Mt. Kinabalu

Mt. Kinabalu

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where to begin...

Where to begin...this story begins in so many different places, in so many different ways, and with so many different people.  How do I begin to pinpoint the best place to start?  I feel like I could already fill an entire journal with words attempting to capture my experience.  If you asked me what Malaysia is like we would have to set aside several hours and even then the beautiful reality is you would still hardly have the slightest idea of all that Malaysia entails.  Can you imagine trying to give someone the gist of the US in a few minutes?  It couldn't be done because of the abundance of diversity.  (Interestingly, I have noticed places in Malaysia tend to be described by what food they are most famous for.)  The hardest part about telling this story is that I will never do it justice or be able to tell the whole story.  I can show you photographs, but photos will always have four sides and exclude the rest of the senses.  This blog is beautiful because it enables me to share this experience and will enable others to walk with me without being physically present.  However, it will always be limited to the snapshots I choose to share.  There will be times when I don't frame the story exactly right or I will make observations which may not be quite accurate.  I hope how my observations, perspectives, and judgments change will be a growing experience my readers can accompany me through.  So bear with me while I stumble along the journey of sharing this wonderful new part of my life.

The nine other Malaysia YAGMs and myself have been in in-country orientation for close to three weeks now (one in Kota Kinabalu [KK] and two in Kuala Lumpur [KL]).  Though my photographs might make it seem like we have been on vacation, we have been doing some very important preparation and making lots of adjustments.  Of all the icebreakers, get to know yous, and team-builders we did, one activity in particular stands out to me.  Peter (our country coordinator)  had us make observations while we strolled through the Gaya Street Market.  Later he placed five sheets of paper on a table, each with a different sense in the middle, and asked us to write our observations down.  After we had exhausted all of our senses describing our new Malaysian experiences he read our descriptions out loud to us and we had to decide whether each one was an observation or a judgement.  Whether it was a positive or negative comment, many of our observations had really become judgment through the language we used.   Rather than saying, "I tasted ginger,"  I wrote "ginger is BITTER" with several underlines.  Clearly judgment had found its way into my observations much more instantaneously and subtly than I might have anticipated.  The point of the exercise was not to make us feel guilty for our judgements, we were told to divorce ourselves from what we wrote before they were read, but rather it was to make us aware of how quickly judgments can be made.  For now, while we still often find ourselves in a state of awe or surprise by our observations it is better to turn to wonder rather than judgment.  As I gather more I will do a post about my observations and the subsequent wonderings.

Aside from important preparation activities like a two week language training class, attending church which included the closing service of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia's church-wide assembly, and adjusting to food & climate the most meaningful moments so far have been moments or people that have just been beautiful by being ordinary.  Here are a few of many:

Going for a jog with new friends with no pressure to push too hard or race, while the sun rises behind the mountains in the distance.  After which we stretched while watching monkeys bounce around in the trees above.

Sketching the view in cool mountain air drinking a cup of milo (hot-chocolate sort of drink) while on a retreat to Mt. Kinabalu.  A welcome escape from the seemingly extreme heat and humidity of Kota Kinabalu.

Handwashing laundry in a bucket having great conversation with a fellow YAGM on the rooftop of the Sabah Theological Seminary where we were staying.

Belly achingly laughing together while watching a ridiculous Jackie Chan movie at a dinner of bravely discovering new foods.

Attending Luther House Chapel (the church Peter interned at) and meeting some really incredible people.  Also, watching YAGMs share songs, stories, and thoughts with the Sunday School and youth group.

A waitress bringing myself and another YAGM a little scoop of ice cream to share on the house as we pathetically tried to locate a laundromat using the internet in the YMCA cafe after a failed attempt by foot in the rain.  We still had all our laundry in tow.  It turns out if we would have gone through one more door it would have been right in front of us.

A man asking me to videotape him talking (in a language I did not know) about a display at the Islamic Arts Museum.  When I asked what the video was for he replied matter of factly, "for the facebook."  (of course!)

Going to our favorite spot the Hussain Cafe (tagline: try once and you want it again!) and the waiters no longer handing us a menu because we have been there so much. 

Making new non-YAGM friends who will undoubtedly have an incredible impact on this year.

Photographing all of it.

Don't even get me started on the extraordinary moments ;)  There is just so much to share and so much left indescribable.  New posts coming shortly as I prepare to make another incredible transition from KL and my YAGM family to my placement site in Kota Kinabalu.  I want to thank again everyone who is supporting this journey in any regard.  I feel so incredibly blessed to have such an amazing sending community and to be headed into another wonderful community all to soon.  God is good.

Selawat dan Salam 
(Peace & Blessings) 

Doing laundry on the roof of the Sabah Theological Seminary (STS) housing.
Sketching on retreat at Mt. Kinabalu
My incredibly amazing YAGM family
The scoop of ice-cream described above
YAGM ladies and our new friends Wen, Paula, Sofie, and Hannah

Shopping with Audrey, Wen, Jenna B, and Sarah
Eating lunch at the Hussain Cafe (Makan di kafe Hussain)


  1. Delia.....we are equally blessed to be able to join you in your journey...peace to you and keep is beautiful!


  2. Thanks for your comment Joyce :)
    Everyone be sure to check out my photos on facebook or by clicking on my google profile.