Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas in the Kampung --QM

We use this blue mat a lot here! A friend gave the children a rock painting kit for Christmas, and I'm reading a letter from Grandma Schults, a friend from the States. Two wonderful gifts!

Less than a week ago we moved to a village, Kampung Jangkar, for the month of December. We have little internet, little phone service, and no fridge or washing machine--but we are enjoying the many stars in the sky, the nearby stream and jungle, and the new friends that stop by with Durian and Rambutan and sit and chat. And its actually quite empowering to realize what we can do without, to learn how to wash by hand, and keep an icebox. Blessings in disguise...
We are renting this house for just 3 weeks, and love having a quilt from my Mom to make it feel like home.

Our  Christmas tree is hiding nest to the fan. We brought plenty of Christmas touches, including a New Christmas Tree wall-hanging my Mom posted to us! Also hiding from view, sorry...

The outside of our house, and Dorie's friend (Kakak, older sister) Grace. They spend so much time together, and Grace's parents have really shown us hospitality.
We are grateful for this time! James and Dorie enjoy playing with the other children, they are learning a lot of language during this time (a mix of Bahasa Salako and Bahasa Malayu!), and Ethan and I are also growing in our language skills. This is a far cry from Christmas in the States, or even Christmas in Kuching, but we are loving it :)!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

James On A Plane

Just a short and sweet post in honor of our son, who is apparently growing up.  I'm not talking about his personality.  I mean that body of his is getting bigger.  He looks especially tall when he wears long pants, which he doesn't do every day because of the very warm weather in Kuching.

James's hobbies include dinosaurs and break dancing.  Some of his current favorite foods are Koko Krunch cereal, spaghetti, and roti canai dipped in sweetened condensed milk.

Oh, and there he is on an airplane last week.  (He likes to draw, too.)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Dinosaurs and Dictionaries, Waterfalls, Weddings and Wild Rides --QM

We have entered what feels like a new stage of life, a full and lovely stage of life. We are no longer full-time language learners, and Ethan has now started assisting with a dictionary project. He's at the office every day, and I'm at home more, without the car. I actually think the lack of wheels is good for me! I'm on a mission to organize my house and teach Dorie to 'love to learn' before she (and James) go to school in January. I'm also finding time to go on spontaneous bus rides, to have a weekly morning for painting, and to enjoy the local Dinosaur Exhibition! Life is good.
Oh yeah, its a little scary in that museum...

Ethan was able to join a Word Collection workshop this month to learn some 'tricks of the trade.' These men are collecting words for their dictionary.

I love seeing my little girl draw--both kids will focus a half hour or more on creating their pictures. These days I'm starting to really get into it too--I never expected how fun it would be to draw with my kids.
The children will be attending Chinese classes at their Tadika next year and Dorie was asking me to teach her how to write some characters. I think I taught her "very hot." I'm not the most qualified Chinese teacher!

James and Dorie wowed us with their stamina on a long hike to a waterfall on Mount Santubong. Great day.

Ethan and I stayed at this home for four days for some intensive language learning, and now my friend Nisa is getting married! We arrived too late to see her engagement ceremony-but not too late for pictures!
My friend Morina, Dorie and I went on a quintessential bus adventure. We started the day without a clue of where we would end up, found a great swimming hole, and said hi to some puppies on the way home.
Parting Shot: The Swimming Hole

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The America Trip In Eleven Pictures

I just love modern communications technology.  Thanks to the lightning speed of the internet, I can share memories and publish them worldwide instantly . . . a month after the fact.

Yes, Dorie and I spent two of July's weeks in the United States.  There are many things we did that I forgot to take pictures of, especially during the week in Delaware.  (My mother-in-law's blog covers that week pretty nicely, however.)  Here's a bit of a pictorial run-through of our adventure in the U.S., with minimal commentary.

We went to my sister's house first.

Dorie played with her cousin Lina.

I went fishing and caught me a trophy.

My heart sang when I saw the old, familiar view from the hill behind Mom and Dad's house.

Very important: we had pizza and wings.  This is my family here, at least more than half of them.

I also made Sarawak Laksa for my family.  It turned out not-quite-authentic but still pretty good.

My brother's Micah's wedding with Esther was the real reason we came to the U.S. in the first place.  I promise this is the best picture I have of them (which is my fault, not theirs).

My brother Jesse played on a playground with Dorie.  Spot her if you can.

I found the pictures on this bar's windows funny.  The billiards guy is about to do some damage to the football player, while the baseball batter may or may not end up clubbing the basketball star.  Is this intentional?

On the way back to the airport in New York, we stopped at the World Trade Center.

Upon arriving in Kuala Lumpur, Dorie ordered a tall Milo Ice.  As you can see, she was a little tired after more than 30 hours of traveling.

That's it!  America and back again.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

English Needs More Words -- E.

So you're learning to speak a new language.  You can get by learning plenty of basic vocabulary simply by translating a word from English.  In Malay, for example:  How do you say "cat" in Malay?  Kucing.  Great, thanks.  What about "sky"?  Langit.  And "durian"?  Durian.  Got it.

If a Malaysian wanted to learn English words, the reverse process could work.  Hai, apa nama 'kucing' dalam Bahasa Inggeris? Cat.  Bagaimana dengan 'langit'?  Sky.  'Durian'?  Obviously.

Picture of Durian Gray
But Malay and English words don't match up one-to-one every time, of course.  And sometimes -- this the part I really love -- you run into Malay words that have really have no English equivalent.

Okay.  Pretend you're married, right?  And your spouse has a sister.  And your spouse's sister is married.  That man -- the husband of the sister of your spouse -- what do you call him?  Besides his name, I mean.  I used to enjoy debating this.  I'd always say, that's my brother-in-law.  Others would argue, no, it's your sister-in-law's husband.  (And without fail somebody would always be thoughtful enough to point out, "who even cares?")

Here's where we could borrow a word from the Malay lexicon: biras.  It means -- well, it means the relation that I described just now.  How have English speakers managed so long without something like it?

Here's another.  My Malay teacher recently asked me what the English word for ngilu is.  Ngilu, I'm told, is the sensation you get when you bite into a lime, or hear a sharp knife scraping bamboo.  Neither of those are common experiences for me, but I'm guessing it's similar to biting into a Popsicle, or more famously, listening to this:

Can you feel the ngilu right now?
But what's it called?  That nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling, right?  I don't know of a single English word that describes this awful experience.  But the Malay-speaking world has come prepared.

There are others.  In particular, I have noticed an abundance of Malay words related to body posture and gesturing.  Perhaps I will list some another time.  For now, you can practice using these two useful Malay words at home.

Or better yet, just keep a healthy distance from Popsicles and chalkboards.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

One Year -- E.

It was a year ago Saturday that we first arrived in Malaysia.  A year ago this week we dragged our jet-lagged selves up to a Bidayuh village for Gawai, a local harvest festival tradition.

Somehow Bidayuh people can wear this kind of stuff without looking silly.
I wasn't pulling it off so well.
Now that we're back in Gawai season again (leaving tomorrow for several days out with our Iban friends this time!), it seems we have officially run the full circle of annual celebrations.  After Gawai, it was Ramadan and the subsequent Aidilfitri feasts; Christmas season didn't seem so far after that; then came Chinese New Year; and back to Gawai.  With countless minor holidays in between, of course.

This next year I want to try to keep track of time with seasonal fruits.  Some fruits are strictly seasonal, while others just seem to be extra-abundant at certain times.  Maybe it changes from year to year, but based on the past year I expect to see a progression something like this:







We're deep in watermelons right now, in fact.  Can't complain.

This was originally going to be a reflective post in which I summarized my family's experiences over the last year, and expressed how grateful I am to be living in Malaysia.  Instead, as usual, I ended up talking about food instead.  Maybe next time we'll get it.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"Just A Little Off The Top . . . Leave The Sideburns" -- E.

My handphone sounded.  Someone had sent me a text message, but I couldn't get to my phone just then.  It would have to wait a minute or two.  Unfortunately, within 'a minute or two' I usually forget things completely.  What to do?  I decided to count down in my head -- slowly -- from 20.  When I got to zero, I would remember to check my phone.  A flawless plan!

Or so I thought.  Everything went well up until I reached the number 7, at which point a near total stranger suddenly stuck her fingers deep into my ears.  And I forgot everything.

Can you guess where I was?

Yes, there's nothing quite like getting your hair cut.  It's an unbelievably personal ordeal.  The amount of trust it takes to let someone whose name I don't know stand right up against the chair I'm sitting in and touch my head is often too much for me.  This is why I don't get my hair cut very often.

Queena used to do it for me, but she's never much liked to, and here in Malaysia the cuts are pretty cheap.  So I'm expanding my horizons.

I'd like to tell you about some of the differences between the Malaysian hair salon, as I experience it, and its American counterpart.  These differences are neither good nor bad, inherently.  But I do have my preferences.  Here in Malaysia:
  • I have more time to think.  It seems people often read magazines at the barber's.  At my most recent haircut there were magazines provided.  But they were filled only with pictures of people in short shorts and Chinese writing, neither of which I can understand.  Thus I was left to myself, trying not to replay Monty Python's murderous barber scene in my head.
  • The trends are different.  At least I think they are.  I've been out of the USA for almost a year.  Is this happening over there?
    I'm just not ready for this.
    That's a slightly extreme case in the photo there.  But still, Malaysians like hair a little shorter there, a little longer here, and in the end it does take some adjustment for me in what to expect my hair to look like when it's all done.
  • The infamous scalp massage.  When the haircut is all done, they shampoo your hair (even if you are a man) and they really rub it into your scalp.  I repeat, they do this to you even if you're a man.  This is the part where someone's fingers can end up in your ear.  I understand you can pay extra for an extended scalp massage session; needless to say I have never given it a try.

That's the end of my story.  Queena says I should tack on a picture of the kids, even though it has nothing to do with the rest of this post.  So here it is.

To all my Malaysian friends:  Janganlah marah dengan saya!  Saya bermaksud baik.  Don't worry, I like your hair, I like your shops.  But to a foreigner everything can feel unusual at first.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

To Hot to Think Straight...

A few minutes ago I felt almost claustrophobic with the heat...such a hot day today in Kuching! Ethan had gone to his language learning session, the kids just went to their naps, and I had so many things pulling for my attention--language study, meal preparations, some proofreading, computer work and so on. All I wanted to do was lay in my bed (the bedrooms are the only rooms with air conditioning units). I felt drained. I got up and opened my Bible to this:
Random Picture from

(Found in Daniel 10) I am very weak. 17 How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord? My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.”
18 Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. 19 “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!”
As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, “Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me.”

I know Daniel was dealing with a whole lot more than Malaysia's heat, that this vision came to a heart seeking understanding and humility, not relief from a climate complaint, but still, I'm once again amazed at the ability of God's word to speak directly into my life. Now, with my new found strength, time to tackle those chores. After a glass of water.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It was a very good year...-QM

 I recently celebrated a birthday, my 30th, in fact. The day before, March 8th, I got a package in the mail, a really heavy package with one corner rather beaten up. I could see some birthday wrapping paper poking through, but I waited a day. Inside was a lovely assortment of 3 shirts, orange tic-tacs, jelly bellys :), and a pile of cards. I took my time reading them, just like I'm taking my time with those jelly bellys (May I recommend the fruit salad recipe!). Everytime I sat down to read them, I got up with tears in my eyes; what a perfect gift to hear from my dear friends across the ocean! Thank you. You are loved.
Just what I wanted! I'm now a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen--you can pray I dont chop a finger, because I go pretty fast with that knife! Of course I curl the tips of my fingers in, like the kitchen staff taught me in China.
A week ago we explored another corner of Kuching, a small jogging park only 10 minutes or so from our house. A family of about 15 monkeys roams free there, right in the middle of the city, and we never knew about it before!

Looking for monkeys---and yes, my heart just aches with happiness when I look at this picture! I'm so blessed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Visit to Indonesia - E.

Our camera was out of commission for several weeks, but it returned from the service center just in time for a little bit of travelling last week.  A friend of ours was making a visit to the Indonesian town of Entikong, about two hours' drive from here, and invited us to go along.

I need to get back into the habit of bringing our camera places -- and actually taking pictures!  I admit I've been out of practice with the camera gone.  Once we got home I found myself a little disappointed with the small number of pictures we had taken, because it was such a unique and memorable experience.

Well, here are a few shots that we did get of our trip:

This is the inside of a church.  We actually stayed overnight here.
All four of us slept under this mosquito net, making for quite the cozy night.

From the back door.  I believe that's a fish pond down there.

Taking a picture of our friend taking a picutre of a gorgous mountain.

Things of interest which you do not get to see, because I didn't take pictures, are the roads, the shops, the excellent food, and some bird's nest flavored beverage in a can.  Too bad!  Maybe next time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Kids Learning the Local Language -- E.

Before we moved to Malaysia, our American friends often told us that our children would pick up the language quickly, naturally, and much more successfully than we their parents would.

That has turned out to be partly true.

Dorie and James actually know very little Malay.  Almost zero.  Queena and I have been diligently learning Malay for six months and, however else you may measure our progress, it's only accurate to say we're far ahead of our children.

However . . . James and Dorie have been learning something altogether different.  It's called Malaysian English, and while not a completely different language from our American English, it's distinct enough that I can't speak it well.  I can mimic a bit.  But my children are -- quickly, naturally, and successfully -- internalizing this speech variety.

I'm very proud of my children.  Unfortunately for them, though, Malaysian English has certain characteristics that by coincidence resemble what in America would be called 'whining baby-talk'.  (The grammar and the sound system work together to . . . well, I can't explain it well here, but if you want to hear a bit for yourself, check out this explanation by a Toastmaster in Malaysia.)  Poor Dorie!  We had been getting rather angry with her 'baby-talk' way of saying things.  It took a few months before we realized her English wasn't degenerating, and she wasn't regressing to some infantile self; she was simply adapting to a legitimate and quite expressive speech variety. 

Still, my blood pressure continues to spike whenever I hear Dorie say something like "I wan driiiink! This one!"  Old habits die hard.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Local Monuments and Architecture

Chinese gate at Friendship Park

Admiral Zheng He
The cat and panda bench
James' monumental dinner