Sunday, December 6, 2009

Inolvidable (Unforgettable)

Thursday we traveled by boat up the Amazon River to a village called Padre Cocha. We spent the morning going door to door to invite people to a program in the center of the village that afternoon. When we returned to the church we ate lunch, which consisted of a whole fish (head and all!) in a cold soup.

After lunch we explored the village some more and then rested in the church. I was laying on the floor of the church and was awakened by two little girls talking to me and killing all the ants that were crawling around me. I sat up and talked with them, and pretty soon there were 5 little girls ages 7-11 telling me about their families and asking me about mine. One little girl informed me that I was older than her mom (that’s always nice to hear haha!). In those moments talking with them, I was reminded yet again why I made the decision to move to Peru for two years.

At 4pm, we all walked to the center of the village and played with children who came to the program. I counted 75 children playing elbow tag and simon says and by the time we sat down for the drama, the amount of children had doubled. After the drama, my friend Gary shared some of his testimony (in español) and presented the Gospel. Hard to believe 3 months ago we didn’t know how to tell people where we were from much less tell the greatest story in history!

At the close of the program, we had small gifts of pencils, soap, and toothpaste for the kids and there were at least 200 children following our group through the village back to the church. It was amazing.

We returned home exhausted and soaking wet from the rain, but content in the knowledge we had learned much in the day...

Aloha Means Te Amo,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Moment of Clarity

Sometimes in life we are given moments of clarity. Moments when every question we have is silenced by an overwhelming peace that even though everything is NOT OKAY, we know exactly why we are breathing. Yesterday I walked through Belen, an extremely poverty stricken area of Iquitos, and felt awake for the first time since I was standing in Kibera, Nairobi.

Those moments in Belen were confirmations not only of my purpose in Iquitos, but also my purpose on the planet. Right now I am breathing the air of my home for the next 2 years and while this is at times a difficult thought, I could not be more sure that I am exactly where I should be.

I urge you, if you do not know, to find whatever it is that makes you step back and see that life is so much bigger than whatever stress you may have right now. I beg you, to find a way to participate in the liberation of those around you. I plead with you, to find someone who needs to be loved and love them. Because nothing else really matters…to have this gift and not gift it would be the greatest waste…

Aloha Means Te Amo,
Suthee 

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Life is Like a Box of Chocolates...

you never know what you're gonna get." -Forest Gump

Those words may not be profound, but they are certainly true- life is full of surprises! 3 months ago when I was leaving Hawaii, I felt a deep sadness for the people I was leaving behind. I was scared and nervous and didn't know how it would all work out. Honestly, I didn't think I would form friendships with people like the ones I had in Hawaii, but nevertheless set out on this journey because I believed it was the next steps I had to take.

In California, when I found out who my roommate would be for the next 3 months, more nervousness set in. Brittany is 19, from Kansas, and from her Facebook profile seemed very conservative and well...I'm me ;) Much to both our surprise, we became very close and learned that we had more in common than either of us thought possible. Together we shared many laughs and tears and also a great love for our Peruvian family in Arequipa. She has been one of the greatest surprises and blessings of my life and I'm so thankful that it's not safe to judge books by their covers...

On Thursday afternoon, I was filled with the same apprehension before leaving Arequipa for Lima. I felt the way I did the day I left Hawaii. It's strange to think that after only 3 months, my friends and family in Arequipa became so important that I would be filled with the same sadness. Sometimes I wonder if maybe it would be better to not become that involved with people, I mean, it would certainly make leaving places much easier. But when I think about the experience of the last 3 months, there is no way I would trade my relationships with Alyssa & Leanne (my girls from Canada who are still in Arequipa) or my relationship with my Peruvian family. How much they have added to my life in such a short time-- Wow! I am so blessed. The sadness of missing them is worth it...

Although I do not understand it, I can say with confidence that God's love for us is neverending and full of amazing surprises. My time in Arequipa was proof of that and for that reason I know Iquitos will be even more amazing!!!

Pray for us as we begin classes on Monday and bond with our Peruvian counterparts...the adventure has just begun!

Aloha means Te Amo,
Suthee :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My First Peruvian Birthday :)

First, I apologize that it's been so long since my last blog! The last time I wrote was the day before my birthday so I'll start there...

We celebrated my birthday for almost a week. There were dinners with special friends, cake with our 40/40 group, cake with the office staff, many gifts of earrings (my favorite) and a shared fried chicken dinner with my friend Laura whose birthday was 2 days after mine. All these celebrations were filled with blessings of laughter but the most special time in that week was at my house with my Peruvian family, the Conchas.

The Conchas have been beyond wonderful to us and my birthday with them was very special. We had an amazing dinner, delicious cake (which, in keeping with tradition, my face got smashed into!), I sang/played my guitar for them and the brothers sang/played for me. But, the most special moment of the night came when Antono (the dad) had me choose a card from this box of Bible verses and prayers and then read it to me (in spanish, of course!). Before he finished reading, I was in tears because the day before I had told Mary (the mom) about how I loved the stories of St. Francis of Assisi and the prayer on the card was the prayer of St. Francis:

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

This prayer has been a constant encouragement and challenge in my life and I believe receiving it as my birthday blessing was a reminder of the way I believe I should live. I wasn't sure how I'd feel on my birthday-- being so far away from my dearest loved ones-- but God was gracious and showed me yet again how He is always expanding my circle :)

Aloha Means Te Amo,
Melissa aka Suthee :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

This past week, I plunged in to the culture and city of Arequipa…

Last Sunday night my roommate and I were riding in a taxi and got rear-ended by another taxi. The impact was strong, and we were both dealing with head/neck/back aches, but it could have been far worse. We are very thankful for this!

Due to a shortage of teachers, my classes were changed to the afternoon for 2 weeks. Honestly, it was really frustrating because I learn best in the morning, but I decided to make the most of it and take the mornings to explore the city and study.

This is how I spent the past week:

Monday morning I went to the post office to pick up a package and as I had been warned, it took an unbelievable amount of time. I arrived at 8:20am and there were 3 people in line ahead of me. The international package window opened at 8:30am and the first person got their package at 9:15am. At 10am, I was called in, filled out forms, opened the package for them to see what I received (thanks for the peanut butter, Mom!), and by 10:20 I was done. Thankfully they had time to get my friend Leanne her package also before they closed at 10:30am. Yes. That’s right. They are only open for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. Remember that the next time you're standing in line in the post office in the U.S. :)

Tuesday, as I was taking my laundry to be cleaned, I saw the owner of our school and got to practice my Spanish with her. I continued on my way downtown when an old man started talking to me and told me about all the places I needed to see while I was in Peru. He gave me his card and his wife’s name and told me to call them if I needed anything. I finally reached the laundry place and spent the rest of the morning studying in a coffee shop where they now know me like my friends at the Kam Starbucks.

On the way to pick up my clothes on Wednesday morning I walked through 3 different protests. One was in front of the Justice building, one was in for teachers and took place in the Plaza de Armas and the final one was on San Francisco, a street adjacent to the Plaza. As I was walking up San Francisco, I noticed there were a lot of people in the street. I assumed it was another protest, but what I couldn’t see was the line of 50 police officers with their shields on one side of the street! As I got closer, I didn’t know whether to turn around and go another way, or continue up the street but just then I saw an old woman trying to sell ice creams to the police officers, so I figured it wasn’t too dangerous. UNFORTUNATELY, that was the one day I left the house without my camera!

Thursday morning I awoke at 4:30am, showered, and left the house at 5:15am with my sister, Tati, for a procession in the Plaza de Armas. In Peru, and other countries, Catholics celebrate October as the month of purple. It is a month of celebration and reflection on the miracles of Jesus. He is called, “El Señor de los Milagros”. In the procession there is an enormous painting of Jesus surrounded by vases of flowers that is carried from one cathedral to another and all the people sing and pray while walking. It took 40 men to carry the painting and flowers and every half block or so they had to change out the people carrying it and every time it was re-lifted, the people applauded. It was one of the most interesting and beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed and I’m so thankful for the experience.

On Friday, in the Plaza de Armas, I witnessed a demonstration for world peace done by hundreds of children and youth. Most of the youth were holding posters they had made, some girls were holding flags from countries around the world, and there was a band playing music. It seemed that everywhere I went that day in downtown there were children with orange posters for world peace. It made me really happy :)

In honor of my upcoming birthday, my weekend was filled with things that remind me of home. We ate sushi and miso soup on Friday night, crepes and coffee on Saturday morning, and had a LOST marathon Saturday afternoon. It was the first day since I’ve been here that I got to just hang out and not do anything. (We all need those days from time to time!)

Sunday we went to church and I was excited to learn that my Spanish comprehension increases more and more every week. I am very thankful for the progress I’ve made thus far and want to work really hard for the next two months in order to be ready to meet and connect with my Peruana partner and jump into the next stage of training.

Thank you all so much for your love and support. There is no way I could do this without you.

Aloha Means Te Amo,
Suthee J

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Hardest Part...

So much has happened since my last blog which I will get into later, but for now I'd like to share the hardest part of being in Peru...

Honestly, I thought I would perfectly content and free of culture shock until we got to Iquitos. Arequipa ia very modern and thus far there isn't much I can't find here (besides miso soup and orbitz gum). But today I called my dad on Skype to find out my Gram is in the hospital. She was on her way to the doctor (I believe) and some girl u-turned and hit the car she was in and now my Gram is in the ER with 2 broken ribs.

So today I am facing my worst fear- that something will happen to my family while I am so far away- and it sucks.

But, in every moment we have a choice, and in this one I am choosing to believe that she will be okay. I am choosing to put my faith and trust in the One who called me here...especially when things happen that are out of my control. I am choosing to be thankful I am here, even though I desperately wish I was close to my family.

What will YOU choose?

Aloha means Te Amo,
Suthee :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Present Tense

In my first 2 weeks of Spanish class I could only speak in the present tense. There were times when I was frustrated that I couldn’t explain something because I couldn’t speak of the past or future. At first, I viewed this as a limit but the funny thing about limits is that, more often than not, they lead a different kind of freedom. In my limited knowledge, I became free to really explore the present moment. I’m not saying the past and future aren’t important, of course they are! The past has contributed to who we are and the future will grow from the choices we make in the present. However, when you can only speak of this moment you begin to realize how much you talk about that is out of your hands. It’s sad to me when I think of how much time and energy I’ve expended over things I could not change or control (and so as not to repeat those mistakes, I won’t continue on that subject anymore!).

I’m so thankful for the past 2 weeks of not being able to speak about anything but the present. I’m so thankful to be fully present in this moment, that I can appreciate all I’d normally take for granted.

Learning Spanish is teaching me more about myself and life than I would’ve thought possible. And that is always a good place to be. I challenge you to find ways to be fully present in this moment.

Aloha Means Te Amo,
Suthee :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day by Day...

Today I spoke with some of my 4th grade students from Hawaii on Skype and cried because I miss them terribly. This did not surprise me, but what DID surprise me was that the peace in my heart did not waver. I remain confident that THIS place is the place for THIS moment. It is a strange thing to completely love the people of another place and yet know that the right place, for the moment, is so far from them. I am again filled with overwhelming gratitude for my ohana that is matched only by the quiet confidence that I am exactly where I should be...

And I believe this moment is blessed.

Aloha Means Te Amo,
Suthee :)

Friday, September 4, 2009


In spanish class this week I learned that the word "esperar" means to hope, to wait, to expect. In practicing my vocabulary, every time I came to "esperar" my thoughts turned to this verse, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see". I love the spanish language- even more so when I learned about the different meanings for esperar.

Waiting for something we haven't seen is an act of HOPE. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. Sometimes we think that waiting is futile because we do not have hope. But when we wait with expectation-- how incredible it is to see our hope fulfilled!

"Espero al Senor, lo espero con toda el alma; en su palabra he puesto mi esperanza." Salmos 130:5 (Psalm 130:5)

Aloha Means Te Amo,
Suthee :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Leer Means to Read

Yesterday my spanish speaking German sister, Francesca, took Brittany (my roommate) and I to some of her favorite places near La Plaza de Armas. Our last stop was a "fake" bookstore where you can get almost any classic book in espanol very cheap. I just started 'The Magician's Nephew' by CS Lewis (thanks to Eick) so when I saw 'El Sobrino del Mago' I decided to attempt it in espanol also.

HA! Yeah... I'm on page 3. And please don't ask how long it took me to get there :)

Despite the difficulty, I am very excited to be learning spanish for real. It's nice to finally know how to form sentences! My hope is that I will learn a lot these 3 months in order to be a better partner to my Peruana counterpart. And that this effort will translate into a genuine love for the people of Peru.

Ojala (I hope)!

Aloha Means Te Amo,
Suthee :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bend Not Break

As hard as it may be for you to believe, I haven't listened to my iPod since I left for Peru. I've thought it was strange, but wasn't sure why I hadn't.

Then today I turned it on and listened to Hide & Seek by Imogen Heap (I realize a lot of you have no idea who that is, sorry). I wasn't sad, wasn't homesick, but when I heard that song I remembered the last time I listened to it and started to cry. Strange, no? The memory I have in connection to that song is a great one: riding in the back of my friend Cati's truck, taking in the beauty of the ocean & mountains of Hawaii.

It's strange when you begin to realize that your life is no longer your life. Strange when you realize this new place is your now your place. These new people are now your people. The Israelites struggled with this one for decades. Hopefully I can learn from them, so, I'm determined to welcome this new life with open arms, and not rebel against the unfamiliarity. Determined to take in each day and find the beauty that awaits. Even when it looks much different than that of the old familiar places.

Change is always difficult. But I'm learning to bend through the change and allow it to mold me, not break me.

Aloha Means I Love You,
Suthee :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

First Impressions

1. Michael Jackson as background music for our first breakfast with our host family. He really was universal.

2. "Crazy driving" is relative. Sure no one stays in their lane & most streets have no stopsigns/stoplights but Kenya driving still wins the prize for scariest rides of my life.

3. Movies are 12 soles (4 dollars)...jealous?

4. Nuns in beautiful blue habits. As soon as no one is looking, I'm taking pictures :)

5. Though Peruan coffee has been rated as some of the best in the world, locals still drink instant at home. Hmmmm...

6. So far, I love Peru, but I do miss you :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009


In training we played a game where we chose a side of the room depending on our preference. One question was ¨ready¨ or ¨ready or not!¨ And I realized that I am totally a ¨ready or not¨ kind of girl. As much as we can plan and think we know how to handle situations, life is pretty unpredictable and there is no such thing as being ¨ready. Ask anyone who plans to have a baby, has one, then discovers there is nothing that can really prepare you for the ups and downs of parenthood.

When I was preparing for my journey to Peru, I thought and tried to plan, yet two days before I was to leave, had a total meltdown and didn´t know if I could do it. But, being the ¨ready or not¨ girl that I am, I lept, and can I just say how glad I am that I did?

There will be bad days, there will be days I will wish I was at home in Hawaii, but today I am filled with an overwhelming peace that I am exactly where I should be, ready or not.

Aloha Means I Love You,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Climb

If you know me at all, you know I openly mock all High School Musical, Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana business. Don't have anything against those kids but unlike some people I know, it's just not my cup of tea ;)

Then, a couple months ago, I heard this song on the radio and it grabbed my attention. It talked about overcoming obstacles and that life isn't about how we get through things, but about the journey...good stuff, right? To my surprise I learned it was a Miley Cyrus song & I didn't want to admit I liked it. One day I was brave enough to tell my friend Eick that I actually liked that song...Since then, 'The Climb' by Miley Cyrus has been added to my guilty pleasure list.

Fast forward to 'Concert for Suthee' where some of my dearest friends got together and blessed us all with their musical talent in order to raise money for my move to Peru. One of the performers was the beautiful Tali Silva, a former student, who said some very kind words about me then proceeded to belt 'The Climb' better than Miley herself. It was powerful & I get teary eyed just thinking about it...

Which brings me to today. My last day in L.A. The busy-ness of the past 6 weeks has not given me much time to think about the enormity of this move. I was walking around, questioning whether or not I should do this, whether or not this was the right thing, feeling very alone and very confused, and I prayed for a sign. Whether or not God controls the radio, when 'The Climb' started playing on the radio, I took that as my sign...

"It's not about how fast I get there, it's not about what's waiting on the other side, It's the climb"

I have no idea what awaits, and I'm sure there will be days I want to quit, but I am gonna do my best to remember that this is much bigger than me, and it's about journey. I hope you will as well.

Aloha Means I Love You,
Suthee (Mel, Melissa, MJ, Sissy etc...)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Aloha Oe...

It's my last night in Hawaii. Wow. I can't even believe it! I don't really have time to write this blog, but wanted to make sure it was up and running before I leave tomorrow. So here's my only thought for today...

I'm going to miss the bamboo :)

You may have heard me talk in detail about my love for this amazing grass (that's right, it's not a tree, it's grass). In moments of quiet through the last weeks I've thought often about bamboo. How it struggles so hard beneath the surface for years before it breaks through the ground and shoots up in a matter of days. This thought remains: it must have the ability to grow so fast because of the strength it acquired in the struggle beneath the ground.

May this be true of all of us as well...

Aloha means I love you,