Maybe I haven't posted in awhile because I've been busier, or maybe its because things don't seem out of the ordinary as often. Either way, it has been awhile, and there has been lots going on!
As far as work, I've been teaching at both of my sites these days. In kindergarten I am still assisting in two classes, and am finding myself planning and teaching more and more as time passes. At Cheshire Home, I've been teaching both English as well as attempting Malay (there is a big key word: attempt) to our bakery students, all of whom are deaf or have a hearing impairment in this batch. The biggest thing to work on with their Malay is sentence structure, because the way you sign something is not necessarily the way you write it. While I sometimes don't feel too adequate to teach Malay, I am really appreciative of people I work with who are helping to teach me and helping to teach the class. Also, I am learning sign language along the way, which is pretty exciting! (It is Malay sign language though, so I'll be interested to see how it compares to American sign language.)
Speaking of teaching, I've also been working with Girl's Brigade (like our Girl Scouts in America) here in KK. The past few weeks, I have started teaching a first aid class to the girls to help them get a badge for the upcoming badge ceremony. Last weekend, I helped out with a Girl's Brigade camp on wetlands conservation and learned that KK is home to a pretty beautiful wetlands area! I'm hoping to do something "very American" with the girls before I leave to do a little cultural exchange, so if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear from you!
So just work and other activities themselves have kept me busy. It is nice though to be involved and to learn about yourself, the things that are life-giving and the things that are not so much, what you are good at and where your "growing edges" may be.
There is a twist in the year that many of you may have learned of by now, but I did want to share here, too. I sent an email to those of you who receive my newsletter about YAGM Malaysia's end-of-service date. As you may have noticed, be it in my newsletters or through conversations with me or my family, immigration in Malaysia has been a frequent topic in this year's country group. Unfortunately, we have had volunteers as well as other ELCA personnel in the country flagged by immigration, which means they have either been asked to leave Malaysia for a certain amount of time to prove they are not working here or at least been called into the immigration office to talk with officials.
*I will stop here and say 3 things: 1. We are not in any danger, nor are we breaking any laws in being here. We are not working in Malaysia/making Malaysian money nor are we here to convert people. Which brings me to number 2. This is not happening because we are Christian. Immigration policies and procedures are in a season of crack-down and we happen to be on the end of those more rigid procedures. (Does this sound like seasons of immigration crack-down in America? I think so.) 3. We are not getting kicked out of Malaysia. This is a YAGM/ELCA decision to conclude due to the uncertainty of the ability for our country group to successfully obtain visas through July. If you have any questions about this, please message me or email me. I would be happy to clarify or just talk about it further.*
The length and complexity of what I just shared shows you that this isn't an easy situation. But, because of this complexity, the YAGM program/ELCA has decided for the YAGM Malaysia service period to conclude in May. It is hard and unforeseen news. Therefore, goodbye happenings are starting, closing travel and plans are in the works, and a lot of emotions are happening all at once. So, in May, our country group will travel to Thailand for our closing country retreat. From there, our group will spread out a bit. We have some volunteers traveling back towards the US, some volunteering in Indonesia, some in Hong Kong, and some in Thailand. I will be one of two volunteers in Bangkok, Thailand serving with a program similar to YAGM through the Presbyterian Church (USA). I will be there for about 5 weeks, then will make my way back to the US. I do not want to leave Malaysia in May, however, I am so thankful for the opportunities that have presented themselves to continue service in a new way.
Even though plans, mindsets, and realities of life right now are not at all what I expected or really desired, even though the program is ending early and there have been twists and turns of various kinds throughout this year, life is still so good. As I hope you get from the first part of this post, I am so happy right now. Though unexpected and uncontrollable program things have affected this year, they have not and will not negatively impact how I see the year right now nor how I will look back on it in the future. Much of the sadness in leaving early is simply because this year has been full of joy. Some days are really hard and some days are just wonderful, and that's life. And this year of life, I have learned so incredibly much and am thankful for so much.
Thank you for your continued prayers for the program, especially with the upcoming transition.
Peace and Joy!