"Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image."

Sunday, January 3

That's how we roll...

fish pedicure!

Dad and Kim arrived on the 26th (of December---a little slow on the delivery---sorry!) and it was so great seeing them in the airport! They bunked up for the week in the apartment that is across the hall from mine and it was a blast! Almost like being back in college. Wondering between the 2 rooms---often settling in the one that had the aircon (AC) set to high. Whether I've gotten used to the heat or whether I'm still just my typical frugal self is up for debate---but I'll give you one guess who's apartment had the aircon on full blast! If there was a theme for the visit, it would most definitely be "THAT'S HOW WE ROLL". I wanted to really give them a taste for how I live---how I travel---how I "roll" if you will ;)!) The next morning, I threw them right into the rush, heat and craziness of it all with a visit to Chatachuk market and watched as they processed everything. And, much to their credit, they didn't miss a beat! From stall fruit to meals from the vendors, they jumped in without looking back! They started immediately with the language and, while pops may argue that he is already sounding like a local, some locals may disagree---much to the comic relief of everyone involved! After the market, I ran off for my 2nd airport visit in as many days (for those of you who dread airport visits, try living in a foreign country and waiting almost 2 years before you have guests---then tell me how much you're dreading it! It rocked my world!). I thought I'd have to carry Sarah to the taxi b/c, after living in a Namibian village (see previous blog!) for nearly 2 years, her reaction to this craziness left her with a look that may have mirrored the look I gave her 2 months prior while watching a goat-named-Simon being killed! Spent a little bit of time "in the neighborhood" showing them my day to day before heading off to Ayuttuya where we rode bikes and boats to explore the ruins of the old capital city. Khanchanburi was the next stop and it was great to get away from the city life for a bit. Our guesthouse was right on the River Kwai with a view of the 'Bridge over the River Kwai'. And when I say "on", I really mean ON. The room was on a raft in the water....meaning that every time a boat went past, the room rocked! I had told Dad and Kim about such rooms before we arrived but didn't realize they would get to experience it first hand! Troopers! We explored Erawan Naional Park---and got to enjoy the chill from the waterfall pools. Ahhh! The pools, much to our surprise, also doubled as a "fish pedicure"---which is actually something you can pay for in Thailand. You pay to stick your feet in a pool of little fish that nibble all the dead skin off. Well, why pay when they do it for free here?! That's how we roll :)! Pops and I had trouble sitting still---but Kim was all over it! She didn't even flinch! Back in Bangkok, we met up with Jacyln and did a night rivercruise down the Chao Phraya river while, of course, enjoying MORE food! I headed back to work while they headed south to the beaches to get a bit of luxury....which, I think they got plenty of. (Though, they got so used to "that's how we roll" that I think they missed the neighborhood---and were well aware when they were being over charged for something! Local knowledge is a beautiful thing!). They got to join me for one of my classes on their last day here and it was great! Of course my kids were loving having them around--. I even threw them into the mix for our "who stole the cookie" song! All smiles! A great visit! I loved sharing my life here and love knowing that whenever I talk about something they can picture it! But the room across the hall has felt a bit empty every since!

The other half of the parentals is scheduled to arrive in 4 days!! Wahoo! The plan, at this point, is dependent on what happens with the red shirt rallies. And, while I don't feel threatened, they can make travel/transportation a nightmare---. So, still playing things by ear---but crossing fingers things will be settled in a few days!

Saturday, January 2

Life in a Namibian village

"The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less."

I step off of the plane and practically land in Sarah's arms, immediately laughing at my growing anticipation of not being able to find her in this airport, which, turns out, is about the size of my palm. Our journey begins immediately as we hop into a stranger's car (I can hear the "oh God's"....just remember, I lived to blog about it!) bound for Windhoek, Namibia. Our final destination is Nkurenkuru, a tiny village in the North of Namibia where Sarah has been living, working, and 'greeting' for nearly 2 years (though Peace Corps). It takes us about 4 "legs" (aka, different rides) and 8 hours to get there. Everyone in this country hitchhikes and I'm in awe of the secret language (there is a whole series of hand signals), the generosity, and the effectiveness (ok, so maybe we just had some great luck!) of it all. When we arrive in Nkurenkuru, I am immediately taken for, and welcomed as, Sarah's sister. I'm thrown into the village pace of life---meaning that I sit. And greet. And sit some more. It's amazing. Everything out here seems raw, real....and I'm taking it all in. I'm invited to attend a celebration to honour the naming of (little) Sarah---a baby that is a few months old and has been named after (big) Sarah.
I sit, not only accepting, but loving, the fact that often, the only thing we have to exchange is smiles, body language and food. A friend of (big) Sarah's acts as a translator, but there are times when translation is unnecessary and, just being is...just fine. A goat is killed for the celebration and, although I struggle a bit with this fact, I embrace the circle of life and wish all goats the life that this one had. (I will dispense details about the naming of said goat and my near-death experience while "watching" the slaughter on a first come first serve basis :) Though, the stories are best told with my sidekick!). I look around and feel as though I have stepped onto the pages of a National Geographic. Beyond this small enclave of mud huts where dinner is currently being prepared, there is nothing but open land, free roaming goats and chickens, a magical sunset, and the sound of nature. We eat, we laugh, we sing, we dance. It's simple. It's beautiful. It's heartwarming. If this is poverty, we could all use a bit more of it in our lives.

The next day we sit with our feet in the dirt and a grass roof over our heads as 100+ church gatherers sing their thanks to God. Although some of the events of the day are, well, hilarious (think skirts and on-the-spot-singing--), overall it was an incredibly moving experience. We are sitting in this moment, with some of the most materialistically poor people in the world, learning how to be grateful. And let me tell you, we have a lot to learn. The sound of their unified voices is nothing short of amazing and the energy they disperse is contagious (a fact that made standing in front of them to sing that much more mortifying---love ya Sarah!). The service goes on for over 4 hours. There is singing, dancing, praying, laughing, loving, offering, and through it all, an overwhelming feeling of welcomeness. They even go so far as to translate everything into English for us.

Over the next few days, I'm greeted endlessly with smiles and handshakes. The neighborhood kids constantly come by to play, talk, laugh, ride bikes (The bikes in the pictures and in this village are the outcome of one of Sarah's projects which has supplied transportation to the village along with a job/income/sense of independence to those that currently run the place). Their laughter and dancing is impossibly forgettable and, after only 1.5 weeks in their company, I find myself longing to be amongst their glowing spirits once again.
One of my last experiences in Nkurenjuru, one in which I will never forget, came when Sarah took me to greet/meet another family. As we were sitting in their company, the boys, without explanation, began chasing a chicken wildly around the home-stay. A good 10 minutes later, the chicken was finally caught, bound, and placed at my feet. I didn't know how to react, and am unsure of what facial expressions came out in that moment, but the gesture gives me goosebumps. This family, in a village in Namibia, whom I just met and whom I may never see again, who owns little more then the clothes on their back and the food in their stomach's, is giving me a live chicken as a gift. This is their culture, this is their welcome, this is their appreciation, and they give the fact that they probably need this chicken much more then me no thought. The selflessness of this warms my heart---and, the moments that follow provide hours of entertainment and laughter (first naming, then walking around for over an hour with a live chicken, holding it by it's feet and neck, then in a plastic bag, having a friend kill it, plucking, cooking, and eating it). It will definitely make me think twice when I'm in a situation where I feel like I have nothing to give. My time here has proven that there is always something to give---be it a smile, a laugh, a goat, a chicken or simply shared moments of silence in which human connection needs no words...never underestimate the power of exchange, no matter how small or insignificant that exchange may seem.