It sounds like gobbledygook. Have no idea if she is asking something, or telling me something. It could be something serious like, “There is a tsunami coming”, or just, “Where are you from?” Can’t even distinguish if it is English-with-an-accent.

Sorry, but I don’t know what you are saying.

Gobbledygook again. Oh dear.

Feeling a bit pressured here. I want to be nice. Want to be local. Lord, please give me a word of knowledge! Nothing comes to mind. Just smile and walk away. Smile-language 101 — smile a lot, use your hands, then smile again.

The ‘wet market’ is overflowing with vegetables and fruit. It’s a farmer’s market Asian style. Never been to a ‘dry market’ though — can’t find any. I feel so blessed. Easy to be mindful of God here — just have to look at the abundance and variety to know that God is the Ultimate Creator. God had fun when He made these crazy-looking fruits.

Fruit with fuzzy hair! You don’t eat the hair, only the insides. Delicious.

The contrast between the abundance here in Asia, and the coconut-and-onion market in the Iso village we lived in, is huge. Life was simple there, which sounds good — if you are not living that simple life for real. Living in a sun-scorched, mosquito-infested village was not a walk in the park.

Coming up with interesting meals where the choice of food was limited, was a one of my biggest challenges. My daughter helped me once to plan a week’s meal menu. It was difficult, but we managed to come up with the following:

Monday — beans-and-rice, and papaya

Tuesday — sloppy joe’s made of left-over beans on a locally-made bread roll, and papaya

Wednesday — beans-and-tomato stew, coconut rice, and papaya

Thursday — beans-and-rice, and bananas

Friday — fried rice with beans, and bananas

Saturday — beans and egg fritata

We didn’t know what we could have for Sundays — needed something special and interesting. Then, my daughter came up with the following idea, which was quite mind-blowing:

Sunday — bean surprise! And a banana-and-papaya fruit salad

So we just smiled at all the bean-jokes, bean-meals, and bean-surprises. If all else fails, smile ...

One time, we saw a newly opened café in the town close-by. The sign read: “WHERE AFRICA MEETS ASIA”. We were wondering if you could eat beans with chopsticks there. Sounded too eclectic to us. Never tried it.

Just a heads-up here — if you do not have a sense of humour, get one before you move to live cross-culturally. You will need it. Somehow, smiling relieves the tension.

Well, there was one time when it was really difficult for me to smile. The Iso women loved to do their hair in a certain way. They desperately wanted me to look more Iso, and they tried many times to fix my hair. At long last, the kids managed to get my hair to look just right. As I was walking home, shouts of admiration and good-willed laughter followed me. Everyone just loved my new hairstyle. One granny even clapped her hands and shouted, “Now you are a real Iso!” Here is the first reason I could not smile that day — my hair was pulled back so harshly, that I could barely speak, never mind smile.

Finally, I came home — quite pleased with my new Iso-look, and the positive reaction I got. And now the second reason for not smiling that day: My husband gave me one startled look, and said, “Just stand there, do not move! I need to find the camera, and take a photo of you. This is the ugliest you have ever looked.”

Words — and smiles — failed me. My husband thought it was hilarious! Never tried that style again.

Getting back to the food here in Asia — here I have the opposite challenge: it’s not that I have too little to choose from, rather the choice of food is quite overwhelming! I’m smiling now because I feel so blessed. Thank You, Lord, for spoiling me.

I do not know the names for some of the fruit and vegetables in the wet market, so just point and smile again. The lady at the vegetable stall asks me if I wanted something — could be mint leaves or ginger. Not sure. Smile, smile. Hopefully, I will graduate to ‘point and tell’ some day. The stinky fruit is a mystery to me. Was it stinky in paradise too, or did it become stinky after the Fall?

Done at the wet market. Need to go to the pharmacy for headache medicine. Again, the gobbledygook. I really need headache medicine. Smile and point — touching my head, while smiling. Aha, she smiles back. I am starting to get fluent in this smile-language. We are making progress. She confidently takes me to the shelf displaying all the hair shampoos! This is interesting. I have never taken hair shampoo for a headache. Is this a local remedy? Do you drink it, or rub it on your forehead? Never tried it though; thought it may be a permanent headache fix!

I bumped into the aunty who washes the floor at the entrance to our apartments. I’m so frustrated to not be able to communicate with her properly. I can greet and say two survival phrases. She loves it when I try. I smile, she smiles. The thing with this smile-language is that you have to smile with your eyes, not just your mouth. A lot of smiling today. She takes my hand, and say some gobbledygook, while smiling broadly. This was a good conversation.

If all else fails, smile ...


Psalm 126:2, Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” (NIV)

Have you smiled with your eyes at someone today?