Tuesday, April 5, 2011

staying on the path.

"There is no one like you..." - King David (2 Samuel 7)

I love how David prayed. Just saying. The man spoke out some good words. There is a deeper place of prayer, passion and promise that I have been going to lately. It's like going to my favourite barrista with an old friend - a familiar, easy to find place. And that feeling of honesty and spiritual realness with the one who knows me best is just a really great place to be... a new season for me.

A friend of mine said this morning: "it's your quiet time". She meant that I get to be still, enjoy life as it unfolds, not worry, love in the moment, rest, listen, hope, dream, know, create, believe, write, read, think, pray ... and she is right. This season is all about just being in that quiet place.

And, I am loving it.

I am leaving for Myanmar on Friday morning. A Canadian man (from my hometown) was recently arrested in a northern region of Myanmar. I've just been reading the news coverage (what little there is of it). It looks like it was an adventure that kind of went all wrong. He was in the wrong place, taking pictures, and has been charged as an illegal immigrant.

My ever so slightly worried, always so sincerely loving Dad was asking me if I really have to go there right now. I've definitely wondered whether I have any wisdom at all in going. But a child-like hope rises in my soul at knowing I am invited to a new place. My sense of wonder and adventure at going is too strong. The spirit leads me and I have peace and expectation in this journey.

I will be wise. I will be staying on the well-beaten path (for once). No wandering into the trees with my camera. My path is well travelled from Yangon, to Nagpali Beach, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake. I'll be finding artists, drinking tea in tea shops, soaking up the sun on a beach christened by a homesick Italian, finding peace in the history and faith of ancient cities, and riding my bike around a beautiful lake. It is going to be my quiet time.

In all of it, I want to pray... with a passionate poetry instead of prescribed praises. There's a sacred romance to this trip - an indescribable, but deeply felt mysticism. A new path is set before me. And, I know the one who leads me is with me.

"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." - King David (Psalm 16)

Please pray for me to walk, ride and fly in safety. Because, I've got a whole lot of ridiculous joy - and a whole lotta love - as my heart seeks for the one who leads me on this path of life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

following george.

I am back in Bangkok and have been putting in long days at work. Yes, I am here working... not just adventuring around to interesting countries, hanging out on on beaches and bike riding through ancient cities. Holy, my life is good.

My work here is also good. I am disappointed that it will end in a few weeks. It leaves me to wonder how to set any long-term goals. Something in me wants to keep doing international work, for a long time. But my goals and what actually happens are usually very different. There are a lot of unexpected surprises that have happened on my way to heaven, put it that way.

My next trip will be to Myanmar (Burma). I haven't booked my exact travel dates yet, but I'll be going for at least a week. My plan is to fly to Yangon and head north to Inle Lake and Mandalay. If there is time, I will also go west to Bagan and Nagpali Beach.

I am madly trying to learn some "survival" phrases in Burmese. Myanmar is less accessible to western travelers. Canada and other western nations have imposed economic sanctions against this country, for political reasons. As a result, there is extreme poverty and low levels of education. There is also less chance of having fluent conversations in English. This is actually a good thing. It means I get to learn a little more Burmese than just "hello" "goodbye" "please" "thankyou" and "cheers".

Everything that I have read about Myanmar is conflicted. One lens says it is the most beautiful country, full of people who are warm and generous. Another lens says it has a history of climatic unrest, political oppression and natural disasters. It is a country that transformed and shaped George Orwell's life and writing career. Biographers have said that his last words and thoughts were with Burma. And that simple fact is enough for me to go.

As I was walking through the pouring, torrential rain (with my new umbrella - thanks to the secretary at my work) to ask the doctor about malaria pills, I began composing a letter to the late and loved George O. It is only half written, but it attempts to express the unique sense of creativity, imagination and expectation that grabs me when I think about Burma. It also unveils that what I really want to do with my life is write. I just do not know what to write, yet. Beginning is always easy. It is finding the purpose, the structure and the end that is a bit more tricky.

Five years ago, I sat in my little garden in Royston and read a collection of essays by George Orwell. His essay titled "Shooting an Elephant" is priceless. But the essay that has stayed with me is his essay titled "Why I Write".

You can read it here: http://www.k-1.com/Orwell/index.cgi/work/essays/write.html

I think it is really something that I went from reading about George Orwell to following his footsteps. And so, I am curious to see what this next adventure holds.

Monday, March 21, 2011

chul moi

The first phrase I learned in Khmer was "chul moi".

It is used in the same way that the English say Cheers, or the Germans say Prost, or the French say Santé.

It's literal meaning is "as one".

I learned that first phrase while sitting under a bamboo awning, on the side of the road just outside of Phnom Penh. We had just been to the Killing Fields and my slightly overwhelmed tuk-tuk driver stopped for a drink of Cambodian water (which is not really water). So, I sat in this roadside bamboo watering hole with a couple of khmer men, who were drinking away their past, present and future. It was definitely Cambodian water but felt a bit like an Irish pub when everyone raised their glasses and said "chul moi".

Cambodia has changed me. I am back in Bangkok (and glad to be home), but I'm still carrying Cambodia around with me... chul moi...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Have you ever sat up close to your bedroom window, watching fresh fire cracks of lightening dance across the sky?

I have been doing that a lot lately. The storms at night in Bangkok are very beautiful. I can sit for hours and watch them. There's a peacefulness that comes.

The past ten days of my life have been very intense. Early last week, the building beside our condo exploded into flames in the middle of the night. As I watched the emergency crews rescuing neighbors from the smoke and flames, I realized: I have a very interesting life.

It humbles me, constantly. I felt ridiculously small and helpless, as I stood alone in a dirty alleyway, beside the fire that had reached deep into the Bangkok night. I felt terrified but still very lucky, blessed and safe, as the near-death-experience of my neighbours unfolded in front of me. Every one was carried safely through the flames by five very brave firemen. But the devastation was very real when we woke up in the morning. Many of the people next door were sleeping on mats in the street. There was nowhere else to go.

A few days later, one of my friends flew out of Tokyo just hours before the earthquake and tsunami hit. He walk away, unscathed. And like everyone, I've been reading the papers every day, terrified and heartbroken by the suffering unfolding in Japan. I am also amazed by the men and women who are exposing themselves to radiation, which will cost them their lives, so that we do not have a full-blown nuclear catastrophe.

And then last weekend, a woman told me about the recent rescue of a fifteen year old Cambodian girl who was sold into slavery in Malaysia. Since hearing her story, I've been reading about women who have had similar life tragedies and rescues. The pattern is the same. In the midst of the most devastating circumstances, hope rises and a life torn apart by pain is given a new beginning.

I honestly do not know what to think about all these rescues. The world is obviously not a safe place, and yet there are those who would risk their own lives to make it safe for someone else. For the sake of others, even strangers, they would go through anything. It is something that I can't quite get my head around.

In the midst of all of this near-death and needing-to-be-rescued, I spent last weekend picking mangos in the mountains, exploring waterfalls and streams, biking through vineyards and tasting new wine. I am ridiculously safe and have been enjoying every blessing under the sun.

I am flying to Cambodia tomorrow. My plan is to spend some time with new friends in Phnom Penh. We'll celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I'll head up to Siem Riep to see Angkor Wat and visit the fishing villages at Tonle Sap for two days. If there's time, I'll do some fishing. And then I'll head back to Phnom Penh and home to Bangkok on Sunday.

Please pray that I continue to walk in that ridiculous safety. My peace is found in the midst of all these storms.

"A thousand may fall at her side, ten thousand at her right hand, but it will not come near her." - Psalm 91.

Friday, March 4, 2011

the legacy + my trip to cambodia

Two years ago, I spoke to a crowd of law students and professors at the Legacy Art Gallery. I was presenting a law paper on customary adoption, which had just been published. My sister, brother-in-law, roommate and many friends were there. It was an exciting moment for me.

Just before I got up to speak, one of the other law students read a portion of her paper. As she spoke, I caught my sister's expression from across the room. We were both pushing back tears. My sister's face was a kaleidoscope of emotions: empathy and pain, horror and sadness, fear and compassion.

The bright, young law student who was nervously reading had been raped at gunpoint; it had happened one night when she was traveling alone in Cambodia. It was extremely terrifying, horrifying, nullifying, etc. And her shaky words were bringing new light to the injustice she'd suffered.

Listening to her reading through a legal analysis of the worst moments of her life, I remember thinking:

"I am never (ever) going to travel alone in Cambodia".

So what have I done? A few days ago, I booked a ticket to Cambodia. I will be traveling there for four days (March 17-20): alone.

Obviously, I have wrestled with whether or not I should be going. It is by far the scariest thing I've done. It might also be the most reckless thing I've done. If there is anything that I want to overcome, it is fear. But... there are limits, right?

And yet, there must be a reason why I am going.

The student who read her law paper that night is a friend of mine. As the reality of her experience hit me, I began shaking on the inside: my spirit was crying out for her justice and healing. I believe that cry is there for a reason.

The truth is: she's just one of several of my friends who have been raped. I know the scars and wounds from many nights of sitting in half-lit kitchens and watching the tears of shame and pain roll over their beautiful faces. I've seen the anger and frustration, the depression and self-annihilation that can happen. It's something very real to me.

So, I have decided to go - to push past the fear of traveling alone - as an act of extreme intercession. It feels a little bit crazy. But I believe that it is the right thing to do. I am stirred by a deep peace. My hope is that my simple obedience to go will somehow cause the spiritual darkness to be shattered in some way. Being willing to walk the hard, lonely, dark road for someone is more than half the spiritual battle.

I have researched how to remain safe. Others have provided me with helpful advice and travel wisdom. I am sure that I'll be alright. Angels watching over me really wouldn't hurt.

Aside from my friend's traumatic experience, the history of Cambodia is one of intense suffering and unfathomable pain. Last week, I read some of the original transcripts of the genocide tribunals. Cambodia has suffered and survived an incredibly dark history, and still lives with very deep scars.

Something within me wants to touch the heart of heaven and say: she is worth the risk. And so, I will go ... despite my fears and shed some tears to create a new legacy for her: full of healing, beauty and life, again.

Friday, February 25, 2011

for just a second

There are some moments in my life where it feels like everything stops, just for a second. And in that second I have an overwhelming feeling that I am living for something more than what I am able to see.

I had one of those moments, tonight. I was standing at the top of a building, on the 64th floor, on a luxurious patio, looking over this City of Angels.

It has been an interesting week, full of wealth and unpredictability.

I've been to a buddhist ceremony, an expensive dinner for American ivy league graduates, and a debriefing session for freelance journalists (and anyone else who could come along for the show). I've been praying my heart out for people in Tripoli and Christchurch, while trying to get my head around the fact that I live in Asia. And I have been listening to the new Radiohead.

There are parts of it that are ephemeral and parts that are eternal.

My heart feels like it is wrestling, trying to understand my own unpredictable life and dying to reach that place of destiny. In many ways, I am wondering what wealth I bring to this time and place. And whether I will come away with things that are going to last.

God only knows. I do wish I'd had my camera on the top of that building. The view of this sprawling city is incredible.

this says it all.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

sweet thing

"Sleep tonight, with dreams as sweet as angels wings. And all your dreams will bring you sweeter things. " - Van Morrison (covered by Jeff Buckley).

I am going to spend the next two days on an island in paradise. This is where I tell you how I am tired of being lonely.

I want to go kiteboarding, but it seems a little dangerous to fly into the sky on a kite and a board, without anyone else around. I might still do it, tho. Nobody can stop me, really.

I have a funny feeling that I am supposed to spend some time writing this weekend. I have an idea, but I am unsure what to do with it.

So, please pray for me.

mister tuk-tuk driver

This tuk-tuk has no brakes.

Could have killed us.

But the driver never lost his very-cool expression.

And I loved his florescent orange shades.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

everywhere she goes

I have this memory.

It's from nearly twenty years ago, in April 1991. I was sitting on the side of a fishing junk in Kowloon Bay... fifteen years old... dangling my feet over the edge, watching the sunset... on the way home after a hot day in a little fishing village on a little island... freckles on my sunburned face... and content in the smell of fish and saltwater, poetry pouring through my mind... lost in my own thoughts.

I was listening to a Billy Joel tape that belonged to my friend Ashley House. That was back in the day, when we listened to tapes. That was the first time I ever listened to Billy.

As I listened to the melody and lyrics of "She's got a way about her"... I remember the way the water lapsed against the wood of the fishing junk. And the whirr of the rewind button as I had to listen to it again. It's such a beautiful song: written for his daughter.

It is my favourite memory. One of them, anyway.

The lyrics captured me. I had already spent many years in church. My Dad had been the worship leader. So I spent many Sundays watching people responding to the spirit of God in music. I knew it was real.

But it was the piano man singing this simple song, on a little cassette walkman, on the side of a fishing junk, with my feet in the water of Hong Kong's harbour that profoundly expressed the heart of the Father. I have never forgotten it.

I listened to that same song, tonight...coming home from a hot day in a big law firm in another big Asian city... trying to get my head around another unexpected adventure.

I heard that song like I did the first time. There is always an invitation to go deeper into that place in His heart. And I felt it again, tonight.

I am flying to Vientiane tomorrow morning. I'll be there for two days, back late Thursday night. Vientiane is a city that I know very little about. All I know is that it is on the Mekong River, was established in the 9th Century and has French, Chinese, Soviet and American architecture. I also know that there's a good Italian restaurant, with sweet red wine and fresh made pizzas. And that sounds like a good place to be.

I am in awe of how I ended up with a plane ticket to go. And I hardly know what to expect when I land. But I know that I am a very loved daughter.

"Everywhere she goes, a million dreams of love surround her. Everywhere." - Billy Joel.

Monday, February 14, 2011

pari passu & le rubis précieux

I learned a new phrase, today: pari passu.

It's a financial investment term. It is Latin. It means 'of equal step'.

I like that I learned that phrase on Valentine's Day. It gives me hope that I'll find someone who walks out this life with me. That would be a great big miracle, really.

I'm reading this book to improve my French. It's called "La valée des rubis", par Joseph Kessel... Il s'agit de rubis qui se trouvent dans la jungle birmane. Les rubis sont le pierre précieuse la plus rare, la plus chere...

I can barely understand it. It's just outside my comprehension. But my heart is stirred by everything to do with Burma these days. So, this french story about finding precious rubies, hidden deep in the Burmese jungle... is exactly my kind of story.

And reading it feels like love: it really doesn't matter to me that I don't understand most of it. I am finding that it's worth taking the time with it.

Happy Valentine's Day. May you find what your heart desires, your precious rubies and your next steps.

Les rubis les plus précieux sont en plein cœur.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

living off the map

I am living on Sesame Street.

For the next two weeks, I'm house-sitting at a little house in an ex-pat community of Bangkok.

Everyone who knows me would've been laughing at my half-Thai, half-English directions to the taxi driver.

Sesame Street is not on the map. It's tucked away from the main streets, behind a hard-to-find Soi. And, I get the Thai words for left and right mixed up. So, we went around the houses a few times.

The owner of this house runs a small publishing company, which produces maps. I was looking through her 2011 Writer's Market, picking out publisher's names, thinking of doing some writing and I realized: every desire of my heart is rolling around like a bunch of boggle tiles, falling randomly into place.

I am meeting interesting people who challenge my dreams and assumptions about what can be done in life. It's stretching my tent pegs, so to speak. I am starting to realize that my life could be completely different. There is so much that I want to do.

The truth is: I could probably use a map. I need a visual picture of where I need to go with my life. I know that I can't do it all. I want to know what it looks like, where I am going.

But in the meantime, I have to admit: it is very, very fun to be living right off the map. I am going to Burma, twice in the next two months. I'll go in early March and mid-April. The guy who lives next door to me on Sesame Street is teaching me Burmese. This is the life I asked God for, when I was five years old: to live on Sesame Street and go to poor countries. The free language tutorial and stories from neighbors who have lived and worked there is just bonus.

My decision to go to Burma twice is partly influenced by the war that's started between Thailand and Cambodia. They are fighting about an old french colonial map from the early 1900's. The map has caused confusion over where the border line is between Thai and Khmer territories. The United Nations are becoming involved. Negotiations for peaceful reconciliation are started.

All will be well, once they figure out what the map says. I hope that's soon.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I have started giving to the poor.

It started on Friday. On the way to work, I noticed a man sitting outside the Chong Nonsi Skytrain Station.

He had a sign around his neck, written in Thai. He sat in a wheelchair, with stuffed toys for sale in front of him. A cynical voice in my heart started listing off the injustices: how the disabled are exploited by begging-rings, how money you give never stays in the hands of the truly needy, how the public system should provide care, etc. And so, with all that in my heart, I walked past him.

When I got to work, I found out that my condo had sprung a leak and was causing damage to the condo beneath us. I had to go back home to let a guy in to fix one of our showers. It took three hours. I read a book and waited for the shower to be ripped apart and resealed.

As I walked home, past the man outside the Chong Nonsi Skytrain station, I noticed that someone had moved him to the other side of the street. He still looked listless, focused on some distant place, unable to make eye contact. I walked past him again.

After the shower had been fixed, I walked back to the office. I passed the man for a third time. By then, it was sweltering hot. I was very thirsty. I went into the french bakery by the station and ordered a guava juice. The man behind the counter grinned at me, as I paid too much money for a little drink. And that's when I heard the Holy Spirit say, "money I do not have... but what I have, I give to you". It's a quote from Peter. He said it when he healed a beggar.

I left the bakery with my guava juice and a straw. I walked over to the man. As soon as I got down onto his level, kneeling in front of his wheelchair, I realized that he has cerebral palsy. A man named Richard lived with my family when I was ten years old: he had cerebral palsy and always had to drink from a straw. My eyes filled up with tears as I put the cup in this stranger's crippled, clenched hands and unwrapped the straw for him. I remembered how much life and laughter Richard had brought to my family, all those years ago - and the depth of his pain, as he struggled to reconcile the love of the Father with his daily suffering. The man grinned at me... wildly. He drank the whole thing, saying thank you between sips.

That was the beginning of something. Since then, I have been responding to the needs of the poor. It is a simple response. I am not expecting to alleviate all the poverty of Asia. But I am choosing to give, when and where the Spirit leads me.

On Saturday night, I left a few baht on the stomach of a sick man lying on the street, outside a hospital: enough to pay the fee to see a doctor. Tonight, I walked an hour to find a woman and her two year old daughter sitting on a street corner, begging for food. I gave a bottle of water and 100 baht to a man who was sitting beside a pile of garbage. He looked like a Thai version of my younger brother.

I am going through this funny thing: I have no words for the gospel of peace. My offering is silent. I nod. I get tears in my eyes. I put my hands together in a namaste bow. I smile. I cry. But I have no words for what is stirring inside of me, no words for what a saviour means.

I give because I have been given to, on a very deep level. I give because I know that the resources of heaven are at my disposal. I give because to those who have, much is required. I give because it is in my heart to find beauty in the ashes. I give because I see truth in the dust. But I have no words for it. I have no way of saying, "it is because of this that I give". I am also aware of my desire and need to learn how to respond. I want to give out of obedience, not compulsion. I want to expect miracles, not just the quick fix of money.

My parents taught me to give, to sow in the spirit, from a very young age. And I think about them whenever I touch the shoulders of the untouched, or leave two coins in the basket of the abandoned. So, I want this to be my offering, my legacy, my true wealth, my inheritance.

You have to understand the context of this for me: I am in excessive debt right now. I have bills back home that need to be paid. And yet, I am living in a luxurious condo, working at a prestigious law firm, dining with world travelers and able to pay for whatever I want in this country.

It is in this context that the desire to give is silently leaking out of me. It is a heart attitude that can not be explained: a deep desire to raise from the dust what is seen by heaven as precious and worthy.

I read this scripture when I came home tonight, after seeing that man - my brother's Thai twin - sitting in the garbage. It resonates in me.

"The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;
on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails...” ~ 1 Samuel 2: 7-11.

And so: I am giving to the poor. I want to see these men, women and children set with princes and inheriting a throne of honor. But I also just want to be faithful in the little things... to quench the thirst of my spirit, the misunderstood longing inside of me to see the life of the kingdom of heaven. And I hope that - somewhere beyond my lack of words - heaven is seeing, hearing and responding with me in this.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I bought a Nikon D90, today. I took a few pictures of the everyday street life outside MBK, which is a massive shopping centre in Bangkok.

Here are a few of those images.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

building dreams.

One of the beautiful things about living in an Asian city is that it never stops.

It's about 8 pm and someone is jackhammering the stairs to the overpass walkway; people are stepping over the jackhammer, walking up and down, as the stairs shutter and shake at the impact.

There's a construction site across the street from my condo. The construction workers wear blue uniforms. There's always at least a hundred of them working at any time, day or night, scattered all over the place like royal blue ants. They work through the night - sleep for a few hours - and then get up for another shift.

On my way to work, I usually see about twenty blue-dressed people sleeping in the back of pick up trucks or on the sidewalk. On the way home, the same blue-dressed workers are sipping soup from the back of trucks or setting up florescent lighting to start working through the night.

The entrance to the construction site has a big white banner that says: "We Build Your Dreams".

The banner is very high in the sky and everyone underneath it is dressed like a smurf. It's kind of hard not to notice... something about it makes me smile every day.

But it also makes me wonder. I have begun dreaming again; from somewhere deep in the heart of this noisy city, under constant construction, my dreams are unfolding.

Today, a prophetic friend sent me her notes from a sermon she preached a little while ago. It is all about dreams. The last few lines of it struck me.

"... your dreams are going to dispossess nations. Your dreams are going to inhabit desolate cities. Don’t hold back..."

And so, I must dream dreams while the builders build. Tomorrow morning, on my way to work, I will see people who have worked through the night, curled up in little blue balls, sleeping on the sidewalk.

I will give unspoken thanks for those tired workers who build dreams.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

instant espresso.

A French woman, who lives in Venice, asked me to help her pick out a packet of instant espresso from the shelf at the 7-11 on my soi (side street).

"Tout cela est-bon café?".

I will never think of the phrase "nineteen baht" the same. My role was to interpret between her French-English and the Thai-English spoken by the boy who works the till. We were all trying to speak a language not our own.

sip gao.


nayen ten?

I am pretty sure the instant espresso she picked out wasn't worth the sip gao baht she paid for it. I was feeling a little guilty that I'd probably helped her pick the worst one. I should've told her about the little cafe down the street, instead.

But then she stood on the street corner outside 7-11, telling me how very terrible it is to grow old in France. And I didn't feel sorry for her, anymore. We stood there in our clashing foreigner flip-flops: she with bad instant espresso in her hand and I with hand-wash laundry detergent in mine... contemplating the demise of the aging population of Europe.

She'll spend the next few weeks in Koh Phi Phi. It is a much better place for her to be, she says. She loves Thailand. But I asked: how can you really love a place where you have not actually lived? You don't know what it means to love a nation until you've been sick in it. That is my theory, anyway.

But the truth is... I do know what it is like to love a foreign city that has not made me sick. We came to a common understanding when she pointed out that I love Paris, but have never actually lived there. I had to agree. I told her where to go down the road for a good Thai meal ... and wished her a bon nuit et bon voyage a demain.

She is right: Thailand is a good place to be. But, I would love to grow old in France... or Italy. And, when I am growing old in Europe, I hope there's a local who will help me buy a decent espresso.

Monday, January 24, 2011

don't need a reason.

I have been listening to this song quite a bit, lately.

I love Beth Orton. There is something about her that is just very good: even in this edgy, patchwork version of this beautiful song, she resonates. I love true songwriters.

There is a deep healing that is happening in my soul. It is difficult to find words for it. But it makes sense that He would bring me here. I can't hide from His beauty in Thailand: the beaches, the people, the food, the language, the culture - are all extremely beautiful.

The paradox of gentle and strong was very real to me this weekend: a woman in her 80's gave me a traditional thai massage. Her tiny hands felt like iron - and yet, something about her movements were extremely gentle. I've decided that I want to be that kind of gentle-strong-fierce-and-forgiving.

As the healing comes, I am becoming more aware of the spiritual realm. I have started to have visions and dreams. It is amazing how God always takes us deeper - into painful things and into His arms.

"So I've been calling angels down to earth. An' I don't need a reason. Calling angels down to earth, because I believe we need them." - Beth Orton

Monday, January 17, 2011


I am sitting here with a big plate of watermelon slices. Mmm...

It's the first full plate of food that I have eaten in about four days. I have been very sick. Oh Asia, how you I love you even though you always make me sick.

My tum is still not the best. So, watermelon and yoghurt is all I can eat. But, I can't really complain. The watermelon in Thailand is sweeter than at home.

I remember when my little brother was a kid, he used to say: water - mee - lon. He was developing his own dialect back then, heavily influenced by the German-speaking girl (also known as "ish-girl"), who lived around the corner.

I spent a lot of time thinking about influence, today. After several consecutive hours of meetings where high-powered business contracts are negotiated, you can't help but think about what influences people, companies, nations.

Some people say it is all about money. But, I could add more things to that list: culture, religion, education, sophistication, peer pressure, family, etc.

It's not exactly a formula.

Sometimes, the least likely people have the greatest influence. For example, a certain nun who lived in Calcutta comes to mind.

My decisions and actions have been positively and negatively influenced by people around me. And yet, I have had the most outside-the-box life, which could not have been contrived by sheer self-will or the expectations of others.

I lived in a foreign country for several years and absorbed the culture like it was my own. And yet, most people don't even know what life was like for me then.

My brother's little-kid expression has mysteriously influenced my taste in watermelon: it's all about mee.

So, what causes someone or something to have great influence?

That's the big question.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the river of life.

I am working on a project that involves a river that flows through seven nations: Tibet, China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma and Thailand.

It is hard work. I spent all day pouring over contracts and government documents that I barely understand. But it's also very interesting.

I mean, there is something deeply profound about it. I can't put words to it, but I feel it in my spirit: there is a river that flows from heaven, clear as crystal... and the leaves of the trees are for the healing of nations.

In other news: I gave directions to some tourists, tonight. So I guess that makes me a local, now.

Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. - Revelations 22: 17

Saturday, January 8, 2011

a new friend.

Yesterday, I made a new friend.

Her name is Gabrielle. She's from Montreal.

She'll be traveling the islands on her own for two weeks. And then she's doing some work with "Wheels for the World", which is a christian organization that provides wheelchairs to people with disabilities. More information about what she is doing can be found here:

We met in my Thai cooking class. I am learning a ton of new ingredients. I never knew before that there are pea-shaped eggplants. Also, hairy eggplants. Who knew? The cooking classes are near my condo. And I am learning a lot. So, be prepared for a Thai feast when I get home. With new ingredients, come so many new flavours... yum.

After the class, we went wandering around the market at Mot Choi. Gabby was tasting Turkish ice cream (yes, the ice cream in Thailand is Turkish) when she said (in her french canadian accent):

"I think you have a lot of courage."

I said: "I don't feel very courageous... but thank you."

She talked about how lonely it can be to travel through Asia on your own. I knew exactly what she was talking about. The loneliness in foreign places is hard.

She also said: "You know... He has plans to prosper you, to give you a hope and a future...".

My eyes filled up with tears for a second: "Yes, those plans are perfect..." That scripture (Jer. 29: 11) emerges a lot in my life, in some of the most random places. And so, it was very reassuring to hear those words spoken in french canadian, as we pushed through rambling crowds at a Thai market.

Somehow, it reminded me that everything is going to be alright. Everything is falling into place, even when I do not see it. The broken pieces of my life will make a mosaic, some day.

Gabrielle is the name of an angel. I am very glad that I met her.

Sometimes, life is perfect.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

at sun rise

I am listening to Wolf Parade and watching the sun rise over Bangkok.

The sky is a purple-magenta colour. Clouds are forming.

I'll be exploring the streets and buying clothes from markets later today.

But right now, I am praying for mercy to saturate this city.

And hoping my roommate wakes up soon so we can go eat.

Our condo is ten blocks east from the Chao Phraya River, facing north.

The Klong Tooey slums are waiting to be seen, somewhere to the east.

It fascinates me that Bangkok means "City of Angels": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangkok.

I have been thinking about angels a lot, lately. I believe they are with me.

"Just like my lover said. See, it always had to go this way..." - Wolf Parade.

All is not lost...

"I have run. I have crawled. I have scaled these city walls. Only to be with you..." - U2.
I arrived on time with my suitcases, holding everything that I packed.  
Miracles happen. 
Almost as a paradox to my successful solo traveling, I thought about my ex-husband for 
most of my flight.  This surprised me more than the fact that I didn't lose anything. 
It's been a long time.  
He lives in the exact opposite direction from Asia.  We never went there together. 
So, why would he be in my heart?  
I think it has to do with the way we took off from Vancouver.  
The flight was delayed because the "release" mechanism to push the plane off was broken.
So we had to wait at the gate for them to repair it before we could be released to go.  
The natural speaks of the spiritual, sometimes.  I have been in such a long waiting and 
needing-repair season. 
My heart has been broken, wounded and full of rejection. 
But once it was put right, we were flying.  
I felt that release in my spirit.  
There is something about this trip that speaks of my healing. 
"You carried the cross.  You took the shame. You took the blame. You know, I believe it."  
It feels extremely good to be back in Asia.  
I'd forgotten how deeply I love the beauty and chaos of the other side of the Pacific. 
I spent my first day in Bangkok trying to find my way to a good friend, an old roommate 
who is here for the next two days.   
I was lost for almost three hours, looking for her.  It is really something else to be lost in a new city. 
Asia is a continent of nations with no traffic rules, no street signs, and no numbers on the 
My Dad and I were once lost in Baggio City, Philippines, during a typhoon.  We nearly died. 
Our driver would drive in one direction. stop. drive on a little bit. stop. and then turn to us and say: 
"We are very close, let's go back to the beginning".  
It was extremely funny and extremely frustrating. 
So, I found myself doing what Philippino drivers do in a typhoon: getting close and then 
going back to the beginning.  
I'd get so far and then turn around and go back, just to make sure I wasn't totally off track.
Somehow, miraculously... it worked. I am no longer lost. I found her hotel.  
She was never really all that far away.