A Third Valentines Treat

It seems that I may just keep this Valentines theme going until next Valentines Day.

I started leading a ‘creative writing’ workshop at CMU today.  I promised the class that I would do all of the exercises and activities alongside them in hopes of getting my own creative writing juices flowing again. Two years of writing one [very dry and dull] paper has  seemed to destroy the sparks of creativity that once flowed so nicely out of my pores.

Anyway, today we wrote a sonnet and while mine is by no means amazing, I decided to post it.

So once again,


“Unrequited Love” by Me 🙂

Hair the color of a summer fruit,

Eyes like the sea, so clear, so blue.

He fights my enemies like a brute,

He dances, in a way, so honest, so true.

He speaks the language of many peoples–

Making jokes that touch even the hardest soul,

With a smile so wide there are no equals.

We talk for hours without a lull,

Our connection is one that’s hard to find.

A friendship with potential of something more,

Though he has set an answer in his mind–

Romantic love belongs only in folklore.

So while I lay and think of he,

I know, of course, this will never be.











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Another Valentines Treat

Valentine’s Day has long past, but as I have not been creating my own, incredibly unique and totally original work for this blog, I felt like I should share another short story that I have recently stumbled upon.

This one brings about a whole myriad of emotions for me, which is probably why I like it so much.

So once again, enjoy.

The Children of the Dirt by Simon Rich

According to Aristophanes, there were originally three sexes – the children of the moon who were half-male and half-female, the children of the sun who were fully male, and the children of the earth, who were fully female. Everyone had four legs, four arms and two heads, and spent their days in blissful contentment. Zeus became jealous of the humans’ joy so he decided to split them all in two. Aristophanes called this punishment the origin of love because ever since, the children of the earth, moon and sun have been searching the globe in a desperate bid to find their other halves. Aristophanes’ story though is incomplete because there was also a fourth sex – the children of the dirt.

Unlike the other three sexes, the children of the dirt consisted of just one half. Some were male and some were female and each had just two arms, two legs and one head. The children of the dirt found the children of the earth, moon and sun to be completely insufferable. Whenever they saw a two-headed creature walking by, talking to itself in baby-talk voices, it made them want to vomit. They hated going to parties and when there was no way to get out of one, they sat in the corner, too bitter and depressed to talk to anybody. The children of the dirt were so miserable that they invented wine and art to dull their pain. It helped a little, but not really. When Zeus went on his rampage he decided to leave the children of the dirt alone. They’re already fucked, he explained. [sorry about the word, but I don’t believe in censorship]

Happy gay couples descend from the children of the sun. Happy lesbian couples descend from the children of the earth. And happy straight couples descend from the children of the moon. But the vast majority of humans are descendants of the children of the dirt. And no matter how long they search the earth, they’ll never find what they’re looking for because there’s nobody for them, not anybody in the world.






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A Valentines Treat

Most of you know that I have started working at Chiang Mai University.  I work with Caleb and one other colleague to assist the teachers and students in the International College.  We each have teachers and classes that we are specifically assigned to and aide in whatever way necessary, as well as run ‘workshops’ in hopes of enhancing the students’ English abilities.

Because my life is constantly hilarious, one of the classes that I am ‘assisting’ in is Lan Na History and Culture. Why is this funny? Well, because while this is an extremely interesting subject matter and is enriching my life here in the land of a million rice fields, the professor has no interest in teaching the class and has therefore handed it over to me. (Not completely, not every class… but many more classes that I was prepared for at first.)

This being said, I have had to do a lot of reading in order to learn the subject matter I am teaching.

This weeks class is about the ‘Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand’ and while I was reading the legends of this area, I came across this story and thought I would share it.

Consider this my Valentine’s Day gift to you all.


The Legend of Prince Chao Luang Kham Daeng

(from “Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand and Their Legends by Donald K. Swearer)

Early the next morning a forest rooster was heard and as the sun rose crows flew out from the thick of the forest, after Chao Luang Kham Daeng awoke he went for a walk in the forest. Admiring the beauty of his natural surroundings he felt refreshed. Suddenly he spied a golden deer happily nibbling grass around a large tree. The prince called the soldiers to come and confirm what he saw. “Yes,” they exclaimed, “it’s a golden deer.” Chao Luang Kham Daeng ordered the soldiers to make a circle around the golden deer. “If the deer comes toward any of you,” he said, “grab it and prevent it from escaping.” When the soldiers made a circle around the golden deer, it was startled and began running back and forth, sometimes stopping and at other times going around in circles.

The prince was entranced by the deer’s beauty. Seeing that Chao Luang Kham Daeng was in a trance-like state, she ran towards him and jumped through the cycle where the price stood. Chao Luang Kham Daeng had his soldiers surround the forest in an even smaller circle. The golden deer saw no way to escape [if she stayed where she was] so she emerged from her hiding place in the dense woods and continued her flight. Chao Luang Kham Daeng followed her until the golden deer began to tire. The prince then ordered his solders to advance quickly. As the deer continued to flee she was intercepted by the soldiers. The the golden deer ran into another forest with Chao Luang Kham Daeng and his soldiers in hot pursuit. Seeing them closing in, she cast off her deer body so that when the prince and the soldiers arrived they would see only a deer corpse. Although they searched high and low, the soldiers found no evidence of the golden deer. Chao Luang Kham Daeng saw only a beautiful, nude maiden with bright white skin. The prince urged his horse to follow after her. Coming to a brook, the woman fell exhausted into the water. Chao Luang Kham Daeng, thinking that the large number of male soldiers might frighten her, held up his hand for them to halt. Stepping out of the water the maiden continued to run until she came to another brook where she paused to look back. As the woman continued her flight, the sun grew quite hot for it was midday so when she reached another brook she knelt down and with cupped hands quenched her this. Reaching a hillock, the beautiful girl hid in a stone cave with the prince and his soldiers still in pursuit. When she was seen by them she ran to the top of the hill around which the soldiers began to dig a moat three levels deep to prevent her escape. After they had finished the second level the young woman realized that she would not be able to escape if they finished the thrust so she again fled from her hiding place. The prince, spying her, followed on his horse. The maiden ran quickly to a high mountain with Chao Luang Kham Daeng following behind. Here she stopped and asked the prince, “Why are you chasing me?” Chao Luang Kham Daeng answered that she was the most incomparably beautiful woman in the world. The young woman responded, “Are you like every other man in the world, only interested in sex?” “Oh, no, my fair lady, your incomparable beauty compels me to speak only the truth.”

“Men don’t remain truthful to women for a very long time,” she said. “When they’ve got what they want, all the sweetness disappears; they lose interest and leave.”

“That’s not true [for me],” the prince replied. “Your beauty is unlike any other in the world. Therefore, I wanted only to speak truthfully from my heart.” To this the woman said, “A man’s commitment to a woman soon fades. When he gets what he wants all the sweetness evaporates and he loses interest.”

“It’s because you possess such goodness that I wanted to meet you,” continued Chao Luang Kham Daeng. “I won’t be so easily dissuaded.” To this the young woman responded, “What’s the hurry? I don’t even know you. How can I love you?”

“I’m Chao Luang Kham Daeng, the son of the king of Champa. I was on my way to confront an enemy on behalf of my father. I would die willingly with the satisfaction of knowing that you let me serve you.”

“As for me,” the woman replied, “I live at hem with my aged mother. Everyday I go out looking for food for I am still under my mother’s care. If you want [to marry] me, you must request permission from my mother.” Chao Luang Kham Daeng then followed the woman into a large cave, but before leaving he promised his soldiers, “I’ll return in seven days if not earlier.”

The soldiers were very worried about the prince but, not knowing what else to do, they returned to their camp on the hill to wait. That evening the staged entertainment to celebrate the marriage of Chao Luang Kham Daeng even though it was unofficial. After seven days had elapsed and Chao Luang Kham Daeng still had not appeared, the soldiers searched everywhere but as no sign of the prince was to be found they broke camp and returned to Champa. Dought that the woman [with whom Chao Luang Kham Daeng went into the cave] was Camathewi (a princess from folklore) the king said, “The real Chamathewi isn’t beautiful so I’m sure the woman was the demon In Lao. She was out looking for a human being to eat just at the time my son happened along so he became a meal for her. When In Lao is out and about looking for food it is a bad time to go into battle.”







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FX Missions

Back in October a long-term friend/mentor of Caleb, Scott McClelland, came to visit us in Thailand.  Scott was a sunshiny ray of positivity and encouragement towards our team and such a refreshing person to have around. (Thanks again Scott for speaking such value over our team!  You’re a pretty stellar dude!)

Scott has a blog and a podcast that he regularly updates (unlike the author of this blog….oops…) and while he was visiting us he was diligently recording us to glean our wisdom for his readers/listeners.

Flash forward to today, I was googling myself to see what comes up working really hard at my new job at Chiang Mai University  when I came across Scott’s blog about me and one of the little podcasts that I recorded.

So, I’ve decided to share those here, for you.

The Blog:

This blog is a follow-up blog to a blog that he had written about my experience on the World Race five years prior.  The blog is pretty in depth and gives you a good idea of what my life looks like here–at least what it looked like in October, as much has changed since then.  At the end of the post there is a link to the recording of the actual interview.  The blog summarizes the interview, so if you would rather just listen our conversation, you can skip the read and click the audio.  Or do both.

The podcast:

This is a nice, short listen about being a single woman in leadership.




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God Is Not a White Man

While reading the news and thinking about this blog I have been constantly reminded of a classic Michael Gungor song.

I’m pretty sure I have posted this video in the past, but it seems due time for a good reminder. Click here to have a listen,

I’ve included the lyrics below the video.

God Is Not a White Man
by Micheal Gungor
God is not a man
God is not a white man
God is not a man sitting on a cloud

God cannot be bought
God will not be boxed in
God will not be owned by religion

but God is Love,
God is Love,
and He loves everyone
God is Love,
God is Love,
and He loves everyone

God is not a man
God is not an old man
and God does not belong to Republicans

God is not a flag
not even American
and God does not depend on a government

but God is good,
God is good,
and He loves everyone
God is good,
God is good,
and He loves everyone

oh, oh, duh, duh, duh, duh

athiests and charlatans,
and communists and lesbians,
and even ol’ Pat Robertson
Oh God, He loves us all
Catholic or Protestant,
terrorist or president,
everybody, everybody loved, loved, loved, oh

la la la la la
la la la la la
la la la

God is Love
God is Love
and He loves everyone

la la la la la
la la la la la
la la la

stop the hating, please just stop the hating now

’cause God is Love

oh, oh, oh

la la la la la
la la la la la
la la la


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Love Trumps Hate

I have a confession to make: I didn’t vote.

I know. I know. This is like the worst thing you can (not) do as an American citizen. It’s very irresponsible of me and according to Science Mike I deserve a pin stuck deep into my skin. :/ Oops.

I have a further confession to make… If I would have voted, I would have voted 3rd party. Which, in some people’s […Science Mike’s…] mind is almost as bad as not voting at all.

One last confession to make. This one, dear readers, is the most sinful* of them all: If I were forced to vote Trump or Clinton… I would have voted Clinton. (And here is where some readers *gasp*, while the others mumble *duh*.)

*Who you do/do not vote for is not/cannot be made a sin issue. It has nothing to do with sin and everything to do with conviction and preference. Lets stop making opinions a sin.

I hate politics.

I hate following the debates. I hate listening to the politicians. And I hate pretending to believe that anything being said is genuine or integral. I hate the idea of putting my hope in any one candidate.

But, despite my distaste for politics and my being located on the complete opposite side of the world, I was unable to completely escape the 2016 election. With every article I read and every podcast I listened to my heart was more and more saddened by the state of our nation.

I was watching the Thai news in a friends’  coffee shop when the election results were announced. I shed a few tears as the news began to sink in.

I was in shock. As the shock continued to materialize it changed forms. Disbelief became embarrassment and embarrassment became fear.  The fear started taking over and my imagination began to go rampant… until I called into remembrance who my hope is in. My hope is not in Trump nor was it ever in Hilary, my hope is in my God.

How faithful my God is.  As soon as I remembered who He is and focused my thoughts onto Him, my heart began to be at peace. I began to pray for Trump: for his heart, for him to encounter God, to meet Holy Spirit. As I started speaking blessings over Trump (as opposed to the insults I had slewed onto him for the last months…years..) my heart began to feel God’s love for him.

Unfortunately, it seems that this is not where America has rested. Not being on Facebook has shielded me from much of the nastiness going around, but not completely. I still read the articles and listen to the podcasts. And my heart breaks over and over again.

However, what has been the most heartbreaking about this election and the aftermath is the divisiveness and hatred seeping out of the church.

In a time where the world is so confused and scared the church has a golden opportunity to shine. An opportunity to comfort the brokenhearted and heal the hurt. How can we do this if we are too busy hurting and hating each other?

“If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by one another.” Galatians 5:15.

Church, this is our time. This is our time to shine the light and love of Jesus. This is our time to quite literally trump hate with love. Let us show the world where are our hope lies–not in our president elect, but in our Faithful Father.

*My pastor in Omaha addressed this very issue last Sunday. He goes more in depth and is a bit more articulate than I am, so it’s worth a listen. You can listen to the sermon here.



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An Open Letter to the Lorensens

Dear Caleb and Tracy,

In light of recent events (ahem…) I have been thinking about you guys a lot–about who you guys are in general and who you guys are in relation to me.  So I decided to write it out (and publish it) and if I’m feeling extra sentimental, I may even read it aloud to you… (Enneagram 4 all the way!!)… but maybe not.

So here we go. Caleb first, because he is the man (eye roll).


Thank you for being a feminist. 🙂 Thank you for loving your wife the way you do, for supporting her, for standing behind/beside her, for encouraging her to be all that she can be and for believing that she can do anything.  Thank you for allowing her to have a voice and equal weight in the relationship.  Thank you for loving and investing in your children–spending quality time with them, taking them to work with you when schedules are crazy, etc. Thank you for not viewing ‘child-rearing’ as a woman thing.

In relation to me: thank you for being my friend. Thank you for not being scared of my single girl germs or raging hormones. Thank you for believing in me as a teacher, an academic, a colleague and as a missionary.  Thank you for allowing me to be in your family, and as I see it, adopting me as a little sister. Thank you for not talking down to me and sympathizing with me as I relate the numerous accounts of when married white christian men do. (They’re the worst). Thank you for being an example of what a husband/dad/missionary can look like and despite of our cynical ways–you give me hope against my cynicism. Hope that ‘good’ men do, in fact, exist.


Wow. Um… where do I start. Thank you for being a strong woman (#tracystrong). Thank you for having an opinion and sharing it.  Thank you for using your voice.  Thank you for being a wife in an equal relationship –but not overpowering your husband. Thank you for not manipulating him, but for being honest with your needs, opinions, desires, etc. Thank you for the ways you love and honor Caleb. You do it so well and are so obviously proud of him.  Thank you for being so in love with him without losing your identity and personality. Thank you for not finding your identity in your relationship with Caleb.

In regards to me: gosh… thank you for laughing with me and crying with me and listening to me and being angry with me and celebrating with me… thank you for not competing with me.  Thank you for calling me out when I need to be called out and thank you for loving me through all my (many) emotions [4].  Thank you for showing me that LOVE is not contingent on my being a certain way or performing perfectly. Thank you for trusting me to be friends with your husband… and for even, heaven forbid, being ok with me sitting alone with him in a car (gasp). Thank you for believing in me and encouraging me to be my best self.  Thank you for pushing me when I want to quit or be lazy.

To both of you,

Thank you for letting me be in your family. Honestly, I don’t even think of you guys as friends anymore. If we need labels, I can say that you’re my best friends, but in my heart our relationship has surpassed that. In my heart you are my big sister and big brother.

Thank you for letting me love your children and be as present and involved with them as I get to be. They really are special kids and while I know they have LOTS of blood aunts and uncles… Auntie Samara loves them the most.

You guys are my role models. As cheesy and mushy as all this is… I look up to you. You set the bar exceedingly high when trying to find other friends… or looking for a spouse… but I am grateful for that high bar.

I truly believe that wherever I end up in the next five or ten years, I will be forever marked by these past four (plus) years in your family.

I love you guys a lot,



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the suffering missionary.

There are some groups of people that subscribe to the notion of the ‘suffering missionary’.  You know, the idea that being called overseas as a missionary is a death to your former life of joy and pleasure and a birthing of a life of misery and woe.  This ideology is held by missionaries and laymen alike.

I think the thought pattern is all somehow tangled up in support raising:  If you’re not suffering, then you’re not being used for the purposes of the gospel.. and so you can’t get any money and then you can’t eat… so now you are suffering…and so on…and so forth…

Maybe I’m wrong. Regardless. It should be no surprise, I do not subscribe to this notion.

But today, I am writing to tell you all that I am SUFFERING.



I have this increasingly intolerable struggle with microscopic red ants.

The freaking things have decided that their new favorite place to live is inside my towel.  So this evening, after an impromptu and uncharacteristic evening shower, I wrapped my vulnerable, wet body into my nice, dry towel and was immediately molested by thousands of the little suckers.

They just go right for it.  I literally just picked 15 of their itty bitty bodies off of my body and am now full of red itchy welts.

WHAT’S MORE is, as I was transcribing this blog in my head and lathering myself with anti-inflammatory/anti-itch cream, I felt a tickle on my foot… I look down there was a HUGE freaking COCKROACH on it.  To which I reacted to by smashing its body several times with my journal. I didn’t even scream. This has become common place.

The struggle is real.

In conclusion, I am suffering, so please send me all of your money.

Thank you.


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small world.

Last month my university offered a one month intensive TESOL certification course.  Typically when this course is offered my four professors split the responsibility and teach the course together, however, while planning out who would teach what, my professors realized that two of the teaching days would fall on a government holiday and none of them wanted to loose those precious holiday hours.

So what’d they do?  They call me up and asked me to fill in and teach those two days–12 total hours–for them. I agreed and pretty much felt like this:


I prepared my lessons full of class discussions, authentic activities, practical teaching tips and tools and an assignment/presentation.  I was fully confident in my mad teacher training abilities and ready to teach this course.

Whelp. When expectations meet reality one is often met with disappointment and this was not exception.  I was quickly acquainted with the disappointing reality of my students and while they were all adults and many already English teachers…they were absolutely NOT excited to be in this (optional) course (that they paid to be part of), nor were they eager to participate in any of the ‘student centered’ activities I had prepared for them.

After my first six hour day, I looked more like this:


It was like pulling teeth to get them to participate in any discussion (which was about 50% of my class plan for the first day), they were not at all interested in participated in the ‘learning activities’ I had prepared and the class time turned into me literally talking through my powerpoint and dismissing them an hour and a half early.


The second day wasn’t as shocking to me as I had already experienced my students innate awesomeness the day before and therefore tweaked my lesson plan accordingly; which included adding a new discussion question:

“What do you do when your student’s won’t participate in class?”


The first three hour section went fine, then we broke for lunch and came back with full bellies an hour later. This final section of our time together was devoted to their lesson plan demonstrations and should be fine.  Once all the presentations were finished, we were free. Smooth sailing, right? Right?


Of course not.


As i was walking the attendance sheet around the classroom I came up to a student watching very graphic anime porn on his laptop.

In the classroom.

At 1:00pm.


I was in shock.

I knew I needed to do something, I was the professional in this situation, but I literally just froze.  I just stood there awkwardly running through all possible things to say to him.

Fortunately, just my loooong, awkward presence behind him was enough to make him uncomfortable and he shut it off.


I am not trained for this.

We made it through the presentations and then they left.

That evening as I wrote each student an email with their presentation scores and personal feedback, I added a special addendum for that particular student.  I very professionally informed him that it’s not appropriate to be watching cartoons of that nature in the classroom and that it reflects poorly on him as a professional.

I went home that evening, again looking like this:


the end.

Just kidding.

Of course it’s not the end.

I wish it was the end. That should  be the end. But it’s not the end.

Two days ago I was sitting in the office at the School of Promise waiting for Iris to be dropped off.  The office has a big window so you can watch the kids playing on the playground.  As I was looking out the window a parent I didn’t quite recognize came up and sat down directly outside that window.

As he was sitting down we, unfortunately, made eye contact. The eye contact was followed by a look of familiarity in both of our eyes, then realization and then shock… and then complete and utter disbelief

It was classroom porno man.



When the principle saw (by the look on my face) that I knew this man she asked me to go tell him to park and wait behind the school.

And as much as I wanted to pretend that he was a stranger and just ignore this chance occurrence… I couldn’t.  I had to go talk to him… so I did.

Samara: “Hi, uh… what are you doing here?’

Porno Guy: “…Uh… hi… my dad run’s New Life Children’s Home.  Are you a teacher here?”

Samara: “…Uh huh, yep.  A lot of those kids are in my class. Um, yea, will you park in the back and wait for them there?”

Porno Guy: “Yep.”

Samara: “Great.” (runs back into the office…)

Ok, so writing that conversation out makes it seem short and easy.

BUT you have to remember to add in all the flash backs and emotions tied to standing behind him as he’s watching the cartoon and my writing him the email actually addressing it.

Though the conversation was award winningly short, it was riddled with intense amounts of embarrassment and awkwardness.  If death via awkwardness was possible, this would have been the scenario.

and that, dear readers, is the end.

(I so earnestly hope.)




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The Fat Blog.

This blog is about four years in the making.  It’s been spinning around in my head forever… sentences and paragraphs have been written over and over in my head… so it feels kind of surreal to sit down and actually embark on writing this blog.  I only hope I can get my thoughts, feelings and perceptions out with satisfactory amounts of academic eloquence and appropriate amounts of humor.

So here it is, The Fat Blog.

I hate to admit it, but one of my biggest fears is being fat.

I know, I know… I’m not really allowed to say that.  All bodies are beautiful and wonderful and it’s incredibly vain and not politically correct for me to say that as my number one fear.  But there it is.

Fortunately, despite my genetic predisposition to low metabolism, unhealthy food choices and a sedimentary lifestyle, I’ve made it my (almost) thirty years without being ‘fat’.  At least not according to American standards.

I remember the first time the ‘fear’ of being fat crept into my mind.  I was around 8 years old and my mom was on a phone call with one of her cousins. I was supposed to be in my bed sound asleep, though instead, I was sitting on the floor by my bedroom door eavesdropping on the conversation, hoping to score some juicy family gossip.  Unfortunately, instead of hearing some drama about my great aunt’s live in boyfriend or my other cousin’s next money making scheme, I heard my mom say,

“Samara’s really starting to get fat.”

That’s it.  That one sentence.  Of course, my mom didn’t know I was listening… and probably still didn’t know I heard that until she read this blog.  But that one sentence entered my psyche and changed the way I viewed my little 8 year old body.

I don’t think I ever even thought about being fat before that.  I mean, yes, my family members were mostly plump people, but that never really mattered to me.. they were my world.  They were the coolest, funniest, most interesting people around me.  Sure, I knew they were fat, but what did that have to do with anything?  As far as I can remember, it was that one sentence.. that one sentence that I was never intended to hear, that turned ‘fat’ into fat. That turned being fat as something shameful, undesirable, ugly.

And at that point, I became ashamed.  I began to believe that I was fat and being fat was shameful.

This twisted body image stayed with my for the majority of my life.  I started dieting as early as I could and was always ashamed of the makeup of my Palestinian/Italian genes.

I have a distinct memory of weighing myself in the 8th grade and hitting 101 lbs for the first time.  I was in my soon-to-be stepdad’s apartment bathroom and I cried.

But, again, I was never actually overweight.  Looking back at pictures of myself from middle school and high school, I feel brokenhearted for that little girl, who was so petite, so perfectly beautiful and yet hated her body so much.

Freshman year of college, with it’s excessive drinking and drug use, pressures of school and social life and the death of my great grandma, ushered in the freshman 20.  You can imagine how I handled that…

not well.

Coming home for winter break my friends and family could tell I had put on that weight and without trying to be too obvious… made it clear that they could tell.  Soooo… when I went back for second semester I started a new diet. The slim fast shake and a nutrigrain bar a day diet and… successfully lost that twenty pounds.

My college friends praised me for how good I was looking as the weight came off and I vividly remember thinking that my friends were idiots because I was literally starving myself but all they noticed was how my jeans fit.

But hey… starving was better than being fat.. was it not?

Happily, I can say, that once I reached my goal weight I started eating in a more balanced way and have never drank another slim fast smoothie again. I was able to maintain a very normal, healthy weight throughout the rest of college.  (Though, I never stopped believing I was fat.)

Flash forward to the World Race.

In 2010 I embarked on the wonderful World Race experience.  The World Race, not to be confused with the Amazing Race, is an 11 month ‘missions trip’ around the world.  You spend about a month in 11 different countries doing various service projects with a random group of individuals just about as crazy as you.

One thing the World Race experts told us before we left was that if we’re not careful we will all gain weight (men excluded… the men, they said would lose all their weight… ).  They encouraged us to get in the habit of exercising and making our physical health a priority regardless of the country we were in or the circumstances we were living in.


Well, the experts were right and we ignored their advice.  The women on my squad, with very few exceptions, all gained at least 10 lbs over the year.  I came home a whopping 25 lbs heavier than I was before.

I attribute that weight gain to an unsteady diet of ever changing carbs, feeling entitled to ice cream or Western candy whenever it was available and then a bout of depression that only got harder to deal with every pound I put on.

Coming home after the World Race was no walk in the park for me.  I could and probably should devote a blog to telling that story, but that is for a different time.  Coming home from the World Race, I was fat.  Beginning at 8 years old, I had always felt fat, but in 2011, for the first time, my BMI actually told me that I was ‘obese’.

Fortunately I had a distaste for slim fast and therefore, instead of going back to my tried and true starvation diet, I turned to something much healthier to try to get the weight off. I miraculously trained for and ran my first half marathon.  and I lost not. a. single. pound.

Then I moved to Thailand.

I recently wrote a sort of ‘tongue and cheek’ blog about adapting to Thai culture.  The things I mentioned were all very surface level, superficial cultural things that make for easy reading and light chuckles.  The reality of cultural adaptation is a lot less funny.

Cultural adaptation is a bitch. (sorry).

While I have done, in my opinion, an extraordinary job adjusting to the new society that has become my home, there are certain things that I have yet to understand or be okay with.

One being the ‘news, weather, sports’ type talk about people’s appearances–to their face. Upon greeting a Thai person, you should expect to receive some sort of comment about your physical appearance.  Apparently these comments, regardless to how we, Americans, understand them, are completely matter of fact and are in no way personal.

That being said, a couple of the first words I learned in Thai were: อ้วน (fat) and ก้นไหญ่ (big butt).  I learned these words so quickly due to how often I was greeted with them.

Samara: Hello

Thai Person: Hi.  You are fat.

Samara: :(:(:( dies a little inside.

I also learned very early on that here, in the Land of Smiles, I am not สวย (beautiful), but rather น่ารัก (cute) because the word for beautiful is reserved for people who are not fat like me.

Welcome to Thailand.

Let’s just say that wasn’t easy for me.  A person with an already corrupted since of self worth and body image being called ‘fat’ to her face on a regular basis does not a merry person make.

By God’s good grace (and I mean that so sincerely) I realized that as much as I hated people talking to me in this way… I could not change the culture.  And if I didn’t stop being hurt every time someone called me fat or let me know about my big butt, I would quite literally die. I decided that I had to be the one who changed.

At first, I thought that I had to be the one who changed in the more physical light.

I needed to loose weight.

So I became much more active than I had ever been previously in my life.  I don’t know how many times I have completed Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred or how many of stupid Shawn T’s Insanity videos I’ve done… and I trained for an ran another half marathon…

Though try as I might, I could barely get the scale to move.  (I lost about 6 lbs amid all of this.)

No, loosing weight to appease Thai beauty standards was not the kind of change that needed to take place. I needed to, once and for all, get over my fear of being fat.  I needed, for the first time in my conscious life to be okay with my body.  I needed to be able to be called fat (everyday, to my face) and not be affected by it.

Well, how the hell does one do that? (sorry again).

I wish I had a straight forward answer to give you.  But, the reality is, that for the first time in my life I got really honest with God about my skewed body image.  I got honest about the hatred I felt towards my body and I asked Him for help.  I wrote down all my perverted belief systems about beauty standards and bodily ideals and asked God to show me what He thought. I asked Him to change my mind.

Within this process, I realized that I had corrupted the word ‘fat’ in my mind.  I changed the definition of ‘fat’ making it mean: ugly, worthless, unloveable, gross, lazy, pitiful, shameful.

I had to ask God to redefine this word that was constantly being used to describe me.

It was not a quick or painless process.  I cried. A lot.  I had to continuously take the words from my peers and give them to God.  I had to continuously pray to be washed from people’s comments about my appearance.  I had to continuously forgive and ask for help forgiving.

Eventually, though, through the combination of my new and active lifestyle and lots of vulnerability with the Lord, I began to accept myself.  I began to believe that not only was I not fat, even if I were, ‘fat’ does not mean I am those ugly words I used to associate with it. I slowly began to love my overweight self.

Despite about three years of trying to tell my Thai friends to not comment on my physical appearance, the comments have not stopped.

While I was still at my highest ever weight, I would try all sorts of tactics to explain how hurtful their comments were to me.  I would use vulnerability, sarcasm, humor and/or straight up bluntness… but the comments never subsided.  However, the pain that used to accompany the comments disappeared and I was able to just be annoyed with the culture that I didn’t understand rather than allow the comment to chip away at my self worth.

Over the last nine months the extra weight I had been carrying since the World Race has disappeared and I’m back to the weight and body shape that I had been before.

The funny thing is, the extra weight didn’t go away until it no longer matter to me if it did.  I finally became okay with my new shape and just accepted myself as I was.

Now that I’m back to what was my previous ‘normal’ I wish I could say that the comments about my body have stopped.

Unfortunately they have not.  They have just taken on a new form.  Instead of ‘you’re fat’ I am told, ‘wow, you are so much more beautiful now that you’ve lost weight’ or ‘you look hungry’ or, my personal favorite, ‘if you loose anymore weight, you won’t be beautiful anymore.’

Basically… I just can’t win.

I try to not get too annoyed when I hear these comments.  I typically reply with something corny along the lines of ‘thanks, but beauty has nothing to do with my weight’ or ‘thanks but I was always beautiful’ or ‘beauty is in the heart’.  Honestly, it’s almost become a game to me.

I am not able to change Thai culture.  Thank you Jesus, that that is not my responsibility. That’s a daunting task.  But… perhaps, just maybe, I am able to help people change the way they see themselves.

The reality is that we will never live up to the world’s beauty standards.  As soon as we achieve one standard, there is a new one that needs to be met.  As soon as your weight is acceptable your eyebrows won’t be… and if your eyebrows are fine… you better focus on your frizzy hair… it’s an endless cycle.

Being honest, I’m really happy to be back to my normal weight.  I like dressing up and putting on makeup, I like doing things that make me feel beautiful, but at the end of the day, as cheesy and corny and trite as it is, my beauty has absolutely nothing to do with any of that. The scale does not measure my self worth. (and if it did… shouldn’t it be the heavier you are the more worth you have?!?!?)

I am beautiful because God made me so. I was made in his image–big butt, thick calves, frizzy hair and all.

I’m not a mommy, but I am a teacher and a big sister.  I want to live in such a way that my fight to love myself may cover the young people in my life.  I want them to be able to glean from my victory.  I want them to see me love myself amid my imperfections and an ‘non-ideal’ figure. I want them to carry every ounce of self worth and self respect that I have had to battle for.

No, I can’t change Thai culture, but I can set an example for the young women and heck, even the young men, in my life and perhaps their battle won’t be as long or as hard.


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