...Because if you're not in Asia, you're in yesterday

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


"Hello! I hope that you are having a good week! It’s been a very busy two weeks for us here. We’ve been getting ready to come back to the States for a visit. Everyone in Vietnam loves big goodbyes. It’s really kind that they care about us and want to wish us well in our return to the States, but it’s also a bit overwhelming. David’s family had a farewell party for us in the countryside. It was a blistering hot day, which was made even hotter when cooking over an open fire. I included a photo. Also, in their kitchen, the chickens just run around freely. I’m glad that the bird flu isn’t a big thing now because chickens are everywhere!

One of my students invited me to her “hometown”. She said that it was in the countryside, so I had my reservations already. I pr*yed, prepared myself mentally, and set out on my motorbike with her. The farther we drove, the more nervous I became. I started feeling a bit worried when we started driving up a small mountain road. My worries then turned into almost sheer terror as I found myself driving through the mountainous jungle on a tiny dirt path. We drove through waterfalls, through tiny spaces with sheer drop-offs on either side, and finally, up to her front door. 

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t end there. For dinner, they served boiled whole fish rolled up in rice paper with “fish vegetable”, a vegetable that literally smells and tastes like rotten fish, rolled up in rice paper. I pr*yed a lot and asked for some tea. I knew I couldn’t make it through that meal without a drink like Vietnamese people normally do. I needed some liquid to choke down the fish! Thankfully, we made it back home in one piece, even if a bit shaken and shocked.

Since this past week was our last week of teaching, we baked cookies and took them in for all of our students. I was completely amazed when the first class ate all of the cookies, not leaving them half eaten on their desks. I seriously expected to find partially eaten cookies stashed under desks at the end of class. I was really surprised that all of the classes loved the cookies. After four years in Vietnam, I have finally discovered that sugar cookies are the best loved of all of the sweets I’ve served. I will definitely file that in my brain for next year.

I’ve been really hungry for butterscotch pie. I followed my Nana’s (Bea Winger) recipe, and worked hard to make a good dessert for us. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out like Nana’s, so I bemoaned this fact for a long time to "Boo-Boo". At the end of my whining, she said, “Well, did Nana bake her butterscotch pies in a rice cooker?” Good point! "Boo-Boo" is always wonderful at being my encourager when I get down in the dumps.

Another mishap happened this weekend. We went to Da Nang to visit the teachers one last time, as well as to sign our contract for the next school year. My family, friends, and even my boss in California had previously advised me not to get my hair cut in OUR CITY. I have been almost bald because of the “salon” there, so they told me to please go to Da Nang to a “real” salon. 

Well, "Boo-Boo" and I decided to do just that. We decided to go to a better place since we wanted our hair to look nice for our return to the States. I am not sure what happened, but somehow, we got seriously lopsided haircuts. For me, one whole side of my head was shorter than the other. For Susan, they just didn’t cut the back of her hair. Instead of waiting to get it fixed in the States, I tried to fix it myself. That was a bad move! I ended up sobbing and, following "Boo-Boo"’s advice, on the phone with David. I asked him if he would please take me to a salon to get my hair fixed. They “fixed” it, but it is still really bad. When Hannah saw it, she said, “Well, your hair WAS nice before you got it cut.” Her son said that I looked like a boy. After her husband finished laughing, he said that I looked younger. Is a compliment really a compliment after a person laughs hysterically?

 I had almost recovered from their comments when I went out to eat che (sweet soup) today. The owner laughed and laughed, and then called his wife and kids out to see it. And laughed some more. I just laughed right along with him. I thought that my insulting evening was over, when I walked into the guest house and one of the other ladies who live here told me how sorry she felt for me. I told her not to worry, that it was “fixed” and better now. She said, “Better? It could not possibly have been any worse.” 

Thankfully, "Boo-Boo", who is always encouraging, told me that it looks great. I’m not sure if I completely believe her, but I was just happy for someone who wasn’t laughing at me. If you are wondering, there are pictures. "Boo-Boo" said that I needed to “warn” my parents before I met them at the airport. After I sent them to my parents, however, I took the pictures off of my computer, never to be seen by anyone again. I’m sure that many more people will see my awful haircut. I just really don’t want it documented to be relived at a later point.

I’ve been meeting Hannah almost every morning for breakfast and coffee. We’ve been talking a lot about J*sus and the Bible. She said today that she thinks that J*sus was a good man. He taught us how to live for something beyond ourselves, as well as how to help others. She compared him to Ho Chi Minh. I’m sure, to some of you, that is a real slap in the face to J*sus. However, if you consider her position in g0vernment, and know how much she worships and adores Ho Chi Minh, it’s a real compliment. She has come a LONG way. When I met her almost two years ago, she pretty much hated all Believers and anything to do with G0d. Please pr*y for her as I give her a Bible tomorrow. I am nervous, but feel like its time. I hope that she will read it as she is resting before her baby is born.

We’ll be headed to Berne at the end of this week. It’s a LONG trip. Longer than ever before. We have 7 stop-overs on our trip home. It is crazy. I am not happy with our travel agent, but it wasn’t worth the money to change our tickets. Anyway, we will be at home for about 6 weeks. Much of that time is already filled up. We have so much to do to prepare for training this summer as well as family to visit. Then, in July, we’ll be going back to California to train the new teachers. This is the hardest part of the year for me. But until then, I’m going to enjoy the time with my family. Please continue to lift us up as we finish signing contracts for the other teachers. Also, please lift up our friends as G0d continues working in their lives.  I hope to see many of you around town or at ch*rch. Thanks for another year of great support!! I feel so very blessed to have so many people encouraging me, pr*ying for me, supporting me, and blessing me. I hope that you enjoy your summer!"


Wednesday, May 16, 2012


"Hello! I hope that you are enjoying the nice spring/summer weather! It is super hot in OUR CITY! It’s been up to 110 degrees, and that isn’t even considering the humidity, which is high here. I have to admit that I am not the best person to be around when I’m extremely hot. Thankfully, even though it’s hot outside, with air conditioning, we can keep our room down to somewhere between 80- 90 degrees. That sounds hot, but compared to the outside, it’s wonderful.

Last week, "Boo-Boo" and I attended training in Danang in a program called “Shine”. It helps girls with self esteem issues and prepares them for hearing the G0spel. It doesn’t directly talk about G0d, but is full of bibl*cal principles. Since human trafficking is a big problem in Vietnam, this program is useful in helping girls find their worth and value. The g0vernment is not causing too many problems with it since it does not directly mention G0d, and also helps girls with gaining confidence.  We are excited (and a bit overwhelmed) to run the program in OUR CITY as well as teach the new teachers to run the program in their cities. While we were in Danang, we tried to stay at a cheap hotel. We put up with it until I had to sleep on dirty sheets. We headed out for a new hotel the next morning. My cleanliness standards are lower than they used to be, but even I must draw a line somewhere.

After our week at Shine training, we had our yearly conference for all of the ESI teachers. It went exceptionally well, but kept us busy. We are tired!

I taught my last kids class at Hannah’s house on Sunday. I barely made it to class to tell the kids goodbye because someone had tried to pick the lock on my motorbike chain lock and ruined it. Thankfully, I found someone with wire cutters who was able to break it so I could get to Hannah’s house. The kids were darling. I took some gifts that "Boo-Boo"’s family and my family had sent from the States. The kids were thrilled! I included a picture in the e-mail.

Things have been really stressful with contracts. We still don’t have a contract for next year. We are also waiting to hear about the final count of teachers before we can sign another contract for the new teachers. Please pr*y for us, the school administrators, and the ESI office as they try to find one more teacher for next year.

I had an opportunity to share the Good News with one of my students this week! That was wonderful! Although no decision was made, she said at the end that she hopes I am right about G0d and heav*n. I am always thankful when G0d opens a door to plant a seed.

We really appreciate your pr*yers, especially right now when things are difficult. Thanks for lifting us up! Thanks,  for the encouraging cards! I feel blessed!


Sunday, May 13, 2012


From my friends in Vietnam, sent May 1st:

"Hello! Happy May Day! Thankfully, today is a holiday in Vietnam, so I don’t have to teach. That is a good thing, because I am exhausted from the weekend! 

The weekend went better than I expected.  We took the train to my friend’s house in the north. It took about 7 hours each way. When we arrived there, I was pleasantly surprised that her family’s restaurant is located right on the beach. It could not have been a more beautiful location. The intense heat and humidity were pretty rough, but swimming at the beach was refreshing. At least, most of my time at the beach was refreshing. The recurring theme of the weekend seemed to be drunk men seeing a foreign woman for the first time. 

Many men were drunk because it was a holiday weekend, and when men here want to celebrate, they drink beer until they are almost unconscious. Some of the men were innocent enough. They just asked questions and wanted to “practice their English”. Others of them were like stalkers, following me around as I swam and relaxed on the beach, laughing, pointing, and asking crazy questions. I handled it all okay except for the man that touched me. I yelled at him and told him to go away. He went away for about 5 minutes, and was right back. I went into the house, thinking that would make him go away. Unfortunately, he just followed me in. Finally, after 4 or 5 people yelled at him, he left. I was pretty unnerved. I kept telling myself, though, that I am almost twice his size. Being almost 6 feet tall in a country of very short men can be consoling at times. 

Since I told you about the crazy people, I have to tell you about a nice family I met. I was waitressing at my friend’s restaurant, when the table I was serving asked me to join them for dinner. I checked with my friend, because I wondered if I was misunderstanding or if they were just kidding. They were quite sincere, so I sat down and enjoyed snails and clams with them. I was surprised that they would want to invite me to eat seafood with them, since it’s quite expensive. I then found out that 3 members of the family are doctors and the other 2 daughters are pharmacists. They could not have been any nicer. We exchanged phone numbers, and have been messaging each other since. I’m thankful that I got to meet some good people in Quang Tri, and not just drunk ones. 

They are in the photo to the left. 

Another thing that I was very thankful for was my friend’s family giving up a bed for me. They even gave me their only fan. Everyone else slept outside at the beach, but I wasn’t about to be out among the rats. I have never been so thankful for a hard wooden bed in my life.

I also attached a photo of how ice is delivered in Vietnam. It is driven to each restaurant, strapped to the back of a motorbike, without any covering of anything. They then put it on the floor of the restaurant, cut it with a saw, and serve it. I try not to think about this too much as I am drinking anything with ice. 


While we were on our way home on the train, David started opening up about his fear of death. We talked about it for awhile, and I was able to talk to him about J*sus more than I ever have before. He listened respectfully, and I pr*y that he will think about the things we talked about. I can really tell that the H0ly Spir*t is working in His life. Please continue to pr*y for him.

We are still waiting to meet with the medical college again, so please lift that up as well. Thankfully there are already 6 teachers signed up to come to Vietnam this coming summer, with several more still thinking about it. We are thankful for every teacher that gives a year to serve here in Vietnam.

Next week, we will be attending some training in Da Nang in a course called Shine, which helps teenage girls and women find their worth in Chr*st. We are very excited about this opportunity!

Thanks for all of your pr*yers and support! We truly are thankful for each one of you! I hope you have a great week!"

"Yogi" and "Boo-Boo:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


More from Vietnam--

Hello! I hope that you are having a good week! We’ve still been doing quite a bit of work with the contracts for next year. We are still working with three of the universities, trying to tie up loose ends. Sometimes things in Vietnam move so slowly. I want to speed things up, sign the contracts, and focus on our friendships here. Hopefully this will happen soon! Please pr*y that we will have wisdom in deciding where we should teach, as well as which schools will be best for the new teachers next year.  Right now, "Boo-Boo" and I are leaning toward teaching at the Medical College in OUR CITY. Please pr*y for us as we continue talking to the administrator there.

The weekend was full of excitement! I drove my motorbike to David’s house in the countryside. Just the ride itself was beautiful.  I drove through miles of rice paddies dotted with women harvesting rice and water buffalo grazing. Beautiful mountains made a fantastic backdrop. When we arrived at David’s house, we had to drive over drying straw just to get near the house. Then, to get into the house, we had to walk through a maze of drying rice. 

As I’ve said before, some hygiene issues that bother Americans just don’t bother Vietnamese people. While we were sitting and drinking tea, the chickens were running through the house and through the rice, eating the rice along the way. They kept trying to shoo the chickens out of the house, but it was almost impossible. We then walked down the lane, stopping to visit neighbors along the way. The neighbors were so kind, and even gave me duck eggs and a fresh coconut. 

Some of the other neighbors were using a machine, which they pass from house to house, to take the rice off the stalk. I tried to watch unnoticed, but that, of course, never works. The workers kept watching me, the strange, tall American, instead of looking at what they were doing. I was afraid one of them would shred their hand instead of the rice. I definitely said my pr*yers for them as I watched. We also visited the neighbor ladies who were picking rice in the field. They let me try my hand at using the sickle to cut the rice. It was a fun experience, and we all did a lot of laughing. They make it look relatively easy. It is definitely hard work!! 

We then found David’s water buffalo out in the field and took some pictures. The buffalo started snorting, so David held his “leash” while I ran toward the house. When we got back to the house, we ate freshly roasted peanuts. They were amazing! They roast them over an open fire. I could have eaten the whole batch! While I was eating peanuts and playing with the kids, David got a coconut out of the tree, cut it open, and we drank fresh coconut milk. Although I was kind of nervous about visiting the countryside, after all of the crazy things that have happened there, the trip went really well. 

This coming weekend is the real adventure. David, his girlfriend, her roommate, and I are taking an eight hour train ride to visit her family in the north. They asked me if it was okay for me to share a bed with all of the women, and I said it was. Then they asked if it was okay that the bed is wooden and doesn’t have a mattress. What else could I possibly say but okay? I’m sure it will be an interesting weekend! Please remember me in your prayers. It’s going to be HOT! Today, one of the teachers told me the heat index is 112. Also, please pr*y for me that I will remember the Vietnamese words that I know, and be able to communicate well with her family. Thanks for your pr*yers and support!! I couldn’t be here without your help! Blessings to you!


Monday, April 9, 2012


More from Vietnam

Hello! I hope that each of you had a happy Easter celebration! Our service at chrch began at 7:00 am instead of the usual 8:00. This felt way too early for me, but most people get up between 5:00 and 6:00, so it doesn’t seem early to them. I am reminded of their early rising habits every time someone invites me for breakfast or coffee in the morning. They always want to go at or before 7:00. I really try to encourage my friends to go out with me in the afternoon. Since we teach in the evenings until about 9:00 pm, it’s hard to get to bed early, and therefore even more difficult to get up early.

I’ve mainly been working on plans for next year’s teachers. There have been many e-mails, texts, and phone calls going on between the schools and me. Usually we only meet with a few schools because we return to the same schools each year. Thankfully, Andrea, my boss, and I have meetings with two different universities. This is a good thing, but also adds a lot of extra meetings and decisions that need to be made.

We will be in Da Nang from Tuesday through Sunday. We will be meeting, likely more than once, with three English centers, two universities, the teachers, and thankfully, our university contact who is helping us prepare for the meetings. It is really helpful to have a Vietnamese person helping us negotiate with the schools because she has worked in the business world here for many years, and can guide us in the right direction. While all of this is going on, someone has to teach my classes, so that is one of the areas where "Boo-Boo" is being a huge help. She’ll stay in OUR CITY and teach all week. She’s also helped me write e-mails and go to some of the preliminary meetings. Please lift Andrea, "Boo-Boo" and me up as we go to meetings and make decisions as to where to send the teachers next year. Also, please pr*y that we will be able to stay calm and joyful in the midst of the busyness and stress.

In the midst of preparing for the meetings, we’ve still been going out with our students and friends. We have to keep the coffee shops in business!

Thanks for your pr*yers and support! It always means a lot, but especially during the difficult weeks. We appreciate you! I hope you have a great week!



Friday, April 6, 2012


More from our friends in Vietnam

Hello! I hope that you are having a good week preparing for Easter! I always miss the Holy Week services at ch*rch, but my thoughts are with everyone there.

On Saturday, I was asked to interview job candidates at the central gover*ment office in OUR CITY. They needed to hire a translator, so they wanted me to interview the candidates and do the interviews for them. As you all know, I struggle with Vietnamese. When I showed up at the office and was alone with the senior g0vernment official, who only spoke Vietnamese, I panicked a bit. Thankfully, we had a great conversation. Granted, it probably had dozens of grammatical errors, but we had a good time laughing and talking about our families, or more like, why I am not married.

This seems to be the number one topic of conversation when I meet new people. I guess it could be worse. The newly married couple who lives in Danang are constantly asked if they have any children, and why they are not yet pregnant since they have been married for more than two years. This is a real puzzle in the Vietnamese culture. I guess I should be thankful that all I have to answer about is my lack of a husband.

After the interviews that day, we took the public van to Danang for a weekend full of meetings with teachers and school contacts. The van is supposed to hold about 15 people. There were about 22-25 in the van on Saturday. This is actually fairly good compared to other times we’ve taken the van. I was just thinking how thankful I was that I had a seat and didn’t have to sit on top of anyone when two men started smoking. At first I just wanted to grab the cigarettes out of their hands and throw them out the window, but then we just had to laugh. Only in Vietnam!

While we were in Danang, we met with one of our university contacts. We were having a pretty serious conversation, and she asked why our organization wants out of English centers and universities. I was beginning to explain that we really want to have relationships with students, therefore teaching little children isn’t meeting our goal. All I had to say was, “Well, at the centers, the teachers must teach a lot of children.” “Oh!”, she gasped. “I completely understand. Children are so noisy and disruptive. I don’t like teaching them either.”

I was so relieved that she understood and didn’t push the issue of why we are wanting to go into universities. She is currently setting up a meeting next week with the president of one of the universities in Danang. Please pr*y that this goes the way that G0d wants it to go. Even though I think it would be wonderful, it may not be His will. And that is really all we want.

Another funny moment in Danang was hearing the American couple that I mentioned earlier tell about their cat being spayed. They have had this cat since they arrived in Danang, and wanted to make sure she didn’t have kittens. They took her to one of the few veterinarians in Vietnam, who gave them four pieces of rope and told them to tie each one on to each of her paws. They then put the cat on the table, stomach up, with a paw tied to each corner of the table. The vet asked if they wanted to watch the surgery. They fervently shook their heads no, so he told them to go out and get coffee, and then to come back in an hour. Needless to say, their poor cat is a bit traumatized by the experience. The vet’s office isn’t anything like it is in the States, either. There is just a table in the front room of the vet’s house, and when someone comes into the office, which is only open on the weekends since he has another job, he turns off the tv, puts on his white coat, and comes out to help you.

Another funny moment this week was when I was studying Vietnamese with David. Somehow we got onto the topic of the death penalty. He explained that 10 years ago in Vietnam, if someone was found to be guilty of certain crimes, they would take them to the public square, tie them to a tree, invite the town to come and watch, and then a firing squad would kill the person. He was quick to tell me, though, that these days it is much different. The difference is that now after they tie the person to the tree, they give them a needle shot in the heart so that they can’t feel the gun shot. Wow! It makes the American system sound like a fairy tale.

Please keep us in your prayers, especially as my boss, Andrea, comes next week for meetings. We will be in Da Nang almost all week meeting with universities and English Centers. We are pr*ying that G0d will open the right doors and close the wrong ones. The last two weeks, as I’ve been working with the schools, have been a huge challenge. The longer we work at the English centers, the more favors they expect. This is just part of the culture, which is opposite of how it is in the States. Please pr*y for us to have good attitudes and not to let this make us bitter toward any of the Vietnamese administrators.

Thanks for all of your pr*yers and support! We couldn’t be here without your help! It really is a team effort here in Vietnam. We need each one of you! Our sincerest thanks goes out to you! I hope that you have a blessed week!