Saturday, February 27, 2010
I have been oh so blessed the last few days with extremely warm sunny weather up here in Sapa. Cheering!!! During our hikes it has actually become quite hot! Alot of people got really really sunburnt. But I'm quite happy about this situation as when I was in Hanoi I attempted very unsuccessfully to buy warm clothes, got fed up with shopping (due to strong dislike and the millions of shops selling almost identical things) and having to haggle and not knowing what i want..... and purchased no additional warm clothes coming with only what I brought in my pack from australia.
The photo's I've just added are from wednesday when it was a bit more foggy in Sapa (I haven't downloaded my hiking photos yet), and one with me and the Tu Phin village ladies. That was an interesting experience from Wednesday afternoon. I hired a scooter in the afternoon and went to visit this village and cave that is there. When I arrived in the village, the women all rushed over and waved me down to park the scooter and then walk the remaining kilometre or two (I already had the blisters by this stage post Cat-Cat Village hiking). I had 5 ladies following me - one passer-by commented "lucky girl". But basically, the problem with this situation is that you are then expected to buy handicrafts from each of your walkers!! These ladies, I tell you are brilliant at guilt-tripping you. I ended up making a deal and bought 2 items from the ladies (I couldn't please everyone and I just a) didn't like any of the offered handicrafts and b) didn't want to have to carry it either!!). I am getting better at bargaining....
Anyway, so the last 24 hours I have been hiking and on a homestay. Thursday we hiked for 17km up and down mountains and today we hiked 14km. Subsequently I have some pretty sore muscles and blistered heels (I never want to wear shoes again!). But the experience itself was definitely worth it and I'm glad I went. If I had more time, I would have liked to have climbed Mt Fansipan (highest mountain in the area 3000-something feet high) just to say that I climbed it but I'm glad I just did the 2 days with the homestay. I'm still a bit sick from the cold weather at Halong Bay and the harder trek would have done me in I believe.
The hikes were basically up and down through the rice-paddies and bamboo forests, up and down cliffs (the potential for people to fall off and die was quite high in a lot of situations). Absolutely breathtaking scenery and we had 100% sunshine for it the whole time as well which was lucky - last week the weather was about 4 degrees, this week its high 20s early 30s I think! But not an easy walk in the park, thats for sure.
The rice paddies them selves are a bit fascinating. The entire mountainside is landscaped into terraces of these rice fields, which all contain water and flow from one to the other. Each field has to be 100% flat to ensure an even cover of water and allow it to be continue down to the next field. Ingenius design, there are little pipes and gullies flowing between them all to keep the water fresh and clean. It is the dry season at the moment, so the rivers themselves are quite low, but a very pretty turquoise colour.
Our group had 7 in it, two NZ girls, a couple from the UK and a newly-married (as in they got married 4 days ago) couple from Melbourne who wanted to do something different for their honeymoon (they have been living together for >5 years). It was a good group and we got on quite well. Last night at our home-stay we had the most awesome feed (couldn't finish it all) and it was a bit of a pre-requisite to try rice-wine. I think I mentioned earlier my first experience with rice-wine at Dalat - it was at least 50-60% alcohol and the fumes came out of my nose! This rice-wine or rice-whisky wasn't quite so strong but it was still strong enough!! The grandma of the house came out and we had a bit of a chant we all had to say (I'm not sure exactly what it all was - I have suspicions that it was something to the gods?). The first part I knew - Chuc Mung Nam Moi which means happy new year in Vietnamese as TET has just past and people are still celebrating this season. We did about 3 shots this way, and she was keen for them to continue but we left the rest for a bit later when we played cards. Learnt a new game called 'Durak' which is a Russian game meaning 'fool'. Good fun, but basically the durak had to down a shot of the rice-whisky. I was pretty tired so I ended up going to bed having won a few rounds and only losing once.
The majority of the time as we have been walking we have had a solid group of followers from either the H'Mong or Red Su tribe. Everyone is trying to sell you things which gets a bit frustrating after a while, they all have a particular tone of voice 'buy from me?' which can be quite effective in guilt-tripping you. I did manage to resist, but one of the other girls got sucked in a couple of times. However after so many times you become immune to 'the voice' as it is all identical (and seems well-practiced). There are many young children around as well who try and sell you things as well. You are encouraged not to buy from them though as they are meant to be in school and many will skip as they prefer to sell things or get lollies, pens, toys and things from tourists. If they asked me to buy things I'd pretty much tell them they should be in school :) hehe!
On a more personal note, I am still in process of deciding what I want to do with the rest of my life. I realise this is a bit impatient of me - I want to live everything today here and right now. I mentioned a few days back how I had received an email from Interserve and had responded. Anyway, I was just randomly job-browsing a few minutes ago and decided to look at a few different mission agencies to see what opportunities they had going on as well, as I would like to continue obtaining experience in nutrition and dietetics if possible. So, I found a position advertised with Interserve (funnily enough) for a nutritionist somewhere in South East Asia working in a school with disabled children and their families. Sounds good, so I've sent an enquiry about it and will pray and see what happens from here on I guess.
Mission and me has always been an interesting topic. I grew up in Africa as an MK, spending 6 years in Zambia. So yes, I see the point and benefit of mission but I guess I have a rebellious streak that automatically makes me reject the possibility or potential of being a 'missionary' because i either don't, or didn't want to see my self that way. Bit selfish isn't it?
Anyway, there are a whole heap of preparation steps that Interserve have forwarded to me in the lead up to considering mission, so I would appreciate anyone's comments, encouragement/discouragement, thoughts, discussion about any of the following things:
1) Talk to your minister, Missions Task Group, Ministry Leader ( these are the people who have worked with you and taught you....what do they think?)
2. Read missionary biographies ( from 19th, 20th and 21st centuries ).List over page.
3. Build a Partnership Team ( people who pray for you throughout the journey ).
4. Complete either the Perspectives Course ( 1 night /week for 12 weeks ).
www.perspectives.org.au or the Kairos course (1 night/week for 9 weeks). http://www.kairoscourse.org/au.html
5. Pray for 1, 2 missionaries ( by yourself or join a Missions Prayer Group ).
6. Cultivate your walk with God ( grow your Quiet Time, increase your Bible intake, develop your prayer power, be witnessing, journal your thoughts and God’s leading ).
7. Grow your ministry skills ( take a responsibility in your church and excel at it ). Also seek training ( small groups such as uni, leadership such as Beach Mission, youth leadership, disciple-making skills ).
8. Find a mentor ( seek a “Paul” to keep you accountable in the above activities ).
9. Pray for a “Timothy” whom you can disciple, or lead to Christ then follow-up.
10. Become involved with mission-hearted people
· Investigate some mission agencies (See 2nd Step on the Journey for more information
· Sign up for free email service notifying you of mission news and openings – www.interserve.org.au
· Attend missions conferences and events ( Interserve Annual Conference, ReachOut, CMS Summer School ) and information nights ( Xtreme Places).
· Participate in activities that stimulate your missions heart (re-unions of Short-Termers, Interserve ‘Stay tuned to missions’ ).
11. Get involved in a sub-culture in your city – by doing this you truly are showing you are keen to work in another culture before you go to another country.
I was reading Ecclesiastes over the last few days in my search for meaning, and read Eccl 7:28. Can anyone explain to me why there are no righteous women in the world? I don't understand! Sounds, just a bit sexist but I'm sure there is a perfectly logical explanaition for it.. somewhere!