connection here to someone Tom & Alana knew who is a doctor at the local private clinic at the Patan Hospital. He set up an appointment with one of the OB's so that I can continue with my prenatal checkups while we're here in Nepal. I knew that this recommendation was a good and trustworthy one, but I was still very curious as to what the experience of going to the doctor would be like here. And, after my first appointment today, I can say that it went well but definitely was an experience.
The private clinic is within the Patan Hospital, and there was a significant lack of clear signage to figure out where to go, but we (Alana went with me) found it relatively quickly. We went to one side of the front desk to check in for the appointment. He gave me a form to fill out that involved no medical history or insurance information (as opposed to the thick packet you get in the States whenever you go to a new office) and only really contact info, for which they didn't seem to mind if there were gaps. He handed the paper to the guy at the other side of the table, and so we shifted over there. We were waiting, but lines are not really much of a cultural concept here, so someone else just went closer up to the counter ahead of us. As we waited, I noted a binder setting on the counter labeled PAPSMEARS and filled with papers. Not sure what the contents actually were, but it seemed an odd thing to have on the sign-in counter. Suffice it to say that the rigidity with which medical info and records are guarded in the States is not really a factor here.
We shifted closer to the counter, and the guy handed me my paper and another paper and told me to go to room 7. Room 7 seems to be a communal pre-exam room, which contained a desk with a guy sitting at it, a household-type scale, a blood-pressure cuff, and probably some other general use stuff. I handed my paper to the guy at the desk, and when it was my turn, he took my weight and blood pressure. Mind you, "turn" only means I was the one being measured at the time. Everyone is standing around waiting and watching each other, so I had an audience for these prep items. It's a different scale with a bit less precision, and I had to convert from kg to pounds, but it would seem I have lost about 6 pounds since my last appointment at Dr. Bickman's office 3 weeks ago.
Anyway, after this part was done, the man told me to wait outside Room 6. Oh, I almost forgot the best part of Room 7! As I was getting my blood pressure taken, another woman came in to hand her urine sample to the man at the desk. That is obviously different procedure than I'm used to in the States, but the truly notable thing was the bottle. You know those travel-sized bottles you can buy of things like Tylenol that hold about 5 pills? Yeah, that's the size of bottle she was holding. I couldn't help but wonder how on earth she got anything in there without peeing all over her hand. Perhaps she did not. Anyway, it was rather extraordinary! :)
As we were waiting for Room 6, I looked over and noticed a hand-written sign in both English and Nepali next to the door of the "Toilet" (bathroom): "Please keep all urine, stool, papsmears in orange box." There was an orange box setting on top of a metal cart right below it. I have to admit that I was a bit morbidly curious to peek inside the orange box but thought better of it. Alana and I were both a bit baffled by the sign. I mean, urine samples I can sort of understand, though I have a new appreciation for those secret little doors behind the toilets at office in the States. Stool samples seems an unfortunate thing to have setting out in a box in the waiting room...not to mention that I REALLY hope the containers for those samples are bigger than the one I saw for urine! But, the truly baffling one was papsmears. Is that sign really necessary for the nurses? If it's for the people getting the paps, why are they carrying it themselves? Alana was imagining a scenario where you have to go into the bathroom and give yourself the pap. Pretty sure that's not the case but can't quite make the pieces fit!
The waiting room is totally clean but so much different than a clinic in the US. The furniture was all purely functional (basic plastic or wood chairs, which actually seem like they would be much easier to keep sterile), there were no decorations or magazines to read, the walls were all plain white, and the signs were largely hand-written or printed on plain white cardboard and taped to the wall.
The portion of the appointment with the actual doctor was pretty void of interesting cultural bits. There are two parts to the room. I got called into the room by the doctor, who stays in that room. She was sitting at a desk, and there was a dividing curtain, behind which was the exam table. The exam table is not nearly as cushioned as the ones in the US, and there was just a normal pillow (not those odd paper like ones). Dr. Alka was very good, as I assumed she would be. I didn't get to hear the heartbeat or anything, which was a bummer, as I get used to that little reassurance at each appointment in the US. She did say she'll do an ultrasound at 20 weeks, and I'm supposed to go back in one month for another appointment.
After the time with the doctor, I took my chart out to the cashier where you pay in cash (roughly $12 US). Then I took it back to the sign-in desk to set up the next appointment, and then I walked out with my chart in hand, presumably for me to bring back with me next time. :)
All in all, a good but colorful experience!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sorting Thoughts

So, my head has felt like it is spinning now for a few weeks. Wrapping up jobs and seasons of other roles we've invested in deeply, trying to clear our apartment to make space for someone else to live there, packing up stuff for four months for our family, leaving dear friends and familiar things in Los Angeles, and making the long journey to be here in Kathmandu for four months...There has been a lot to sort through in thoughts and emotions. There have been moment of clarity and a lot of muddiness to wade through and many things to reflect on more and try to express to share. So, as I find myself wide awake since 2 a.m. for the second night in a row, I figured I might as well jump in on starting to make note of a few.

While we are only gone for four months for now (and will see what God has for us beyond that), it has still been a season of major transition for us. Even when we return to LA, life will be different. Things as we have known them for the past season won't ever be the same. In some things we have had a sense of closure, and in some, there are still things we had to leave without seeing them all neatly wrapped up and made clear. It has been an intense and often overwhelming season, and as the time drew closer to depart, I felt myself detaching emotionally. I was feeling so drained emotionally and mentally, and with a new pregnancy, often even physically. I kicked into "to do" list mode with time running short and so much left to do. After a dear friend asked me about how I was interacting with her, it made me realize how much I had slipped into this functional detached mode, partially out of practical reality but also partially out of self-protection to avoid engaging the hard emotions of leaving.
If anyone had told me within my first year or two of living in LA that I would have such a hard time leaving it, I never would have believed them! But, I have put in roots. I have invested deeply, and many amazing people have invested in me and in my family! I have shared my life with dear friends and a community. On one of the last nights in LA, our church council prayed for us, and one of the things Brad shared was about the leaving that came in the calls God gave people TO something.
In Genesis 12:1, the Lord told Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." When Jesus called the first disciples, they left everything and followed him (Luke 5:11). In thinking about what we were heading toward, I think I forgot about the leaving that is involved in being called into something new. I had avoided it, but as the last week in LA unfolded, I felt the impact of the leaving. Of leaving dear friends that I have shared life with, of leaving a home that might not be much but has been home, of leaving what if familiar and comfortable to head into what is unknown and new and sometimes scary.
And, as we are here, I still feel that impact. I know God has good things here for us, but the leaving is hard.

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Title

Oh, and in honor of our new adventures, I've changed the title of my blog! :)
So, I'm obviously a bit behind with updating this blog! We are three days away from leaving for Kathmandu, Nepal, so there is much going on for us to prepare practically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. My brain is feeling a little fried tonight, so I won't try to start capturing it all now, but I wanted to actually make a recent post to get me back on track so that I'll get back into updating during our adventure ahead!