Rachel and I met on "the farm" in Virginia in November of 2003, the place where we received some training for our line of work. John and I had flown from Iowa through Chicago in a snowstorm that day, and our luggage was left behind. We arrived in Virginia with the clothes on our backs and maybe a book bag? I have no idea! I didn't know how to pack in those days, I'm sure!
We walked into our quad (living situation with four families sharing a living room, each with individual bathrooms, bedrooms and small kitchenette) and as we were looking around and settling our few things, I walked to the back of the quad where John was standing and talking with a guy named Josh. "This is my wife, Rachel," said John. "And this is MY wife, Rachel," said Josh. From that moment on, we hit it off. Rachel offered to loan me some clothes to get me by until our luggage arrived (I believe it was a choice between a Hard Rock t-shirt and a David Letterman t-shirt--funny choices for being where we were!), and I took her up on it.
The next two months were filled with wonderful worship times (including one time where we all played an "instrument" of choice--Josh's was a lamp base drummed on with a pen, if I remember correctly!), lots of meetings, shared meals, lots of evenings with our door propped open to the common living area, and the like. That was in the days where we were childless and fancy free-there was usually someone still up late into the evening, you know, snacking and chatting, I think there was even a Lord of the Rings watch-a-thon one weekend! It was a wonderful, bonding, strengthening time.
It was also a time filled with huge transitions, major decisions and adjustments; experiencing those things together makes for some incredible bonds. It is a completely unique situation to be actually living with people who are making the radical choices that you are making and about to embark on the huge adventure that you are also undertaking. I'm so thankful for those 8 weeks together, with Josh and Rachel and our entire quad and Asia-bound friends. Rachel and I were only sorry we were headed to different parts of a large country in Asia.
Here's the only picture I have from that time with Rach in it: she's the skinny blonde with straight hair! Sadly I don't have any pictures of us together! So, Rachel went her way down south and I went my way up north. We kept in touch through some of those first few months of crazy culture adjustments, and then later were amazed to find that we were both expecting babies around the same time! I was due in December and Rachel in February. There was a notable phone call where she told me the news, and what a comfort it was to me to know that someone else was also experiencing what I was experiencing--aversion to Asian food with its ginger and garlic, wanting my husband to go out and eat street noodles so I didn't have to cook or even be around food, figuring out how to deal with pregnancy and prepare for a birth while living in a VERY foreign country. . . the list goes on. The next time I saw Rachel was in August of 2004, at a meeting in northern Thailand where you get to do things like this:
This is a very memorable moment because we were rafting down a Thai river on this lovely bamboo craft, when the pole-master offered to let John do some poling/steering. "Careful," I cautioned him. "Maybe you want to give me the camera." "No, no, it's very secure around my neck, see how I'm wearing it?" said John. But in the next moment he poled a little too close to the shore, put the pole in front of the raft which went against the current, bent the pole and whoops! John was overboard! With the camera very securely attached to his neck, of course! We rescued the pictures on the memory card but the camera was a goner.
Both Rachel and I are expecting in the picture above but she wasn't showing at ALL and I was already pleasantly plump (that's one way to say it, anyway!) That meeting was in a nice Thai hotel and all of our meals were served in some banquet rooms on the second floor. The first morning when I walked in to breakfast and saw Rachel there, we eagerly sat together and chatted, and I remember leaving that room, arm in arm, as Rachel said to me, "Let's just be joined at the hip for these next days!" We had so much to catch up on and lots of pregnancy stuff to talk about, not to mention language and culture and all of the other things that make our life so unique here. . . I think we did stick pretty close together and talked and talked. That has been a hallmark of our friendship--we never run out of things to say to each other! I feel like there's always more to talk about--STILL--to this day!
And then, the next time we were together was for this momentous occasion. . . Clara Anne was born! This was within the first two weeks of her life, January 2005. Josh and Rachel happened to be in Hong Kong for some reason and came to see us and our new arrival; they were Clara Anne's first visitors! Oh my, those were the lonely days: Clara Anne was two weeks old before she had her first visitors! But we were alone in a foreign place and my parents were coming the next week--that just made our time with Josh and Rachel and my parents all the more special. How wonderful it was to catch up again and they had lots of questions about how the labor and delivery went since they were about to go through it themselves! We talked and laughed and heard stories about their life and talked about doctors and birth plans and things like that. I seem to remember Josh telling some funny squattie potty stories on that occasion! You know you're good friends when you can laugh about THAT together! Precious memories.
We left Hong Kong and traveled directly to Thailand. Josh and Rachel and our good friends Karl and Chris would also be there to attend the meeting with us. Of course we had to meet up for supper and where else but the Hard Rock Cafe? The atmosphere isn't my personal favorite but Hard Rock's redeeming quality is that it can be counted upon for authentic western food (not imitation western as is served across much of Asia--give me authentic Asian over bad western anytime!). We had a fun meal though if I remember correctly Clara Anne was a little fussy. That was in the early days of parenting when a fussy baby at dinner was more of a disturbance. Now I've come to expect to be interrupted approximately 32 times during dinner and so it doesn't bother me a bit! We had a great meal and fun time together though!
And here's the last photo from this era--this was actually taken in Hong Kong before we all left for Thailand. I remember this day distinctly--this was one of our first big outings with the new baby. I wasn't sure what to expect. We traveled to Central and walked up to the Mid-Levels, and ate lunch at this Mexican place. I remember the food was pretty good, and we had a great time (Rachel and I have probably spent as many hours eating together as talking together!), and then it was time to feed the baby. I retreated into a nearby Starbucks and with John's help and a receiving blanket, managed my first out-and-about feeding for Clara Anne! I remember being so thankful that we were putting Clara Anne on a schedule, and now I had another 2.5 hours before I had to nurse her again--plenty of time to relax, chat, and make our way back to Kowloon before that next nursing session came around. I'm so glad we got the above picture, doesn't Rachel look sweet with her hand protectively over her belly and little Emma inside?
I'll be continuing this series for at least a few more installments; sorry this isn't current news but it's fun anyway! And it's doing my heart good to write down some of these things in order to remember them better. Until next time. . .