Friday, April 11, 2008

I'm in China...


Without question, today's visit to the Great Wall of China was a great new experience! It was one of those surreal kind of things where you have to stop and ask yourself, "Am I really here?"

I WAS really there! Today, in fact! We climbed. We climbed more. We climbed hundreds of worn stone steps that had seen the soles of many, many feet! It was a very cool experience. I wish you could have been there! The picture above was taken from part way up my climb, looking across the valley to another part of the wall. It was amazing!

Beijing really is an amazing place, and is becoming even more amazing as they prepare for the Olympics! This is actually my fourth trip to China, but my first visit to the Great Wall. It WAS great.

Thoughts over the Pacific...

I haven’t posted since January 20th…A lot has happened since then. My original goal was to have four new experiences a month during my year of “crossing over;” that mile stone of turning 50 years old. I haven’t changed my goal, but I guess I do need to do a little better job of sharing my thoughts lest they “leave my mind” as my great aunt Maude used to say.

Because I haven’t posted in awhile, I am going to simply list the top eight new experiences/insights from the months of February and March. If you keep reading, I am honored!

Here we go, in no particular order…Oh yeah, I am writing this from a crampy little seat on Northwest flight #5, somewhere over the Pacific. I am on my way to China and Korea for some new experiences; but, that will have to wait…It’s April and this is about February and March.

Perfect Temperatures in March…I left the US on March 6th, leading a team of SC students to the island country of the Dominican Republic. Visiting a new country is tops in my desired list of new experiences! We left the dreary, gray, late winter of Oregon for the sunny, warm Caribbean to come along side a ministry in the village of Juan Tomas. Our task was to help complete some work at the Christian school in the village, do what we could to share the love and mercy of God with this very needy village, and generally support the work of Paul, the local missionary. It was a great experience, and served to broaden my world view and see another aspect of God’s heart for the nations. As you will see, some of my new experiences came out of this trip to the DR. One of them was the beautiful experience of absolutely perfect temperatures at 7:00 am when it was time to get up, and between 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm; beautiful, skin-warming, extraordinarily fine, perfect temperatures! Unbelieveable!

Loving Brutus…Brutus was one of my friends in the above-mentioned village of Juan Tomas. I shared a room with him, and he generally kept me company in the evenings when I was in the room. He was very regular in coming to visit and was faithful to be there each evening when we returned from the day’s tasks. It was interesting how many of the team wanted to meet him and get pictures of him! He was small, very quiet, actually had very red hair like two of my sons, Scotty and Jonathan; and, he was pretty private. He was a tarantula! In the first sixty seconds of arriving in my very third world kind of room in the DR, I had several new experiences! I pushed open the creaky door of my room to see a large, very ugly rat running towards me. That was a little startling, so I decided to put my things on the bed so I could check out the room a little more in-depth. As soon as I did that, the largest cockroach I have ever seen scurried out of the mattress to escape my presence! Okay…I was getting the picture…I was going to be sleeping in the zoo! I took my things off the bed, and went over to put my bag on the counter by the rusty, dripping sink, only to discover that Brutus had already claimed that as his territory! I deduced that he lived in the over flow slot of the sink, eating the little critters that came to the dripping sink for a bit of liquid refreshment! After my initial hesitation at sharing a room with the wildlife, I actually became friends with Brutus. He would come out each evening, I would carefully reach out to touch his large, hairy abdomen, and then we would all shutter and he would jump and run back into his home. I miss him.

The Barclay Intercontinental…Staying at a five-star hotel in Manhattan is an experience not to be missed! On our return from the Dominican Republic, our team had a 24 hour layover, so we decided to help our students experience Mid-Town Manhattan. With substantial discounts from the hotel, we were able to put four to a room, and enjoy the amenities of a fine (Did I say it was fine?), beautiful (Did I tell you it was beautiful?), very fine (Did I tell you it was very fine?) hotel! Picture this…the marbled bathroom floor was heated so your feet stayed warm while you did your business watching CNN (or whatever) in the bathroom mirror! (Okay, maybe for some of you this is no big deal. I’m from Oregon, okay? I didn’t know mirrors could be TV screens.) Actually there were two mirror/tv screens. I guess they wanted it to be convenient if you need to turn your head while in the bathroom. It was fine! (Did I tell you the hotel was very fine?)

The Village Witch Doctor…Well, this was a new one! I had heard of witch doctors, but I had never been to the home of a real one! One day while walking and praying in the village of Juan Tomas with a group of our team members, Curtis (one of our students) and I thought it would be a great experience to visit the home of the witch doctor and share the truth about the God of Heaven…So, we did! We walked to his house, were invited in (he wasn’t home, but his family was), and I proceeded to share that the God of Heaven is very powerful, and that He actually created us with purpose, to know and glorify Him. While the rest of the team prayed for the eyes of this family to be opened, so they might see the truth, the Lord enabled me to tactfully and carefully share about God’s great love for all people. It was a very significant moment. Who knows, maybe God’s Holy Spirit will impact this family and they, in turn, will impact the village witch doctor, who will impact others. We plant, others water, and God gives the increase. In any case, sharing about God’s great love in a witch doctor’s home was a new experience!

Shattering the Silence, or, Too Much Estrogen?…Our home dramatically changed last summer! Those who know our family know that for many years, our home was full of boys; big boys, little boys, dirty boys, clean boys, noisy boys, quiet boys, American boys, Korean boys, Japanese boys, all sorts of boys! This past summer, things changed dramatically when James, (our “Korean son”) who lived with us for five years while attending Santiam Christian, returned to Korea. Scotty, our second son found a woman and married her. Jeremy, our social-networker moved into Corvallis for attendance at Oregon State University (and for additional social opportunities). Our noisy, active home was left with me, my lovely wife Jeannie, and my darling daughter, Hannah. Jonathan (our oldest son) lives in the backyard in the “man-shed” and is around some, though he is largely nocturnal and spends much of his time studying at OSU and creating cool stuff in his rented, cryptic shop space near our home. He’s basically not around much. So, as you can see, our home became a quiet oasis of calm after years of controlled, much loved chaos. I had backed off on some time commitments, and we no longer had basketball games, football games, or wrestling matches to attend. Jeannie, Hannah and I learned what it meant to relax on quiet evenings…maybe even watch “The Amazing Race” which quickly became our favorite show. (This last season of the show was the 8th season…we had never even seen the show. What does that tell you?) Basically, we were transitioning into a little more quiet home life.

Suddenly, in January, Helen and Rebecca showed up! We decided to host these two little ten year old Korea girls…The silence was shattered! Though they were each charming in their own ways, they did shatter the silence! We enjoyed having them with us. But then came Yena and Mina!!! Two more Korean girls who stayed with us for a week! We now had four Korean girls eating kimchee and yelling in Korean! Then….oh my goodness! Here come Bridgette and Ronita from Uganda and India who were visiting Corvallis as part of a childrens choir! Can you say, “Too much estrogen?” We went from a boy house to a girl house very quickly! I am not complaining, but I must say that there were a lot of girls around!

Many of you already know this, but my wife and my daughter are heroes! During the three months we had Helen and Rebecca, Jeannie and Hannah were the epitome of patience. During the Week of Women when we had six (Did you get that?)…I said SIX additional girls in our home, they were amazing!

I will say that it was an amazing thing to sit down to dinner with my wife, my daughter, and six girls from three countries. It was a new and unusual experience, and reminded me of the blessing it is to share what you have with others. I believe that simple sharing of who you are and what you have goes a long way in showing the world the love of the Father. Try sharing your life with others.

Chopsticks in the Park…A Saturday afternoon in February…Jeannie and Hannah are gone shopping with Helen and Rebecca…I am home to finish some jobs around the house. I’m hungry. Really hungry. Kabuki roll? Aomatsu? Without question!

Kabuki roll is my favorite dish at Aomatsu, our favorite local Japanese restaurant. Now here is something simple I have never done! I just took myself right out to Aomatsu, got my Kabuki roll to go, went to the park near our home and ate Kabui roll with my chopsticks! A simple new experience, but not every new experience needs to be in another country, or cost a bunch of money, or whatever! This one was inexpensive, but very enjoyable and caused me to see the area near our home in a whole new light.

It is actually a very beautiful place and I am very privileged to live where I do. I can walk to work, grab my fishing pole and walk to the pond to fish if I want to, or walk to the park and watch the stars. I can walk seven minutes and be in the university research forest and enjoy the kind of beauty and solitude that others only find on their summer vacations. I can go on vacation any day I want to! I can get on my bike and in a few minutes be riding on miles of abandoned roads on an old military base turned wildlife refuge. I can drive an hour and a half and be in one of the best cities in the US, Portand, Oregon! I can drive sixty minutes and enjoy the rugged beauty of the Oregon Coast. I can stay in my backyard and feel like I am in a tree-surrounded sanctuary that is reserved just for me and my family. I am a blessed man. May I always be thankful.

I Like Goat Milk…I didn’t know it before my DR experience, but I like goat milk. I don’t like feta cheese (That’s a kind of goat cheese, isn’t it?) so I thought I hated all things goat. I ate too much goat for breakfast in Uganda last summer, so I was pretty convinced after that experience that I am not goat-friendly. Well, several mornings we had cold cereal with goat milk in the Dominican Republic. I like it. In fact, our missionary goat farmers convinced me that all of humanity should be drinking goat milk instead of cow’s milk. They said it is better for us and I believe them. (I do think I’ll do a little research, however.) Cow’s milk comes from tits. Goat milk comes from tits. (Is it better to say teats? I think it’s funnier to say tits, so I hope I’m not offending you.) If milk comes from tits, and cows and goats are both animals that give milk from those things, why is one milk better than the other? Paul’s wife (I can’t remember her name.) explained all the benefits of drinking goat milk to me and I was pretty excited at the time. In fact, I was so thoroughly excited about ingesting milk from goat tits that I asked her to find the names of goat farmers who live near us in her “goat farmers of the world” directory. I’m not kidding you. She actually has one! I think I need to email her about all the benefits of goat milk that I have forgotten. I want to be goat-friendly and I do like goat milk. You should try it, too.

P.S. I don’t like horse milk. I drank some in Mongolia a couple of years ago. It had a big glob of horse milk butter in the middle of it. I also ate dried cakes of horse milk yogurt. I never thought of horses giving milk until them. I mean really, did you ever think of milk coming from horse teats? You did not.

Hah-Hah, Little Mosquitoes!...Well, my battery only has about 30 minutes left, so I need to write about one more new experience to meet my goal and write before the battery dies!

Until March 7th, I had never slept inside of a mosquito net in a tropical country. I already mentioned Brutus the Tarantula and Ratty the Rat in an earlier piece. Well, I didn’t want Ratty to chew on my toes or crawl on me while I was sleeping, so I slept with the light on in the DR in hopes that the light would keep Ratty at bay.

(It did…I know because I did a little experiment. The first night, I slept with the light on because I just thought it might keep Ratty away. The second night I designed a wonderful experiment! I put a small pile of mixed nuts on the floor and slept with the light off. In the morning the nuts were gone! The next night, I put out another little pile of nuts for Ratty and slept with the light on. In the morning the nuts were still there! Conclusion…burning lights keep rats at bay.)

Well, an unexpected benefit of sleeping inside a mosquito net with the lights burning is that you can see all the little critters flying around trying to find a way in to suck your blood and make you itch. Hah, hah, Little Mosquitoes! They didn’t get me and I slept soundly.

I actually liked sleeping inside my large, protective, green, wombish mosquito net. In fact, I became so attached to it that I brought it to school the day we returned and draped it over my desk in hopes that my students would ask about the DR trip so I could tell them impacting, life-changing stories and they would be in awe of me. They thought I put it there because it was green. The day I got back to school was St. Patrick’s Day. I took it down before 10:00 am. Oh well, they are junior highers.
I am going to hang my mosquito net over my hammock this summer; and shine my flashlight to attract mosquitoes and watch them not bite me. I’m easily entertained.

Bye…the battery is leaving.