July 28, 2012
Me vs Rainy Season

I blame my naiveness on my education.  Not that I had a bad education, I just may not have had a complete education.  Up until recently I believed all countries had four seasons.  Seems logical.  Iv’e lived on three continents (Spain: Europe. Canary Islands: Africa. USA: America) in my life and all three had four seasons.  Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.  I do remember someone telling me that the southern hemisphere had opposite seasons, but they were the same seasons nonetheless.  So New Zealand would have winter starting in June whereas Germany has winter starting in December.

Leading up to my trip, someone informed me that my stay in Myanmar would be during rainy season.  So I understood that to mean it would be really rainy.  Rainy, but during the summer.  So I figured season, as in rainy season, was a label used to specify the atmospheric activity during their summer.  How wrong I was.  Come to find out Myanmar only has three seasons.  Seriously?  How odd (pun intended). [I don’t like odd numbers unless they are prime.  So at least three is prime]

The seasons here are Summer (our spring), Rainy and Winter(it’s not actually cold during winter, but it’s just not as hot as summer).  I was lucky enough to be here during the Rainy SeasonRainy Season is exactly what it sounds like.  It rains.  Like crazy.  I wake up in the morning and it is raining.  Throughout the day, it rains.  When I go to bed, it rains.  You are probably thinking, “What! So no variety?”  Obviously there has to be variety, things cannot be the same continually.  Sometimes it is sprinkling.  Other times it is pouring.  There are times the wind roars, and other times the wind purrs.  If you are lucky the sky just looks ominous.  So yes, there is variety.

I learned real quick how important it is to travel with an umbrella [I first thought I was too manly to use an umbrella(manly isn’t usually an adj. used to describe me, but in this case I thought it appropriate)].  It’s no big deal getting wet.  I can always dry off.  False. 

{the following events are graphic. read at your own discretion}

One day I was walking with a friend.  We decided to not take the bus and walk instead.  No rain at the time.  Just some sinister clouds.  We had only been walking a few minuets when we heard the dreadful sound.  Looking up, we saw the wall of fury.  Rain like I hadn’t seen.  [the next events happened in hyper slow-motion]  The wall was encroaching upon us.  No time to mull over a plan.  We were unprepared for the battle.  As people around us dove for cover, I saw the fear in their eyes (like I mentioned before, this is all happening in slow-motion).  Children yelled for their parents.  Tears filling their eyes.  Those who wise enough to bring their weapons, fumbled to pull out their umbrellas.  But it was too late.  All was lost.  The beads of fury began bombarding us.  No one received mercy.  Before we could put up our defenses (umbrellas), we we drenched.  Saturated with enmity.  Our dignity drained away.  I walked into work that day humiliated, defeated.

I learned my lesson.  I have since made a poncho from a large trash bag (it may be bright blue, but it keeps me dry).  Anything I put in my backpack I double wrap in plastic bags.  I keep an extra pair of clothes on me at all times.  The weather may get nasty, but I will stand my ground.  If the weather shows no mercy, neither will I.

(getting wet in the rain is not the only battle I have with Rainy Season.  There is also the abundance of mold on my belongings and my clothes never drying after I wash them)

July 17, 2012
The Great Divide

My time spent in Myanmar has been solely in Yangon proper.  As much as I thought myself a city boy, the city has burned me out.  It is exhausting to constantly be breathing in exhaust.  It has gotten to the point where my sweat and my clothes both reek of “dirty city”.  It doesn’t matter that my deodorant is “Old Spice: Matterhorn”.  No amount of deodorant will allow me to smell of lush Swiss mountains.  If I am lucky enough to completely dry myself after a shower(humidity sucks), I will immediately start sweating.  Thus beginning the odor.

So when my friends asked me if I wanted to cross the river, I was delighted.  Anything to get a breath of fresh air. (the humidity would still be there, but the led-infused fuel exhaust wouldn’t be).  We met on Saturday morning and began the journey.  Down the British-influenced streets we went.  Old decrepit buildings loomed over us.  Ominously wondering where we were headed.  The colorful paint peeling off of the buildings.

When we arrived at the dock, the chaos began.  The taxis and side-cars(fixed-gear bikes with a side car) wedged themselves into the crowd so as to be the first to pick up those who were disembarking.  There were stands lining the the sides.  Blocks of ice slowly melted into a bag where a lady would fill a cup and for a small price sell it to those passing by.  Pineapples and mangoes sliced and ready to eat.  Cigarette smoke filled the air, and beetle-juice(their form of red/nasty chew) stained the pavement.

We passed through the ticket booth and paid our fair.  As we were walking towards the lineup, an official came out of his office and yelled (yelled might be an exaggeration. His voice was at least raised a little) for us to stop.  He had me enter his office.  They wanted to register that I was leaving the city.  So out came my passport and some cash (lucky foreigners get to pay more for everything).  From what I saw on the registry, I was the third foreigner to leave that day.  Two Japanese men had gone out before me. (I saw them later on that day.  And as you have probably already guessed, they had their cameras around their necks).  The officials where quite nice (despite the fact they took my money and my passport number).  They even felt comfortable enough to make a few jokes about my height.

When we finally finished with the officials, we were able to board the ferry.  Hundreds of us pushed our way in.  Everyone for himself.  No mercy. (I still don’t understand why we needed to rush. The ferry stayed there for quite a while).  Instead of staying on the first floor, we headed up stairs.  There we set up some kiddie chairs and relaxed waiting for take-off (or whatever the sailing term is).  Some of the sellers had also boarded the ferry and were now in the process of attempting to sell us their things.  Everything from hard-boiled pheasant eggs to Buddhist teaching DVDs.  They were even selling nail clippers.  Their yelling sounded quite similar to the vendors of the Rastro in Madrid.  The whole trip across the river, I was given strange looks.  What is a tall pale man doing sitting in a kiddie chair crossing the river?  (at least that is how I interpreted their stares).

On arriving to the other side, I took a deep breath.  Something I hadn’t been able to do in such a long time.  I had made it.  Freedom at last.  I had the urge to run off into the sunrise.  Such a world of difference.  Beautiful trees and water lined the road.  People rode their bikes and motorcycles (something that is illegal in Yangon).  Kids played in the street and men bathed in the stagnant pools of water.  Everyone seemed more jovial. 

Two different worlds separated by a river.  Exhaust vs fresh air.  Buses vs motorcycles.   Trees vs buildings.  Reserved vs free.  I had found what I had been looking for.

July 11, 2012
Myanmar vs Philippines

One of the things on my metaphorical bucket list is to go to a national soccer match.  A few weeks ago I finally had my chance.  Though I had hoped for it to be Spain vs some nondescript nation, I was able to see Myanmar vs Philippines (second best).  When my friend told me about it, I was thrilled.  Not many foreigners would have the chance to see a similar match.

The match was that same night, so I did not have much time to prepare.  I figured my friend and I would go and it would be great.  Unfortunately, my friend would have to work late so I would have to go by myself.  Not normally a problem, but I had never been to the side of the city where the National stadium was.  Nor had I ever bought a “black-market” ticket without speaking any of the language (I speak some, but nothing that would help me in that situation).

By the time I got out of work, I had 30 min before the start of the game.  I caught the first taxi that would stop and I was on my way.  With his little English, the taxi driver, asked me if I was a reporter going to experience the game so I could write about it (I had my camera with me).  For some reason I quickly replied that I was.  Though I obviously am not.  He ended up driving me the “historic” rout to show me Aung San Suu Kyi’s house.  I expected something a little more grandiose, but it was great nonetheless.  (I can’t imagine being in house arrest for 15 years, but at least this one has a view).  We sped and ran lights just to make it on time.  (the reporter can’t get late to a game).

As I approached the stadium (Tuna Stadium), I saw the riot police ready for action.  Nothing had happened yet, but nationalism was brewing.  Everyone had their face paint and red bandanas.  I attempted to enter the front entrance, but since I didn’t have a ticket they didn’t let me in (which is normal, but I couldn’t figure out where to get the ticket).  Graciously, a teenager came over and pointed me in the right direction.  His English was pretty good so I was able to have a simple conversation with him.  We ended up walking a ways and eventually entered a field.  There were lines of people.  I got in the shortest line and finally made it to the front.  The lady pulled out a ticket from her umbrella and handed me it.  I then slipped her the money and I was off.

I proceeded to walk around to the other side of the stadium.  The energy in the air was tangible.  Groups of guys would come up to me and yell “Myanma!?” (wondering if I was going to cheer for Myanmar, since I obviously wasn’t a national).  So I would yell back “Myanma!!”  I figured that was the safest answer.  And I was right, they loved it.  We all then would cheer and yell and chant.  

When I finally made it into the stadium I again pulled out my camera.  So once again everyone assumed I was a reporter (I don’t think anyone outside Myanmar even knew this game was going on).  At least this time I didn’t lie about it, I just never negated the fact.  No matter where I walked in the stadium, people would yell at me. “Myanma!?”  So like I had practiced, I would yell back “Myanma!!!”.   The crowed would then go crazy. 

I eventually found an area to settle down, and so I set up camp.  I became pretty good friends with everyone around me (as good of friends as you can be without communicating with language).  They even game me a Myanmar flag sticker to put on my cheek.  When they would ask me where I was from, I would say Spain. (This was during the Euro Cup and Spain was playing France that same night in the quarter final game).  They thought that was the greatest thing.  They all told me how much they loved Spain and how they hoped they would once again win the Euro Cup. (except for this one scary man who told me Spain would lose 2-0 that night. He said he had seen it in a dream or read it in a book(again, I couldn’t understand much)). Some of them would then tell me a Spanish players name but in the form of a question.  “Xavi?”  And I would just say “Yea”.  And we would go back and forth.  I think they were trying to prove to me they really did love Spain.

They kept asking me to take their picture.  I even had one guy come up to me and tear off his shirt.  On his back he had a tattoo of the portrait of Bogoke Aung San.  (Suu Kyi’s father and liberator of Myanmar) He looked at me in the eyes and told me, “You must tell the world”.  I even kept having this one drunk old mad lean against me and say the same thing.  “You must tell the world”.

I don’t completely know what they meant by that, but this is my attempt at telling the world.  Myanmar would go on to beat the Philippines 5-1.  Everyone would go crazy.  But they still came up to me and told me, “You must tell the world”.  So though I am not a true “reporter”, this is my “article” on what happened.  It may not be as big of an audience as they expected, but now more people know than knew before.

June 22, 2012
Two words I thought I would never say. Culture Shock

I never thought I would experience culture shock.  

This may not be the best term to describe what I am experiencing, but it is the closest I can come up with.  How can I have traveled to so many countries and never go through these strange feelings I am going through? (granted, most places I have been were in Europe).

From the time I arrived at the airport till now, I have learned so much.  

1) Myanma’s food is not as tasty or as varying as Thailand’s or India’s (even though we are sandwiched between them)

2) The written language is just strange looking circles

3) Monks and Nuns both shave their heads (which can be confusing sometimes)

4) Aung San Suu Kyi is even more loved then I first expected

5) If I don’t recognize the food that is served, I don’t ask questions.  I just eat it.  (this is the majority of the time)

6) Unlike any other Asian city, mopeds are illegal

Thankfully, even though I stick out like a sore thumb, the people have been very welcoming.  It doesn’t matter if I meet them at the market or while playing soccer, they are willing to help me with my Myanma and I in turn help them with their English.  Seems like a good enough deal for me.

Once you get past the stinky chaoticness of the city, there are some incredible people.  People who have chosen to ignore the political state of the country and make the best of their lives.

The Christians I talk to have no assurance for tomorrow, but they are not fearful.  They have come to a reliance on God that I desperately want (and need).  When someone looses a job, their friends reach out to help them.  Christianity is not a something you do independently here.  It is called the “body of Christ” for a reason.

Though I have read countless news articles and watched a handful of documentaries on Myanma, I was not prepared at all for what it was really like here.  Not that the news articles portrayed the situation any worse or better than it really is, they just portrayed it differently.  That has probably been the most frustrating thing.  Why has the media chosen to put a twist on their stories?  I think it will take me the whole summer to figure out the true situation (it would probably take longer, but I can’t stay longer this trip).

The only constant thing I have in my life is God’s Grace.  Only because of his grace will any situation change.  It is obvious Myanma is going through a gradual reformation, but this will all be in “vain” if people’s lives are not transformed by God’s Grace.

June 10, 2012
Photo taken on the Myanmar/Thailand border

Photo taken on the Myanmar/Thailand border

June 3, 2012

A taste of Bangkok

June 1, 2012

May 28, 2012
Off to Bangkok

This week I fly to Bangkok to start my internship.  Plans have changed since I first signed up for the trip, so it looks like I will be spending the majority of the time in Yangon, Myanmar.  I will be helping pioneer the first AG work there in over 60 years.  In mid-June they will be opening a coffee house in the capitol.  So I will be helping with whatever is needed.  It will be mostly teaching english, building relationships, and serving in whatever needs done.

It is such an honor for me to be able to partner with the missionaries/believers that are already there.  It has been years of groundwork for this coffee house to even be able to open.  It is like Edward Judson (son of Adoniram Judson first missionary of Burma) said, “Success and suffering are vitally and organically linked.  If you succeed without suffering, it is because someone suffered before you; if you sufferer without succeeding, it is in order that someone else may succeed after you”.  Generations of workers have suffered for the sake of the Gospel in Myanmar, and because of them there is now a community of believers.

Throughout the summer I will be updating my blog for whoever wants to stay updated.  I would appreciate as much prayer as possible.

Prayer for the opening of the coffee house.  That all will go as smoothly as possible.

Prayer for the long term missionaries in the country.  That they will stay encouraged even throughout

           loneliness and frustration.

Prayer for the political state in Myanmar.  They are currently in a transition period from military  

           dictatorship to a vague form of democracy.

Prayer for the Burmese people.  That the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts and “convict them of sin,

           and of righteousness and of judgment”

That Chris’s sacrifice on cross may be proclaimed to a people group that live in complete darkness.

February 21, 2012
Cross

There on the cross we see the wrath of God being executed against the entire human race of sinners. To read of God’s wrath as presented in Isaiah 13-23 is to see what happened on the cross

Paul Raabe

January 19, 2012
"

"Lord, how they’ve changed it - in our ‘parlours’ these days. Christ is one of the ‘family’ now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshipper absolutely needs"

It’s scary how accurate Bradbury was about how western society has come to view Christ.

Would God even recognize Christ if He were to see our depiction of him?

"

— Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451