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Hello Kitty Dolls, or All I Want Is My Time

It took me six hours to write that last post, lost in a haze of thinking, happy writing, looking up links and wrestling with pics. I got up at 6 and was only done with the post by about 12. Now I wish my brain worked faster but here's the point:

If I was a working girl, where would I have gotten the time to go on and write up my journal (1 hour), read Bible and write the articles it makes me think of (1 hour), answer urgent e-mails (1 hour), tackle urgent todo's and creative projects (the rest of the day), contribute a dish* to the lunch I get to eat every day with my cousin, aunt, and Gramma (2 hours), wash clothes, clean ONE thing, keep up with my workout and stay outside in the sweet Georgia air for 1 hour, spend 30 minutes a day learning one language after another, or read even 5 of the websites I want to keep up with and comment on and perhaps write an article in response (1 hour), learn to sew the clothes I crave that I can't find anywhere (1 afternoon), and what about having time for people, or a food garden? What about cutting everything off at 7 PM and watching a movie for two hours before going to bed so that I'm not typing on a creative high into the wee hours of the morning? Not to mention that when I get back to Taiwan I'll be teaching Bible (x hours) and taking my baby sister to the university library every day (2 hours). And I'm not even married with kids to homeschool yet.

I couldn't make it through half of that even with the whole day to call my own.

But feminists say I would be better fulfilled with my time tied up in an office organizing some company's paperwork or answering the telephone. They say at least I would have my own paycheck ... on my feet all day serving people junk food at fast food restaurants or working in a factory putting out Hello Kitty dolls (I'd rather break my back plowing).

I found Virginia's Woolf's diaries so boring I couldn't finish them, but one thing that impressed me was how much she got to sit around reading and writing all day. I don't think Rosie the Riveter was a step up for womankind.



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* Hasn't happened yet. But at least I give killer head massages.

Tennessee v. Scotland

Update: It seemed to me that this article could be taken as bashing Tennessee and I just want to make it clear that Tennessee and Scotland are my two favorite places in the world.

1. My grandfather grew up in the mountains of Tennessee and as a boy would often disappear into them for the whole day with just his gun and his dog.

2. I live in Taiwan and every time the Chinese ask where I'm from, I say America, and they say where in America, and I always say Tennessee because that's where I identify with, where the largest part of my ancestors came from, even though most of my relatives are now scattered over Georgia and Florida. We were in Tennessee a lot during some of the vividest years of my childhood 8-9 and 13-14 and we stayed in many people's homes all over eastern Tennessee, Chattanooga, South Pittsburg, Jasper, Viola, Rockcliffe, etc. Driving over Monteagle always excited me, because I knew we were going to stay either with my great grandmother or my aunt and uncle or my great aunt and uncle. My great grandmother's house was thick with suggested memories floating around the hazy silent air of those huge cold rooms still furnished as they must have been a hundred years ago. I devoured the old magazines up in the attic bedrooms and looked longingly at the gorgeous hills outside. Thankfully the poem I wrote then is not at hand to torture you with, but it was something about imaginary boundaries that couldn't be seen and begging the wind to take me with it and set me free. Mind you, one of my mom's missions in life was to get us out walking in the mountains whenever she could but it wasn't always like you could step out the front door and take off on foot to wherever you wanted to go.

Excuses for seeming to prefer Scotland:

1. So Tennessee forever, but before my ancestors came to Tennessee they were Scotch Irish and Scotland is the only place that felt like it was throbbing through my bones as I walked it.

2. Scotland has a deeply engrained tradition of letting people walk wherever they want all over the land. Can you leave your front door and walk in a straight line over countless people's properties in Tennessee? Therefore any discussion of where to retire so as to easily get a healthy walk everyday and not wear a rut around your house if you didn't have a car would have to include Scotland.

Here's my original article:


Someone asked me recently what I thought about retiring in Tennessee versus Scotland, because they knew I had been to Scotland back in 2001.

After a few weeks here are my thoughts:

Tennessee - beautiful but you can barely walk anywhere because everyone's property is guarded by chows. At least that's what my grampa said when we wanted to go enjoy nature in Cherokee, North Carolina. You had to DRIVE to a designated forest walk. (I have nothing against driving but I don't have a car and probably never will.) He said that about Cherokee, but I'm assuming Tennessee is the same. (This also seems to be the case in small-town Georgia, only thankfully we were in a van when we got chased by pit bulls down the road.)

When we stayed with my great-grandmother near Viola, Tennessee, in an old columned house on top of a gorgeous hill, the gorgeous Tennessee scenery stretching in every direction was untouchable ... we could only walk on our own property. Again, there was a mountain trail to walk on ... if you drove to it.

Half the point of healthy country living is being able to walk through it. Tennessee does not make it easy to step outside your door and walk for hours.

Now in Skye, Scotland you can step outside your door and run shrieking for miles all over the hills. And it's not 20-minute trails. There are 3-hour, 5-hour, 8-hour and 10-hour trails all over the island. 94 of them. Browse and weep: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/skye/ (Be sure to click on the area and then the individual walks to see the photos.) I wanted to die with happiness walking there. I cannot say I have ever felt in such extremities walking in Tennessee, though I have been full of happiness DRIVING through Tennessee.



Scotland is a walker's paradise with a tradition of access to most land:

Rights of way are less extensive in Scotland than in England and Wales because there is a tradition of access to most land. Rights of way do exist, but there is no legal obligation on local authorities to record them, so they don’t appear on Ordnance Survey maps, though paths and tracks are shown on these maps as geographical features and you have a right to walk on most of these. (Ramblers)

I just love Scotland, open to all who want to walk their hearts out.

Look at the 41 walks right next door to Skye in Kintail and Lochalsh: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/kintail/ Look what they've got all over the highlands: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/ Or Google "walks" and "(name of place you were planning to move to)" and research it. Even Edinburgh with its castle and closes has a gigantic mountain park overlooking the city. And paths beside the weir winding through nooks and gardens all through the city.

When I returned from Scotland I looked up every hiking and biking trail in Scotland, wove them into one big trail on a map, planned out each day ... and it would take me six months to do it all. I dream.

But what if you want to live in both Tennessee and Scotland? How to afford the air fare switching back and forth every 6 months? See if you can make do with tiniest possible house and property in each place. I've always thought a great house had little to do with size and everything to do with smart design and ratio of windows to wall, how much it takes the outdoors in. The tiny homes on Google Image Search will make you drool, and then your head will explode.

Now, a lot more goes into choosing a place to retire than the ability to go walking everyday from your doorstep. How available is the church? How available do you need to be for family and grandkids? On the other hand, living in two worlds is an eye-opening education for anybody, not to mention any kids still in the nest.

You'll treasure your own country more dearly, coming back to it and seeing it from a contrast.

At the same time, if you've ever wanted the mental freedom to leave at a moment's notice, knowing you'll feel comfortable in either place, a second home in an adopted country will give you and your kids a facility of mobility and the peace of mind of having options and having tried it out. (It will not however give you the peace of avoiding airplanes ... unless you feel perfectly safe letting God determine the hour of your departure.)

Updated ending: Obviously I feel the best scenario would be to live in both Tennessee and Scotland if at all possible, but I would of course visit first and try out walks in both places before deciding where to move.

After 8 years away ... back in the USA .. Day 3

This trip was made possible by my dad (and beyond him all the people who sacrifice to keep us teaching Bible in Taiwan), who surprised me with a ticket to the States to go back and see my relatives whom I hadn't seen in 8 years.

Thursday, 16 September 2010 (Day 3)

At 10 AM we went for a short walk on the trail near their house ... Here is Uncle George saying hi to us as we set out ...




Joyce's photo


Joyce's photo





At my uncle's office ...




Joyce's photo

Riding back on the tailgate (do not try this at home) ...


Joyce's photo


Joyce's photo

... for lunch ...


Joyce's photo

... and laptopping ...



Then we drove the hour and a half to my Gramma's - Uncle George, Joyce and I talking the whole way. As soon as I got out of the car, my Aunt Jeannie hugged me tight and then said she thought that Gramma was waiting for me in the house. After hugging Gramma, the next thing I knew Keri, who had come in behind me, said, "Well, do I get a hug?" and squeezed me to her. Keri is the cousin who went with me to Scotland in 2001. Here we are talking afterward ...


Joyce's photo


Joyce's photo

Me and my gramma and cousin looking at the Chinese pastries Joyce brought:


Joyce's photo

Around the table over spaghetti ... they kept saying funny things, but I wasn't used to taking video yet ...




Joyce's photo


Joyce's photo

Gramma showed Joyce and me the movie August Rush that night.

Other posts in this series:

Day 1
Day 2
You are here: Day 3

If you would like me to share with a ladies' class or a girls' class, pictures of what we do in Taiwan, and show how some of the Chinese characters are related to the ancient Bible stories, attesting to the historicity of the first 11 chapters of Genesis, and showing that the God of the ancient Chinese was the God of the Bible ... drop me a comment and I'll contact you next time I'm in the States.

If you would like to help me make future trips back to the States for reporting and visiting my relatives, you may send a check made out to CHINA MISSION FUND (and earmarked "For Natasha's Travel & Working Fund").

CHINA MISSION FUND
Church of Christ
P.O. Box 7341
Paducah, KY 42002-7341

Or if you would like to contribute to my father's work, which is far more important because it keeps us all teaching Bible in Taiwan, just omit the earmarking.

I do not get a salary. I live with my parents and teach Bible to 15 people a week. Sharing the Bible is my life. I would be doing this regardless of whether I was a missionary or not and I expect that I'll be startling some Bible students by popping off in the middle of a Bible discussion at the age of 90. But I have been very blessed to have my father, mother, brothers, and sister with me in Taiwan all these years. So contributing to my father's work ultimately helps me teach Bible as well.

Brother Jim Phillips is the preacher at the church that maintains the China Mission Fund for us. If you would like to call him, you may do so at 1-270-527-7580.

After 8 years away ... back in the USA .. Day 2

This trip was made possible by my dad (and beyond him all the people who sacrifice to keep us teaching Bible in Taiwan), who surprised me with a ticket to the States to go back and see my relatives whom I hadn't seen in 8 years.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010 (Day 2)

Uncle George came to pick me up in the darkness of the early morning, and I hugged him as soon as he got inside the chain link fence. In the car I read the directions aloud to him that he had printed out for getting back to the airport. We were going to pick up my neighbor (and sister in Christ) Joyce who was flying in from visiting her brother in San Francisco.

I met Joyce's mom probably about 2 years ago in Taiwan. She went to the same exercise class I attended and stayed quite a few times for the Bible class I held afterward. She brought her daughter Joyce over to meet me when she was home on vacation and Joyce came to worship with us the next week. She was Methodist at the time and of course I got my dad to explain to her that she wasn't a christian until she had been immersed into Christ. She went away mad and we didn't see her for a few weeks. I thought she had gone back to Taipei and wrote her a long e-mail with all the Bible verses on immersion and she wrote back and said she just wanted to talk about other stuff.

Actually, she was living a block away from us and she couldn't forget what we'd told her, at the same time thinking we looked so normal. "They don't act crazy," she thought.

So about a month later she started studying Bible with us, and to this day she has one of the most tenaciously energetic minds I am fortunate to get to see often. She's cute and adorable and likes her privacy, yet she will write that letter, send off that box, fix up that website, ask that question, and discuss the scriptures with yet another new friend she's made on facebook, she eats and drinks Bible studies, and she's studying to be lawyer.

She was immersed into Christ last year and being on facebook so much, was soon corresponding with my relatives far more than I did. (I used to be a very lazy letter writer.) She became good friends with my gramma and when her parents decided to fly her to her brother's wedding in California, she arranged to fly out to Georgia and see my gramma for 2 weeks.

And that's why I'm here, still taking a moment every day to realize I'm actually here with people I only thought about seeing for years. I guess my dad thought it was an appropriate time to send me back to see my gramma as well. I will never be able to scratch his head enough when I get back.



After picking Joyce up, I sat in the back seat with her and 2 hours later we were in the country by the little town of Dearing with a cat and a dog and pine trees all around and rolling grass by a lake:





Joyce's photo



Aunt Melissa looking up a recipe ...



... for the most fabulous creamy wild rice soup. She made it according to this recipe but changed it by cooking onion, 2 carrots chopped, 1 celery chopped, and 2 garlic cloves in olive oil, and using milk instead of heavy cream ...



... with pickled okra and cornbread and oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip cookies:



Uncle George explaining canning:



Then we all napped. Here's a pic of the gorgeous bedroom ...


Joyce's photo

I woke up after another 3-hour sleep cycle to look at pictures. Here's my Gramma when she was 15 or 16:



Leaving for Wednesday Night Bible Study:


Joyce's photo



Joyce with some of the sisters:




Joyce's photo

One thing Uncle George had mentioned to me that morning while we were still driving back to the airport, was how glad he was that their church had finally gotten elders. He had not realized the difference that following God's pattern and having elders would make in the health and growth of a church. After that he started noticing the difference wherever he looked in other congregations as well.

And I thought of all our struggling congregations in Taiwan, not one of which has an eldership because we don't even have enough men to choose from. So, to all my married brothers and sisters in Taiwan ... please raise your children to be elders:

1 It is a trustworthy statement : if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God ?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

And all you single ladies, there's a FREE Four Seas School of Preaching in Singapore, a great place to find a guy also interested in the Bible. If you don't find someone there, hey, there's a Florida School of Preaching, an East Tennessee School of Preaching, etc.

We're the only (New Testament) church in a huge city. We can barely serve the people in our district much less all the other districts in this city. People might be willing to study with me if they only have to drive 15 minutes, but 60 minutes is enough to discourage most for the casual Bible study. And what about the towns 3 hours south of us who have nobody?

So please, all you christians in the USA, please raise your children to go to a sound Bible school and come over here as missionaries. They don't have to come permanently but if they could spare a few years getting a self-operating church up as soon as possible, that could thrive when they leave, that would be fantastic. I really do think the Chinese themselves make some of the most wonderful preachers in their own culture, but they need, all those without Christ need, someone to get them started.

On a more general topic: I could never understand people leaving the church because they felt there weren't enough members or a big enough youth group. If they were just switching between congregations, fine, but to stop attending? Doesn't that make it even worse for the ones who are left? "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country." (JFK) Isn't that the whole point of being a missionary? To go where there is no church and start one?

OK, off my soapbox. Next post: seeing my grandmother who I hadn't seen in 8 years!

2010.10.25 Update: I rewrote the part about Joyce because she had not actually gone back to Taipei like I thought. See her comment.

Other posts in this series:

Day 1
You are here: Day 2
Day 3

------------------------------

I am presently in the States. If you would like me to share with a ladies' class or a girls' class, pictures of what we do in Taiwan, and show how some of the Chinese characters are related to the ancient Bible stories, attesting to the historicity of the first 11 chapters of Genesis, and showing that the God of the ancient Chinese was the God of the Bible ... call 1-912-388-1952

If you would like to help me make future trips back to the States for reporting and visiting my relatives, you may send a check made out to CHINA MISSION FUND (and earmarked "For Natasha's Travel & Working Fund").

CHINA MISSION FUND
Church of Christ
P.O. Box 7341
Paducah, KY 42002-7341

Or if you would like to contribute to my father's work, which is far more important because it keeps us all teaching Bible in Taiwan, just omit the earmarking.

I do not get a salary. I live with my parents and teach Bible to 15 people a week. Sharing the Bible is my life. I would be doing this regardless of whether I was a missionary or not and I expect that I'll be startling some Bible students by popping off in the middle of a Bible discussion at the age of 90. But I have been very blessed to have my father, mother, brothers, and sister with me in Taiwan all these years. So contributing to my father's work ultimately helps me teach Bible as well.

Brother Jim Phillips is the preacher at the church that maintains the China Mission Fund for us. If you would like to call him, you may do so at 1-270-527-7580.

After 8 years away ... back in the USA ... Day 1

This trip was made possible by my dad (and beyond him all those who sacrifice to keep us teaching Bible in Taiwan) who surprised me with a ticket to the States to go back and see my relatives whom I hadn't seen in 8 years.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

I had been packing all month and all week just so I could get to bed early on these last few days, but I had only had 3 hours of sleep when I got up at 4:20 AM.

I remember being so afraid I was going to miss my entire TWD$44,000 flight, that I only gave a cursory last check of my packing list and forgot the charcoal for upset stomach, and the book on ancient Chinese characters showing evidence of the early Bible stories (Tower of Babel and before), but nothing serious like my ID or plane ticket.

My brother and I were out the door only a little after 5 AM. I like being able to scratch his head and talk with him in the car, but for the first time I was nervous at his ability to get me places fast on the now rain-slick roads. As it turned out I waited half an hour in the departure lounge anyway.

I was flying from Kaohsiung to Taoyuan to Tokyo to Chicago to Atlanta - four sets of take-offs and landings, the most dangerous part of flying. Usually I pray so hard I fell asleep during the landing on my last trip, but I was not nearly so scared this time, having been "scolded" by Sister Baby in Singapore, and having experienced the Wang family's dismissive attitude toward it as just going home early. So I had my brain set as considering that I was definitely going home one way or another - either back to America to see my relatives, or back to heaven to see God, which really wasn't so bad when I stopped to think of it.

I have this thing about fireballs. Don't like them. But I found if I viewed them as fantasy fiction like Meg Ryan jumping off the bridge in Kate & Leopold, or in this case God saying, "I need to speak to you a minute. Step right this way, through this fireball here" and I have to go through something to materialize on the other side -- then the flight was a lot more enjoyable. Christians are so lucky to have real-life fantasy.

(Please, I'm talking about overcoming a fear of flying here. Don't put me on a no-fly list.) 

My imagination can be inconvenient, as when it gives me the willies to swim alone in a swimming pool because all my brain wants to think about is a white shark in there with me, but I generally prefer to tell my brain what to feel, and trust God for the rest. For instance, we often have earthquakes in Taiwan, so what I prayed every night was more or less: "God please give me this one night peaceful to enjoy my bed. Tomorrow I might be covered in rubble, but I'm going to enjoy tonight. Because if it comes tomorrow it still doesn't mean it should have spoiled all the other 364 nights when I was wondering if it would come but it didn't. And if we do have one, after a reasonable 10 minutes outside waiting for aftershocks, please help me get right back to sleep and not wait around re-living what it just felt like." And I sleep wonderfully all the time, thank God.

Anyway back to the trip, on the flight to Tokyo there was a teenage girl in the window seat all dressed up in a flouncy Bo Peep outfit with at least 2 stuffed animals attached to her outfit and carrying a third tucked under her arm. I assumed she was Japanese because they tend to dress with more flair.

I had purposely reserved an aisle seat for the 11 hour flight from Tokyo to Chicago so that I could get up all I wanted to use the restroom and exercise without bothering anyone.

I had a bottle of water that I kept refilling at the back of the plane so I wouldn't have to bother the flight attendants for countless cups. I added a gram of C each time to combat the radiation at that altitude.

And I finally got up the nerve to exercise in the empty gallery at the back of the plane, doing Tai-Chi kicks and stretches, with yoga splits and back-bends and bend-overs, till I was warm and loose.

That was the best I've felt on a plane trip. Even though I eventually got so tired by the time I was on the flight from Chicago to Atlanta that the hand holding my very exciting Terry Brooks book would suddenly drop to my lap every page or so, still, in the following days it was the first time in my life I have had zero jetlag after flying half way around the world.

2 months ago I was going to bed at 8 and getting up at 3 in the morning. When I found out I was going to the States and started cramming Spanish, I was going to bed between 10 and 12 and getting up at 6. Then the last week, I was staying up till two in the morning (and taking COQ10 every night which did wonders for my oxygen levels and fatigue) to make sure everything would be packed in time for me to get some real sleep, which never happened, but when I finally got to bed again in the States even though I only got 3 hours again, mis-setting my alarm clock and having to get up in time anyway for Uncle George to pick me up in the morning, still that 3 hours was luxury compared to the famine of sleep on the airplane and since it was all in sleep cycle segments I felt normal and as aware as if I was still back in Taiwan. I also had no breakup of self-identity or exaggerated foot-in-mouth disease while traveling, for the first time in my life I was as put together and enjoying the flow as if I was entertaining people in my own home. Maybe it had to do, not only with having eased into traveling by having gone to Singapore 2 months before and then the camp retreat and Tracy coming to help out a few weekends and learning to deal with getting things done by keeping a fluid list on my desktop, and the self-awareness and exercise on the the plane, but also with meeting up with Joyce the next morning in Atlanta, her familiar face grounding me? Ironically, it was also the first time in years that I didn't take any melatonin or pills for jetlag during a trip.

Anyhow back to the trip. On the 11 hour flight from Tokyo to Chicago I sat next to another teenager with a stuffed animal. She had a little bear which she kept on her lap, smoothing it's ears and face with her fingers and sitting it in her lap, putting her glasses on it, and later using it as a pillow on her shoulder.

They showed the new Karate Kid with an adorable Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.

The next movie looked boring, about some city girl in France and we were eating anyway, but when I put the headphones back on I was fascinated by the heroine's conversation, every expression and sentence out of her mouth was so perfectly natural that I was mentally repeating every line and intonation after her as if I was trying to learn a new language, and I made a mental note to find the movie later so I could do it all over again. Found out weeks later it was Letters to Juliet.

When I got off the plane in Chicago the carpeted hallways smelled like potpourri.

The Forest Park Church of Christ in Atlanta kindly let me stay in one of their guesthouses so I could crash for the night before my Uncle George picked me up the next morning to go get Joyce from the airport. Brother Eddy Bettis and his son picked me up from the airport to take me to the guesthouse.

Brother Eddy Bettis and his son

I slept really well because I just do, and also because any time I had needed sleep on the airplane (taking care to micro-catnap so I wouldn't get loopy) I would just imagine how it had felt deliciously stretching out on my own bed in Taiwan. For some reason it had been super comfortable that last night and I kept the memory of it stored like a bubble in my brain as if I could climb in there and go to sleep.

Other posts in this series:

You are here: Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

* * *   * * *   * * *
I am presently in the States. If you would like me to share with a ladies' class or a girls' class, pictures of what we do in Taiwan, and show how some of the Chinese characters are related to the ancient Bible stories, attesting to the historicity of the first 11 chapters of Genesis, and showing that the God of the ancient Chinese was the God of the Bible ... call 1-912-388-1952

If you would like to help me make future trips back to the States for reporting and visiting my relatives, you may send a check made out to CHINA MISSION FUND (and earmarked "For Natasha's Travel & Working Fund").

CHINA MISSION FUND
Church of Christ
P.O. Box 7341
Paducah, KY 42002-7341

Or if you would like to contribute to my father's work, which is far more important because it keeps us all teaching Bible in Taiwan, just omit the earmarking.

I do not get a salary. I live with my parents and teach Bible to 15 people a week. Sharing the Bible is my life. I would be doing this regardless of whether I was a missionary or not and I expect that I'll be startling some Bible students by popping off in the middle of a Bible discussion at the age of 90. But I have been very blessed to have my father, mother, brothers, and sister with me in Taiwan all these years. So contributing to my father's work ultimately helps me teach Bible as well.

Brother Jim Phillips is the preacher at the church that maintains the China Mission Fund for us. If you would like to call him, you may do so at 1-270-527-7580.