Animals, Asia, Culture, Farm, Food, Health, Missions, Travel

Ride or Die

 I’m still trying to catch up on my posts from Vietnam.We moved around a lot from place to place while we were there, which provided lots of travel time to write. However, what I lacked was the time to actually post what I was writing. If you know me very well, though, my delay should not come as a surprise.

                                                              

I ate a cricket this morning. And it was surprisingly refreshing. Not because it tasted great or anything. But, because I wasn’t going to do it, then I decided that I could handle it. So, I did. Pushing the limits you set for yourself can be a good thing.

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My carefully selected snack

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 I also rode an elephant. It wasn’t a first or anything. But, I was in the hotel room in the middle of the afternoon and I got a phone call. I answered, of course, and the voice on the other end said: “do you want to go ride an elephant?” No hello, no this is so-and-so, just elephant ride? And what’s your natural response for a phone call like that? Sure.

                                                              

So, we went on elephant excursion number three. This one was pretty typical: elephant, basket, little boy sitting on his head while we trek around. But, the seating arrangement was different. It was a wide metal basket with a narrow bench and no harness or strap of any kind. I’ve only been in bamboo baskets, which create for a little more traction. But with the metal bench and my denim shorts, I was sliding all over the place. Combine this with the fact that we were climbing down a steep embankment and the “driver” kept hitting the elephant on the head with a metal rod: I was sure I was going to topple out of the basket any minute.

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Treacherous looking basket

 But, I survived. Upon dismounting from the basket, the animal wranglers were offering other various rides. I had never seen anyone ride an ostrich, but they had them saddled up and ready to go, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It kinda made the elephant ride feel safe.
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Taking in the view

 The “saddle” has handles on the front and the back, and you are encouraged to hold onto both. Because those things take off like they’re trying to buck you off. Me and my ostrich were pretty in sync though for the most part and it was calm. We settled into a little routine. In fact, in most of the pictures, we even had the same facial expressions.

                                                              

Until the boy with the metal rod came around again and started hitting him. Then he took off and I nearly fell off again.

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Trotting along

I’m thinking some animals just weren’t meant to ride. But, then again, there’s a first time for everything.
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What Did You Say?

Jake is redefining the meaning of window shopping. We’re sitting in the window of a hotel lobby (not even our own hotel, which is an explanation all itself) and I’m not paying attention to him. But, I notice he’s making motions, so I look up and what do I find? A little Vietnamese woman out on the street, carrying a board of bric-a-brac (nail clippers, fans, bookmarks, bracelets, lighters, sunglasses, and so much more. Essentially, a walking convenience store.) And Jake, motioning to her from the window. She’d hold up one thing and he’d shake his head. He’d point at another thing and she’d hold that up. Nope, not that one. After about 5 minutes of this back and forth, Jake decides on a map (which he has somehow already bargained and agreed upon a price for) and leaves the lobby to go settle up with her outside. Ridiculous.

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We’re doing clinics at “stations” right now which means we’re traveling around Vietnam with a bunch of med students and government officials to government clinics and doing some outreach. They’re very good with us, keeping up with who we are and how we’re doing. This guy is even so nice as to carry my passport picture around just in case he needs to remember my name.

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That’s me.

So, after our first clinic station, they informed us that we had been invited to lunch. Where at? We didn’t know. But, our bus dropped us off at the entrance of a gate and we walked in. To this.

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I’ve seen some full tables before but nothing quite like this. We were seated with some of the Vietnamese medical students and were joking about having to put bowl on our heads because there was no more room.

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Hospitality is great but also kind of terrifying. Because you don’t know what you’re going to be served. You just know you’ll have to eat it. And when I sat down, I knew it was going to be one for the story books.  I also happened to be seated right next to the main “translator”, who is in charge of our group (she requested the seat next to me), so I knew I was in for it.

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Stuffed bitter melon, which I had decided not to try

We started with a table full and you automatically start looking around and wrapping your mind around what you’re going to have to try. You mentally prepare for battle. And you bravely dive in. But, then the war changes. The battle you were fighting is over and you think: I’ve made it. Then, bowls are changed out and people scurry around and all the sudden, a new fight begins.  This was a tough one, guys. Mostly, I had no idea what it was. My original plan was to stick with the fruit and some corn and see if I could make it. But, two seconds later, a lettuce wrap was being made and handed to me with whole shrimp in it (legs, head, shell, everything) dipped in fish sauce and ready to be eaten. And, when you’re handed something, there’s no escape.

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My “translator” feeding me the bitter melon five seconds later…

(PSA: If you haven’t ever traveled to third world countries, greens are one thing they advise not to eat because of the water they’ve been washed in)

I should also tell you that halfway through this meal, one of the Vietnamese students leaned over to Jake and said: “you’ll need to take a pill after this meal.” I had already guessed that, but I’m glad she felt the need to go ahead and tell us.  I’m not sure if Jake will need the pill though because at the beginning of the meal, the man of the house came around insisting that the men at the table take a shot of “banana wine”.

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Jake happened to be the first one he approached and after some insisting, he took it. So, he got a dose of medicine early.  Halfway through the meal, I began to question where we were at? It seemed to be a home, but more like a mansion. It had a waterway in the middle with rooms and stairs going off in different directions. I was informed by our “translator” that we had been invited to the home of the former Vice President of Vietnam. So, this was a big deal. Who knew?

Our lettuce wraps and fruit and corn and other various concoctions were only the appetizers. The meat dishes came out later, along with this soup, which they called “black chicken soup”.

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I asked what the meat dish was and she said “duck”. Okay, I can do duck. I took some, put it on my rice and ate it. It was good, a little different than the other duck I’ve had. It was darker and chewier and had a lot of cartilage. But, it was fine.

 

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My duck and rice and what I think may have been a potato.

After lunch, they took us on a tour of the gardens, as most of the fresh things we had eaten were from the garden. And, they were kind enough to give us sun hats to wear.

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My “translator” friend gave me and one of our other guys a little bit of a private tour, explaining what the different plants were and how they were prepared. We went by a cage with a dog and some chickens in it and the guy with me commented that it was surprising to see a dog so well behaved in a cage alongside chickens and how we wouldn’t see that on our farms in America.

We were asking her about the things we saw and as we were going along, the guy said, ask her what these greens are?  I recognized them from our table and so I called her back to have her tell us the name, but she didn’t know. The gardener happened to be nearby, so she called him over to ask and he spoke to her in Vietnamese. She said, this is the plant that you eat with the “duck”. I said, oh, yes, duck, because we had it at lunch. And the gardener said, “no, no, no, not duck! Dog, woof woof!” Only then did it dawn on me why the dog was in the cage with the chickens. And why that meat at lunch had been so dark and chewy.

Where’s that pill they were talking about? I think I might be needing it.

{post blog update: no one in our group got at all sick from that meal, in case anyone was wondering}

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Asia, Culture, Food, Health, Medicine, Missions, Religion, Travel

Be Nice.

The people here are really nice. The thing I fear the most is getting hit by a vehicle. Nothing is off limits. Walking down the sidewalk, I have people honk at me. No, not people from the street. It’s the people on motorbikes who got tired of waiting in traffic and decided to take a “shortcut”, which means nearly running me over on the sidewalk. I really did almost get hit though. By a van. While I was crossing the road. It was a very near miss. I didn’t see my whole life flash before my eyes, but I saw the highlight reel.

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One lesson it does you well to learn early in life: be nice to people. Because for the most part, they will be nice back. And also because being nice to people sometimes has benefits. Call it sucking up, call it teacher’s pet, or climbing the ladder, for better or for worse, it works. A smile and a kind word can do wonders.
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In the security line at the airport, they took out my tweezers and my fingernail clippers from my bag. I thought they were going to take them. But a smile and a nice exchange and he gave them right back to me. See, it works.

At the visa line, smiling gets you through more easily. In Laos, I was the last one because the 4 workers at passport control were teaching me Lao phrases to use, after I spoke the little I already knew to them. How nice!

But, sometimes people are just nice to you for no reason. As we were loading on the boat to go across the Mekong to visit a village, some health officials from the Public Health Office came with us and happened to be on our boat. One of the ladies seemed really concerned with me. She would look at me, smile, pat my leg. She took pictures of me and kept saying daughter. Then, when we were unloading on the other side of the river, she grabbed onto my arm. And we walked up the river bank together.

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I figured she just needed someone to hold onto because it was a steep climb. But, as we were walking, she said Mama Lao, Mama Lao and pointed to herself. So, she had decided I was her daughter for the day and she was my Mama Lao. Which was fine by me.

When we got to the top of the riverbank, she let go of my arm and took my hand instead. So, we held hands as she led us to the village. The rest of the group was straggling behind us, so it was one white girl plus a bunch of Lao ladies leading the pack. She told me about her daughter who is the same age as me and taught me some new Lao phrases as we went along.

 

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Once we got to the village, she introduced me to the tribal chief, then let me go to look around while she directed everyone else. I wandered around the school we were at, taking pictures of the kids and talking to them. A little while later, my Mama Lao came over to me with a cold water and said drink.
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Now, I have to do an aside: cold drinks are hard to come by here. Even in restaurants, it’s likely you’ll get something lukewarm, maybe cool if you’re lucky. But cold, not too often. So, to have a cold drink out in a village (in 100 degree weather, mind you) is a major luxury.

So, I thought it was strange and special that they had cold drinks for our group. A few minutes later, one of our other ladies came over and said: where’d you get a cold drink?! I looked around and realized I was the only one with a cold drink. Everyone else had regular bottles of water. Except for one person. I spotted her across the way: Mama Lao, with her bottle also condensating in the heat.
Looks like I scored rank. And the benefits are pretty nice.

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Asia, Beauty, Celebration, Culture, Food, Funny, Travel

I Am Woman

It’s International Woman’s Day.

I hope everyone knows that by now. I had no idea that such a holiday existed until I was ambushed at breakfast. Out of nowhere, a Vietnamese man came up to me, handed me a flower, wished me a happy …. day. Directly behind him was a woman who was snapping pictures of us with a big camera. As usual, I had just rolled out of bed, thrown on whatever clothes were closest to me, and was looking less than picture perfect. I was also halfway into my bowl of pho when they surprised me, so it was a funny scene. After laughing at the absurdity of it all, I asked them what the cause for such a show was to which they more slowly informed me that it was International Woman’s Day. And, that my picture of receiving the flower would be on their Facebook page. I’d love to know what the caption on that reads.

I thought it was just our hotel making a big deal out of this day, but apparently, it really is a big deal. Even CNN says so. The restaurant we had dinner in had a special free dessert for every female customer.

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Grass jelly with dried longans.

Needless to say, Jake wasn’t sad he missed out on this one. I ate it and the longans were good. I tasted the jelly and it really did taste like grass. Imagine black grass jello and that would be about accurate. So, I skipped most of the jelly part.

At this dinner, we also had an appetizer that Jake thoughtfully described as “a gummy bear fish ball”. I should also probably inform you that we selected this restaurant ourselves, so there is no one to blame.

Since this is a day to celebrate, I decided to go all out and get a manicure and pedicure combo. I’m not used to getting both treatments at the same time, but since it cost about $10 for everything, I thought I should splurge. (I also feel that I should take this moment to explain that I had been wearing a sun hat prior to this and threw my hair up and that it, in fact, does not always look like such a mess. It only looks like this 36% of the time. And it is also in the 90 degree range here, so multiple excuses. Also, it’s Woman’s Day {the actual day, not the magazine that goes by the same name. Don’t get confused during my tangent}, so I probably shouldn’t even be explaining because we’re liberated and I don’t need to explain my choices, right? Is that what Woman’s Day is about? I’m literally just finding out about all of this, but if it excuses a bad hair day, all the better.)

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I didn’t plan it out very well though and got thirsty mid way through. But, both of my hands were occupied and what’s a girl to do? I must keep myself well hydrated. So, I made Jake open my water and give me a drink. Which he took a picture of. Which made me laugh. Which made me choke. But, I couldn’t appropriately cough because I had two people holding onto my hands and feet. Surprisingly with all of this jostling around and me pretending to be Cleopatra, my nails still turned out really well.

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So, here’s to all the women of the world. The young and the old. Every culture, every creed.

Whether you’re the woman selling me mangoes in the park.

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Or if you’re selling intestines at the market. And eating noodles at the same time.

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It takes guts to be you. (Sorry, I never could resist a pun.)

Celebrate today.

Because you are a female. And that is something to be celebrated.

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America, Family, Farm, Funny

Wednesday, March 2

Let me tell you what I’m not doing right now. I’m not searching for my phone. Because I didn’t lose my phone. My brother lost his. Which never happens. I’m always the one who loses my phone and goes on an elephant hunt back through my day to figure out at which point I set it down and forgot about it. And when this happens, I’m always given a lecture about how I shouldn’t be constantly losing my phone and how I need to keep track of my stuff. But, now, the aforementioned lecturer has lost his phone. And am I lecturing him? 

No. 

I am relishing silently in this glory, basking in his frustration at having to figure out where he irresponsibly laid his phone down at. Because for once, it wasn’t me. 
  
Let me tell you what I am doing, though. I am in a narrow stairwell, having Jake take a passport picture. Why the stairwell? Because we need a white wall for a background and a two foot wide stairwell seemed to be our best option.. Which basically means his phone (which has been located) is right in front of my face, which causes me to laugh because this situation is just so ridiculous and results in a passport picture that looks like a cross between a mugshot and an emoji. He took a decent one, but I’m pretty certain he’s currently in the process of printing the mugshot emoji one. 

Wednesday, March 2 was not an eventful day for me. I currently babysit on Wednesdays for a friend, so my day consisted of bottles and diapers and rockers and all things baby. Me and the baby have developed a good working relationship. We have mutual respect for each other, understand our roles, and perform our jobs to the best of our abilities. We’re all business, no drama.

However, Wednesday, March 2 was eventful for my brother. Which he relayed to me at the end of the day. And I took such a liking to the story, in all of its ridiculous detail, that I told him he should write about it. 

The thing about me and Jake is that we both love stories. I love to be told stories. And I love to tell stories. But, vocally telling a story is not my forte. I become too bogged down in the details and lose the point too easily. I like to write stories, it’s more organized and detailed. It suits me better. 

But, if you have ever heard Jake tell a story, his medium is definitely vocal. He does impressions, voices, mannerisms, he’s a mockingbird, including every detail in the way he tells a story. It’s enjoyable. In fact, he made me laugh so hard at a story he was telling the other day that I choked on my coffee and was fairly certain that I was going to end up with pneumonia from aspirating liquid down into my lungs. 

So, he obliged me and wrote the story down. Which really has no point except for that I found it amusing. So, here it is, in Jake’s words:

The week prior to leaving on a trip is always chaotic, however I think…. “we’ve done this enough that we should have this down to a science.”  If only life were that simple.

My grandpa lost his cell phone in the field a week or so ago while feeding cows and has been off the grid when he leaves the farm to run errands. This is driving my grandma insane because she had become accustomed to picking up the phone and calling him to remind him he had a funeral that day, the baptistry needed to be filled up while he was out, or that they were out of Bran Flakes (her current favorite).

In a cataclysmic turn of events, their home phone and internet services have also been on the fritz this week.  Let me just say, it’s been several phone calls back and forth to CenturyLink.

Wednesday’s are an odd day of the week for us at work because Brittney is out of the shop.  It also happened to be that my mom had an appointment with her eye surgeon that my dad needed to take her to. This meant that it would only be 1 person coming into work for the first part of the day. 1 out 3, it’s hard to pass with 33%, imagine trying to take a self portrait with a tripod that only has one leg.. You get the point.  Any other time, I would sit this morning out, except this was not possible, remember, three days until we leave for Vietnam.
 

One man shop

 

(8:30 am) My day started with slow single person tasks and as I was mid-first monogram of the day, my grandpa came in the shop looking for my dad.  I told him he was gone this morning, what did he need? Their home phone went out again, he needed to borrow a cell phone to call CenturyLink. After waiting 15 minutes on hold, he gets through and then the phone call cuts out. What is it with Maysville and glorious telecommunication services?  (aside: #MaysvilleLivesMatter). 

 Another call back to CenturyLink and passing the phone off to me, I get a few instructions to troubleshoot their problem.  My grandpa felt equally confident that he could do as the lady instructed and also that what she instructed would not fix their problem, so away he went.  In the meantime,  I text my dad to get them a cell phone card for a cell phone my aunt gave my grandparents.
  

Morning embroidery

(10:30 am) My dad called for me to meet him in Gentry (20 minutes away) to pick him up as he was going to leave my mom’s car with her at her work. I told him we needed to grab lunch at McDonald’s because we didn’t have time to sit down and eat lunch at home and we were already sitting for 20 minutes in the car on the way home. (Note- even in an apocalypse, efficiency is the key to survival.)

(11:30 am) When we got home from Gentry,  we went directly down to my grandparents house (1/4 mile down the dirt road) to setup the minutes on the cell phone they have because my grandma had an appointment to get a perm that afternoon. My grandma said the phone in the kitchen on the charger, unfortunately, it was the charger to their old phone. Also unfortunate was the fact that the new cell had enough battery life to appear functional.  I read the directions on how to load the minutes and as soon I loaded the minutes, my grandma asked if I could make that phone have the same number as the old phone (which, remember, is sitting somewhere out in a hay field). It dawned on me that I didn’t even know what phone number this phone had so I read off the number to my grandma.  She reread the number out loud and then looked surprised, “that’s Sherri’s number (my aunt)… not our number”.  The minutes didn’t load on this phone and the phone still has the same number as my aunt’s current phone. What a debacle. We still aren’t sure where the minutes went but put Net10 on the growing list of telecom people to call.

(11:45am) Back to work, I was only halfway through our first printing order of the day when I got a phone call from CenturyLink. The guy was on his way out to setup our internet/phone in the shop, but at this point I’m wondering why bother? Anyone got a tin can and a string? I’m about ready to kick it old school and tie hand quilled invoices to doves to deliver and hope they bring back payments.

I quickly finish the job we’re working on because I knew there would be a pause when he got there. My dad saw him pull through the gate and as soon as he said “he’s here” my cell phone rang…. It was Lisa, my grandma’s hairdresser. 
(Remember #1 This is Arkansas #2 I love Nanny- my grandma we’re referring to here and #3 I’m central contact point for Maysville, apparently.) Back to Lisa’s call-
Lisa:  “Hey Jacob, have you talked to your grandparents today? I’m worried something happened, they didn’t make it to their 12 o’clock and I can’t get a hold of them- that’s not like her…”

Jacob: “Yes, I was just down there and their phone is out and he just lost his cell… But don’t worry their appointment was at 2, right? That’s what she told me just 15 minute ago and they are planning on being there”

Lisa: “Is there anyway you can go tell them they missed their appointment? Maybe they can borrow your phone to call me back and reschedule.”

Jacob: “Uh-oh, oh-no and okay”

At this point my dad hears my end of the conversation and says “Do I need to go tell them they missed it?” sort of hastily, I said yes confused as to why he was in a hurry. I look out the window to see the CenturyLink guy is stopped in the road talking to my grandparents, who are now leaving to go get their hair cut, permed, and washed. The CenturyLink guy comes on out to the shop as I watch my dad, seemingly in slo-mo, take off across the yard to catch them.

(11:55am) Sorry it took so long to account for 10 minutes of my life, but wow.  So the CenturyLink guy asks me if I’m related to “Mr.Scott”? To which I say “Yes, all of us.” Because he had then met all three “Mr.Scott’s” of Maysville.

He continues (imagine this in a cyber native Arkansan accent):
“Yeah, his phone line… I fixed it last week when it went out. The problem with his line is that it runs through the other way…”

(Aside- our property lies between two telecom lines and also two power companies, our home and shop phone line comes in from the south while my grandparents comes from the north)

“… That darn line is so chewed up and bad. I’m trying to get CL to come run a new line for them. Their line now runs through two creeks and it floods every time it rains, then that makes all them mice and rats nest up in our service boxes. That’s what’s making their phone and Internet go out. I cleaned out two mice nests up in that service box last week but I’ll back and clean it out again.”

Basically what he was saying is: If CenturyLink doesn’t fix the problem, this morning may be repeated for you on a weekly basis. Ahhh…

Wednesday’s are also a short day for my dad and I in the shop because we have to quit around 4:45 so he can go get ready to drive the church bus and pick up kids all over the tri-state. So a quick recap of the rest of the day… My dad caught my grandparents at the mailbox, they used his phone and sweet talked Lisa into fitting them in that afternoon. My dad then got a call from a friend and had to leave quickly to go help him. Somehow through the chaos of the day, we still ended up getting about 500 prints done, which is a semi-normal day.
 

All in a day’s work

 

I text Brittney and said “God is calling me to be a comedian because he is giving me so much content today, I don’t even know what to do with it all.”  I told it all to her when she got home, who I’m sure found it more amusing and humorous than you just did, and suggested I guest post on her blog. Sorry if you find yourself saying “Geez, that was a great read for wasting 10 minutes” and you’re welcome if you needed to waste 10 minutes reading someone’s mundane recollection of Wednesday, March 2nd.

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