1.19.2010

Jungle-Ality

I have had a bloggy request.  And since I'm at a loss for anything to discuss except The Great Living Room Remodel of Twenty Ten, which I'm most certain you are tired of hearing about (because I am), then I am more than happy to oblige.  That and because my good good buddy New Every Morning asked me to.

I think I've discussed my childhood in bits and pieces before.  But I don't know that I've ever devoted an entire blog post to my jungle-ality

I'm a jungle girl.  Raised where coconut and banana trees stretched tall to the muted gray skies.  The rivers and ponds were dirty and infested, and mud and dirt seemed to grow easier than grass.  The flowers were more beautiful than anything I have ever seen, and the dark hues of the people's skin were as pure and beautiful as chocolate. 

When I was a toddler, my parents began the very long process of preparing themselves and our family for a life of service on the mission field.  I have never in my life met anyone with more of a mission-minded heart than my father, and we were about to embark on a journey that would forever change all of our lives.  Our family had a few hiccups in the process what with some medical delays and such, but when I was 5 years old we said goodbye to our grandparents and extended family and boarded a plane for Asia to become part of the Foreign Mission Board family (now the International Mission Board, or IMB). 

We spent almost 4 years in Bangladesh, a very primitive 3rd world country that juts up next to India.



We lived in the capital city of Dhaka for a year while my parents were in language school.  My sister and I attended an American School during that time, and our whole family settled into a period of trying to adjust to the tremendous culture shock that comes with moving to the jungle from the land that flows with Walmart and super sized fries.  I think everyone would agree that I had the easiest time of any of us.  As a small child, I acclimated well. I became fluent in the language, spent endless hours playing with my ayah and the other household servants, and learning to love the food and the environment.  That new world was full of things to explore and learn and do, and I soaked it up.



After a year, my parents, equipped with the language well enough to begin their ministry, packed our family up and moved us to village life.  We lived in the village of Comilla for our remaining time in Bangladesh (If you look on the map:  just southeast of Dhaka).  Our home was inside a large gated compound, which provided me the opportunity to spend a lot of time outside playing.  Being young, I never noticed the people hanging out of their apartment windows just to catch a glimpse of my white skin and blonde hair.  My sister, however, was older and did notice.  And she rarely left the house because of it.



Michele and I were homeschooled during that period of time in Comilla, and when she reached 9th grade, she went to boarding school in Thailand leaving me an only child.  I spent my days playing in my room and busying myself with my toys and playing with our servants...my only playmates.  Our gardener and day guard was a Muslim man named Abdul, and he became my best friend.  I know that sounds weird and strange...but it wasn't.  He watched out for me and never tired of me "helping" him in the garden (or at least never let on that he did!).


That's me and Abdul shelling peas. 

My dad was heavily involved in one of our mission's primary ministries, installing tubewells in villages so that the people would have access to clean drinking water.  He also provided a means of income for local village women by giving them embroidery projects.  Dad's sewing circle changed the lives of many families in Comilla both financially and spiritually.  Dad was also involved in relief work and spent many days out of the week in the villages sharing the Gospel with the Bengali people.


A village woman fetching water from a newly installed tube well.


Jim-Dad teaching his sewing class.  If you look on the board, you can see that he was writing in the native language. 


What came from the hands of one of the ladies in the circle.  Gosh. It's beautiful, isn't it?


My dad overseeing a boat building project as relief work.


Sharing a meal with a gathering of villagers.  That's right.  Eat with your hands.  On the ground.  Only way to eat curry! *wink*


When I was 8 years old, my dad answered the Call to transfer our family's ministry to Thailand. 



The English speaking church in Bangkok was in need of not only a pastor, but of general help.  The church was struggling and needed strong leadership.  Our family moved into the parsonage next door to the church, and my dad got right to work.  Another bonus was that my sister, who had been in boarding school there, was able to move back in with us.

My sister and I attended the International School of Bangkok, and quickly settled into modernized and Westernized life.

Thailand (or at least the parts that we were in) were so very different from Bangladesh.  The hustle and bustle of the Bangkok city were a far cry from the mud huts and dirt roads of village life.  We quickly became used to the shopping and the luxuries that come with a booming Asian metropolis.  McDonald's.  And department stores.  And swanky hotels.  And enormous buffets of food.  Definitely not the onslaught of poverty that had been staring us in the face the previous 4 years.

It's actually very sad how easy it is to become so used to modern conveniences.  Regrettably, it didn't take long for my mind to shift gears and focus.

My dad remained the pastor of the church there in Bangkok until I finished up my 8th grade year.  My sister had already returned to the States to attend college, and my parents were being faced with the decision about my schooling.  The options had turned to boarding school for me or homeschooling, and after much prayer, my family packed up and headed across the big water.

I started 9th grade in an American high school, and my dad became involved in mission ministry here in the States.  And we've been here ever since.

Of experiences on the mission field, most siblings tend to share memories and outlooks.  My sister and I, however, are very different on our takes as MKs (missionary kids).

She struggled when she was younger.  I didn't.  I struggled when I was older.  She didn't.  While she holds our time in Thailand dear, I hold our time in Bangladesh as treasured.

I'm a jungle girl.  That time of my life stirred something in me that I feel shaped me to be adventurous and eager to see and try new things.  Though I can become grossly entrenched in bouts of materialism, the memories of nothingness and poverty haunt me.  The people of Bangladesh still hold a special place in my heart, and I would love one day to revisit.  To see it.  To minister.  To show my husband and my children where I come from.

The old adage is most certainly true.

You can take the girl out of the jungle. 

But you can't take the jungle out of the girl.

No matter how many pairs of GAP jeans and Quarter Pounders you buy her.  You just can't.

18 comments:

Jim said...

Amb,
Onek donnabad, amar mey. (Much thanks, my daughter.) You've whet-ted my appetite for more. You mention wanting to go back sometime. I did tell you that I do have plans to travel there next fall for two weeks with cousin Ray, to do some teaching of new believers. I hope my bangla language returns a little, though we should have translators to do the primary.

I've got some more picts on the way. Maybe you can do a follow-up, if it is requested.

It occurs to me that I have a "jungle" mey and a "city" may. Dujon mey, ekjon "bon" and ekjon "shohor" (one forest/jungle person and one city person).

Live long and prosper! Oops, wrong culture.

Jim-Dad

Mich said...

I'll admit it...I am a city gal.

But not all my memories of the "jungle" are bad. I don't regret that time, for I think it made me a more compassionate human being and "aware" of how the other half of the world lives.

thanks for the journey down memory lane.

Love ya!

Tiffani said...

Well, I'm weepy.

I know we've discussed this but I am just enthralled by the selflessness your parents had and the fact that they were able to teach you girls SO much through all of that...wow.

I hope I can leave a legacy and plant a place in my children's heart that have them not only hungry for Jesus but hungry to share Him to far reaching places..way outside their comfort zones.

I loved seeing your Mom in traditional clothing and I can just see the sparkle in Jim-Dad's face (Jim-Dad you are something else)...

I think you all will return one day, I do.

I love you, jungle girl!

Marla Taviano said...

I'm not even going to let myself read this post until my girls are in bed.

But Oh. My. Word. I know it's going to be my favorite post of EVER EVER EVER.

Elizabeth said...

It's all so fascinating! I knew you grew up in Bangladesh and Thailand, and that that time was dear to you, I just never imagined what it was really like. What a sweet time you had! I loved reading about it.

And it makes sense to me that your older sister struggled, and it's sad that she did. I had many, many clients at JBU who had grown up on the mission field or whose parents were there, and it was often hard for them to find a place for themselves. They truly were "third-culture kids" and it took a while to figure out how to reconcile American life with what they knew from the mission field. My best friend grew up in Ecuador, and though she loved it, she said it took its toll on all of them.

I'm so glad to know you, jungle girl (I admit, I am a city girl)!!

Lindsay said...

Amber, I knew you were an MK but forgotten where. Tis fun seeing pictures and hearing your heart. I truly hope that you can return perhaps with Jim Dad. Don't know if Kirk has a call for missions on his heart. Praying that doors will open for you and your family.

Gretchen said...

Amber...I treasure this post. It's as if you fashioned a little key & unlocked your heart in this post. Sorry if that sounds sappy, but that's the only way I know to describe it. I'm honored that you shared. Honored that I get to call you friend. Thankful that there are godly parents, like your parents, who heard AND heeded the call on their hearts, despite their own personal hardships associated w/leaving their home.

Kellie said...

Amber,

This is amazing! I never knew you were an MK.

I love the picture you painted...such a beautiful picture!

I also loved your Dad's comment...it made me laugh and cry!

Jo said...

Great post, Amb! I loved the pics and the narration.
Mom really was happy she was able to go to Bangladesh to visit you guys. She really did enjoy it.
And, I was happy to be able to go to Bangkok to see you all. It was a wonderful experience. Do you remember my solo shopping trip? When I finally got back to the house, your dad was all over me for getting home so late. You girls were about to bust a gut because it was someone besides YOU, getting a talking-to! It's funny to me NOW!

Luvya,
Aunt Jo

Marla Taviano said...

I don't have the words for how this post made me feel. My aunt, uncle and cousins were missionaries in Indonesia when we were growing up. I know I glamour-ized what they did, but I was so envious.

Did my student teaching on the island of Okinawa. Not quite jungly, but the closest I've been.

Desperately want to visit our church's orphanage in Cambodia.

I feel like I'm a jungle girl, but I despise mosquitos.

Anyway, our whole Zoo Adventure last year started because I want to see the world. I can't right now, but I can see animals from Asia and Africa and Australia Sout America and at least feel like I'm a jungle girl for a couple hours at a time.

YOU ROCK.

Marla Taviano said...

And I just realized I didn't even say ANYTHING that I meant to say about your post. Thank you so much for sharing. That was awesome. I would loooooove to hear more about your life as an MK.

Becca~TimeWellSpent said...

This was amazingly interesting! I loved reading about how you grew up and seeing the pictures. You really did/do have some special parents and it shows in their daugthers lives!

Cathy said...

I LOVE that I just got another HUGE peek into your beautiful soul.

I heart ya, Jungle Girl. (don't want you to forget it.)

Terry Lewallen said...

Amber-
Loved reading this post and I love that you are a jungle girl.
I would certainly like to see the pics Jim-Dad is sending in a follow up post. I bet your boys love hearing stories from the jungle.

New Every Morning said...

Girlie, you are the kind of friend that if I asked for a scoop of ice-cream, you'd give me a triple-scoop banana split with extra hot fudge. When I requested a post on your time in the jungle, I had no idea that you would go all out with so many (beautiful) pictures and MAPS! (Which, for this geography buff, I totally appreciated).

I am touched by the pictures of your parents in action. I think what I love most is that they had a heart for the people. Not only did they care about their spiritual needs, but also their physical needs. Please give your mom and Jim-dad a hug for me. I know I'll get to hug their necks one day in heaven, but I wish I could today. ;)

Yes, I agree with your other peeps, we want a follow up post with more pics from Jim-dad's files. I want to know what you ate and if you are a picky eater now.
HUGS!!!

New Every Morning said...

Girlie, you are the kind of friend that if I asked for a scoop of ice-cream, you'd give me a triple-scoop banana split with extra hot fudge. When I requested a post on your time in the jungle, I had no idea that you would go all out with so many (beautiful) pictures and MAPS! (Which, for this geography buff, I totally appreciated).

I am touched by the pictures of your parents in action. I think what I love most is that they had a heart for the people. Not only did they care about their spiritual needs, but also their physical needs. Please give your mom and Jim-dad a hug for me. I know I'll get to hug their necks one day in heaven, but I wish I could today. ;)

Yes, I agree with your other peeps, we want a follow up post with more pics from Jim-dad's files. I want to know what you ate and if you are a picky eater now.
HUGS!!!

Carpool Queen said...

I'm going to combine comments here for this post and the one you posted today. I'd taken a while to think about my response because I, too, struggled as I was older to make sense of the experiences that God brought me through as an MK.

Somedays I don't have it all thought through. Some days I am overwhelmed by how significantly that experience impacts me in how I parent, how I shop, how I watch television, and how I communicate with others.

God has given us an extraordinary and unique perspective, hasn't He? Figuring out what to do with it is still a work in progress.

whimzie said...

As you may have guessed, I have a special place in my heart for you MKs. I know that until God put Susan in my life I didn't have the appreciation for missions that I do now. I didn't understand the sacrifice your families make or how you deeply you are forever changed for your lives in other countries and cultures.
This was so beautifully written. I know exactly what Gretchen means by the key and the heart. I just love this post.