Friday, December 2, 2011

An Almost-End-of-the-Semester Letter

Dear New York City,

I have quite enjoyed our last several months together. Before I came here, I thought you were just an American city that had a ton of diversity. But I was very wrong. You are, in fact, an international city that happens to be claimed by America. You have no Wal-marts or King Soopers and have very few Christians. I walk everywhere, but I appreciate that it is on paved streets and not in the dirt.  I like that I hear different languages daily, yet everyone understands when I speak. In you I spend my afternoons with the richest people I've ever known and then ride the subway home with beggars. I never expected you to present so many challenges. Although I spend 15 hours a week in classes and even more doing homework, you have taught me the most. You've taught me to only wear sweats in my apartment and that the world is more messed-up than I wanted to believe. At the same time, you've taught me to ignore the people around me and that people are always willing to give directions. Now I'm ready to end this learning curve. I would like a chance for a nice, big deap breath. In two weeks, I'll be looking up at mountains instead of the Empire State Building, sitting at a quiet coffee shop instead of walking to two or three before finding one with an empty seat, and walking up and down the ailes (with a cart!) of King Soopers instead of pushing through Trader Joe's in hope of finding the groceries I need. I'm really looking foward to it, but I know that in three weeks I'll probably be missing you. After I gulp air in Estes Park and get a chance to drive, I'll be ready to come back. So please don't get mad at me for wanting to leave really badly right now. Be waiting for me when I come running back ready to take you on again in January.

Your loving resident,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

One Year

One year ago today, I began my life-changing adventure in Africa. I've been thinking a lot about what has changed in me in the last year. Most people assume that Africa was life-changing because I saw poverty and a bunch of weird customs. But that's not what changed me. Before I went, I had been in much more impoverished areas and I think I run into more strange customs here in New York City each week than I did in my 6 months in Africa. I didn't change because it was a cross-cultural experience. I changed because of the people I met there.

I quickly learned that life there is hard. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I didn't couldn't understand how hard life is there. The heat, the isolation, the pressure of speaking a different language when you leave the house, trying to be a light-, all caused days when I just didn't want to get out of bed. I wasn't alone in all of this though. All the ex-pat women who I met there understood. They had gone through the same things. They were going through the same things. And most of these women are still pushing through there. They raise their families there, they make a home and they live lives that show the evidence of the Spirit that lives inside of them. These women taught me hospitality, how to follow God even when it means giving up some of your own wants, and how to love the people around you. They give of themselves each day, making a place home, even when they have no assurance that it will be home the next year. They bend over backwards to serve yet know when they need to stop to take care of themselves. I learned that family are the people who you sit around the dinner table with, who search the stores until they find crackers for you when you're sick, and who invite you to sit and cry and talk when they know that it is what you need.

These women showed me how to be like Jesus day in and day out. They walked out their faith. They are real life examples of  who I want to be. They showed me what being like Jesus looks like and how to continually be going through the process to get there. And that's what changed me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Church Shopping

Pretty much the only time I miss 'home' is on Sunday when I go to church. I've tried a few really good churches here in the city and liked most of them. But they just aren't Good Shepherd. I don't expect them to be, but I really miss it. Today I was trying to figure out what I missed about it. Of course, I miss my friends there, and I miss knowing what to expect when I walk in the doors. I remember though, after having been searching for churches in Colorado Springs coming home and realizing that if I had just moved there and was searching for a church, G Shep probably wouldn't necessarily be the one I would choose. I would be wary of the fact that it is non-denominational, and the worship was just okay (on the other hand, I love worship with the youth groups). So why do I miss it so much? And why is it so much harder to look over some aspects that I haven't liked about the churches I've tried in the city?

This is what I realized today. I was a part of the body at G Shep. I've served there in different ministries for almost 10 years. It's not that I liked every aspect of it or thougth it was doing everything right. It's that I was a part of the living, breathing church body there. In the end, it came down not to the nitty-gritty theological beliefs or whether worship was contemperary or done with hymns. It wasn't about if every sermon is great and is exactly what I needed to hear. It was that I was a part of it and it's hard to disconnect from the body I've been a part of for 12 years. It really is like family- you don't always like them or everything about them, but they are a vital part of who you are you are a part of them. So instead of looking at having a hard time finding a church here as a bad thing, I'm going to start seeing it as a reminder of how we are supposed to be a part of the church. It is good that I miss my church back home, because it means I was a real part of it. Meanwhile, hopefully I can find a church that even though it may not fit everything on my checklist, will be a place that I can become a part of.

Monday, September 12, 2011


This is a story I wrote for my college writing class about my time in Africa that I thought I'd share with you all!

        One event is all it took for me to feel assured of my independence. Having just moved to Khartoum, Sudan, I was in a completely new environment. The weather was different, the way I dressed was different, and the language spoken around me was different. More than anything I wanted to make this place my home, but at the same time, I felt completely inadequate in my ability to do anything on my own.

            Then I was asked to go get bread for dinner. I could feel panic rising in my throat, but I choked it down and smiled. I had not yet been out on the streets alone in this strange world. Memorizing the directions was step one. I was to walk down the main street, turn left at the blinking star and then keep going until I got to the bakery. Hopefully, I could make it to the main street without getting turned around. Sliding a scarf over my head, I grabbed the money and crumpled it tightly in my fist.

    After making it to the main street and seeing the blinking star, I sighed out of relief. I walked with my head slightly down, careful not to make eye contact with the men roaming the street. As I turned left, I began to feel apprehensive about what would occur next. Would the men understand what I wanted when I gave them the money? Could I clearly communicate without using words that I wanted the round bread?

         I pulled the small rope handle and walked in as a cool blast of air glided out. No one was at the counter. I stood there, unsure of what protocol was in this culture. After a moment of feeling self-conscious, a timid “Salam?” slipped out of my mouth. It seemed like hours later, but a man finally came out. I pushed my worn money toward him. When he said something that sounded like a question, I made a circle with my hands. Apparently I had given him the correct information, because he promptly grabbed a bag of round loaves and handed it to me.

        My walk home was pleasant. I felt powerful knowing that, although I could not yet speak the language, I could communicate clearly with the people around me. I was a part of this place, and I fit in with all the others who bought their bread each day. It wasn’t going to be simple living here by myself, but I could do it.

Photo of the Day

Sorry for the bit of blur. And it's too bad it was so cloudy this evening, because the lights would have been a lot better.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We Will Never Forget

I didn't enjoy eating lunch on the ground today, but my friends and I will never complain about the reason why there were no seats:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hello New York!

For some reason I thought I left craziness behind me when I left Africa.

Boy was I wrong. There's a lot that has happened the past two weeks, with moving to NYC, starting school and meeting tons of new people. But maybe the craziest thing that has happened was having two (2!) natural disasters occur in the course of one week.

Apparently there was an earthquake last Tuesday. And I guess people felt it here. But I was in a basement, so I didn't feel or even hear anything. I'm still going to count it as my first earthquake experience.

Then we spent our first weekend inside, with college student evacuees sleeping on the floor of our tiny apartment. The most unfortunate part of it all was that it was for absolutely nothing. Nothing happened. We got some rain, but that's it. No super high winds that woke us up while sleeping on the 22nd floor, no flooding in the streets. Nothing. However, we did get a day off school!

It all reminded me of the times in Africa when something big and bad was supposed to happen, and then nothing did. It's not bad, but it it is a let down.

This week has been slightly more normal. I'm growing used to the city and learning to love it. It is like nothing else in the world and holds many new adventures!

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Summer

I thought I'd catch you all up on what I did this summer. It wasn't anything too excititng, which is why you haven't heard from me!

Here were some of the highlights after I got back from Africa:

My sister graduated high school- Congrats Elise!

I went backpacking with some friends over the 4th of July. It was a lot of fun!

I climed to the top of Long's Peak for the first time as part of a memorial climb. It was a lot harder than I thought, but it was a great group of people to climb with!

And lastly, I went to Michigan for a vacation. I got to see my cousins whom I hadn't seen in three years!

Aren't they cute? We spent a morning out on a lake on a canoe trail, which is kind of like a hiking trail, but on water. It was beautiful and a lot of fun!

The rest of my summer was filled with a LOT of babysitting, which I enjoyed quite a bit. And although summer is always a lot of fun, I think I'm quite ready for the fall and the start of school and getting into a normal routine!

The Rearview Mirror

Have you ever looked into your rear-view mirror while driving and been completely astonished at what you saw there? I'm not talking about the shock of seeing an accident or what the driver behind you may or may not be doing, but of seeing a sight of breath-taking beauty. I'll never forget the day I was driving to school as the sun began to rise (because for some reason the school system thinks that having teenagers start the school day at the crack of dawn is a good thing) I looked in my rear-view mirror and instead of seeing a sea of other vehicles driven by my friends and the parents of freshmen and sophomores I saw the mountains. The sun was hitting them in a way that made them glow. At a stoplight I turned around to look, but I was disappointed. It was a beautiful sight, but for some reason wasn't as captivating as looking at it through the mirror. If you've never had this experience, I encourage you to sometime look at the scenery behind you, whether it's a field, the Rocky Mountains, or the sun setting.

I've been back in America for 3.5 months now and it's been strange, to say the least. I don't ride buses, cover my head, or struggle to communicate every day now. Life is full of convenience, and with that convenience come a certain blandness. I've yet to go a single day without thinking about how much I liked life in Africa and wanting to go back. When I look back I see the wonderful times I had, the ways I grew and the wonderful relationships I built. From this perspective, I loved it there. But somehow, a rear-view mirror can make things look better. Somewhere in my memories are the weeks and months that I cried, not knowing how I'd make it through the day. I know I came home most days exhausted, hot, sweaty, and lonely. And there were the days that all I wanted was to get away from it all. However, these memories don't seem to affect the longing that I have to go back and the way I see the time I had there as absolutely wonderful. I guess that's just what happens when looking through a rear-view mirror. The valleys aren't what stand out, it's the majestic mountains when it's all put into one small glance.

Unfortunately, it's somewhat hard to steer constantly looking in my rear-view mirror at Africa. I'm moving forward. Towards New York. New York City, to be exact. It will be quite the new adventure for this small town girl. I survived Africa, but I'm still not so sure how I'll handle New York.  But I'm looking forward to it!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Things I Subconsciously Miss

Living here is a lot different than my life in the States, in case you haven't figured that out! I like my life here, and I rarely find myself thinking about things or people I miss. But in the past few weeks some things have hit me that I didn't realize I missed.

~ I miss looking out my window and seeing mountains. The other day I was out near the outskirts of town and in the distance I could see hills; tiny hills, but hills none the less. I stopped and turned to just look at them. My friend who was with me is from a flat part of the States and didn't quite understand why I was so excited. Neither did the people walking by us. I've now changed my desktop to a picture that I took on my way out of town with the pink sky of sunrise behind the Rockies.

~ I miss driving. I knew that I missed it some degree, mostly because of the freedom that it brings, but today as I exited school, I reached into my purse and grabbed my keys to start finding the car key. It was a strange moment of confusion when I realized what I was doing.

~ I miss my sisters' closets and sharing clothes. Yesterday, my dear friend S gave me some tops to borrow for the next month to add some variety to clothes I've been wearing for the last 5 months. I can't wait to get home and raid my sisters' closets when I want something a little different (watch out E!).

I know that soon, I'll have these things, and I'll be missing everything here, but as long as I don't dwell on what I don't have, I think it's healthy to miss things sometimes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bubble Up, Bubble Down

Bubble Up: I got to ride in one of the new busses around here- the kind that has air conditioning! It was by far the most enjoyable bus ride of my entire life. The seats were plastic, which means no strange parts sticking into your back, the door open and close with the push of a button, and there are two TVs in there. Quite upscale for this country!

Bubble Down: My trip on the air conditioned bus brought me to a place where I had to walk by a large pile of burning trash, and I now smell like it. Yuck.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What Happens Between 100 and 105 Degrees

Well, it is officially Spring. That is, it's Spring where the season actually exsists. In this country, it doesn't. Yesterday, the weather did have some changes here though. It got seriously hot, and I think the warmth is here to stay. For me, this heat is uncharted teritory. I've maybe experienced over 100 degree weather before, but certainly not without air conditioning. When it gets above 98 at home those are deemed good days to stay inside and watch movies or go to the pool. But yesterday, when it was over 100, I was galavanting around town on foot and non-air conditioned buses, not to mention that I had on an undershirt beneath my long-sleeved one and a scarf on my head. I'm not quite sure why the heat didn't affect me very much, but that might have been because I knew there was a milkshake waiting for me at the end :)

So what am I discovering about life in this range of temperatures?

First off, it wears me out! It takes a lot of energy just to get from point A to point B on a super warm bus.

Second, you have to always carry water on you. I feel like a fish with all the water I've been consuming in the past few days.

When it's this hot out, I can wash, dry and wear a single item of clothing in one afternoon- even towels only take two hours to dry.

Unfortunately, it's not hot enough to fry an egg outside- I'll experiment again when we get to the 110 degree range.

An iced/cold coffee becomes luke-warm faster here than a hot one does when put outside on a wintery day.

People often take the bus for just a few short blocks.

And maybe most importantly, I've learned to be thankful for God's design of sweating. Eww, I know. But it really does do the job to cool the body down. Plus, I just have had to get used to it- I begin to persperate on the walk from my bedroom to the bathroom.

I'm sure that soon I'll be wishing we could have some more 100 degree days instead of the warmer ones that are bound to come- I just hope I can survive this first!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Would You Like Some Tea with that Sugar?

One thing this country likes is it's sugar. Today I experienced just how sugary they like their drinks. I've always been amazed watching them add sugar to their tea, wondering how they drink it so sweet. It is completely normal to add 5 teaspoons of sugar to their 8 oz glass of tea here. (Just as a side note- yes, a glass of tea. And yes, it is hot tea. And you're lucky if the glass has a handle. I think I have some permanent marks on my fingers where I have held a burning hot glass of tea. I've drank hot tea from metal cups without handles in Nepal before, and I thought that was crazy. But let me tell you, the glass cups are much, much worse. So don't go complaining when your barista hands you your cup of coffee without a little cardboard holder, be thankful that your hot drink in in a paper cup! End of side note...) When I tell a host that I would like just one spoon of sugar in my tea, they raise their eyebrows in disbelief that I only want one. I've found that one spoonfull creates a delightful blend of the tastes of the tea with a little sweetness. Sometimes, though, I'll go for two if I'm in more of a mood for a southern sweet tea. But today, I didn't really get a chance to specify how I like my tea. They handed me a glass and I couldn't turn it down. Plus, I thought, why not expierence what a 1/2 inch of sugar in a glass with some tea added to it tastes like. I figured it would just be super sweet, not bad, just not exactly how I like my tea.

Have you ever had a cup of really strong coffee, or eaten something extremely spicy that tastes good, but you can only take tiny bites of it? That is the best I can come to describing this for you. The sweet taste was so strong and overpowering I could barely drink it. I'm not even sure why the tea was there- I certainly couldn't taste it! After getting through the thankfully small 8 oz of tea and eating some biscuits there was still some sugar at the bottom that hadn't dissolved in the hot water!

Another example of their addiction to sweets lies in this picture:

Do you see what's in the bottle? No, it's not bright red grape juice. It's fanta. In a baby bottle. And just for the record, although the white baby is trying to get ahold of the bottle, her mother wouldn't let her! But it is completely normal here for people to go around giving small children sweets, which is probably how they develop such a sweet tooth. It's not a taste I plan on acquiring, though- I don't want to come home and have to add sugar to my coke to make it taste good!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sticky Sweet Moments

My hand is sticky. I could go wash it, but I almost don't want to. Because that would be equivalent to wiping away a kiss. The little girl who grabbed my hand just made me smile. We walked down a bit of the road together. I came upon her as I walked to get a bus. She and a few of her small-sized companions were playing on the dirt road running up and down a mound sitting next to a gate. There were definitely some squeals of joy coming from that group. She was the brave one, coming right up to me, reaching for my hand, and talking to me. She spoke clearly to me, asking me two words repeatedly. Unfortunately, I didn't know what those two words meant; I could only tell that I didn't know them. She was likely trying to beg, but she obviously wasn't a beggar. Her clothes were covered in dust and shabby, but she didn't have a "poor me" face on, or show me that she wanted food like most do. I simply told her that I didn't understand her, but she didn't let go of my hand. After stopping for a moment I began to keep walking, her hand in mine, with the others following close behind. At some point she let go and a few of the others came up, grabbing at my hand. I shook each little one that came at me, greeting them all one at a time. Apparently having their desires met, the turned around and went back to play on their dirt mound. It was as I walked away that I realized that my hand was a sticky mess- likely from the little one who had been holding a sucker in his mouth. I'm not sure what had drawn them to me in the first place, maybe they really wanted something, or maybe they were simply drawn to my whiteness. But whatever the reason, they certainly brought a smile to face.

I got to the bus and sat down next to a girl, fixing my headscarf that was sliding off. The girl glanced at me and looked out the window. Then, to my shock, she turned to me and said something to me in Arabic. Caught completely off guard that she was saying something to me, I said, "Hm?" She repeated herself, and I agreed with what she said about the weather. We then proceeded to converse in Arabic, which was delightful. Most people on the busses do one of two things, ignore me, or speak to me English (which is sometimes really hard to understand).  It's not often that someone tries to converse with me in Arabic if I don't speak first, but this girl was willing to try, even when I didn't understand her at first! We had a nice conversation and exchanged names and phone numbers, as is customary.

It's the moments like these that make me love life here. Both these girls showed me that it's worth the risk of being rejected to try and make a new friend and that you can make someone's day by doing so, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn that!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Today's Forecast

You know when you look at the forecast and it tells you what the highs and lows are supposed to be, and then they give a desciption of the weather? Usually it says something like sunny, cloudy, rain, thunderstorm, blizzard, partly cloudy, etc. You know what I'm talking about. Today, I went to check the weather because it was feeling suprisingly cool. I got online, where it assured me that yes, today it was not going to get over 100. Yippee! And then I saw what the description said:

Blowing sand.

Really? I didn't even know that was an option. Blowing snow, I've heard of, but blowing sand? That's a new one.

So far, this condition doesn't seem too bad, but I might have another story to tell after I've walked to the market...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Define: Normal's just such a strange concept. For a while, I thought nothing about living in Africa was normal. And it wasn't. But now it seems normal. Things that I used to wonder or stare at I am now doing myself. Take for instance my experience at an ice cream 'shop' yesterday. I walked up to order and pay at the first counter. I stood there, waiting for him to finish counting his change and organizing bills. He knew I was there, but didn't really acknowledge me or say, "one minute, please." He just looked up, and kept organizing his bills. I started to order, and then realized that he wasn't going to take it until he finished the task he was working on. It didn't matter that I was a paying customer that he "should" have been serving. But that was okay, I just waited. It would be my turn when he decided it was. I've definitely learned that here, the customer isn't always the most important.

After paying, we got tokens to take to the next counter and again tell them what we wanted. This place was super busy and people were crowded all around. And I just crowded right next to them. I didn't even notice that there wasn't a line until the girl I was with mentioned it to me. I just pushed my way up and shoved my tokens at the guys getting the cones ready. It didn't matter who had been there longest, it only matters who pushes their tokens the closest to them. This is normal. I'm not even sure what I would do if I came across a line I had to wait in today. Lines are becoming foreign concepts to me!

All this said, what is 'normal' to me has changed dramatically in the last few months. So let me define my current 'normal' for you:

Normal is people coming up selling random things.
Normal is getting yelled at on the streets.
Normal is people answering their phones in the middle of something,
even the class that they're teaching.
Normal does not include waiting in a line.

Normal is traveling 45 minutes to get somewhere.
Normal is traveling by rickshaw and bus.
Normal is walking down a dusty road.
Normal does not include the word easy.
Normal is every native I meet wanting my phone number.
Normal is people offering to help.
Normal is eating fresh fruit, veggies, and bread.
Normal does not include silverware in public.
Normal is hearing the call to prayer- and sometimes not even noticing.
Normal is sitting on a bus next to a woman covered head to toe.
Normal is putting on a headscarf when I walk outside my door
Normal does not include shorts.
Normal is watching what everyone else does to understand how to do it.
Normal is speaking in a different language.
Normal has an ever-changing definition.
But mostly, Normal does not include the expected.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spell Check Anyone?

Seeing as English is not the primary language around here, when things are written in English they are often misspelled. They are a source of great entertainment. Take this pizza box:

Oh dear. I love living here!

In The Past Few Days...

This is a compilation of random things that have made me smile recently, and maybe a thing or two that will brighten your day as well.

A few days ago...

...I heard someone singing in the shower. Apparently that's an international thing!

...I was having a hard time lighting a match for the stove. After striking several different matches and only getting tiny sparks, if anything, a flame finally arose. The only problem...the box of matches had lit instead of the match! Luckily it was easily put out and the box of matches is still mostly in tact.

...I was riding the bus that I take twice a week in the early morning. Each bus has a kumsari, a man who takes the money and tells the driver when to pull over. As we approached where I usually stop the bus to get off, (which is indicated by snapping your fingers at the kumsari) the kumsari looks up and looks directly at me, expectantly. Kinda freaky, he apparently recognized me and knew where I was going!

...a friend said, "Driving here is like a Nintendo game. Only you don't get any re-do's."

...I saw an empty bus stop and pull over to the side of the road. The kumsari reached out, grabbed a few bricks from the random pile of them on the corner and put them in the bus. I presume they were used to hold some of the seats up.

...I was putting on a Veggie Tales for some kids and one of the older ones said, "Hey, this isn't pirated!" Only an American growing up overseas...

And that, my readers, pretty much sums up everyday life around here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Misadventure Times Two

Until two days ago I had easily gotten around using public transportation and had never gotten on the wrong bus. Can I hear a round of applause- this isn't an easy feat! But in the last two days, I've gotten on two wrong buses. Yep, two.

Yesterday was my fault. I was in a place where I normally catch a bus and apparently I should have been listening closer and paid more attention to the hand signals. I realized as soon as we started moving that this was not the bus I wanted to be on. But then I figured that I'd see where it would take me, just for fun. There was a lot of traffic and we were moving slowly. There were a few times I wanted to just get out and walk, but I also wanted to see where it would take me, which was likely to be a market or a bus stop where I could find a bus that would take me in the right direction. We finally got to a spot where everyone was supposed to get off, and it looked hopeful, with many buses around. Unfortunately, as I walked around looking at the sides where their routes are written, I didn't see a single one that went to my part of town. So, I started walking. I knew that a ways up the road there was a place where I could catch the correct bus, but it was a looong ways away. As I walked down the road I stopped a few times to ask friendly looking women, "bus, *insert area of town here* where?" in Arabic. I always got told, "Next stop that way." They like to be encouraging around here and not dissapoint you. Unfortunately, it wasn't very encouraging to hear, "next stop" at each next stop! After a long walk, I finally made it, and I think I learned my lesson about listening carefully!

Getting on a wrong bus today was not all my fault. I was in a totally new area of town and I had no clue where I was. I walked to what I thought was the correct spot, and after a few of the same bus came by I asked, saying the name of my area, the guy kind of waved me onto the bus, and I saw that the name of my area was on the bus. I figured I had it right. But then after a little while, I knew it wasn't. And I was completely lost (remember, I am quite directionally challenged and it was not time for prayer). I just knew we hadn't gone over a bridge like we were supposed to, but I had not a clue which way was home, or where in the world I would find a bus home. So I stuck it out, resolving to enjoy my ride in a place I had never seen, and that at the worst I would have to pay extra to take a taxi home. I ended up in a market at a bus station, yipee! And I walked a few steps, asked where I would find a bus to my area, walked back to the bus the one I was previously on had parked and got on. This means that I had been on the right bus, it was just going in the wrong direction. Whoops! I was still a bit worried, so I tried hard to figure out if we were headed in the right direction.
First thought- It's afternoon, so the sun is on it's way to setting.

The sun sets behind the mountains in Colorado.

The mountains are west.

The sun is mostly behind me, which means we are going East.

Wait- I have no clue which way we should be going, hopefully home is East!

Luckily, it was. We crossed a bridge, and was overjoyed to see Lucky Meal. Yes, Lucky Meal, it's the local version of McD's. I had finally made it close to home, and rode the bus until it stopped and made everyone get off, which was only about a mile from home, and I could easily walk!

Note: This was written a week ago now, and I have not gotten on any wrong buses since. I learned my lesson and listen more closely and don't follow my instinct when getting on a bus!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bubble Up Bubble Down

Bubble Down: Our cool weather is headed out, it's supposed to be getting back into the triple digits again today.

Bubble Up: My friend's car stalled and wouldn't start again on our way home from class. But then, as we started to get out to push it to the side of the road, two men walked up and started pushing until we were off the road, and then they walked off before we could even say "shukran". People in this country are so helpful!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

By the Numbers

An approximation of my day:
16- The number of random strangers that yelled at me as I was walking today.
6- The number of times I had to explain to the first graders what part of the paper they were supposed to be drawing on.
50- The number of ants that decided to crawl through a hole into my room and die in the corner- At least they're dead!
90- The difference in the current temperature between here and Northern Colorado right now (in degrees F).
0- The number of riots I've seen, despite living in Northern Africa right now. I am safe (and if you don't know what I mean by that, please expose yourself to some international news!)
And finally, 1- The number of days until the weekend, yay!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No Turning Back

One of things I've had to learn here is how to cross the road and walk down the street in general.

Scene 1: The streets here are busy. Especially when you get near the market. The streets are lined with fruit stands, juice stands, and people selling just about anything you could imagine. This is also where the bus station is. You have to dodge

Donkey carts,                                               wheelbarrows,
                                                                                                 tea ladies with their stands,                 buses,               
                       cars,                                             other people walking around                and the occasional begger

 all while watching to make sure your feet don't fall into a pothole or walk you into a pile of trash! Since this can be difficult, I've devised a plan that gets me through safely most of the time. I find a person in front of me who is heading in the same direction and stick close to them. This way, I can just concentrate on following that one person.

Scene 2: A couple of times a week I find myself crossing a very busy road that is almost equivalent to a highway. Sometimes, it reminds me of the times we'd cross Highway 34 during cross country practice, where there was no light. We'd dash across to the median, then wait for an opening on the other side. Some of us (me) were more cautious than others who would dart at the tiniest break. It always scared me a bit, but the few times we did it were usually to cut some length off of our run, so I found it worth it. (If you're reading this coach, I confess! We were pretty good at finding ways to make our runs just a bit shorter.)

Wow, that was a bunny trail all the way to Loveland! Anyways, back to here... When someone else is around who is also crossing this busy street, I've learned to go with them. I can't hesitate, or my opportunity will be gone, and then I have to wait for a really long time for a big break or to get up the courage to go at a tiny one. So mostly, I just try to cross with someone else and trust that either, 1, they can perfectly calculate whether there is time to cross, or, 2, that there's safety in numbers and that a car is more likely to slow down if they see two people crossing the road.

When I was thinking about all this as I walked (stalked?) through the market the other day I realized that it was a lot like life. Everyone goes their seperate ways, milling around with plenty of distracting things out there. But I must learn to follow Jesus, to cling to him each step of the way because my life depends on it. It is really about each step and being with Him. Just like in the market, I can't take my eyes off of the One who is doing the leading. And I have to go with His timing and not hesitate. He won't just keep cruising along without me if I don't get across the street with Him, but it's the best option if I go with Him, because I know His timing is perfect. If I look around instead of at Him, being one step off could mean that way gets blocked by a different hinderance. Walking through life by myself just isn't an option. Sure, I could maybe make it through, but it'd be pretty difficult and stressful. So, as the hymn goes:
"I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Complimentary Item

The other week I bought a purse here. It came with a complementary item:

Isn't that a cute little bear? I'm not quite sure why a stuffed bear would come with a lady's purse...but hey, he's a great little bear to have around, I love having him. Oh yeah, and I love the purse too!

Bubble Up Bubble Down

Bubbble Up: (This is kind of a long story for bubble-up, but this is my blog so I can do whatever I want, right?!) This evening I was making pancakes for dinner. They're a pretty quick easy meal after a really long day, at least quick and easy for here. Have I mentioned before how everything seems to take a little longer here? It's pretty much a rule. Anyways, I really wanted to put some lime juice on them (as in cut a lime and squeeze it on there, not get a little bottle of juice). However, when I got the fridge I found that my limes were gone. Someone probably just helped themselves, which happens here, especially when it comes to fruits and veggies, so it wasn't a huge deal. But I did still want some limes. So, I quickly solved my problem.

I went outside and picked a few from the tree. Greatest thing ever- and an exception to the rule that everything takes longer here!

Bubble Down: I asked a girl a question in Arabic today and she didn't understand me. So much for trying!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

By the Numbers

You know how in the margins of magazines they sometimes have a random section of interesting facts? That is by far my favorite part to read. So, I think I will add a section like that to my blog. Hopefully you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it!

By the Numbers:

13- The number of mosquito bites on my right leg.

5- The number of new bus routes I've learned in the past few days.

10- The approximate number of hours the water was cut in a 24 hour period.

3- The number of times I've had meat in the past week.

12- The number of times I've moved in the past 18 months.

50 or so- The number of times I've been reminded of God's goodness this week.

19- The number of words that were NOT highlighted by the spell check in this post. I know my spelling isn't that bad!

The Quotable:

A lot of times things written in English don't make sense, or at least what is written is not exactly what they probably wanted to say. Today I saw a restaurant sign that said, "Good food, fresh service." Hmmm, apparently they didn't know that when you use fresh to describe an attitude that it's not a good thing!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Confession and a Wishing

I have a confession to make. I haven't washed my hair in one too many days now, and when I showered this morning I decided not to. It was too cold to go outside with wet hair and  I was just going to be putting a scarf over it so no one would notice anyway. Definitely a perk of living here.

The one thing that I miss from America the most is going to coffee with friends. I miss that nice, calming atmosphere and sitting talking with a latte in my hands. I wish I could be transported to Loveland Coffee for just one hour.

But I'd have to wash my hair first.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Month 2

I've really been here two months??? Sometimes it feels like more, and sometimes it feels like I came just yesterday. Sometimes I want to count the days until I get to go home and see family and sometimes I wish my time here would last forever. I've been trying to keep a list of the things I am learning here so that 1, I can look at it on hard days and remember that I am growing here, and 2, I won't take my time here for granted.

Here's a quick list of a few of the stranger things I have learned.
I've learned:
1. How to keep my tarha (head scarf) on without having to tie and tuck it.

2. How to walk quickly in a skirt!

3. To barter (well, sometimes I still don't ge the right prices, but oh well!)

4. To NOT cross the street at the corner. It is approximately three times as likely that I come close to dying when I cross at a corner, thus, I sometimes even walk out of my way to not cross at an intersection.

5. How to turn down marriage proposals. Yes, seriously. Don't worry though, I don't think I've made any of the men cry about it.

6. How to kill mosquitoes. I'm an expert.

7. To recognize the sound of the call to prayer.

8. To understand the Celcius scale.

9. How to slaughter and prepare a sheep. (Not that it's something I'll ever need or want to do!)

10. How to use the public transportaion system, and get home on it :)

Looking at this list, I don't think I've learned any of it is very useful outside this country/culture. Except numbers 6 and 8. And hopefully I'll never have to use number 5 anywhere else!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bubble Up Bubble Down

My completely superficial Bubble Down this week: My cornflakes are almost gone :(

Bubble Up: Everything has been peaceful here. Thank you, Jesus! With the things going on here this week we weren't sure what it would look like, but everything has so far gone smoothly.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Can't Go Over It, Can't Go Through It, Gotta Go Around It!

Here's what I walked up to when I walked out my gate the other day:

Well, hello there water! Wait; I thought I lived in the desert.

I do.

Then why am I surrounded by huge puddles? Where DID all this water come from? It definitely didn't rain- when there are clouds in the sky they're the little whispy things that aren't capable of producing an ounce of precipitation. I have no idea where all this water came from. Probably something to do with the big holes they construction workers keep putting in the road.

So, how do I get across the street? Puddle jumping would be awfully fun- that is, if I wasn't in a skirt and the puddles weren't completely mud. Plus, I think I pulled a muscle getting onto the bus the other day. Guess I'll go way around. Well, it's not that far out of my way, but walking in the dusty soccer pitch is neither fun nor easy. *cough cough*

Fast forward to now: You would think that with how dry everything is here that the water would get soaked into the ground and dry up instantly, but that's not what's happened. Water is still here and I still walk around. I've consumed a lot of dust and walk approximately 40 extra steps in order to get to the other side of the street. And life is great if that's all I have to complain about :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Birds and Owls

I remember in Spanish class reading about how Spain has great night life and how things come alive at night there. At the time, I really couldn't wrap my head around that idea, as simple as it sounds. What does it mean to be a "night culture"?

I think I'm starting to understand.

Last year I was in Nepal, where they are all about doing things in the morning. The really early morning, even. Each day I would wake up to the sounds of hammers banging and saws cutting wood. At 6 AM. Now, waking up at 6 AM is one thing, but starting work almost before the sun comes up?!?! By dusk, everyone would be heading home and the sounds of the city began to fade.

Apparently it is the exact opposite here. I've noticed that people stay up late and businesses are open well into the evening as well. Today I was walking to the bus station around sunrise, about 7am. And it was like a ghost town. On the main road, which is usually quite busy, a vehicle would pass once in a while. I probably could have counted the number of people I walked by on my fingers and toes. And absolutely nothing was open. It was strange. At night, people are out and around at all hours. People are out walking around, eating at restaurants, and just hanging out, even when it's been dark for a while.

Then take Loveland. Things get up and running between 7 and 8, sometimes 9.  Businesses close up about 5, and restaurants are open until 10 or 11. Not much happens past 9- people head home, do homework, and watch TV. This feels completely normal to me. I find it so strange that my neighbors would keep their young kids up until 1 in the morning on vacation and that it is normal to them. In Nepal, I couldn't fathom how you would get out of bed before the sun rose, much less start work before then!

It makes me wonder why societies are like this- some Early Birds and some Night Owls. In Nepal, maybe it's because they want to use all the daylight they have there; they rarely have electricity for light. I have yet to find a reason for why here and Loveland work the way they do- maybe you have some ideas! But, I also realize that my terms of Early Birds and Night Owls are relative to what I find to be normal, I wonder how someone from here or Nepal would refer to the timings of things in Loveland...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bubble Up, Bubble Down

Every once in a while my mom does what she calls "Bubble up, Bubble Down" with her third grade class. Essentially, it's a time where each kid gets to briefly share something good or bad that has happened recently. For some reason I thought about it today and decided that I would start posting my "Bubbles".

For this week:
Bubble Up- I got to borrow some board books from my Arabic school! I spent a good part of the afternoon trying to read through two books meant for 2-6 year olds. The 2-6 year olds here must be really smart!

Bubble Down- I have several mosquito bites on my feet. It's the worst place to get bitten and sometimes they even wake me up at night.

There ya go, that's what I'd have to say if I was sitting in a 3rd grade classroom right now.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


In light of it being a new year, I was thinking about all the different things I did in 2010 and what has changed. Sometimes I start to believe the lie that I really haven't done anything in this last year or grown at all. But then I stop to think about where I was a year ago, versus where I'm at today and I realize that I have grown a lot.

Last year I celebrated New Year's in Nepal with the team of people I was there with. I will never forget the few months we spent together and still miss them almost daily. We lived in tight quarters, with sometimes only three bathrooms between 13 of us. Time alone was extremely rare. We weren't supposed to go out on the street or anywhere alone. Sometimes it was hard to always be surrounded by people, but most of the time I loved that there was always something to do and someone to talk to. I got used to working to find bits of time to be on my own and always having a friend around.

Fast-forward to now, and it is almost the exact opposite. I go most places alone, and no one keeps tabs on me or where I'm at. I do everything by myself. At first this was a huge adjustment. (I did have several months at home in between my trips that was kind of in the middle of these two extremes.) I went from working to find time alone to it being what I wake up and fall asleep to. I went from sharing daily life with 12 others to my daily like looking totally different from anyone else's around me. At first I wondered at why I didn't find all of this freedom exhilarating. Most people my age are at a place where they want complete independence, but I was finding it quite frightening. But looking back at where I was a year ago, I understand. It's a huge adjustment to make.

At the same time, I can also see how these puzzle pieces fit so perfectly together. In my team I really learned how to be myself and what that looked like. Everyone sees every side of you at some point, so there's never any point in hiding it. Being on my own now, I don't have to struggle with finding who I really am or decide if I like myself or not- Been there, done that, so one less thing I have to worry about! This time alone would be really hard if I hadn't gone through all that earlier!

On a lighter note, being on my own is also teaching me how to plan meals, shop, and cook. It's not something I ever really did much of in the States, so I'm still learning. And learning here is certainly not the easiest place to learn. A lot of things that I was used to cooking aren't readily available here, so I've had to get creative. You can't really buy packaged foods or frozen dinners (with the exception of Ramen, which I eat only 1-2 times a week). So pretty much everything I eat is homemade or grown. I even have to mix up my milk for cereal in the morning! But, I'm getting better and expanding my horizons. Next up, making a dish with meat (and hot dogs don't count). I still haven't been brave enough to buy meat, or even walk close to meat at the market-gag!-so it might be awhile...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Learning Curve!

I knew coming here that I would be forced to learn a lot of new things. I knew I'd be learning the language, how to get around the city, where and how to shop, and how to use electrical cords.

Wait, maybe not that last one. Definitely not that last one. I didn't expect that I'd be learning to troubleshoot electrical problems beyond using an adapter to plug my computer in. But I was wrong! I haven't had quite enough experience to put electrician on my resume, but I've been proud of how I have figured out how to get power to various things around here!

Here's one example:

There is a computer plugged into the extension cord, but at the bottom of the picture you can see how the cord ends... Not good, but the computer needed to be plugged in so I could use it in teaching my computer class, so I grabbed the little ends (only by the rubber part of course), prayed that I wouldn't die, and...

Wa-la! the computer had power! One spark might have flown, but I didn't get shocked. This is something I wouldn't have even attempted in the States, but here, things like that are just a part of my everyday life!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

T's Eulogy

I can't believe I'm writing this- that I actually got to this point. We'll start at the beginning.

I don't like animals. Despise might be a more appropriate word, especially when it comes to pets. Maybe it's because I never had one growing up, except for that puppy we had for a week (I loved her, but we really just weren't pet people and returned her). And now my youngest sisters have bunnies, but they mind their own business in their cages in the basement. I know that all animals are God's creation, but I'd really rather have no contact with them, with a few exceptions.

Somehow, the dog that lived in my compound found a place in my heart. This dog, T, (whose full name I won't use to protect his identity- just kidding, I actually just have no idea how to spell the whole thing!) was one of the scrawniest, dirtiest dogs I've ever seen. Exhibit A:

Since he used to be a pet (he got left on the street when his owners moved out of the country) I was always worried that he would come rub up against me looking for attention and then give me some weird disease. But the amazing thing is, he never would. He would come close, maybe give you a pathetic look, but he never touched anyone. He started to become my morning companion whenever I went outside. He sort of lived in our compound, but he would go out to the trash piles to find food. Most mornings I would let him out of the gate, and then awhile later he would come scratching at the door and come back in- sometimes with something unpleasant to chew on. Some mornings he'd sit near me as I had a quiet time and drank my coffee. T started to grow on me, and every once in awhile I'd even have the urge to pet him- although I never did, I just wasn't quite ready to put my health and cleanliness on the line! But he definitely got on my short list of dogs I like.

Sadly, I haven't seen T in around 2 weeks now, and I think he might be gone forever. You were loved T, and I kind of miss you!
T chewing on a sheep hoof that he came back with one morning!