America, Art, Beauty, Celebration, Culture

St. Valentine

I’ve always heard that “when you meet the right one, you’ll just know.” Or “when you know, you know.” And I’ve never understood that before. That certainty that the person you’re with is the person you’re supposed to be with for life. That sureness that this relationship is right. 

Everyone talks about these committed dating relationships and how they end in a pretty ring and a picture perfect wedding. But no one really talks about how they start. Oh sure, anyone will tell you their love story. You can trace it all back to the day everyone met. But, I’m talking about more than that. The part that they don’t tell you. The part that is unseen by the rest of the world. The inner workings. 

I am a person with what I hope is a good amount of resolve. When I set it in my mind to do something, I’ll work to get it done. That’s not to say everything that I set out to do works out. It’s also not to say that I’m invincible. But, the first step to getting anything done is determining in your mind what your goal is and going after it. 

This is what no one told me about committed relationships.

You have to be ready for one. 

Not ready in the: I wish I had a boyfriend to go out and do fun things with. Or the, I’m single and everyone else has someone, so I need someone too. Or the, I’m reaching my mid-twenties and society is telling me that this is the time for me to find my person.

I’ve never been in a serious relationship before. And I can blame that on not meeting the right person yet, not “clicking” with the guys I’ve dated, I could even blame them and say they weren’t ready. But in all actuality, I’m realizing I was never ready. 

And there is nothing wrong with that.

There is nothing wrong with not being ready to settle down. There is nothing wrong with having goals and ambitions that have nothing to do with a relationship. There is nothing irresponsible about living a happy, healthy single life. No one can tell you what your timing will be, when you’ll be ready or if you’ll ever be ready. There is no time stamp on when love has to come about. 

Because even if we’re ready, we can never really plan for love anyway. Sometimes, it just happens. 

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America, Asia, Beauty, Culture, Family, Health, Missions, Travel

Mother Roasting

I saw Mama Lao today. In case you missed hearing about her, you can see Be Nice. for reference. She saw me and immediately said (in Lao): my foreign daughter! I’m so glad to have you back! I’ve picked up the word for foreign: it’s pronounced like falong. So I always know when people are talking about me. Which seems to happen quite often around here.


I’m a little late on a Mother’s Day post. Things move a lot slower in Laos, so according to our standards, I’m probably right on time for Mother’s Day. Plus, they don’t really celebrate that holiday here, or atleast not at the same time as we do. 

It just so happened, though, that my Monday lesson was about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and introducing children to new foods. Did I mention that I was teaching this lesson to a room full of Lao ladies who have almost all been through this process? Did I also mention that I have never been through any of these processes? I think that should go without saying, but still. Book knowledge vs. real life experience never compares. 


And, as with everything else, they had quite a bit to teach me. Our sessions are really informal, with me introducing topics and then asking them questions about it. Then, inevitably, they’ll ask me questions about America and the way we do things. It’s a learning experience from both sides. Which I love. 

They asked me about water births. That’s something that is so foreign to them, so they wanted to know how it works, if it’s beneficial, etc. I know a little about the subject, so I was able to share with them what I knew. 

Then, they said: do you do mother roasting in America? 

That’s the literal translation of it. Mother roasting. 

I had read about it before, so I wasn’t unfamilar with the process or terminology. But, I’d read about it in the context of villagers in Cambodia. So, to be in a roomful of doctors who had experienced this surprised me.

Mother roasting starts right after child birth. They keep the new mother in a room, with coals under her bed and keep the temperature extremely hot. It’s supposed to be a cleansing process for her body. In some cases, the mother is also required to squat over hot coals as well, for cleansing purposes. And, they insist that every new mother take a scalding shower a few days after childbirth with water as hot as they can get it. 

The time for mother roasting varies from woman to woman. It’s essentially a time of confinement for the woman, where she stays in the house, alternating between time on the hot bed. Relatives will come visit and the woman does not cook at all during this time. A lot of them see it as a treat. It’s almost a welcome to motherhood. 

Most of the doctors said they had done it only for about two weeks after birth. Other mothers had their roast for 1 to even 3 months. It’s been 111 degrees here for a few days, so I can’t imagine being trapped in a hot room on top of the already unbearable heat. But, it’s a very culturally accepted and necessary practice. 

So, I’ve decided that I’ll wear the Lao skirt, I’ll eat the Lao noodles, but I don’t think mother roasting is a practice I’ll adopt. Once a falong, always a falong. 

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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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Asia, Beauty, Culture, Fashion, Food, Travel

It Takes Two

I never wear lip color. But, Jake and Jordan were busy buying gold face lotion (yes, it actually has gold flecks in it and is apparently some of the best face lotion on the market in the world right now, as told by the girl selling it) so I used all the store testers to give myself a new look. Jake was less than impressed that I used the store tester lip gloss wand, but it looked pretty clean to me.

Pucker up

In other news, I’ve won Jordan over to the dark side. I was literally having a meltdown. I think I’m borderline hypoglycemic because sometimes it feels like my blood sugar just drops off the map. I was having a moment and all I wanted was street corn. As in cobs of corn that they cook and sell on a street. God heard my request fast because as soon as I said it, we walked right up to a stand.

 

Street corn stand

It’s maybe a little odd to some people, but I love it. And now Jordan does too. You get two street corns for two dollars. They only sell them in sets. You can’t buy one corn for one dollar. You have to buy two. I don’t really know why, except for the fact that everything here is made for couples. Even the street corns. I think it’s a conspiracy, ya’ll.

 

Subway hat shopping and corn eating, no shame in my game

Did I also mention that Jake, Jordan, and I are all currently single and all have no prospects of changing that anytime soon? So, we don’t exactly fit into the couple culture here. And, yes, it is very much a culture. You’re not somebody unless you have a somebody. And they go to extreme measures to let you know they go together.

 

Singles in Seoul

 

Couple clothing. It’s a phenomenon.

They literally buy matching things as a couple then wear them at the same time to let you know they’re taken. Here are a few examples:

Winter coats: to me, this could almost be construed as seasonal, so it wouldn’t be my first choice of couple clothing. I feel like it says, we’re together for the winter, but once spring hits, I’m out! However, the cost amount of a coat may indicate a more serious status in the couple clothing world. Also, it is an essential, so maybe if your guy wants matching coats, you should go for it.

Shoes: this one is the most popular (and the most difficult to get a picture of). We saw a ton of matching shoes. This is also a little more costly purchase, however, I think it indicates a medium amount of commitment. My thoughts are that it says: we’re officially established as a couple and we’re semi-serious, but we’re probably never getting married.


Hats and scarves: totally seasonal, not a costly purchase, not too much thought put into it, you’re definitely not marriage potential. But, you’re cute, so keep doing you.

That pretty much covers the main bases on attire. The options vary some in the summer: matching t-shirts, matching shorts, etc.But, I’m not really concerned about finding someone to share fashion with. What I’m really concerned with is finding someone to share delicious street corns with. Jake is no good because he hates corn, unless it comes in the form of a tortilla. But, me and Jordan make a perfect match.

My true Seoul-mate.

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Beauty, Health, Religion, Travel

Enough is Enough

Magazines are good for two things: airports and waiting rooms. I tend to like books better, but when I read a book, I usually get lost in it. So, magazines are my answer to casual reading. 

There was an interview with an actress in a magazine I was reading recently. She’s smiling, all glossy and beautiful on the cover. In the interview, the author of the article is asking her the typical questions: what’s your secret to looking so good? What’s your daily skin care routine? What tips do you have for how to eat healthy? And she’s giving all the right answers about exercise and SPF and healthy diets. But they asked her another question that caught my eye. What’s your greatest fear? And you know what she said? I’m terrified of not being enough. 

Enough is a word I’ve been thinking about for awhile. I’d been thinking about it before I read this article, which is why it caught my eye. For me, sometimes, Scripture will jump off the page and speak to me. And I think it’s supposed to. But it’s not always the major Scriptures, the ones from the Gospels and Romans, the big ones. Sometimes the Lord speaks through the tiny details. Which is what I found in this verse. It stayed in my mind. Joel 2:19: “The Lord answered their prayers and said, I will give you enough grain and wine and olive oil to satisfy your needs.”

What is enough? See, that’s what I love about this verse. They had been going through a rough time. They had turned their backs on God, famine had taken over their land, crops were no good, animals were starving, all around catastrophe. Finally, they turned back to the Lord and He gave them this promise. 

Enough. 

He didn’t say He was going to rescue them immediately and turn everything around. He didn’t promise abundance. He promised enough. 

For the actress, she was scared of not being pretty enough or smart enough. But enough means different things to everyone. I worry about doing enough, having enough time, getting enough sleep, learning enough, being enough of whatever anyone needs me to be, and a million other enoughs. 

I don’t think the Lord’s promise applied only to the rebellious Israelites though. I think it applies to me too. The Lord will provide. He will satisfy my needs for today. His Promise is true. 

And that’s enough for me. 

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Beauty, Celebration, Culture, History

Pig Tales

You know how you know it’s the week before VBS? When your shopping list includes 6000 pony beads and a 50 pack of giant Pixy Stix. And, in case you were wondering, one of these pixy stix exceeds my recommended daily allowance of sugar. ONE STICK. As in, there are over 50 days worth of sugar in this package. Like 2 months worth of sugar. How ridiculous is that?! And I’m buying these for children. I’ll go ahead and bury my head in the sand and assume they are not going to consume all of this at once. Right?
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Sugar coma waiting to happen

I get asked/volunteered to do a lot of things. I think I just have that face, where people look at me and think, we could talk her into doing that. Write it off as fulfilling my civic duty: I was asked to judge the beauty pageant at our annual town celebration. I’m not quite sure who decided I’d be qualified for this, but I was told to show up at 9:30 in the morning and we’d start with the tiny tots.
Tiny Tots division

Tiny Tots division

I assume everyone reading this knows me. And if you do, you know that my standard outfit is athletic shorts, tshirts (shocker, I know), and sandals. I wear my hair in a ponytail with a headband and 92% of the time, I don’t wear any makeup. So, beauty is not really my scene. But, for Maysville Day, anything goes. (To be completely honest, I judged the kids more by what they said their favorite foods were than by how they looked. One kid said mole’. Bonus points from me!)
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Our town is really more of a community. The population is 130 people. It’s small town America at its smallest. Just to give you a better idea of what it’s like here: I dropped a tote of packages off at the post office and left my credit card with them to process the payment when they were done then forgot about it and went back two days later to retrieve my card. So basically what I’m saying is I’m irresponsible and forgetful, but it’s okay because I can trust the post master not to run away on a shopping spree.
Our tiny little post office

Our tiny little post office

When I was born, we lived in the house on the corner (if you’re from here, you’d know exactly what house I’m talking about because there are only 4 corners and only one of them has a house on it), which was built in 1899 and used to be the doctor’s house. I think it’s the oldest building still standing, along with our church which was built in 1905. Maysville has been there to see a Civil War battle fought on its doorstep and to see the Cherokee Trail of Tears make it’s final entrance into Oklahoma. It even survived through Prohibition, selling bootleg liquor out of the back of one of the stores on old main street because the front of the store opened into Arkansas and the backdoor opened into Oklahoma. We have a rich history and it is one of the binding threads of this little community.
Maysville Day is the event of the year and it is an event, let me tell you. It’s country. There’s southern culture, then there’s country culture and it overlaps in a lot of places, but it differs too. We have the best (or worst, depending on how you want to look at it) of both worlds. I’ll just highlight some of the events of Maysville Day for you. There is live music all day (country, bluegrass, and gospel, of course) and the stage consists of pallets laid out together and the seating? You guessed it: hay bales. There’s a horse shoe contest, pancake breakfast, car cutting by the fire department, all the typical things. Then, there’s cow patty bingo and a pig chasing. Because this is Maysville and pig chasing is apparently part of our heritage.
The homemade stage

The homemade stage

I showed up (civic duty check-off) at 9:30 (let’s be real: it was more like 9:38) to find 35 beautiful little people ready to be judged by yours truly. Last year, they had 8 contestants. This year, 35, in a room with no air conditioning, on the hottest day we’ve had here so far. It’s useless trying to be beautiful in this heat, trust me. We crowned our winners. Just in time for them to saddle up their horses and get in the parade.
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We were just wrapping up and getting ready to leave when a man came in all in an uproar because someone unloaded “a black pig in a black cage” behind his truck and asked him to watch it and hadn’t been back for it. He also informed us that his wife scared the pig (at which point the wife chimes in with an overlapping story about how the pig actually scared her) and they weren’t going to try to move it again but that the pig needed watered because the man had left it sitting out in the sun. Why was he coming to the beauty pageant room to air these grievances? I don’t know. But as I was walking to my car, I saw a guy moving the pig and dumping a bucket of water on it. Looks like he’ll be nice and rested by the time they let him loose to be chased.
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