Category Archives: Images from life here

48 hours in kampung (rural village) to learn national language…  THIS WAS CRAZY, amazing, effective, AND NUTS!

In less than a month, our family will celebrate 5 years in Malaysia.  Yet for many reasons, we haven’t really learned the language.  I can jabber in the market, but often don’t know basic words (move, change, and light are three examples), and have a hard time understanding what I hear.  The boys take the easy road and assume others will work and play in English.  But I decided, “it’s TIME!”  A post of Facebook offering to pay anyone who can let us sleep on their floor and help us speak Bahasa, and voila, an invitation to a village.  I think I could write a book about our last 48 hours.  But I’ll try to hit the high points here.

First, we had the wrong Maps pin and so a 1-hour trip turned into a three-hour tour (a three-hour tour!) of rural roads, including an accidental 30 minutes on gravel/dirt/ancient mossy cement bridge, getting car stuck and unstuck, and stopping every person we saw to get directions to the next turn.  Comically, the erroneous gravel road turned out to lead us to where we were going – but the actual place was just 100 metres from lovely sealed asphalt, which meant we got back home almost entirely on great roads!

We got there and had the lovely surprise that one of Cade’s teachers had seen our post on Facebook and came to see us.  She got there way before us even though she hadn’t been there for “twenty-over” years.  Sabahan people are, in general, heartwarming, and this was a great welcome after our slightly harrowing three-hour tour (our three-hour tour)!

We hiked about 10 minutes to a river with our host, Terrence (though we just called him “Uncle,” per local tradition), and a local boy named Daziel, who was 11 and agreed to help our boys try to speak BM.  Terrence taught us a river game where he built a stone tower and we all threw rocks at it, trying to topple it.  This lasted for a looooooong time, and was super fun.  Simple games “rock”!IMG_20170809_170812

The building we stayed in had been handed down through generations, rebuilt and remodelled, into a hostel with many bunk beds.  For dinner, they fed us, and fed us, and fed us, and then we all fell asleep.

The next morning we hiked to some local homes, where we encountered:

  • A bird that can mimic you (but we were told in Bahasa, “burung ini cacap Dusun” – this bird speaks Dusun – the local tribal language.
  • We saw leaves drying – once dry, you boil them, then use the water to bathe. Bath & Body Works, eat your heart out.  The leaves smelled fabulous!
  • We found out that our guide had helped choose the place here in Sabah for the first season of Survivor – he name-dropped Mark Burnett and my jaw dropped! I love Survivor!
  • We were taught a game with a local segmented plant called “ribu-ribu” (thousands). You take a little segment and hide it in the rest of the plant and others try to find it.  Again, super fun.
  • Next we went to a family house and met the father of the tribe’s Chief. There we were relieved when their dogs went from howling and growling to helping the boys chase chickens.  Right near the house were pineapple plants and rice padi, which shared irrigation with three tiny fish ponds.  We learned about where kids go to school, the extended family that lives all over and comes home for the weekend, and even how to make rice wine!  I had to water mine down (a lot!) but it was truly relaxing to be in their home, half-understanding their stories, and thanking them profusely.  Oh, and we learned how to modulate our voice to yell “Keeeeee-hoi!” after drinking the rice wine.
  • In the afternoon, after school Daziel joined us for a hike to a waterfall. We hiked in the gentle rain, found fresh papayas, trekked through two rivers, and swam in the chilly waterfall.  Daziel taught me to open my eyes underwater (which later I thought, “hmmmmm, maybe not the wisest place for that”).  All was well until the sound of the waterfall changed – FLASH FLOOD!  Our guide shouted, “RRRRRRUN!” He grabbed Daziel, I hopped out with Dante and Caedmon, and we were safe on dry land – except that we had to fjord that river several times downstream.  Ankle-deep water became waist-deep cascades, but Terrence kept us safe as we raced the rising waters – but we did not lose our papayas!  When we got back we had hot tea and cooked the one unripe papaya – shredded and in oil, it was SO good, with chopped chicken, white rice, and leaves Terrence had gathered on the hike.  The kids played some language games and my boys quickly fell asleep.
  • Daziel stayed up with his mom, as kids here don’t go to bed until 9:30, even though school starts at 6 am six days a week. He read a BM copy of “Finding Dory” with me and helped me translate bit by bit, then he kindly wrote the Lord’s Prayer in BM into our notebook.  To say thank you (or “terima kasih”), we passed on to him Cade’s hardly-used roller blades.  Kids here are very polite when given gifts, but this boy’s face lit up and he even danced, he was so delighted.  (Next time I go, I will bring a helmet and wrist guards!)IMG-20170811-WA0015
  • Our last morning, we woke up early and headed to a place in the river that has lots of fun rapids. Three wonderful things: the boys could remodel the river with rocks, building and destroying dams all they wanted; the rapids were a jacuzzi for me, and there were no leeches!  (I haven’t actually had a leech here, but I am due.)  Hiking back we found a giant centipede (7 inches – bite would send you to hospital) right by Cade, and we gathered more food for lunch so the boys could eat and play with Daziel before we left.
  • When it came time to leave, there was a massive rainstorm. I was nervous about the drive – the 100 metres getting to the sealed road, then the parts that even locals called steep (at least 14% grade).  Terrance took pity on me (after my three-hour tour) and drove us ½ hour to the main road, meeting up with a friend to bring him back.  It only took us 90 minutes to get home.  After Terrence hopped out of our car, coming home was all downhill – staying in 2nd gear almost all the way!  Only 12% grade there, but when we approached town, the skies turned black (at 3:00 pm) and we got to navigate more flooding as the city roads were almost a foot deep in many places.  What a relief to get home!
  • And as a result of our adventure, we have new friends, invitations to return (and bring Daziel back to stay with us for a few days, we hope!), and a new 1-inch pile of flashcards from our practical language experience. Everything from “can I have more rice” to “Disengage!” to “pet the friendly dog” to “ouch” to “poop.”  The boys can now say simple sentences and we learned about the modern life of Dusun people.  I also prayed in BM for the first time (blessing the meal) and I think we all felt blessed to be able to meet, help each other, and celebrate life in Sabah.

reflecting on India… now that we’re home in Malaysia

Eric and I found some downtime last night to watch a DVD we got at a tea plantation in India.  Watching it brought back so many of the feelings we had during our time there.

We had been told that with India, you simultaneously love it passionately AND want to tear your hair out in frustration.  True!  The food, the generosity of people, the ability to go anywhere on trains or buses, all great!  But getting a non-spicy pizza, even at Dominos? Can’t.  Ask someone to do something in their work that they don’t do everyday? Forget it, they won’t even consider trying.  Want a train ticket?  Get onto the waitlist and the afternoon that you leave for the 14 hour train ride you find out IF you have a seat.  We loved lemon rice and curd, we loved playing cricket and badminton every day with our neighbors, we loved the first train ride.  And, we burned a lot of calories being frustrated and lost.  It was almost always BOTH love and despair.

The video we got was supposed to be about a tea plantation, but it turned out to be an intro to all the tourist spots in the state of Kerala, with a voiceover that we could understand about 30% of the words (though many people spoke English, we could understand very few), and the last quarter of the video had no audio at all.  Seriously, the state-sponsored tourism video forgot the audio file???  So we watched it in silence, still enjoying it, and marveling at our experiences in India.  We’d love to go back, and we had to shake our heads.  That’s the India experience in a nutshell.


Hands-on exploring of temple built on coast of the Bay of Bengal over 1,300 years ago

Met by Samaria

in Bandaraya (downtown) Kota Kinabalu, a juice stand called "Samaria"

in Bandaraya (downtown) Kota Kinabalu, a juice stand  & restaurant called “Samaria”

This is the restaurant we see on Sunday mornings when we come out of the BM-speaking church we attend.  I never noticed it before, but it’s intriguing – where did it get the name “Samaria”?  But it may be the perfect sight when coming from one culture (Church) to another (mainstream Malaysia, which is significantly Muslim).

Long ago, Samaria was a country that shared a border with Israel during Jesus’ day.  Samaritans worshipped the same God as the Jews but they didn’t center their worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, so Samaritans were not considered Jewish.  Despite sharing so much in common, there was a drastic dislike between the two.  You may remember the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke’s gospel – the point of the story, told to the people of Israel, is that a hated Samaritan could possibly be considered “good” – many people thought Jesus was just talking crazy to have told a parable like that.

Later, in the book of Acts, the disciples are sent out from Jerusalem, told that the good news is not just for Israelites but for all of God’s children.  The disciples probably struggled with that.  Scripture specifically says in Acts 1:8, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Local, foreign, and distant; but note how Scripture specifically includes Samaria.  

What a modern-day parallel to greet on Sunday mornings.  As we leave Church, we are reminded that there are many cultures, religions, and beloved children of God who we are called to love.  They may look & sound very different from us; or they may be so similar that we assume that we understand each other.  When we leave the worship of the God we know, we enter:

a.)    a world that has its own beliefs, that may truly be open to hearing ours – as long as we are also willing to listen, grow, and change (without giving up our identity … ah, what a balancing act), or may not be open, but we don’t know until we gracefully speak

b.)    a world that has its own needs, both from God and from us.  (In this case, it was a business – needing customers … would I avoid their business because I don’t understand their culture? or can I meet them and meet some of their needs?)

c.)    a world that  has its own values, and we would do well to ponder what values are shown in our living before we critique the values that others demonstrate

d.)    a world that has a beautiful, God-given diversity, which can enrich all, but not if we demand uniformity.

By chance I came across this picture today .  It fits, doesn’t it?

Faiths sharing the journey

Faiths sharing the journey


Pinging.  Grinding.  Screeching.  Knocking.  There are a lot of words that American mechanics know.  They’re also used to people that come in and say, “My car is making a noise,” but when asked to describe it, can’t even begin to … Continue reading


40 Days of Photos: Lenten challenge

40 Days of Photos: Lenten challenge (click to connect to our Facebook page)

If you’ve seen our Facebook page recently, you know that Wendolyn is sharing a Lenten discipline of capturing one image each day relating to a word given via  These are the words – come on over to Flung Forth Anew on facebook and share your images.  You can do this challenge with your camera, or simply by using your eyes during the day to watch for the word of the day.  It’s been a wonderful way to re-connect with things I see each day – but seeing them through new eyes.  Blessings and peace to you!


I’ve copied this image from – go see their inspiring site to get an original!


A Gallery for 2014

This gallery contains 1 photos.

Greetings, friends & followers!  It has been a long time since we posted but are glad to be back.  Currently Eric is in a marathon 27-consecutive day stretch of teaching, travel, preaching, and trying to stay healthy through it all.  … Continue reading


Images from Islamic Arts Museum

A poetic explanation of the role of natural elements in Islamic Art

A poetic explanation of the role of natural elements in Islamic Art

Ceramic Wall at Museum of Islamic Arts, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ceramic Wall at Museum of Islamic Arts, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Mosque at Mecca - miniature plus description
Mosque at Mecca – miniature plus description


On visiting a Mosque

After nearly a year of living here, I finally made it to visit a mosque. You would think that it would be easy, that a house of worship would welcome someone coming to learn and be open (to whatever degree) to the best parts of your faith tradition. But, it’s not so easy. If you imagine that you wanted to tour a church in your town, you might have to plan to attend a service, which you wouldn’t want to do if you’re not open to converting or being on their mailing list forever. Or you could drop by and hope that the building is unlocked, and that you could find the right door to an office, so you could explain why you’re wandering around, and even better, have someone walk with you and explain things. Now imagine that you are willing to make the phone call, but you have no idea what language you should use on the phone.

In my case, I was a tourist and only had so much time, and had read different guidebooks that all said, “just don’t go on the Muslim day of prayer (Friday) or holidays.” So when I showed up on a Tuesday and the sign said “No Tourists” except between 8-9, 11-12, and 3-4, I was bummed. It was not easy to get there, and it was at that time 12:15. Also, I approached the wrong door – it was the school part of the mosque – and a mom there sneered at me and said, “You are looking for the toilet.” It felt wrong to say, “No, I’m looking for a house of worship.” So I just said, “visiting this mosque?”

My point is not that mosques are inhospitable. Not at all. Once I made it past the very strict nun-like women (who lent me one of the bright lavender robes – marking me as a non-Muslim tourist – plus a hijab) the mosque felt like a wonderfully open place. Architecturally, it had a courtyard area, like most mosques, which lent a feeling of openness yet a solidity, a groundedness. But there was also a sense of spiritual openness, if one wanted to see it. There were plenty of groups there, ticking sights off of their list, and there were many young adults who were taking boisterous photos (they were wearing bright lavender robes, after all). But one could pause and sense the purpose of the place, which was ultimately worship and community.

Thankfully, I had just visited the Museum of Islamic Arts, and so I had some specific questions to ask, and a volunteer there received my questions, taught me a great deal about the practice of his faith, and even took me on a walking tour. I think the thing that most fascinated me was the combination of practical architecture and history. For instance, mosques usually have large domes, but this one had a folding umbrella-shape, because mosques are encouraged to adapt to local culture, and the V-shape is very common in roofs of large buildings. Within the worship space were 16 columns – one for each state in Malaysia. This was the State Mosque and was built after the independence of Malaysia from British colonial rule. However, shortly after it was built, Brunei left being a Malaysian state, as did Singapore, and they both became their own country. So the 16 columns remain, but Malaysia has only 14 states. People still shake their heads over the way the Federation was originally set up, and these 16 columns keep that conversation going. But architecturally, the rains here are part of the local life – and so the folds in the umbrella roof actually channel water down, through the columns, and into the ablution rooms in the lower floor of the mosque. When 21,000 people need to do ritual washing, that is a lot of water needed. So it matches the needs and gifts of this place.

Ultimately, it was a reminder that welcoming guests is a holy enterprise, one that is often set behind many layers of difficulty. I think every person of faith should visit not only the houses of worship of other faiths, but to go visit congregations in their own faith, in their own area. See what it is like to be a guest. See what you can learn in one short visit, and see what questions you walk away with. It will inform you of your expectations and it may open your eyes to how others express (or don’t) faith and hospitality. And who knows what God may do when you enter a holy place.

(Each of these columns – in both the open courtyard (right) and the enclosed sanctuary/prayer room (below) – channel water from the roof to the lower levels. That is a lot of water!)

Could Laura Ingalls Wilder have imagined this?

I am sure that you will be hearing many stories from Eric’s 17-day trip to Yogjakarta, Indonesia, for intensive language training. But the story for today is the gift he brought home for Caedmon. For Easter, Eric got the boys the full set of Little House on the Prairie, one of my favourite things to read as a young person. I must have read the entire series 10 times. I once made the mistake, after my mom joked about her being old, of asking (innocently!) whether she rode in covered wagons as a little girl. “Not that old,” was her reply.

So you might imagine my shock and delight – and shock – at seeing Eric’s gift for Caedmon:

Yes! It’s a chapter from Little House on the Prairie, in both English and Bahasa Malaysia. The back cover says, “Laura mengalami banyak kejutan sepanjang hari ketika keluarga Ingalls menghabiskan waktu pergi ke kota.” Laura is in for a day filled with surprises when the Ingalls family spends the day in town.

It’s such an amazing contrast, of Laura writing when her memories of going to town were grand adventures. And here we are, where we live in a “Kota” – Kota Kinabalu – and her work is being translated into languages that she didn’t even know existed. And there is such a strong connection between me as a young girl, dreaming of exploring and adventure “on the frontier” and me today in this developing nation, with just our immediate family that had boarded a plane with 8 pieces of luggage and a lot of excitement/anticipation/anxiety/hope. The title of this book is “Pergi ke Kota” – going to town – and that’s what we’ve done, too. Gone to town, figuratively, as we made a pretty extreme move from New Jersey to Borneo, and gone to this town, with its culture and language and currency and even some dirt roads. Laura journaled and I blog, and across the years and the miles, our paths still cross. It’s amazing, this huge, small world.

More images from southeast Asia








The above is Eric’s receipt from buying me a lovely batik fabric painting (below)

Note #1 here… apparently pressure tactics are used enough to require tourists to sign this? Eric said that the sales pitch took over an hour (Eric was mainly practicing speaking Malay) and involved tea and a lesson on how batik painting is done (quite an intensive process). They told him to hand-wash it before hanging it to get any residual dust off of it, but I am terrified to do that! The colors are so rich and bold, I don’t want to harm them even an iota.

I noticed on our Uno box that it is fully Malaysian – in that it has 3 languages . English, Mandarin Chinese, and Malay. I’m not sure why there are two versions of Chinese – some of the characters are more intricate versus the simplified version (I assume that’s the difference). And the British spellings, like “Colour.”

Each day we discover more things that are different. It’s nice when we start absorbing things that suddenly seem normal, like Dante saying to me, “Pick that up, lah.” (“Lah” is used in both Malay and English to give an emphasis to a sentence.) I don’t think Dante noticed what he was saying. Second nature in a 3rd culture?