Natural Beauty

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Sitting at the pool relaxing. This is great. What can I say, vacation is going wonderfully. Today I went snorkeling in probably the most beautiful reefs I’ve ever seen. Maybe some of the best in the world for all I know. It was like a forest of color stretching as far as I could see. A whole underwater world that I rarely if ever get the chance to be a part of. Thousands of fish all around me. Waters teeming with life. All I could do was laugh, trying not to gag on my snorkel! Sometimes God’s creation leaves me like that- speechless but bursting with praise and wonder inside.

I can’t think of a more beautiful place to be. We’re on a remote island off of Bali. It’s so much more calm and peaceful here than the main island- nobody hounding me about buying things, nobody chasing me down asking if I want a massage. No traffic. Much quieter. The local people here exist as they always have. In fact our hotel is split into two sections- an older one by the beach, a newer one down the road, and locals still living in huts in between. They’re all really helpful too, willing to give us a motorbike ride up the beach or advising us as to the best surfing spots.

I remarked to some friends today that although we work in some pretty tough conditions we have by far the best vacation spots in the world. Yes, living in Southeast Asia does have it’s benefits. There are times when I just have to pinch myself and say “Josh, where are you? Do you really get to do this?” The people I’ve been able to meet. . . The places I’ve been able to go. . . What can I say? I’m truly blessed to be able to do this. And I thank God for all the opportunities He’s given me. It’s truly remarkable.

“Thank you lord for the beauty of your world. Thank you lord for the wonder of your creation. Thank you lord for the privilege to experience it. I stand in awe lord! Amen!”

— the glory of woman is her beauty
— the glory of man is his strength
— the glory of God is His everything

Singapore, first Impressions

Singapore. First impressions. Very NICE, clean, and organized. Beautiful trees and bushes. Everything was manicured. Very 1st world. I can’t say I’ve ever been to a place like it. There were malls and coffee shops everywhere. Lots of shopping opportunities, both modern in-style stuff, and unique handmade souvenir and clothing places too. As for shopping and restaurants, it had it all though generally more expensive than the States. Public transportation was a breath of fresh air. Buses came every ten minutes to anywhere in the city. And the train service was even faster. Traffic was never very bad probably because cars were mostly optionally.

As for culture, it was a mix from all over, but predominately Chinese, Malay, Indian, Singaporean, and then American/European. Everyone spoke English (or Singlish) so that wasn’t a problem. But I suppose like every big city it was kind of impersonal. All the specific traits and characteristics of these nationalities was absent. Instead it was replaced by a very streamlined, modern, fast paced mix.

But for all the cultures they’ve made it work well! Singapore is one of the safest and cleanest places on earth. It’s obvious they’ve really thought through how to make an international city. However, it felt a little bland. Everybody just sort of minded their own business. An amalgamation of cultures and religions, just try not to offend anyone. Singapore is rich and prosperous and has great infrastructure. However, if you’re looking for a rich cultural experience you might get lost in the malls.

All that said, it’s a great place to visit. Truly a beautiful city and definitely worth a visit. Be prepared to do a lot of shopping! You’ll want to.

The Freedom to Breath

I’m sitting here at the Starbucks in the Jakarta international airport. We’re all checked in and just waiting for our flight later tonight to Singapore. We have several hours until we leave, so a lot of time to kill. This is rare for us. . . having time to kill. In fact it’s so rare the only thing I can think to do is write about it. Maybe a burst of inspiration will hit me in a minute or so. But right now I can’t think of anything to do. Maybe boredom is a healthy feeling. Maybe I’ve forgotten what it means to relax- to truly have nothing to do. Perhaps being forced to sit here and wait is a good and healthy exercise for me. Like I said, I don’t get this very often.

I remember back in the day- yes, back in high school the landscape looked a lot different. I had lots of alone time- lots of time for reflection. I remember clearly the times of laying upstairs in my bedroom, listening to some reflective music like Seal or Sting, watching the different colors spin around the room as my shape lamp rotated around on the floor. Yep, good times. I think my introverted tendencies really started to solidify during this time of my life. But I learned the value if deep thought, of really thinking things through, and the importance if making time for yourself. These are things I would really have to fight for in the years to come, in my college years. Fight to make time for yourself. SO important! And it doesn’t get any easier. These are things I still have to fight for- maybe now more than ever. Maybe the older you get the busier you get. Is that true? Are we destined to be busy busy busy people for the rest of our life, all the way to retirement? I’ve always thought the idea is retirement was sort of funny. I don’t want to retire. But maybe when you get older you get to a point of slowing down. Of lessening effort and drive.

Whatever it is, whether you’re thirteen or thirty, I place great value in reflective time. Time set aside to pull away or out of the things you’re currently “in”. See things from a different perspective. Even here in Asia, in a world that is so not my own I can still sit back and marvel at the things around me, at the life around me, at the people and situations around me. So fascinating. It’s in those moments of reflection that I feel truly grateful. I step out of the daily grind and see better what God is doing, who He’s made me to be, and everything He’s already done to bring me here. Yes, I really need vacations like this. I need to be “me”. To have the ability to see the bigger picture again. Or maybe just a simple reminder that it’s OK from time to time to just relax and do nothing. Give your brain and your heart the freedom to breath, to live.

Gettin’ out of town

Getting very psyched about our upcoming trip to Singapore. We leave in just two days. Can’t wait. We’ll only be there a week but I think that’ll be enough. I know it’ll be a full and very memorable week. And I don’t think it could come any sooner really. We need a break. We need a little vacation. We’ve been in Indonesia a little over two years and really only once have we had a “vacation”, in other words something that is not retreat or workshop or meeting, etc. It seems we travel a lot but rarely is it for personal reasons.

So this week we celebrate our anniversary, June 23rd, and also get to visit my cousins Scott and Randi who live in Singapore. We’ll stay at their condo which we hear is really really nice. Sorta funny. . . we’ve adjusted to life in our village here pretty well. It was quite a shock when we first moved into our house. Definitely in need of a lot of tender lovin’ care. But we’ve made it into a home, whatever it is. Now whenever we go somewhere else (like a hotel, nice restaurant) it’s shocking. We definitely suffer from reverse culture shock now more than culture shock. Our five month furlough back to the States taught us that. We’re very much looking forward to our visit but also bracing ourselves for what we’ll find. But at this point I say BRING IT! culture shock or not. I am so looking forward to sinking my teeth into a big juicy burger. . . or a leafy green salad. . . or a huge cheese pizza. Oh wow, yes I’m drooling on myself now. Yep. Very much looking forward to our trip. Oh, and looking forward to seeing family too. That’s always the most memorable and best part of any trip!

Chasing the Sun

For the first time ever I can say that I saw the sun rise in the West. The West you say?? Yep, I saw the sun rise in the West, not the East.

Kim and I boarded our plane in Detroit headed for Hong Kong. At first we flew straight north up into Canada. At some point we veered west and I could see the sun setting way off in the distance. It went down, turned the horizon all red and dark looking, and then stayed there. . . for several hours. Then at some point it started to get brighter. Sure enough, the sun was coming back up! I looked at our in-flight map and noticed that we were far north into Canada, not that far from the North Pole it seemed. It got brighter and brighter till it was day. Looking at my local time it was about 8:30 pm, but bright as can be. So the sun never really set. It just went down, hovered there for a while and then came right back up. Traveling at the top of the globe like we were we could catch up with the sun and even surpass it.

Travel wears you out, but I’ve decided that it’s awful darn relaxing too. I mean, once you’re ON THE PLANE, sitting there with all your stuff sorted out there’s nothing left to do but wait. And on a flight from America to Asia you have plenty of time to do just that. We brought books, ipod, music, and there were movies right in front of our faces. But sometimes just zoning out is the best way to be. In a world of so many distractions sometimes the healthiest thing to do is nothing. Yep, travel is tiring, and we’re pretty exhausted sitting in this Hong Kong airport. But somtimes life presents you with little moments that you just have to grab, savor, and enjoy while it’s there. Give your brain a little room to stretch and breath before the next thing comes along.

Ok, time to catch some Zzz’s. . . goodnight!

Back

We’re back in the States- first time since a year and nine months. Just have to say that it’s been very intriguing and interesting being back. I notice a lot of things here that I wouldn’t normally notice. For example, the things people care about, values, worries, concerns, conversation topics are all so different for me. I’m realizing many of these have been so far from my thoughts for so long. I forget.

It’s a mix of emotions for me. On the one hand, it’s really refreshing to step out of ‘the village’ life and back into modern America. In a word, it’s COMFORTABLE. Comfortable furniture, air conditioning, television I can watch and understand without straining. . . good food, new (old) clothes. Comfortable, and very warming to my heart.

But it’s been a struggle for me to explain our side of the story. People often have a hard time grasping the things we tell them about our life, about the people of Indonesia, about our village, events we attend, etc. They have a hard time understanding, which is totally understandable. Thus far we’ve been sharing as little as possible, just enjoying the simple fact that we’re back. We want to re-acclimate to America before we unpack and dive into the details of our life over there. We feel pretty overwhelmed ourselves and don’t want to overwhelm people with things they’ve never thought about before. But I suppose given the opportunity we could talk for hours about everything we’ve learned and experienced there. God knows I want to write a book (or books) about it someday. Our hearts desire is to SHARE what God is doing in different parts of the world and the things He’s let us see. It really opens my eyes to who God is when I see such diversity. We’ll get our chance soon I suppose. For now, we’re just happy to be back, enjoying the familiarity of ‘home’ . Once we gather our thoughts we’ll have ample opportunity to speak about our adventures.