Monday, February 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Does it feel like a new year? 2014 went pretty quick, didn't it?  Just kidding.  I'm sure you all know it's the year of the horse, now.  To be honest, I don't know what kind of significance that holds, but there are lots of clever posters and statues of the Chinese word depicted as a the figure of a horse.  However, I feel like I'm the only one who is still around to enjoy them - it's a ghost town here!

Me calling a lot of former investigators who didn't answer
As part of Chinese New year, all the Chinese people return to Kampung (ha ha, throwing some Malay in the letter, too!) which means they go back to their hometown for a huge family reunion.  All the shops are closed, no one walks the streets, and the traffic is way less dangerous now.  Most of my disappointment this week came from not being able to meet anyone new to teach.  I was thronged by people at a night market earlier this week, and I handed out countless fliers for our new English class, but managed to come away with no more appointments than I started out with.  I came home empty handed, which was good considering that I had no more fliers, but I still can't wait for the work to begin to pick up again after the festivities die down.

While I'm thinking of the festivities, I'll give you a little taste of what it's like here.  Even though the streets are more empty of people than ever, they're filled with fireworks at night.  These fireworks are scary!  Independence-Day-Stadium-of-Fire-style fireworks are shot off from people's alleys, yards, shoplots, everywhere!  Huge explosions wake up the missionaries and everyone else who was foolishly trying to sleep, not party, after 10:00 pm.  I'll see if a brother who invited us to his house for New Year's Eve dinner can send you a video of some "small" firecrackers that we lit over his patio.  Hongbao, red envelopes, are given to guests wherever they go.  These beautiful little envelopes are filled with small sums of money, which are given as blessings to all unmarried guests who pay a visit at the New Year.  A generous family gave me a sum enough to buy a new pair of pants or a wok this week.  {or, maybe I could use it to send you a small New Year's package, in the place of the Christmas package I never could send.}

Malaysia on Fire?  This is the condition of the street near to where several people had gathered to shoot off huge fireworks.
New Year is a happy, healthy, prosperous time that most people spend with their family here.  I found it a little disheartening that my own new Year was seemingly marked by none of these characteristics.  I had a lot of time to think and reflect.  On empty bus rides, at cancelled appointments, lonely streets, and sick in bed.  Personal study took on a more introspective meaning this week.  Through it all, I'm so glad I had your advice and letters from last week.  I found that I really could relate to Mina, and it was cheering to read her letters.  I also felt a special peace and connection with Mom and Dad as missionaries.  I looked over letters you sent me at those fun APIA camps in the summers at USU.  I kept those letters and rediscovered them this week, and I'm convinced that you were both inspired as you wrote them.  I read one letter per day, and each time, I was struck by how exactly the counsel and love you put in each letter answered my questions and filled my needs at that moment.  They gave me strength to hope that things will get ever better as I continue to serve, and helped me to refocus on what matters most.  I really feel a new power and excitement to go out and talk with people, smile with them, help them feel comfortable, and be their friend.  I want to be one who doesn't just teach/bring/drag people unto Christ, but loves people unto Christ.

Thank you all for your love and prayers, and for your wonderful examples of righteousness to me!  GongXiFaCai!


Waiting for a slow bus after a cancelled appointment.

I look disappointed in the picture, and I was disappointed that our appointment cancelled, but I actually felt really happy that day, because I chose to smile despite my circumstances.  ...just not in this picture, I guess.

A crazy awesome table, carved from the roots of an Indonesian tree.

Mom:  We had sweet and sour chicken and fried rice today for dinner, and everyone talked about what yummy food the Chinese eat.  But when we remembered  from your last letter that you didn’t even have rice in your apartment, or a wok either,  the kids were all aghast. 

So, we all voted that you should buy a wok or a large skillet, and if you can’t take it with you to your next city, just leave it behind in the apartment and buy another one in the next city.  We all think that we can supply missionaries with a good wok or skillet every now and then.  Then you can have fried rice – or maybe you can get someone to teach you how to make Lasilama so you can get good at it and make it for us when you come home.  Hint, hint.

Is our Chinese fried rice recipe something that would be an American dish new to Elder Loke?  Or is it pretty authentic?

Brennan: Yeah, I do want to learn how to make Nasi Lemak (better known as Lasilama).
I could use 75 ringgit to buy a cheap wok today when I go to the supermarket.  Come to think of it, I haven't cooked anything while I've been in Johor.  I don't cook for breakfast - no time.  I don't cook for lunch - if we're at home, I make sandwiches, or Elder Loke mixes some odds and ends together to put over some noodles.  For dinner, we usually eat out, or it's so late when I get home that I only have time to toast some bread before bed.  My favorite present that you sent to me at Christmas is the cookbook, but I've had shockingly little occasion to use it in JB.

The fried rice dish is pretty authentic, actually, but it would be done with beans and chicken, not peas and ham.  Here, cut meat is so expensive that I haven't ventured to that part of the market yet.  I just know I don't need it, and probably can't afford it.  Easy lunch meat or cut ham are luxuries here.  Everything is eaten pretty much as it is, but just without the feathers.  I've not eaten the head or eyes yet, but I've had the feet, and swallowed a few other ribs and miscellaneous bones on accident.

Most of the things I eat with members are things I don't have the time or means to make right now.  If you know what hot pot is (a dish where you put in your own raw meat, then pick it off the top when it floats up, cooked) you get a feel for most special dinners.  I don't want to just buy and boil fishballs, squidballs, and stinky tofu.  It's not what I thought.  Here, I eat a lot of "American food," made from cheap ingredients.  Not everything's all rice and noodles, although they are two big staples.

I'm actually pretty comfortable in preparing food right now, but it's nothing fancy at all.  I get fruits, veggies, grains, and dairy, but it's not elegantly prepared.  If I ever come to the point when I have enough time at meals to cook something, I'll start experimenting.

Time's up.

Thanks for the letters I can read later!

Next week, can you send me the story of Alec getting mugged?  It sounds exciting.  I don't hear from friends very much, but then, I don't really have time. 


I love you all!


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