Saturday, February 28, 2015

Salaries and ATM Fees

I got to blog over at the Charis Blog this week. This post was originally posted there.

Shortly after we moved here, I had the privilege of going around and taking nutrition packages to new young moms in various migrant villages.  At one of our stops, one of the moms was gone because she had just gotten a job at a local restaurant for 150 baht/day (about $5).  This was considered a good job and that she was lucky to have it.  I was a little surprised by the esteem the job was given since $5 doesn't seem like much to me, but we then left and the thought slipped from my mind for the moment.

Grandmothers with their grandbabies
Picture borrowed from The Charis Project Instagram
A short time later, I needed to make a withdrawal from my bank account in the States.  As I proceeded to make my transaction, I was notified that since I wasn't using my own bank's ATM I would be charged a service fee of 180 baht (about $6) for using their services.  It occurred to me that my "nominal" fee was more than this mom could make in an entire day working at the restaurant.

Then because I am rich (with "rich" meaning "I keep funds in a bank account"), my amazing bank will actually refund me the money I have to pay for ATM fees.  Effectively, giving me money for free.

So, I'm trying to make this all work out in my head...
Me - have money.  Given more money for doing absolutely nothing other than having money.
Her - have no money.  Work hard for approximately $5 a day in a job that is considered a well-paying job.

Consider also that infant formula is very expensive here which means that even working a full day, she may not be able to cover the cost of good infant formula should she need it.  It would truly be best for her and her baby if she could stay home and breast-feed!  These women need jobs that allow them to be home with their newborns.

So much of this is frustrating to me.  In Seattle, where I'm from, people are trying to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.  That's more in one hour than many (most?) people in Thailand make in a day.  Here in Thailand, minimum wage is about 300 baht per day (about $10).  This law isn't as enforced as it could be, and migrant workers feel the brunt of this the most since many may only make about 150 baht per day (about $5).

I struggle with the fairness that comes from my advantaged life in comparison with theirs.  These women want to take care of their children in the best way possible.  Yet, sometimes they feel like the best thing may be to give up their children to an orphanage or children's home to be raised in a place that always has food on the table.  They don't always know how to provide for their families financially and also be there for their children.  They need to be empowered.  They need jobs that will allow them to be present for their children.  They need men in their lives who will take responsibility for their families and treat them right.  They need a hope and a future.  They need to know that there is a God who cares about them.  I'm thankful that we can partner with The Charis Project which is working on these very issues.

What am I going to do about it?  I don't know, but I know that there are some amazing things afoot.

Until then, we pray....

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Simple Pleasures

At some point, you come to realize that there are few things finer in life than a chair.  Yep, a chair.  Now, I'm not talking about some plush or decorative chair.  I mean basically a piece of furniture that has four legs that you can sit on with your knees at a 90-degree angle.  Something like this:


When we moved into our village home, we were severely lacking on a place to seat our bums.  We had a floor mat and a lounge seat, but most of our time was spent on the ground.  Needless to say, our rears were pretty sore.  Try giving up your couch and dining room chairs for a week.  I dare you!  We are now the proud owners of four... count them, four!, red plastic chairs.

Then, wonder upon wonders, a friend let us borrow their table.  Really!  We can actually eat without holding our bowls or squatting with them on the floor.  The boys can do their pencil work in the correct manner.  We can work on our laptops without our laps overheating!  Tables are amazing!  Who came up with such an invention?  They really need to be thanked.


Then there is that lovely humming of a refrigerator that we are borrowing as well.  Yogurt!  Raw Meat!  Milk!  Vegetables that last longer than a day!  Leftovers!  Oh, the things that you can do with a refrigerator.


This may all seem a little overblown, but when you've been without, even if it has only been for a couple of short weeks, these things make all the difference in the world.  Before we were graciously given them, it was difficult to feel settled.  We lived more in the wishful "eventually"-mode instead of living life to it's fullest.

We also now find ourselves in the possession of a vehicle.  Although not as much one of those simple pleasures, it has taken a huge burden off of us.  We are now free to explore our city, go to the grocery store at our convenience, make connections with people, and just basically have freedom to move about.  It's a wonderful feeling, really.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Flashback: A Modern Luxury

On this Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share one of my flashback posts - a post that I wrote on my family blog before starting this blog.  These posts help me see where I've come from and what I've been thinking about over the last few years that shape where I'm going.

A Modern Luxury - April 25, 2014

Virginity is a luxury.  In our world of promiscuity, safe sex, and birth control, we can easily forget that our bodies are something to be protected and consecrated.  We throw away a greater treasure for a one-night stand.  We sub intimacy for immediate gratification.

I was raised with the godly view that I should save my body for marriage.  I was taught that I had value and that I shouldn't go after cheap imitations of love.  I should wait until I've said my vows, and give my husband the greatest gift I could give him on our wedding night - my virginity.  It's a beautiful dream, and one that I was blessed to have come true in my own life.  I traded my purity ring for my wedding ring.

I am blessed.

However, as I look into the plight of the thousands of women in Thailand, I realize that my virginity was a luxury.  I had my choice on how I was going to use my body.  Many women around the world are not given that same choice.  They have to choose instead whether to prostitute their bodies or starve or see their children starve.  They have no skills on which to fall back on, and so they are left desperate.  They have loans that were loaned at 300% interest that they will never be able to repay.  They sell their own underage daughter's virginity to the highest bidder which pays only a pittance of their extortionate loans.  These young girls are not given a choice.

I found this article on the Charis Project's blog.  It talks of women in Cambodia.  Here's an excerpt:
When a poor family in Cambodia fell afoul of loan sharks, the mother asked her youngest daughter to take a job. But not just any job. 
The girl, Kieu, was taken to a hospital and examined by a doctor, who issued her a "certificate of virginity." She was then delivered to a hotel, where a man raped her for two days. 
Kieu was 12 years old. 
"I did not know what the job was," says Kieu, now 14 and living in a safehouse. She says she returned home from the experience "very heartbroken." But her ordeal was not over. 
After the sale of her virginity, her mother had Kieu taken to a brothel where, she says, "they held me like I was in prison." 
She was kept there for three days, raped by three to six men a day. When she returned home, her mother sent her away for stints in two other brothels, including one 400 kilometers away on the Thai border. When she learned her mother was planning to sell her again, this time for a six-month stretch, she realized she needed to flee her home.
My life is so different from that of Kieu's.  She was bought by filthy men who cared nothing for her as a person.  My life is so very different.  This is my story:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.  I Corinthians 6:19-20
Yes, I was bought too.  I was bought by my loving, perfect Savior through His blood on the cross.  He took my guilt away, and asks that I glorify Him in my whole body.  Kieu was bought by a sinful man who took away her innocence and defiled her.  I have value through being the temple of the Holy Spirit of God.  What does Kieu have?

How can I glorify God with my whole body?  Could I use this weak vessel to help girls like Kieu get out of their nightmare? Can more be done to help these girls?  Please pray for these women.  It is happening all over the world.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

How Did I Get Here?

DSCN0248As I groggily open my eyes each morning to the view of a mosquito net overhead, I hear a cow mooing in the distance and chickens chattering.  Motorbikes drive by regularly often to go up to the local Buddhist Monastery with it's newly dedicated Buddha.  Chants and music often make their way down the hill via loudspeakers.

Slowly I wake up and after remembering where I am, I send up a quick prayer for the day.  I stumble out of bed and make my way to my bathroom.  It's just a room with a squatty potty really.  I make do with this new way of relieving myself and "flush" the hole by pouring a bucket of water down it.  Later, I'll make my way from our temporary guest home to our host family's house for a shower.

Some things are familiar though.  I have my coffee.  Phil is as much an aficionado as ever and has already sourced good beans here in Thailand, but I'm lazy and have succumbed to buying the local Birdy 3in1 instant coffee to get my quick fix.  I boil water in my electric kettle and "brew" my coffee in my "Seattle Memories" mug.

A step outside my front door reveals a tropical landscape.  The flora and fauna have their own SE Asian flavor distinctly different from my home in Seattle.  It is incredibly beautiful although occasionally offset by the haze given off by the neighbors burning their trash.  However, this makes the sunsets here amazing!  The sun is the deepest orange I've ever seen.

How did I get here?  Sometimes I feel like I'm looking out of eyes from someone else's body.  As we continue to live in transition, it is hard to figure out who I am in this strange new land.  Not just in the role that I will eventually play, but also in the day-to-day living.  I know it will come.  I'm not concerned, but it remains a peculiar ritual to try to actually come to believe that this is the place that I now live and not where I'm just passing through.