Thursday, July 16, 2009

Merely Existing in the USA

Well, I've been bouncing around the USA since the end of June, visiting family and churches as I fund raise for my transition to teaching in Tanzania.

It's been a good chunk of time since I've been in a first world country, so why am I not enjoying it as much as people tell me I should be? One teacher I worked with in Bdesh called it "the country where dreams come true." After all, coffee shops are easily accessible, allowing me to choice selections of hot lattes and iced coffees with fancy flavorings. Also, stores have options! It's not about going to buy a soda, it's what flavor? Caffeine free or caffeinated? Choices abound.

Life is too easy in America. My time feels wasted on trivial decisions like, "what should I watch tv tonight" when I spent the past two years without a tv. My time in Bangladesh was more meaningfully spent with all the time wasting activities stripped away. In Bangladesh I volunteered during my free time rather than going to the mall.

On the other hand, catching up with my family and the friends I've been able to see so far has been wonderful. So good. I loved making dirt cups with my little sister, watching my little brother open his birthday presents, and learning how to quilt from my Grandma. That time was not wasted!

Now the count down till I leave for Africa is ticking mentally away in my head. August 11th and I'll finally be in my new home-the land of the "chocolate people".

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Amanda's perspective-I Am NOT a Jungle Girl

*Again, this is a guest blog, so these are the views of Amanda and not Elaine.

We started out the morning with a relaxing boat ride over to Taman Negara. We were filled with excitement. Little did I know what would be in store for me that day. We went up steps to the canopy walkway. I was extremely nervous since it involved walking across narrow bridges suspended in the air. Heights are not my thing. The bridges swayed as you walked across. I clung to the ropes that acted as handrails, which was considerably more difficult since I was shaking with fear. I was especially disturbed when I found out that we would do this without a harness. I was proud that despite the Czech man who constantly told me how scared and petrified I looked that I made it through the entire canopy walk and this time, I have pictures to prove it. What I later found out, was that the canopy walk was actually the easy part.

Right after the canopy walk, we stopped at a vine and everyone took a turn trying to climb it. Elaine climbed up the highest. Afterwards she confessed that she just wanted to show up those ballet dancers. I got a turn too, but with my twig arms I didn’t make it very far. I much prefer things that do not involve exercise.

We began trekking up the trail in the rainforest. At first I thought about what a great experience this was going to be. I was walking around in a beautiful, noisy rainforest teeming with life in Asia. After several more sets of stairs, I began to become annoyed. The stairs were so tall, even for me. It became so much work. Later, we had to use the roots of trees as our stairs. When we finally stopped at a scenic viewpoint I felt such relief to know that I was done. Unfortunately, this was not the case, I was informed that actually there was more walking to get to the top, but it was easy and flat and would only take about 10 minutes.

So, we continued on. At the sight of the first set of steps that I was told wouldn’t exist on this part of the trail, I was beside myself. It was all I could do to keep myself from bursting into tears. I was tired and hot. I was so sweaty that I was actually leaning over and ringing my hair out to stop the sweat from dripping down my back. I decided that crying would make me feel better, but it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to lose any more water than necessary since I had already drank my two water bottles and I was in the process of sweating them all out. Elaine kept telling me it would be worth it when we saw the view at the top. As we arrived at the top, I found a bench and plopped down. I was so relieved. I refused to get up and go to the edge to look at the view. I was disappointed, exhausted and unhappy. I have to say that treacherous hike was so NOT worth it to see that view. I was miserable. All I wanted to do was crawl up in a ball after a hot shower and cry myself to sleep in a nice bed. However, that was not meant to be. I still had to hike back. I took a cold shower under a small trickle of water and passed out for a 3 hour nap on a small, uncomfortable bed with an A/C that was, at best, inefficient. It was not an exciting adventure, nor was it fun. I am glad I did it, but I am sure I will probably never do it again. I was couldn’t wait to head back to KL the next morning. I am NOT jungle girl.

Trekking in Malaysia-Elaine's Perspective

After a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Amanda and I headed to Taman Negara National Park, which is the world’s oldest rainforest and a lush, green jungle teeming with life. Our first morning there we left our quaint wooden chalet to breakfast on a floating restaurant. After Amanda watched me drink my morning cuppa joe and she had her morning Coke, we joined our guide in crossing the river on
a long, wooden ferry boat. Once on the other side of the river we trekked up to a canopy walk-ten bridges and 9 tree stands-that Amanda guesstimates was 200 meters long. But with her white face and frequent reminders to me that she was afraid of heights, I guesstimate it felt like 20,000 meters long for my fearful friend.

Afterward our group stopped to a have vine climbing contest. I climbed the highest and showed u the French ballet dancers on our trek.

Next we began the steep descent up a mountain. Up, up, we went, using the tangled root system as stairs. The jungle was so alive! Around us called the tropical birds (mainly hornbills), insects, and silver leaf monkeys. Pouring with sweat from the dense humidity, we made it to the top after only an hour’s climb. The view was priceless. Layer upon layer of vine and tree covered mountains stretched in front of us. The view also encompassed rocky formations before the steep drop into the murky river winding below. I took in the view with satisfaction at completing the difficult climb. Amanda sank on a rock and refused to budge or smile.