March 31, 2009

Money talks

One of the most interesting things about living over here right now is watching America struggle for breath from a distance. Don't think for a second that the rest of the world hasn't felt the shock waves of America's economic troubles. Where we live, unemployment is very high because America isn't buying as much of the stuff that's made over here. It is amazing how dependent countries are on one another. Economics baffles me. I dropped the class in college because I didn't want to fail. What is most puzzling to me is that money doesn't really have any value. It is made of paper and cheap metal, and most of the time it only exists in theory, being passed around and divided by the written word alone.

I asked my brother, Kody, on Facebook Chat this morning how he has been holding up with the economy the way it is, and he said he was kind of enjoying it. He said it was good to get back to the basics of life, remembering what is important and what is dispensable. I've been thinking about that all day. He is right. The things of real value stay standing when the things of perceived value fall away.

But no one puts it better than my dear friend Maddox (pictured here with his sister, Sady, and Bright) who said, and I quote, "I don't mind spending all my money. All it does is just set there anyway."

March 30, 2009

Over the counter

Bright is officially tall enough to wash his hands without a step stool. I have been prepared for most of the milestones along the way, but this one took me completely off guard. No step-stool? What? But you were just born yesterday, weren't you? Oh, how it seems like it. But alas, we are planning his fourth birthday party next week, and we are simultaneously retiring the booster seat and moving him to the top bunk (to make room for Zion, to make room for baby).

I am proud of you, son. It pains me some, but I wouldn't want it any other way. I'll write in more detail about you, and how proud we are of you, on your birthday. xoxoxo

Chicken stratching

Yesterday I offended myself, and it was the right thing to do.

Here's the scenario. I am in line at KFC to order chicken pieces to-go for our Sunday lunch. Wait, let me rephrase that: I am in mob at KFC. There are no lines here. Everyone pushes against the counter, chest to back, elbowing and grunting their way to the front. It seems a bit (in my American opinion) inefficient, to say the least. But, when you enter in to another culture, you are not to judge that culture based on your own. What you might consider to be completely rude is fine by them, and what you are doing is probably repulsing them.

So, back to the scenario. I pick a place in the mob behind three young girls who are ordering enough chicken and ice cream cones for an entire family reunion. If I move, however, I run the risk of being pushed further to the back. So I hold my ground, patiently waiting. In a moment, a woman who, in hindsight I am thinking might have just wanted an extra dipping sauce, began shouldering her way to the counter. I am pregnant, I am hungry, I have been waiting here for 10 minutes, and your shouldering stops here (was what I was thinking at the time). I blocked her out with a firm hip and forearm movement.

As I continued to wait, my blood pressure a little higher, and my cheeks flushed from my very un-American behavior, I try to assure myself that I am only doing what needs to be done to function in my present environment. Finally, the girls receive their order, and now they must back through the crowd carrying three trays of food and drinks. My only option is to back away from them and let them out. As soon as I do, a man about my father's age comes barreling in from the side to take his place at the counter...MY counter. Not on your life mister. I don't even think. I am acting out of animal instincts. I lunge forward, grip his arm firmly, and shove him out of the way.

His reaction? He let out a "Whoaah!"...shocked and somewhat impressed, I think, that this crazy weiguoren (foreigner) gave him a run for his money. I may have even endeared myself to him in some strange way. But I was not feeling very endearing. I was embarrassed, completely flushed, and could have been shaking. That is not how an American behaves at KFC. But I am not in America anymore.

I've been told that not too long ago, this country was starving. People had to push their way to the front before the food was gone. They learned to live that way. I have no idea what it is like to be starving. Often we say, when dinner is taking too long to cook, "Man, I'm starving." We throw that word around like it is nothing. We don't understand. If I were to judge their ways based on my own life experience, I would make a complete fool of myself.

So as we drove away in our three-wheeler, a bag of chicken bobbling along in the basket, Daniel reassured me that I did the right thing. If I had not done what I did, I would have spent the rest of the day offended by that man. As it were, I was only offended by myself, which is much easier to get over. I can take it. I signed up to come here, after all. He did not ask me to come. He does not deserve my contempt.

But he did deserve a good shove:) Happy days in Asia.

March 27, 2009

You gave me gold

Daniel and I have been marveling lately at the wonder of our children. Not that they are anything more spectacular than anyone else's children, but they are ours. As they run through our house, in white briefs and a puffy cloth diaper, I am amazed at their little backs, knotted with muscle, and their thick chests, perfectly proportioned, shaped at such a young age like men. I sometimes think about their insides, wondering at the size of Zion's heart, beating away, at the size of the tiny stomach digesting amniotic fluid inside the baby in my belly. Life is absolutely fascinating. Life that gives way to more life. It is the way we are made. Two hearts beating on an altar in Michigan seven years ago are now five hearts beating in a purple apartment in Asia. Thank you, Creator of the heavens and the earth, for taking away my filthy rags and clothing me with all of this.

Sarah Kelly sings, in her song LIFE IS, "I gave you a stone and you gave me a heart. Now I am yours. I gave you a tear, you gave me a song, and now I know what life is. I asked you for silver, and you gave me gold, and now I know what life is."

March 16, 2009

Back from the honeymoon

Love is a powerful thing.

Daniel and I are finished with the honeymoon stage (I'm not talking about our marriage, but rather living in Asia). Everything we thought was really cute when we first got here is starting to get on our nerves. They told us in training that this would happen, so we are not surprised. They also told us it would pass. If they told us what comes next, I don't remember. I think I was dozing during that particular seminar. I have a hunch, though, if this is anything like love.

My hunch is, when we accept the things we cannot change about this place, and decide to love the people and the culture in spite of the things that stress us out, not because they deserve it, but because He first loved us, than we will move forward into true love. Just like marriage, right?

But what gets us through for the time being? Random acts of kindness, I'm thinking. I'm sure you've all seen the movie Fireproof. I am going to try a Lovedare with Asia.

And love from home...that helps, too. Just the other day we received an Easter package from our dear friends, the Montagues, in Memphis. Their girls had decorated the outside of the box so beautifully that we were almost crying before we even cut the tape. And loving each other, that is so key; not taking our stress out on each other. And cute little kids running around our feet helps, too. Who can stay grumpy when your 1-year closes his eyes and moves in for an almost romantic kiss right on the mouth? Such love - such unabashed love - is more powerful than anything else.

March 12, 2009

A different world

The vast difference between our life now and our previous life no longer shocks me. Living in America seems like a very long and vivid dream that I once had. Things like strapping my kids into car seats, driving, pulling through a drive-through, being literate, blending into a crowd, trampling through a house with my shoes on, houses, backyards, shingled rooftops, eating an apple after only rubbing it on the front of my shirt...all seem like a lifetime ago. It is a strange and wonderful gift to live in another country - to lead a completely different life.

You will be happy to know that we received the seatbelts I ordered off of Ebay Motors, and Daniel installed them to our three-wheeler. Now the kids are safe(er) and I am hands-free.

Also pictured, me and my belly at 25 weeks, a cute picture of Zion, and Daniel and Bright standing at a mountain overlook the other day.

March 05, 2009

Daddy's little boy

I couldn't resist posting this ultrasound picture of baby. This was taken two weeks ago, at 23 weeks, but already it is very obvious who he looks like. Check out those lips!

March 03, 2009

Becoming her

For years I heard my mom say, "I'm turning into my mother!" Now, as I near 30, I find myself saying the same thing. The funny thing is, we all pretend to sound horrified about it, like it is a terrible thing. Secretly, though, we are delighted, and strangely comforted, to watch our mothers seep up through the cracks of our adult lives and revisit us.

For example, every morning memory of my childhood includes a picture of my mom in her robe, pulling little crumpled tissues out of the pockets and lightly blowing her nose. She always had little crumpled tissues in her pockets. The pockets of her robe, the pockets of her coat, the pockets in the lining of her purse. Not that she had chronic sinus issues, I don't think, but she just always had the tissues. Now and then she would offer us one if we were sniffling, but being the Hollander that she is, she wouldn't throw away a tissue until there was not one dry corner on it. Naturally, we always declined.

So now here I am, this morning, getting breakfast around for the kids, and there was a spill of milk on the table. I reached into the pocket of my robe and what did I find but a tissue. Like my Dad, however, I am a folder not a crumpler, so my tissue was neatly folded and had not yet been used, but there was a tissue in the pocket of my robe, none-the-less. Goodmorning, mom. Nice of you to pop in.

March 02, 2009

Riding in style

Here are the promised pictures of what family transportation looks like for us over here. The first picture shows how crowded we were on Daniel's ride, and the second picture shows how nice and comfy we all are on our new three-wheeler. Yes, we are a two-scooter family. Daniel's is faster and more powerful, and can go longer distances without being charged - not to mention it has shocks - so it is much better for him to use in all of his travels. The three-wheeler is slow, wimpy, and has no shocks what-so-ever, but it is perfect for us to bump along to the park or to run errands or just to get out for a drive. Daniel has studied our city on Google Earth extensively, and can thus get us pretty much anywhere. Getting around in a taxi is not only more expensive, but it requires language proficiency which neither of us have (yet!). With our scooters, we are mobile all on our own. Of course, seatbelts are hard to come by here, but don't worry, we ordered some off of Ebay Motors and had them sent to my parents, who have sent them on to us. Daniel will install them as soon as they arrive. That way, too, I'll be hands-free when the new baby arrives.

When life gives you scooters, make a minivan!