Here's How You Can Invest in a Woman's Future.

They come to my door sometimes, always unannounced, and always with some inexpensive sugary drink or snack to give to me, the hostess, as is proper Asian custom.

We sit down, usually on the floor. They're more comfortable there. I pour the sickeningly sweet orange liquid into glasses, comment on how much bigger their babies have grown, and they tell me they need a job. Can I give them a job?

These women have babies, children to feed, elderly parents to care for, and they are asking to work, not a for a handout, but for work.
They are hoping I will say I need a house helper, someone to come and clean and wash laundry for me, for pay.

"I already have 3 house helpers," I tell them. "I don't need anyone else."

"What skills do you have?"

Most of them say, "I don't have any."

One answered, "I can clean house, take care of children, and cook Burmese food."

I was impressed with her self assessment, that she categorized the things s…

Lost in the Woods

The past 3 years have been witness to a slow forgetting of who I am. Or maybe more accurately, who I wanted to be, and what I knew about how to get there.

I used to write, here, about the stories we tell ourselves. How our narrative shapes our experience of events. How we act out of the idea we have of ourselves in relation to the events unfolding around ourselves.

I used to think of my life as an adventure. I used to think of challenges as things that taught me strength. I used to actually embrace difficulty as a growth opportunity.

I don't know how to describe what happened next, what made me forget, in terms other than, I got tired. No, not just tired, bone crushingly weary, and I had no hope that it would end. That was what undid me. I somehow stopped believing that my difficulties would ever end and that I would find my way to the other side of them. There were things happening to me that I didn't choose and I felt out of control and helpless because of it…

What Christmas Songs Tell Us About Hate

It’s all around us this time of year, if we listen. Subversive, revolutionary, ideas about how the world ought to be fill the air around us. Our ears ring with the promise of hope, life, light in the darkness, the broken made whole, those who are oppressed finding justice, those who are enslaved finding freedom, those who are fleeing from conflict finding peace. It’s in there, right beside the Santa Baby’s and that one song by Mariah Carey that everyone still knows the words to that they play every where, even in Thailand.
I hum the songs. I love the words, and as I hum them, so familiar, they catch at my awareness and bring tears to my eye, steal my breath away. These words, they turn everything upside down.
Truly he taught us to love one and other, His law is love, and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name, all oppression shall cease…”

“Come thou rod of Jesse bind, all peoples in one heart and mind. Bid envy strife and discord …

On Not Taking Things For Granted

We play a little thought game sometimes, my husband and I.

It's simple really.

We take what we know about the people we meet, and we speculate on what their life would have been like if they had been able to access the same resources we had when we were young.

There's a woman we know who takes every thing that comes her way and turns it into a business opportunity. She ran a grocery delivery service to families living outside of town. Every time she cooks dinner she sells a few extra plates to the men in her village who would rather not cook for themselves. She buys clothing at a discount and sells it at a profit. She's always taking care of people too

Her parents both died when she was in 4th grade. That's the highest level of education she ever completed. After that there was no money for school.

We think she'd be the CEO of a major corporation by now if she had been able to finish public school and go to college like we did.

Another woman turned around and taug…

Trying Hard to Focus On the Beauty

My dad's family had a big reunion this past July. Eighty eight of the one hundred thirty two people descended from my grandparents met at my aunt and uncles ranch in southern Alberta for the first time in 20 years. It made the local papers because, giant family and all.

I was not sad. I was prepared for it. They sent us family reunion T shirts, and we sent them a photo of ourselves wearing them to put up for all attending to see the missing parts of the family. It was kind and thoughtful.

We have a facebook group for all of the photos from large family events, so I saw the photos. I saw pictures of everyone having a good time rafting on the river, cooking together, camping together. I was fine.

Then I started clicking through about 50 photos of the location, posted by my aunt. I immediately commented, "Where is all the trash? [She says in amazement, after 4 years of working in a culture that believes the entire outdoors is to be used as a trash can.]."

Trash is somethi…

The Truth About Hiring House Help

She says she would like to talk to talk to me for a minute. She's pausing at the top of the dining room stairs, broom in hand, and she's smiling, but her expressive eyes show that the smile is a cover for her nervousness, her embarrassment.**

She just started working for me 2 months ago. I didn't want to hire her. I'm tired of teaching new house helpers the ways of western households. I'm tired of resorting things when they are put away wrong. I'm tired of the damage to clothes and appliances because they are learning, and don't understand what I say about separating colors and using bleach. They don't just leave the door open because they don't understand that it keeps out disease causing mosquitoes, but because culturally, a closed door is just an oddity. It keeps out good luck, and good neighbors.

I'm tired of mosquitoes in my house.

I'm tired of wet dishes being put away, and damp clothes folded and sorted into the wrong shelves in the w…

After 4 years in Thailand - Some Thoughts

Four years ago today we stepped off a plane into the warm muggy Chiang Mai heat and began a new chapter in our lives.  
I meant to document more. Tell more stories here. I thought I would fill these pages with descriptions of our days and adventures.

Most of the time I don't know where to begin, who I'm talking to anymore. I can't tell a joke I'm thinking of. No one in the US would get it. I can't tell that story, without a long explanation, because if you haven't been here, you won't understand.
I thought I understood, before we left, what I was getting us all into. I might have had better preparation than most. My husband had been coming here for years. I read the books, did the research, talked to people who lived here.
I didn't understand. Some things can only be gained by experience.
People ask me how they can prepare for culture shock, coming here. "You can't." I tell them. "I wouldn't be a shock that way."

You don&#…


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