John 3:8

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The non-necessities of American culture

So, since I've been living outside of the US for 9 months now, I have realized there are quite a few things we are so used to using in America that we don't think about the possibility of not having them. Really, though, they are non-essentials.. Here's a list of a few things that I've realized we don't "need" in the way we have come to be dependant on them :
Hot water (for washing dishes, for showering..)
An overhead shower.

what we use here for showering--buckets
Air conditioning.
Flushing toilets.
Toilet paper. Mmhmm. old school style. 
Some people in towns near me don't even have bathrooms, running water, or electricity. Now, i realize that this is usually not sanitary, and can cause lots of illnesses, due to using the same river for a bathroom and a shower, but at the same time, people live that way...

during a brown-out.. sitting by candle-light

Some other things people go without here, and make it just fine:
Self-filling and -running clothes washing machine
A washing machine in general
A house free of ants, or cockroaches for that matter
An electric stove

A gas stove.. (it's called coal).

the kitchen at the girls' dorm
matches..? sometimes. If you're out, why not just rub two sticks together...

Now, this is not just a post to tell you how much people 'rough it' here, or how different life is. Let this never become something that just fascinates us, lest we forget the people behind the different tasks that these things imply. Just because we have these things in our homes in America doesn't make us an better, or better off for that matter, than the people living here without them. In fact, recently, I was thinking about how much more complicated and frustrating our lives can be because of owning machines and devices designed to "make our life easier." I mean, when you own a dishwasher, a washing machine and dryer, toilets, showers, stoves, etc. you also have to spend time on their upkeep. Machines break. Then we have to fix them, and that costs money. So yes, our modern "conveniences" can be helpful, but they can also be a big pain. 

People here who don't have those things may spend more time on tasks we have come to dislike. That's not to say, though, that their lives are not enjoyable. I'm sure when students do laundry in the dorms, even if it's not fun for them, they spend a lot of time near each other and probably talk while they're doing their chore. How many people do you talk to while you're doing your laundry? What about washing dishes? Every night, I wash dishes with my housemate, and we talk or sing along with the radio together. It's something simple, but this has built a tighter friendship between the two of us. For probably a month or two, we cooked at home over coals. It took more time, yes, but it made me so much more appreciative of having something to eat, and some way to cook it.
girls doing their laundry together at the dorm
What other things can you think of that we use in America a lot but really could probbaly go without, or at least spend less time on? How about the very thing we're both using right now--computers? How dependant are we on our computers? How much time do you spend on them that you could spend face-to-face getting to know people?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Music in Aisa

Sometimes I wonder if life back in the States will seem really quiet and boring to me when I return.

Here, I think just about everyone loves music, and singing. People often have their radios on, and they will sing karaoke at all hours of the day—even in the early morning. Our houses are really close together, and the walls do not insulate sounds, hardly at all. So it’s really not uncommon for me to have background music provided by the neighbors while I’m eating breakfast at 6am. In fact, I was recently woken up at 5:30 by my neighbor's blaring music. Some days, if we are eating breakfast and everything is really quiet, I feel like something is strange.. then I realize that the music is missing.

Just to give you an idea of the kind of music, there isn’t much of a generational difference when it comes to song choices. Children all the way up to grandparents will listen to the same music together. So it’s not uncommon to hear One Direction, Michael Buble, Guy Sebastian, Simon and Garfunkel, and then back to Brian McKnight, all in a ½ hour time span….recently, it's been "total eclipse of the heart" that has taken over the neighbors karaoke...

Also, there seems to be this phenonemon where the malls will play songs like "heart of worship" by Matt Redman, "Mighty to Save" by hillsong and "Unfailing Love" by Chris Tomlin.. not even kidding. I defninitely have heard those songs playing. It's kind of interesting and refreshing too, to walk through a place that reflects the materialism in this world--a mall--and have a sweet reminder of what is really important, like God's unfailing love for us.

Even though the loud music at all times can sometimes be wearying, I also find it quite enjoyable. You can be at a restaurant, and all at once, the server behind the counter begins singing. Loudly, without reservation, on or off key. It doesn't matter. I like the way people here are not ashamed to be heard, even if they are not the best vocalist. They enjoy singing, so why not?
It's not uncommon to see a group of employees gathered around the karaoke machine in an appliance store or a department store. I think it's partially advertisement to attract customers, but hey, it doesn't hurt to pass the down time at work that way, either!

In the same vein, people like to dance (and make jokes). I can't tell you how many times I have hear people say "thanks for teaching me.." and others jump in with "how to duggie?" One of the most interesting jobs I have seen here is the traffic policeman. I don't know if it's an actual rule, but it sure is a common thing to see the traffic cop dancing in the middle of the intersection as he directs the vehicles where to go. Because this is so popular, there are even videos of this online. Check out this link for an example of a particularly talented cop!
Sometimes, places like coffee shops and restaurants also like to play cds of cover songs. Usually the covers are of pop songs, hip-hop songs, or Michael Jackson, but no matter what the sound of the original, they are all done in a "lounge/elevator music" style, very smooth, and low-key. it's kind of funny to hear a girls soft voice slowly singing Kesha's song "tick tock"... "don't stop, make it pop, dj blow my speakers up.."

The joys of living in another country! ;-)