The Dusty Feet Mob

You know how it goes for us nomads, we meet kinfolk who find out were heading towards their friends. Then we meet those people who find out our next stop is in the same town as their friends and on and on. And so it was, that we made our way from Melbourne, to Adelaide to the Dusty Feet Mob in Port Augusta.

We were in Melbourne, VIC, Australia with our friends Nick and Anita Wight. We met Nick and Anita in March of 2014 at Surrender Conference, a gathering of all sorts of kinfolk doing amazing things around the globe in their communities, from offering hospitality to refugees, to creating sustainable/recycled goods, advocating for those who are oppressed to living side by side with folks in some of the poorest parts of the world. We were excited to hear about these like-minded kinfolk and wrote Anita (who was one of the directors at the time) and asked if we could share our music or help in any other way and she said yes! And, that was that, we became fast friends and continued to stay in touch, stopping in to see the Wight family at their Footscray home on our way from here to there.

It’s an encouragement to find friends like the Wights because their friendship not only allowing¬†us to anchor when we need a rest or re-supply but their friendship fuels our hearts with love.

img_2531One night we were sharing a meal and talking about our upcoming trek across South Australia and up to Alice Springs, when their friend Ian Dempster¬†called. Ian was from Adelaide and happened to in Melbourne, driving by their home on his way to a meeting. He didn’t have time to stop over but thought of them as he passed and decided to give them a quick call for a chat. While on the phone the Wights told Ian about us and our desire to come alongside and encourage others and he said, “send them my way.”

We were blessed to meet up with Ian at the Central Market for a coffee and hear about his work with the UAICC (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress). He shared about his passion to collaborate with and encourage his Aboriginal counterparts. Although our time with Ian was brief we shared our desire to meet and hear more of the Aboriginal story as we made our way north and he connected us with his dear friends 3 1/2 hours north in Port Augusta.

img_2596As we neared into the industrial town of  Port Augusta we experienced the vast rose-colored salt lakes, broken mesas and massive rock formations that lifted out of the ground commanding our attention and we were reminded of one of our favorite states in the US, New Mexico. Our hosts, The Wallace family, lived on a pink salt lake around the corner from the railroad and welcomed us to their Port Augusta home. They invited us to settle in, share a meal and do a load of laundry. We found them easy to connect with, specially after they whipped out the Settlers of Catan board. Then it was game on. As a bonus, Anna shared her gift of sewing with us and mended up some of our broken backpacks.

The next day, we joined the¬†Congress Port Augusta – Uniting Church, where we met¬†Jesse Size, Auntie* Maria and the rest of the mob*. The service was informal yet reverent. We all sat in the round, taught each other songs of praise and shared in story. They asked us questions about our travels and we shared¬†the¬†practical stories of how Abba cares for us along the way, making sure our needs are met, just as he cares for the birds of the air. A question was asked about how we deal with conflict and betrayal, an issue close to the Aboriginal heart. We shared the story of the betrayal and reconciliation in our own marriage. ¬†As a legitimate victim, I shared how difficult it¬†was to wait without bitterness or blemish, in faith, for my husband to “own his stuff” and finally how Abba liberated him from his twisted thinking; thinking that kept him bound to a false sense of justice. ¬†As we laid down our pride and trusted, Abba did it all. Faithfully the Great Physician put our marriage back together again. We shared another song or two and said a prayer of blessing over them. It was an honor to be with these saints, to tell our hard story and the story of God’s trustworthy-ness.

Afterwards, there was a lightness in the room as folks were getting ready to move to the next part of the day, a Sunday afternoon picnic. Auntie Maria invited us to join in and explained that it was a picnic for the Dusty Feet Mob, a dance troop that her daughter, Wanita choreographed. She was excited to have us join them and for us to see the children dance.

When we arrived, Maria shared the story of the Dusty Feet Mob and explained that Port Augusta is made up of 36 different Aboriginal groups and the Dusty Feet Mob is inclusive towards them all. She stated their dance troop was created in 2014 to provide a medium for elders to pass on their knowledge to younger generations and as a way to communicate about Aboriginal issues, specifically regarding reconciliation. ¬†The group’s debut performance was at the Peterborough Art Cultural Festival in Port Pirie and since then they have been invited to perform at the NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week and many other state and national events. One of their most riveting performances was alongside famed Aboriginal folk singer, Archie Roach, at the Reconciliation South Australia Event in February 2016

Film Maker Dave Laslett. 

img_2628-1What we learned, and what we shared in Port Augusta was life-giving and inspiring. And, even more was the quiet evening that we spent in Jesse and Chelsea Size’s home, sharing a traditional Aboriginal meal of Kangaroo Tails that Auntie Maria made for us. It was during this meal, as the sun setting in the sky and heat lighting was bolting here and there that Auntie Maria shared her personal story. A story of resilience, perseverance, and faith.

Auntie Maria must have been about my age, maybe a bit older, (meaning she was probably in her early 50’s). So she would have been born during a difficult time in Australian/Aboriginal history. Her people were originally from Maralinga but had to flee thousands of Kilometer into Oak Valley, Cundalee Mission in 1955 after the British Government, along with the Australian Government, dropped an Nuclear bomb on their lands. Some went north, east and west after the bomb to find comfort. Unfortunately, some never recovered and many who have lived through the travesty still feel the effects today with sore eyes or blindness.

Many of Maria’s family were taken to Mt Margaret Mission, Kurrawang Mission or Norseman Mission and placed there under the guardianship board when they were taken from their families. This is now known as the stolen generation. Maria’s mum¬†fled all the way to Perth where she had Maria. However, from what Maria was told her mother died when she was 3 months old. A¬†native welfare worker contacted Maria’s extended family and her oldest sister took her under her wing¬†with other family supporting.¬†Maria was born a half-caste and expressed her deep desire to know¬†her connection to country, to family especially around native titles, etc. Unfortunately, for Maria there is not a lot written about her mum so all she has to go on is what family tells her about who is family and where she fit in.

She spoke fondly of her childhood, growing up in and around Laverton, Mt Margaret and Leonora. She said she was a bit of a cheeky child, later returning to her hometown to see her name still etched into sidewalks and buildings. She said she respects and values her¬†culture and has a deep longing to connect with country but explained that her Brother-in-law, who raised her like his own, had a strong Christian faith and for that she was thankful, for no matter what may come her way, she knows that¬†Jesus is her rock. When all else fails, and she’s seen her share of failings, she falls back on her faith as her firm foundation. Auntie Maria’s story was so inspiring and it was an honor to even have heard a small portion of it.

*Mob is a word used to describe a tribe or family group of Aboriginal people. *Auntie or Uncle are the respectful terms to address an elder woman or man

Gleebox Dinners

img_2135In January of this year we were in Pai Thailand and met a young backpacker named George, who was from  Sydney. We exchanged contact info and when we arrived in his hometown we reached out and he invited us to a gathering in an inner city suburb called Glebe. He said it was a potluck and sometimes they would jam, so bring a dish to share and our instruments.

We were welcomed by a house full of darling young ladies whom lived in the home and all of their many friends. We were taken aback by their kindness and  generosity and by the eclectic mix of kinfolk from around the globe. Naomi, Georgina, Madison and Kirsten shared their story of friendship and commitment to host a potluck meal every Monday night for their neighbors, friends and family. Their story resonated with our heart for hospitality and of course we love a story that includes a little serendipity.  You see our friend George had met some of the ladies while on a trip to Alice Springs. Once the ladies found out that George lived in Sydney they immediately invited him into the fold, and because of that invitation, we now found ourselves in their company and what joy to be included!

img_2098We stayed in Glebe for six weeks and every Monday we made a point of going to the Gleebox Dinners, finding that each week there was a different mix, enjoying the festive vibe of a house breathing with creativity and kindness as well as the quieter evenings chock full of intimate conversation. There was a comfort and familiarity to the evenings that made us feel like we were more than just guests, we felt like family.

Sometimes when we think of hospitality we think of fancy dinner parties and Martha Stewart but when we think of hospitality as a gift rather than a talent, we find a wholly other experience. We find a sense of home. Actually when you break it down, the word derives¬†from the Latin¬†hospes,¬†meaning “host”, or “guest.”¬†Hospes¬†is formed from¬†hostis, which means “stranger.”

Every culture has their understanding of hospitality, but we especially are drawn to Ancient traditions found in the Hebrew and Celtic customs. For instance, in¬†Hebrew, the¬†practice¬†is¬†called¬†hachnasat orchim, or “welcoming¬†guests”. Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to¬†provide¬†nourishment, comfort, and entertainment to¬†their¬†guests,¬†and¬†at¬†the end of the visit, hosts¬†customarily¬†escort their¬†guests¬†out of their home,¬†wishing¬†them¬†a safe journey.¬†Celtic¬†societies¬†also¬†valued¬†the concept of hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a person’s request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter to his/her guest, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.

What a gift for us weary travelers to call Glebe home for a time. And, what a gift to find such a lovely and safe welcome by our new friends at the Gleebox house. Here’s to all you kinfolk out there that offer up your time, talents and homes to foster community and friendship!

Mum Jones

12249731_10153326378984053_6258699912709864565_nDebra Jones was known to many as “Mum Jones,” a mentor and Mom in the tribe where no one is left out. She was a voice in the wilderness, brave, kind, soft yet fierce, and she stayed the course, diving deeper and deeper into her faith, giving up more and more of herself. In June of this year, Debbie passed on through to the other side and although she may never be canonized by a religious institution, I dare say that the tribe she‚Äôs impacted along the way would deem her¬†a Saint through and through.

I met Debbie’s husband, Andrew Jones, in 1998 at Cornerstone Music Festival. He was speaking to a group of raver kids called FoundKids that my cousin and I happened upon. We were taken in by the whole scene but I was specifically inspired to hear about Andrew and his families nomadic lifestyle. His stories of¬†wandering around the globe with the intent of just showing up, to be available, encouraging the¬†marginalized. His stories stirred something deep inside of me and a seed was planted that I believe has had a significant influence in our journey.

417872_10151463524703121_2043070706_nAt the time, I was a single mom and longed to hear from a mother’s heart. So, I asked if I could visit with his family. ¬†My hope was to sit with his wife Debbie and ask her questions about her journey into this radical surrender to Abba, trusting Him with her five children and with all of her needs. Back then, they were living out of an old RV and were¬†temporally parked in a¬†suburb of Chicago. They invited me over for an afternoon and as we sat outside of the RV talking, the kids all running in and out, I felt a sense of peace come over me and knew that whatever may come, I had found an example of a life well lived. I had found one of my mentors.

We would only have that one meeting face to face but I followed the family over the years and as my life intersected with Craig’s and we married, I told him all about these kindred spirits. We kept tabs on them and when the time came for us to take our leap of faith, they were the first family we looked to for encouragement.

Over the years, we kept up with them at and via Facebook. In 2014, we had a few lovely interactions with Andrew and a few of the children, now adults while we were parked in Austin, TX. Each visit bringing with it a deeper sense of camaraderie. Then, in our most recent¬†inter web exchange Debbie reached out to coordinate a meet up but in the end we found ourselves on different continents and hoped to look toward 2016 to unite. However, she did mention that if we made our way to Bulgaria, they’d be happy for us to borrow ‚ÄúMaggie,” their current rig, which was quite tempting. ūüôā

Recently, we watched on as Debbie and Andrew split, like a cell, to cover more ground. It would be the first extended period of time that they would move on different continents. Debbie had a missional impulse towards developmental aid in Africa and Andrew felt a pull towards refugee relief in Europe. We were absolutely amazed as we witnessed their courage and discipline and were blown away by their supernatural trust!

11390519_1619216628316768_3253796670653706618_nThen, just two months ago, as they were making their way back towards one another, an urgent prayer request came in. Both Debbie and Andrew were in hospital, one in Ghana and one in Ethiopia, both in critical condition. The prayers poured in, but not even twenty-four hours later we learned that Debbie had passed, her final words, ‚ÄúI am here.‚ÄĚ Andrew, who is slowly recovering, writes about it in his memorial blog called ‘Debbie‚Äôs Final Words, Angels and More. Andrew states that the words are actually quite moving, as the¬†“phrase points to the¬†strategic impact of actually turning up and being fully present with people in their context.‚ÄĚ It was a phrase that she learned while loving alongside the Ethiopian tribe called ‚ÄúAshanti.” He says that¬†Debbie “felt that¬†nomads, like herself, offered a special gift in turning up to the hidden places and evaluating the real needs and formulating a holistic and sustainable result.‚ÄĚ As a fellow nomad this resonates wholly!

12234975_10207502130131979_4625256212437588854_nDebbie surrendered her own body, with its particular itinerary, desires, and even needs, to become one with the breath and message of God. And, this is why she will forever be a Saint in my mind.

Our hearts are heavy and yet, rejoicing, longing for that day that we will meet again.

Blessing to the Jones family and all of the many kinfolk around the world who have their own beautiful stories to tell about this precious woman. May the stories continue flow, to inspire and bear much lush fruit.

To read the full article by Andrew visit ‘Debbie‚Äôs Final Words, Angels and More.

Read it, you’ll be inspired too.

The Hard Rock Givers

IMG_9641The small towns of Harden-Murrumburrah, Australia has some things going on! The area is part of the traditional territory of¬†the Wiradjuri people. However, in the 1840’s European¬†settlement made its way into this region and soon after gold was discovered which put Harden-Murrumburrah on the world map. In 1877, ¬†it became a one of the great Railway towns of Australia. The twin towns form part of the Hilltops region, strong in food and wine production. Many come to this region to pick cherry’s but for the most part it’s a regional country town where local life is the focus.

Glenn and Ros Stewart, are new locals, drawn to the area from Canberra in 2014. The couple came to Harden with skill sets as an electrician and social worker, but on a personal level have spent most of their adult lives advocating for the down trodden and marginalized. They are amazing parents to three grown children and have fostered for the past 15 years. When we sat with Glenn and Ros to hear their story we were inspired by their willingness to listen to the call to move from their hometown, good jobs, and family to the little town of Harden. They weren’t sure exactly what they would be doing in Harden at the time of their move, but their leap of faith paid off and soon the wheels started spinning.

Before their move, Glenn and Ros went for a ride on their Harley one day. They rode through the twin towns and saw an old abandoned house. A spark of an idea came to the couple as they saw the house as a potential place of refuge, not for themselves, but for those in crisis situations. They made note of the idea, put it aside, and continued on with their ride back to Canberra. Down the line, they were at an event and Glenn was talking to a fella who mentioned he was from Harden. Glenn was excited as he remembered the house and told the man their vision for the house. It just happened to be that the man he was talking to was actually the man who owned the house!

With no finances of their own, Glenn and Ros made a bold move and proposed that they might fix up his house, fund-raising and paying for all of the restoration, if the man agreed to let them use the house as a landing space for families in crisis for five years. It was a shot in the dark to be sure, but the man said YES! And so, the project got underway. Many of their friends and neighbors hopped on board and joined the excitement of rebuilding this dilapidated old house and making it new. Sometime later, the house was finished and has been a haven to families ever since.

After the house was finished, or maybe sometime in between, the Stewarts were praying about what was next, longing to do something with their time and resources that would bridge and build up community, specially for the two most noticeable populations in the area, the elderly and the youth. During a conversation one day, Glenn was told that some gym equipment was up for sale, and going at a really cheap price. Having never run a gym, Glenn thought, “well, that’s an idea, why not?” And so he put in a bid in and got it!

IMG_9654Then the Stewarts noticed an old abandoned grocery store building down town Harden. And, with the same humility asked the owner if he’s be open to them restoring the building and using it as a community space. The owner said, YES! Soon after, other resources, like the carpet, paint, lockers, helping hands and more fine details came to fruition. Even the¬†instructors¬†for all the classes came to them organically. They invited the community to come check out the space and the community responded with enthusiasm at the opportunity to not only get fit but to have such a fantastic gathering space.


It’s been a whirlwind couple of years in Harden but as things have progressed, that leap of faith continues to bring folks through the door, and alongside the traditional gym uses the Stewart’s use the space to host faith-based gatherings, concerts, and dinners; which has transformed the Hard Rock Gym into a unique and sacred space for the community to come together and do life with one another, to build up not only their bodies but their souls. And that is super cool!

The story isn’t over, it’s only just begun.¬†Glenn and Ros, along with whatever hands come alongside, have begun the process of restoring another home in the community, which will be used as crisis housing. And, as they walk in favor with the¬†community, they are finding opportunities to consult with the local teachers about the youth they work with at the gym. They have been instrumental in helping to¬†identify gifts and talents in the youth which promote a healthy life for the whole community.

Glenn and Ros are givers and we’re honored to know them and call them kinfolk! We look forward to seeing and hearing about the good things coming their way, and coming to Harden. It only takes a leap of faith.


The Great Wall of…Toilets

IMG_9614How about a little potty talk? I know, I know, I digress, but it’s always been a fascinating subject in my house hold.

It was the 70’s and my home a was pretty typical American home, except for the fact that my dad was the preacher man which meant there were some rules that we had to live by that my other friends didn’t. My parents didn’t talk dirty or swear, except for the occasional “damn it” when my mom would get mad at us kids which always left us a bit shell shocked. Alcohol was a no no, and so was playing cards, dancing and listening to rock music. Although, we did play cards but rock music and dancing, no no. So, I’d go to the neighbors to get my Michael Jackson or Shawn Cassidy fix and dancing, well you remember the movie Dirty Dancing right? Let’s just say, I was Jennifer Grey for Halloween one year. I was also Kimberly from Different Strokes one year but that’s a whole other story.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is¬†I feel like life was pretty typical except we had certain rules about humor infiltrating our home that was sexual or dirty. IMG_9613However, potty humor was fair game. And, those of us who could toot the most, the loudest or the smelliest were held in high regard. ¬†Some of us would hide behind a holier than thou¬†disgust but then would occasionally sneak one out, following up with the who farted question. Others were proud of their shameless farting and burping, expressing a sort of pride in their¬†admittance of guilt. My mom’s side of the family, the Urcavich’s, would often say with¬†condemnation¬†that potty humor was a Price thing, meaning my dad’s side of the family. But to their dismay, my dad’s side of the family would grin from ear to ear and take the put down as¬†a true complement. But I’ll tell you what, it was also an Urcavich thing and no matter what that side of the family says, I know, I’ve been in the room when one of my uncles lets one ripe filling the room with a blueish grey smog. The giggles are relentless, actually the giggles that follow are almost worse than the smell.

One time my adult cousin, who happens to be a “Price, gave our son a gift for his 10th birthday. It was small Casio piano. You know the kind that you can record a song or sound and it will add it to the repertoire? Well, he started to show him all of the cool sounds you could make with the little machine and creativity started to flow, the music was actually sounding pretty cool! Then without notice my cousin stopped and said to my son and all of his friends, “watch this!” As soon as he said it, I knew what was coming. He proceeded to belch into the recorder. Not just any belch but like a 30 second, mother of all mothers. The look on all of the kids faces was sheer excitement at the new-found opportunity and they all began to frantically lung at the machine, belching as loud as they could. It was hilarious and a bit embarrassing, seeing as we were in a Thai restaurant.¬†Seriously, though that’s just one story of like eight hundred.

And, so it’s just sort of in my blood. I would fall into the more passive Urcavich category but I’m not ashamed of my Price roots. Personally, I tend to take the whole bodily function thing beyond the humorous to a scientific level. I’m fascinated by the studying gut function and what foods to eat to maintain a healthy movements. And,¬†I love the word poop. Just writing it makes me giggle inside, so I’m super excited that Facebook added a poop emoticon. My family knows this about me and I’m often given books about pooping as gifts. Books like “What’s your poo telling you?” or “Perry Poops” and “Terry Toots.” *Disclaimer: I have enough books now. ūüôā

Then there is my brother who is a business man by all means but one of his business does just happen to be a port-o-potty company. It’s called Captain Commodes, which is hilarious because my brother is a sailor. I¬†remember when he first bought the company. That winter we were all sitting around the Christmas table and he pulled out all of these catalogs with all sorts of paraphernalia¬†to do with the pumper¬†industry. Who knew it was called the pumper industry. In that glorious moment, we were given¬†a full-scale scope into the world of portable toilets. Then the movie Kenny came out and nailed it! If you’ve never seen Kenny, rent it tonight, you won’t be sorry.

So, it’s no wonder that as we traveled throughout SE Asia that I was compelled to take photo’s of the toilet situation. I actually started to think about it well before we left the States. I knew that the toilet situation would be different and I was excited to learn about how other parts of the world used the facilities. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about the idea of squatting down as my knees are shot¬†and I don’t have the strongest legs. However, it was the infrastructural limitations to processing toilet paper that really caught me off guard. Most toilets did not come with toilet paper, nor anywhere to put the paper once used. They did all have a portable hose or a water bucket and scoop, which acted sort of like a hand-held bidet. However, my quandary about how to dry off after I had squirted the water all over myself and the walls around me, was often the biggest dilemma. None the less, some of our hosts were gracious enough to allow me to ask directly but discretely how they managed through the process. ¬†They would smile with embarrassment as they answered but behind their coy smile I could see a fellow “potty humor” comrade.

In the end, I embraced¬†the system, whether it was the full squatter, the partial squatter or the throne. I found great comfort in the cleanliness that the hose offered as compared to the paper and really appreciated the physical strength that came from the natural workouts of squatting. Plus, I became aware of how much paper we waist in Western countries that could be eliminated if we all had the little hoses hooked up. So, if ever we are in a position of owning a home again, you can be assured that when you come to my house we’ll still have a thrown for you to sit upon but you might be wondering where the paper is. Which, in that case, will allow for a hearty conversation about poop and the environment and exploring new lands. And, who wouldn’t want to talk about that?!

Anyway, without further ado… Here is my Great Wall of… Toilets.

A huge thanks to all of our host who allowed us to first of all, use their toilets and secondly, to photography them. This will forever be a treasured part of our folk life family expedition memory.


Lion City

IMG_9100Singapore!¬†What a fascinating place! This small but robust country is located at the southern tip of Malaysia, about 85 miles (137 kilometres) north of the Equator. Singapore Island originally was inhabited by fishermen and pirates, and it served as an outpost for the Sumatran empire of¬†Srńęvijaya which was a¬†maritime and commercial kingdom that flourished between the 7th and the 13th centuries, largely in what is now¬†Indonesia. Of course, there has been loads of history from then until now making this little fishing village one of the worlds most prestigious and innovative cities/countries in the world.

If you talk with a local they will tell you with great admiration that the modern progress and peaceful nation is due to their founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. They will tell you stories of a father who traveled around the world to progressive countries, seeking counsel and knowledge from world leaders, ¬†on what worked and didn’t work for their societies. He then took the best of the best ideas and began implementing them in Singapore. He would walk the streets with a notepad and pen in hand, jotting things he saw in need of replacing or repair, as well as, taking note of flow. They will tell you he was meticulous and lead by example, that he cared about order, efficiency and cleanliness.

IMG_9090As visitors we sensed the importance of everyone going with the established flow and a vigilance on behalf of its citizens to keep law and order. It was actually quite enthralling to see such order, to tilt our heads in wonderment at how one gets a whole society to move with such calculated accuracy. The sociological anthropologists in us couldn’t help but asking questions, not with the desire to compare or judge but with complete curious fascination. The architecture and roadways lent to the flow of life but more that was the established rules in place; rules that were at first glance overbearing but after further review actually lent to the harmony one felt when walking the streets. There were camera’s everywhere and on more than on occasion our hosts explained with pride that the crime rate was very low in Singapore because of these cameras. There are eyes everywhere both from the cameras and from the citizens who all worked together¬†in keeping the societal flow strong.

Some of the rules that we found sort of interesting, “no chewing gum.” You won’t see a single black mark in the sidewalks of Singapore. “No eating in undesignated areas” was another one. We actually learned this rule by accident, as we had brought granola bars with us on one of our outings and while waiting for the train, our son pulled one out. He began to eat it, but was shielded by our host, who let us know under his breath that we were breaking a rule. We all sort of chuckled at what seemed like a silly rule to us but saw our hosts desire to protect us and the plea in his¬†eyes for understanding and out of respect immediately put the snack away.

IMG_9078“No peeing in elevators.” This was most interesting to us from our cultural perspective, as the idea of even having to make a rule regarding this issue seemed absurd. However, it was not uncommon throughout SE Asia to see men urinating in public spaces. And, migrants were ¬†bringing this norm into Singapore. The migrants may have learned that was not allowed in public but still found ways to relieve themselves outside of a designated toilet blocks. The elevators became a hot spot for those looking to take a quick and quiet leak. Now, you have to understand that there are loads of elevators in Singapore. Most of the dwellings in Singapore are massive high-rises and each building would have multiple elevators. And so, to address this issue the Government installed a sensor in each elevator which upon impact of liquid would lock down and not reopen until the police had arrived. I’m sort of cringing and grinning even as I write this as it’s such a clever idea and as you can imagine, very effective.

IMG_9084The layout of the city was impeccable and easy to navigate with a wonderful train/bus system. We were able to enjoy a day at the beautiful botanical gardens, share meals with our hosts, including one of their favorites, Singapore Steamboats. Similar to Chinese Hotpots, the soup pot sits upon a small fire and has two sides of broth, one spicy, one mild. Then throughout the meal you add your selected ingredients to the broth. Ingredients like thinly shaved pork or beef, cubes of chicken or tofu, noodles, veggies, etc… The food was awesome but even more than that was the amazing welcome we found in Singapore.

IMG_9184Our hosts were gracious enough to not only show us their land but to allow us to stay in their space, sharing customs and encouraging each other in community. They even allowed me to cook in their kitchen, teaching them how to make one of my favorite Tex/Mex dishes and serving it to all of their friends and family.

We do not take for granted the gift of hospitality and our friends in Singapore made us feel more than welcomed. They allowed us to explore and ask questions, helping us to make sense of their land, and showering us with kindness and warmth.


We all have our places where we feel most at home, most comfortable and being with our kinfolk through out SE Asia would be high on our list. But, if you ask our son where his favorite stop in SE Asia was, he will tell you hands down, it was Singapore. He loved the food, as well as the high-tech, modern and hospitable nature of the place. As we continue on our travels, he often is on the lookout for restaurants that cater to the Singapore palette and talks of going back there one day.

Merrymaking in Myanmar


IMG_0005We pulled into the Yangon Central train station at 5:45am. We were just in time to see the majestic sun waking up. We’d come from Bagan on an overnight bus and were quite the sight. We still hadn’t solidified logistics with our host in Yangon, so were feeling a little unsettled.
While at that train station we began to take in our surroundings, noting that the main hall of the train station was filling up with local travelers, many of them wearing the traditional longyis, and yellow paint of their faces. There were many side rooms in the station, full of people, sleeping on floor mats, just rising from a long night sleep.  We went to the bathroom to try to refresh. There were two ladies sitting outside of the bathroom waiting for me to pay them a few coins to use the facilities. Once in the bathroom, I thought it unusual that one of the stalls was converted into a sleeping room and realized that it probably belonged the ladies manning the door, that this was actually their house. So, we decided to wait until we got to our host home to really clean up.

IMG_0010We were hungry and found a local vender selling these delicious pastries that you dipped in a coffee like substance and eventually the four of us reunited back in the main hall. Craig had already negotiated our tickets and we had finally connected with our host and boarded our train.

As we boarded the train a few things caught our eye. First, the train car we boarded said “Ordinary Class” on the side of the car. We thought that was pretty funny that we were riding the ordinary car. Second, we were fascinated by the many¬†riders¬†with unusually red mouths.¬†They were chewing something and would spit long streams of red dye out of the window of the train car. When they would smile we could see a twinkle in their eye, however, seeing their teeth was another story as most them were missing. There was one man who strolled through our car with a round metal tray filled with all sort of nuts, white powder stuff, leaves, and little bowls to crush stuff in. We later learned that he was selling a¬†sort of chewing tobacco, ¬†called Betle. We learned it was quite addicting and besides the loss of teeth, it‚Äôs also a leading cause of mouth cancer. The tradition runs 2000 years deep, so even with the new health information it will probably take a long while before it’s¬†looked down upon in¬†the common land.

IMG_0018We finally found our way to our host home and stumbled in about 9am. We were exhausted but excited to meet our new friends and hear about their journey from Phoenix AZ to Yangon, Myanmar. Mother/Daughter duo, Brenda and Nola, founders of the organization R.A.T (Run against Trafficking)  based out of Phoenix AZ, have worked for the past three years and raised thousands of dollars advocating for programs that assist victims of human trafficking. Through a series of events including a visit to Myanmar in 2013, they solidified their desire to come over and implement a similar strategy to raise awareness through their 5K R.A.T race. Three weeks prior to our visit they had facilitated their first run, which we learned was the first non-profit run in the history of Myanmar. It was a huge success and opened many doors with local leaders. We enjoyed hearing their stories of near misses and moments of divine orchestration at exactly the right time.

One afternoon, Brenda and Nola introduced us to their friend Rick Chase, who told us his story of working in refuge camps back in Canada and hearing the tragic stories of the people of Myanmar. He said, these stories inspired he and his family to give up everything in Vancouver to try to make a change. After doing a bit of research, Rick found that helping to meet a nutritional need was one ways he have a major impact. He decided to take a risk and start a local soy milk business called¬†Snowball Soy. He shared his struggles of starting a business in a foreign country but his vision¬†to feed one million people, orphans especially, across Myanmar, seemed to rise above the struggles. He’s brought over¬†a Canadian invention called a¬†Vitagoat¬†soy food processing machine. The machines are inexpensive to set up and can be run without any electricity, which means a Vitagoat can be used not just in urban areas, but in refugee camps and the middle of the jungle.

While at lunch with Rick, we made note of his language skills and he said that it was a necessity to learn the language and learn it well. He said he felt that it was a major contributing factor in the success of his business. We concurred and enjoyed the benefit of having someone with us that could communicate in the native tongue as our food seemed to taste better and arrive quicker than normal.

IMG_9036On another occasion, in our little neighborhood, we were invited by Mai, the owner of the condo apartments we were staying at, to perform a concert for the locals on her front porch. As we set up our instruments, people from up and down the street began to gather around. Music is a universal language and for that one hour we all spoke that same language and sang our hearts out. Merrymaking on the streets of Yangon was a highlight to be sure and meeting sweet Mai, her family and all of her neighbors was a sheer delight.

As the week progressed, I found myself ill and in bed but Craig and the kids continued to explore. Craig was quite popular on the streets of Yangon and found welcome in most places with his huge mustache and bright smile.

IMG_9087As he wandered the streets, he was especially fascinated with the construction process, tools and crews. At one point, he was watching in wonderment as a crew build a three-story building. One of the workers noticed him and waved him up to the third floor take a closer look. Language was a barrier but the smiles and hand gestures were enough to understand the process. The manual labor component was intense as they would mix the concrete by hand below and then take turns carrying the loads in metal bowls, on their heads, up to the third floor, in flip flops on uneven surfaces. Craig was especially in awe of the women on the crew who would carry the same weight on their heads as the men.

Then, on one occasion, Craig popped into a convenience store looking for a calendar of the infamous Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi. As he entered, the young man behind the counter quickly ran to the back of the shop to hide behind a curtain. Soon a few heads were peaking around the corner at Craig, hands to their faces to hold in their giggles. Eventually, they pushed a young girl forward and she slowly walked to the counter, eying Craig up and down with a big smile on her face, making a gesture with her hands above her lip clearly communicating that he was quite the sight. He got a kick out of their playfulness but didn’t find his calendar there. However, later, Mai from the condo, handed Craig a gift and it had a lovely calendar for him.

IMG_0019On another occasion, Craig was walking near the train tracks and saw an old-fashioned train control center. He began to poke in and around the building and was eventually invited by the two fella’s manning the booth, to come in.

He was excited to able to get up close and have a good look at the vintage mechanics of using levers to change train tracks. He walked in with his shoes on, which was a no no but the fella’s graciously gestured for him to remove them. Once again, despite the language barrier, these fella‚Äôs seemed quite happy to have Craig’s company for a little while; they admiring his big red mustache and he admiring their lever system.


IMG_9032And of course, you can‚Äôt go to Yangon without stopping by the ancient billion dollar pagoda in the city center. Craig and the kid went to visit the¬†Shwedagon Pagoda, known as¬†the most sacred¬†Buddhist¬†pagoda in Myanmar. It apparently contains¬†relics¬†of the four previous¬†Buddhas¬†of the present¬†kalpa. These relics include the staff of¬†Kakusandha, the water filter of¬†KoŠĻáńĀgamana, a piece of the robe of¬†Kassapa, and eight strands of hair from the head of¬†Gautama. According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda was constructed more than 2,600 years ago, making it the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. Out of respect, no one can wear any clothing that shows¬†their¬†knees, so our son, who had gone in shorts, had to purchase a¬†traditional¬†longyis¬†and wear that throughout the grounds. He rocked it out.

IMG_9030History, traditions and legends aside, it was the immense amount of gold and jewels in the temple that really made an impact on the kids. When they returned they told me of the grandness¬†¬†of the pagoda, exclaiming that it‚Äôs worth was upwards near US$4 billion dollars. My mind couldn‚Äôt grasp what $4billion dollars in a constructed building would look like but they¬†described¬†it well¬†telling¬†of the¬†half a tonne of gold in Shwedagon‚Äôs umbrella alone. Then there was the 5500 diamonds ‚Äď the largest of which is similar in size to one that Sotheby‚Äôs auctioned for $10-12 million, and gems galore, including 2300 rubies, sapphires, and other gems, in the main spire and 4000 golden bells. Then there was the gold, jewels, and 21st-century LED displays that swirls around many of the Buddhas. Actually, it was quite overwhelming to even think about. With all the jewels abounding, we could imagine a hilarious Pink Panther movie being filmed here!

IMG_9045Near the end of our stay in Yangon we met Polly, a shop owner across the street from where we were staying. Her little sewing shop was called Gold Rose Design and Creation and she had about eight young ladies working for her. I decided to pop my head in and see about having my pants altered before we flew to Singapore the next day. She assured me they would be finished by evening and asked me to stop back then. I went back to our host home to pack and prepare for the journey ahead. We shared our last meal with Brenda and Nola at a local joint across the way and then went back to get my pants from the Gold Rose. It was about 10pm when I arrived and some of the girls were working on a beautiful beaded piece, others were cleaning up for the day. I sat down on one of the stools and began to chat with Polly, who spoke english fairly well. She shared a little bit of her story stating that she, her husband and little daughter owned the humble little sewing shop.

IMG_9069The more I listened, asked questions and navigated language, I realized Polly’s business was a creative way of caring for her community. She was providing a safe environment for her students and workers to learn and grow. Her sewing shop was a wonderful beckon of light and offered Polly and opportunity to nurture and train up young women by equipping them not only with a skill set but with a beautiful understanding of self-worth.  As I went to pay for her service, she waved her hand and said, no, this is a gift for you. Then she handed both my daughter and myself beautiful scarves as a gift as well. I was in tears by this point feeling the love that comes when we are showered with gifts. It’s meeting people like Polly that gives us hope. And, that’s what I would say about the most of the Myanmar people we had the delight to encounter. They were authentic in their interactions and genuinely hospitable people. They cared for us in their kind looks/gestures, guided us across busy streets, smiled at us with friendly amusement, and they blessed us with radical hospitality.

What a joy to be able to catch a glimpse of all the inner makings of the local people in places far off and lands of wonder. I hope that one day, we will be invited back and that when we come that we can bless our friends in Myanmar as much as we’ve felt blessed by them.