Just a short list of things I miss from Africa…

Posted in Travel on July 10, 2009 by howtosavethekosmos

1.  The lack of cubicles amongst my company.  We have cubicles everywhere in my WV office now and I completely hate it.

2.  The absence of cleaning staff, working in front of us.  Yes, in America there are cleaning staff but they usually come secretly/furtively and often at night so we don’t have to think about someone else doing the hard labor for us.  In Africa, the staff came in like six plus times a day, wiped your desk while you stood by the water cooler, fetched more water for that same water cooler, etc.  AKA: reminded you that you need other people to do the blue collar labor that allows you to keep doing the white collar labor you do.  And reminds you that almost everyone’s jobs are valid, useful, necessary, and important.

3.  The freedom of driving myself around.

4.  Trying to remember if I had food in the car to share with the hungry people standing on the street corners.

5.  The trees.

6.  Both of my small groups.

7.  Devotionals everyday at work, not just once a week.

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We are Afraid of Fear…

Posted in Travel on May 19, 2009 by howtosavethekosmos

In youth group recently we asked our students what their purpose was in life. One said to be strong-mentally, physically, emotionally. Oh how I resonated with that when I was his age and really all the way up through the end of my college experience. I could physically accomplish whatever I needed to and was mentally always turned on and ready to go. I always prided myself on the fact that I didn’t show fear, even under pressure. And I made sure everyone knew it.

Thankfully, and over time and gentle prodding from the Lord, I learned to relinquish some of that and to be honest with myself that there are times I can’t do it alone, or at all, and there are times I am afraid. But then I turned around and did the opposite. I started worrying about what-ifs and life questions and silly questions. And generally, I stopped telling anyone about the accumulating fears I have myself and I see my generation carrying.

My pastor just asked the young adults of our church: What concerns you or what one issue floods your thoughts? This is my response. Open, unguarded for the first time in a long time.

 I think a lot of people our age have a large number of fears. Fears that may never come true, and other fears we deal with all the time. Many may seem irrational or contradictory to others, but for us they are very true.

Fears about being lonely, unwanted, unloved.

Fears that we will never find a loving spouse or if we do that they might divorce us, or be unfaithful, or turn out to be gay. Or as bad or even worse, we might be unfaithful to them and not withstand temptation or one day feel divorce is a valid option for us.

In the same way, we are afraid that as much as we like to think we can stay pure before marriage, that we might not make it and there will be no one we can talk to when temptation comes. Most young people believe (and I agree) that the church doesn’t talk about sex and chastity enough, and if they say anything at all, they say it terribly. (I think this video from a pastor, is very powerful and should be shared with everyone whether they have tarnished their purity before or not, with lust, we all have a tarnished purity… http://twentytwowords.com/2009/04/08/jesus-wants-the-rose/ )

Fears that no older people want to listen to us or pray for us when our hearts have been broken-by people, disappointment, situations.

 Fears that our next injury will be the one that haunts us the rest of our lives, the limp in our step, etc.

We are afraid of simplicity and afraid of excess at the same time.

We are afraid of abandoning ourselves completely to something or someone because sometimes others have done that before us and it turns into an addiction. Even when some claim to give everything for Jesus, the only fruit we see of it is judgement.

We are afraid of not loving enough and at the same time we worry it was the just love everyone attitude that got the US where we are now.

 We are afraid to share exactly what we think and sometimes we are afraid we stayed silent too long. We are afraid we won’t be able to have children or if we can have them, they will turn away from God or us, or we will hurt them or mess them up with our parenting.

We are afraid we will never make an impact on the world.

We are afraid of the 9-5 work week, we like to call it boring or mundane, though most of us have one.

 We are afraid that all the social networking, online friendships, dating have made us antisocial when it comes to in-person, face-to-face networking/friendships/dating. But we are also afraid we will wake up one morning and have no new e-mails, twitters, facebook wall writes, cell phone messages.

We are afraid we will never find our dream job or always be stuck with a meaningless job the rest of our lives, or worse be jobless in this economy.

We are afraid we will never be satisfied or content or pleased.

We worry that we don’t have enough education or what we have isn’t actually helpful/practical.

We worry about debt from housing, to educational loans, to credit cards.

We are afraid to have people over as our rooms are messy and our fridges sparse but we are even more afraid you will never invite us over-into your homes, your small groups, your family outings. We won’t notice the mess or the simplicity of food, we promise, we just want to be loved and a part of something again.

 We are afraid everyone in the world is as messed up as we are or we are afraid we are the only ones in the world who have flaws and cracks. Either way it can feel awful.

We are afraid we aren’t being honest with others or worse they’re not being honest with us. We crave authenticity-if you (or anyone in the church) went through a rough patch in life; marriage, child raising, school, church, love, divorce, bankruptcy, drugs, etc- TELL US. We often think we will never get through our own rough patches, but if we only knew God brought you through the fire one, two, twenty-seven times before we will feel much better.

We are afraid when our darkest times come; there will be no one to call for prayer, a conversation, a hug.

On top of all that we are afraid of the boogeyman, rapists, swine flu, earthquakes, natural disasters, death, and true open love-from God and others. That mind-blowing sort of love we don’t see on tv or in the news or maybe in our own families.

And most of all we are afraid to tell you how scared we really are these days.

I know we are told not to fear, and not to worry.  But we do.  It’s probably one of the most common sins of people today.  So how do we move on in hope, in true faith, in peace?

 Do you agree?  Am I wrong?  What do you fear?  How do you deal with it?

The Blog Post You Have Been Waiting For…Finally!

Posted in Travel on April 21, 2009 by howtosavethekosmos

This time last week I was homeless, jobless, and sick of it. I had even cried two nights before in front of extended family about my “lifeless” life.

But by Tuesday I had two jobs and an apartment.  God is good, all the time.  And his timing is always right. 

I had starting working one of the jobs and had already moved into the apartment by the 17th, exactly four months after arriving back in America.  Funny how that worked…

I have a one month contract thru World Vision’s Middle East and Eastern Europe Regional Office.  I also will be starting a six month World Vision contract with their Seattle-ish office as soon as the paperwork is worked out on paper.  (I also am waiting to hear about a third part-time & temporary job this week-need to make up for four months without work.)

And get this…the apartment is on the same street as my parent’s house and four months residence.  The exact same side of the street.  One minute drive, four minute walk. Haha.  When I was working for Allegra for my 1.5 weeks I walked by this apartment complex and thought-How lovely it would be to live so close to family, church, and the bus line.  Now voila! the Lord provides and all for the lowest monthly rent you could ever imagine plus two and soon three great roommates!

Both current roommates were hungry to get back into church so my family and I took them on Sunday.  And our church family loved on them, even to the point of loaning one a brand-new never-worn ball gown for an upcoming event, and offerring to hem it for the aforementioned roommate.  What what?  God is good and his people are following suit.  My roommates have even told me that it was my mission to get them back into church and I am beginning to think my long dry wait was meant to hold me back from looking for housing until exactly the week this room opened up. 

I bet God used that time in lots of ways but that’s the big one I’ve found so far and it’s enough for now.

Pictures to follow.  And really I still can’t fully believe it.  Nothing for me Monday, nothing against me Tuesday-God always with me!

My Best Weeklong Vignette, aka: Zambia-late night recollections

Posted in Travel on April 20, 2009 by howtosavethekosmos

 I had an epiphany late one night this week [now a month ago or more], or was it early in the morning-it’s all the same really, right?

I realized how to talk about Zambia, the trip I never really documented.

And yet now, with a few days [months] passing I am worried I will never get it right, get it all, get it out.

I never wanted to be one of those bloggers who were so self-conscious about their own writing, but maybe I have passed onto that bridge. I would like to be a great non-fiction writer, writing my own stories-getting them out in that perfect way. But yet I rarely pick up the pen. I just get that flash – you know the one Emily of New Moon experiences, but hers leads to productivity, mine just leads to…blogging sporadically.

So Zambia. Imagine this…a candlelit dinner with a dear old friend, even though you’ve only known and been around them nine total non-consecutive days in the past three months since you met them. This friend is your mother’s age, maybe older and a mother in her own way to you. You’re sitting down to a savory dinner of fish and greens. You can use your fingers to pick through the bones, she doesn’t mind, in fact she doesn’t even notice. The entire meal was cooked by her maid and reheated in the microwave just in time before the power went out as it often does.

To make up for the loss of electricity and your friend’s favorite Filipino soap opera, showing yes, here in Zambia and to soak in the lovely pre-summer weather, you are holding that candlelit dinner outside.

Even though you’re afraid of the mosquitoes, due to a terrible beach trip long ago and far away, there don’t seem to be any. The only animal in sight is your friend’s old white pup – dear Roxie, a family friend in herself, she’s even allowed to sit in her own white plastic lawn chair and eat scraps from her master’s hand.

Of course there’s a swimming pool shared with another humanitarian aid worker neighbor. I know, you don’t always expect such luxury when you think of the “Dark Continent” but it’s not all poverty and famine and AIDS. There is as much loveliness as sorrow, more even. The Lord still reigns, evil hasn’t won.

So you have the image…four to five days of this interspersed with more power outages and a few soap operas. Then there was the work, wonderful work, that will help such a large number of people if all is approved in the end.

And then a weekend, how adorable, especially with choices. Victoria Falls or an old school friend. I chose the friend but it worked out nicely that Zambia forced me into a three year Visa so I’m sure I’ll get back to Vic Falls soon.

Now it was off to the bus for a six hour bus ride, the only white person on board. African sweat has never been an issue, there seems to be less acidity in the rank of it than other cultures. Funny I know, but these are the things you notice on after a six hour bus ride and five months on the continent.

The land is beautiful, not quite Kenya or South Africa, but in many ways it is the Africa you dream about and see in the films. The bus ride is fine and they are all kind. I borrow the cell phone of the woman next to me to tell my friend how soon I’ll arrive.

And then it turns into the market place I’ve been hoping for-basically nothing like an American farmer’s market or a South African tourists flea market. There are the dried caterpillars, the SKIRTS, sunglasses, underwear, oranges. There are the puddles that probably haven’t dried for three months, the icy Coca Cola bottles, the restrooms you pay to squat over as there is literally not one square centimeter clean. (Isn’t it funny how so many Americans refuse to use a toilet seat with a spot of liquid on it- urine or water and refuse to wipe it off.) Squatty Potty all the way.

It becomes a beautiful weekend. Sharing the conversations I have been craving my entire time in Africa. The American-in-Africa-who-is-trying-so-hard conversations. The American who loves Africa for all its puddles and caterpillars and squatty potties. The American who wants someone to just get the wide river you seem to constantly be balancing over/fording/drowning in.

There are puppies and ant hills and private beaches and retiring missionaries. There is home schooling and tortillas and my first truly used bed net. There is the art of learning how to take a bucket shower and how to spot an acacia tree and how to greet old men on bikes on the dirt roads we traverse.

And then another six hours home, another free phone call to another free ride. Another meeting, another night, another market-more modern, more touristy, more pricy-the first ones to refuse what I offer in kwasha. A last minute gathering of old friends across thousands of miles and omelettes. A hamburger, what was I thinking! and then a flight back to Joburg…almost as if it had never happened.

Zambia.

 [photos and undoubtedly more recollections coming…as well as a very exciting update, especially when compared to the last post]

 

 

 

The Post You Probably Have (Not) Been Waiting For…

Posted in Travel on March 28, 2009 by howtosavethekosmos

I think I’ve had a bit of a pride issue.  Only wanting to blog whe I have wonderful news to share.  News like I got into medical school or I am going back to Africa or I got a boyfriend or something similarly awesome.  But the sad part is none of the above are true.

I have been officially rejected from five medical schools without even an interview.

And I still have not heard a response from the one medical school interview I had with University of Washington (#1 for practicing physicians and NIH grants).  This means I am definitely not accepted and most likely not even on the waitlist it seems.  A slow no, boy, it’s painful. 

No job in sight still.  Even the World Vision contract for one month’s work for the Middle East region hasn’t come to real fruition yet even though its been over two months since they first broached the idea with me.

There is this slight possiblity of some more work with World Vision for some projects for about six months but no one can say if it’s officially true or where it is or what I would do with my life after those six months are done.  Would I be back in this very same position?

This 3.5 months of waiting for nothing.  Doing nothing but home life and church life back and forth.  If I even get to a grocery store once a month I am excited for the adventure it is.  But I am so unsatisfied, and generally not happy.  It is depressing and quite often I wonder if I too am depressed by it.

It’s not to say I think God has given up on me.  See, I stil feel like he has something big planned but I can’t seem to figure otu what it is and even what I guess it might be tends to fail.  And I believe strongly in being still and knowing that God is God and that he has plans to prosper me.  But what are the plans for right now, this awful slow game?

I had all these thoughts and plans and dreams when I came back home.  Getting a temp job, having med school interviews, getting accepted to one of those schools if not a few, then going back to South Africa by Feb 14th for another six months before returning to start medical school in the fall.  And if I couldn’t go back to Africa by Feb 14th, I’d find some great job here in Seattle and be moved out and stable by March 1st.  Laughable isn’t it, the plans of mice and men and Jen?

But here I am at home on the couch getting to be known by my youngest sister as the one who sits with her laptop all day-applying for jobs, reading blogs, and watching online tv.  pathetic with an uncapitalized p.

I bake rarely as Dad hates the messes I always seem to make afterwards, I can’t get myself to garden as much as I know I enjoy it, and we use a dryer for our clothes instead of clothesline and good old fashioned sunshine.  And even as much as I love Seattle and the Northwest I rarely see any of it.  Just home-church-library-church-home.  Definitely nothing like Africa where every morning I woke up with joy at the very thought of being in Africa.  Driving to a McDonalds was always amazing because I was driving to a McDonalds in Africa!

But now here I am on the couch viewing the dreary weather, job sites, and online tv.  (I do have some posts formulating, happier ones.  Nice pictures I’ve taken on some of my cooler activities here and finally a report of Zambia-five months later. ) 

But mostly what I want to say is:  Help wanted dear Lord.

Wonderful Things I’ve Found…

Posted in Travel on January 23, 2009 by howtosavethekosmos

and had to share.

http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/  Professionally made cakes that have some serious problems, with very funny results.  As someone who recently got into baking and got her first cake decorating set this Christmas (sadly still unopened) I have learned many many tricks/tools/and especially NEVER-DOs in cake decorating.  I don’t remember how I found it, something to do with wedding cakes that look like the brides themselves.

http://www.daisyowl.com/comic/2008-07-03  A great web-comic all about family and friends of an interesting sort.  A single Owl father with two adopted Human children and a half-Polarhalf-Brown bear best friend: sign me up!  I am directing you to the very first strip and then you can read through the whole thing so far just by hitting the nice NEXT button up top.  This one is love Rebekka G.

http://van-down-by-the-river.blogspot.com/  This is one beautiful love story/blog story/travel story.  I’m directing you to the end because it gives so much more meaning to the rest of it.  Then go to the very beginning June 2006 and read backwards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRSNkmB-qPg  I saw this one first watching Sesame Street one Saturday in South Africa (boy, there’s a lot of Ssss in that sentence, yay for the alliteration).  It is a lovely interpretation of Merchant of Venice by the man…love it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao  Found this one through a favorite blog I will share later.  Fantastic 14/15 minute short film-seriously folks this will put a smile on your face and hopefully encourage you to help put smiles on the faces of everyone you meet!

Almost a Month Now

Posted in food, Travel on January 8, 2009 by howtosavethekosmos

I truly enjoy being home just as much as I truly miss South Africa and all my wonderful friends there.  I also miss the freedom I had there.  If I needed to run an errand I could hop in my car and get it.  Now I have to ask one of my parents to take me places, on their schedule (as I am not on their car insurance).

I am job searching, temporary job searching, I still really want to get back to South Africa in the next few months if the Lord wills.  No leads so far.  I did work one day at a gun show with dad and a friend and a bit of work for my parents’ business, but nothing consistent.  Even the temp agencies are just taking numbers, because there are so many people being laid off all the time with higher qualifications and experience than me taking over what few jobs remain.

I am hopeful though.  Besides this week I have been too sick with flu, on top of my nearly month long cold, to do much.  I am really trying to get better though so I can attend our Youth Winter Camp as a leader from tomorrow to Sunday.

But here’s a bit of what I’ve been doing this month…lots of pictures following…

SNOW!

Snow and lots of it for two weeks!

Monopoly! 

Being beat by Mom at Monopoly.  Seriously, she beat the entire family, this has never happened for her-even since childhood.  All that property, yeah–that’s hers!

Christmas! 

And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care…and a good old fashioned Christmas movie was playing on the big screen!

Chili Cheese Dog!  

Chili Cheese Dogs with Mustard on top and American Doritos on the side.  Yum yum yum yum.  How I’ve missed thee.

Sisters!

Sisters, sisters, there was never such a set of sisters…(from aforementioned, but not named good old fashioned Christmas movie, and loosely adapted).  If this photo was on facebook I would also tag the phone as Middle Sister’s Boyfriend.  And footie pajamas?  She’s 12 years younger but only 4 or 5 inches shorter than me and she can still find footie pajamas. 

Wedding Prep

Helping with friends to set up for best Seattle friend’s wedding.  This photo is of Middle Sister’s best friend of two and my best Seattle friend’s Mom.

Nik!

This is my Middle Sister’s boyfriend, Nik.  Remember the picture with the phone up above, this is the guy she spends a day with and then two hours at night talking about their day together.  Young love, who gets it really?  I just love this picture because he was helping set up for the wedding and was asked to cut off extra threads on the table runners, but with his look of sincere concentration, it appears as though he could be tailoring pants for Elvis or something.

Wedding!

Best Friend’s Wedding!  I love this shot because it looks like Pastor Mark is singing a Christmas carol to them.

Bouquet

And guess who caught the bouquet…Moi!  Ha, it was pretty funny-for once I really didn’t try.  Actually had to lift my hands from my sides and catch it, to make sure it didn’t fall to the ground.  Later on, a few complained that the bride had purposefully thrown it exactly to me.  Maybe its just fate…ha.

More Snow!

And just because I like these pictures and don’t want to leave Dad out…Dad and youngest sister in the snow.  Shortly after this one they started clearing off the snow on Risa’s car (Pastor Mark’s wife who works for my parents’ business) to make snowballs and help her get home without too much work.

I hope your holidays were wonderful!