Monday, October 20, 2008

Wanna-Be Curry Girl

In exactly one month from yesterday, I'm leaving town in a big way. I'm not just leaving the state, or even the country -- I'm leaving this hemisphere. In mid-November, I will be ditching my snow-covered home and traveling across the Pacific to hang out in equatorial Malaysia for two weeks. I'm traveling with a group of ten other women from the church I attend here. We hope to assist American missionaries already living in Malaysia, as well as volunteer at orphanages, work with the poor, cook an "authentic" Thanksgiving dinner (as much as we are able to, given what ingredients are available!), present the Christmas story, and simply love and serve the people we meet.

I feel so excited, but also a bit nervous. I spent a semester studying in New Zealand during college, which is very far away in terms of geography, but I've never been immersed in a completely different culture where I will be in the minority ethnically, racially, culturally, and spiritually. This trip will be both rewarding and challenging!

At this point, I think my greatest challenge will lie in giving over all of my control, especially in the areas of nutrition and fitness. I don't know if I'll have any opportunities to exercise, which will be extremely hard for me. I start to feel gross, antsy, and itchy when I find myself unable to work out to my preference. Also, I will have little choice of what I eat -- I will have to eat what's available, and the options might very well be extremely unhealthy. Check out this quote from Lonely Planet's guide, World Food: Malaysia and Singapore:
It's terribly difficult to eat healthily when dining out in Malaysia . . . as most foods are fried (some in pork lard). There are a lot of hidden sugars and fat in many dishes and coconut milk tends to feature strongly in many curries and desserts (237).
Hmm. Tricky, eh? This, of course, refers only to eating out, so I'm not sure what the team's food provisions will actually be when we are in-country. But, for a recovering anorectic, the food situation will be a real and possibly ever-present challenge.

But -- and this is a big "but" -- I'm not going to Malaysia for the food (although I'm also very excited to taste the Malay, Indian, and Chinese cuisine!). I'm not going there to stay thin, or loose weight, or be on a diet. (In fact, as I'm meant to be gaining weight right now, none of this should even be a concern, right?) The reason I'm traveling to the other side of the world is not me. It's God. God, and whatever His plans are for the people we'll meet in Malaysia, His plans for us -- for me! -- as individuals, and His plans for all the world's people. Do I hope to get something out of this trip? Of course. But it's not all about getting -- it's about giving. Part of that giving is going to require taking big steps out of my circle of comfort, including in the area of food. And in the end, I will be all the better, all the stronger for it.

So what am I excited about regarding my Malaysia-bound meanderings? So many things! Meeting people, exchanging stories and meals with them . . . experiencing a new nation and three new people groups (Malay, Indian, Chinese) . . . seeing how real missionaries live and work . . . growing closer to God . . . lending a hand however it's needed . . . hugging orphans . . . describing the story of Christmas to adults and children alike who have never, ever heard it . . . eating new spicy foods . . . gaining confidence in God, and in myself . . . learning more about the world and its people . . . seeing how different I am from the Malaysians, and how similar . . . growing closer to my teammates . . . experiencing more of "the big picture" . . . getting outside of me . . . .

*Photo from here.

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"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King