D.O.T.S.

DOTS

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What a Coup!

I’m staying at The Linden Suites hotel in Manila, Philippines, this week. I’ve stayed here several times before, and it always strikes me as funny that they have the following plaque on the wall by the registration desk.

In case you have trouble reading it, it says,

THE COMMAND POST

at

THE LINDEN SUITES

January 16-20, 2001

The Linden Suites was privileged to have served as the “command post” of the brave men and women who led our people in a quest for truth and justice during the fateful days of January 16-20, 2001.

In the weeks before this historic event and during the days when Filipinos from all walks of life massed at the EDSA Shrine, THE LINDEN SUITES was the place where a broad, popular coalition was encamped to oppose a discredited administration. It was here that strategies were formed, momentous decisions were made, and millions were mobilized.

As media support was withdrawn from the discredited leadership and transfered to the constitutional incumbent, THE LINDEN SUITES hosted the transition leadership for the new government. During those historic days, this was the fulcrum on which power shifted. It was then that a new future became conceivable for the expectant people.

In the afternoon of January 20, immediately after she was elevated into the highest office of the country, GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO returned to THE LINDEN SUITES to begin the immense task of rebuilding governance in this country.

THE LINDEN SUITES is proud to have served those who made history.

It commemorates the dates that a coup d’etat was held against the government of then President Joseph Estrada by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then vice-president. (It’s not always referred to as a coup, but that may be because it was well-organized and popular at the time.)

Coups are a fairly common occurrence in The Philippines, and they almost always involve the rebels holing up in some luxury hotel or luxury shopping center. (You’ve got to have the comforts of life during the stressful experience of overthrowing a government, you know.)

The plaque makes me grin whenever I see it, both for its shameless self-promotion and for its dubious value. There was a point in time when it probably brought notoriety to the hotel, but you have to wonder if people still think positive thoughts when they see it. As of July, President Arroyo’s approval rating sank to a new, all-time low (22%), making her “the country’s most unpopular president since democracy was restored in 1986″ according to The Associated Press.

But still, she has withstood at least four coup and three impeachment attempts.  Popularity ain’t everything. Maybe the plaque can stay up a little longer.

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The Heart of Mongolia

I was in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, a few months ago for a pastor’s conference.  We had a great time meeting the leaders of the Mongolian churches and appreciated their excitement about and dedication to learning about ministering to children.

On the third day of the conference, the president of my organization opened the day’s sessions with a story about visiting the local trash dump the day before.  He had seen men, women and children there, who were all desperately struggling to survive.  They actually lived in the dump and made their living by collecting and organizing recyclable materials.  Before our president finished speaking, he had the entire room in tears.

Later that day, one of the leaders of the conference announced that they had made a decision.  No one felt that they could enjoy their dinner that evening knowing that so many of Mongolians were starving in that terrible place.  They had all agreed that they would fast that evening and ask the kitchen to box up their dinners so that they could take them to the people at the dump site.

I was priveledged to be allowed to witness their act of love, and I’ll share with you some of the photos from that day.  (To preserve the dignity of those living in the dump, I’m excluding pictures that show faces.)

Church leaders taking their dinners to the people living in the dump site

Church Leaders taking their dinners to the people in the dump site

Church Leaders taking their dinners to the people in the dump site

First exposure for some of us

First exposure for some of us


Resident of the dump site

Resident of the dump site

Talking with the people

Talking with the people

Dump trucks bringing garbage and taking recycling materials

Dump trucks bringing garbage and taking recycling materials

Dangerous environment

Dangerous environment

One of the many children we met

One of the many children we met

Animal carcasses

Animal carcasses

Praying for some of the residents

Praying for some of the residents

Taking a break to enjoy the meal

Taking a break to enjoy the meal

A hard life

A hard life

Houses built by the residents of the dump site

Houses built by the residents of the dump site

Getting to know the people

Getting to know the people

Sharing dinner

Sharing dinner

Praying for a woman

Praying for a woman

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Coffee Artists

Thailand is full of coffee artists.  Wherever you go for a cup of Joe, they try to outdo their coffee competitors with creative patterns and swirls of blended foam.  I hate to even stir in a spoonful of sugar for fear of ruining the coffee canvas.  But since it won’t stay hot forever, I choose to capture each creation digitally.

But my absolute favorite of all time is:

How on earth?

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Bowls for the Giant

Recently seen in Chiang Mai.  We’re not really sure what these are, but our family refers to them as “bowls for the giant.”  We assume that the giant was out of bowls for his Frosted Flakes and needed to restock.  This friendly person offered to take the bowls up the mountain to the place where the giant lives (no one other than this driver knows exactly where for sure.)

And while it looks like no one could see through the bowls to drive, it’s not quite as bad as it seems.

It wasn’t necessary for the driver to see out his back window, because no one is silly enough to follow a man making a delivery to the giant – much less at breakfast time when he hasn’t had his Frosted Flakes.

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The Donald Development

Part of the cultural experience of traveling through and living in Asia is learning to enjoy the local cuisines, but everywhere I go, The Donald is there (as in Ronald McDonald).

I don’t really like McDonald’s, but I do like western food, and it’s EVERYWHERE!  Globalization is alive and well in Asia.  No matter what country I visit, I can find at least half of the following: The Sizzler, Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King, Auntie Anne’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks,  Baskin Robbins, TGI Fridays, KFC, Wendy’s…. and a host of other American food chains.  (There are plenty of British chains, too, but I don’t recognize them as quickly.)  With all these choices from home, I struggle to force myself out of my comfort zone, and I’m an easy mark for whiny kids who don’t want Thai food for dinner.

Sadly, scarily, all these fast-food and popular restaurants are the most successful “development” of third-world nations that the western nations have been able to accomplish.  Asians seem to love them, despite their high prices, but the only real development they bring is bigger bellies and smaller wallets (which both make me feel a little more at home).

Is this some subconscious “misery loves company” strategy on the part of western nations?  Are we jealous of emerging Asian economies and trying to sabotage their populations with high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol?  It’s working.  Some of these countries have already graduated to the next stage in “development” – late-night infomericals for over-priced, under-used exercise equipment and weight-loss scams.

Now that’s progress!

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Welcome Home

Traveled to the U.S. this week, and when I went through customs in Los Angeles, the officer told me, “Welcome home.”  As soon as he said it, my spirit exhaled.  It was a peculiar feeling – the feeling of release, the feeling of putting down something heavy.  It made me feel light and optimistic and….comfortable.

We’ve been in Thailand for eight months, and the best way I can describe it is that it’s like living outside your comfort zone 24/7.  The people are wonderful and Chiang Mai is probably one of the best and easiest places we could have picked to live, but it’s not home (yet).

Home is the U.S. – Colorado Springs, in particular.  Since I arrived, my friend’s daughter has been singing the song from Sound of Music that extols “a few of (her) favorite things!”  I’ve got lots of those here.  Not raindrops on roses or warm woolen mittens, but cool weather, mountains, friends, my home church,  predictable driving patterns.  It’s a neat place.

It’s hard living “in a country not their own.”  My family is terribly jealous that I’m here while they are not.  I think they would even sit through my ten days of boring meetings in my place just to have a few weeks in Colorado.  So, I feel very thankful (and more than a little guilty) for this opportunity to unshoulder the burden of learning to adapt to a new culture.  But maybe a year from now, when we are all returning to Chiang Mai from our furlough in the U.S., we will all think of Thailand as “home,” and we won’t be so eager to leave it the next time.

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