Opening The Flood Gates

Back in Chiang Mai on the Lahu TLCC Campus a couple weeks ago as I lay in bed trying to force myself to sleep yet being flooded with extreme joyous energy, beautiful creative thoughts and passionate ideas, I realized I do not have enough time to day dream. My mind feels like it is going to exploooode! I have so many thoughts, feelings, perceptions, misconceptions, paradoxes, images, smells that I am processing! I can literally feel the ideas and concepts twisting and tossing together in the layer of subconscious, baking my lenses of this world. A recurring thought of mine this past week has been that I am afraid to open up a door to my thoughts, picturing an overpowering flood washing over me and never ending. Today it is pouring rain. I worked on some MMF Program Evaluation Paperwork after sitting in on the weekly staff meeting and a delicious lunch at a cute “forang” loved restaurant. I feel a little rested, having spent a good half an hour chatting on Facebook, marveling at the different paths people take to bring light to this world and letting the VERY LOUD RAIN flood out all the jumble in my mind. For the first time since I’ve been here I feel calm and grounded. The large hard surfaced bed surrounded by a swooping mosquito net in the corner of two windows which at night I toss and turn in, plagued by sooo many itchy bugs, is in this moment a very very peaceful space.

Our first staff meeting was last Monday. We have now officially been interning for a week though it seems like an eternity. Space and time are operating on very different frames here and it is difficult to align in a balanced way. The mornings go by very slowly, the evenings in the blink of an eye. There is a continuous paradox of feeling like everything is going by very fast and yet taking foreever to do so.

We have been working at the Migrant Child Center which is an MMF(Mekong Minority Foundation) Program. The center is run by Samula and Memali, two immigrant burmese woman who tend to about 16-24 Burmese children under the Montessori system. I cannot express my amazement in the workings of this program. I am still unsure of how much of the sweetness and attentiveness of the children is linked to the program itself, how much to Burmese, Thai or Asian culture and how much is simply due to the soothing presence yet firm reactiveness of Samula and Memali.

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The first days it was difficult to know what to do. The status of intern throws me off as I want to meet and go beyond expectations. Though in this context I was sooo unsure of what those expectations were or if I was expected to wow by just aparessing great work without being told how or what would help or benefit. I had to go back to the idea of missions, of “owning” poverty. That we want to DO to help but often that is less than helpful, and yet we feel uncomfortable not actively engaging in an activity that rewards or sense of self accomplishment. Still, just being here, percent with the kids, smiling, helping if possible without language is what we are doing. It’s ok to feel useless. I’m trying to shift my understanding of what we see as “useful” and to let go of those expectations I expect others to have of me. We haven’t been to the childreIMG_1901n center since Thursday and I miss the kids!!! We will be back there only two more days… Harsh reality of short term involvement. Need to conciliate the wonderful opportunity of the blessing of simply being with these children and Samula and Memali.      IMG_1793            IMG_1776IMG_1834 IMG_1807

Thursday Bethany and I will be sitting in on the monthly MMF meeting which I am sure will be extremely insightful and helpful in understanding the process of the different programs being established and managed, how they are welcomed and such… Also most likely very long and perhaps frustrating win having to apply office etiquette, our status being pretty jul; not really being in  a position which is allowed to take peoples time and ask questions about random things (or seemingly random to those who are operating in a particular mindset and only after a particular goal)… Anyways the world! Today as I zoned out in the meeting, (it was a long Thai stretch) I thought about this experiencing. I thought about Bethany’s blogging. How well she seems to find a meaning to everything she is experiencing. I was thinking about needing to write and ardently searching for a meaning, for a framework, for a leading thread of sense to tie all these CRAZY THINGS together. Nothing makes sense. I thought about our meeting last Thursday and Friday. MMF had visiting Program Directors from one of their main donor agencies, Cedar Fund. Bethany and I had the opportunity of sitting in on a meeting  Thursday and joining the site visit on Friday.On Thursday, Burmese migrant worker MMF volunteers came to the office to speak of what they have been working on and what challenges they have faced and had to deal with. During this meeting I might have committed slight faux pas in office etiquette but I could really not shut my mouth. I kept on thinking of Ajun Christa’s rants on how much she wished people involved in NGOs would take her class and had the framework for what they are doing. I wanted to ask more questions about the migrant community and the interactions within it but it seemed unwanted. Today the main thought in looking back on these was of wanting to have the status of someone who is listened to. Or more like to come back and be a person that people allow for there to be time spent on. I want to be the person who is allowed to ask questions and think about these, not the one who cannot speak out the questions and thoughts that want to burst out. Friday we were taken to the Office of Social Welfare and Labor Protection. THIS WAS AWESOME. I felt so so so privileged to be sitting in on this meeting. I was marveling  that this place is where it happens. These people make decisions, make accessions, see what can be done and DO IT! It was so inspiring and refreshing to see the relationship between the MMF staff and the Director of the ministry. We then visited a Hmong Village in Chiang Kong where MMF has implemented numerous leadership trainings and was to have one the very weekend. I was so blown away by the beauty of the place.IMG_1918   IMG_1945

We crossed a stream to get to a beautiful church on a little hill top where we were greeted by a spirited, playful bantering pastor full of energy and laughter. We sat in the church and were brought heaps of delicious fruits which he at the end told us we couldn’t leave without eating all of. We were all introduced (apparently Pastor Kim thinks I am more beautiful than the Leah in the bible) and Pastor Kim spoke of his community. I was completely entranced by his description of his culture, of how the Church has engaged with the community and how very very real the spiritual world is for them. Pastor Kim told us of how they have engaged in 19 organized debates with the witch doctors in the community and that they have only lost twice and have been tied twice. I excitedly imagined what debates would look like in this culture. Pastor IMG_1935Kim spoke of the main concept they use in engaging with the witch doctors has to due with the Hmong belief that the soul is everlasting and that upon death, witch doctors guide this soul back to its source. Pastor Kim tells the witch doctors that this notion of the soul’s eternity is in the Bible, that this is the source of the witch doctors beliefs. We were handed a guest book that I wrote in, thinking the whole time of how much I want to return here and spend time learning of their spiritual and cultural ways. IMG_1938

Saturday Bethany and I met up with Patricia Wolf, a perky french ex pat who had the kindness to take us around on an adventure. We were hoping to see more of Chiang Rai but were so worn out. Apparently even after a coffee as Anna, a french girl who is right off the boat commented we are “unable of enjoying life because the energy is sucked out of us”. or something of the sort. Patty had planned on taking us to the Opium Museum IMG_1969in Mae Sai, which we had already been to so instead she took us to see the elephants at the Karen village! I was very excited when I saw them up close and we got on a ride around the block. The excitement slightly died off as I thought of this elephant walking on the side of the road for our eterntainment. I asked the driver’s name, his elephants name and age (25!). And as I watched him sit with his legs crossed on the elephants head, his hand behind the ears I longed for a context in which I could do the same. IMG_1962Not stupidly sit on a makeshift car seat getting stares from the local souvenir shop keepers. Patty then took us to lunch at a resort next to the elephants she wanted to check out. 950 a night for the bungalo, 1000 for the room she energetically stated “good price, very nice”. I was a little complacent. The food was good but I miss Pawnee’s cooking. Patty told us about all the adventures we could go on for good prices: take a boat to Laos, go on a jungle elephant trek for only 2000 Baht. Anna the next day told me how she has pegged me as a “aventurière frustrée”. Yes. definitely. I wish I could go off on random adventures, get lost, meet crazy people, have a fire dance, sleep under the stars… Right now though I am here and I am happy, things are not the way I prefer them but it is good to affirm yourself and find ways to be yourself in each situation. I am learning a lot and seeing a lot that I would not in a different context. And the other reality is that I actually do not really feel the urge to go adventuring as I usually would because I like to let the culture overwhelm me. And here, I do not feel that it is the culture to do such things. I am observing the culture and not wishing to make it into something else of my own liking. So adventure is awesome, but this is my adventure now and I will let the wind blow through me and be still and dance and jump when I feel it flowing. IMG_1982

I have been so so so so intrigued, fascinated and weirded out by the ex pat community. I came to Thailand stoked to experience new cultures, fascinated by the tribal communities, by Burma, by every day thai life and Buddhist practices. I have been extremely surprised by how constructed of an ex pat society there is. I inadvertently was aware of this when I was at the pie shop in Chiang Rai. The feeling of a nostalgic sentiment for colonial times, a feeling resembling of the African Queen. I hadn’t yet realized how this is not a lost sentiment but something VERY VERY PRESENT. Thailand is overflowing with tourists. I was surprised to realize how many french tourists there are. Interacting with the Buddhist Monk and now with Patty I am not sure if this is the only such connection but there is a definite link in French and Thai culture of shutting off deep personal emotions or importance of those in connection with others, a sense of fatalism and a deep reference of elitism. The French see Thailand as a get away, one that offers answers to their issues but still in the comfort of cinism, with the interesting part of exoticism. The tourist industry of adventure is catered to foreigners longing for this exoticism. Makes me think of Bride and Prejudice and Lalita’s rants “You think this is India?”. I never understood how real this disconnect and illusion is.

I have been feeling the urge to go around SHATTERING GLASSES. I have a vision of people holding up mirrors, individuals who are not only looking at themselves but at others in their midsts. The mirror create the illusion that the whole world is this way. The people are not touching though. I want to break these mirrors. And yet I love the idea of reflections and mirrors as a way to understand and look into the reflection and see a different meaning, learn a story, learn a medicine. This vision is not totally explained. I have mixed feelings about the ex pat community. It is also interesting to see  or feel the differences here and in Chiang Mai. I keep thinking about Tender is the Night and how I was enthralled by Fitzgerald’s portrayal of the ex pats in the South of France; how I found a place of understanding and excitement in these characters. It felt like home. Flash forward to now and the understanding I had for these erring eccentric characters does not necessarily transfer over. The international church we went to our first day in Chiang Rai was a trip. Seriously. I was pretty uncomfortable to start. I almost felt panicky. I’m not always sure what this feeling is but I tend to seek prayer whenever it arises. Sometimes I think its just a jolt of the Spirit crying to be let out, but when I first feel it it seems more like an attack. The church service was very out of the ordinary, which is how I like them. What blew my mind was in how this is weird; yet for them it is normal and they wouldn’t necessarily be open to a different layer of weird. I’m not sure they wouldn’t, I felt pretty at home once I started interacting with people. I guess what was surprising was how this place seemed like a different world but because there were enough people from a different world, it created a new, accepted world. I wonder what the impressions of our Church in France are. The second church we went to with Patty (she took us to an English speaking church because we wouldn’t understand the thai… :/ ) was “big”. There were many missionary families and people from China and Vietnam, college students and kids… It was very diverse, worship was in two languages, the message was well said and true and yet I just didn’t feel it. Writing out “there were many missionaries” maybe made me understand the issue… haha. I want to break the mirrors… The message was about leaving our wordly culture and being Kingdom culture (not in those terms.. ) . I do not want to act as the outsider coming in and saying what is wrong. Yet I want the spirit to flow. And maybe its my own fault for not letting it flow freely yet when I speak of Kingdom culture I see weird stuff that we don’t expect and I want to be weird and happy and crazy… I DONT SEE THIS HERE. This community is like “lets not worry about cultural norms but only to the extent that its comfortable for us and maybe a little uncomfortable or awkward”. I WANT MORE lets push it farther and just CALL ON THE SPIRIT TO FLOOD THE GATES THAT SEPARATE US ALL. I’m so tired of standing when I’m told, of snoozing off during worship. WHEN DID PEOPLE STOP DANCING TO WORSHIP? WHY IS THAT NOT A THING? SERIOUSLY!? If we’re talking about doing what’s in the BIBLE ITS IN THE FREAKING BIBLE.

K. My rant is over haha. But really ex pats; let the gates flood, thank you for your work it’s awesome, don’t stay in your comfortable recreation of a western  world bubble. I’ve noticed it’s uncomfortable for me at times. People suppose that because I  go to school in America and grew up in France that I must be interested in doing certain things certain ways. I’m really not interested in eating bread, in going to Starbucks, in going to english speaking churches… People seem surprised when they hear what we’ve been doing, where we eat, what we don’t eat…

It has been oh oh oh so sweet to spend evenings at Grace Home. Anna and Ubé, a Lahu couple hold Grace Home, a place where there are about 50 kids from 7 to 17 about that sleep in a couple “houses”. I can’t express how soothing this place is. How much of a sacred space it is. It is so filled with the spirit of God, it takes my breath away. From the start the kids came up to us, arms outstretched for hugs before they even spoke. The first day Abé ran through the rooms and showed us the pigs introducing us to a forang man standing by the kids “Graham” before beckoning us upstairs. “They’ll steal your heart away” were some of his first words to us.

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Abé made us coffee and we sat at the living room table of the second floor apartment with a beautiful view of the green mountains and blue sky. We were introduced to Lori, the wife of Graham. A couple from Australia who have been coming to Grace home for 6 years. We confusedly rushed back downstairs into Abé’s truck where the kids had already pilled into the back. One of the most Thai things I feel like I’ve ever done. “EXERCISE!” Walk along the beautiful river, with different activities on the side, a garden and trees: tennis, basketball, that thing that’s volleyball but actually kicking. Grammas listening to thai music and doing their slow steps. All with children holding your hands and pulling you forward. After the walk you can do the speed dance routing . I got pretty crazy with it the second and third time. “Sweatastic” as Bethany would say. Quelle bonne humeur! We head back buzzing with endorphins and the windows down, sticking out my hand which gets grabbed by kids on the back who smile perkishly to me. Lahu dinner with Anna, Abé, Lori and Graham is so comforting. I loooove me some steamed pumpkin!

It has been such a blessing to be in this home, we never want to leave. We are placed exactly where we need to be. Lori and Graham being at Grace Home have offered us the great opportunity to engage with Anna and Abé in an intimacy we might never had explored without them. At the night market after Anna, Abé, Lori and Graham came back from a fay of visiting the Lahu villages, Anna ordered food for exhausted Bethany and Leah. We jokingly called her “Mé”.. but the feeling is real and she laughed sweetly.

Graham and Lori evoke many things for me as they are dedicated parents of 5 grown children but have also been the loving foster parents of many children. I often thank them for what they are doing as after having studied intimate violence and been so linked to teen homelessness I know the difficulty of finding good foster parents and of being good foster parents. They are so sweet and playful, open yet with boundaries of personal sharing that make me feel that everything that is shared is very deep.

We have not seen Grace Home or the Burmese kids since Thursday and I am missing them. We have been feeling very weary and I think this is amplified by the lack of emotional well-being that we get from the presence of the children and of our Lahu and Australian family. I am very excited for tomorrow!

Our last class with Dr Amnuy, we had us respond to a series of really interesting quotes. I have had a recurring thought that I only just know pinpointd the original forming of to one of my responses. As I realized this, I grew very thankful for this exercise he had us engage in and it has got me ready for something I have been thinking about. (more on that vey soon 🙂 ) . SO One of my recurring thoughts this past week  has been that I WANT TO SUCCEED. I WANT TO PAVE A NEW PATH. I do not want to be afraid, and even do this in the dark so that if I fail no one will notice. I BELIEVE WE CAN LIVE ANOTHER WAY. I BELIEVE WE CAN DREAM AND ATTAIN. I WANT TO SUCCEED IN THIS TO SHOW OTHERS THERE IS ANOTHER WAY. I don’t care if people do something the way I do it, I just want people to do it the way the want it SHATTER THAT STUPID MIRROR YOU’RE HOLDING. Look inside!

Today I was very happy because in the meeting we were asked in which way we are acting out our life as ambassadors for Christ. We were asked by Pao to meditate alone about this for 10 minutes and then report back. I was being pushed to share and was very happy that I followed that push and as I saw heads nodding I was encouraged.

I thought a lot about what I have been experiencing. The tensions. The main ones being that I want to be ON FIRE for God. And yet there is a reality of often things seem forced. We are not actually feeling the spirit, we are expecting something else of it. ANd we think that being on fire looks a certain way. It is uncomfortable to be still. It is sometimes disheartening to not feel a great big woof of spirit. The tension lays in accepting where we are. Yet in this ACCEPTING we must not stop EXPECTING. This is a difficult balance. I have been growing in acceptance of where I am. I have been trying to expect. Also, in order to grow we must not accept that it is difficult and here but not yet. We must not force. I have adopted the vision of a garden. I am the garden. It has been weeded out and raked and seeds have been planted and I are being watered and I am so impatient to see the beautiful trees and fruits and flowers that will come. I am soooo impatient. I keep on seeing a vision of a person that I will be but that I am not yet. And yet I think in looing forward I am not taking into account alll the little tiny blessings and spirit flows that surround and bless me every day. I am not seeing my own eternity and marveling in it each and every day. I want to and want to be in the Kingdom now and every day and I shall continue knocking and praying and asking . And when I realize how filled I am I BETTER OWN UP TO ALL THAT PLEADING.

Flood Gates Open Yo.

Please pray for good health and protection. Sleep and bugs and food.

Thank you for all the love you surround us with each day!!! Would love to hear the thoughts and words you have had in reading this or thinking of us. 🙂

In Love & Light.

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Living In Light: A spiritual Journey

(Paper for class with Ajun Chulee)

BEWARE SPIRITUAL STATEMENTS AHEAD. DONT READ IF YOU CANT HANDLE.

If I were to summarize into one statement what I have learned in my four years of college it would have to be that God works in mysterious ways.
This learning has been a continuous one. I keep on getting surprised and realizing that through everything: every experience, every prayer, every emotion I am being transformed. I truly am being led. The beauty in our God is in this incredible balance we share with Him. We have, no matter how or when accepted Him as our Savior, as the ruler of our life. Yet we have complete free will. This includes continuously making mistakes, hurting ourselves and others; missing the target. The beauty is that through this, God still manages to act. Like an underlying current that carries us even if we swim the wrong way, He is always supporting us. The salt in the ocean keeps us afloat though we may feel totally lost in the immensity of it, and may never turn upright to float well, we may simply always keep our head in the water or tire ourselves battling waves and tides. We are afraid of it all. No matter what, we cannot dissociate ourselves from this intricate part of our humanity.
I am a synchronized swimmer. I can assert that continuously floating upright is tiring physically but also emotionally. The more difficult you start thinking it is, the harder you make it. Furthermore the reality is that there are various factors in the water that make it difficult for you to keep afloat.

In applying for college, I had to write essays about what I hoped I would learn and gain from this experience and what I knew would be challenging. My freshman year

I felt truly lost. Part of me thought that in knowing the difficulties lying ahead, I was immune to them. It was in writing a reflection paper in my Christian Perspectives on World History class that I gained perspective and insight into how my perceptions had been wrong and my reactions were not controlled. I did not act in a way that actually reflected the way in which I wanted to be seen. I was living in fear. I had been hurt and scared and felt rejected, I cycled into a vicious cycle of perpetuating the feelings that I had first been hurt by. How foolish to reenact something that you yourself had been hurt by.

Though I understood this my first year I was not able to end the cycle. I was still acting out of fear. We are very aware of the changeability of the world. We are afraid of admitting that we do not control any of it, we try to fight for our “freedom” but we are truly clinging to something to call our own. These things we cling to eventually slip away from us. And you fall down hard. This is what happened my second year of college. I truly surrendered and admitted that I was lost without God. The magnificence in falling was that I realized I was fearing for no reason. There was nothing to be afraid of. God caught me in his arms and instead of fighting the waves I was basked into the comforting embrace of the current.

Still; letting go is difficult. My third year I think of as gardening. God pulled out all the weeds from my life: unhealthy relationships and habits. I was still a little afraid. To this day I still feel a little sad and lonely. But I have surrendered and I trust. I cannot clearly see what God has planned for me. But what is there to fear? I know the end of this life. How can I fear loneliness or lack of security be it material or physical when I know the things that matter. Things matter in light of eternity. What does it serve me to fear

whether or not I will have a successful job or money or someone who loves me? God has a plan for me and I must only let him guide me. The most difficult and yet most rewarding part of this is in how surrendering and admitting we do not control leads us to become more aware of the Holy Spirit within us. There is a part of me that is afraid of making a mistake when acting on what I believe is the Holy Spirit. Because much of the time these are not things that can be explained in what our society deems “rational” ways.

The greatest adventure I have come across in this life is learning to understand the Spirit within me. There is a great spiritual learning that is not tapped into in many cultures and that for some reason has somewhat faded from Christianity. I believe this is the work of the enemy: fearing the power that we have within us and fearing the conciliation that can come in spiritual connection and understanding between the people of the world.

I firmly believe in the value of religions and philosophies other than Christianity. In her book God’s Many-Splendored Image, Nonna Verna Harrison speaks sweetly of the presence of God in each and every human being. Growing up in different cultures I have inherently always seen between certain lines. God has placed in me a deep-seated love and yearning to interact and humbly observe and learn from different cultures. It is difficult to express yet amazing to begin to fathom the infinite possibilities of human development. These different worldviews and philosophies, emotional expressions and ways of human interaction all reflect facets of God’s personality. I believe that in interacting and striving to understand the deep differences in cultures and humans, we can discover more of the Holy One. Furthermore, His truest deepest trait is love and it is in coming together humbly and connecting through differences and perhaps pain and difficulty that love flourishes and pleases Our Father.

In particular I am fascinated by Buddhism. Ancient religions such as animism and Hinduism also awake in me a deep emotional response. This emotional response is linked to many things in my own heart and experience. In my examination of it, I believe I have come to understand that it is linked to two main elements. The first being my fascination with the human response to the divine. I am amazed and moved that it is inherently human to yearn for something greater. Yet this emotion is so strong and tinged with grief because in this beauty of human worship and prostration the target is missed. I grieve as my Father grieves for his misdirected children.

Added to this grief is the realization of my own rejection of God at certain times in my life. I am only able to now grieve with my Father because of certain paths I have travelled. I used to have a certain repulsion to what I saw as “forcing our view” on others: “Who am I to tell them how to live?” I thought. On a mission trip to Taiwan, visiting a local church the pastor’s story helped me. He told the story of a missionary woman giving out flyers for a church event at the subway. A woman confronted her in anger “Why do you Christians always annoy us? All the other people from different religions leave each other alone!” The missionary spoke at once, pointing to the young child next to the woman “Is this your child?” the woman nodded. “How would you feel if this child called me or that woman over there or over there mother instead of you?”. This story had a strong impact on me. It helped me put together the experience and truth I have learned and gave me a framework of application as to why we share the love of God with others and what is appropriate in what situation.

The second element in my response is in my admiration for the spiritual wisdoms that are expressed. As I stated earlier, I believe that Christians can learn much from other peoples’ knowledge and that in coming humbly to others and recognizing worth the Glory of God can be felt. I believe that in the practicing of these spiritual truths, these individuals are on the path of being able to have the one true God revealed to them.

It is in examining these feelings yet in experiencing the reality of human interpretation of religion that I come to accept my own response and responsibility in interacting with religions. Coming to Thailand and learning about Buddhism, my first realization was simply “Humans are Humans”. There is a difference between what is religious ideology and what is religious practice. I was able to strengthen my own stance in seeing that though some Buddhist ideas are pleasing, their missed application seems to reveal to me the missed truth of this approach.

Still, I have often shied away from such claims because I am aware that there are also ways in which Christianity is not practically lived out as we theoretically express it. Because of my admiration of other cultures, because of pragmatism, because OF FEAR I often have shut my mouth. However I am now allowing myself the space and grace to experience spiritual learning.

In my exposure to human thoughts and theories of life and rightful acting in different cultures I have come to a transcendent understanding. My mind is beginning to grasp what my heart had long ago learnt. I understand that the main, beautiful, distinguishing attribute of Christianity is grace. Humans are humans and no matter what deep, ethical and righteous ways of living we devise we will fall short of them. The glory of our God lies in his unending love which saves us from the condemnation of this

accumulation of mistakes, pain and suffering we have endured and perpetuated. The extended glory and might that blows my mind away and makes my heart gasp for gratitude is in the amazing gift that God extended to us through His son and Holy Spirit. We are saved but also filled with this grace. We are capable of extending it. We are able to continuously receive it. In accepting this gift and asking for more of it I have come to accept many things.

I have in reading texts about Buddha found elements which helped me in personal healing and that offer wise perspectives in how to act in this world. I do believe that this world is filled with suffering:

“Birth is uncomfortable, both to the mother and to the child, although the child does not consciously remember it. The birth of a new idea, of a new “self” or personality, can also be quite painful; for old habits, and old ideas are difficult to discard. Decay is painful, whether it is decay of a tooth or decay of one’s morale and confidence. Illness is uncomfortable, both mentally and physically. Both death and the fear of death for ourselves and for others, constitute suffering. Either the presence of objects we hate or the absence of objects we love is a painful experience. Not obtaining what we have set our hearts on can make us very miserable. And, as we grow keener in our understanding of life, we become aware that clinging to anything can cause us to suffer.” (The Great Religions by which men live, Floyd H. Ross, 1960)

These statements I believe to be true and have experienced first hand. Discomfort and clinging shape the lives of many people and I believe that Gautama’s words can help us shift perspectives and are not rejecting a godly way of living. According to Gautama, the deepest unhappiness was the suffering of the mind and emotions. He believed that this suffering was felt by a man who was out of harmony with life:

“If I am unhappy it is because I am not living harmoniously. If I am not living harmoniously, it is because I have not learned to accept the world as it is. Perhaps I am expecting from the world things that I have no right to expect. Perhaps I am clinging too strongly to one part of my world, thus losing touch with the total picture. (…) Suffering is the result of a wrong attitude toward the world and our experiences in it. The world is not bad, but our attitude of craving is what makes it seem bad. This craving, or excessive desire, makes us slaves of whatever we crave.(…) Our cravings all make us lose our freedom to choose wisely. Craving which leads to unhappiness is caused by our ignoring our real needs. If we did not so ignore them, we would not make ourselves unhappy by pursuing things that will never bring satisfaction. We should look for the cause of our cravings, and then we should seek to remove the cause. Each person has a choice about the way he lives. He can fill his life with simple, unquestioned, habitual activities, which have arisen because of cravings. Or he can chose his reactions on the basis of each situation he meets. Covetousness, resentment, infatuation- these are earmarks of craving. Actions arising from them lead to unhappiness. Happiness is gained by ceasing to crave. The kind of character a person builds today determines the happiness you will have tomorrow.”

There is much in all of that is stated here. What I appreciate is that these are things I can take into account and use as tools. However the main tool is missing. Because though these are useful things to understand: cravings and intentional seeking and living; the last piece is missing. I believe that if someone were to follow these ideas with the intention of seeking truth God would be encountered.

Furthermore I believe that Christians often do not seek themselves. In our belief that Jesus is the answer, we often fall into a negation of our unhappiness because we think that we should be happy if we know the “truth”. We are not spiritually developed and I believe that we can learn to understand more of our selves and reactions, growing closer to God in not rejecting spiritual truths simply because they are used in a different religion. I believe that many Christians have abandoned the spiritual realm because of fear that this is a pagan, occult practice. However the reality is that spiritual knowledge is like scientific knowledge and it is wrong to ignore it and it is beneficial to be aware of it. We are spiritual beings and we can become more balanced in life if we learn this language.

Though it is of great value for me to understand the use of not expecting from others and of not clinging out of fear, the reality I have experienced is that I can only

begin to truly do so with the continuous help of the Spirit of God working in me. I do not wish to make derogatory claims, however in what I have experienced of mainstream Buddhism I do not believe they have reached the enlightenment they seek in the applications they have developed to these responses.

The reality is that even with these understandings, I will still crave and I will still cling. Yet the grace of God saves me and continuously redeems me. I know what matters. In light of eternity. I do not expect of others. I do not fear the negative impact of my words because in light of eternity the seed planted can grow. I have learned a different understanding of time that practitioners of Buddhism have not grasped. They are trapped in a cycle of lives and karma.

I can have an argument and be wrong and the beauty of saving grace is in the ability to admit wrong and still have the Spirit act through us. Because it is in humility that we reveal the true face of God and this is what hits people in the chest with a profound aching for this transcendent otherworldly truth that hits the target. We feel it hit us in the smack dab middle of our heart. In that instant we experience the truth of God: all encompassing Love.

My main prayer is that I continue in humility and am able to express myself with love even though it might not be understood. That in light of eternity I am acting in a righteous way and I can be an image of this. Of faithfulness to truth and love and of humility and understanding. I wish to grow in these things as well as in expression for the truth of God.

This fourth and last year of college which has started in Thailand is the year of blooming. At the end of last semester my garden was racked out. I felt bare. I knew that my soil was emptied of bad things and that I was beginning to fill it with richness to be able to bear beautiful fruits. I am so grateful to finally be seeing these fruits and flowers blossom and to know that this garden will only grow.

Warriors of Light.

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I’m so amazed.

I’m so thankful.

I can’t begin to fathom all that life has in store for me thought I know I want even more than the countless blessings that I have.

I spent the weekend working on a paper for my class. On Saturday some of us went into the night market. It was refreshing to be somewhere that wasn’t completely new. The night market was the first place we visited three weeks ago. It seems so long ago now. As we sat eating various foods at the temple I again had the feeling that I could run into someone I knew. It was not an uncomfortable feeling. Yet I examined it and pondered it. I don’t know anyone that I could run into in Thailand. There’s no reason for it. What’s up with this feeling then? Not a bad one but it does make me think of that rather than the moment I am in. And there was a slight apprehension. I had felt it the last time here. It dawned on me. I have a fear of popular public places buzzing with activity. Because those places I am used to I run into people I am afraid of running into. People that no longer exist in my life. We have separate spheres of lives that are so so so finely separated. Strangers with a painful history.

I realized in that moment I no longer wanted to have these preoccupations.

They followed me to Thailand. Why am I spending my energy fearing this close interaction when there are soooo many other bubbles, spheres in the world that I could link myself to.

It made me realize the power of our minds. Of our preoccupations.

I remembered this childhood preoccupation. Mom making soup at Aimé martin. WitIMG_1607h lots of weird stuff and herbs in it. For at least one week I was obsessed with there being ants in my soup. The herbs looked like ants. I was make myself gag looking at it and whatnot. Don’t you know I eventually found an ant in my soup!

Thinking in fear, thinking negatively can bring along those events. We do not know the power of our minds.

I want to think of good things. I want to dream and hope and intentionally invest my efforts into the refining and redeeming of this earth. If you encounter someone in a dark dark place. And you are able to see a shimmer of light. You bring attention to that and you ignite it in that person. How easy is it to bring light into darkness? One noticed shimmer will expand if it is payed attention to it. How does ones heart glow and beam when goodness in it is noticed.

I finished my paper around 1 am. On the exclusion and exploitation of the people of Burma. I was happy to do this work even though it is not the best piece of work scholastically I was content to have finished. I was not anxious or annoyed, preoccupied; I woke at 6 am rested, perky. I was surprised ,thankful and excited. We had class at the Friends of Asia Foundation with Dr Amnuy and then headed to the Three kings old city and had some noodles in a hole in the wall. We wandered the completely changed streets of day that I couldn’t recognize without the stalls. Treated ourselves to a chill ACd coffee shop session. Though I had gotten a foot massage at the night market. I was wanting a body massage and we ventured along to find a good priced parlor eg I payed 7 dollars for an hour body massage. Lack of sleep, caffeine and the massage contributed to making a very hyper ADD Leah that was extremely happy to drive over to our nxt appointment seeing sparkly temple walls.

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We met Christa at Urban light. A NGO that is working with young men and boys that are involved in the sex trade.

We heard a presentation and learned about the issue in a more male centered way. The guy giving the presentation mentioned he had worked in the peace corps. My interest was ignited.

I tentatively asked him about it. He presented a very enticing image. I expressed my reservations about structure and ethnocentrism which were pretty much dispelled. Hearing what he had done, Seeing what he is doing now was exactly what I needed to see the missing piece of what I was afraid peace corps wasn’t.

Urban light encompasses the whole feeling of the day.

IMG_1604It would be so easy to see this organization ,that it seems to be on a slow slope and be emotionally stirred by the awful heart wrenching stories of these boys. The harsh reality of this world. I cried when we watched the interviews. But that was not my lasting emotion. I felt blessed and saw the light of these peoples lives and intentions. The goodness and the hope. The future of this world in the light of eternity.

I left urban light pretty ecstatically. Feeling I had just gotten a wink from on high, giving me a little push onto the path I was starring at on the side lines.

So those Peace Corps meetings I was eying but not going to, those emails I signed up for I have decided to actually try. We shall see whether or not I go, or when but it is exciting to see how my next step in life is shaping itself up.

We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant and had a Burmese tea for desert. We then proceeded to visit the different sex industries of Chiang Mai for 3 hours about.

It was extremely uncomfortable. Knowing what we know. I’m not sure how I feel about what I experienced or how it was done. We were a group of 8 walking through streets from the bars where foreigners go and can be serviced in a sort of casual manner to the extremely disturbing quarters where girls would stand up in a line as merchandise as we walked by the establishments “ Same Same Different Place”, “Foxy Lady” … Every single white middle age man I saw creeping on a thai or Burmese woman I wanted to slap and yell out “DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING” I wanted to burn into their souls “I know what you’re doing and you can’t hide”. How would that help?

But how would it not help? How do we deal with the demand? We went by one bar, an old man calling out to us to play beer pong with him. It took everything in me not to go throw all his stupid red cups into his face… I felt like we were judging everything around us. How could we be here, what is a normal response to have here? I felt like we were making a joke out of it. Though our presence did signify a sort of demonstration.

Talking the next day, a remark of Jonas really helped me link the feelings I was having. Who knows the story of these men that are doing this? This old gy all by himself that was hoping we would play with him.

We are all so afraid of being alone.

We drove around for a while that night, going to the different areas. How much our driver could tell us was disturbing… “ here Burmese girls an Burmese men”, “here there are underage girls for sure “ here there are 80 girls, only Japanese men”…. I just wanted it to stop. I did not see the value of it. I’m still not sure I do.

We got home around 11Pm.

I was honestly expecting to not find sleep, to be plagued with disturbing dreams and thoughts, to feel sad and hopeless. The showers weren’t working again, went back down ‘ stories to shower in the GO ed building and got back into the room, falling asleep to Miranda’s soothing music.

I awoke on Tuesday in a good mood. I did yoga and danced, I showered and headed over to Lahu music lesson. It was such a blessing to be surrounded by them, to sing and dance with them. Finally remembering names and faces. Laughing. I was really enjoying spending time with people. Something about the night before really really infused into me the beautiful opportunity and blessing of community and interaction that we have.

Also I know that I have been yearning for more affection to help evacuate my slight worries. I miss hugs and cuddling.

I ate a quick breakfast an then headed up to English class with Miranda and Adele, we helped out judy with I think 1st year students: maliwon, juanida, chachtai..

I was impressed in how well they learn! they work so hard.

When we were done, we went to lunch in luang luan. Having one of my favorite dishes! Mou dang: red pork. It was so good and so nice to be in the neighborhood. Miranda asked me if I wanted to go to Joy’s with her, I was expecting just to get a quick drink at the coffee shop and then go home and chill. I think we ended up maybe taking for an hour or two. It was really nice. To be able to connect. That we are seriously so different but that our core beliefs are so similar. Even our insecurities.

I have been yearning for deeper authenticity and support of our community and yesterday was a great time for that.

This feeling of light has followed me and I am so grateful for all that is happening. Let us all take ownership of this responsibility and great gift of refining this world and rejoice in the discovery of such beautiful treasures!

Thank you for your support and continue to pray for enforced physical, material, emotional and spiritual strength and protection.

There is one week of class left and I will then be working in Chiang Rai at the Mekong Minority Foundation.

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It was the best of times It was the worst of times

I realized last week that blogging was really taking to much out of me. I can’t blog everyday and won’t unless the day becomes maybe 6 hours longer. It takes too much time and I don’t feel I am doing it for myself. I was blogging and not journalling for myself. I was not actually processing, trying to find a way to record the activities in enough time but not being able to actually go into how I felt on a deeper level because it takes to much to process and honestly this is not the medium for it. Still this is a good way to remember things as a whole and hopefully I will recall my feelings and deeper emotions when looking over this in the future and be able to take a more wholesome approach to this all…

The other day I woke up thinking “I love my life here.” It was a day off, last thursday I think. I woke up, went on a run, did yoga, had breakfast, read, relaxed, talked, goofed around with Apple, the oldest daughter of IMG_1477Tippowan, or most devoted helper. Thursday was a day of fasting for the Lahu. Some of us participated a  little, we shared their first meal of the day with them and spent the evening watching a movie. A movie I was skeptical about but I truly enjoyed in the end. Just spending time together was so relaxing and joyful. I had many good dreams that night. Saturday morning we awoke early to be on our way to Mae Say, the Golden triangle. This area is THE AREA of trafficking linking Burma, Thailand and Laos. We got on a boat to Laos, the river was high; and yet still so easy to cross. It was breathtakingly beautiful. And yet this cradle is the that of so much pain, destruction. It leaves us all with feeling of incomprehension.

 

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It’s so hard to blog because who does one recall so much that is so different? I want to organize my thoughts but there are too many feelings that are interlinked. One of our professors, an expert on the issue of trafficking says there are no easy answers, the answer is always “it’s complex.”IMG_1468

 

We checked into our hotel,and were taken to the imposing Hall of Opium. This “museum” was constructed on the initiative of the Princess Mother in an effort to put an end to opium addiction. It was an emotional endeavor but also historically informative and well done.

 

We headed back for a delicious chinese dinner. The waitresses were extremely gloomy. Unusual in Thailand ” the land of smiles”. Ajun Chuleepan remarked that they did not seem to speak Thai well. Ajun Bua, a young Shan woman in her 30s brought us to the youth group she helps lead. None of these young people have papers; they are all undocumented migrants, here for school or for work, alone or with their families. Lyndsay and I shared our testimonies again and two Shan girls gave their own stories. Throughout the weekend we were taken back by how natural everything seems, yet knowing the underlying pain beneath it all. What to do with these feelings? How to interact with this situation, with these people who you know not the depths of, wondering if they let themselves see the depths.. and what if they did? Where would they be left then? Bua brought us to the red light district. Things were more quiet than they were a couple months ago apparently. The military regime is changing things, at least in appearances. Things are becoming more hidden, less hierarchal. Bua and one of the girls who shared her testimony sat us down in the hotel restaurant to speak of their Christian village which we visited the next day. Many paradoxes and tensions. Girls sell their virginity for an astronomical amount to bring money to their family. This is their responsibility, this is the need, this is the only perceived option. Plus it is not considered trafficking to them, it is just “having boyfriends” or whatnot… It is difficult to understand the underlying reasonings. What marked me the most was being able to recognize the links with what I have been exposed to in America. 

We woke up and were off to the Burmese border. A lovely guide was helping us navigate the process and get to the village. We waited for our passports to be processed. I loved Burma from the start. We were waiting by a roundabout where there was much traffic. The whirlwind of different faces and dresses made the reality of this diverse ethnic nation come to life so vibrantly. I love diversity. How to know that beneath all this joyous smiles and greetings there is such hardship. This people are so beautiful. My awe only grew as we packed into the tiny song-taw for our hour trip to the village. What would’ve been an uncomfortable trip was for me a beautiful adventure of bright bright green rice fields and jungle scenery. I was comptely exctatic. People in Burma are less used to “forang”s and it was cool seeing how exotic we were to them. The village provided the “other worldliness” feeling I had been yearning for. That sense of adventure, discovery of the unknown, unchartered feeling. We were welcomed to Ajun Bua’s home, her intense father giving us a tour of his rice fields. A continuous question kept on being raised “Do you have this in your country?” : irrigation, beans, rice, crabs… They are so hungry for the outer world, so wanting to know what it is like and if they are like it. Church was very long and yet it was a spirit filled experience. Miranda shared much wisdom. We had lunch with Bua’s family. The food was delicious of course and we spent good time in fellowship. We then visited the pastor who was an orderly man, tiredly walking with a cane, covered in tattoos… He was so happy just for us to come sit in his midst and this was the most overwhelming feeling for me. This man seemed to have been through so much and worked so hard and was still fighting for it all. I could feel the pain in this struggle. I could sense his wisdom, even in knowing that he could only be an example not change people himself. He was a true fatherly figure.  These beautiful people I did not want to leave. Still, we set out to venture back to Tachileik, stopping at Mo’s , (our guide) parents dragon fruit farm where we were stuffed fill. I felt so spoiled. This is such an other world. The thing I liked the most about Burma was there there was no sense of time. There is a 30min time difference with Thailand, church was supposed to start at 10 but it started an hour later, and at no point was that an issue. We just navigated through what there was to do: visit, church, eat, visit… Here one felt what it was time to do, and was not impeded with the necessity of tasks or such. It was liberating; grounding. The border however did close at a certain time so we had to rush back. We visited a Watt on the way where i had the privilege of having tanaka put on my face. 10270537_10204851554714895_1312131860957089373_nThe Shan people, men and women use this mask that comes from sandalwood to stay refreshed throughout the day and apply it in beautiful decorative motives on their face. It was the one thing I wanted to bring back with me. We spent a little time at a tea shop. I felt like I was in the Asian Morocco or Romania. I liked it. We ventured back into Thailand, had dinner at a open air street restaurant and then all engaged in a typical cultural experience: THAI MASSAGE. 😀 happy happy Leah. Want to do this AT LEAST once a week. Our amazing professor Chuleepon instigated it and stayed on herself for an extra hour. It was great. I slept great and woke up a little sore. 

The final day of the trip, we headed to Chiang Rai to visit a great international agency: DDHPC. It reminded me of Noah’s Anchorage in Santa Barbara. I knew these human issues and this type of approach to community development and yet I felt that because I am not Thai, the type of social work I could do here would be limited. I was a little despondent. I’m not sure exactly where to start in the journey that I see a mirage of an endpoint to . And I’m not finding the responses I want, I’m not sure how to get to the places I see people in, how to build myself to be of use to this things I have an understanding and a heart for. The talk was like a seminar and very informative for all involved. 

LUNCH was one of the tastiest I’ve had, and I think my favorite. There were mushrooms in the soup, a tender friend fish, pork rinds… so good. We were soon off to our next stop, the Yellow Lahu village where Tippowan was born (apparently on the side of the road?). IMG_1508Words cannot express the awe that the pastor of this village gathered from us all. This maIMG_1509n walked to Thailand (through the forest) from Burma when he was 10, has worked for UNESCO, written and gotten authorization from the authorities to establish a space for the Lahu village, translated in Yellow Lahu and other dialects of which he speaks about 7 if I can correctly recall.After listening to just a few of his amazing life stories gapped mouthed we all hoped into the back of his pick up truck thai style and he drove us up the dirt road to his land where we were created by his beautiful tiny wife in front of their Lahu bamboo elevated house, surrounded by their ox and chickens. They showed us a few of traditional practices which they have kept alive and continue to pass on to the generations. It was such a rich experience and it lifted all of our hearts. We were sent off, smiling and waving.

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Final destination= pie shop on the side of the river. Imposing structure with the chillest vibIMG_1569es ever. I felt like I was in the African Queen. It really had an expat sentiment of nostalgia to it. We tried to have a little debrief of the weekend but mostly everyone just wanted pie except for those of us who are gluten free. 😥

 

We got kicked out at closing and journeyed on to Doi Seket. Coming back felt like arriving home, to see Pawnee with food ready on the table. Tuesday waIMG_1571s a day of relaxing from our long trip and today we jumped back in. We are all tired and there are some tensions. Starting to yearn for a more flexible type of schedule and being overwhelmed with the different assignments that are nearing. None of us know each other. We are strangers in close proximity being faced with these intense things and not really being able to support each other… 

Living hard and amazing things, growing together. I’m hoping for strength, compassion and more and more grace each day for ourselves and for others. 

 

 

Second week of class! 

Life is going by so so fast, I’m starting to be confused as to what happened when and that it’s only been a little over a week. I’m hoping I’ll find some type of rhythm and some bearings. Thankfully saturday was a relaxing day, involving yoga, gardening, flute playing and a visit to the ruins of the Lana Kingdom: Wiang Kum Kam. Beautiful architecture, mystic atmosphere. We took rides on small carriages pulled by horses through the different sites and I did not want to leave the temples, the hidden gardens from where beautifully ornate statues peeked out. I wanted to just sit. Breathe. Unfortunately the tour was only an hour and I had to run back to my carriage and leave the ruins. Off to another night market, noodles by the roadside, COCONUT. Sunday we woke up early to go to Mae ai to visit the church that Dr Chulee speaks at. When we arrived Goit, a student from Payap university greeted us. He is from Menai, the town we will be visiting this coming weekend. Church was a sweet time. I felt so thankful to be with these welcoming people. I was asked to share impromptu and as soon as I sat down in church I felt zoo touched and filled with the spirit. We worshipped, Dr Chulee spoke and Lyndsay shared a short testimony before me. I had not prepared anything but I was very very moved. I shared that I was extremely thankful to be there. I was vulnerable and authentic in my revealing to them how moved I was at the opportunity to speak and enteract with them. I spoke of how when thinking of what to share, it is easy to wonder “how am I supposed to act, what is the culture of these people within this setting…”. That throughout the world there are many Christians and many ways of expressing this, through our many different cultures. But that I need not worry about what or how to say it because I knew that my brothers and sisters in Christ share the same culture of the Kingdom of God with me. I spoke of my background and my love for culture. I spoke of my experience of French culture and American culture, of my misgivings with other Christians, my pains but my hope, my refining. That God has provided me with safe paces to heal and grow, to expose the lies of darkness and to grow in light. That this was one of those places. Finally I shared my go-to verse and encouragement Philippians 4:4-8. The whole team then sang a song together, there were more thai songs, words and prayers and at the end of the service we waied and shook hands with the villagers. One of the women, Goit and Dr Chuleepee gave us a tour of the church’s garden. They have quite the extensive property. We had lunch and were giving little elephant key-chains and then proceeded to walk to one of the elder’s houses where we had another service inside the traditional wood thai house. Dr Chulee”s comment “On Sunday all we do is worship!” made me smile. We were offered many delicious fruits, drinks and even home-made waffles. The setting was more laid-back and just as sweetly communal. A real time of sharing within the house of Jahn (moon). I did not want to leave them!! They already felt like family. Dr Chulee had other plans though and we set out to go to the Burmese border, stopping at ECHO on the way, checking out the farm. Lyndsay is really hoping to intern there.

The drive to the border was beautiful. The scenery was INCREDIBLY GREEN. We joked around with Goit in the car, got to the border, took some pictures with the border patrol, got back in our car and went for some yummy Yunnan noodles that are apparently super famous. The border town is apparently filled with ethnic Chinese people. They were very welcoming. We went to a market for a little groceries and I spied an old man smoking out of a really big pipe. We had talked about opium being an issue in Thailand and border states and I had been wondering about whether or not it was something that was out in the open or not. Bingo. 
We drove home, dropping Dr Chulee and Goit off at Payap, making sure to have exchanged numbers first and then got our reading on! 

I’ve been absolutely loving our readings. FOr the most part. This unit in our “history” class we are learning about Burma and Benedict Rogers’ “Burma, a nation at the crossroads” is very fascinating. It is informative but enticing in the first hand stories that are given. I SERIOUSLY RECOMMEND IT.  Another book I am enjoying is Spiro’s “Buddhism and Society”. OF course I like this, given the fact that it is written by an anthropologist. Just seeing a reference to the filed makes me giddy. Spiro specifically examines Theravada Buddhism in Burma. His approach seeks to link the gaps between what we see as normative Buddhism aka what we would expect Buddhism to be given the teachings of the Buddha; the writings: and the actual practices. I will be writing more about this in the future once I have had time to observe more. 

Today we went to the monastery and were taught by a Monk! It was very interesting. I had so many questions I wanted to ask him, I did a few but we quickly ran out of time and I didn’t want to appear as if I was disrespecting him in some way? The temple is magnificent but we had class in an administrative building. We are having class with him again on Wednesday and I am as excited for that as I am to eat at the temple restaurant again. It is the best food I’ve had. DELICIOUS vegetarian food: mushrooms, kale, tofu + has awesome detox juices which I was in dire need of. That place SERIOUSLY saved me today. I would eat there every freaking day if I could. 

We left for Payap and out class with Dr Krista, squeezing in a quick nap. We spoke and watched documentaries about Burma. The feelings that came to me were parallel to those from my intimate violence class. More importantly when coming back to campus, I was just surprised as to how it seemed that no one else had really been affected. I know that everyone processes differently but I’m at that point where I’m starting to seriously need my space and can’t understand how we are expected to function so much being together sooooo muuuuch. I was in need of my space and put off by laughter and nonchalance after what we had just been presented with. Anyways, I did my thing, sang a song, drew some stuff, zoned out on my pictures and had dinner with everyone. I’m feeling a little more communal but I must confess I need more strength to be gracious in defending my barriers.

Thanks for all your support! Tomorrow I’ll get to rest ? I think we’re biking to a temple 🙂

Love and Liggght ❤

My head hurts but it has been a great day. History class with Dr Chulee was amazing. She literally talked the whole two hours. Bringing us into the world in which she grew up, became a Christian, her vulnerability in going to America and being totally lost. Her honesty and humility in her reactions towards individuals such as sex workers that she changed and came to realize what true love for you neighbor means. It was extremely refreshing. I’m so happy to have such an amazing professor. She is so inspiring. She is kind. She has a true heart to teach us the ways of her people so that we may interact with them in a truly loving way. Sunday she is taking us to an indigenous village in Burma, monday and wednesday we are going to a temple and having a monk guest lecture us. SO SO EXCITED!

In the afternoon we had class with Dr Krista. We had ALOT of reading and knew there was a quiz. The geographics of the region are quite confusing and I think everyone was pretty stressed. I had a specific indigenous group to research and was glad when after leading my own personal investigation, was able to enlighten the class more on Vietnamese and Laos ethnicities and history. After my short presentation I was pleased and confident. It was a good feeling, reaffirming my position, and the classes ended up being much more chill than expected. I’m excited to realize how intricately I will know this region and its intricacies by december after seeing the change in just a week. 

Another highlight was the ability to go to Chiang Mai university for a screening of “Emerging Women of Burma” put on by the We Women Organization. The atmosphere of the university was welcoming, calling me to take up the cause of education. To use my freedom for the benefit of others. The woman speaker was a cultural anthropologist from the Netherlands that I am hoping to be in contact with further. This is the setting I feel I could thrive in. 

This evening was pleasant. We came back from class and I had some time to myself. I spent most of it in the kitchen watching and minimally talking with our cook Pawnee. She has a very soothing presence. I also enjoyed speaking with Adele, our program director while watching our ducks walk around outside. After dinner all the Go-Ed crew had a great time of sharing. Speaking on issues of poverty, of our fears and hopes. After making popcorn I’m watching three of them play settlers of Catan. It’s pretty chill 🙂 Tomorrow I get to sleep in, I might bike to the temple I can see from the fourth floor of the building which we are staying on. I’m staying in the same room as the three other girls and they all wake up early and head downstairs which gives me the space to roll out of bed and have my quiet yoga time. 

I’m sure there are many more things to say, please ask questions, it’s sometimes hard to think of what to say with the little time I actually want to be spending on my computer when all of this surrounds me. I’m trying to be WAAY more intentional with taking pictures but I still feel awkward and am trying to settle the conflict within me, wondering how to approach it.

Thank you for all your support, prayers and thoughts, I am here for a reason and it is blowing my mind. The fire is kindled in my heart and soul. I know it will burn all there is to find. All will be refined.