Friday, May 5, 2017

Malaysian marvels

We're always happy to be home. Let's start there (with a big smile). Want an honest look at the glamorous life of each of us international travelers? See below. Yup, pretty soon it feels like hopping a Greyhound bus. Crowded lines, luggage, stamps at immigration, etc. Only our calling and the sweet relationships make this part of the job worth doing.

Sunday, April 30, 2017
W teaches his theology class after service - and we eat our regular lunch at Bumi S with our friends. That's always a highlight of the week for us.
Lussi orders a typical Indonesian meal of chicken, rice, and sambal (hot salsa) 
We fly from Bandung to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, in the evening. This time, we have wonderful travel mates: Terry and Sandy. Sandy grew up in our hometown; they're encouragers and friends.

Tabitha - a KL youth organization leader and dear friend - picks us up at the airport. This is no mean feat: she's an hour away. Time with her is always fun! She's a fireball of bounce and passion. When we ask her the best thing about what she does, she replies without hesitation, "The people."

The hotel is beautiful, the city is clean and modern, and the setting is lovely. Many Chinese live here, but the Chinese quota for university admission is low. Preference is given for Malay (Muslim) students. Most Chinese and expats study abroad and remain outside the country for work. It's a brain and money drain, but Saudi Arabia invests to boost its influence. The skyscrapers are stunning: many of the top global architects have recognizable buildings in this skyline.
The twin towers downtown, piercing the sky between soaring architecture
At the first hotel meal, someone says what everyone is thinking, "Oh my! Hot showers! And water pressure in my bathroom! Can you believe it?"

"Yes," we chime in, with sighs of rapture. (We're from Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Indonesia, parts of Africa, the Philippines, etc.) "Wow, isn't it amazing?"
We don't even notice the pile of pavers on the sidewalk until we see the photo.
The small things - like regular showers (not a cool splash from a bucket because there's no water in the tap), food that tastes like it looks, and mostly-level sidewalks - throw us for a loop at first. They'd be extraordinary and noteworthy where we live. The modern conference surroundings are soothing to a Western soul: we focus on what we came to do, leaning in to learn without distractions.

The topic is renewing the inner person to serve better. It's a vital time for W and me - always on the gallop - to reflect together and separately. As usual, as we expand our understanding of international service. We enlarge the network of mentors and coworkers, too. Many leaders are entering or exiting their job site - in transition. W and I fill our heads and hearts with new ways to engage and serve.

I skip breakfast most mornings and limit snacks: that's hardly virtuous. There's food aplenty at lunch and supper. W enjoys it all. (Sadly, I maintain rather than lose weight. Just saying - if we skip one buffet a day, so what! We get lots of calories in 2 meals.)

Ok, work's finally done after lunch Thursday. W's had a head cold for half the conference: he starts to feel better today. He's a reluctant patient and prefers to be left alone. Good - I may be a little deficient in the gift of mercy; tell me what you need or rest in peace (sorta).

We haven't played much. With meetings every day and some evenings, we're tired at night. I even lack the energy to swim in the fabulous pool.

After the final conference session and goodbyes over lunch, W and I walk a few kilometers to Prince Court Hospital, rated #5 among "the best 10 expat hospitals in the world." I register, find the skin clinic, and see the doc.

He's funny. A female assistant watches at all times, "because we have to be very careful with the ladies who come for help." Yeah, many women are dressed head to toe. My attitude after birthing 4 kids is, "Let's just get the skin scan done." I'm pretty sure the docs have seen every shape and type of us in their career anyhow.

Clear - no skin cancer. Thank God!

We couldn't get a specialist appointment for our throats, which have felt dry and gritty since December. We have ongoing irritated coughs; I wake up with a parched throat many nights. We wander to the other end of the first floor, sign in at Emergency (recommended by the hospital), and sit for 3 hours between doc, waiting rooms, payment, and the pharmacy.

Clear again. Thank God!

"Do you want medicine?" Sure, if the spray will calm the tickle and let my throat heal. Lozenges and hot tea haven't been much help. Imagine ... $106 total for both visits, including medicine.
Chinese-style buildings
Tabitha meets us at the hotel at 7, after her day's work. We've just gotten back from the hospital. ("You walked?! You're kidding." Nope, walking is at least as fast in rush hour as a taxi. Plus, we need the exercise.)

Terry and Sandy come back from a tour about the same time. So we stroll to Hakka Restaurant, an indoor-outdoor sprawl of tables under red Chinese lanterns. The server doesn't even ask: he takes us into the air-conditioned area preferred by Westerners. Everyone chooses a dish that sounds good to him/her. It's a yummmy shared meal.

Then we hop in T's car and head for the central market. Most of the shops have closed early: it's only 9pm and official closing is at 10. By 9:45, everything is shuttered. I find a few gifts: a few scarves @$2, animal slippers for kids.

"You my lucky one last custom'r. Now closing," says the Chinese lady, handing back change from $10. She pulls shut the accordion door. Most fabrics and handicrafts are already locked behind their metal grates and doors.
Posing for the phone in front of a traditional cart
We walk through Chinatown, a street similar to Singapore's souvenir stalls and nooks of hawker-food. Tabby got us Boh Gold tea and a package of medicated jujubes the first day: we think those tins of lozenges will be a hit with our helpers so we seek them out again at a drugstore.

The taxi to the airport takes less than an hour so we're in good shape. None of us need anything but it's fun to browse the stores in the terminals. We're struck by the amount of alcohol for sale in town and at the airport. This branch of religion is different than the one at home: much more restrictive in some ways (they say to be Malay is to be Muslim) and yet more liberal in dress and food: there's pork in most restaurants. (In Bandung, unless the restaurant is Chinese or has a special pork menu, food is halal or no-pork.)
Indian man-skirts at the airport, some pretty classy
We're home by late afternoon - no trouble at immigration or customs in an airport full of friendly Sunda smiles. The helper went home at lunch; there are a few things undone, but we'll remedy that next week.

There's no fresh food at the house so we walk to our neighborhood restaurant and enjoy the warm air coming through open doors.

 We finish the chocolate cake W orders, then walk home in the damp dark night.

Read more:
*Do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. Deuteronomy 15:7

*If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

*The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. Psalm 34:17-22 NIV

*The Lord says, “I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler.” Isaiah 60:17 (VOICE)

*The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. James 3:17-18 ESV

*How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 1 John 3:17 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Open the eyes of our heart Lord, so that we may see the needs around us. May we serve you by helping our neighbors, renewing our faith with love. 

Beloved of all, when we seek peace, let us not make peace only for ourselves, but also with those we consider our enemy. Amen.

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