Morning Market

on Friday, March 27, 2009

When you live somewhere awhile life becomes so ordinary. The market just becomes a market. The chicken man does his highly-unsanitary thing day after day and you don't even think about it (and never seems to display salmonella symptoms). The American oldies songs blaring from the speakers at the Chinese market are only mildly entertaining. You don't bat an eye at the rats scurrying about. I end up at the Tanjung Bungah wet market at least twice a week for my food shopping. And I just realized that I'm really going to miss this when I leave. It's not your typical American grocery shopping experience. So this morning I brought my camera to capture it in pictures.

Veggie Man. Every time he tries to convince me to buy celery. I hate celery.

Yummy fruits!

My egg lady. She's the one that introduced me to the double-yolk eggs.

The chicken man. This has "salmonella" written all over it.

Breakfast at the market. My favorite tosei/chapati lady is in the middle stall.

My dear masala tosei...I will miss you when I leave.

A steaming bowl of Wantan Mee, one of my Chinese favorites. Yes, noodles for breakfast is normal here.

Mister Stray Market Dog

Chironex fleckeri

on Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I saw the movie Seven Pounds today. Way to go, Will! He pulled off another great one. A little perplexing, perhaps, but he was great in it.

I come away from this movie with one side effect: I am now terrified of box jellyfish. I cannot tell you why, because it would completely ruin the movie, which you should go see.

For a few weeks now, there have been rumors of box jellyfish being along the Penang coastline. I've seen my fair share of smacks (that's what a group of jellyfish is called - which is, coincidentally, pretty much the only piece of information I can recall from my 3 years as a biology major at SPU) at the beach over the past few months, but I have no way of knowing what kind they are. I'm no sea jelly expert. But whether they are Chironex fleckeri or not doesn't really matter to me; I'll stay out of the water no matter what. They must flourish in the Island's polluted waters and gorge themselves on the EColi. Yummy yummy.

This is just one of many jellyfish I found on the beach 2 years ago. Chironex fleckeri, perhaps???????

Interesting facts: Box jellyfish have the most deadly venom of all the animal kingdom. "You have virtually no chance of surviving the venomous sting, unless treated immediately. The pain is so excruciating and overwhelming that you would most likely go into shock and drown before reaching the shore." "Box jellies are not 'dim-witted ocean drifters' but 'fast, active predators that hunt and kill with incredible speed and brutality.'"

Krista and I went sea kayaking on Sunday. We saw jelly-fish and only casually and nonchalantly steered around it. Thank God we waited until today to this movie, otherwise it would have given us quite a fright.

Perhaps we should invest in some 'stinger suits'. Maybe the Malays have known this all along when they started marketing the Muslim-inspired swim-wear:

Day 1

on Sunday, March 22, 2009
The following takes place between 6:00am and 12:00am. Events occur in real time. [Tribute to "24"]

0600 – I wake up. Pre-run meal: part of a PowerBar and a banana. Goal: A long run by myself and avoid as much traffic as possible.

0620 – On the road running. No cars or trucks whizzing by for the first 13 minutes – just me and Coldplay. Glorious! [although most of that time was running around the parking lot – but that doesn’t make it any less of a miracle]

0625 – The early birds are beginning to emerge from the blackness and gather for the earliest morning gossip at the local kedai kopi (coffee shop). The Indian eatery has yet to receive its first customer as I run by.

0640 – Some punk at the Tanjung Bungah Beach Hotel terrorizes me with a green laser pen for about 100 meters. I spot the perpetrator from the his (I'm assuming it's a he) hotel window. Isn't that more of a late-night activity?

0700 – I catch my first glimpse of the glorious horizon and the sea as I approach the Seri Tanjung Bungah boardwalk.

0710 – I pass the multi-million dollar houses into the migrant-worker housing. Since last week, they have caged in (such a bad way to term it, but it’s exactly how it sounds) their ‘housing’ (aka shipping crates), so they are no longer visible. No more public tooth-brushing or shameless bathing beauties. A few of them are out enjoying the sunrise also. I stop to eat my Jelly Belly Sport Beans....mmmm yummy.

0730 – I drink the last of my Gatorade and trudge up the most daunting of the hills. I make it to the top, thanks to Celine Dion. Early morning calm is over, and traffic chokes the streets (and me). I notice that I get more beep-beeps from the motorbikes when I'm alone.

0750 – I spot a rather large monitor lizard in the creek/sludge. One more hill, then I'm finished! I take some time to stretch on the playground equipment and hobble back to my place to make breakfast - which I'm not particularly hungry for; but I gotta eat!

1000 – Church.

1200 – We get dropped off at the mall. Didn’t actually want to go here, but that’s as far as our ride went. We don't even go inside - instead we take the bus the rest of the way home.

1300 – I try to take a nap, but to no avail. I was engrossed by a National Geographic article about the origin of blue eyes in humans. A mutation of just one letter in the entire human genome, the blue eyed beauties apparently emerged just 6-10,000 years ago, in some Neolithic farmer somewhere around the Black Sea. In Typical Darwinian fashion, they say that blue eyes is associated with paler skin, which admits more sunlight needed to synthesize vitamin D - hence blue eyes help people survive. Or, our blue-eyed friends may have been more attractive to the opposite sex - thus propagating the trait faster than boring old brown eyes.

1500 – Sea kayaking. My first time taking out a kayak in Penang, we go along the Tanjung Bungah beach coast-line. The wild-life was plentiful: jelly-fish, swarms of squid, and the ubiquitous Tiger beer bottle.

2000 – ESL classes with the Nepalis. My beginner class (the middle of the 3 classes) has 4 faithful students. Thank God I’m not teaching; I think my brain would explode. In the state I'm in right now, my English is about the same level as theirs. “Mother, father, son, daughter, grandmother, grandfather, sister, brother, wife, husband”! Good job guys!

2200 – Late night snack with my fellow teacher volunteers in little India - fresh tosai and naan doesn't get any better than this!

2300 – Finally, the day is done! I stay up for an extra hour watching some ridiculous Kelsea Grammar sitcom on TV, and writing this.

2400 - I crawl wearily into bed. Peculiarly, I'm not as tired as I should be.

Electricity in Preschool

on Friday, March 20, 2009
I read really fast. I was always a fast reader – in preschool I prided myself in the fact that I could read the word “electricity”. Is that normal for a preschooler? Perhaps it is simply average…maybe I was a just a mediocre kid; I’ll never know.

I read lots of books, on all sorts of different and interesting topics. Normally, I am reading at least 3 books at a time: one for pleasure (good old John Grisham or ever entertaining Jane Austin), one for learning (author of the moment – Howard Hendricks), and one for spiritual growth (still plugging away at Celebration of Discipline). I like it this way – I can read depending on my mood.

I’ve read a lot of books in the past 2 years – I can’t even remember which ones. What did I learn from all this reading, you might ask? Absolutely nothing. Which brings me to my point.

I have decided to try something different from now on. Obviously my reading strategy wasn’t working for me – I need a new technique. Ol’ Hendricks has a great idea – spend more time reflecting. If you have an hour allotted for reading, for example, spend 30 minutes reading and 30 minutes reflecting. That’s my problem. I don’t reflect. I cruise through a book, thinking “oh, this is interesting”, but I never think about the words beyond the pages of the book. So the first thing that I chose to reflect on was about how to reflect on your reading...hmm.

I’ve learned a lot since I’ve started using this technique. It really works - I should start my own infomercial! In honor of this new method I have adopted, here’s a few things I learned, off-hand. (The only reason I can remember them off-hand is that I though and reflected on them – amazing!)

“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent or gifted people, but for deep people”. (Richard J. Foster) Depth of experience, depth of wisdom, conversation, thinking, prayer - whatever. I’m tired of talking about American Idol and the weather. It’s high time we moved out of the comfort of superficiality and into the vulnerability and riskiness of depth. It’s worth it.

Mining 1 ounce of gold (about the amount used in an average wedding ring) displaces about 250 tons of rock and ore. But it’s not just about the environment; think you’re doing your good deed for the world by not buying ‘blood diamonds’? One third of all the world’s gold is illegally mined, and some is used to fund violence. Dirty gold. (From National Geographic)

“Jesus looked on him and loved him” – Mark 10:21
The Bible is amazing because it is packed with so many layers of depth and insight. Whether you skim the book of Mark as a whole or study the dots and the commas, it reveals something new and rich and wonderful about the character of God. When we look at people, do we love them with real, genuine love from the heart? Do we love the FedEx man, the parking meter guy, and the strangers we stroll by? Jesus did. How wonderful – and challenging – are these seven words.

“Instead of asking God why there is so much poverty and suffering in the world, we should be asking ourselves why we allow it to happen; we are Christ’s body, hands, and feet”. (Shane Claiborne) If that’s not convicting, I don’t know what else is. Enough said.

Scaling my Teeth

on Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I love the dentist. The Treece family dentist, the beloved Dr. Parker, is legendary.

My family was so loyal to him that even when we moved from Tacoma to Yakima, we never changed dentists. My mom would pull us out of school for a day and make the 2.5 hour drive for our appointments every 6 months. It was great for me. Every appointment he kisses me on the forehead, asks me how the drive over the pass was (we would face snow storms on Snoqualmie Pass to get to him), and how school is. Am I getting good grades? Am I staying away from boys? Am I flossing? He says I have the healthiest gums he's ever seen. Then afterward, he would give me a paper bag full of dental goodies: floss, toothbrushes, and a toy that I got to pick out from the infamous toy basket. Then after all of our appointments, he would give us lunch at the nearby burger joint. Then my mom, brother and I would go to McChord Air Force Base PX and shop. Since this was only a biannual event and the military makes things cheaper, we got away with getting all sorts of stuff that we normally couldn't get at home - God bless the Armed Forces! All of this (with the exception of the toy basket) happened the same way for 15 years. My mom has a polaroid picture of me and Dr. Parker that was taken at my FIRST dentist appointment. My last appointment with Dr. Parker was in 2008.

Today I went to see a new dentist: Dr. KK Ong. Since I'm going home without dental coverage (and Dr. Parker probably isn't nice enough to do me free of charge), I thought it was high time to get some work done on my pearly whites before I return home to the extorting dentists of America.

I was a little wary of seeing the dentist. Not because it's a dentist here in Malaysia - I have full confidence in them, despite what my mother tries to tell me. It's because no other person has worked on my teeth besides my beloved childhood (and grown up) dentist, Dr. Parker.

The first thing Dr. Ong noticed was my "milk tooth": The baby tooth that I still retain on my lower jaw. "It's very rare" he says, "only one in two or three thousand." I told him it was genetic - my mom and my brother both have one, in the same exact spot in our mouths. The Treeces are a genetic anomaly. He was even able to show me on his super deluxe tooth camera hooked up to the TV screen in front of me.

All I wanted done was a cleaning. They tried to convince me to have some scaling done, but then I realized that "scaling" meant "cleaning". Scaling is the weaker version of cleaning I think, because my teeth don't feel very clean. He just sprayed sodium bicarbonate all over my mouth and face. I miss Mr. Parker's cleaning...he really got in there. Plus, he would let me choose the flavor of the toothpaste AND mouthwash.

Then Dr. Ong started acting kind of wierd. He was saying over and over, "Sorry, I'm very sorry, but unfortunately..." You'd think I was about to die of gingivitis. Turns out I had a hole in my tooth. He showed me on the super deluxe tooth camera - yup, I have a hole in my tooth. A small hole, but still an empty void near my gum line. He kept being all sympathetic about it like I just lost a child or something. Just fill it, Dr. Ong - I'm tough, I can take it. My teeth have been through everything. An x-ray and a 10-minute filling later, I was finished. No more hole.

Scaling, an x-ray, and a filling, all for $40! But no complimentary floss or toothbrush. I miss you Dr. Parker :(

Free day

on Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I had a long weekend and I am still tired. Today, I game myself a day off. It is Tuesday and I normally feel like I should be doing something productive, but I woke up this morning determined to do exactly the opposite.

So I got up, read a little, ate breakfast, and checked my email. I found an essay that I had written in college: "The evolution of man". I needed to find a writing sample for another piece of my grad school application and I was a little worried about finding one since my computer crashed right after I graduated. This is the lone piece of writing that I was able to salvage from my SPU email account, besides some statistical analyses from biostatistics! Therefore my application will include “the evolution of man”:

“There are many questions yet to be answered regarding human evolution; only time will tell if we will ever fully understand the origin of humankind.”

Thought provoking, erin. That was for BIO 4330: Evolutionary Mechanisms. I miss Dr. Nelson.

Then I ate leftovers for lunch and the postman stopped by and delivered a package from my mom. A Gatorade packet exploded red powder all over its contents, but it doesn’t make the dried Costco cranberries any less delicious.

I went to the gym and lifted weights, then I went for a swim. I came back and made myself a delicious cup of tea with my new Pakistani masala spice mix. Last weekend I was determined to find some masala tea powder, and I visited every single one of the spice shops in Little India to find it. The Pakistani stuff is good enough for me. Over this hot cup of chai I read an article on an IceHotel in Sweden. Apparently they make the snow that they use for the building; artificially-made snowflakes are more compact and freezes clearer than natural snow. Fascinating.

I went to the pasar malam (night market) to buy fruits and veggies. For dinner, I ate one of my favorites: Prawn Mee. mmmmmm

This evening I read the chapter on "service" in Foster's Celebration of Discipline. I learned that it is an act of service to allow other people to serve you. Serving others comes pretty naturally for me, but I don't often like to accept it from others...a trait I surely inherited from my mother. Foster says, "Those who, out of pride, refuse to be served are failing to submit to the divinely appointed leadership in the kingdom of God." (Kingdom of God leadership being....Whoever would be great among you must be your servant...." (Matt 20:25) We deny them the blessing of service if we don't accept their gift!

Then I found my long-lost Burmese roommate from 6 years ago! Not physically, but virtually, on the internet. I thought of her every once in a while last year when I was with the refugees here; and I was sad that I never heard her full story of how her family left Burma and made it to the States. Is her story as bad as the others I have heard? Were they able to come freely or were they resettled? Charis and I lived together for only a quarter - then I got a German for a roomie - I love you Jen :) But I did get to join in with her on some delicious Asian food and Burmese church services in Kent. She showed me around the Seattle Chinatown, and for that I am eternally grateful (especially in the coming 2 years!)

These are reflections of my random day. I could probably use another day like this tomorrow, but the morning beckons for an early run and never ending meetings.


on Monday, March 9, 2009
Introducing Evie Annabelle Treece!

She is the 7th addition to the young Treece generation! It all started off in 1996 when Hannah was born... I was just 12 years old. I remember pushing her stroller around my middle school. She turns 13 this November. She can babysit. In 3 years, she can drive a car. In 6 years she can vote. Wow that makes me feel old.
The Treece clan isn't finished producing babies yet, however; my sister Kerry going to have another little girl in May!

The irony of erininnepal

on Saturday, March 7, 2009
When I went to Nepal in 2002, I created a new email address: How creative. I used this up until last year when I switched to a boring gmail address. So I spent 6 years outside Nepal using an email address saying erin was in Nepal. This makes no sense. How ironic is it, then, that as soon as I change this email address I start again working with the Nepalese. And how strange is it that I came all the way to Malaysia to work with the Nepalese.

Nepali men come here to Malaysia as migrant workers. Unemployment is so high in Nepal, especially in the villages, that the nation sends many of it able-bodied men abroad. They end up working in factories, construction, and other tough jobs. If their employers are fair and honest, they can make enough money to send home to their families. If they aren't, they go into debt bondage and become trapped, quite literally. They work for 2 or 3 year contracts and go back to Nepal at the end of time. Like any normal person, they would love to stay home with their families more than anything, but they're never quite able to make the transition back into life at home. Many of them have become believers, and now that they've become the main income for the family they're expected to provide forever. So they go away for contract after contract, despite the families and wives and children they leave behind. One man in my class was in Malaysia for three years, and had a three year old daughter that he had never seen. He finally went back to Nepal last month. Can you imagine?

Our purpose is to help make that transition home a little easier. To give them the knowledge, ideas, and skills to go home, stay home, and make a positive difference in their communities. Things like principles of community development, the process of (and resistence to) change, and basic leadership skills, etc. I finished our first 12 week series in November. I was pretty sad about it ending, but I've gotten to see most of the guys since then. Two of them have gone home. There was one addition to the group when Rabin and Gita had their baby. Can you guess what they named it? Ragita.

I love these guys. I am so proud of them. They suffered through 12 whole weeks with me. I admire how big they dream despite their circumstances. What amazing visions they have for their villages and families back home. They can reach areas in Nepal that would be impossible for me to get to. So I don't even have to go to Nepal...they've come to me!!

Below are some pictures from our community transformation seminar.

Drawing maps of their communities - what they would look like if Jesus was Lord of their villages

Weighing risks/benefits of starting their own small business.

The graduates! They're all smiles until someone pulls a camera out.

The art of appreciation

on Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Oh, the things we take for granted...

I ran into a quote in Singapore that says 'the true voyage is not in seeking new lands, but seeing with new eyes.' If only our eyes could be opened to how ridiculously amazing everything is. Airplanes. Sidewalks (you don't miss them till they're gone). Velcro. The internet.

And for me, how incredible Malaysia is. The fact that I can see both the rainforest and the ocean from my balcony. There's a waterfall behind there too.

My easter peep and the sea.

I can get the most delicious Chinese and Indian food anytime I want. I have tile favorite. My airplane ticket to Bangkok cost me a whopping $66...who else could say that? I can drink the tap water (my mom would cringe). I can watch American Idol. I'm able to teach and make a difference in the lives of the poor. I can see movies for $2. I have my very own Malaysian 'tour guide/interpreter' with me always. What an amazing place I live in!!!
We get caught up on the few negative things about where we live that we lose sight of the many, many great things. I could get get mad at my neighbor's drum set, but then I get to hear the tropical birds singing on my balcony every morning. I may miss my Yakima peaches, nectarines, and plums, but I get to eat pineapple, papaya, and dragonfruit!! When I see that dead dog rotting away on the beach, I should be grateful that I leave so near to the sandy shores (as stinky as they are!)

People in general here grumble against the foreign workers from Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, and the Phillipines, but I am so grateful for such diversity and the opportunity to serve some of them! I don't even have to go to Indonesia, Nepal, and Bangladesh...they've come to us!

So turn that frown upside down!

This is the 5-star resort that is a 10 minute drive from my place...and my favorite beach chair.

Rags to Raja

on Sunday, March 1, 2009
So I recently heard this supposedly incredible movie called Slumdog Millionaire. It won 8 Oscars this year. Hmm, sounds interesting. Lucky for me, it just came out in the cinema here last week. I heard about some of the child actor controversy, but I decided that I wouldn't make an opinion about it until I saw the movie for myself. I wanted to see what the hype was all about, and if it was good because it really was good, for if it was good just because the media and the Oscar people told everyone it was. There's a difference, people.

And it was amazing!! What I love so much about it is that it didn't portray the slums and the people in a way that is asking people to pity them like other films raising social awareness(take Angelina Jolie's Beyond Borders, for one example). It went along the lines of Constant Gardener (and its portrayal of Kibera) in choosing to show life in the slums, rather than death. The last thing the poor need is more pity. Even if 500 people pity a poor man it makes no difference in his life if no one does anything about it. Instead of being a sad and tragic pity party, Slumdog Millionaire portrays India as vibrant, pulsating, devastating, and chaotic. It celebrates life. It weaves together passion and poverty. Love triumphs over all, even in the slums.

The UN approximates that 1 billion people today live in slums [And they predict this number will double by 2030]

Slum = “a heavily populated urban area characterised by substandard housing and squalor”. And possessing several of the following:
• Inadequate access to safe water;
• Inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure;
• Poor structural quality of housing;
• Overcrowding; and
• Insecure residential status.

This is a map representing the location of the 30 biggest "mega-slums" in the World (circle size correlates with population size), according to Davis' book "Planet of Slums":

Wow, look at Mexico city.

Anyway, it's easy to look at slums (or a picture of a slum or a picture of statistics of slums) and forget that people actually live there. It's more than corrugated metal and tarps and open sewers. One good thing about this film is that it shows that slums are more than slums-they're full of life and people. People aren't just the numbers or statistics that we hear in the news, but have names and faces and members of families- and somebody's loved ones. Life goes on. People go to work and school. And Jamal and Salim and Latika could have just as easily been Khumar, Samal, Agharia, who perhaps fared a far worse fate. I don't think the American audience is ready to see that yet.

Who cares if it's not Indian enough, as Bollywood claims. The book was written by an Indian and adapted for film by a was made to be a blend of both worlds. However, the song and dance number in the credits was rather weak, in my opinion. Let me tell you that as of this moment, the world has more than enough Bollywood films. There's enough song and dance numbers to last till the end of time; I feel like I have the authority to say this confidently because I have already seen half of them. Not that I'm not knocking on them or anything.