Saturday, January 19, 2013

SIDTMMTN (Part II):Malaysian Men

I realize it's been almost two years since I've come home from Thailand, but I feel like my blog is unfinished! And it's time to relate a few more crazy stories. Luckily, these stories are probably the ones that I've told the most since coming home, so I'm hoping that I can remember them well enough to do them justice. I could kick myself for not writing them down when they were still fresh in my mind, but maybe details are over-rated (not.)

A few weeks before I came home, I flew to Malaysia to renew my visa (I didn't know I would going back to the States so quickly afterward). At this point in my journeyings, I was rather adventurous, and had become comfortable living outside of my comfort zone. When I left for Malaysia, I had no clue where I would be staying, what kind of money they used, where I would get my Visa, etc. I think I had hoped that there would be free internet access at one of the airports and that I could plan out my trip when I got there. No such luck. I asked for a map of the island (I flew into Penang) and walked out the front door without a clue of where to go.

I chose a bus that was heading to the "touristy" side of town and got in line. At the front of the line, I realized that, though I had exchanged my Baht for Malaysian "Ringit", my bills were all too big for bus fare. A kind, black man (I don't remember his nationality, but I think he had an English accent) behind me offered to pay my fare which I graciously accepted. The kind man and I sat in the back of the bus next to a white-bearded American wearing an aloha shirt and some bermuda shorts. As it turns out, they had both come to Penang from Thailand  in order to avoid the week long holiday known as Sangkran. This is the yearly Thai water-festival in which locals all over the country engage in a giant water fight. NO ONE is safe.  Adults and children alike carry around large buckets of water and pack hefty water-guns both to defend themselves as well as to forge attacks against neighbors, friends, and complete strangers.  I was sad to have missed the festival, but both gentleman assured me that it was simply insanity, and I was lucky to have avoided it.

I asked both men if they knew of any affordable places to stay on the island, and the American told me he was heading to a district in which there were lots of hostels and restaurants, etc. When we got off at what MUST have been the last stop the bus was to make before going back to the airport, he offered to pay for a cab and show me some places I could stay. I accepted his kindness and was soon walking down a street called "Love Lane." (I'm kind of impressed at the details that my trusty old-brain has remembered up to this point)

After turning down a few rather sketchy looking hostels, I decided on one named the "Red Door Inn." The front desk staff was friendly and spoke English (Most Malaysians speak English as it is one of their national languages) , they served a continental breakfast, and  I had the option of requesting a "Female Only" room.   As I was checking in, a rather large Malaysian man who spoke stilted English (and who I later found out was the owner of the hostel) enthusiastically told me that I could have free coffee in the mornings. He seemed slightly surprised when I told him that I don't drink coffee, but assured me that it was ok because they served free tea as well. When I told him that I don't drink tea, I think he took it as an insult and he huffed, "Do you drink WATER?" I smiled and nodded, and he seemed slightly put out when announced that they also offered free drinking water. I think he was slightly drunk because he kept saying " I love YOU" to me as I edged past him to the hallway beyond.

After booking a two-week stay, I put my luggage in my room and set off to find something to eat. An American who was using the computer downstairs told me that the Red Garden wasn't too far from the hostel and had some of the best food on the island. He pointed me in the right direction and I confidently walked out of the hostel.  On my way out, a man who managed moto-taxis in the front area of the hostel, called me beautiful, and told me to meet him for dinner the next night at 5. I think I just smiled and nodded and took a mental note not to be anywhere near the hostel at 5 the next night.

I walked in the direction that I THOUGHT the Red Garden would be in, when a rather nice looking car pulled over the side of the road in front of me , and a rather nice looking young malaysian man popped his head out of the window and said "Are you from America? Where you going? I take you there! No problem!" At first, I just ignored him and kept walking, but he only repeated his question louder. I smiled and assured him that I liked to walk and was just going to the Red Garden which was right down the road. He laughed and said I was walking the wrong way (it was cruel of him to play on my lack of directional sense...despite the fact that I really WAS going the wrong way.)  He told me that he knew the way and it was a bit of a walk, but he could give me a ride "no problem." I told him again that I preferred to walk, and he again asserted that he could give me a ride "no problem." Now before everyone that has seen "Taken" starts freaking out, I want you to realize that up to this point, I had been trusting strangers in Malaysia because that's all I had TO trust (which is why I will never travel to a foreign country by myself again.) So far, everyone had been extremely helpful and kind, if overly enthusiastic about my blonde hair. This guy really just seemed like he was trying to help, and I said a little prayer to ask for the spirit to warn me if I shouldn't let him give me a ride. This is the part of the story where my mom says, "the Spirit doesn't help stupid people."

I got in the car. He smelled SUPER good, so I figured I was safe (I joke....kind of.)  Once I got in the car he bombarded me with questions. "Are you American?" "Do you want to go clubbing with me tomorrow night?" I told him I don't drink alcohol (yes, ANOTHER thing I don't drink), and that I was in the country with friends (maybe I'm not TOO stupid?) I kept saying "This is NOT the way to the Red Garden" and he kept soothing, "Don't worry, don't worry. I know a short cut. I take you there, I take you there." ...right. He asked if he could come eat with me, and I told him that my friends were expecting me and that they would be upset if I didn't come soon. He seemed a bit crest-fallen, but before I knew it, we were pulling up to the Red Garden. Before I got out of the car he asked for a kiss--I flatly refused, but I did succumb when he asked if he could just take a picture of me because I was so beautiful (A LOT of people in Malaysia asked to take my picture--men and women alike, so this wasn't as creepy as it might sound. In fact, it used to happen to my family when we lived in Hawaii too.)

It was rather a relief to eat by myself that night. The food was incredible. The biggest problem resulting from me catching a ride and taking a "short cut" is that it took me about two hours to find my way back to my hotel that night. But find it I did!!!!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stories I Didn't Tell my Mother (till now) Part 1

Most of you know that I'm home now, and I'm SO grateful to be back. I realize that there are still several stories that I haven't yet posted on my blog, and for my own sake, I'm going to write a few more before I can no longer remember them. This first set of stories is called "Stories I Didn't Tell My Mother (till now)." As I tell the following stories, I want everyone to understand that I tried my hardest to use common sense, and to listen to the spirit; however, I wasn't always in the safest of situations....and OK, sometimes I didn't make the smartest of choices--but when you travel on your own to a foreign country, sometimes ANY choice you make is a risk. So, I took some risks, I had a grand adventure, and now I'm safely back home.

I honestly felt safer in Thailand in a lot of ways than I do at home. I can't really tell you why that is. Maybe it's because I never watched scary movies there, or maybe it's because I felt the protection of all the prayers for my safety being said back home.

Despite my feelings of safety, I WASN'T safer. I'd heard enough stories to know that. My friend Harj, one of the teachers at the Baan Unrak school, told me all kinds of scary stories about Sangkhlaburi. Supposedly a volunteer that lived in Harj's house a few years ago was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in that very house and....well I won't tell you the details on that story. But Harj also told me about the girl who manages the dog sanctuary (right across the street from me). Apparantly, Gemma was walking either to or from the wooden bridge just a little bit after sunset, and she was attacked by a man who tried to rape her. Luckily, she had her trusty dogs with her, and they saved her, but after hearing that story, I was much more cautious about walking alone at night.

It's common knowledge in Thailand that many monks are former criminals and convicts who escape to the monastery to claim sanctuary. Every time we would pass by or talk about a monk, Harj would say "recipe for rape," and then laugh as if it were the funniest joke in the world. I tried to avoid monks.

Probably the stories that made me the most nervous were the stories about my mentally disabled next-door neighbor. I don't think that he's a malicious, or intentionally dangerous person, but apparently he once beat an older man and put him in a coma. And another time, he broke into the front room of our house (the room that I was sleeping in for the first few weeks of my stay), and was found sleeping there the next morning (luckily this particular incident happened BEFORE I was sleeping in that room, and I didn't hear about it until after I was no longer sleeping there). I still always greeted that man as I walked to and from the home every morning, but I was always very careful to lock the doors whether I was home or away.'s really no wonder why I was so excited when Laura came to live with me, and I didn't have to stay in that house alone any more.

Thanks again for all of your prayers =) I'm sure much of the credit goes to you that I'm now safely back home!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mon Breakfast One Last Time

My last week in Sangkhla, Laura and I decided to wake up early to watch the sunrise and eat a hot Mon breakfast. It was a pretty misty morning, so we didn't see much of the sun, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

I decided to brave it and try the beef porridge with egg and fish oil. Not typically a "Kimber breakfast" but, surprisingly, quite good.

I believe this was the first time I ate a Mon breakfast and skipped all of the deep-fat-fried delicacies that were offered to me. On the far left you can see the tasty burmese donuts (to be dipped in sweetened condensed milk); the triangle shaped pieces are called....oh! I can't remember! But they are stuffed with a spicy curry--absolutely superb. The far right front are small roti peices, also to be dipped in sweetened condensed milk, and in the bag are the large roti which are served with a chic pea mixture. Yes, it's true, I skipped out on all of this for fish-oil porridge. Weird, I know.

Just a couple of pictures I took from the bridge. I miss seeing sights like this, now that I'm home.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Elephant Never Forgets....but Kimber sometimes does

Yesterday morning I joined the kids for a swim at an elephant camp. About forty kids scrunched into the back of the truck, and 6 of us held onto the back. It was a VERY long 40 minute drive away....It's going to feel so strange when I'm back in the states and get to ride in a regular car with a regular amount of people again. AND it will be strange to wear seat belts....very strange.
When we arrived at the designated swimming spot, Lars pointed out a couple of elephants standing by trees, fanning out their ears and swaying from side to side. It felt very cool to be swimming in a river that was watched over by elephants--although I was careful to not open my mouth and let ANY water in (who knew what the elephants had done in there...not to mention the kids).
After the kids piled out of the truck, and ransacked the local trees for fruit, they proceeded to run to the river and push each other off of the rafts that floated across it. I was enjoying watching them play, when two of the teenagers snuck up behind me and pushed me in as well (shoes and all). I was happy to join in the fun--it's amazing how long kids can stay entertained with a little bit of water and the freedom to push each other around. We left to go swimming at 8:30 in the morning, and didn't get back until about 4:00 in the afternoon!

Unfortunately, I started feeling sick about half way through the day, and had to stop swimming in favor of rest. While I was curled up in the back of the truck, some of the locals came and tied the rafts to the back of some elephants to give them a ride through the river (along with the tourists that were actually PAYING for the experience). They had a great time, despite the incredible heat that was beating down on them.

By the time we finally left, all of the farang, and even the Thai volunteer that was with us, were showing signs of sun exposure. When we got home, it hurt to walk--I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my knees....and they were pretty darn red. I don't think I've ever had a sunburn over a major joint before.....knees have got to be one of THE worst places to get burnt. I can't bend my legs very well at all (combine this inconvenience with the commodity of squat toilets, and you've got yourself a problem). Today my legs feel slightly better...until I move them. I've been trying to walk without bending my knees and I look like an idiot. My queezy stomach, hasn't helped matters. Haha....I guess I should just be happy that I'm not still limping from the tack I stepped on last week.... I could give my mom a run for her money when it comes to being accident prone. Let's just hope I'm done with this stage by the time I get on my plane for home next week.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Six Months Split

This has been a rather crazy past couple of weeks with the result being: I've decided to come home! Between student loan issues, missing the strength that comes from living in an LDS community, feeling like I've learned what I've come out here to learn, and a few other things that have come up, I feel really peaceful and happy about the decision to come home.

There are definitely things I will miss about Sangkhlaburi, but I'm excited to continue moving onwards and upwards with my life. Laura and I have an itinerary planned out this week to visit all of my favorite places in the town. We'll end the week with a trip to Bangkok--and then I'll begin my 30+ hour trip home. I know that there have been quite a few stories and experiences the past few weeks that I've failed to post--but now, I can tell the stories in person, which is MUCH more exciting, right?

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

LDS Branch in Penang

Thanks to my mom, the internet, and a knowledgeable taxi driver, I was able to find the building in which the LDS branch here in Penang meets. What a LOVELY branch. The members were all very eager to introduce themselves to me, and I was also quickly introduced to the other Americans in the branch. I was shocked and amazed to discover that the first American I met, Sis. Shaw, was born in Hurricane, UT! Haha…the church really is a small world, you know. She didn’t grow up in Hurricane, so we didn’t know any of the same people, and I forgot to ask her maiden name… She and her husband now call American Fork home, but they are working for a company here in Penang. Sis. Shaw informed me that another couple in the ward—the Hinton’s—were from the states, and Brother Hinton hailed from Hurricane as well (I thought he might as soon as I heard the name). Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet the Hinton’s as they are currently in Phuket, Thailand with their quadruplets.

During Sacrament meeting, a young man was confirmed a member of the church—according to Sister Shaw, he is fifteen years old and discovered the church online just a couple of months ago. He came to church out of curiosity, and shortly thereafter, decided to get baptized. Only fifteen and he could make a decision like that... I met him briefly after church, and was very impressed with his sharpness. Really happy, very bright kid. I’m glad he’s found the gospel.

I sat next to Sis. Le Blanc in Sunday school—she was the first person to introduce herself to me in sacrament meeting, and was sure to quickly write down her contact information for me in case I ever come back to Penang and need a place to stay. I loved being able to participate in the Sunday School lesson, which was taught in English (most Malaysians here in Penang speak fluent English), and I was even asked to say the closing prayer in Relief Society!

I met another American in Relief Society named Sister Horrocks. I found out she was the branch’s choir director and asked if I could join in singing with them after church. She consented, but warned me not to expect too much. She said that they all sang in unison because if she tried to get them to do parts, it would scare them from coming to choir practice. I laughed and said I understood as I was trying to start my own children’s choir in Thailand. She mentioned to me that her Dad was a choir director, but that it wasn’t a talent that she really felt she had…but she did her best. I asked what kind of choir her father directed—“Does he teach in schools?” She replied, “Well, he directed the Tabernacle Choir for 16 years, but now—“ I stopped her with my wide eyes. “Who’s your Dad?!” It was, of course, Craig Jessop. I felt kind of in awe. Out of four American families in the ward, three have roots in Hurricane or St. George, and the other one consists Craig Jessop’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandson (who is an adorable kid, also named Craig). Suddenly, I understood why she told me she would be nervous to have her father come visit while she had the calling of choir director. Wow.

Choir was nice, and afterwards I was able to receive a much needed Priesthood blessing from Brother Horrocks and one of the other Priesthood holders in the ward before someone gave me a ride back to my hostel. I’m now sitting in my room listening to video clips of Mo-tab on Youtube, and feeling a peace and joy that I haven’t felt in a long time.

I finally got to take the sacrament today for the first time in over three months. There is so much power in that ordinance. Sometimes, when we take it every week, I think it’s easy to take the sacrament for granted. Being able to participate in it after weeks of not being at church, gave me a completely new appreciation for it—and a new appreciation for church in general. It’s not that the rest of the world is evil and bad—there are a LOT of good people in the world doing the best they can—however, most of them are pretty lost and they don’t have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I felt a major difference in the air as soon as I stepped into the chapel today.

Even though I’ve been trying to do service for God’s children on the Burmese border in hopes that it will improve who I am, I felt like I gained more from 1 day in church than I have in the entire three months I’ve been in Sangkhlaburi.

I LOVE the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I testify that it’s true. I felt that more strongly today than I ever have in my life. I’ve spent a lot of the past three months questioning my beliefs—everyone believes that their beliefs are the “right” ones, right? How do we know that ours really is the fullness of the gospel here on the earth? How do we really know that God is even there—I’ve never seen Him. I’ve never heard His voice calling me from the heavens. All religions have stories and all people have reasons for believing what they do—so what gives us the gall to claim that our church is the truth?

True, we have some BEAUTIFUL hymns, really friendly members, sharp looking missionaries, lovely church buildings and temples, and the organization and workings of our church stay consistent throughout the world—but that isn’t enough to claim we have the “true” church.

We can’t even honestly say that our church is the only one that has the spirit. Since I’ve come to Asia, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in various religious ceremonies and have many religious based conversations with many people of a multitude of faiths. I’ve felt a sense of the spirit—or some kind of good spiritual/emotional feeling during many of these practices and discussions. Just last night I attended a Hindi ceremony and was completely caught up in the beautiful colors of the clothing, the smell of sandal wood incense, and the excitement of the priests coming around to smear ashes on everyone’s forehead as a blessing.

However, we do have something that no other church has—a still small voice that whispers, “This is it. This is the truth.” I felt that voice today—it struck me to my core. After experiencing the many idols, colors, and bright spectacles in the Hindu temple yesterday, it almost surprised me how piercing the simple ceremonies and doctrine of our church were to me today. I was reminded of the story of Elijah when he was on the mountain and….actually, I’m just going to quote it. It’s in 1 Kings 18:11-13:

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

God doesn’t need spectacle—He has the truth. He is the truth.

Something changed in me today. It’s as if I were a character in a cartoon strip—caught up in my 2-demensional world of face-book, music, relationships, school, foreign lands, and other 2-D things. I’ve been trying to make sense of the little box I’m in, and it makes me frustrated that I can’t see into the next frame. I keep thinking that if I can just make the right decision, then maybe one of the frames I end up in will be open ended—that I’ll be able to see from one frame to the next without guessing where I’m jumping to; And then I won’t feel so trapped by the walls around the little cartoon box I’m in.

Today, I somehow was able to look up into the 3-D world and glimpse my Creator. I realized that seeing what’s in the next frame isn’t what matters—my job is to trust in His ability to see the next frame and to keep walking while learning things from and experiencing fully the frame I’m in. If I ever feel trapped by my lack of ability to make sense of my life, all I need to do is look up and remember that God knows where I’m going, even when I don’t. My world is just an illusion anyways—what really matters, is His world—and the more I look up, the more I become ensconced in reality.

The trick is figuring out how to look up. Scripture study and prayer are great tools—but not enough. We need the fellowship and the ordinances that church provides us with. I need them. I have no clue what direction my life is about to take in the next few months—or even weeks for that matter; however, I refuse to go another three months without attending church. It’s too important to me and I’ve missed it too much. This means that I’ll be making some changes. Whether that’s a change in location, or a change in my spending and schedule so that I can afford the 6 hour drive to Bangkok for church , I haven’t figured out yet…but something will be changing. I’ll try to keep you posted.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oh rats!

Ok, here come a couple of quick up-datey posts for those of you that haven't given up on my blog yet! Sorry for the lack of writing. It's funny how used to a totally different culture one can become--things that everyone back home might find intriguing, I simply find common place now, so it hasn't been as exciting to write about everything on my blog =)

At first, Laura thought that seeing little rodents running around our house was kind of cute, but after they chewed through her precious soy-milk cartons and got the liquid ALL over her stuff, she decided they weren't so cute after all. Our Kiwi friend, Scott found this concoction called N-rat. Some kind of sticky glue to catch rats with--he bought it as a joke, thinking the description on the back of the rat's "frenzied scream" when caught was morbid and hilarious. But to Laura, the rodent situation was no longer a laughing matter. She spread the stuff over a styrofoam plate and used two pieces of dried fruit as bait.

Later that evening, we spotted the mouse run behind a box in our front room, so we let the styrofoam plate lie in wait by the box. I chased the mouse from behind the box, and it ran out--and RIGHT over the plate without getting stuck. What?! How did it do that? We decided to leave the plate where it was--maybe the fruit would prove tempting in the night.

Sure enough, Laura heard some scuffles in the night, and kept waiting for the "frenzied scream," but none came. In the morning, this is what we found:

Not a mouse, but a rat. And it seems to have died in quiet dignity.

We told the Kanchan family (Paul Kanchan is a Doctor volunteering at Baan Unrak for about a month) about our catch. They informed us that it was probably one of the rats that Gemma saved. Gemma is the young English woman that lives across the street from us and runs the dog sanctuary. Apparantly, in her informational booklet on the sanctuary, she has pictures of a rat family that she saved from some obscure corner of the
Baan Unrak school. John and Barbara and their little ratlings....woops. Sorry, John. We decided it would be wise not to tell Didi. She might kick us out for killing a rat, because harming animals is against the neohumanistic philosophy. I think Laura would argue, "Better the rat than my soy milk!"