Friday, January 29, 2010

Water Babies & Monster Coats

In keeping with the pregnancy theme that this here blog's got going on, I've got another story for ya, ags (and other non-ags--this is, after all, an equal opportunity blog).

When I was in eighth grade, I took this class called Life Management Skills. The sole reason I took it was because I heard that you got to take home one of those electronic babies that cries every once in a while to give you the experience of what it would be like to have a real baby. If you don't pick up the baby when it cries, the computer chip logs it as neglect. I think it had water in it too to make it feel more life-like. Well, my baby ended up being broken and cried every fifteen minutes without fail. Around 10 PM when the whole family was trying to go to sleep and the baby kept crying and crying. Despite my protests & fears of failing the project, my mom locked the baby in the garage and let it cry all night. So keep that story in the back of your head as a little prelude...

Our fall semester is about to come to a close at our English school, so we've been gearing up for next semester by recruiting new students. I know it may seem strange that it's nearly February and we're still technically in the "fall" semester, but that's the way things are around here. Their main holiday revolves around the lunar new year, so we'll take off the month of February and start up classes again in March.

So the point is that we've been recruiting new students, which involves going out and passing out flyers at primary schools and pre-schools to all the parents. Have I mentioned that it's been cold recently? Oh yes...perhaps I have. My dear husband even bought me this contraption that's become my winter best friend. It's more or less a hot water bag that plugs into the wall to heat the water inside. You never have to change the water and the sucker can get pretty warm. Throw it in bed at night or keep it in your lap for a while and I'm one toasty lady!

Since it's been so cold, on the first day of flyer pass out, I wore every single layer that I own. Our househelper owns this amazingly warm coat that she let me borrow. I call it a "Guai Wu Wai Tao" (which translates to "Monster Coat") because it has fur on it and it reminds me of a Yeti. To top it off, I heated up my water bag and shoved it down my coat. Sure, it looked a little silly but all is fair in love & warm.

So off I go to be the best flyer passer-outer of all time. But instead having beneficial conversations with parents about how great & wonderful our school is, this is what I happened with one of the fathers:

Father: Oh you're pregnant! How many months are you?
Me: (Long pause...not wanting to admit I've shoved a water bag down my coat) Uhhh...not yet.
Father: Is it a boy or a girl?
Me: Uhhh...I don't know. (Which, in reality, is the truth. I have no idea what gender my hot water bag is)

So there you have it, folks. Another pregnancy run-in. Don't ask my why I didn't just play the stupid foreigner card and say "I don't understand." Why didn't I just say "Oh I'm not pregnant" and be done with it? Who even knows?

I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe my "water baby" helped recruit some students because all the parents felt sorry for the poor pregnant girl passing out flyers in the cold. But then again, if those parents actually do register for classes with us, they might wonder why I never gave birth. Oh well... Even though this "water baby" created a bit of an awkward situation, at least my mom won't lock it in the garage...

(In this picture, I'm standingon the pond outside our house. It's been frozen solid! If you look closely, you can almost get a glimpse of my "baby bump.")

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I give up...

It's been cold recently. Like really cold. Below zero everyday (of course, that is in celcius but the fact that it sounds cold makes it feel colder!) Seeing that winter clothes are bulky and wouldn't fit in our limited luggage space, I got rid of most of them when we moved here. All that to say, my sweater collection is a bit sparse. I have this one sweater that keeps getting me into trouble. My friend Rachel Ware even had it sent to me from America but I'm afraid I might have to stop wearing it.

No joke but everytime I wear it someone asks me if I'm pregnant.

Exhibit A:

Shortly after we did our Christmas lecure at the university in December, I received this email:

Dear Becky:
May you happy Christmas Day ! And enjoy your life in [Asia],with your darling and the coming baby.
Yours, Windy

(I had to leave the "Windy" part because I think it's funny that she chose a weather feature as her English name. Hello, my name is Tornado! Typhoon, so pleased to meet you!)

Exhibit B:

I wore my unfortunate sweater to class this very morning. After teaching two classes back to back of pre-schoolers, I thought I was entitled to sit down for five minutes or so before my third class began. But apparently sitting down while wearing the pregnancy sweater is a bad idea because a parent approached me and asked if I was pregnant, even making the round belly gestures just in case I didn't understand what she was talking about. (Which I do, by the way, but almost wish I didn't! Rue the day I learned how to say "pregnant!")

Exhibit C:

Back in the fall, I wore my "pregnant" sweater to school and was asked by another woman when the baby was due. The ironic thing was that I actually was pregnant at the time but didn't even know it. But still, I certainly wasn't showing!

What is the deal here? Did I get fat when I moved to Asia? Does my belly stick out past my toes? Do I need to burn this sweater? I asked all of these burning questions to my local friends. Apparently, it's not my wardrobe that suggest pregnancy but my age . Clearly, every 26 year old woman should have a baby already or be expecting a baby. Clearly.

Oh well. Either the sweater goes or I'll just have to put up with the comments. What I'm really hoping for is that the weather will get warmer so I can start wearing all of my non-maternity clothes again...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Our dog has become a woman

There comes a time in every young female's life when she starts to wonder about the changes going on in her body. Usually, at about this same time, school curriculums swoop in to explain. In fact, I still remember the video we watched in fifth grade. A girl was having a campout with her friends in the backyard when she started her period. Not knowing what to do, she went inside her friend's house where she explained to the friend's mom what happened. Her mom was in the middle of making pancakes and took the opportunity to illustrate the entire femal anatomy with pancake batter. I suppose you could say this video left a lasting impression on my, as I've not been able to ever eat a pancake again without wondering whether my breakfast looks more like an ovary or the uterus.

Unfortunately, they do not offer such great educational materials for puppies or puppy owners. If they did, perhaps someone would have spelled out to me in pancake batter to get your dog spayed/neutered IMMEDIATELY. I thought we still had some time but alas...Beans is officially in heat.

Whatever shall we do? The internet had some helpful suggestions and some not-so-helpful suggestions (like playing soothing music to your dog to calm their nerves...what?!?!) One of the helpful tips was to outfit our little dog with "puppy panties" so she doesn't leave little messes all over the house. Since there are no Pets-Marts around here, we had to improvise:

Beans is obviously practicing her new womanly, seductive charm in this picture. She looks like a puppy pin-up model!

We asked our mama friends if they would be willing to donate their little daughter's retired underwear on Beans' behalf. Snip a hole in the back and we have one diva puppy:

Now Beans sports Dora the Explorer panties when she's inside. This morning, she was shivering so I put on the sweater my parents sent her for Christmas. Now she's dressed and ready to attract every male dog in the neighborhood.

The funny thing about our little dog is that people are actually afraid of her. Not just a little uncomfortable but adults go out of their way not to cross paths with her, children cry and hide behind their mothers. Maybe it's just because pets are a relatively new concept for families here so they're not used to dogs. But I still have to wonder what in the world is scary about a weenie dog in a pink argyle sweater and Dora the Explorer panties? Nothing, I say. Absolutely nothing!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Onomatopoeias and other such things

I have never, ever in my whole life thought about language this much. What it is, what it's used for, why it is the way it is. Never again will life be as easy as walking into a store, moving my mouth around, an entirely intelligible string of commands eliciting forth, and exactly what I expected to happen taking place. Never again. (At least, not while my address is still in the Far East)

On the other hand, thinking about language more and more has made me realize what a subjective and cultural experiment it really is. For example, the onomatopoeia. (Which, by the way, who didn't feel like the proudest third grader in the entire world upon learning such a long & impressive word?) Recently, we've learned in our new language the onomatopoeias for sneezing, heartbeats, and the chug chug chug of trucks. What does ah choo mean anyways? Does my heart really say thump thump?

But these thoughts truly came to culmination when I was teaching farm animals to my kiddos at school a few weekends ago. It's impossible to learn about farm animals and not learn the Old McDonald song. Especially in light of the fact that the McDonalds golden arches are so wildly (and in my opinion unfortunately) popular here. Old McDonalds farm animals talk of course. They quack and moo and neigh and carry on like all good farm animals should.

After about the fourth verse of the song, one of my little students turned to me with innocent eyes and asked, "Is that really what they say in America?"

Now I have a little student wondering what would in the world would happen if Old McDonald brought an Asian duck, cow, or horse to his All-American farm. All because of onomatopoeias...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

4 Years Later...

4 years later and I'm still this happy...

Today is our four year wedding anniversary. I love my husband. He is my best friend and the most patient man I know. He somehow refrains from laughing at me when I have melt downs in the kitchen and begin cursing Martha Stewart and during an argument make examples of parents not sending their kids to space camp and feel confident that this is proving my point. He is appreciative for every meal I make him. He brought home a puppy for me when I was sad and still lets me thank him for it every day. He realizes his personality isn't very spontaneous nor adventurous so he lets me talk him into going backpacking in Europe and maybe someday to Australia or Indonesia. He desires to be a father as much as I desire to be a mother. He is one of the most generous and hard-working individuals I've ever met. He loves, loves, loves God and seeks to honor Jesus with every aspect of his life.

Since our third anniversary was more or less eclipsed by jet lag, we're actually going to celebrate this weekend! They just build a really nice Sheraton hotel here in town, so we're taking the day off from teaching so we can go spend Saturday night there. They have carpet! And English TV channels! (OK so I'm pretty easy to please these days...) We have some marriage questions we go through every year to always be vigilant about finding ways we can better love & respect each other, so we'll be taking some time to do that this weekend too.

Thankful for marriage. Thankful for Kevin...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Happy one year Asia-versary!

One year. Twelve months of ex-pat life. This place is home now. Don't get me wrong. There are still those cultural stress moments when I long for the American life where things make sense, where I understand why people do the things they do, and what in the world they're talking about. But this place is home.

Though we lack most of the markers of American adult life that most of our friends back in the States have (an 8-5 job, mortgages, owning and driving a car, kiddos), I still feel like quite an adult these days. In fact, I think I've grown up a lot during the past year of living here. There's something about two visits to a developing country's hospital that will do that to a person I think...

So enough of the musing...on with the humor! Here is our top 10 countdown:


10) You English is digressing at about the same rate your Asian-ese is progressing. Phrases like "how do we say that in English?" or "what's that word again?" frequent your daily conversation. Not to mention the lovely blend of Asian-ese and English that turns out to be the easiest way of communicating with our other American friends here.

9) Your big forks and little forks, who once were so nicely separated and organized in their own compartments in the silverware organizer back in America, now are forced to cohabitate in order to make room for the big players: chopsticks.

8) You are now the easiest person in the world to buy gifts for. All that has to be done to make your day is for someone to raid the spice aisle at HEB. Basil and oregano now hold as much value as the keys to a brand new BMW.

7) The shock you once experienced from removing black boogers from your nose is now replaced with the shock of a day going by when you are NOT removing black boogers from your nose.

6) People peeing on the street and spitting directly in your path just don't surprise you anymore.

5) The thought of wearing shoes in the house will never seem natural or sanitary again. (For reasons why, please see #6)

4) The first book you actually read and comprehended (using characters mind you!) will be etched in your memory as deeply as your wedding day or the birth of your first child. Most likely, the target audience for said book will be children between the ages of 3-5. (my first one was about six pages long and with a plot line involving two kids climbing a mountain...)

3) When a local attempts to be polite by remarking that you look fat that day, you will receive it for exactly what they mean it: a compliment.

2) The near-death experiences that occur when riding in a taxi no longer scare you. Yes, that bus did just come about six inches from your side of the car. No problem, it's just an open pot hole in the middle of the road.

1.5) Frog legs have actually been prepared in your kitchen and eaten at your dining room table. (Pardon the fractions...had to preserve the symmetry of the Top 10 Countdown while still capturing that real-life experience!)

And finally the top reason you can celebrate living in Asia for a year is...

1) No matter how strange it seems at times, there is no place better to be than the place you're supposed to be.

Thankful for one year! On to the next...

Friday, January 01, 2010

2009 Year in Review

I've decided to crawl out from under the Blog rock with our 2009 Year in Review. This has been one of the most tumultuous years of our lives, and we've really identified with Solomon through this season of our lives.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiates 3:1-8

This year, we have experienced times of death as we lost my Uncle David and miscarried a baby; times of refraining from embracing as we left our families behind in America to move here; times of seeking as we tried to make sense of our new life here. We've also experienced times of laughter as we've bonded with locals here; times of planting as we've put down new roots and developed new family traditions; times of building up as we've been so encouraged by how God has led us during 2009.


We kicked off the first of the year with the completion of one of my life goals: to run a marathon! I finished the Texas Marathon in 4:08.

Four days later, with sore thighs and all of our earthly possessions packed up, we boarded a plane for our new home in Asia. Once we landed, we had a whirlwind of a week, including a quick trip to the capital city for teacher training for our school, choosing paint colors and having squatter painters live in our house while they worked, all on top of dealing with jet lag.


We headed to Thailand to escape the gray winter skies for a few weeks. It seemed a little silly at first to leave the country when we had just arrived but it ended up helping break up the cultural stress.

When we returned "home" from Thailand, things still didn't still feel quite like home. We only had bedroom furniture so our apartment felt a bit like a cave. Not knowing where to grocery shop or even what to buy, our first meal (beyond the pb&j sandwiches we had been surviving on!) was as simple as they come.


After yet another trip to the capital city for an IKEA shopping spree, all our boxes arrived. My dear husband spent some quality time with his Leatherman in order to help our cave become a home.

I also started volunteering at a local orphanage with some other American friends. The need for loving arms was so great there, and I had to practice self-restraint every time not to take one home with me. Unfortunately, in the summer, we were asked not to return because of concern of a disease scare.


Once the weather turned warmer, we started venturing out to explore our new city more. We gradually became accustomed to the staring we received from the local people and, with about two months of language study under our belts, we were even able to have simple conversations with people.

Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country (Proverbs 25:25). We found out just how refreshing visitors from home can be this month when some friends from Louisville came for a week. Just hearing stories about mutual friends, laughing, and chatting was such a break from the normal grind of life. Not to mention the yummy American goodies they brought too!

We helped our American friends put on an Easter egg hunt for all the kiddos. We have become "auntie" and "uncle" to some really fun kids since we've arrived here, and we've been so thankful to serve our friends by babysitting and loving on their kids.

With our English school's first semester in full swing, we planned a special party to celebrate Easter with the kids. We played games, sang songs, decorated Easter eggs, and learned the story of Easter.


Besides celebrating my 26th birthday this month, our househelper Gigi joined our family. In order to free up our time for language study, she comes over four days a week to help me around the house and to cook us really good local food for lunch. Not only has she helped maintain my sanity and stress levels, she has become my best local friend and our unofficial language teacher. Her 9 year old son is one of our students as well.


Summer months brought warm weather. Though I'd like to add clear skies, they were still an unfortunate shade of polluted gray. But we found a makeshift "backyard" in our apartment complex (don't think American apartment complex--think small, concrete city of 2000 residents) where we could have BBQs, play badminton, and lounge in the sun. I know our measly BBQ pit doesn't compare to your mammoth one, Mark, but we still attracted a fair amount of attention, as you can see from the little girl in the background of this pictures.

Kevin's appendix also decided to call it quits in June. After a harrowing day in the ER, he ended up in surgery. We were so thankful to be provided a suite in the international wing of the hospital for Kevin's recovery stay. I can't do the complete experience justice here, but if you'd like to read the entire tale, you can click here.


We headed to Malaysia in July from a vacation and for Kevin to take a class. We shared a hotel with some good friends of ours from Louisville. While the husbands went to class, the wives explored the island, hung out by the pool, and hit the beach. Tough life, I know.

The r&r was much needed in order to prepare for our English summer camp at school that kicked off as soon as we returned. We had a handful of students come for a week-long day camp. We ate Western food, played outside in the sweltering heat, and studied English. (I'd just like to point your attention to the color of the sky in the above picture. No photo shop. Real thing. Enjoy your blue skies, America!)


Though summer months didn't mean a break from full-time language study, it did mean a break from teaching English on Saturdays. With our free weekends, we were able to hang out with local friends more. We took a trip to the zoo with the family of a little girl that Kevin tutors (the girl from the "grass on your arm" story if you remember) If you think zoos are inhuman in America, you would really hate them here. In fact, the word I added to my vocabulary that day was "pitiable."

We also took a hiking trip with some youth on the outskirts of town. The spoke zero English so it was fun to connect with them in any way we could.


This was one of the most difficult months of 2009. At the end of the month, we miscarried our first baby. Through the trial, God dealt with my heart so tenderly. I still miss our little baby and wonder how he/she would be doing today inside of me. We are still waiting, trusting, and praying for children and hope that in 2010 we will be able to welcome a little one to our family.


God knew we needed some distraction and laughter in our lives after losing our baby, so only three days after the miscarriage, he gave us Beans. Some of our American friends bought her at a local pet market but discovered her puppy energy wouldn't compute with their three young children. We had been talking about getting a dog for a while so we more than happily welcomed this little Beanie Weenie into our home.

We're not playing, we're studying! During October, we also started a new language learning method. Since the beginning of the year, we had been slaving away with textbooks, memorizing vocabulary and listening to endless dialogue, with moderate success. But we were introduced to a new method that uses toys and wordless picture books to build both our vocabulary and listening comprehension. Our progress has been so much quicker, and I actually look forward to studying because it truly is fun!


We had our first snow day! It's just wrong to study on a snow day so we quit earlier and built a snowman, threw snowballs, and just played.

We kicked off the holiday season by hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We had over 30 people here altogether. We had all the traditional fare: turkey, stuffing, greenbean casserole, sweet potatoes, crescent rolls, cranberry applesauce, pecan pie...the list goes on! How is that possible, you might ask, when we live in Asia!?!? It was a sweet time of fellowship together as we discussed how God had blessed us during the year.


The family gatherings and parties that kept most of you busy this Christmas season was what I missed most being away from home. But nonetheless we were very busy.

We were invited to give a lecture at a college English club about Christmas & American holiday traditions. We also threw a Christmas party for our kiddos at school.

I found a Christmas tree at a local market. Though the lights all blinked, flashed, or pulsed at different intervals, thus earning it the name "Seizure Tree," our home felt festive enough. We also started our own family Christmas traditions by having a sleepover in the living room by the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. We had lots of Skype & phone dates with our families to open gifts.

But most of all this Christmas season, we were thankful for Emmanuel, God with us.