The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
By Miriam Rutzen
[Editor's Note: Using the opportunity between jobs to pursue her dreams of travel over the course of one year, Miriam Rutzen of Sciota is sharing this series of her thoughts on her travels and stops along the way over six months, sixteen countries, three continents, and "a great deal of jet lag", she says.
"I made a bet with my dad that I would make it to all seven continents by age 27."
Miriam already had ventured to Australia in 2009 and Europe in 2013 leaving her with only the most difficult-Antarctica. Her first columns were Peru, and Toyko, Hong Kong. This week is Thailand & Singapore.]
Thailand & Singapore
"Hey! Do you want to join me as a co-director for a week-long youth program for kids of overseas missionaries? Lead a Bible study on Identity & Purpose? Lead games and help create an environment of learning, encouragement, and exhortation? And be blown away by the work of these men and women, boys and girls out on the front lines teaching about Jesus in hostile nations?" Once I had answered yes to that invitation, I began preparations for one of my most fascinating adventures yet.
While the Cubs worked on winning the World Series, providing a very welcome distraction from political hubbub, I spent the beginning of November traversing the lands of Singapore on a brief orienting layover before heading to Thailand with a dear missionary friend from the Bronx, New York.
For over seven years, my friend had lived in the mountain country of western China, ministering to the Lisu community and teaching about the Bible and Jesus.
Recently having moved back to the Bronx, she had been asked to return to Southeast Asia as a short-term youth director for a number of the missionary families from all over Asia that she knew from her prior work.
They told her she could bring a friend, so she called me up. Close family friends, she and my older brother were the same age and grew up together during the first five years of their life in the inner city Bronx during the late 80s.
Core members to the Bronx Household of Faith, our families have stayed attached over the years. While I never dreamed I would visit the continent of Asia twice this year, her offer was impossible to resist.
My second experience was incredibly different from my first round as an independent tourist in the very modern cities of Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Having a traveling companion fluent in the language and the culture enriched the adventures ten-fold.
Quick Facts: Singapore is the only island city-state in the entire world. At one degree above the equator, between Malaysia to the north and Indonesia to the south, Singapore is a very green city, literally and environmentally, with the majority of the population living in a fifty-mile long strip of land known for its wealth and modern architecture.
Singapore is most well-known for its incredible array of foods. In 24 hours I dined on authentic Singaporean, Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian food.
After three days in Singapore, my friend and I jumped on a two-hour flight to Bangkok, Thailand.
From there we drove south four hours to a resort on the shores of the Bay of Thailand.
The king of Thailand had recently passed away and the entire nation was in mourning: people dressed in dark colors, signs and banners covered in messages in honor of him, and numerous billboards and monuments placed in public areas as symbols of gratitude for his reign of 70 years, topping the charts as world's longest reigning monarch.
Connection: One of the fascinating aspects of all of my travels is that of acquiring new friends and connections along the way, while also investing quality time in those golden friendships from long ago or far away.
When you ask someone to tell you their story, to describe their life from the vantage point at which they currently stand, the conversation is always intriguing.
Whether they are a stranger or an old friend it's an opportunity for personal growth by learning about another's challenges and triumphs.
Conversation snippets covered anything from best airlines to orphanage management, from the need for sabbaticals to the unique isolation as third culture individuals, and outreach to the blind community to spiritual warfare battles.
Meeting only once every three years, the conference provides a combination family reunion, business meeting, Bible training, and leadership counseling week for the adults with a Vacation Bible School type schedule for the youth.
It was like camp week on steroids, meaning the conversations dove incredibly deep and formed very strong roots quickly before we had to say our farewells.
Favorites: The formal title for an older married woman in Singapore is not "Mrs." but "Auntie".
Our host was Auntie Tan and her fried rice was the best fried rice I have ever eaten in my life.
There is a hotel in Singapore called the Marina Bay Sands hotel with a massive infinity pool as the roof deck.
While I did not go into the hotel, I captured it in pictures while going on a tour of the Supertree Grove-a "man-made mechanical forest [that] consists of 18 supertrees that act as vertical gardens, generating solar power, acting as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories, and collecting rainwater." (CNN, 2015)
Snorkeling in the Bay of Thailand with parrot fish, eating octopus in a seafood salad, and kayaking out to "Monkey Island" where monkeys came out and played with our kayaks topped off some of my favorite nature moments during the conference; while the raw conversation and mentorship both directions made each day a new adventure within the conference.
Challenges: Language and food. Those are the most common concerns I hear when I begin to tell my stories.
My appreciation for multi-lingual individuals is tremendous, even more so after being at the mercy of those willing to struggle through their second language in order to help me navigate their world.
Interestingly enough, Singapore's official language is English, although it is an incredibly diverse city with multiple official languages including Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin Chinese.
Having a travel companion fluent in Chinese in multiple dialects was very helpful and made me far more adventurous in the food department.
Typically I played it quite safe with food throughout my travels, visiting places like Pizza Hut, Burger King, and McDonald's (I know, I know)-this trip I was eating things I could not even begin to describe to you, but I do know I am still alive and, except for one brief stretch, I was stomach-issue free.
While we were in Singapore I spent a good portion of one morning messing around on wi-fi to keep up with the Cubs in the World Series.
When Game 7 went into rain delay, I was yelling at my phone. When they finally pulled off the win, I was elated:a whole day ahead of everyone else, because of the time difference.
So, to finish off this one, all I can say is Go Cubs Go and Fly the W!!
Photos of my travels can be found on Facebook or Instagram: mrutzen25 and more in depth stories are chronicled at www.miriamrutzen.blogspot.com.