Sunday, September 29, 2013

Terima Kasih

Today, I journeyed out with several members of the Church, including my housemate, who were invited to a 100 day memorial of a teen who tragically drowned.  While it sounds like it would be a sad event, it was not in the least; celebration is the better word to describe it. And so we hopped aboard a very rickety train to visit the village not to far from Tenom.  The train ride itself was an incredible trip.  We traveled alongside the river Padas (literally means "hot" in temperature, and I am constantly using it to explain how "hot" I feel. Ha.), exclaimed at the darkness as we went through a couple tunnels, and remarked at the incredible scenery of river and jungle hills.  I wish I could describe the vibrancy of the green, but pictures, nor words seem to capture the color of this place.  We also passed alongside the Hydroelectric Pangi Dam (the only dam in all of Sabah), and I was amazed to hear that it is almost 40 years old, and provides a little less than half of all the energy in Sabah.  To think that I thought I was going to be in such a rural area...and in some ways I am, but my expectations that I had so falsely presumed had led me to a belief that was simply wrong; here is a place that has had hydroelectric power for almost half a century.  It was a humble reminder of yet again how little I know, yet pretend to know so much.  

And when we did finally arrive, it seemed as most of the train walked together along the rail road tracks to a house overlooking the river.  What a view!  I still cannot get over its berth and the sharp contrast it serves in comparison to the other rivers I have seen.  A warmer shade of chocolate milk is I think what comes to maybe hot cocoa?  Ha.  Regardless, it was, and is beautiful and I was enamored with it though out our time there.  Auntie Helen then prayed over breakfast, the first of two meals we would be having.  In Malaysia, if someone is older than you, you either refer to them as "Auntie" or "Uncle." I like to think of it as an extended family that just keeps growing as you meet more people :)  Who knew that there could be so much comfort in someone's address?

Food is big in Malaysia and so is the taste of manis (sweet).  Milo, kopi, and teh seem to be staples and for good reason.  Milo is very much like hot cocoa, but not as chocolatey, coffee is one of Tenom's specialties (there are 2 large factories in the area) and in Malaysia it is sweet coffee, and again, sweet Sabah tea.  We feasted upon some honey comb-looking fried honey pastry?, rice pastries, and boiled rice wrapped in a palm leaf (those who are gluten-intolerant come to Sabah-'the Land beneath the Rice' *cough* I mean 'Wind').  All truly delicious.

After a short message, Panas, a relative of Auntie Helen suggested we check out the hanging bridge "jumbataan gantung" over the river.  I don't think he realized just how happy he made me.  Yippee for exploring!  Camera in hand, off we went on a follow-the-leader like adventure across the kampung to the first, and then the second hanging bridge.  Definitely one of the cooler life moments I have had.  Our troope: 7 in size, all over the age of 17, suddenly became 7 year olds as we jumped up and down, ran, and giggled our way across.  And soon after came 3 aunties all wanting photos, shaking the bridge, and laughing, just like us.  Moments like those remind me of how connected we all are.  Something that we can all wonder at in an experience of sharing.  As we waved goodbye to the family, I felt warmth from not just the food in my belly, but of friendship and shared joy.  I felt a connection between the people around me and myself.  I wasn't just the "orang putih" who could only speak a couple sentences and words.  Today, I felt like I shared friendship with others and I feel incredibly blessed to be invited into those relationships.  Sirah, Ellie, and the many Aunties and Uncles who welcomed me with a smile, a conversation, a handshake, or yummy food, and drink, they are good people and I am thankful for them.  I am also thankful for you.

"Terima Kasih."  Thank you.  It is one of the first phrases I could actually say in Bahasa Melayu. Part of the reason for that is the constant use that it receives.  Whether it be someone handing over my groceries, a response from a wave, shout, or honk of greeting from the street, or the countless invitations of hospitality that I have already received, its literal translation is one that I cherish.  I receive your love.  It is not one-ended, it is an exchange between two rooted in a relationship.  What richness!  And that my dear friends and family is Malaysia.  So, I offer you now, "Terima kasih."  All of you have impacted my life in such a way that has brought me to this point today and I am so grateful for you.  It is because of you that I can love the people and place I am with and among.  So thank you for walking alongside me in this experience, one in which I hope to understand "love" a little bit more.

A dear friend who has become a huge support to me over the past several months sent me this scripture just before I arrived here.  Ever since it has been continually on my mind:
1 John 4: 7-8

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who knows love is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love God, does not know God, for God is

And a few photos...

The train we took to Pangi

The Padas River

On the hanging bridge with friends! 

The three aunties and me.  They live in a village known as Api Kampung-Fire Village.

Auntie Helen and Ester, my housemate eating some delicious food at the celebration.  

A close up of one of our plates-all traditional Dusun or Murut food.  Sabah has three Indigenous peoples: the Kadazan, the Dusun, and the Murut. All have their own language and separate traditions.

I am serving with the BCCM, a part of the Lutheran World Federation and this was a fundraiser banquet held to raise money for the new Church in Keningnau where a fellow YAGM is serving.  We watched traditional dances, enjoyed good food, and played in a raffle where my housemates and I won an electric oven.  From top left: Thorothy, Auntie Silvia, Gloria, Oleh, Ester, Me, and Bung. Thorothy and Ester are my two housemates.

A dinner that the housemates and I prepared with a newly acquired oven.  Greens that Ester loves, eggplant, guava, and fish from the local market. Not a lot of people use ovens around here, and so baking is left to the bakeries.  Brownies may or may not be in the works.

View overlooking all of Tenom.  Ester and I just finished a "wog" up the local hill. Tenom is considered one of the most fertile valleys of Sabah.

One of my favorite spots in Tenom.  This is the park not too far from the Theodora house; and you can also see the mosque peeking out from the right from where we hear the daily call to prayer.

"Synchronized swimming or Badminton?"
Malaysia is known for its competitive Badminton players, and so of course Tenom has courts.  

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