Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Day 2007

The table laid out with our Christmas feast! (That's John's little head in the background).

Most of the gang gathered in the living room... they are on the 11th floor and have an awesome view!

Anne's friend Sheila was visiting (they were friends at university) so we got some pictures of just the girls. Sheila -left, Anne - right, Me - back.
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The End is Near

We can hardly believe that the end of 2007 is upon us! I really need to think about posting more than twice a month because we take too many pictures and see too many things to write about in between. We hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas festivities and we're happy to post some pics of our celebrations online for you. We were actually pleasantly surprised with John on Christmas day... being not quite 2 years old we assumed there would be some screaming and end-of-the-world tantrum throwing. But John really enjoyed opening all his gifts and playing with each thing (even the toothbrush) so it was a tear-free morning. Actually, our whole week was quite relaxing and lazy.

We spent Christmas Eve at a friend's house (Mark & Tracy Friend) helping make an amazing seafood dinner with three kinds of shrimp, hush puppies, flounder, sushi, pasta with red or fresh mushroom sauces... more food than I can even remember. We all agreed the best part was helping to prepare everything (and of course the eating, that goes without saying) and thankfully they have kids who could entertain John while we busied ourselves in the kitchen. There are plenty of pics in the web album of the festivities.

Christmas day we enjoyed a visit with Michael's family on the web-cam and lots of lazing about doing nothing in the morning. After John got up from his nap we headed over to another friend's house, Anne & Tiny (he's our branch pres.) for yet another feast! Unfortunately I was neglectful in my picture-taking duties on that day, so we don't have any from their home! But I will get Anne to email me a few and I'll post them as soon as I can get them. This was an awesome traditional feast with ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, veggies, sweet potatoes... all the comforts of home. Anne is from the Philippines but her husband is American so she is used to cooking traditional American fare, especially on the holidays, for her husband. They had invited quite a few people from the branch and we realized that between the 10 or so people attending there were 6 nationalities represented: American, Philippino, Malaysian, Chinese, Nigerian, and Egyptian. Quite a diverse group! We had a lot of fun just relaxing and talking, and ended the evening (perfectly, in Michael's opinion) watching "Napoleon Dynamite" and grazing on the table full of desserts.

OK, OK, so aside from the obvious gluttony of our celebrations (we all ate WAY too much food) our Christmas was really perfect. We weren't overly-bombarded with commercialism that began right after Halloween, we didn't have a lot of pressure to share gifts with every neighbor in our apartment building, we don't even have a lot of seasonal decorations that need attending to... there was simple gift-giving among a few people, there was time spent with friends, there were quiet moments of contemplation to remember the birth of the Savior and read scriptures of the prophecies announcing his coming to the world. Now, I am a sucker for traditions... I love playing in the snow and drinking hot chocolate, I love caroling, leaving cookies on people's doorstep, wrapping presents... the whole ball of wax. But the most palpable thing missing from this year's Christmas was literally the spirit of the season. I've commented about this before, but because this is a Muslim country there is simply a different feeling in the air here. There is just no other way to describe it. And I have really only noticed it lately because there has been something lacking at this time of year that usually I count on as part of tradition. I think that because a vast majority of people in the US are Christian and are celebrating the Christmas season with basic religious principles in mind, it creates a truly tangible feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. Admittedly, possibly most people include Jesus Christ in their celebrations only momentarily or even superficially, attending mass or some sort of religious ceremony and not making much more effort than that. However, regardless of the amount of time spent or the depth of it invested in spiritual matters, I still believe that most people at one point or another will have their thoughts directed to the Savior of the world at this time of year. And because of that, people truly carry the Spirit with them. On top of that, people are more prone to service than probably any other time of year, which means they are obeying gospel principles taught by Jesus Christ, regardless of whether they recognize it or not, and the Lord is bound to bless them, usually causing an increase of those good feelings, i.e. the Spirit... THAT is the true spirit of Christmas. I think that is why there are so many wonderful memories, so many songs written, such a big deal made out of this particular season, because we all love that feeling we get. Truly, Jesus Christ is
"the light [that] shineth in the darkness...the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:5, 10).

We really wish you all the best at the end of this year and hope that the Spirit of the Lord stays with you throughout the coming year as well. We could probably all use more of those good feelings during more months than just December.
With love from the Malaysian Weists...

erin, mike, john & baby
Dec 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Dec 2007... so far

So it is already the middle of December and we can hardly keep track of where the time is going! We're measuring time mostly based on how soon the baby is coming and it seems like it's bearing down on us like a freight train at the moment. We have been keeping busy by getting ready for Christmas, getting involved in our branch, getting ready for baby... it still feels strange to not have the usual accompaniments to the season (snow, eggnog, a piano to play Christmas carols...) but we have been pleasantly surprised with the apparent celebration of Christmas here! There are Christmas trees in all the shops, they play American-style carols over the PA systems, (it was hilarious walking down the aisles last time we were shopping, singing along to "Santa Baby"), and there are twinkling lights all over downtown. The traffic is even reminiscent of home during ridiculous jams from holiday shoppers... I was even coming home last night from a Visiting Teaching dinner at 11:30pm and sat in traffic for almost 20 minutes because the roads were jammed! (That's something we had to adjust to here-- the late schedule... people eat dinner after 8 or 9 and then shop afterward. Some of the streets look like the middle of the day with people thronging on the sidewalk... seriously, who buys luggage at 11:00 at night? Apparently Malaysians do.)

But Michael & I agree that by FAR the best Christmas moment we've had here was on December 1st, we went to do our usual grocery shopping and about DIED when we walked in the store... there, in the check-out lines, each cashier was wearing a jauntily-placed traditional fir-trimmed Santa hat... which would have been great in itself, but the icing on the cake was seeing the young girls wearing their headscarves underneath the santa hats!!! Seriously. I've never kicked myself so hard for not having a camera, although it may have seemed slightly offensive to take their picture. We were so disappointed when we went the next time, armed with camera, the hats were nowhere in sight. It was just such a hilarious juxtaposition that I will never forget that image as long as I live. So, we hope the rest of you are having memorable Christmas experiences. Sometimes we really do miss the snow, so go play in it a little for us.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's December already!!!

Time has seen to fly by here and we can hardly believe that the end of the year is so close! We had a great November with some fun activities, although they were slightly curtailed by Erin's attempt at novel writing. Thankfully it is December and she can take a breath to begin to enjoy the Christmas season! But first we'll recount you with some short tales of our Thanksgiving adventures.

On Thanksgiving Day we decided to treat ourselves to a very non-traditional feast (really, when will we get the chance again?) and we went out for lunch at an Indian place our friends had raved about. It's called Mumbai Grill and it really was excellent - we can hardly wait to go back! We feasted on 3 kinds of naan bread (butter, garlic & cheese), John enjoyed eating mound after mound of rice with his hands, Michael ordered Butter Chicken Tikki Masala, and Erin had chicken with a thick cashewnut paste.

And of course we had to get a couple of mango lassi to drink! Woo! It was a serious Thanksgiving dinner. I, for one, enjoyed not having to cook anything, just enjoy time with my boys (and I'm sure baby-girl enjoyed it in my tummy), John loves it anytime we can get out and he can show off for other people, and Michael wanted something exotic and different, so we all had a really great time.

The weekend after Thanksgiving we went to a REAL dinner with other Americans at our church and seriously pigged out on turkey, ham (real ham in a Muslim country is a rare treat and we were embarrassingly thrilled about it), sweet potatoes, salads, rolls, pumpkin pie, the works! We don't know how people got half of the stuff, but most of them work for the American Embassy here so they can probably get things shipped that we can't.

John hardly ate a thing... he was just so excited to be around a gaggle of screaming kids. This is a pic of him with his favorite friend Zach. He's the only boy at church close to his age (they're about 6 months apart).

I think he got tired of it eventually, though. At one point I went to check on him (the apartment of the family that hosted the dinner was HUGE and I had to wander a bit to find him) and eventually I walked past a darkened bathroom and started to walk away and I heard him whimpering for me in there. He had apparently wanted to play hide-and-seek but no one knew it. I have absolutely no idea how long he had been waiting in there, poor thing. Sometimes it's so hard being a kid when you can't talk yet.

All right, that's probably enough adventures for one day. Although it is probably worth mentioning about the HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force) rally that went on a few weeks ago. Consisting mostly of Indians that gathered, some media outlets reported as many as 10,000 supporters came, hoping to deliver a petition to the British Embassy on a Sunday afternoon. The Malaysian government was not happy about their plans and had vehemently forbidden them from gathering, suggesting something about inciting racial tension. People gathered anyway and the riot police were called in, eventually using chemical-laced water hoses and tear gas to drive the rally away. Honestly, we were hardly aware of the goings-on, except for the fact that our apartment (and our church) are located about a mile away from the British Embassy. The street where it is located was entirely blocked off and anyone (especially Indian) attempting to enter it was immediately arrested. Wisely, our church leaders decided to cancel meetings that day and instead encouraged us to worship in our homes. Not the least of their concerns, I'm sure, was the fact that we have quite a few Indians in our congregation who would have had considerable trouble just getting to church, regardless of whether or not they were participants in the rally. As we watched and read about some of these things unfolding, we were reminded how grateful we are for the country where we were born. There are many rights, responsibilities and blessings that we often took for granted in the United States and we recognize more and more that it really is a promised land. Just another thing to add to our growing list of things to be thankful for.
As always, click on the picture below for our family photos. Once again, they're mostly of John... it's a good thing we're having another kid soon because we need someone else to liven up our photo albums.
Nov 2007