Sunday, September 30, 2012

Resting Place

When Tom and I travel on our sabbatical we are the first to say that this is not really a vacation. We have always enjoyed taking the roads less travelled and visiting the places that are off the beaten path. Places that most people haven't even heard of let alone travel too.  And, they are not always the easiest places to reach either. We live in the moment, meander as our heart desires and then move on as we feel led. We usually stay in the more remote areas and enjoy living life differently than we usually do. We love learning about the history of the places we are in and then getting immersed in the culture and everyday life. We live life intentionally and find we learn a lot, mostly  about ourselves during these travels.  We are now in Chiang Mai and have decided to stay a few extra days. We are taking a vacation from our sabbatical.  We are resting.

We have have an intense year of travel. Our month in the DRCongo, although incredibly beautiful was intensely hard. We lived in the villages and worked very hard during our six weeks of travel through the Fijian and  Solomon Islands.  We have found  Chiang Mai to be an easy place.  And right now easy is just what we need. This place reminds us of Chiana, Crete and has the feel of a small coastal town. It is off season so life moves pretty easy around here. We have had the opportunity to stay in a four star hotel for a mere $38.00 a night. Here we have every  amenity and luxury  we could imagine.  The air conditioning even stays on even when we  leave the room! We are within a few blocks of the old city and the night bazaar is at our front door. We find we want for nothing.

We decided to take a Thai cooking class and it was awesome. It was held out in the countryside on a  farm where the most beautiful gardens grew.  Our teacher was a young man who was passionate about cooking. He picked us up from our hotel and along with our class mates took us to the local farmers market. Here he explained all the different fruits, vegetables, tofu, rice, eggs, and accouterments to us. We learned to cook a variety of things over the course of the day and then we had the most delicious meal ever. We are excited to try this at home for a Sunday lunch.

 We have grown accustom to a massage nearly every day. Tom enjoys a hot oil massage and I choose the hot herb Thai massage. I wish I could explain their technics to you but I find I am so relaxed that I can not even open my eyes to save my life. I just know that it is lovely and for a few dollars a day we are the recipient of this lovely luxury.

At the recommendation of family and friends we are trying new foods each day. Our daughter Crystal told us about one of her favorite Thai dishes. It is Soo Koi and absolutely delicious. It is a Chaing Mai speciality and the best is from this region. It is a noodle soup with chicken in a yellow curry and coconut milk base. We have ours with a cold Chang beer. It always hits the spot.

We also indulged in a rafting expedition. And, not on any raft, but a traditional Thai bamboo raft. A Thai bamboo raft is made up of several pieces of large bamboo strapped together with a rubber strap. There are no sides or seats on it and you find yourself sitting on the bamboo planks leaning from side to side to maneuver your raft. There is a guide who uses a smaller bamboo shaft to push us off the sides of the riverbank if need be. The rivers are moving fast so this was quite an experience. There is no staying dry on this ride. We loved it and found it very refreshing.

One day we decided to visit an elephant kraal and then trek through the mountains on the backs of these huge animals. Our mahout was very agile and could climb up to his spot on the elephants head by standing on the animals tusks and then being lifted to the elephants head by his trunk.  I loved watching him with his elephant. A nudge, a sound, a pat behind the ear could direct this animal in any direction.  He could also spot sugar cane  and bananas and would often jump off the animal to acquire some of these for him. We found ourselves thinking of a bygone mode of travel and while we found our expedition thrilling, we realize it was probably a long hard ride.

Another time we opted  to have a Mexican holiday. For those of you in the know, you will recall that this is our code name for sitting out by the pool and relaxing. Sipping cool drinks. Reading. We enjoyed the hotels brunch and then took our books outside and just enjoyed some leisurely time doing…well, nothing really. We are breathing and catching up on some long needed rest. No plans or decisions have to be made today.

We extended our stay a few days and then plan to travel to Cambodia where we will visit the Temples of Angkor. We are planning on taking the train to Bangkok and then a bust to Siem Reap. We hear there is a boat that cruises on the Mekong Delta so we are hoping to take that to Viet Nam. We will let you know...

Friday, September 28, 2012


When the Northbound train from Bangkok stopped at Ayutthauya we were the only passengers who got off. For a moment we weren't sure if this was because we had travelled on the second class train (equivalent to first class) and there just weren't a lot of other people on our train or if this sleepy little town might not be worth the stop. We are happy to say it was a delightful place and certainly worth seeing.

Ayutthauya was the capitol of Thailand (Siam) from the 14th to 18th century. It was one of the richest cities in South East Asia in its day but was attacked and destroyed by the Burmese in the middle of the 17th century. The capitol was relocated to Bangkok and the ancient buildings were left unattended and in time unrecognizable as the great city it once was. In the 1980's a restoration project (UNESCO) began and this area is being renovated. It is beautiful and rich in Thai culture and history.

We arrived in the morning and after we checked into our room we began to explore. With map in hand, history book tucked away, and a few bottles of water we set off. It is a relatively small city and so we opted to explore by foot this first day. From a distance we could see an elephant kraal and I will be the first to say it is pretty exciting to see an elephant on the road and in the middle of the day. We walked over to Wat Mongkhon Bophit and Wat Ratburana and along our way we met a young Thai man who wanted to practice his English. He chatted with us for awhile and then took us to the places we had planned to see that day. We appreciated his time and the history of the area he was able to give us.

For dinner we decided to eat at the night market. Small street vendors lined the roadway with an array of culinary delights . Our senses were assaulted with a variety of smell, sights, and the sounds as people began preparing their speciality foods. It was utterly fascinating and, I might add, the beginning of some food habits I may never be able to give up. At the end of a long hot day, a nice cold Chang or Singha beer with a hot piece of fried chicken, some phad thai with some green or yellow curry, spicy shrimp soup in coconut milk and then finished up with strawberry and lychee ice cream with red chili balls is really hard to beat! We sat on some plastic chairs under a tarp by the river and counted this as one of the best meals we have ever eaten! We could hardly wait to do this again the next day!

We had heard that they light up the historical sites at night and it really is a beautiful thing to see. We hired a tuk-tuk and rode through the area and enjoyed the cool evening breeze. A lightening storm was off in the distance and as it flashed against the darkened night sky it added a dimension to our night tour that we will never forget. It was an incredible evening to be right where we were.
The next day we picked up a few bicycles and peddled our way through town. This way we could see more of the area in less time. Traffic drives on the left lane and the rule of thumb is the largest vehicle has the right of way…always. We took the back roads and while it took us a little longer it was certainly worth it to us. It was beautiful to wander through the streets of this little city.

While it was hot and we walked or road our bikes about ten miles each day, we found this area very relaxing. We head to Chiang Mai tomorrow on the train. The ride should take about ten hours and we are excited about heading North and experiencing another part of Thailand. We look forward to our new adventures and all that await us. Will let you know...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Train, planes, and automobiles…

We find that we are becoming familiar with the many forms of travel here in Thailand and each form  gives a different perspective of life and of the area. We opted to go into 'modern' Bangkok the other day and took a long tail boat up the river so that we could catch the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and explore the city.  Traveling by boat one could see life from the waters edge. Their are  floating markets, where peddlers place their wares in small boats and one shops from boat to boat. People live on the waters edge in  houses built on stilts and as our boat travels by we are able to see life on the water. It looks hard to us but people maneuver around with a sense of familiarity and ease.

We got off the boat at the last pier on the route and crossed the street into the MRT world. Everyone moves quickly here and people come from…everywhere to hop aboard the sky train. We purchased an all day pass which allowed us to hop on and off at any stop. This was a good choice for us as we opted to get off at anyplace that looked interesting to us. We moved quickly from station to station and when we got off we were in the middle of the modern shopping area of Bangkok. It looked a lot like San Francisco. We had lunch at a chic cafe. We looked around at what other people were ordering and picked what looked interesting. We are still trying to eat something new each day and find we have a long way to go before we run out of new things to try.
The sky train is air conditioned so it is a comfortable way to travel. It rides on a track above the city  so you can see the enormity of the city from an elevated position. It is also fascinating to watch the vast number of people who come on and off the train. Young and old all enroute to somewhere.

We left Bangkok yesterday via the train. We heard that the countryside is very beautiful and the best view is from the train so we are heading Northward.  We rode second class which is the most comfortable way to travel. Reclining seats and air conditioning makes for a lovely adventure. We are heading to Chiang Mai with a few stops along the way…we are embracing all that is new to us and are excited to see where our journey leads us.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Days in Bangkok

There is a convergence of time and culture that is unmistakable as you walk down the streets of Bangkok. Nine lanes of traffic all stopping as one old woman pushes her rickshaw across the street. Men selling lotto tickets right next to a Buddhist temple where people are praying. Ornate temples surrounded by alleyways where old men and women are selling everything from food to toiletries on a card table. The weather is dynamic. I walk with my umbrella open to shade me from the hot sun and suddenly I am ready for the deluge of rain that comes everyday at 3:00. It  stimulates all of our senses and we are taking it all in.

We meander through the sites one is to see while in Bangkok. Temples, monuments, the Grand Palace, the river and canals, their history all on display in the middle of town. We take a tuk-tuk to see the area from the back seat as our driver whisks in and out of traffic. We hired a local woman named Anne who gave us an in-depth history and some insights into the Thai people and their culture as she escorts us to a variety of places. It was fascinating to learn more about their daily lives.

Part of the beauty here are the unexpected moments when we stop doing the tourist things. When the 3:00 rainstorm hit yesterday it was significant. We could no longer walk home in it and a taxi or tuk-tuk could not be found anywhere. We ducked into a monastery and sat with locals to wait out the storm. Here we had delightful conversations and drank warm coffee and learned more about the people and their outlook on life. We learned of a little boy who was probably around six or seven whose parents had been killed. His only family were the people in this monastery and they all came together to care for him. It is a shared responsibility by this small group of monks and everyone pitched in. He was clean and well fed and very playful. He is lovingly referred to as monkey because he is a rambunctious boy. There was a monk sitting on a small platform and people would walk up and talk to him. I was curious about the role of the monk in the Buddhist religion so I asked about this also.  I was told that sometimes people come to ask for blessings and favor for their everyday needs. Sometimes for things such as happiness and other times  for  specific things such as provision for their families. It was good to sit and talk and we learned so much.

We sat for an hour or so before the storm finally  let up and then were able to walk home in knee deep water. Yes, I said knee deep! I think our total California rainfall happened in an hour and fifteen minutes. We made it home and had a cold beer, some warm peanuts and a dip in our swimming pool.

It was a lovely day…looking forward to what tomorrow brings.

Friday, September 21, 2012

We are in Thailand!

Have you ever daydreamed about a place you always wanted to go a and suddenly woke up and you were there? Well for me, one of those places is Thailand and Southeast Asia. We arrived last evening in the middle of a torrential lightning and thunder storm! It was spectacular to say the least. Being an avid fan of weather with personality…blustery, rainy, with some thunder and lightening being my favorite, I took it as a personal welcome and am sitting in my fourth floor room listening to the rain hit the tin roof and watching the most glorious lightening show ever.

While this weather may deter some…we are not a part of that crowd. Thailand is well known for it's massage and cooking schools and we plan to do both as many times and places as possible. Today may be the perfect day for those activities. We are staying in one of the older neighborhoods, Banglamphu,  by the recommendations of our 'children' Dezerai and Jared Seitzer who spent several months in this area. There are many temples with walking distances so the location is perfect. Bicycles are available and when the rain lets up we will begin to explore a little further. We are pleased so far and look forward to see what the day will bring.

It is early morning and I am up enjoying this quiet moment…aware of how very blessed I am. Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for the beautiful life I have and the people and places that are in it. Excited to see what the day will bring. Will let you know!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


We are here in Singapore and are intrigued by this area. It is an amalgamation of various cultures, the three most prominent being Chinese, Indian, and Malay. It was a British colony in the 1800's only gaining it's independence in the 1960's but still having a strong British influence.  It is stunning and sophisticated and we are enjoying getting to know this area.

It is officially know as the Republic of Singapore and is a southeast Asia state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and is only 270 square miles. In the early 1800's it hosted the East India Company and that is when its British influence began. It has a massive wealth with the third highest  income per capita in the world. It is a smart and progressive area resembling London or New York  with a tropical rainforest feeling. There are a lot of high rise buildings but most of its life is underground. While the land space is dwindling, they are very intentional about maintaining the aesthetics of the area. They cultivate and maintain the landscape on a daily basis and it is one of the cleanest places we have ever been.

When we arrived and were filling out our customs forms the first four (out of five) questions had to do with what we were bringing into the country.   Were we bringing in any chewing gum,  any alcohol, any tobacco or non-prescribed drugs, and did we have any pornography? Well lets just say I wasn't sure we would get in. I had two packs of gum, a bottle of wine, and a sample of the prescription drug Cipro. I failed the first three admission questions. When I asked about the gum I was told that littering is illegal and that discarding your gum anywhere other than the trash was considered littering. Suffice to say I had to discard my gum upon my arrival!

We find ourselves out and about most of the day taking the open air  bus tours to see the city and stopping to eat and visit at different places along the way. The town has different cultural areas. Little India, the Arab district, and China town for example. We have eaten  something new everyday and are not sure what half of it is. We watch the locals as they order and add various condiments and we do the same. We have not been disappointed yet! We have found a little 'Halker' stand…this is really like a food court…with a variety of different foods. Things like pig gut soup bars to Thai food and a variety of drink stands. I tried a durian fruit smoothie and a barley tea. The durian fruit has an interesting taste and a strong odor (I did not notice it myself) so there are places where it is not allowed because of the smell. The locals drink it all the time and claim great health benefits. Most of the time I let (ask..ok order for) Tom the more exotic things and take a bite or drink  of his. He is good sport about this and we have had the opportunity to try many different things. Each morning we do have have a warm bowl of porridge.  We had seen our friends Khoa, Aylene, and Jamie who are from Viet Nam have this once and so we have it each morning ourselves. It is a bowl of hot chicken broth with warmed rice and an egg in it. They top it with spoonfuls of shredded ginger and it is delicious!

The night life is spectacular! We have taken the river cruises at night to see the beauty that is only the city of Singapore. We dress up in our finest but we definitely look underdressed. We take the various forms of public transportation to see and know the area from many perspectives. We have learned that the people work hard and late into the night, no one talks about religion or politics in public, and respect and politeness is to be shown to all. They are quiet and soft spoken and do not draw attention to themselves in dress or mannerisms. We are delighted to be here.

Soon we will move on to Thailand. We had considered taking the bus to Kuala Lumpur in northern Malaysia and then flying onto to Bangkok from there. We opted to reverse that order…leaving Thailand and going through Malaysia on our way back to Singapore. We plan to return via the same route we arrived on and pray for continued favor with our travels.

We are just now beginning to unwind and relax and look forward to our time in Thailand. We plan four days in Bangkok and then will head north to where the weather is cooler and life moves a little slower.  We are letting go of the 'to do' agendas…well, we are planning a cooking class and massages but after that we will just be.

We know that those of you who read this are near and dear to our hearts and so know that you are missed and loved. Each and every beautiful place reminds us of the beauty that is you in our lives.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We Have Begun

I am writing you this post aboard a DC8 from Japan to Singapore. It is hard to believe we left home five days ago. It has been a whirlwind trip and we have found such favor in our travels. Our son Vince and daughter Cherie drove us up to Sacramento last Wednesday (September 12th )where we spent the night with our children Amy, Brian and grandchildren Jacob and Haley. Our daughter then drove us to Travis AFB and after a day of catching up on last minutes purchases we were selected for a flight to Hickam AFB, Hawaii. A lot of people were signed up as this is a popuar destination. We has a sign up date of July 23 (submitted while we were in Fiji)  so we were the first Cat VI to be selected. Cat VI  are the retirees and are the last category to be selected from.

We arrived in Hawaii aboard a C17 that was loaded with cargo. I had made a reservation for a room when we got there for three days hoping it would be a few days before we caught the flight to Japan. The rule of travel is always take the first outgoing plane heading in the direction that you are going as there is always changes in the schedules. Sure enough, a C5 was scheduled to leave Hawaii for Japan in seven hours. We waited at the terminal and we were selected for travel. Hickman AFB is on Oahu and we were hoping for a few days to explore. I have never been to Hawai and Tom had many things he wanted to show me. There is always the flight home...

We arrived in Japan where we were escorted to customs and immigrations. The military has a special office for this and the passengers  on the airplane are the only ones going through these lines. A nice perk really. We were unable to get lodging on the base so we opted for one in town so we could see a little bit of this suburb of Toyoko. Since the weather was nice and our hotel a mile or two away we opted to walls and get a feel for the city. Funny thing began to happen as we left the base…it began to rain! No worries, we were equipped with our umbrellas so off we went to find our place. We travel light and at the end of our walk, we are glad we do!

We noticed that everything in Japan is so small…the cars, the houses, the people,  the sinks and even the garbage cans! You can get anything you need from a vending machine and it too is very small. We had no coffee in our room so Tom went out to get us some for the next day and came back with four small cups with instant coffee, a bowl of soup, and chocolate. We were set. We met some lovely people, learned a little about the Japanese customs, and meandered through town before calling it a night.

The next flight out to Singapore was the next day at 0415 and we needed to be there and travel ready by 0400. We made it but suffice to say we were glad that it was a seven hour flight so we could catch up on our sleep!

We will arrive at Paya Lebar ARB in Singapore where we will stay for a few days. We are considering taking the train through Malaysia and flying from Kulala Lumpur to Bangkok and if we can make all the necessary connections we might just do so! Will let you know when we do.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Within the next few days Tom and I will head off for our annual sabbatical. It is a much anticipated event that we prepare for all year. Reading, planning, talking with fellow travelers, and just preparing ourselves for the change in our routines takes us from the end of one trip to the beginning of another. This year we plan on heading West where we will  travel Military Space Available (Space A) through Hawaii, onward to Japan, then to Singapore (our thoughts…we will see what actually happens). From Singapore we will catch a commercial flight to Bangkok and then meander north through Thailand stopping to explore along the way. Places like Ayuthaya, Sukhothai, and Mae Hong Son. Eventually we will be in Chang Mai and from there we will catch a flight to Ventiane, Laos. Here we will visit with a partner of ours, a pastor that MMI has worked with for over ten years. We are excited to be with him and see what MMI has been a part of. From there we plan to  head to Viet Nam exploring both the Northern and Southern parts of this country. We have heard that spending a few days on a junk wandering through the many limestone islands in Halong and Cat Bay are beautiful and we long to find out for ourselves.  From there we will head down the Mekong Delta traveling through some of the areas that Tom had been in during the late 1960's. When we are ready we will head over to Cambodia and visit the temples of Angkor Wat and all the incredible   sites that this country has to offer. If we are able to get a visa to Burma (Myanmar) we will do so and visit the Inle Lake area. And while all this is our plan at the moment…we are excited to see what actually transpires. Part of the beauty of these trips for us is being flexible and being content in the moment we are in even if it is unexpected or different than we had planned.

Often times people ask us about our 'vacation' time and we are quick to say that we are taking a sabbatical. A sabbatical... to learn what? Well, about  life really. I found myself reminded about an event the other day that had occurred while we were traveling through Spain and Portugal. We had stopped at a place called Priego de Cordoba to see, what we had been told, were some  exquisite fountains in the piazza. In the busy season tourist from all over would come to see these fountains and so we were expecting to see something like the Trevi fountains in Rome. What we found were three, very small fountains with the most beautiful sounds of water flowing from them…certainly not what we had expected but beautiful in their own way. And, I remember thinking that there is always an opportunity to find beauty in the unexpected...

Our mode of travel encourages flexibility in the unknown. When we leave we only have tentative plans. We know the direction we are traveling in and we know when we would like to return. The rest just is. We find we have the time to think about things a little differently. Finding beauty in the unexpected. As many of you know we have had a few 'unexpecteds' lately. Tom with a recurrence of his bladder cancer, having surgery and starting chemotherapy last month. Me, with a change in my job. All things we had not planned but things that gave us a moment to put into play the lessons learned during our sabbaticals. Finding beauty in the unexpected. We look forward to the next several weeks when we have the opportunity to discover where these changes in our life will lead us and we are excited to be together.

We are in Travis as we speak…maybe a flight tomorrow to Hawaii and then on to Japan. Maybe not. Either way we are together and enjoying the beauty of being with each other. We will let you know what tomorrow brings when we know!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Work Hard...Rest Well

One of the nicest accompaniments to hard work is good rest and relaxation. The several weeks in which we saw a couple thousand people, the loading and unloading of numerous medical bags each day, the heat and humidity had us looking forward to a few days of rest and relaxation. And what better place to rest and relax then Islands in the South Pacific.

We meandered through the Fijian Islands where we enjoyed the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises ever. The weather was exceptionally cool so every outing was perfect. We swam and snorkeled on any beach we could find and as a group we enjoyed each other’s company tremendously. We spent one day on a ‘private’ beach where we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to our hearts content, swam/snorkeled for hours or just took the time to perfect the skill of napping. I elected to indulge in all three of these activities…

It was during my naptime under a most beautiful coconut tree that I recalled one of my most beautiful Fijian experiences. It had happened on a previous visit and I will never forget the significance of it. On both of these occasions it occurred as I woke up…seeing the blue of the sky as if it were sapphires, the green of the trees as if they were emeralds, and the sun shining through as if it were diamonds sparkling. And, remembering the beauty that is always before me and taking the time to enjoy it richly and deeply. This time was made for that.

Our time on the Solomon Islands was very much needed also. I actually loved that it rained everyday for a couple of hours (and about five inches) as it provided a nice reprieve from the heat. Of course the humidity that followed was…unforgettable. But, at the end of the day, the beauty that is the Solomon Islands prevailed and now it takes great effort to even remember the 105% humidity!

We elected to travel by small boats to one of the Nggela Islands. When we asked how long the ride was our answer was…dependent on the boat we took and if we had any engine problems. Anywhere between 45 minutes and a day or two. If we had no problems we could be there within the hour and if we had a problem it would probably take our boat driver 1-2 days to row over…suffice to say we did not have any engine problems and it took us four hours! I learned something very interesting about Island time. Time and distance really fall under two categories: a long time/far away or a short time/close by. Other than that it really is irrelevant. No one wears a watch and no one has an odometer!

As we rode over it was easy to begin to relax. The sound of the small waves slapping against our boat as the engine hummed almost sounded like a lullaby. We saw a pod of about fifty dolphins and I could not get a picture of a single one! It was very exciting and I found myself in awe, as they seemed to perform for us jumping high above the water and splashing down right along side of us! It was delightful!

Our arrival could best be described as one of those days you have on your bucket list for the South Pacific! Unbelievably beautiful is an understatement. Our rooms were modest but the lagoon was just steps away and there we found the most beautiful snorkeling ever. It was in those moments that we got lost in some of Gods most beautiful creations. Oh, how I wished I had an underwater camera to share the beauty we experienced.

On our last day before travel we decided to take a historical tour of Guadalcanal. The day was August 7th and it was the 70th anniversary of the invasion of this Island during WWII. We were in awe of the history of this place and enjoyed returning to these places of significant historical value. Places like Red Beach, Alligator River, Hells Point, Tetere Beach and Bloody Ridge. It was on one of these places (Bloody Ridge) that we received a beautiful gift. The gift was being at the right place at the right time and getting to meet the Commandant of the US Marines (he is the highest ranked US Marine Corps Officer) as they filmed a documentary for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal and the birthday of the Marine Corps. Famed historian John Islis was there revealing in depth the details of the infamous battle on Bloody Ridge seventy years ago. We were in awe of that moment and happy to be a part of something so significant.

The places we have been the people we have met are now integrated into the people we have become. I love the part of travel that changes me, humbles me, and reminds me of a perspective that I am too small to have created.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lessons Learned

I am finding that the more I travel the more I want to learn and be apart of life and cultures that are different than my own. We have had the opportunity to travel to many beautiful places and the beauty is not only in the place but the cultures and people in the places.
This is our tenth year to the remote areas of Fiji and our second year to the Solomon Islands. Each year I see and learn something new and I am in awe of that. This year I wanted the lives of the people on both Islands to permeate my heart and soul…so that I would know them by heart and carry them with me long after I had left. I had the most beautiful encounters with so many people this year including the healers/medicine women on both Islands.

I think one of the things travel does for me is awaken my sense of perspective. I find that I am in fascinated with the life that others are leading concurrently with mine. It was during our teatime one day that I had the opportunity to meet and speak with the ‘old’ women of the village. Luisa had been the healer/health worker on Qumaeya in her youth and had been trained by her mother before her. She in turn was now training her niece in the ways of their ancestors. I have always been fascinated with the local customs and culture so I when asked her about the traditional medicines she agreed to take me through the dense jungle areas and began to show me the medicinal plants. I asked her if there was any written literature on these medicinal treatments and she told me no, that this knowledge was passed down from one generation to the next. When we were done, she sat with me and we wrote out a few of the most common treatments.

I think this conversation kindled my desires to learn more so when we arrived on the Solomon Islands I sought those women who could share some of the cultural aspects of their life with me. I remember one conversation I had with a woman named Leah. She was telling me about Malaita, the Island her husband was born in, and asked me if I would ever consider going there to work. She said there was a very nice place to stay at Langa Langa Lagoon. I told her that when I come to these places I like to live where the people live, get to know who they are, eat what they eat, see what they grow in their gardens, live day to day with them, and see what they do when they are sick. She began to share some of the customs with me and I became captivated by her stories. The more she talked the more I wanted to know. I soon found myself contributing into these stories as if they were my own! In the end, I began to have a deeper sense of who they were and how they lived day to day. I am enriched beyond what I could ever say.

I spent some time with Amy, the nurse in Konga. She has the sole responsibility of caring for the people in nearly seventy villages. She lives with her family next door to the infirmary and is available at all times. She tends her own gardens and is rarely paid (she asks for $2.00SD or uncooked food as payment) but will see you for free if you are unable to pay. She does this day in/day out everyday of the year. She says that while medical care is free in the Solomon Islands, the cost of travel to get to the health center would be the equivalent of one month’s salary. This makes it impossible for most to get the health care that they may need. I felt an incredible respect for her commitment to her calling.

I am always excited by these revelations. How sorrowful it would be if I returned home and felt as if there was nothing left for me to learn. I thank God each time I return that my heart can still be broken by something I have seen, my world forever rocked, and that I have learned something new.