Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snow and Neighbors

We’ve had our first real snow of the year! By this morning, we had about 6 inches and maybe one or two more by the end of the day. We spent the morning shoveling our sidewalk and driveway and the sidewalk and driveway for the elderly lady next door.

While we were out shoveling, a 10 year old boy from the next block down was out walking and stopped to play with us in the snow and help shovel a bit. He seemed a bit attention starved and had lots of fun throwing snowballs at us. After a few minutes he told me he needed to get his “gloves” out (I had noticed his bare hands and not very warm looking coat) and was surprised (though I probably shouldn’t have been) to see him pull out a pair of socks and put them on his hands. Wow. I went inside and found a pair of snow gloves that we could give him, which fit him perfectly.

When Dave said something about us going to church at 2:00, he said he sure wished he could come with us sometime. So we told him to ask his dad, and if his dad said it was okay, he could start coming to church with us. I’ll try to stop by their house sometime this week to introduce myself to his dad.

A friend from church asked me today how things were going getting to know our neighbors. We haven’t met many new people, since it’s winter and people aren’t out as much, but we are deepening relationships with the people we do know. In addition to the boy down the street this morning, I’ve spent a good bit of time in the last couple weeks with our neighbor two doors down. She is as sweet, friendly and helpful as can be. I’m really looking forward to being done with my thesis and having more time to be involved in the neighborhood and be able to be more intentional about building relationships.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Play

As we were going through a box with Christmas stuff last night, I found this story that I wrote when I was 6. My mom’s note says that it’s a play. Whatever it is, it was hilarious. It’s written in big first grader handwriting with a black crayon on many pieces of scratch paper taped end to end to form a scroll. Not sure if it's quite as funny typed out, but here it is, unedited:

First, Mary was at the well with some other ladies. They said…

Can you wait entel the Savyior comes? and saves us!

Then an angel uperd and said BE NOT AFRADE! You will be the mother of the savior.

Mary said but there are a lot of people that want to be the mother.

But God chose you Go tell Joseph

Joseph! Joseph! An angel aperd to me and said I’d have a baby but I have to go to Bethlehem

Wel, I can come with you.


Then Mary and Joseph set off for Bethlehem. They stopt at an inn.

The inn keeper said there aren’t any rooms in the hool town

But she’s having a baby.

Well you can stay in the stable. But it’s not much

Okay Mary let’s go.

He’s right it’s not much.

Meen wile the angel Gabriel told sheperds about the Lord

At the stabel Lord Jesus was born

wighs men came to worship him

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

We got a Christmas tree last night. We’d been hoping to go cut one ourselves, but finally realized that it just wasn’t going to happen, given Dave’s schedule this year, and went to Eastern Market instead, which was way faster and easier. Since we have 9 foot ceilings now in our fab old house, we got a nice sized tree, but boy it's a lot bigger in the living room than it looked on the lot! We’ll have to remember that next year. Dave is off tomorrow, so hopefully we’ll be able to decorate the tree then.

After putting up the tree, we got out garland to put on our banister. What fun to finally have our own house, and an old one at that!

We have collected nativity scenes from around the world and have had them out for a couple weeks now. This one is from Kenya:

This is the one from Indonesia that my parents gave us for our first Christmas. Two brothers carve these and then they are sold around the world as an income generating activity:

Dave's parents gave us this one from Venezuela:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good week?

I think it's been a good week. My goal has been less what or how much I accomplish each day (I AM still working hard though!) and instead more about what my attitude is as I do it. I'm really letting go of the anxiety and doubt that paralyze me so that I can get to the business of living and doing what I need to do.

Today, though, I met with my advisor to work on some organizational issues for my thesis and the conclusion (which I was dreading) was that I still have a lot of work left before me: things I need to rethink, some more things I need to read and incorporate, things to rewrite. Argh. Even though my life has been consumed with it for the last year, it doesn't mean that I've actually done enough work to now say it's good enough, time to be done. Because it's not good enough yet. When I got home (it's about 2 hours door to door now), I laid in a nice warm bath and read a book. I haven't done that in forever.

So please keep praying for me through this process. I've learned so much: about myself, about the process of research and writing, about what I need to do to live and work effectively, etc. All good stuff. But I still feel frustrated that after all the mental and emotional turmoil of the last 9 months, I still don't have a finished thesis to show for it. I guess it's a really good object lesson for me as I learn not to get so worked up over everything, because it is absolutely self-defeating - such an outlay of energy without fruit. I know (well, at least I think!) it's all in God's timing, and that there were many important life lessons for me learn, but it's still been really hard. But that's life, isn't it. On my way to campus this morning, I was singing a song that says, "God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good." It's very simple. As I sang it this morning, I knew without a doubt that it is true.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Will somebody please put me to bed?

Why is it that I cannot go seem to go to bed at a reasonable hour when Dave's working all night? I was going to go to bed early, but then I had to finish some things, and before I knew it, it was 11:00. Then I decided for some reason (can one procrastinate in going to bed!?!?), I started reading some of the blog posts I wrote when I was in Tanzania. On a side note, I read a bunch of the posts from Kenya a few weeks ago and I was HORRIFIED at how many typos there were! I don't even have an excuse because I was typing on my own computer!! So now it's nearly midnight. This has happened almost every night this month! Dave's mom has always said that she can't go to bed early when she's all by herself, like at home or at a hotel, and I always thought that was a little strange - I would just relish the chance to go to bed early, since I was all alone. Shows me what's I know! Well, now I'm off to bed, since I do have to get up again to work hard and think hard tomorrow.
Just wanted to say I’m alive and kicking. I’m working hard and learning a lot. I’m learning to surrender my anxiety – to let God carry my burdens for me. I cannot bear them and He says they’re not mine to bear anyway. But it's a continual process of letting go and not grabbing them back. I’ve had some wonderful women at church helping me along this journey recently, and for them I am grateful. There’s so much more in my heart, but my capacity for words is consumed in the daily task of writing and rewriting. Soon it will be mine again to share. But in the meantime, know that I am well, but please continue to pray that God will daily be my grace, strength and wisdom.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dave's reflections on the hospital in Malawi

I was looking for a file tonight on my computer and found these thoughts that Dave wrote about working in the hospital in Malawi that never actually got posted. I thought it might still be interesting.

5 February 2007

It’s getting near the end of my rotation here at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Malawi. The past week has been somewhat odd because I keep meeting people who haven’t really talked to me for the past five weeks and they are just meeting me for the first time. So I have to tell them that no, I’m really going in just a week and I can’t stay any longer. But it is very nice because they always look disappointed when I tell them.

I meant to write a while ago my first impressions of the hospital, but obviously I haven’t done so. When I arrived at the hospital the first day, it was much like the first day of any rotation in a new hospital. I was trying to find my way around (and getting lost several times), finding who was supposed to orient me, and attempting to perform appropriately as a student from the U.S.

My impressions of the hospital on the first day were also a bit muted I think thanks to the short trip Sarah had taken me on to see a hospital in Kenya. Were it not for that short trip, I think I would have been a bit shocked during my first visit to the surgical ward. As it was I was not surprised to see the condition of the hospital (it is the ‘best’ hospital in Malawi). During my first ward round with the physician, I was a bit shocked to see the condition and status of the patients. For example, there was a man there with jaundice. The only lab tests that had been done was a blood count. He had also had an ultrasound. So he was just waiting for the doctor’s to figure something out or do another test. For any of you familiar with medicine in the US, you know that this patient would have had a battery of laboratory tests (CBC, lytes, Ca, Mg, Phos, bili, alk phos, etc), ultrasound, CT (before leaving the ER), and possibly even laparotomy within a day or two and discharged within five. This man had been in the hospital for a week or more, and was receiving no visible treatment beyond waiting for tests to be ordered, completed, and interpreted. And there were several patients who were just there in the ward waiting either for a diagnosis or for surgery. Some had been there a few days, others a few weeks. They were just waiting.

The other part of the hospital that I was anxious to see on arrival was the operating room (or theater as they say here). And my first experience in the theater was not bad. In fact I was quite impressed. Sure the room was a little behind the times, with cracked windows, carts that were falling apart or welded together several times, and no climate control. But, the equipment was quite good. Anesthesia had a ventilator, full monitoring capabilities, and a wide enough array of drugs that the patients are always comfortable. The first procedure I saw was cystoscopy. The equipment there was in quite good condition and I have seen several successful cystoscopies in the five weeks here.

I should tell a couple of ‘fun’ stories about the theater. For the major operations, the drapes (reusable, cloth) are quite good, but for some of the minor cases, the drapes are a little lacking. Sometimes it looks as if you drape and create a sterile field with swiss cheese drape. One of the operations this week was one filled with statistics: estimated number of times this particular procedure had been done before in Malawi: 0. Age of the patient: 95. Number of insects on the sterile field during the procedure: 3 (two spiders and an ant). It was a remarkable surgery overall!

Last week the interns (in training just as in the US) decided to go on strike because they hadn’t been paid since August. It was a big deal because the interns do most of the work of running the hospital. They tend to bring in the physician (the attending or consultant) only when they feel things have gotten beyond their ability to deal with it. So, the consultant rarely sees a simple abscess or acute urinary retention, or even some cases that need surgery (the intern may just go ahead with the surgery). So, that was an interesting day. The interns got paid and so they came back to work the next day, but it certainly made a difference in how the hospital ran.

So, I guess that’s all about the hospital. Feel free to comment if you have other specific questions.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

The weekend and reflections on transition

I can’t believe the weekend is almost over already! On Friday night, some ladies from church came over for a girls’ night. Everybody brought something and we had a potluck dinner. Then they gave me some decorating ideas for the house – how to rearrange some furniture, where to put some pictures, what colors to paint the walls. We had a really good time. Now that a few more people have been here, I think we can make it a more regular event. I was going to post a picture, but they didn’t come out at all – someone looks really bad in every one.

Today after church, we went to pick up a porch swing that we bought off Craig’s list. I am SO excited. I’ve been wanting a porch swing, but had no idea where on earth you get one. Well, it occurred to me yesterday to try Craig’s List, and there happened to be a hanging cedar porch swing that someone needed to get rid of this weekend! And for WAY less than buying one from a store (I also found out from google yesterday that you can buy them at big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot as well as order them from websites that are entirely devoted to porch swings. Who knew!?)

(photo from

I think we’re getting into the swing of Dave working night shift. I’ve reordered my schedule a little bit so that I’m able to spend some time with him in the hour or two a day that he’s home and awake. It’s also made it easier to work on my thesis in the evening, after he leaves. We’ve started eating dinner at 5:30 so we can eat together. I still don’t like going to bed by myself, but I’m getting over the laying in bed hearing EVERY, SINGLE noise inside and outside the house. I trust God to take care of me and I know that nothing will ever happen to me outside of his power and control. He was working this weekend, but he has the rest of the weekends off in November – hurray!!! Then he works pretty much every day in December until Christmas, but we’ll take what we’ve got while we’ve got it, right? ☺

My thesis is almost done. I have a bit more of the draft chapters to rework and get to my advisor, then some serious editing and preparing my presentation. It will be SO good to have it all done. Then it will be time to try to find a way to go back to Kenya to do some follow-up work in the community, which is where I hope the real impact will be. In the last few days, I’ve actually enjoyed the process of reading, thinking and writing again, and I realize that I will miss being a student and engaging intellectually in an academic environment. But there are still lots of things to read about urban ministry/community development, and there are several people here with whom I know I can have in depth discussions about the work we do. It will be an interesting transition. I’m certainly ready for the thesis to be done, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to not be a student and have to figure out who I am again. I also unsure what my involvement will be with Africa once I’m done with my master’s program. I know that I’ll always be involved in my community in Kenya, but I’m not sure what that will look like in the near future. So, I will finish my master’s program (It’s about time, actually, after three and a half years!) and will be open to everything that God has next for me. I’ve never been good with transition and change, but I’m learning to give thanks for each season and I’m trying to learn to look ahead toward the next as an exciting adventure.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Summer Fun

I was going through some pictures from this summer for a cousin and I found these funny pictures of my husband being silly.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Encouragement to Iraq

As you know, my brother is in Iraq for the next 14 months and I’m looking for some fun and creative ways to encourage him. My plan is to write to him every week and include an encouraging Bible verse or quote on an index card (with fun colors of course!) My parents and I sent a package last week with a lot of things he requested and a few fun things. Dave and I put in a dozen or so packets of fire sauce from Taco Bell (he puts hot sauce on everything), some candy, a note from each of us, some family pictures and pictures with his cat that I took before he left. I also found a couple of those little rubber poppers that you turn inside out, lay on a solid surface and then they pop up in the air – remember those? I’d like to keep sending him small packages, but I’m not very creative and need some help thinking of ideas of things that would be fun, but not just junk that he has to figure out what to do with (though the poppers probably fit into that category!) One of the things he requested was some healthy snacks – any ideas of things that aren’t too heavy, aren’t perishable and would mail well would also be appreciated.

Please continue to pray for him – that God would protect his mind, body and spirit, that God would be his strength and his vision, and that God would show him in this time the plans He has for his life.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It is good

At church, we’re starting a series on Genesis (we did Acts for the first 3 years of the church, so we’ll probably be in Genesis for the next 5!) and one thing Pastor said was that at the end of each day, God said, “It is good.” He challenged us to say the same thing – to see the various things in our lives and say, “It is good.” Don’t be hung up on yesterday or worry about tomorrow, but focus on today and thank God that today is good. I don’t know if I’ve explained it very well, but this was really big for me, because I have been in a season where I’ve really had a fairly negative outlook and have seen the difficulties of each day more than the goodness. He also talked about how we sometimes have seasons in life in which most of the season is good. But then the end of the season is really hard and we forget that most of the season really was good. That is absolutely my grad school experience. Most of it was really good. I enjoyed it and I learned a lot. I have some wonderful friends out of it. But, the last few months have been really hard – writing my thesis in the circumstances I’ve been in has been one of the most personally challenging things I’ve done in a long time and a different kind of challenge then a lot of other things I’ve faced in life. But, when I look at the process of grad school and of being a graduate student, I definitely have to say, “It is good.”

When I look at Friday, yesterday and today, I have to say, “It is good.”

On Friday, Dave slept for a few hours and then, while I worked hard on my thesis, put down insulation in the attic. R49 baby! I really hope that reduces our heat bill for the winter and allows us to use less energy. When you look out over the insulation, though, it just looks like a fluffy pink cloud and makes me want to run and dive into it like a pile of leaves or two feet of snow. Maybe I could make an insulation angel!

We finally found a couple dollar theaters around town and Friday night we went to see the Nanny Diaries at one of them. I really enjoyed it – between having been a nanny and also having studied enough anthropology to totally get the anthropology references, it was really fun. Then we came home, made popcorn and played a game. It’s definitely been a challenge to stay connected to each other with our current responsibilities and schedules, so this was much needed and appreciated.

On Saturday, we went to the bank to deposit a check. Now remember, we live in Detroit, which is not a place most normal businesses like to operate. So there are only four Fifth Third banks in the entire city. In the city where I grew up (Louisville, KY - a wonderful place), there are at least 17! And its only 2/3 of the size of Detroit AND its not even the main region for that bank. We would consider switching except that we just bought a bunch of new checks with our new address on them. So, we had to drive across town to go to the bank and the closest one happens to be on the east side near the river. We’ve been wanting to go check out the river trail, so after we went to the bank, we went down to the river and walked a bit along the river trail. The Detroit River (at least in that section) was actually very pretty – a nice bluish green - in contrast to the yucky brown of the Ohio River in said hometown. Plus, it was SO, SO good to be outside, especially in the beautiful, sunny fall weather we had. We walked to the Renaissance Center, which I had never actually been in. There are lots of shops and a few restaurants. I had no idea. So the trip to the bank: It was good.

Next we went to our neighborhood hardware store. They have just about anything you could need, in addition to wonderfully friendly and helpful people who run it. To me, it seems like a hardware/general store, and it’s almost like a mini-Target. I love being able to support a local, family-run business that specializes in the old houses in the neighborhood. We came home with furnace filters, an auger to unclog our tub, two rakes, a hand trowel, a few things to add a couple electrical outlets in the basement and a box of matches. I almost came home with envelopes, pens, an apple peeler/corer, screws, nails and a shovel, but we’ll save those for the next trip! The hardware store? Yep, it was good.

Today after church, we had a couple over for dinner before Dave went to work. They are close to our parents’ age. They’ve been coming to our church for a little while, but just made the move completely from their old church and I hadn’t really talked to them until the missions conference a few weeks ago. It was totally spur of the moment that we invited them over for dinner, counting on finding something in the fridge and/or cupboard to eat. It was really fun getting to talk to them and getting to know them better. We certainly have the most interesting people in our church with such a variety of experiences in life. On Friday night this week, a group of ladies are coming over to help me figure out what to do with my house and get some ideas to decorate (which includes helping me find a good place for my things from Africa). So Sunday? Yep, it was good.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A swfit kick in the pants

I keep looking at other people's blogs and wondering why they haven't posted anything since their last post and then I looked at my own and realized it had been even longer! Man, the time goes by fast.

Late last week, my advisor emailed me and asked for a schedule of when I would send him draft chapters. He was "very concerned" about whether I would be able to defend this semester. Well, I'd been meaning to work on that schedule for a while now, but just hadn't done it. When I started counting back when I would need to defend, when I needed to have the draft to my committee in order to defend by then, when I needed to have all my chapters in to my advisor in order to get said draft to my committee, I realized all of a sudden that I had to have all my chapters in by the end of next week!! No more playing around. So now I have a really tight schedule and ABSOLUTELY FIRM deadlines, which means that I am finally getting some work done and making progress! Woohoo! I have 2 chapters in, have a third scheduled to go in today, then a few more to get in next week. So, while this means that I'm doing little else besides work on my thesis (and, not so occasionally, read blogs and play sudoku online), it also means that I will be done soon. I can do ANYTHING for a few weeks. When we went grocery shopping this weekend, I bought a number of things to be able to make easy, quick meals, and also got myself a few treats, (popcorn, chips and salsa and cashews) to munch on while I'm working. I also found this great website with PhD comics that remind me that I really am still a graduate student, which also makes me more motivated to keep working.

In other news, we had about 30 trick or treaters come to our house last night, including 10 or so from the adult group home down the street. We have just a few pieces of candy left over, which makes a nice treat, but doesn't give me too much temptation.

Today is a new month, so it means Dave switches from surgery to nights. He will spend most nights this month at the hospital from 7pm to 7am. He has this weekend off, though, so he will work tonight and then be off until Sunday night, which is when he will really shift into working nights mode. One of our activities this weekend will be to come up with some strategies for this new schedule, including making sure we actually see each other. It will also affect how I work and schedule my time. I had been getting up with Dave at 5ish, working out and getting to work, but there is no way I can (nor do I have any desire to) continue getting up at that unreasonable hour on my own. (Although I'm thinking of getting a part time job at Starbucks once my thesis is done, so I might soon eat - or drink - those words!)

Well, it's time to get back to work now...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

a few thoughts on working in Detroit

Okay, I promised I’d post more often, but this week I just haven’t known what to say. I’ve been checking other friends’ blogs a lot (who, judging by the lack of new content, must also not have not known what to say!), but I haven’t written a word of my own. I did write half a thesis chapter, though, which is a very good thing. Nothing seems that exciting. A few weeks ago, Dave worked 19 days in a row. Last night, I got an extensive biology/chemistry/medicine lesson as Dave answered an hour’s worth of questions about proteins and cancer cells and a million other things that happened to be on my mind. Unfortunately, only a few of our books are unpacked, so he couldn’t show me any pictures. I’m learning to drink my coffee without much sugar. My parents just got back from Italy and they brought us parmesan cheese, olive oil, espresso and chocolate. Scott (my brother) finally got to Baghdad.

There’s a lot of deeper stuff going on too, but I don’t know if I have words to explain it. Well, here it comes. I went to a Christian Community Development Association conference the weekend before last. Besides seeing old friends in St. Louis (which was wonderful!), the conference was good. I felt like I did a lot of spiritual healing and got some new tools and ideas for working in my community. This past weekend, we had a missions conference at church that was also really good. I wouldn’t say that I learned anything new, but I was reminded of a lot of things that I knew but hadn’t thought about lately. Between CCDA and the missions conference, I feel like my worlds (Detroit and Africa) are beginning to be reconciled a little. At CCDA, I heard a presentation by an Ethiopian woman who works in the slums of the capital city Addis Ababa, and thinking about her work (and mine) in Africa in the context of a conference that is still mostly about urban ministry in the U.S. helped me see that what I do in both places is really more similar than I thought. Well, it’s really more that I see other people acknowledging that it’s many of the same basic issues, values and strategies that are at work in Christian community development in both contexts. At the missions conference this weekend, we had a lot of focus on Africa, and to see so many people who are from Detroit and who work in Detroit be focused on Africa as well somehow made it seem a little less disparate. I don’t know if that makes sense to any of you, but when I explained it the other night to a friend who also is deeply connected in Detroit and Africa, it made a lot of sense to her.

It’s actually been quite challenging getting involved in ministry/community development in Detroit. I’m seeing a lot of my “rough edges” and weaknesses and it’s a very humbling process. Sometimes it’s so hard to see yourself as you really are, but it’s also the only way you grow. One of my biggest challenges right now is just keeping my mouth shut. This is the time to listen, observe and learn, but it’s really hard to do when I see things and have ideas that I’m dying to share. Some of the things I have to say are useful, but more often, they are lacking experience and understanding. Besides, I haven’t earned the right to speak yet. Somehow it seemed easier in Africa, probably because it was more obvious to me how much I had to learn. Being in Detroit feels more like familiar territory (heck, I’m in America!), so I feel more comfortable speaking and forget that I have SO much to learn about this community, its history and what is happening here now. I also realized at CCDA that I need to be very intentional right now about building relationships with people in my community and just getting to know people and growing to love them individually. Right now, I love the idea of my community, but I haven’t developed a genuine love for real people in my community, because I don’t know them yet. It’s easy for me to get caught up in doing things, because that’s the easiest and most comfortable thing to do, so I have to be very intentional in the next year about being with people and developing relationships. So, one of the things I’m trying is to do things at CDC (the organization where I volunteer) to be more connected with the kids and families in our program. I’m going to start volunteering with the weekly tutoring and cultural enrichment program tonight. Which means I better get a little more work done now. So much for not having anything to say ☺.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thank You…

… to whoever found October and sent it back. It has officially dropped 30 degrees in the last 2 days, so it is close enough for me to what October is supposed to be. Fortunately for our checkbook, it’s not cold enough to turn on the heat yet. It is a pretty comfortable 65 degrees in the house, which is probably warmer than it will be all winter, unless we get some new windows, better insulation and a new, high paying job! Seriously, our windows are quite drafty and the best-insulated part of our house is the basement. The temperature outside dropped 30 degrees, the temperature in the house dropped 15 and the temperature in the basement stayed exactly the same! So much for keeping potatoes and such cool down there during the winter…

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Read any good books lately?

I'm working on my Christmas wish list for Dave's family and am wondering if any of you have any good books you would recommend - fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, etc. - anything interesting, really.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Can I start over again?

I wish I could do the last 8 months over again. There are so many things I wish I could have done differently since coming back from Africa. I thought that I was doing great with culture shock, since I’m now very comfortable both there and here. My identity is well established and carries parts of here and there. Moving back and forth between the two is not much different than moving back and forth between two homes. So, I do fine with the cultural adjustments. What I did not do fine with was reentering relationships. I never really reconnected with friends after coming back. So, if you’ve felt like you’ve lost me in the last year, that’s why. But I’m still here. Email me. Call me. I’ve never been a good initiator, and I don’t even know where to begin now that I’ve been so disconnected for so long.

As mentioned in today’s other post, I’m still not done with my thesis. I thought that I would come home, work on it full time and get it done in a few months. No big deal, right? Ha! Well, I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself, how I work and what I need in order to function, let alone thrive. Here’s what I need: people time, changing environments, several different things to focus on (but not too many!), a routine with some external structure. What I’ve had: exactly the opposite – a lot of time all by myself, at home by myself a LOT, not enough different things to do, the responsibility of planning and scheduling every minute of every day with no one, ever, to tell me what to do/where to be when. Definitely wasn’t working for me. I know that I often cannot change my circumstances. But knowing what I need means that as much as I can control certain circumstances, I need to work as hard as I can to make those circumstances into those that work for me. Some days I do pretty well and some days not so much. Today is one of those not so much days. I got some good things done this morning, but then I got off track and haven’t seemed to manage to get back on. I think it’s time for a day out of the house. I’m going to go to campus tomorrow to work there and go to the Swahili table for lunch.

One of the reasons I kept working at home was that it cost roughly $10 in gas every time I went to campus to work. But, if I had gone to campus more often, I really think I would be done by now. I’m amazed how much I’m affected by places, or maybe rather my connection to places. I was on campus a couple months ago, after not having been there for awhile, and it was like something in me opened up again. I found myself thinking, “Oh yeah! This is that place where I read and write and engage intellectually. And I like it.” It was as if that part of me had gotten lost or shut off. I came home from campus ready to go again. I find that I’m a lot more affected by places, circumstances, relationships than I wish I could be. Sometimes it would be so much easier if I didn’t engage myself so much mentally and emotionally in things. But part of my journey this year has been learning who I am and accepting myself as I am, instead of wishing I could have the strengths of other people. This is who I am and I’m trying to learn to make it work for me, not against me. The things that make me feel weak and inadequate sometimes are the same strengths I see other times.

So, it’s been a journey. Hopefully I’m stronger for it. I really have learned a lot. But I’ve still got to get that blasted thesis done… ☺

Oh where, oh where, has October gone?

It is freakin’ 89 degrees outside for the 4th day in a row! It’s October, for goodness sake! Not even in Kentucky did it get this hot in October! But, I did hear the other day that President Bush finally acknowledged that global warming exists and that humans have something to do with it. Dave was joking the other day that when his family’s here at Christmastime, they’ll have to help us rake leaves at the rate we’re going!

I'm baaaaack

I’m going to start posting regularly again (yeah, I know, you’ve heard that before ☺). So, if you keep checking, I promise you’ll get something.

There are lots of things I’ve thought about in the last few months, but it never actually made it into a blog post. So, I thought I’d start with a few highlights, in no particular order:

1) I love our house. I love our neighborhood. I love our neighbors. I can’t believe what a great deal we got on this house. I love that we only drive 5 minutes to church (that is, if we don’t ride our bikes!)

2) God is taking good care of us – not only did we get a great deal on the house (including a brand new furnace that we did not pay a penny for), but we also got an amazing break on our car insurance and homeowners insurance. Our car insurance only went up $50, and by the time our agent gave us all the discounts she could find, we’re only paying about half of the original price (which was astronomical!) We were expecting our insurance to double by moving into Detroit, but it hasn’t. I also went to turn in a property tax form and found out that the assessed value of the house for tax purpose is about 2/3 of what I expected, which means that our taxes will be slightly more reasonable. Property taxes in Detroit are insanely high, so every bit is huge!

3) Dave’s grandpa died a few weeks ago. We haven’t really told anybody about it. It’s not a bad thing – he was 87 and ready to go. But still… We had most of Dave’s family at our house the weekend of the funeral, and it felt so good to be able to do that. We actually had a great time together, despite the reason. I just wish I could talk to him again and hear one more story.

4) I went to Chicago last weekend for a girls’ weekend with Dave’s mom, sister and sister-in-law. We had such a good time and it was so much fun to be back in Chicago, except that I couldn’t go see any of my other friends who are still there. We went to see Wicked, which was really good, had amazing weather, walked a lot, ate cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory (despite living in the area for 4 years, I had never been to the Cheesecake Factory), went up in the Hancock Tower, stopped for samples at the Ghirardelli store and, of course, bought Franco mints from what used to be Marshall Fields.

5) I am the only one in my immediate family who is in the country at the moment. My parents are in Italy, with 5 of my mom’s sisters. They’re supposed to be eating some good food for me. My brother Scott should be in Iraq now. He’s been in Kuwait for the last 2 weeks and should be either in Iraq or headed there in a few days. I went home to see him in September and had several good conversations with him on the phone before he left. Please pray for him – that God would transform him while he’s there and give him a vision for who he is and what his purpose is in life.

6) I still haven’t finished my thesis, but I’m getting slightly closer. At least everybody’s not asking me about it all the time right now. It HAS to be done this semester, and I’m starting the feel the pressure, which means I’m starting to move a little bit faster. Part of me wants to be done, but part of me doesn’t. I’ve learned a lot in the last 8 months, but there’s a lot I wish I could do differently. I think that will need to be a separate post.

7) I went apple picking this weekend with a friend and canned 14 quarts of applesauce yesterday.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Detroit - home at last

Hi again. I was kinda waiting to put another update until we had some house news, but everything was up in the air for so long before it all came together almost in an instant. Now, it's literally been MONTHS since I've written anything!

The good new is: We have a house!!! It's a nice brick house (see pictures below). Gorgeous woodwork. 4 bedrooms. Brand new furnace. Built in 1915. 1.5 miles from church. Smack dab in the middle of Detroit. We're the only white people on our street. We're so excited to finally be here. We've been commuting between Detroit and Lansing for the last 2 years (at least when we were in the country!) and we're so excited to be in one place and to start putting down some roots and working towards transformation.

For those of you who don't know much about Detroit, it is one of the poorest cities in the country. It is also one of the most segregated racially. There is so much fear, division, racism, poverty and hopelessness. We have a painful history and a legacy of darkness. But this is a city with so much potential, and there has already been a lot of rebuilding. God has called us here for this season to be part of the solution, to contribute to wholeness and healing. Our church has been working very hard to build bridges and transform the community.

Right now, I'm volunteering with Central Detroit Christian CDC, working on developing an urban agriculture and community gardening program in conjunction with a produce market we're developing in the neighborhood. The plan is to transition into a full time position as I finish my thesis and we finalize funding for the project.

Here's are a few pictures of our house (these are all before we bought it):

the entryway:

and the dining room:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer Fresh

In my refrigerator right now, I have 5 zucchinis, 1 yellow squash, 17 ears of corn, a head and a bit of broccoli, 1 cabbage, 1 cucumber, a bag of green beens, a head of lettuce and the 17 pounds of blueberries that I picked this morning. Almost all of it came from the farmer's market. I love it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Help me rename my blog

Well, I am no longer in Africa, but this has been fun and I thought I'd keep it up. I've been sorrily remiss in posting anything, although I finally got a few 2-month old graduation pictures up this morning. I was waiting until we had definite news on a house so I could post some pictures, but that's a little up in the air. I have to go right now, but I'll write a bit more later on. All that said, I need a new title for my blog since I'm not in Africa anymore. I have no good ideas, though, so I'm asking for help from the few of you who may still be reading this!

Last graduation pictures

My graduation

My graduation ceremony

One reason Courtney and I both decided to walk is that we could do it together. We were both scheduled to finish during the summer semester. She's all done, but I still have a ways to go!

Don't they look like they're having fun? Shaun took this picture of my family from across the auditorium.

Dinner at Altu's!

Before my graduation, we had dinner at Altu's, an Ethiopian restaurant in Lansing with some good friends and both sets of parents.

(L-R) Rohit, my Dad, Courtney, Mamta and me. Courtney and I studied Swahili together and Mamta and Rohit are in my department. They are all 3 amazing people and friends.

(L-R) Courtney's husband Shaun, Dave's parents, Dave, my mom

All I can say is yum, yum, yum!!

Graduation Pics

Both of us in our graduation regalia. His is a bit cooler than mine, though! Maybe someday I'll get a PhD and get a cool robe :)

Graduation Pictures

Dave and his Dad. Students with family members who are doctors could choose to have their family member "hood" them, which means putting the hood on them during the ceremony. The hood is what you see hanging down their backs.

Dave and me after his graduation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We're home

Don't know if anybody's still looking at this, but I thought I'd let you know we're home. Yeah, way overdue. We've been home now for longer than we were in Malawi!

Overall, it's been a good adjustment. Not so much culture shock as the last time I came home from Kenya, but the circumstances were different. I wasn't coming straight from the village. I had a long transition home (Malawi, vacation in Tanzania), and I'm more mature and have a more balanced view of here and there. Here isn't as bad as I thought and there isn't as romantic as I had originally made it.

Some things I didn't expect. I still look the wrong way when I cross the street, especially when there's a median. I actually feel confused because I don't know which way the cars are supposed to be coming from. I've started telling myself, "Look left" just like I used to tell myself "Look right" in Africa.

I miss being in the village. I was thinking about my mzungu friend the other day and thought I should go by and see her, before realizing that I'm 2 days and $1500 away. I miss my friends, family, neighbors, especially my boys. As much as I was ready for a break when I left, I find I'm missing it now. I miss the fresh fruit (which I hardly got anyway - what am I thinking!?) I miss chapatis. I miss the sun and warmth. My tan is completely gone - I've been white now for weeks.

The next step in the journey is writing my thesis, which isn't going so well so far. I'm too far away from campus to go work there, so I'm working from home. Some days are good and some days I feel like I've accomplished nothing. And the days and weeks keep flying by! Somehow, I've got to get this done by August. I'm walking at graduation in a couple weeks so I'd better get it done. Dave graduates too. That's the only reason I decided to walk - our parents will all be here anyway, and another friend is walking with me. I know I can do it and I know it will be good in the end, but it's just hard.

So, if anybody is still reading this here and there, let me know (send me an email or post a comment.) I kind of like blogging, and think it would be interesting to continue into our adventures in Detroit, but I won't if nobody wants to read it!

Love you all,

Monday, February 05, 2007

Climbing Mt. Mulanje

This weekend we had a great trip climbing Mt. Mulanje, the huge massif in southeastern Malawi. We were told it was the second tallest mountain in Africa (behind Kilimanjaro), but I’m not sure if it’s taller than Mt. Kenya. We didn’t climb to the highest peaks (which require real rock climbing), but we did climb to the top (2300 meters or about 9000 ft). It was amazing. It was a tough hike, but the views were amazing. When we got back down, we all said, “We really climbed THAT!?” We didn’t get any good pictures of the mountain from the bottom – it was too big – but we’re hoping to find a good postcard that shows it all. We did get a good view from the car on the way home, but Dave and I were in the back and the back window was very muddy!

We were told by a friend from the Malawi Mountain Club that the road was out and he gave us a big detour. So we went off through the villages on a very bad road (and I know bad African roads) with lots of waving kids (very fun!), a number of wooden bridges (a bit nerve-racking) and some serious road erosion – just enough room for the vehicle with a several foot drop off (very nerve racking). But Liam did a great job driving and we didn’t flip Dr. Taylor’s car. Well, we don’t know if we missed a turn in the detour or what, but all of a sudden we ended up back on the main road and ended up going in the same way we would have without the detour. It was a nice side trip.

We got to the forestry lodge at the bottom of the mountain and hired a guide and 4 porters. These guys are amazing. They are local guys who work carrying people’s things up the mountain. One of them was barefoot, one had flip-flops and they still could make it up the mountain ahead of us, WITH all our stuff. I left my tennis shoes with one and another girl left her trail shoes with another. I was relieved because I didn’t know what I was going to do with mine and I went away knowing that they would be useful for him, for what life is left in them. Every year there is a porter’s race, where they run, climb and walk up the mountain in back. What we would do in 10-14 hours, they do in about 2.5! Yes, in ¼ to 1/5 the time we do. They are amazing.

It was about a 6 ½ hour climb up, with breaks every so often along the way. The views all the way up were stunning. We got to the top then had a bit of up and down across a few ridges to get to the hut where we were staying. The hut was really cute. It was built in 1899 and is owned by the Presbyterian Church. Missionaries use (used?) it for retreats. At the hut we had warm water for bathing (in a bucket, just like in the village). We had a pit latrine (with a very big hole and some of the other students still missed!) and candles and a fire by which to see. To me, it was all no big deal – just the same as I’ve lived in the village for nearly a year. But the other students couldn’t wait for a shower back home and couldn’t stand to use the latrine. I kept my mouth shut.

The trip back down took just as long overall. Our pace was slower, as it was steep and slick, but we didn’t stop so much to rest. We did have a nice long stop, though, at a waterfall with a deep pool near the bottom. The water was cold (nearly frigid), but it was very refreshing and good to rest our feet.

We had pizza at the local pizza place at the bottom of the mountain (which was very good) and got home just before dark. We slept very well last night and are a little sore this morning!

Wonderful trip. Would recommend it to anybody traveling in Malawi with a sense of adventure, strong legs and the will to make it.

Pictures from the village 2

Our boat trip across the river sans bridge (I'm in the front of the boat)

Almost there! (I'm in the boat on the right)

The children preparing a traditional dance for us (in the rain)

The spectators (i.e. the whole village)

Kids trying to stay dry!

Pictures from the village 1

(L to R) Alicia, Mia and Sarah giving out candy and pencils. Liam's in the back with the camera. The teacher is standing up trying to keep the kids organized.

The kids in line, trying to get their candy and pencils. It was interesting. I think it was worth giving them, but it felt a little colonial - making them stand in line to get a little handout.

Our group tour, given by the entire village.

I found a baby.

Sitting with the women while we listened to the chief. Much better than having a special seat!

Pictures from Lake Malawi

This is a house in the village - very typical.

These are the kids that escorted the icelandic girls and me through the village. They were really cute.

This is Chris. We bought 3 paintings from him. After a long negotiation, we paid 2200 kwacha ($16), this hat (which Dave was given in the village and couldn't take home), 2 pens, a stick of deoderant (used) and some shampoo for his sister. He was the most excited about the deoderant and the shampoo. We knew we could trade things, but we didn't expect those things. Fortunately, Dave put up with me being a little stinky on the way home!

Sunset on the beach over Lake Malawi. Enough said.

More pictures from the lake

Frank our bicyclist guide and boat tour operator.

Our boat where we docked for snorkling. Frank's on the boat and the other was the driver of another boat.

After snorkling, we went to feed the fish eagles. The guides have them very well trained. They whistle and hold up a small fish for the fish eagles to see. Then the toss it in the water and the fish eagles swoop out of the trees, careen down to the water and snatch their fish. It's definitely a thing for the tourists, but the birds were really cool.

The kids in the village all know "Hallo! Hallo!" They were really cute. Even all the kids in the water would stop what they were doing when we came by and wave and shout at us.