Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Celebrate!

Hello from Kota Kinabalu!
I can't believe we have been here for almost a week!  Life since we landed in Malaysia has been a whirlwind, but I'm doing my best to take everything in!  So far, we have spent time exploring KK, meeting new people, growing together as a country group, trying new food, and relaxing in the mountains.  We just got back from a couple days at Mt. Kinabalu.  It was a wonderful way to get over jet lag and get to know one another a little better.  (Not to mention, a nice break from the heat of KK)

One of the topics we have been looking at through our in-country orientation has been how we process new experiences.  We have been looking at judgements and expectations of our experience and how we can recognize those.  One of my favorite pieces of this discussion has been how to respond to a new experience.  Our country coordinator encouraged us to celebrate any new experience we have, regardless of if the outcome is good or bad.  There is a reason to celebrate the experience!  So, with that mindset in place, I have had tons of reasons to celebrate since landing in KK!  First of all, I made it to Malaysia.  Celebrate!  I have tried so many new foods, some have been the best things I've tasted and some have left something to be desired.  Still celebrating!  I successfully completed washing and hang-drying clothes on the roof of the seminary we are staying at with the added bonus of a beautiful mountain view.  Celebrate!  I learned that some of Malaysia's national pastimes include shopping and eating... seriously celebrating!  I attended a worship service in Malay.  Celebrate!  I wandered through the street market that sets up each Sunday.  Celebrate!  I hiked through the jungle in the mountains of Malaysia.  Celebrate!

So, you get the picture.  I am having so many new experiences, and am finding that the best way for me to process all that is happening is to celebrate everything!  We have 2 days back here in KK before we take off to Kuala Lumpur for our language training for 2 weeks!  Thank you so much for your love and prayers as I get acclimated to the other side of the world!  It has been a wonderful experience so far and is certainly giving me lots of reasons to celebrate!

Kota Kinabalu shore line: fishermen bring in their daily catches late afternoon to sell in the market

The view from our villa at the J. Residence in Mt. Kinabalu

The YAGM Malaysia team, ready to conquer Mt. Kinabalu!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Counting Down!

Hello sweet friends!
I am down to my final days in South Carolina before I begin my year long journey in Malaysia.  (My mom has called it a "mission extravaganza", which I really like... makes it sound like there's a party happening.)  The packing has been underway for awhile now.  As some of y'all may know, I tend to forget really important things when packing.  One spring break, I didn't pack shoes.  I almost always forget my toothbrush.  I forgot shirts once.  So I have about 5 lists going on to make sure nothing too important gets left behind.  And, I've recruited the help of my dear sister several times now to help me consolidate things.  It is coming along and I am just about finished!
I realize I still haven't shared publicly what my placement is for the year, so let me fill y'all in!  I will be living in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia which is on the eastern side of the country.  I have two placement sites: in the mornings I will be working at a Chinese speaking kindergarten as an assistant and in the afternoons I will be at a residential care and vocational training center for differently abled adults.  I could not be more excited about these placements!  Working at Lutheridge for most of my summers in college helped create a special place in my heart for both of these groups of people.  They both share God's love the so freely and openly, and I am so excited to learn from them!  I will be living with an older lady in the church, so I am excited to have a "host grandmother" to help me get involved in my new community!
I feel like while I have my lists to check off and have been reading up on my town, there still are so many unknowns as I go into this year.  People will ask me questions, often for me to respond with, "I'm not sure."  I think, though that so much of the YAGM process thus far has been a practice in faith.  I applied to the YAGM program, not to a country.  I had to go into the discernment weekend being open to going to two very different parts of the world.  When I said "yes" to Malaysia, I still did not know where I would be living, who I would live with, or what my job would be.  Each step of the process has taught me to be confident that whatever comes next, I will be taken care of--to have faith in God's call.  So while I may not know if I will have wifi in my house (which right now I say that's probably doubtful just because I know my grandmother here wouldn't have any use for wifi in her house), or if I will have air conditioning (my answer is "I hope so"), or where we will stay when we leave the country for our retreats, that whatever the situation turns out to be, I will learn and grow from the experience. 
This is by NO means to say that I am not anxious about what is coming up.  I do keep having some reoccurring dreams.  Since my hair is brown now (I figured keeping up hilights in Malaysia probably wasn't the best use of my money) I have this dream that because my hair in my passport picture and driver's license is blonde, that I'm not allowed into the country. So clearly, I am experiencing some mild stress about what's to come :)  And despite my hardest efforts to put off goodbyes, they're beginning, and that is pretty difficult.  I keep thinking about the poor soul that's going to be next to me on the flight from Columbia to Chicago.  They don't know the emotional mess that's coming their way.

I leave Wednesday morning, so prayers for goodbyes to go as well as any goodbye can be would be much appreciated.  And, that as I do grow more anxious about what is to come, that I will be reminded to have faith in the God who has called me into this year of service, that I will be taken care of. 
Tonight I am thankful to have so many wonderful and supportive family and friends that make saying goodbye something that is difficult.
xoxo