Saturday, October 24, 2015

Burmese Fermented Tea Leaf Salad

IMG_20151009_155254.jpgI love the title of this Huffington Post article: Burmese Salads Are Better Than Yours.  It is so true.  I've already mentioned just how much we are enjoying Burmese food here, and their salads are amazing.  We find that they are often unique and addicting.

One of the most interesting is also one of the most popular among the people here.  Fermented Tea Leaf Salad is a combination of various dried nuts and legumes with fermented or pickled tea leaves.  It's definitely an acquired taste, but it grows on you.  I typically buy the dried ingredients and tea leaves already fermented and seasoned at the Burmese day market, but it is possible to make it from scratch at home.  (It probably wouldn't be as oily this way as well).

Here is a recipe I found online:

Makes 2 Servings

¼ to ½ cup fermented tea leaves
1 tablespoon dry shrimp powder
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 large julienne plum tomatoes
1 cup very thinly sliced cabbage
1 teaspoon fried garlic (see note)
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons fried dried peas
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
2 to 3 teaspoons lime juice
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon minced bird's-eye chili or other hot chili, like a serrano
1 to 2 teaspoons fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
Cilantro leaves, sliced fried garlic and whole green chilies, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in large bowl, and mix well. Divide between two plates, and serve, with garnishes.
To make fried garlic, slice as many cloves of garlic lengthwise as desired. Saute slowly in peanut oil to cover until garlic is lightly browned on both sides. Remove from oil, and place on paper towels to dry. Refrigerate in tightly covered container.

Or you can cheat and buy the kit on Amazon.  It's still not the same as buying the "kit" that I can get at the day market, but it looks simple and easy.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Gift of Availability

These last nine months have been hard.  We came to Thailand thinking that we'd find some direction in what we can do here.  Our theme here of "eventually" played out as "eventually we'll find purpose", "eventually we'll have a role."

Instead, it's been nine long months of more and more "eventually", but the question became more of "eventually into what?"  Is there even something "eventually" for us?

We've discovered though in our waiting that we've been given a gift.  Not one that we were looking for or even desiring, but a gift nonetheless.  It is the gift of availability.

I had been looking at it the wrong way around.  I was looking at it as not having meaning or a role.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Why did I think that I could possibly make a difference?

But, I was noticing something strange.  I wasn't bored.  My days felt full.  There was always something happening, but they were always one-time things.
Making cookies with some girls in the village
We could make ourselves available to others.  We could step in when our friends needed someone to help them with their bread and flowers ministry.  We could open our home for house church on Sunday afternoons.  We could coordinate and bring meals for a friend who was watching over a very sick child at the hospital.  We could invite a new family over for dinner.  We could...., We could...., We could.....

This is a gift.  If we had a big role and days filled up with a packed schedule, we would not be able to be spontaneous.  We would not have met some really amazing people here or learned a lot about what the needs and ministries that are going on.

As much as I want it to be, our kind of life is not quantifiable.  I can't check off those boxes on a To Do list.  I can't pinpoint a role here or say "this is what I'm doing".

But, that's okay.

I still don't know how to really answer the question "What do you do here in Mae Sot?"  Yet, I know this is where God wants us right now. We can just keep our hands and hearts open to the needs that visit us on any given day.  And, if we go through some days or weeks that seem to lack meaning, that's okay too. It just means that we are available when we are needed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bread, Flowers, and Big Water

One of my flower deliveries
Shortly after we moved into our long-term home here in April, I began getting flower deliveries to my house on a weekly basis.  Some friends of mine, Kelli and Stephen, invest in a migrant village next to their home, and one of the ladies in the village sold flowers at the local market.  Kelli was able to help her with her business by helping her deliver flowers weekly to the farang (Westerners) here.  We were one of her customers.

Kelli realized that she could help some other women in the village by teaching them to make bread (a real treat here in Thailand!) and selling to the same customer base as the lady who sells flowers.  This gave a job to two more moms beginning in June or so.

So, when Kelli and her husband had to go out of town for a few weeks, I was asked to step in and help.  The women already knew how to bake the bread, so they just needed me to be there to let them use the oven, and drive them around for the deliveries.  I would get the added bonus of being able to practice my Burmese language with them and step into a short-term ministry role.  I was pretty excited about the opportunity.

On Thursdays, I'd pack up the boy's homeschool materials, and the boys and I would head over to Kelli's house for the bread baking.  One of the lady's sons would be there sometimes and he would play with N and Z a bit.  But, I soon learned that village life is very unpredictable.

The vaccine clinic
The first Thursday, a big van pulled up to the house.  Some official looking people came in, and one of the ladies I was working with showed me what looked like a vaccine form.  I thought that she might want someone to take her to the clinic because someone was sick (I know that Kelli and Stephen sometimes help with transportation of this kind).  Turns out, the van was actually a mobile vaccine clinic there to help the people in the village for the morning.  The front of the house suddenly turned into a makeshift clinic.  They were there for a couple of hours, and then left.  It was neat to see how their house could be used for so many purposes.

We did deliveries of both the bread and the flowers on Friday.  It was interesting trying to get around town with people I can't communicate completely with.  The women were great though, and very patient.  Kelli left me great instructions and maps so it wasn't really much of a hassle.

The second week, though, we had our big surprise.  Thursday was uneventful, but Friday brought a whole new set of challenges.  The city was worried about the reservoir overflowing so they decided on Friday morning to let the dam out a bit.  The migrant village is a couple of kilometers away, but it is in a low area so it was severely flooded.  I learned the word for flood in Burmese that day (yei chei) or Big Water as I probably said it a hundred times.

As I drove up to the village, I saw just how wet it was.  I thought about driving down the street (after all, I have 4WD), but in hindsight I'm glad I parked a couple of blocks away on higher ground.  By the time I walked up to Kelli and Stephen's house, I was waist-deep in muddy water.  I was in constant communication with Kelli by phone as we talked about what I needed to check on.  Their house was high enough that no water was in their house, but the village was completely flooded.  We went ahead with our deliveries and noticed that a lot of places in Mae Sot were also affected, but none were as bad as the village.

The flooding at Kelli and Stephen's around 9AM
The water was way down by 3PM

I brought the rest of my family to the village as we wanted to monitor the situation.  There were rumors that they were going to let out the dam again, and we didn't know how that would affect things.  (Thankfully, this didn't happen).  N and Z were in the swimming clothes and enjoyed floating down the street (now a river) in a bucket.  We all arrived there around noon.  The water was still higher than knee-deep.  We finally left a bit before 4PM, and the water was mostly gone.  We were able to make sure that everyone had a safe place to eat and sleep, and to be able to notify our friends that their friends here were okay.
N in a "boat"
We don't have adventures like this very often, but this one was for the books!
The reservoir in June
The reservoir in September (the day after they released some water)
You can find Kelli's version here.