[After eating lunch]
“Mom, sweetheart, may you wipe my hands, please?”
Mommy: “Everybody poops, honey.”
Elias: “Jesus poops?”
[After using an automatic hand dryer for the first time]
“That was unbelievable!”
Mommy: “Mommy is going to go shower, bud.”
Elias: “No, Mommy. You no shower. I love you too much.”
“Remember when I was a kid? I wrestled with my Dad and knocked him over on the grass.”
“I’m a dinosaur who tickles people’s bellies.”
“I have big muscles. You have little muscles.”
We will be taking a short furlough next Spring (surprise!) and I am looking forward to some normal. Walking around Target with Starbucks in hand? Yes, please. Buying some new clothes!? Sign me up. Going on dinner & a movie date with my hubby? Absolutely. Grocery shopping in a clean, organized store that is guaranteed to have what I’m looking for? With a giant smile on my face.
But you know what I’ve been realizing, or maybe admitting to myself? Most of this is not normal. Not by the world’s standard of normal, at least. Yes, it is how I grew up and it’s what I know as “normal”, but the world’s experience, by and large, is not so leisurely and easy and rich.
According to a quick Google search, 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10/day. I could spend that on coffee without blinking. Almost half live on less than $2.50/day.
I’m not really sure what to do with this information. Economics are a tricky business and throwing money at things does not usually fix the problem. Feeling guilty about what God has blessed me with doesn’t fix anything either.
But I can take time to look at my many blessings with gratitude. I can praise God that I can afford to put food on my table, and new clothes on my body. I can use my time and resources for His glory.
I vividly remember the first time I ever tried mango. I was in sixth grade, visiting my friend Chrissy’s house. Her Wheel-of-Fortune loving grandma who lived with her was the first person to ever offer me a piece of mango. “It’s mango, honey. M. A. N. G. O. Mannnggo.”
And you know what? I didn’t like it. Maybe it was my sixth-grade palette or maybe it was just a not-so-good mango, I don’t know. But I definitely didn’t like it.
Fast-forward about 20 years (woah! When did I get so old?), and now I live in the mango capital of the world. That’s a title I made up. But seriously, right now, it is mango-season in Indonesia. Our mango trees on base are literally dripping with mangos. And man are they good. I can’t seem to cut them up fast enough. Elias and I scarf them right down.
I’ve gotta believe that fresh-off-the-tree mangos are much better than the shipped-across-the-world mango I tried in 6th grade. Right? Or maybe my two-year old has a more refined palette than 6th grade me.
Culture fatigue and I have become well acquainted this term. A fact that became glaringly obviously to me as we left the beautifully clean streets of Singapore to head back to Indonesia. I nearly cried as we stepped on-board the plane that would take us home. I wasn’t ready to go back. I like the ease of life on vacation. I like the clean, well-stocked grocery stores of the Western world. I like not being stared at everywhere we go.
Saying “do hard things” is much easier than actually doing hard things. It’s much easier than taking my kid out in public where people pinch his cheeks at every chance. And he in turn, screams at them because he doesn’t like it. It’s much easier than visiting a handful of grocery stores just to find salt. Salt! It’s much easier than making every single meal from scratch. It’s much easier living half-way around the world from parents, grandparents and cousins.
None of this leaves me wanting to back my bags and leave, but it does leave me tired at the end of the day. It does make me want to hide in my house and eat the Goldfish Crackers we brought home from Singapore. And it does make me dream of walking around Target with a warm Pumpkin Spice Latte in my hand.
I am reminded of this verse that we talked about at the Ladies Retreat:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7. A jar of clay is fragile. But God uses us, fragility and all, on purpose, so that HE might shine through all of our cracks.
I don’t have solutions. There’s no easy fix to culture fatigue. But I press on, letting my cracks and imperfections shine for Jesus. And I remind myself to be grateful for the gifts we do have: a lovely home, awesome teammates, a unique childhood for my son, food on my table, God’s Word in my own language, FaceTime, ocean breezes, gorgeous sunsets, good coffee, cilantro in my garden. So many gifts for this little jar.
I have said more than once that I would take a vacation to the Singapore Airport, and I’m not kidding. It’s the most awesome airport I have ever visited! It is beautiful and clean and somehow magically quiet, and there are lots of free things to do!
On our way to Chiang Mai, we had a nearly 24-hour layover in Singapore. Truth be told, we spend about 8 of it sleeping in the also awesome airport hotel. But then we went exploring!
We are well acquainted with terminals 2 & 3 now. There are butterfly gardens, and koi ponds, and movie theaters, and playgrounds, and good coffee, and western food. What more do you need on vacation?
Anyway, we spent a good hour hanging out in the butterfly garden. It boasts hundreds of butterflies in many varieties. I may have taken a few pictures.
Seriously, if you have to spend 24-hours in an airport with a two-year-old, Singapore is the place to do it!
After feeding the giraffes at the Chiang Mai Night Safari, we bought tickets for the Day Safari (in the Night Safari park, just earlier in the day). They took us on a little tram ride through the park where we saw various animals. The “safer” animals were allowed to roam free and would walk right up to the tram where we could feed them.
After the tram ride, we stumbled across some porcupines that we could feed and pet. Despite the look on his face, Elias loved this part.
Since returning home from our vacation, Elias continue to talk about all the “amimmals” he got to see, feed and pet.