Harp and Story

An Irreverent Look at Cultural Differences

Toilet Training   

This is quite a departure from what I normally write, but please allow me this little retreat with good humor, we’ll get back to the serious stuff, soon, I promise, maybe after I tell you about dentistry in the developing world first, but for now just in case you might be thinking we are laying around on some beach somewhere sipping margaritas…

For some time I have joked about publishing a book on bathrooms around the world.  My obsessed interest in this subject started with my first trip to China.  I had absolutely no idea that not all toilets were the traditional sit down kind like is common in my home country of America.  You know the type – a stool about knee height with a wide enough lidded hole that you can properly sit on and spend a comfortable amount of time waiting to complete what you came into the bathroom to do.  A handle to push that flushes away your business and a lid to put down that covers the hole up – that’s my kind of toilet.  Anyway, was I in for a shock when I discovered that not all toilets are the same.  Walking down the Chang ang Lu in Beijing we stopped in at a fancy hotel to use their bathroom facilities; I opened a door to a toilet stall and what met my surprised eyes was a hole in the floor surrounded by a ceramic ring.  How was I supposed to use that thing? And another thing about toilet culture in other countries is the lack of toilet paper.  You either have to bring your own or pay someone for a few sheets of generally pink or blue scratchy stuff that is supposed to pass for soft and absorbent?

In the years since we started traveling abroad I have encountered many different toilet situations; from straddling a tiled trench watching all the remains of previous toilet goers pass between my feet when our guide pushed the flush handle, (before I was finished, mind you!), to sitting on the “throne” in Tokyo, Japan’s International Airport deciding which music I wanted to listen to as I studied the control panel of the toilet chair; water music, anyone?  I think the selections were meant to help cover up your own body noise!

By far and away the most common toilet in countries that we seem to travel to are what is referred to as squat pots.  Unlike China’s hole flat on the floor with a ceramic ring around the hole; squat pots, where we are now in Thailand, are raised affairs usually one or two steps up then a ceramic bowl, similar to a men’s urinal, but lying flat on the raised platform.  There are places on the side of the pot for you to put your feet and after having assumed the position you squat.  This is fine for people with good knees!  All the rest of us plan on groaning a bit!!

Our hut at Bamboo School has an in suite bathroom this year, a new addition since our last visit.  No more having to run to the toilet block in the night hoping there aren’t any night creatures lurking about waiting to take advantage of your vulnerabilities!  Bamboo School does have a western type toilet, but in our hut it is the squat pot.  I will use a squat pot when I absolutely have to, but it is not my preferred choice!

Our hut's in suite bathroom at Bamboo School.
Our hut’s in suite bathroom at Bamboo School.

Squat pots come with a reservoir of water (a bucket in our bathroom) for personal hygiene and flushing.  The standard method is to take a dipper full of water and splash yourself to clean up and then a dipper full or two of water to pour into the pot to flush. I’ve never gotten into the whole wet bottom, wet knickers thing; Steve, my husband, says you dry rather quickly, but it all seems a bit squishy to me.  Anyway, this year I am forced, because of sheer practicality and convenience to adapt to the new set-up.

The cement walls of our in suite bathroom are fairly close, this is a good thing as you can steady yourself by leaning your hands on the walls while you are in the squatted position.  The other morning I went to use the facilities and not realizing the ceramic pot was wet from a previous flush – guess who – for it is quite common when pouring the dipperful of water into the pot that some gets splashed around the stand-on portion, I stepped up to assume the position and swish, swoosh I slipped off the pot… Ow!!  Ceramic is slippery when it is wet!  The fall came at a really inconvenient time as boiled morning glory with rice, a favorite dish of the kids here at Bamboo School, is a powerful laxative for me…  While I was trying to clean up Steve came into the hut and noticing my struggles said, “why don’t you just splash a little water up there?  Look, when I’ve got to poo I take off my pants and jocks that makes it way easier.”

“But,” I retorted back, “you get your hands all yucky.”

“Just wash them really good after,” came back his reply as he left the hut and me to my situation.

I was getting short on toilet paper anyway, which is another thing, most of the toilets around the world have posted signs warning you not to flush the paper; when you have flushed the paper down with all the rest of it all your life it is a bit of relearning to get use to putting the used paper in the bin instead of the toilet!  At Bamboo School it is no different, all waste paper goes in the bin to be carried out to the burn pile on a daily or whenever I feel like it basis.

I am getting better at the whole squat pot thing; sometimes I forget the protocol, usually when we’ve had morning glory and I’m in a bit of a hurry, but mostly now there are two dressings in the morning, one before breakfast and one after.  I still haven’t gotten to where I am comfortable with the squishy, wet knickers thing, so it’s good to have a towel around, you know, for finishing!

Are You Really Different?

Are You Really Different?

I was in a discussion with a young man the other day that grew up Buddhist and then converted to Christianity and is now a practicing Buddhist again.  “Why?” I asked him.  His reply, “they are so closed-minded, (referring to the Christians), they say Jesus is the only way to heaven, they just shove Jesus down your throat.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  The Buddah is much more open-minded and accepting. Buddah, Mohammed, Jesus, Moses, they all show a way to heaven, there is more than one way, too closed-minded to think there is only one way.  The Christians always say, ‘but the scriptures say, Jesus is the way…’  I say NO!”

He went on to say, “I live from my soul.  My soul tells me what to do. It’s the good energy that I want/try to live in.  Enough good energy in the world is what we need, you know, it’s all about good energy, the frequencies, a lot more dimensions are out there than we realize and if we just get in tune with all that good energy we can make heaven on earth.”

The Buddhists have a way to “heaven” called making merit.  I asked him about this and what he did to make merit – to be good enough for a better life.  “Oh that,” he said, “today they, the monks, want donations, more and more, bigger and bigger, but I practice making good energy so I’m something good in next life.”

Reflecting on this conversation I thought how very much alike are the major religions of the world; they all to one degree or another use good deeds, making merit, mitzvoth, to ensure their standing in the next life.  I grew up in a Christian church that recorded weekly how many articles of clothing had passed out, how many cans of food had given away, how many times  the church lesson had been studied and on and on. As a child I would lay awake nights wondering if I had done enough, if I had been good enough.  I heard my 102 year old great grandmother ask the pastor, “How do I know if I am good enough, if I have done enough for God?”  She died a few months later still not knowing the assurance of salvation.

 Y’Shua says He is enough – do we really believe He is enough? His death and resurrection assure all who believe on Him eternal life – reconciliation with YHVH – and from that place of acceptance we then begin to work out what He has put in – we live Matthew 10:6-8 “…but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.”  Do we do this or have we too become about “donations, bigger and better donations” oriented as our entrance pass into the next life?

For the last several years many US ministries have established a “work” or headquarters in Israel.  There is much apocalyptic focus on Israel as we go through this 4th turning of crisis and ministries are using this time in the history of the world to gather in large sums of money from misguided supporters.  At one time I was giving to one such ministry.  They had great literature full of compelling stories and heart rending pictures, they also gave thank you gifts for my support; the more I gave the greater the gift.  Then one day I saw the organizations financial statement – almost half a million dollars was the founder/president’s annual salary not including traveling expenses and other miscellaneous expenses.  In my opinion he was using the emotions of his following public to make himself wealthy.  What ever happened to, the foxes have dens and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head?  What about he who would come after Me let him deny himself, take up his execution stake and follow Me? 

For years, in one form or another, Christianity has been about making the world ready for Jesus to come back. Y’Shua did tell us in Matthew 28:18-20 to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  But the Buddhists, the Moslems, the Jews, the Christians all believe that it is up to them to make a “Garden of Eden” if you will, that the Madi, Buddah, Hare Krishna, The Prophet, 12th Inman, the Last Pope, Rabbi Schneerzon, who ever, will come back from the dead to rule and reign in a pre-made glorious kingdom where we will live in “Nirvana/Heaven” forever.  We know one group that concentrates their efforts on promoting the making of wine for the coming wedding feast of Y’Shua and His Bride!  Y’Shua wants us, His Bride ready for Him!  Nothing more – nothing less than ALL of us! The end of everything else is found in Psalm 2:9  “You, (Y’Shua) shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” And in Revelation 19:15  “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of YHVH the Almighty.”  If the world is a perfect place when Y’Shua returns, why is there a need for Him to rule with a “rod of iron?” Answer: Because not everyone is going to choose to be His Bride!  Jeremiah 31:33  “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares YHVH: I will put my Torah within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their Elohim, and they shall be my people.” The rest of the world is the nations that will be instructed in Torah by Y’Shua’s rod of iron.  Zechariah 14:17-19 says that there will be no rain on the lands of those who do not go up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot; that will be the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

Whatever happened to Y’Shua’s commission to us, his disciples – to go into the entire world and make disciples?  Whatever happened to going to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, preaching that the kingdom of heaven is at hand?  Whatever happened to the fields are ready for harvest, pray for laborers to go gather in the harvest? 

Sitting on the doorstep of my little bamboo hut in the jungle of western Thailand I guess I see things differently than when I am sitting on my comfy sofa back home.  We have been given a commission and from my present perspective we are failing that commission miserably.  America seems to have lost the zeal for the harvest – now-a-days a “team” will come for a week or two, take a lot of pictures – smiles with the locals, hand out clothes, feed the poor, pass out Bibles, sing some songs with the kids – for a couple of days – then off to the elephant park, or sightseeing at the waterfalls, or playing on the white sand beaches.  But the report is bustling with all their good deeds, how they made life a bit more bearable for some dirt-poor villagers.  Personally, I think YHVH is spitting all this luke-warm slop from his mouth. 

Are we so caught up in end-time, apocalyptic prophecies that we have forgotten our purpose; our purpose being to seek out the lost sheep of the house of Israel and make disciples.  97% of all church monies is used for church programs in the USA. 2% of remaining monies is used for programs in developed countries; 1% is spent on missions. Pretty pathetic! But we can change things, we can become more like Y’Shua. How about finding a mission to do volunteer work with for a month or three months or a year or more.  How about coming out from under the clutches of Babylon so you can be a volunteer. How about trusting YHVH to make a way so you can go into the harvest – wherever that harvest field may be.  How about stop making excuses as to why you can’t go.  It’s hard to get out from under the control of Jezebel; her influence is strong in Laodicea America; she works diligently to keep those under her thumb apathetic and depressed and despondent, but you can get free, you can become “hot” for YHVH.  Press on, press through, there is victory for the one who keeps their eyes on Y’Shua!

2Co 6:17-18  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith Yahweh, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith Yahweh Almighty.

Two years ago YHVH highlighted these words to Steve and me: “The end of the peregrination of the sons of Israel in the land of Egypt.”  We have prayed about and wondered on this word for two years.  We thought maybe it meant a transition from our harp and story ministry to a community week ministry, but I’m not thinking that so much anymore.  The ancient Israelites didn’t immediately go from Egypt to the land of promise, they wandered about for some time in the wilderness – granted, longer than they had to.  I don’t want to be luke-warm.  I want – no – I need to live in the dictate of Matthew 10, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, not to the Gentiles or to the villages of the Samaritans, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As we go into the entire world we will find the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  It’s not a comfortable assignment, but the end reward is well worth the effort! 

Matthew 16:27 “For the Son of man shall come in the majesty of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his deeds.”

It is time I am more earnestly about My Father’s business!  How about you?

Putting It All Together

We went to Bangkok yesterday, always a long and tiring journey. We did find the few needed items to finish putting together the aqua-ponics system for Bamboo School.

Bamboo School boys level the hillside for the aqua-ponics system.

Bamboo School boys level the hillside for the aqua-ponics system.
Cleaning the glue out of the IBC totes - GO Girls!
Cleaning the glue out of the IBC totes – GO Girls!

The boys had leveled off the hillside on Sunday and the girls had worked on scrubbing out the IBC totes.

Momo Cat and Matthew scrub out the fish tank.
Momo Cat and Matthew scrub out the fish tank.

Matthew and Momo cleaned out the last of the glue in the tote for the fish Tuesday morning before we left for the city. Steve is plumbing today and the boys who are not in school, (they arrived after the Thai government school began their semester and Thailand does not allow for late arrivals), these boys are carrying up gravel from a pile at the clinic and then washing it here by the bathroom block before it gets put in the cut-down totes.

Conagee and Matthew wash gravel for the Aqua-ponics grow beds.
Conagee,  Matthew and Eric wash gravel for the Aqua-ponics grow beds.

I think maybe they wish they were in school after-all!

The grow beds are almost ready for gravel.
The grow beds are almost ready for gravel.

Coming back to the school last night from our trip to Bangkok, about 1:00 a.m., the entire rear, passenger side, (for those of us who drive on the correct side of the road that would be the driver’s side rear!), wheel assembly flew off the ambulance. We felt a bump and then heard a grinding, knocking noise and then like a flat tire and within milli-seconds the axel was dragging on the road. Thankfully, we had slowed down for a very rough railroad crossing so our speed was maybe 35 when the tire left the car. Cat was driving and managed to drag the car to more or less the side of the road. At first we thought we had a flat and we’d just change the tire, but upon closer inspection two of the lug bolts that hold the wheel to the axel had shired off. Steve went looking for our missing parts and much further back up the road he found the wheel with tire still inflated, and one of the lug bolts with the nut still attached. Cat is going to have to get a new rim, for that one is pretty damaged. The truck skirting got pulled in and dented up when the tire made its escape as well. Soon two Patrol Police pulled up on their motorcycle and then two policemen in a Toyota Hillux came and stopped before the railroad tracks providing a road block for us complete with flashing lights. Cat, even after all her years in Thailand doesn’t speak fluent Thai and we don’t speak Thai at all, so it was quite amusing trying to communicate what happened. The police thought Steve was the driver and had fallen asleep at the wheel – one officer gave him an “energy drink” to wake him up. Steve kept trying to tell him that he didn’t need it, but they were insistent, so he finally drank it. Uug! That satisfied them. Cat called Tooey back at the school and she ended up speaking with the policeman in a three-way conversation; Cat telling her the story, she translating it for the policeman and then telling Cat what the policemen were saying. The long and the short of the night was: Tooey drove the other ambulance down to pick us up and the police called a “tow truck” to take our car to the police station. The tow truck was a Mazda pick-up with a lift mounted in the bed. It did the job, we were thankful. We got back to Bamboo School around 4:00 a.m. Didn’t get up for 5:15 worship this morning though!

Today’s trivia:  Malarial mosquitoes only come out between the hours of sunset to sunrise, that’s why we sleep under mosquito netting in malaria infested areas of which Bong Ti is one such area.  Some varieties of daytime mosquitoes carry denge fever and chickkundungyah (sp) fever – neither one of which would make your day!  Have a good one!!

Our Home Sweet Home at Bamboo School.
Our Home Sweet Home at Bamboo School.

Dok Mai

Dok Mai, which means beautiful flower, is ready for school
Dok Mai, which means beautiful flower, is ready for school

Dok Mai

Shabbat afternoon I was sitting on my front porch veranda enjoying the quiet, (I think most of the kids had slipped off to the village), and trying not to do one more thing than was necessary, (the day was very hot and sweat rolls down ones forehead and stings the eyes if too much exertion is required, not to mention the stickiness of skin and clothes to skin – anyway, you probably get the picture!) when precocious 4 year old DokMai comes to visit.  “Hi Teacha,” she shyly calls from behind the porch railing.  “You want to come up?” I ask.  Eagerly she nods her head, “well, come up then.”  In an instant the shoes are off and she is on the porch veranda cuddled up next to me.  In only a few moments she moves away with, “it’s hot,” as she fans her face with her hand.  We end up spending the afternoon looking at pictures on my computer – all the ones I had of Bamboo School from previous years and with still an appetite for more I begin showing her pictures of my family.  She giggles and laughs and asks me questions, some pictures she wants to look at several times, especially the ones of my grandchildren, quickly she learns their names and can identify them as she sees them come up in the slide show.  One particular picture she has me go back to several times; it is of Dylan, my 8 year old grandson.  I think Dylan might have been 5 in this picture.  We were at cousin Lonnie’s house for the Rees Family Thanksgiving reunion and Dylan is riding a miniature version of a John Deere tractor with front loader and trailer.  After studying the picture intently for several seconds she announces to me in all seriousness, “I want to go there!”

Tears came to my eyes as I hugged her for she is a beautiful, inquisitive, intelligent (she already speaks 3 languages fluently), child without a country.  She is from a tribal group of people that are constantly living in some level of fear for their lives; pushed from their native country of Burma, most now live as refugees along the Thai border.  DokMai was only 400 grams when she was born, abandoned by her mother, she was given to Momo Cat of Bamboo School when she was just a few weeks old.  There have been many in DokMai’s short life that would have eagerly and most willingly adopted her and taken her to live in some well-developed country, but she has no papers with which to legally leave the country or to be legally adopted, so she stays at Bamboo School as one of Momo Cat’s kids and all the rest of us are her adopted auntie’s and uncles.  I guess that will have to do!