Well, I promised you a part two, so here we go. If you are curious as to what I am remembering than go back one post before reading this one. It has memories # 1-5. I should call this my "Adventures While Living in Bangladesh" series.
6. Snakes. Ugh! Hate them. Terrified of them. I always worried about meeting a cobra, while out visiting villages, walking across the fields. I had one of my dogs killed once by a snake. However, my most unusual memories of snakes while living overseas had to do with snake charmers. Yes, they are real. I've seen plenty of them. When we would have visitors, my dad thought it would be great to have a snake charmer come to our house and put on a show. It really is a sight to behold. Of course most of the time I stood behind the screen door. :)
7. One of the funniest memories I have while out and about visiting people with my parents, was after the monsoon rains. We had gone to visit and the dirt roads were muddy. I remember sliding all the way and even falling a few times, while walking around. Another MK girl and I hung on to each other for dear life...it was like walking on ice it was so slippery. The Bengali's thought we were so funny, the children laughing, I remember just laughing with them, covered in mud.
8. I mentioned the rains. When it rained it poured! I can't even explain it. When the monsoon would hit, it literally looked like sheets of water, so heavy and thick. You have never "played " in the rain until you have literally been caught out in a monsoon drenching. Unfortunately, flooding was a big problem too.
9. I had people who worked for my family. Our houses were made all of concrete. Concrete walls, floors... We couldn't run the air conditioner either, so we had our windows open and ceiling fans going constantly. In other words, things get and stay dirty easily. My mom had someone who helped her with laundry and cleaning the house. We also had a cook named Mathias. I loved that little man. He was such a sweet soul, who worked and lived on our compound so he could provide for his family in the village. My favorite memory of him was his sneeze. When he sneezed, I swear you could hear it in the next city!!! We also had a man who guarded our gate and took care of our yard. Abdul. My favorite memory of him? My seven year old sister getting him to play school with her. Priceless.
10. Where did I go to school? For sixth grade, I went to the International School in the capital city. Looking back it was a great experience. I went to school with students and teachers from all over the world. I had an "Aiya" (a nanny) that first year, who would walk me down the crowded street every morning and every evening to catch the bus. I don't ever remember being really scared, but as a mom now, I really don't know how my mom was able to turn us loose into the big city every day.
When we moved out of the capital city, my mom home schooled me. I was never a very good student. I loved to read and never had a problem with my reading and English studies, but when it came to math time, bless my mom! She deserves a medal for putting up with me those two years!!! My Dad had a desk built for me to study on. I have my computer on it right now as I type away. It is scratched and a little rough around the edges now, but I love it. It is a souvenir from my childhood in Bangladesh.
Most of the missionary kids in Bangladesh eventually went to boarding school when they were in 7th -9th grade. I ended up going when I was in 9th. I went to Bangkok, Thailand and lived at the Baptist boarding house there. I attended the International School. It would be my first experience living in a totally different country from my parents.
11. The hardest part of living there was not the color of my skin or hair, it was my age. Most girls between the age of 12 and 16 were thinking of marriage and being prepared for the arranged weddings to come. Me? I was in love with my umpteen John Stamos and Scott Baio posters, listening to music and reading books. Marriage? Hardly. Needless to say, it was a lonely time. There were other missionary kids who were my friends, yet they all lived in other towns and villages. We saw each other about once a month. My room became my haven. While my young sister had the freedom of a child to dress how she pleased and play outside, I couldn't. I had to make sure I was covered up (Absolutely no shorts!) and if I went to play outside, hundreds (and I am not exaggerating!) Bengalis would be hanging out of the apartment windows next door, trying to get a glimpse of the teenage white girl. I remember we did have a badminton net set up, I had a bike I would ride around and I always had a dog, but that was my existence for a while. The highlights of my life in 7th and 8th grade was when I was able to be with the other MKs.
12. Two scary times... the first was during a festival/ holiday of some kind. I don't remember the name, I'm sure my dad remembers. All I remember is that they used a lot of flowers to decorate with during this time. We were no longer living in the capital, but were living in a town. I think if I remember right, we were the only foreigners that lived there except for a Catholic priest. Even though it wasn't by American standards, we had one of the "big houses" in town, with a beautiful yard and was enclosed by a wall and gate. I found out one night, that even if you have a wall and a guard, if people really want in, they will find a way. It was late, when a group of men got into our compound looking for the beautiful flowers from our garden. I don't know what all was said, I just remember being scared as I quietly stared out my window. Somehow in the end peace was obtained and my dad let them have the flowers if they would leave. Funny when you think about it...fighting over flowers?
Of course, I hope you realize as I tell my stories, that they are through youthful eyes. My perspective. My dad and mom may have a different version to share, with a more insightful explanation. However, what I tell you is the truth, for they are my memories of what went on.
13. I remember being really scared another time too. This time it was an incident that made me realize just what my parents were doing and the lengths they were going to do it. I realized they were giving up their lives for the call of Christ. I realized how dangerous that could be at times.
My dad had gone to a neighboring village with some Bengali preachers. They were excited about what was happening in this village and their response to the Word. Unfortunately, they picked a bad day to go visiting. I can't remember if it was a Muslim holiday or an important leader had come calling, but the younger generation was riled up...very anti American. My dad all of a sudden found his van swarmed by angry men. They were literally shaking the vehicle with him and his Christian friends inside. They were angry and shouting hateful things...By some miracle (God), they finally were able to drive away. When he came home, he worked hard to not show his fear, yet we knew it had shaken him. It shook me. I realized that just going for a "visit" in a foreign country wasn't without it's risks and that every time my dad went out, he was laying it all out there for the Lord. It still makes me shiver thinking about it.
14. When we moved outside the capital city, we had to cross the waters twice, which meant we rode ferries. We would drive our car up on the ferry and pray for safe passage. I hated it because it would be hot and we would have to keep our windows shut for all the people that swarmed our vehicle. I often would think how the little ferry was holding up all the cars, people, cows and everything else that wanted to cross. Later, as an adult I would read about all the ferries that sunk, with hundreds of people dying in the filthy waters... when I think of how many times I rode on one, filled way beyond weight capacity...God is good!
15. Rose water. I can still smell it. I can still taste it. Yuck! The best way to describe it, well it was like drinking a bottle of perfume or eating a flower. Anyway, when the Christian Bengali churches had communion, they served rose water in place of grape juice or wine. I remember thinking, as I sat crowded into the small church "let this cup pass over me." The taste would stay with me for hours! I think it is funny how we can have vivid memories of smells and tastes, even if it has been over twenty years!
16. My dad is an artist. One of his ministry ideas was to draw out beautiful designs, buy the materials and then get the widows and other needy women to embroider those designs. He then would sell the pieces. They were beautiful pieces of art, that helped the women feel good about themselves by allowing them to provide a little money for their families.
17. I don't like spiders, snakes and other creepy crawly things. I'm still asking God "WHY?" he created certain animals... anyway, except for mosquito bites, my family did a pretty good of staying clear of anything dangerous, or at least most of us did. I don't know if they ever realized what kind of spider it was, but my sister was it's victim. I remember being terrified she would get really sick or even lose a limb. IT WAS THAT BAD! It swelled up and when I say it had green puss, it had green puss. (Shivering right now as I type.) But I am happy to say she lived through the intense, very painful ordeal with only a small scar. In fact if I am not mistaken she has blogged about it before.
18. You haven't experienced true thankfulness, until you see hundreds of men and women bathing in filthy river water. Or go in a tiny tiny home, one room, no running water, muddy floors and realize a family of ten lives there. When beautiful smiles are made up of rotting teeth or when you see many children running around shirtless and with bare feet. When you see so many who have nothing. While there, (this will sound like I'm a very insensitive human being) I put a shell around my heart, so that the daily sights would not affect me. I was a typical teenager, worried mainly about myself, yet deep down it bothered me. I tucked those feelings away, so I wouldn't cry myself to sleep every night over the unfairness of this world. I'm ashamed to say that I still do it. It is so easy to get caught up in our own worlds that we forget about the less fortunate. I see the news and sometimes have a hard time not believing that my adventures overseas were not just part of a big dream. Life is so different in the States.
19. I collect dolls. I have a doll from every country I have visited. I started the collection when I lived in Bangladesh. I look at the different dolls now, dressed in the many different styles of clothing, representing the different people. Each doll holds a memory of it's own. Also in my treasure box I have a set of glass bracelets. I remember going and buying the set of twelve. They were so beautiful when worn. I now have four left, the others broken along the way. I also have silver pieces, bracelets and anklets which I wore. Those that could afford it loved jewelry and I loved finding new pieces to wear around my wrists and ankles. Shopping wasn't as fun, due to the crowds of people that would come to watch us, but some of my favorite memories were of when we went. Whether at the hotel gift shops or in the markets, even then I guess I loved a good bargain. Jewelry was my favorite thing to buy. My mom still has many saris...6 yards of beautiful material, which was wrapped in such a way it became the main form of dress. I remember thinking she looked so beautiful in her layers of silk.
20. I guess the best part of the MK life is the people you meet along the way, other missionaries and their families. They become your family overseas, uncles and aunts willing to be substitutes for loved ones left behind. I loved these people and all the beautiful memories I have of them. I am thankful for all the love and support they gave me during those years...
Well, I think I will finish here. I could go on and on, for there are plenty of stories to tell. I have enjoyed this trip down memory lane, memories that I had put away and had almost forgotten. Thanks for allowing me to share them with you. Maybe I will do another series on my life in Bangkok. I will think about it. I pray that if you take anything away from this journal, it is that we need to keep those that lay down all they have for the Lord's service, going across the world to who knows where, in our prayers. They might just have a teenage daughter who is trying to find herself and discover for herself what following Christ really means. I know the only way I survived my adventures was through the prayers of those who cared.
On a side note, I had a pen pal who wrote me faithfully the whole time I was overseas. I never met the guy, but his letters and gifts always meant so much. When you have nothing, even the kind words of a stranger mean a lot. It makes one realize how important it is to be kind, even in this blessed world in which we live.
Hope you are having a blessed week...
Oh, I almost forgot. I think I promised you a "reason" for my sudden journey down memory lane. Well, I guess I am ready to share. Every two years the missionaries from Bangladesh get together for a reunion. After umpteen years of not going (my sister has been the good child and has gone in the past) I am going. My family and I are traveling with my parents and my sister and her family back in time to visit some old friends and family members. I am excited and promise to report back the details. :0