Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Western Watch

Life here is constantly changing. I never really know how tomorrow will look and I’ve learned to stop trying to figure it out or make a firm schedule. It saves relationships and heartache along the way. I used to know my schedule everyday and there were rarely surprises. Safe, but a little dull. I’ve become more flexible and relaxed in my approach to life in general. I’m losing the western outlook on time and I’m not sorry to see it go.
From Blogger Pictures

I used to stress about tomorrow, next week, next month, even next year. If I didn’t have some idea where I would be next year, I felt lost and anxious. Now not only am I not sure what I’ll be doing next year, I’m not sure what continent I’ll be on and it doesn’t scare me anymore. So when my friends and family from the States ask how long I plan to stay in Africa and when I shrug and say I’m not sure, I laugh a little inside at their bemused expressions. I am where God has called me and I’m learning to lay my western watch on His altar and be content.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Strange Encounters: An afternoon in Frankfurt

I boarded the plane in Denver, CO already weary of traveling, knowing I had barely started the almost 48hr trip I had in front of me. I hate planes. The stale air, the bad food, the person in front of me who inevitably leans their chair back the second they sit down and never moves it the whole flight, making the whole eating experience that much more adventurous.
From Blogger Pictures

After finding my window seat, I watched first with skepticism, then with dawning hope, and finally, sheer joy at the realization that the seat next to me was empty! The flight attendants were closing the overhead bins and everyone had boarded and yet the seat remained miraculously, blissfully empty. With giddy thoughts of stretching my limbs out and actually sleeping, I started to move my bag onto the seat when a body abruptly dropped into the space and a gratingly cheerful voice said, “I hate middle seats! You don’t mind if I sit here do you?”
For a moment, I thought I’d actually shed tears, the frustration was so overwhelming, but somehow managed to stay in control. “No,” I replied. Not the most welcoming, but I was proud of myself.
For the first hour, I stayed quiet and kept to myself. It had been an unreal fantasy anyway, I assured myself. Not one to hold a grudge for long, I was eventually able to push past my bitterness and introduced myself. On his way back home to Kuwait, the man was friendly with unexpectedly lively and engaging conversation. We both were able to sleep on and off and at one point he turned to me and suggested going into Frankfurt together as we both had long layovers. He knew the best place in the city center to get crepes.
I was reluctant. Strange man, strange city and I tend to worry excessively when it comes to traveling. Even though I had an almost twelve hour layover, unexpected things happen and I didn’t want to risk leaving the airport and missing my flight. I thanked him, but said no and managed to sleep another hour. When I woke up, I realized I was developing two cold sores on my lower lip, both my legs had started to swell, and my stomach hurt due to my unfortunate tendency to get constipated during long flights. The thought of leaving the airport suddenly sounded like an amazing idea.
Soon, I found myself standing on a train station with my new Muslim friend trying in vain to read German and figure out how to buy a ticket into the city center. I heard familiar accents and turned to see two American girls standing with their big backpacks in front of the ticketing machine looking just as confused as I imagine we did. Deciding to join forces, the four of us put our heads together, but five minutes later still unable to read German we all boarded the train ticketless figuring we could plead ignorance if need be. The girls were from Oklahoma and were hostelling it across Europe. Friendly and enthusiastic, they made good companions as we found our way across town where we parted paths.
[The train station]
From Blogger Pictures

Walking with my newfound friend, I heard shouting and the loud noise of a large crowd gathered in the streets of downtown Frankfurt. Signs written in Arabic and waving Pakistani flags greeted us as we turned a corner. We struggled through waves of Pakistani people, who had gathered to appeal to the German government to stop the Israeli attacks on Muslim countries. I thought it was pretty nifty that I had my very own translator who was able to discover what was happening.
From Blogger Pictures

This sparked interesting discussions between my companion and myself. We talked of Jewish and Muslim relations and of the Bible and Koran. He told me what it was like to grow up in Kuwait and I told him of my own upbringing.
From Blogger Pictures

We never did find that crepe shop, but we found an amazing Middle Eastern restaurant and I discovered a new favorite food. I know we made an odd couple, but I enjoyed myself immensely and was so grateful to be given the opportunity to learn more about a culture that had basically been a mystery to me. I said yes to an opportunity I normally would have turned down and I think God is teaching me to move past my fears and experience all He has for me.
[Warning: I'm not saying it's okay or even advisable to go into strange cities with strange men.]

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Family and Me

My dearest friends and family,

I start writing feeling a little guilty about my total lack of communication over the past weeks since I’ve been back in the United States. Time moves so fast and no amount of pleading, bribery, or refusing to go to sleep changes that. I still feel like I arrived yesterday and I’m slightly shocked I go back to Africa tomorrow. Time moves with no regard to my feelings.

[My sister Danielle and brother Spencer]
From My Learning Curve

[My Mom and brother Derek]
From My Learning Curve

[Mom and Dad]
From My Learning Curve

My thoughts and emotions swing from excited to nervous to sad about leaving Spokane. It’s not so much leaving the States, I love South Africa, but being away from my family, my unit is difficult. I keep waiting for the moment I don’t feel so attached to them when leaving becomes easier, but that moment has yet to arrive. Until then, I pretend I’m tough and hug them goodbye, but as soon as I step beyond the security gates at the airport I sit and cry for a good fifteen minutes. It’s a routine I’ve got down pat.

From My Learning Curve

I’m excited for what God has planned for Africa and blessed that I get to be a part of it, but this is my sacrifice. Please keep me in your prayers as I transition back. It’s going to be a busy time with visitors and a DTS [Discipleship Training School] starting. I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and getting back in the swing of things, not to mention getting out of the snow!
Happy New Year to you all and I’ll write again soon!
Much love and blessings,