Monday, May 19, 2008

another world

In my mom's weekly letters from Africa she sometimes highlights the people they meet, occasionally focusing on those who have gone through devastating experiences and how they must adapt to the world as they know it. I was reminded of that today (and also reminded of how blessed my life has been) when Margaret and I went to get a pedicure, of all things. We are heading to Thailand later this week and I thought it would be fun to get pedicures and have cute toes since we'll be barefoot on the beach all week. Going to salons of this type are fairly inexpensive (case in point, we ended up getting manicures and pedicures and it cost us about $30 each) so we left the kids with Michael and went to enjoy our pampering. There were 2 girls helping us, one from India and the other from Sri Lanka, both of whom were outlandishly solicitous and good at their jobs. Both missed their homes, missed their families, their native food, other comforts of home, but the one from Sri Lanka has no hope of ever returning. At least, she hopes never to return. She is here under refugee status because of the intensifying civil war in Sri Lanka. I knew the atmosphere there was unstable, but I was sadly unaware of the danger faced by even civilians because of the fighting going on. Only a few weeks ago there was a bombing that killed several police officers as well as civilians near the capitol. I wondered, initially, about the sometimes ridiculous media that we cling to in the US, the biased slants either toward or against the political party of the day, the microscopic focus that is given to areas of the world where we have a political interest, and the utter neglect that is shown to others simply because it doesn't seem to be the trendy thing to do. (HOW many years has there been repression in Tibet and it's only recently come out on the forefront again because of the Olympics coming up???)

Anyway, my other thoughts lingered on this woman and her prospects in life. Her refugee status will possibly be only good for another year or so, and then the Malaysian government may decide they want her to go back to her home country. What then? She can't go back and she never wants to (although she left her only surviving sister there-- the rest of her family was killed by a bomb when she was 11 years old) but where will she go? Her options are to wander around from country to country, completely destitute and without connections, hoping to achieve refugee status; or she can stay in Malaysia and pray that she never gets picked up by police-- or that if she does, she has enough cash on her to bribe them (usually hundreds of ringgit at a time--the amount she shelled out regularly for 8 months before she was able to secure her refugee status) so they won't send her to jail or, worse, a citizen-run work camp where people are abused or killed indiscriminately and never given their promised reward for the labor they are forced to perform.

Suddenly I felt very small, sitting in my throne-like chair, being waited on by these beautiful women massaging my hands and feet, and I was almost tempted to ask them to sit down, to let us serve them instead. We left them a larger-than-usual tip, but it felt like such a ridiculously tiny thing to do, an inadequate way to show concern for our sisters on this earth. So I came away with cute nails and soft feet, but a slightly guilty heart because of my inability to make life better for this woman. Is a little extra cash, a smile and a concerned heart enough to help someone carry a heavy load? Unfortunately, I don't think so. And there are so many with stories like that, people who are fighting to triumph over incredibly odds, and yet most of them keep trying & fighting, showing unconquerable spirit and determination to survive and even thrive under these circumstances. I have to wonder...would I do the same? Would you?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

living the cheap life

So I was reminded another few reasons I love living in Malaysia when Michael's mom & I took the kids downtown to the mall this weekend. Michael's family has been visiting and everyone else went to Vietnam but SOMEBODY didn't want his children gallivanting around a "dangerous" country (phbbt...dangerous shmangerous) so anyway Margaret & I hung out here for the weekend. There is a toll road by our house that connects from our street right to the underground parking of the KLCC mall at the base of the famous Petronas Towers. pay the toll BOTH ways and park for about 2 hours (remember this is absolutely the most popular downtown mall) cost us 8 Ringgit, which is less than $3 US. Not a bad deal for an evening out on the town. Also eating at the food court in the mall, which has everything ranging from local laksa (spicy noodle soup) to sushi to Indian to Thai, is good times as well. This time I opted for the Pad Thai and some bottled water and it cost me less than $4. Not bad, considering it is actually GOOD food and not what you'd usually equate with food court fare.

Still, I'm excited to get some really authentic Pad Thai when we go to Thailand later this week. Mmmm...and some sticky rice with mango, and some pineapple rice, and LOTS of pineapple juice, and BACON! (We relish visiting non-Muslim countries because we can actually eat real pork!) Looking forward to another few glorious days at the beach and hopefully some more scuba diving. We'll post pictures of that next week when we get back.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

working 9 to 5?

So it is 9:33pm and the construction work on the building outside our window is going strong. Obviously it is pitch black outside, but that is why they flip on high-power floodlights, including ones attached to a crane that swings around randomly to focus on various projects going on around the roof. This does not bode well. Not well at all. The last two times this happened, I managed to go to sleep with what basically felt like a flashlight in my face (our bedroom window looks out right on this lovely housing project in the making) and when I woke up around 2am to feed Emily, IT WAS STILL GOING ON. That's right, people. I said 2am. What in the...? Seriously, I am at a loss for words. Who does that? The only other time I have seen construction at that time of night was when Utah was in a mad scramble to finish work on I-15 before the Olympics and they had to work at night because, obviously, people are driving on it during the day. OK, this building is VACANT. It is in a residential area. Their only pressing demand would probably revolve around a lack of labor because they never know when their crew will be hauled away because they are all illegal immigrants from Indonesia.

That reminds me of something else you'd never see in the States. Michael was driving with a friend the other day, coming home on an expressway that we love because it is a toll road and people here are cheap so it is always pretty empty. But still, when we pull in to pay the toll we usually have to sit behind 5 or 6 cars until we can get through. But they have other express lanes where you can scan a card that has money stored on it that will automatically deduct and lift the arm for you to pass, and obviously these lanes are faster than the pay-as-you-are lanes. Anyway, they were going through the express lane and there, waiting in our usual SLLLLLOOOOOOW toll lane was an ambulance, lights flashing, sirens blaring, just sitting behind cars waiting to pay the toll. Oh. My. Heck. I hope whoever was in there didn't bleed to death while they waited for the drivers to PAY THE TOLL!!! The problem is that most hospitals are privately owned, which means their ambulances are private drivers that only go to their specific hospital, even if it's on the other side of town, and people have been known to die while they sit in traffic. Yeah, it's that bad. But seriously, if you had an ambulance for your hospital, don't you think you'd give them an express pass for the toll? Just another reason why we're glad we got a car. (Although I may change my mind about that since we found more roaches in the car. Yes, again. And yes, we already switched the LAST car because it had roaches, so this is the SECOND car we've found them in. I've killed more than my fair share of spiders in my life and I can handle a lot of different bugs, but roaches are not one of those bugs. Yick.)

Anyway, we see stuff on a regular basis that makes us look at each other bemusedly with slightly open mouths while we shake our heads and say, "Well, there's something you don't see every day" so we're happy to share our amusement/horror with you.

Oh, yes, and here are some pictures of my kids because they're cute.

Went to lunch at my friend Jacy's house who helped her aunt cook us the most delicious Indian meal. They fawned over Emily and I had to take a picture of her with her cute Indian auntie.

This is John saying "more jam sandwich pleeeeeease."

This is the adorable face I wake up to in the morning. Michael's face isn't bad to wake up to either, but it's certainly not this fresh at 7am.


Ahhhh...sweet relief. It is 10:07pm and they just switched off all the construction lights. Hallelujah, I am going to bed.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

to the mom lady

my beautiful girl

what am i going to do with these kids?

big man on campus

I wanted to take a few moments to express my appreciation to my own fabulous mother and embarrass her with obscene amounts of gushing about how perfect she is. Ha-ha, kidding mom. But seeing as how it is Mother's Day and I don't get to give her a big hug to thank her for all she's done for me over the years, I thought I'd send out a big virtual hug from me & Michael & her grandgoobers (I mean kids). Seeing as how I'm that much closer to the big 3-0 you'd think I wouldn't be as much in need of my mother's guidance and counsel, but you would be dead wrong. Just this weekend I turned to her in pitiful need, aching for some girl talk and for someone to tell me everything would be all right. Who better to turn to than my mother? And, of course, not only did I come away feeling refreshed (because she did, in fact, let me feel that everything would be all right) but also motivated to be a better person because that's what she does...inspires me to be better because she is better. Funnily enough she also told me to stop being so prideful and basically to get over myself, but it is a major tribute to her sensitivity and love that she was able to word it in such a way it wasn't until quite a while after our conversation that I realized she had done so. And she really only has the ability to do that because I know she has been there before, she has found herself desperate or lacking faith or strength or desire or endurance and yet she has pulled through it (although she will be the first to tell you that it is with the help of the Savior and not her own abilities that she has done this) and so I know her counsel is tried & true. That's why I love my mom. Not because she's perfect, but because she's not perfect, but she's trying to be. And she's willing to let me watch her and walk carefully in her footsteps to see if I can be just as awesome as she is someday.
I love you, mom.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

foreign language lessons

Yesterday John & I were practicing his alphabet on the computer, when suddenly he jumped up and started shouting "pih!" "pih!" We're usually pretty good at deciphering his jabbering but occasionally it takes a while to catch on.

Me: What?
J: (excited) pih!
Me: Pih? What's pih?
J: (frustrated now) Mommy, pih!
Me: Ok, John can you show me?
J: (grabs my finger and pulls me off couch) pih!
(we walk together to the middle of the room, he drops my finger and starts twirling around)
Me: Oh, you want to SPIN!
J: (excited again) pih! pih!!
(we spin in circles for 3 or 4 minutes until we are too dizzy and giggly to do any more)

This, I think, is why I became a mother.

Friday, May 02, 2008

a taste of home

Being a stay-at-home-mom leaves me a fair amount of time to surf the internet for fun stuff (oh, wait I mean it leaves me time to play with my kids! and sometimes feed them!) But in-between the playing and the feeding I like finding people's blogs and reading about their hobbies, especially when they're good at what they do. So here is a really cool website I like: PIONEERWOMAN and this specific link is for a really freaky recipe that looks just bizarre enough to try it...Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings. My first reaction was something like...eeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwww...seeing as how I have never consumed an entire can of Mountain Dew, much less used it as a main ingredient in a recipe. But the pictures and description are really what get me, so I am dying to try these. However, there is a problem: I live in a country where I am unable to buy either refrigerated crescent rolls OR Mountain Dew.

Therefore, I am giving one of my loyal readers (out of the whole 12 of you) the assignment to make these for me and then post a comment or email me about how amazing/disgusting they are. Then I will know if I need to bother bookmarking that page to make them whenever I get back in the States. OK, ok, it's really already bookmarked, but I'm drooling over them and really need someone to tell me that they're worth the wait.

And since I am living in a tropical, curry-filled country, here is a more local recipe to give you and idea of the things we eat sometimes.

Chicken Curry Soup

Heat oil in a large pot, saute some fresh grated ginger, couple cloves of garlic, and 2 or 3 chopped green chiles with chopped chicken breast. Cook until chicken is done. Add a few Tbsp. curry paste (we use a sort of sweet honey-chicken curry sauce). Stir in a Tbsp. each of vinegar, fish sauce, and sugar. Add about 4 cups of chicken broth (maybe that's 2 cans?) and a can of coconut milk and mix it all really well together. Finally scoop in about 4 cups of cooked rice (or until it is more thick like stew than runny like soup) and serve!

I know that is a REALLY specific recipe with the amounts and all, but that is how I usually cook here, which is why Michael has lost so much weight since we've been here. If something doesn't turn out there's no desire for seconds. Well, life's an adventure right? OK, let me know if you try the curry soup. And also get cracking on those dumplings. Thank you.