Friday, May 9, 2014

From Tokyo to Nepal via lotsa places

Geez, where does a year go?? ALL KINDS OF AMAZING PLACES, that's where.

Right, so I finished my year confusing my Japanese students with the joys of English (Let's blow this popsicle stand!), but there was so much more Asia to explore…and it turned out yet again that having the preparedness skills of a master Eagle Scout held me in good stead, because looky there! I'd dragged all my backpacking gear along with me from the US. So I headed south for the winter like the dutiful Floridian I am, where there was hiking in Hong Kong, crying in the graveyards of Macau, night swimming with glowy plankton in Thailand, and eating my way through Cambodia and Vietnam like there would be some reward at the end of it instead of simply finding all my pants have gone squeezy. And then I just couldn’t let Japan go, so I headed back for the glory of another hanami season and to make my Pikachu dreams come true.

Confession: I am REALLY regretting not buying this.

Does anyone order this? EVER?

I can't wait to introduce you all to the sassy Buddhas I met.
Best. Monastery. Ever.

Where I expected a pink dolphin lookout point to be, I was instead greeted by this crazy fiberglass statue perched on top of a hill. I might have become hysterical with laughter.
Street food snack: Fried bugs and baby birds. PASS.
Don't know what this is selling, but I know I wanna buy it.
Not three feet into Cambodia, and I've been handed a cold can of Cambodia. Genius!

Angkor Wat - World Heritage Site. Word.

If you like cemeteries (and come on, who doesn't?), the Protestant Cemetery in Macau is in my top 3 world cemeteries.
What? You don't rank world cemeteries? Weirdo.

Sunsets. So many glorious Thai sunsets. And I flooded facebook with them EVERY DAY. Sorry!

Vietnam donut shop tries to dispense a little truth??

Why does it feel like the mannequins of Southeast Asia will murder me when I turn around?

Seriously. They missed the appropriate-mannequin-behavior memo.
Oh Pikachu...Gundam will CRUSH YOU. Silly electric mouse pokemon!

Touring Tokyo...every pokemon's dream.
And yes, I presume to speak for all pokemon.

Eating dinner and the proprietor offers you a monkey suit? Yes, please!

UFO catcher in a Tokyo arcade.
I don't know. At all.

So now: Nepal. Somehow, all of the craziness of what came before this has all come together to bring me here. At this moment, I’m in the village of Haripur in rural southern Nepal, trying not to feel guilty that my soft Western self doesn’t even know how to help them with the laundry or the dishes for fear of wasting water or other precious resources. I’m here volunteering with New Light Nepal, an organization that is working to prevent human trafficking in Nepal and sharing the Gospel. I am visiting the villages in the south to gain an understanding of the cultural context and the reasons for and the impact of trafficking children for forced labor, plus trying to wrap my mind around the practice of child marriage – 62,000 girls ages 6-10 are married in this region, and over 600,000 under age 15. Next week I will visit the villages in the north, where women and girls are trafficked to brothels in India and elsewhere in shocking numbers, often sold by their fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, and other people they should be able to trust in exchange for a new tin roof or some other negligible amount.

I have been tasked with creating a curriculum that will train the people in the villages about the schemes and tactics used by traffickers to deceive women and families, combat the cycle of poverty fostered by the caste system, negate Hindu teachings that treat women like property, get uneducated families to value education enough to allow their children to go to school, and give hope in the face of police corruption where little is done to enforce anti-trafficking laws…that’s all. No big deal. Should be able to wrap this up by Tuesday. Um, right. So this is my personal exercise in coping with feelings of being totally and completely ill-equipped to handle the task set before me but getting on with it anyway, knowing God has inexplicably prepared me for this place and time to make some small contribution to the good work they are doing. All the while learning to deal with a life without toilet paper. Challenge upon challenge up in here. In all seriousness, the focus at present is on improving educational opportunities while also increasing awareness of traffickers’ methods, and my focus is on the latter, getting the mamas into full mama-bear mode. I solicit your prayers for this and all of the work of New Light Nepal.

Women (and children as young as 6) working in a brick factory, paid 3 cents for every load they carry.

A tutoring center, 1 hour per day.
Most of these children do not attend school.

Another tutoring center, the children of indentured farmers
Goats. ON A LEASH.
If you know me at all, you know I wanted to keep ALL the goats.

Anyway, I’ve spent enough time in omphaloskepsis for one day, so I’d better get back to the task at hand. 

Do take a moment and think about how blessed you are and what you can do for others. Even if you think you have nothing to offer, it’s simply not true!

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