Saturday, July 18, 2009

Remembering... (Part 1)

I can still remember getting off the plane. As I went through the opening of the airplane, an intense heat hit me and I was automatically overwhelmed by the smells of my new world. With sweat already dripping from my face, I tried hard to adjust my nose to the inevitable. It was a mixture of farm animals, trash truck, mixed with exotic food cooking. My nose still turns up thinking of that first moment. To top it off, I was scared to death.

Inside the airport, my fear continued as I entered a very hot, very crowded, very chaotic atmosphere. Lines? What are Lines? I would soon discover that nobody believed in lines here. The noise was terrible. Babies crying, airport workers yelling, people frantically trying to hold their place in those invisible lines. There was pushing and shoving, lots and lots of staring and men going through my suitcase and touching my stuff. Ugh!

Finally, when we left the airport, my family and I, and there seemed to be a crowd that followed us. I'm sure we were a sight. Nobody cared whether we had name brand clothes or if our hair was fixed just right. However, we stood out, my little sister and I. Golden hair, blue eyes, fair skin... everyone wanted to stare or reach out for a touch. Beggar children swarmed us for a coin. Dirty, shirtless (even some of the girls), barefoot... I remember big white smiles on dirty faces. Overwhelmed with all that surrounded me, I didn't have compassion for their circumstances yet. My eleven (almost twelve) year old mind was too busy trying to comprehend what exactly my parents had gotten me into and the fact that they expected me to live HERE! I was in Bangladesh.

When I was in third grade my parents surrendered their hearts to missions. I was already a pastor's kid, born while my dad was in seminary, there was never a day I didn't know who God was. Yet, this was new. Afterall, I was happy in my house, with my church and school and all my neighborhood friends. I didn't really comprehend what this "surrendering to missions" meant. Due to some medical issues I had (they discovered I had scoliosis and I had to wear a brace) and problems with getting visas into the country, we didn't leave until I was in the 6th grade. I had had two years to adjust to moving overseas. There were days I was excited and days I was scared to death. However, nothing prepared me for what I discovered when I stepped off that plane for the first time.

I did learn to adjust and even love parts of my life there. Although I will not lie, it is a hard country to live in as a foreigner, especially a teenage, blond hair girl. I only lived there three years, for I went off to school, in Bangkok Thailand when I was in the 9th grade. My parents then transferred there, themselves. But in those three years I experienced many adventures, and discovered many new things.

I thought I would share a few of them with you.

1. I remember the first time I rode in a Rickshaw. That is the carriage looking thing on the back of a bicycle. I hung on for dear life as the Bengali man swerved through traffic. I told you they don't believe in lines in this country. Same thing goes for the roads. Everyone seems to be constantly fighting for a place to go forward, even the cows that wonder the streets!!! I would eventually ride this new form of transportation everywhere and learned to relax, but it certainly was a RIDE!

2. We ate with out hands. Now at my house we had silverware and my mom continued to teach me manners to the best of her ability. But when we went out, you were required to eat with your right hand only (the left hand is considered unclean). Rice and curry (a soup like gravy with meat in it most of the time). I wasn't a huge fan of the dish and found myself eating rice A LOT. Good thing I loved rice. I remember the first time I ate out with Bengali people. After they were finished eating everyone would burp or belch and with no apologies. My eyes went straight to my mom, remembering my manners. However, there it is considered a sign that the meal was good.

3. I walked a pole bridge to cross a rice field, in order to get to a village. I remember feeling like I was in the circus, balancing my way across, afraid of falling into the water filled fields below. At the village we had goat curry. (I ate rice.) For some reason, this was one of the village visits I remember the most. Not because anything out of the ordinary happened, but the grateful smiles just have always stayed with me. There were beautiful children and babies playing. I might have remembered them, for later a hurricane would hit the coast of Bangladesh, where this village was located. I always wondered about them...

4. Lizards. I am not a huge fan of reptiles. I'm not usually scared of frogs and lizards, but I really don't want to touch them either. Snakes, however, that is a whole another story. Anyway, overseas they have these little lizards called "Tick tickies" (not sure if that is how to spell it, but that is how it is pronounced). they crawl all over the walls. In fact, you do not want to get rid of them for they kill the mosquitoes, flies and spiders that are a headache especially in third world countries. I got to where I was happy to see one in my room, if it meant I wasn't going to have mosquito bites all over me.

One night, however, I woke up startled to a thump on my pillow. Scared to death, I quickly turned on the light and found one the little guys on my pillow. It was a few nights before I was able to rest peacefully without thinking about "raining lizards."

5. The stares. I think the hardest part was being stared at all the time, by EVERYONE. I know I stood out. Many had never seen gold hair and wanted only to have a touch. I remember one time being told that my hair looked like it held magic powers because it shined. Funny! Yet, they were a country of people that was mostly poverished, in search of a little magic to see them through. I use to pretend, as the people stared that I was a celebrity and that is why people were so interested in me. I guess the imagination helps us get through circumstances beyond our control. I learned to live with the staring, but the touching I hated and was something even my imagination couldn't help me with.

I have many more memories to share. I've enjoyed this little ride down memory lane. I will continue on in the next post. Unfortunately, I have to get back to my reality of today. I hear the kids starting to stir. Thanks for joining me, hope I didn't bore you. Why am I traveling down this particular road of memories at this time? Well, I'll let you know that pretty soon too.

Have a great weekend!


~*Michelle*~ said...

oh wow, Mich.....thank you for sharing this amazing chapter in your life.

Sounds so amazing....yet, I cannot imagine trying to digest it all as a child. God has/had a plan and I can't wait to hear what you have coming up.

have a beautiful weekend~

Sharon Sloan said...

Wow! How exciting to read this. Looking forward to part 2! Thanks for sharing this.

Oh -- and eating with your right hand -- sometimes I wonder if one of my cherubs has been to Bangladesh!!

Jim said...

Great memory-walk! Even though I could visualize each situation "perfectly" I was given some new perspectives on what WE EXPERIENCED TOGETHER in those days. I'll have to "blog" some of my reactions one of these days soon, although you've probably heard again and again some of what I would say. It was, indeed a memorable time in OUR LIVES and I am so happy YOU WERE A PART OF IT.
I'm interested in how Kay and Jor respond to your memories.

Looking forward to chapter 2.

Ami tomake bhalobhasi,

Jo said...

Thank you for this blog, Michele. It brought up some memories of the 3 weeks I spent with your family in Bangkok, when you graduated from high school.
I remember the lizards, too. Seeing them skittering to and fro on the walls, floors, and across the dining table at times.
Other things were very memorable, like riding in Tuk-Tuks, the smell of the klongs(sic), exhaust on the streets, bartering while shopping, and the overall differences between the US and Thailand.

One thing that stands out in my mind was a sight-seeing trip that your Dad took me on. We went to Pattya, and so many other places. One area in particular, I remember, was somewhere along the coastline, I believe. We were walking around, taking in everything, when we spied a group of Thai children, under a tree, with a young lady who appeared to be reading to them from a story-book. At closer inspection, we found that the book was a picture book of Bible events and stories. It was an amazing and wonderful thing to see in a land that was not predominately Christian.

I will always cherish my memories (and pictures) of my visit and am so happy that I made good on my promise to see you graduate.

Much love,
Aunt Jo

Simply Stork said... those are some memories! How exciting to learn about missions from another perspective!


really.truly said...

I loved this walk you took us on!! Everything you shared was fascinating to me. A few things you shared I had heard about and wondered about #1 and interesting. What an amazing and unique childhood you had.

He & Me + 3 said...

I am a pastors kid too. How cool. We never traveled out of the country to live though. Sounds difficult, but yet such a great experience. Cant wait to read the rest. ugh on the reptiles. Yuck.

Miss Charlene said...

Wow, what a fascinating experience! Thanks for sharing all of that! Amazing how we all live in the same world, but everyone lives in their own different world everywhere. What a struggle that must have been sometimes, but what an enriching experience too! I've never been out of the country and I hope to one day :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mich,
I am just making a quick stop for the moment…I wanted to thank you for your comments. I only have a few minutes, and probably will not get around to reading any blogs before tomorrow at the earliest.
Thanks for stopping by. I did have a wonderful week with my parents.

christy rose said...

Mich, What an adventure just to hear about the experiences through your words. I did not know any of these things about you yet! Missionaries in Bangledesh! I loved your dad's comment about how he remembers all of the same experiences but from a different view point. Isn't that amazing? We can all be at the same place at the same time and tell a totally different story from our own viewpoint. We are all the same yet all so different. huh?
Can't wait for part 2!

Mocha Momma said...

Oh that must have been difficult to be that age and move to a 3rd world country.

I had similar experiences in the Philippines while I was in the Navy. I had bleached my hair so it would be more blonde while I lived in CA. When I got to the PI I stood out to some degree. There were a lot of Americans there though.

I remember the smell and the humidity as soon as I got off the airplane too. then the bus ride to the base scared the whits out of me.

No lines & no traffic rules, it was bazarre.

I became a Christian there though, so I have fond memories of the PI.

Have a great week.

Anonymous said...


This is extremely interesting, and I am glad you decided to write about these memories. You have much to share of a life so different than most. As I read, I could imagine your life’s story being made into a movie…I “watched” you ride through those crazy streets, clutching the side of the Rickshaw.

I relate to the part of you imagining you were a celebrity. I would not like to be touched, either.

I bet you have volumes of stories to tell!
Loved it!