Monday, December 19, 2011

A fellow Gambian PCV produced this documentary.
It sums up my two-month stint,
as well as what the other volunteers are accomplishing in The Gambia.
Thank you, Marta.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

In Between

A quick Google images search of "in between" informed me that many musicians can relate to the phrase. There are countless album and songs containing that title. [That was for free.]

Between The Gambia & Jamaica

The past two months of being back in California have been a weird in-between. 
So weird, in fact, that I search for words to describe what life's like now.

I have grown tired of communicating my short Peace Corps stint.

I've come to the rude realization that I will never be able to recall every last miraculous detail in any one given story-telling situation. Those miracles are what really matter.

No one I know will fully understand or be able to relate to what I went through.
(A special thanks to my fellow med evacs: Christy, Sharon, Pete, & Jessica, for coming close.)
 
I'm not a big deal to my medical doctors here in California.
Just another chart number and appointment on the books.

To the people who have asked
"Are you sure you want to go to Jamaica and continue service in Peace Corps?"
No, I'm not sure. Thanks for bringing up my insecurities.

There are no creative ways to tell people that I'm a successful college graduate living at home again.
I love my parents. It's not them...it's me.

I'm slowly understanding how messed up my body really is,
and wonder if my health will ever be the equivalent of what it was pre-Africa.

All this in-between can get pretty discouraging when I lose sight of the goal. 
The theme of Philippians 3 is having no confidence in the flesh, pressing on toward the goal.
My flesh is weak (as if I needed to be reminded), and my goal is Christ.

Onward.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saint Nicholas

No child really understands what they have in their family lines until they are cultured and mature enough to realize it later in life. Such is the case for me. My paternal grandmother is a born-and-raised German who moved here after she married my grandfather in 1958. She not only brought her thick accent and some wooden cooking spoons, but also her German holiday traditions.
Thus, I grew up celebrating Saint Nicholas Day.

Every December 5th eve, my sisters and I would run to find the biggest shoe possible to set outside our bedroom doors. We knew, without a doubt, that St. Nicholas would visit us in our slumber and fill our shoe with a new pair of socks, chocolates, and perhaps a small toy. One year I was even adamant that more goodies could be stuffed into a sandal than a regular sneaker. It goes without saying that we were always jealous of the size of Dad's shoe.

Saint Nicholas was the only son born to wealthy, Christian parents in Asia Minor. His parents died when he was just a lad, and he was raised by his uncle (also by the name of Nicholas). It is reported that Nicholas was interested in religious studies from an early age. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. The legend of Santa Claus evolved from the habits of Saint Nicholas.

There are a few weird legends reported about Saint Nicholas as well.
Catholics and Orthodox Christians have different views on his importance as a human.

My parents have instilled the tradition of Saint Nicholas in me.
After I moved away to college I would get a "St. Nicholas" package every first week of December.
And yes, my shoe is set outside my bedroom door tonight.


Though shoe-filling in our family is a mere tradition,
we can all be inspired by the memory of the man who secretly gave gifts.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

...and then I found my camera.

One of these days I will write my story in narrative form. Until then, here's a little snipit.

After being told that I was leaving my country to be med evac'd to Dakar, Senegal, I had a few moments to decide what to bring with and what to leave. When I packed my small backpack to leave site for Kombo the day before, I had zero plans of being in the city for more than a few days, let alone another country for a week. Fortunately, I had stashed some things in my wooden locker at the PC Transit House. Driver John swung by the med unit to check on me (as he had declared me as wife #74), and I convinced him to drive me the normal walking distance to pick up those clothes. In my state of deliriousness, I chose to pack clothes over computer and electronics. Later, on second thought, I even stashed some personal belongings in a dresser drawer back in the med unit. I had a return plane flight for a week later, anyway.

When it became clear that I would be in Dakar, Senegal for more than a week, I became increasingly upset that I had left my computer and camera in The Gambia. I made instant friends with most PCVs that traipsed in and out of the med hut in Dakar. My team of doctors in Dakar will forever be a special part of my life. Visiting with Miss Amy Bei was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But mostly, not having pictures with my Lebanese family in Dakar is the most saddening thought.

When I arrived in Washington, DC, my sister brought me a device with a camera on it. Thus, I was able to take low-quality snapshots of noteworthy (and not-so-noteworthy) things there. I was ever thankful for the ability to document life (and life-changing) experiences through visuals again. However, this gap of no visual documentation still annoys me to no end.

While I was in DC, the other med evacs and I got wind of a volunteer in who was in the hospital at Georgetown. Christy, my DC roommate, was able to correspond with this particular PCV and we arranged a time to visit her in the hospital. Three of us girls walked through beautiful Georgetown on a fresh, fall day, ready to encourage and visit with the mystery wounded PCV. We walked into the hospital, found the room, and were intimidated by the signs demanding that her particular room be kept sterile at all times. As we quietly crept in, there was Meghan. My site mate. One of the last people I was with in The Gambia, now in a hospital bed with her entire right leg wrapped in bandages, complete with a vacuum attached. IV medications dripped into her as she sat further up, looked at me and said, "I know I know you from somewhere...."
"Meghan! I'm your site mate!" I thought she had suffered brain injury on top of whatever was going on with her leg.
"Kate! I thought you were in Dakar!"
"I was! But I came here two weeks ago!"
There were introductions between other med evac's, exchange of health stories, rants about PC politics, and an overall shock factor. It was a very nice visit, given the circumstances. We left her with the promise to bring Chipotle the next day for lunch.

And then I found my camera. I was actually shuffling through my faithful little backpack looking for my passport when I opened up a discreet pocket, and the shiny silver casing of the electronic shone up at me with a mocking glimmer. I yelled at the sight, not really sure of relief or devastation. Regardless, I immediately turned it on to see what picture was taken last on it, and this is what glared on the screen:


That's Meghan. My site mate. She and my other site mate, Catherine (taking the picture) were introducing me to "cafe toubib," a type of coffee that Senegalese people brew. It's like the coffee form of bush tea, for all you seasoned Gambians. We are sitting at the weekly market near Catherine's village. And yes, there is a camera-shy Senegalese man hiding behind Meghan. (Note: Our villages are very close to the southern border of The Gambia; therefore, Senegalese merchants were common in our weekly markets.)

I left Meghan's hospital room with an entirely new perspective on being a PC med evac. This picture only ties in the ironies of the whole experience. Someday, I'll write about the rest of it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The City of Trees

Growing up, I never understood how Sacramento earned the title, "The City of Trees."

Now that I've lived elsewhere, I completely understand. There are a lot of trees here. Tons. My dad has over 40 on his little 1/2 acre plot alone.

I arrived safely home this past Wednesday. My parents pretty much refuse to let me do anything except recover, and it's proven to be good for my soul and body. I attended church for the second time in 4 months this morning.

Culture shock has not effected me very much, but I'm having trouble making choices. In Africa, there are just not very many choices. It's either eat rice or don't eat at all. Read a book or go and chat with whoever is around. The most choices I had to make happened while listening to my iPod.

I am still uncertain of what the next few months hold. My life has changed so much in the past 5 months that I am ready for whatever is next. My prayer is that I do not waste these months to come.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How it All Went Down:

Because I know you are all curious, here are the "bullet points":

Wednesday, September 7th:
      - out all afternoon at weekly market with my site mates, Catherine & Meghan
      - attended football (soccer) match in Meghan's village
      - left match early to get home before dark
      - frustrated that I was so tired bike riding only 3k (in the African bush)
      - suspected fever when I got home because I knew it was hot outside and it felt good
      - took temperature, well over 100F
      - rapidly felt worse, fever continued to rise by the hour
      - text messaged the duty medical officer, instructed to take ibuprofen, call next morning

Thursday, September 8th
      - waited all morning to hear from medical officer
      - finally call her; apparently she'd been trying but phone calls wouldn't go through
      - convince her that I feel awful, fever still persisting, send Peace Corps transit
      - PC driver Sam arrives at 3:30pm
      - get back to city at 7pm, draw blood, see doctor
      - spend night in med unit (air conditioned bedroom in health office)
      - meet Dr. Ararat, regional medical officer from Senegal, who is filling in in The Gambia for a week
      - Dr. Ararat spends night on couch in office waiting room = instant bond

Friday, September 9th
      - wait all day for lab results, lab not quick enough
      - develop itchy rash all over body and jaundice in eyes
      - decision to medically evacuate me to regional medical office in Dakar, Senegal
      - pack my small backpack (fortunately had my passport with me)

Saturday, September 10th
      - arrive to PC office in Dakar at 4am, attempt to sleep
      - meet MD after a few hours, draw more blood, have physical exam
      - testing liver & kidney functions as well as for all sorts of viral infections
      - sleep on and off throughout day, continue to itch and take tylenol to keep fever under control
      - informed that I'll be at the PC office in Dakar until further notice*

  • *I was never hospitalized during this experience. The "Med Hut" in Dakar is a dormitory-like setup in their regional offices. There are 4 bedrooms, a commons area, a kitchen, and bathrooms across the hall from the MD's offices and exam rooms. There are always a few volunteers rotating in and out due to their own medical adventures. During my time there, I met PCVs with an array of things: 2 broken feet (different PCVs), stomach viruses/parasites, malaria, mid-service physical exams, et al)


Monday, September 12th
      - ultrasound reveals normal pancreas, stomach, gallbladder, liver

Wednesday, September 14th
      - fever finally stabilizes into normal range without help of meds
      - rash and jaundice prevail
      - continue to have lab work every 48-72 hours, keep returning negative for viruses
      - another ultrasound reveals normal looking innards
      - Senegalese specialist suspects allergic reaction to malaria prophylaxis
      - start to build relationships with other 3 PCMOs (PC Medical Officers)
      - start new malaria prophylaxis, discontinue use of previous one

Thursday, September 15th
      - PCV friend Kim arrives from The Gambia to have her wisdom teeth removed
      - Dr. Ararat comes back to her home post after filling in in The Gambia for a week

Saturday, September 17th
      - high fever returns, bring down with ibuprofen
      - start 3 days of stomach virus on top of whatever is going on

Wednesday, September 21st
      - develop splitting headache on left side of head
      - appetite returning, rash slowly healing

Sunday, September 25th
      - meet first of my Lebanese family in Dakar: Mike, his wife, and 3 beautiful young daughters
      - have ice cream after lunch and they drive me around the city

Monday, September 26th
      - go to more Lebanese family's house in Dakar despite feeling exhausted
      - spirits lifted beyond explanation to be around "family," and eat good Lebanese food

Tuesday, September 27th
      - all but 1 PCMO leave country for 1 week for PC conference
      - start taking antibiotic in the event that this is caused by infection

Thursday, September 29th
      - wake up early to have NMRI done (basically an MRI) of my internal organs

Sunday, October 4th
      - wake up with a personality; convinced that the 1st malaria prophylaxis altered my personality

Monday, October 5th
      - Dr. Ararat informs me at 9am that I will be med evac'd to Washington, DC
      - leave PC office at 8pm, fly to Paris

Wednesday, October 6th
      - meet Ed on airplane from Paris to DC, associate director of safety & security for PC

Thursday, October 7th
      - arrive to DC in afternoon, part ways with Ed after he sees that I will get to where I need to be
      - staying at a hotel in Georgetown with about 6 other Med Evacs from all around world
      - my job here is to attend doctors appointments and meet with PC Washington medical staff

Friday, October 8th
      - meet with specialist in morning
      - diagnosis until proven otherwise: drug-induced hepatitis from 1st malaria prophylaxis
      - order more labs and that radiology films be read by US radiologist

Tuesday, October 18th
      - waiting for follow up appointment with specialist's colleague
      - continue to explore options for further PC service in a non-malaria region

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Asking "Why?"

At one time or another, every adult finds themself in a life situation that leaves them with only one option: to throw their hands in the air, turn to the heavens, and ask God the inevitable, "WHY?" Some scream it over and over. Some whisper it through tears. Yet others repeat the question for days on end. Most, if not all of us, ask knowing fully well that we will never obtain satisfactory answers. Robyn's sister will never know why her baby son ceased living at seven months in the womb. Beau's parents will never know why he had to be the junior high boy struck by an oncoming car. For those who trust the Creator, the answer is simple: for God's glory. Joseph's life, Job's life, Daniel's life--let alone Christ's life--all bear witness to this reality. But just because the answer is simple does not mean that it is easy to understand.

After the situation requiring me to leave Africa, I am asking my own set of "Why?" questions.

Why did my body freak out?

Why would God provide so many amazing people, situations, and connections just for me to leave them three short months later?

Why did He bring me all the way there, have me suffer through what is supposedly the hardest part of Peace Corps service (training), and not have me finish the two years out?

Why am I being separated from the relationships that I have worked so hard to establish?

All the answers are unclear, save one: for God's glory.

Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." And I believe that. I trust it, though easier said than done.

I think God's purposes are not singular in purpose. Perhaps soem of them may be. But the more I think about possible answers to my own questions, the more I realize the plurality of options. Isaiah 55:8-9 reads:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts."

I received news today that I will not return to Africa, I am returning home to California. After more than a month of being alarmingly ill, medically evacuated to Dakar, Senegal then to Washington, D.C. and being uncertain of cause and effect, I have come to grips with the reality that my body cannot handle the West African environment and its demands.

Though many emotions are running their course through my mind, the biggest emotion I have been wrestling with is sorrow. My heart is sad to leave Africa, though I never thought I would be confessing this out loud. Yes, the short time there was difficult. The most difficult three months I have ever experienced, illness or no illness. Mostly, I am sad to leave the many relationships that I established and were starting to take root.

The future is wide open again. For the time being, I will return to my parents in northern California and continue to recover. Options of starting service over in another region of the world are being explored. May God continue to receive all glory, praise, and honor.

Goodbye, The Gambia.

Friday, September 2, 2011

This is It

The swearing-in ceremony was a bit like a typical American graduation ceremony. 
It got started late, important people made speeches, our group repeated the oath, 
we were presented with certificates, and then we danced for the crowd. 
Here are a few pictures to wet your palette:

Meg, Abby, Me, & Uncle Jamil at fancy dinner a few nights ago. So thankful for this man!!
Hanging with cousins Ida & Binta during last moments in training village!
twin feet praying at Koriteh, the end of Ramadan
I was nominated to say Christian prayers at the beginning of the ceremony
"I, Kathryn Wright, do so solemnly swear..."

PC The Gambia Education Sector 2011 (with our PCVLeader)


Catherine, Katherine, Kathryn. That's right.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tangle of Tears

In and out of tears of joy, tears of sorrow, and tears of being overwhelmed, I have already learned so much in just two short months:

I have learned thatI'm not as independent as I once thought I was. 
I've learned a new relationship with my Creator. 
I've learned how to better take care of my friends who have chosen the long-term life overseas. 
I have learned how to pray more effectively. 
I have learned patience in a completely new way. 
I have learned tolerance and acceptance of different worldviews. 
I have learned how much I depend on material things, and how much I shouldn't. 
I have learned a deep friendship from strangers and instant acceptance. 
I have learned what it means to truly take care of someone. 

And I don't doubt more lessons are to come.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thankful Heart

Because I'm a lists person (sorry, Emily), and because I need to be more thankful, here is my Gambian thankful list:

I, Kathryn Wright, am hereby thankful for the following after 2 months of service:

1. Quiet times with my Bible. Lots of it.
2. People who speak my native tongue.
3. Friends who I never would have met in the states.
4. Books I never would have read.
5. Good preachers: like John Piper, Pastor Bob, Pastor Tim.
6. My iPod.
7. Uncle Jamil.
8. Water filters.
9. Shorts that I can wear inside my hut.
10. Someone else doing my laundry (perfectly normal here).
11. Air conditioner.
12. Letters and care packages from America.
13. Emails that communicate everyday American life.
14. Sisters.
15. GMail chat and video chat.
16. My site mates in training village: Joe & Meg.
17. My future site mates: Catherine & Meghan.
18. Cookies.
19. Uncle Jamil. Again.
20. Rainbow flip-flops.
21. YOU!!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Geli Geli Experience

I have debated the best way to communicate this post to you, my faithful reader. First of all, only those who have participated in a geli geli ride will ever truly be able to relate. But for the vast majority of you out there, I will attempt to explain my worst public transport experience through words and pictures here.

Yesterday, we had to travel back from site visit via public transport. We all traveled with a current PCV (mine was Catherine, my site mate). The mode of transportation is called a geli and is basically a 3rd world 15-passanger van. But bigger. And with a roof rack. And it could have, any given day, up to 20+ people, small children, any array of luggage, livestock, and chickens. Plus a driver.

You can't see from this view, but there are 6 full-grown sheep up top.
 Catherine got the luck of the draw from her village and bought 4 tickets in advance for the 3 of us trainees she was picking up on the way to the city. This is a big deal because geli's don't depart until they are full. Absolutely full. Half the battle is waiting for one to fill up so you can depart. Catherine called shortly after 8am and told me to head to the main road. I waited out there with about a 12-child posse, and received a text from Catherine that they were loading sheep on top of the geli, they would be a few more minutes.

Some of the gang (some kids scatter at the camera)
 Finally she got to me, I hopped on, and we were off to Soma to pick up Kim. The drive there took about 20 minutes on paved road, no problem. After squeezing Kim in, we hit the road and heard a huge SNAP. The driver, whom Catherine has used before and says is the best one she's encountered, decided to stop and see what happened. Catherine said that normally, the driver would keep going until the car stops running. We went to the local "garage" (which was really just someone's compound who had a set-up for welding) and piled out. There was a snapped shock/spring thing on the front driver's side. It's the same part that Ted has that was squeaking for so long. Catherine, who kinda knows her way around cars, had never seen the part. I told her my dad's '91 Ford Ranger had them. The men proceeded to make the part, FROM SCRATCH, using scrap pieces of metal.



They were using a hand-turned bicycle wheel thingy to blow air onto the coals, setting the metal on it to heat hot enough to pound with a hammer. You can't see it in the picture, but the ends are all curled up into each other, too. They proceeded to pour hot tar down the middle to hold everything together. It was THE most incredible thing I've seen yet. Two hours later, we were back on the road, due west. The unpaved road.

South Bank Road due west from my village. Sorry, no pic of the unpaved portion.
The roads here are something else. The North Bank Road is completely paved, from Banjul to Basse (capital city to biggest city in the east), and the South Bank Road has yet to be completed. (Side note: my village, Donogor Ba is about 25k east of Soma.) The portion of road starting at Basse and working east was completed recently (past year), and the road is really nice. That's where I am. But the one coming from the other side is only about 1/2 way done. So when it's raining, the dirt is even worse. We still had one more girl to pick up off the dirt road and the poor thing was waiting at the police station near her village for hours because of our delay. It was raining pretty hard. We finally got to her at about 2pm and finished out the dirt road.

Remember that it's raining. And those sheep on top? There were also 2 baby sheep inside that were crying the entire time for their mama who was on top. It was deafening, between the crying sheep, rain, and dirt road. Then we got a flat tire. Since it was raining, the geli driver's apprentice changed the flat. With everyone and everything still in the vehicle. I was impressed that it took him only 20 minutes. At this point, I figured things couldn't get much worse. Boy, was I wrong. Remember, this is a developing country. The main door was hanging on by a thread, and there was a gap with no seal. Which let rain water in. That wasn't so bad. I was the 2nd person in from the window. But when the livestock up top decided to relieve themselves, we had the rain water washing their pee and poo in on us. It was THE MOST DISGUSTING thing I've ever experienced. Poor Catherine and Kim who were sitting behind me and the guy sitting next to me got the worst of it all. It was gross. And it lasted for another 2 hours. We finally ended up in the city and stopped for dinner at about 5:30pm. Ironically enough, the other volunteers who were twice as far arrived at the exact time, and it was providence that we all ended up at the same restaurant for dinner. Washing my hands and arm has never been more of a relief.

I spent the night in the medical unit again. I was supposed to have made it back early enough to see a shoulder surgeon to get a specialist opinion on my left shoulder. Obviously, I did not. So he was going to be back in the morning, and the PC doctor said I could spend the night in the med unit (which is like heaven here) if I wanted since it was an early appointment (9am). Of course I took him up on it. He said there was another girl staying (there's 2 beds), and when I got there, she was a girl I had been in contact with but had not yet met. Her name is Kate, too, and she and her husband are in the western region. It was so sweet to spend the night with her. After chatting and showering (with hot running water!), and her finishing dinner, we watched 1/2 of the movie 10 Things I Hate About You because the rest was scratched & wouldn't play. Then we watched Becoming Jane and fell asleep.

I woke up and had 2 hours of quiet bliss on the couch (sound like heaven yet?) with my Bible and a handful of style magazines. I saw the specialist shortly after 9, and I really like him. He's an old doctor who said he had planned on retiring years ago, but the duty keeps calling him back. He's Gambian, but his vocational calling reminded me a lot of my dad's mentor, Alan Casebolt. He's here for the need. He said that I'm experiencing tendonitis and does not really think there's anything severely wrong. He ordered an x-ray to rule out bone spurs and a couple of different blood tests for things I can't remember. He wants to check some levels that measure inflammatory properties that might be irritating the inflamed joint. I will get those tests done on Monday.

Friday is our swear-in date, and so far, everything is still on schedule. I go back to training village for a couple of days this week to celebrate the end of Ramadan with my training village host family. I never thought I'd be saying this, but I'm glad to be going back. I miss the people there. It encourages me to think that I will, perhaps, feeling this way about my site family, too.

My House. In the Middle of the Street.

View standing in front door, looking out back door.
My new house is (local) brick, plastered, painted white, with a thatch roof. The thatch keeps the place really cool, but encourages critters to live in there. It's probably a 10'x10' single room with 2 windows and 2 doors. There are screens on the windows and the doors have a screen door and I have really good cross-ventilation. My backyard is rather large, with plenty of room for a garden. There is a metal corrugate fence that gives me complete privacy. I have a pit latrine, which I really don't mind. I MUCH prefer it to a mediocre flush toilet. Because you never know if the water is working with a flush toilet here. Gross. Yes, there really are 3 wives, a dad, and a grandma. It's hard to tell which kids are the 10 of the family's 10 because so many people hang out in each others compounds all day. I have figured out at least 4 of the kids. And 3 of them are too young to even talk. It's going to be really different living with infants. Especially coming from training village with older kids. My new host father speaks good enough English, and the neighbor across the way, Hawa, speaks excellent English. She will probably be my go-to for now. I haven't busted the camera out at site yet, so be looking for pictures in the future!

More Pictures

I have tons of words floating around in my head (and in emails) that need to be organized into thoughts. Until then, here are some more pictures for your enjoyment. (Disclaimer: None of these are different than the ones I uploaded to FaceBook. You can view even more through my profile there.)

Carrying Water Home

My Favorite Tree

Looking over the fence in my new home

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Slowly, Slowly

If Africa had a motto, it would be "Slowly, slowly." It's pretty much the answer for anything here in The Gambia. So in perfect spirits, here's a little more information you might be interested to know:

Since the last post I realized how few pictures I'm actually taking. I'll have to step that one up in the future. Part of it has to do with that I don't want to bust out all my electronics right away...you know, stay low profile and all.

Training isn't actually in Banjul. I'm living in a training village called Yuna (or Youna), which is about an hour and a half drive south of Banjul. I went to Banjul once to get a government ID card. Yup, I'm an official, legal alien here. Let's see. I will do my best to describe to you what's been going on since we've been here.

To learn the language, we all have Language & Culture Facilitators, or LCFs. We had class in the morning, break, lunch together, and more class most afternoons. They're teaching us language with some cultural things intermixed. It's the practical street vocabulary, like how to ask for help, how to get something made at the tailor, how to bargain, etc. We also have sessions as a whole team (where we ride our bikes to congregate to one village for the day or afternoon) about the actual job part of PC. And last week we had a big week where we preformed Model School. Basically PC asked the school in my village to pick the two 25 students from grades 5-8 to attend a week's worth of mornings of school. Each of the trainees were assigned classes to lesson plan for and teach. I taught 7th grade math 4 times and 8th grade PE once. It was a blast, and the point was to familiarize us with the Gambian school system. We had a few local teachers there to give feedback and portray a typical teacher, too. We all learned A LOT. But it felt good to be doing something purposeful. Up until now, it's been all about leaning the language and culture. No projects.

That's the 2nd biggest thing I've been struggling with. (The first being missing my family.) I have learned in this past week that sitting around doing nothing, or even reading a good book, brings zero satisfaction. What I've found to be much more effective is to sit and do things with the girls in my host family. I will just sit by them when they cook or do laundry. The everyday things to us take all day here: cooking over an open fire (kinda like cooking gourmet while camping) and doing laundry by hand in buckets. I think of my grandfather often and wonder if his life in pioneer AK was similar in any way, shape, or form.

Swear-in is still scheduled for September 2nd, though the actual plans have gone back and forth. Because it's the 50th year anniversary of PC, a lot of people at headquarters are making a big deal about the current programs. We get a special party just because we're the 50th anniversary swear-in group. And they've been doing a lot of video taping, which I'm hoping will be available for people at home to see. I'll let you know what I hear when I hear it.

Next week we go for site visit Monday through Thursday. We're being transported to our sites and left with our new host families for the 4 days. The point is to kinda give us a taste of site, to meet the new host family, and to take inventory of what might be there. There have been 4 volunteers in my new house previously, so my hopes are high that they've left some major stuff for me. All I know about my future host family is that there are 15 people in the compound: 10 kids, 1 grandma, 1 dad, and 3 wives. One of the previous volunteers was so close to the family that they've already been back to visit. I have high hopes for a good relationship with them. That's all I know so far.

My future site's area's capital city is called Soma, which is about 25k from my site. My computer friend, Kim, will be there, and the folks from my area bike there usually every Saturday to use the internet and drink a cold drink. It's hopeful that I'll have internet access about once every week or two. We'll see once we get there. Though I'm ready to cross that bridge, that bridge isn't ready for me.

I hurt my left shoulder while sleeping the first week in training village, coming up on 6 weeks now. Our post's medical doctor did some basic motor tests the other day and said that I'd have to see the specialist. It's definitely not the same that I had with my right shoulder in high school. The good news was that the specialist was going to be in the office the next day to see someone else. But the specialist didn't show. Typical. It hurts to move it in certain ways, but not debilitating. I just have to make sure to keep on the doctor to keep me posted on the specialist. It's the waiting game now.

If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words...

Yes, that is a boy following a dog. On top of an 8-foot wall.
Sunset from inland

Helping to roast cashew nuts. It's a lengthy process!

Beautiful girl

At our African Naming Ceremony: Joe, Meg, & me

Team (minus 2) bike ride to the beach!

My training village host mother, Hawa, at the naming ceremony

Tang, Jon Pray. In baggies. Must I say more?

The gang at the naming ceremony.

My new best friend.

Helping to make rolled coos at a marriage ceremony.

My host sister, Gibbeh, during the first major rainstorm.

Ida Problem (named by her mother), carrying her monkey like a little mother.


...then multiple pictures must leave you speechless.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Keep Your Chin Up & Walk Slowly

I have learned these are the first two rules of carrying a bucket of water on your head. The third and fourth: leave 3-4 inches from the brim, and use a barrier to pad the crown of your head. Forsaking these rules results in water down your back, a bruised head (which you won't discover until the next time you try), or a sloppy mess all over the place. The last, and perhaps most important, rule is: know your limit. Personally, my limit is the 5-gallon bucket. I cannot carry anything more. I think about these rules every day on my way back and forth to the tap. These rules cross over into rules for life in Africa, too. 

Keeping my chin up during the first month here was a constant reminder to look to Christ. Literally, I stare at the stars and the moon every night. Some months before I left, my mama wrote an extensive email that answered my question of how she felt about me leaving for two years. At the end of it, she wrote that I could look up at the stars every night and know that she was looking up at the same stars. We're still serving the same God, in different times zones, on opposite sides of the world. I look at the stars for what seems like hours every night. And I think of my mama. The pain of missing my family trumps everything. I have never experienced or even imagined such emotional pain. Page after page of my journal is filled with empathy to the Psalmist as he cries to God for comfort. God is faithful, and though the pain of missing my family will probably never leave, I have found a deeper affection for the Lord and His Word. God is my sustainer.

My host sister and I left the compound with buckets swinging in hand. I felt the scorching sun burn the back of my neck and was ready to spend at least 15 minutes greeting the women and gossiping at the tap (modern-day well). The big day had arrived. I was finally going to learn how to carry a bucket of water on my head. The notion used to seem so other-world, but now it's a matter of economics. Busso, my host sitter (whom I have been named after), let me fill my meager bucket first. After hers was washed and filled we set off, buckets balanced carefully. I took off on a running start and promptly sloshed a good gallon out of my bucket. Fortunately, it landed only on my feet. She laughed at me and told me that I walk too fast. Walking slowly is one of my pet peeves in America. Perhaps because my father has legs the length of California, perhaps it was always my competition to be in the front. Either way, I've learned to walk slowly here. Sometimes it still bothers me, especially when I think of all the time that's being wasted. But relationships tend to run deeper when you walk slowly. It allows time for conversation, for kids to run to tag along, for stops along the way to greet someone and ask how their day is. The heat practically demands it of you, anyway. (I get it now, Heather. I get it all.) I have a lot to learn from walking slowly.

Before coming to Africa, I thought I knew my limits. I thought I knew myself. That completely changed the morning I left my parents and little sister standing at the bottom of the terminal in the Sacramento airport. Emotions have rarely been difficult for me to handle. Until Africa. I cried every day the first five weeks of leaving home. Even meeting someone named Awa sprung tears to my eyes, because in the early years of language development I called my big sister Sarah by Awa. I thought I knew my limits of being around people. Our team of 13 is small but strong. Not only is there great talent, wisdom, and experience among us, but we are a tightly knit group. We spent the first week of culture shock together, then were separated into training villages according to our individual language assignments. I am studying Pulaar with two others, and I have never felt the need to be around my village and teammates like I have recently. My two village mates have seen all the sides of me I didn't even know existed. One afternoon I bolted from my house and showed up at Joe's with tears in my eyes. Five simple words escaped my lips, "I have to get out." After taking one look at me he replied, "Wanna go for a walk?" I was (and still am) so thankful for him. I move to permanent site in about 2 weeks. My closest site mates are 2k and 5k away. I am most anxious about being more than 300 yards away from another toubob (two-bob; white person).

There is no one in Africa who knows me. I mean, really knows me. At this point, they mostly know what I want them to know. But that will change. That is changing. I've heard that working for the Peace Corps is the "hardest job you'll ever love," and that the people here will know you inside and out by the time service is over. Yes, this is already the hardest job I've encountered. I have yet to love it. God is constantly peeling away the layers of my pride and my independence from Him. He has provided a small network of believers, with only our faith and our cell phones to connect us.

I apologize for the lack of communication thus far. I had no idea how difficult it would be to stay in touch. Again, I am being stripped. In the meantime, I am holding my chin up and walking slowly. Onward.

Friday, July 1, 2011

First Day of Training

There was a family in my class last year who used to have standard dinnertime sharing where every member shared 3 things about their day:
1. the highlight
2. the lowlight
3. how they shared the Gospel that day

After I got back from a full day of administrative and logistical accomplishments, a current PCV asked me something similar:
1. the happy
2. the cra***
3. the awkward

Those little connections to familiarity are really appreciated.

I decided to make that the usual template for the time being.

So here we are:
1. The Highlight: Waking up this morning to the birds and the sun rising, especially after a restful night of sleep, was wonderful. I started taking malaria pills last night. Since I am on the strongest ones that oftentimes cause vivid dreams as well as insomnia, I was particularly thankful. There's just something wonderful about waking up with the morning, too. His mercies are new every morning.

2. The Lowlight: As mentioned above, the day was full of logisitcal and administrative meetings, cell phone issues, banking accomplishments, and the sort. The worst part was fighting jet lag tiredness in a hot room while sitting through another round of seminars. Most of us had to fight dozing off. Additionally, receiving round 1 of a Rabies vaccination was not particularly enjoyable. I'm sure it's preferred over the disease, though.

3. How I shared the Gospel: I shared my Bible reading plan with another girl today. She saw me reading my Bible and was pretty surprised that I read it every day. Every. Day. I recently started Dr. Horner's "10 Lists" routine, which helps keep me pretty accountable. There's definitely plenty of down time to "fit" it all in.

And, just for free, here's a little update I've been sending to a few:
Well, it's HOT here. You think SC is hot. Add humidity and you're in Gambia weather. Supposedly this is the rainy season and it's supposed to downpour like it does in the midwest, but we've only had but a sprinkle this afternoon. There's only 13 members on my team, and they've told us we're the "cream of the crop" beacuse budget cuts took away 12 of the regular 25-member team size. The good news for us is that we'll get the top sites to be assigned to.
Today was the 1st official day of training, and it was pretty much all logistical and business stuff. We're staying in what's called the "Transit House" one more night, then we'll move about 45 minutes away to live on a compound for 4 days. After that we'll be assigned a temporary host family (based on the language of the region we've been assigned) and we'll finish our training with that family. Then there's a whole procedure to moving to your more permanent site. Our training will be shorter than most because the school year starts in mid-September and they want us on site before that starts.

Memories and thoughts of PNG are usually with me at all times, but I actually see and feel them a lot more here. It might be attributed to me, too, being in a foreign place again.

Hopefully this will hold you over until my next unplanned internet access time.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Words for Thought

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
You are My friends if you do what I command you.
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends,
for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you."
- Jesus, from John 15:13-15


And a little bit of sharing time with Oswald:

"It is far easier to die than to lay down the life--day in and day out--with the sense of the high calling...If I am a friend of Jesus, I have to deliberately and carefully lay down my life for Him...Salvation is easy because it cost God so much, but the manifestation of it in my life is difficult...Stand loyal to your Friend, and remember that His honour is at stake in your bodily life."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Harder to Stay

I almost titled this post "Easier to Leave." Almost.

The most popular comments I've received in response to joining the PC and going to west Africa are something along the lines of,

"Oh, you are brave.

          I could never do that.

                    I admire someone like you."

And while I haven't thoroughly thought through it, my knee-jerk, raw response is that the comments are all just mumbo-jumbo to me. Since it's a sleepless night, you get to benefit from my unfiltered thoughts.

Quite frankly, I hold the position that it's harder to stay.

Sure, I'm leaving convenience, comfort, and familiarity. I'm moving to a place that I've never been to and can only infer from others experiences about daily living. I don't speak the local language, and I will stick out like a weed among lilies. Loneliness is hard enough of a battle here; it will only intensify there. The likelihood of being connected to a local body and strong fellowship is realistically slim.

But, for the time being, I'm over it. Stay posted: I'll probably eat these words in 6-8 months.

Last night I stayed past midnight talking with a couple from church. We mostly talked about missions (local and cross-cultural) and making a difference with the resources, gifts, and tools that we've been given. In places where it's most needed.

Switchfoot wrote, "When success is equated with excess the ambition for excess wrecks us."

The constant question in the back of my mind is, "What is all this for?" What am I doing with what I've been given? What is the end goal?

We are all wonderfully and fearfully made. And differently.

I understand what you're trying to communicate. And yes, I agree, that transitioning to the life of no electricity or running water, parasites galore, and limited access to those who are most important to me is not going to be a stroll down Easy Street.

But who cares in the light of eternity?

I have no intention of being prideful or rude. I am above no one. God has created us fearfully, wonderfully, and differently. May we all cling to Him and follow confidently where He is leading our individual lives.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Just as I'm getting frustrated

I receive wise words from someone who's gone before me:

The unknown is a tricky thing, but if people explained everything to you, you would likely find that it was simply their perspective and not necessarily accurate for you anyway.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Story

Here is the story of my Peace Corps assignment and acceptance. I'm just copying and pasting from an email I sent a couple of weeks ago.

I am writing to update you, either as a friend or a family member, about what's next in life. Most of you are aware that I have been in the process of applying with the Peace Corps for the past 14 months. To those of you who have been blindly unaware, I'm sorry to just be breaking the news to you! I am writing to let you know that I finally received an official offer in the mail yesterday! I have not kept very good track of what I have told to whom, so sorry if you already know the following information.
I've been offered a position in The Gambia. It's a tiny country that's surrounded by Senegal in West Africa. I will be in a position of elementary teacher training in a country where there is 40% literacy ages 15 and up. School ends after 8th grade. Teaching resources are scarce and limited. Though there is no declared national religion, I've been informed that the nationals are predominantly Muslim, and the Islam rituals and culture are a major part of the education system. The climate is tropical and the industry agriculture and tourism.Throughout this whole process of applying and thinking through if this is really what God wants right now for me, I've had two major fears/reservations: safety and loneliness.
Upon receiving this offer, I called a family friend  who is all up in politics (due to the nature of his job). I told him a couple of weeks ago that I wanted his honest opinion about wherever the PC placed me. He gave me a quick run-down of The Gambia's political and cultural history, and his response was, "Well, it's not the worst place you could go." I wasn't sure how to respond to that one. He informed me that the American military has a presence there, which offered a sense of comfort. Then he mentioned that he has a friend who has connections in The Gambia & would put me in contact with them. Additionally, he promised to contact his friends at the Pentagon and see if there's any information I should know that isn't necessarily public information. Duh. Why didn't I think of calling friends at the Pentagon?!

So here's the climax of the story. Not even ten minutes within hanging up with him the friend called. His name is [censored]. [Censored] has an uncle who has businesses in The Gambia and Senegal. He has extended family and a place to live there, too. In fact, his uncle is in The Gambia right now attending a family wedding. Basically, [censored] told me to consider them, effective immediately, my family also. He did most of the talking, about how they will have me stay with them whenever I need, that if I am ever in an emergency, they are there for me, and if the PC or the Embassy isn't doing their part to keep me safe that his family will be there in a heartbeat. He pretty much gave me no other option than to be considered one of them.
I am still processing all that he proposed. And beyond that, how God truly does provide. In the midst of being submerged in Hebrews 11 with church, I cannot begin to compare myself with Abraham and his situation on Mt. Moriah with Isaac, but I think the underlying principle is the same: trust where God is leading, and He will provide. In Abraham's case, God provided the perfect sacrifice. In my case, I'm still not sure all that He is providing, but for starters, He is providing peace and assurance.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quietly Searching

Jessica was my first best friend. We became friends in fourth grade when she invited me to her birthday party. It was my first friends sleepover party. I matured in a lot of ways that year, and Jess was with me every step of the way. We became 3rd and 5th daughters to each others families. We stayed friends through elementary school, became bratty pre-teens through junior high, and gradually grew apart in the middle of high school. Eventually, Jess and I found different  desires in life. As we moved on into college and post-college our communication dwindled to the annual birthday card in the mail. However, her friendship was not something that quickly left me. As God would have it, we have become close friends again. Though 450 miles separate us geographically, there is not much on earth that can separate our memories, hurt feelings, first boyfriends, lame school dances, and a sense of belonging.

Recently her mom wrote a response to my going to The Gambia (have I mentioned Gambia yet?). In it she said, "I know you've been quietly searching your heart for what you feel God wants you to do." Thank you, Victoria. That's exactly what I've been doing. Now the time has come. Time to be faithful.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I said my first goodbye today

while wandering through the administration buildings at Master's College. I was merely trying to find a shortcut to the library since the whole front of the campus is under construction. Instead of finding an alternative route I found an old friend.

He was one of my college orientation leaders almost 6 years ago. We finished school together and have, more or less, only kept in touch through friends and the occasional social gathering. I started telling him about the process I've been in for the past 14 months with applying for the Peace Corps and how God has worked through every detail of it. Before I knew it, he jumped out from behind his executive-looking desk and gave me a hug, saying "goodbye" for the next 2 years. I was a little surprised, but thankful for the friendship.

Most people think 2 years sounds like a lifetime. Maybe it's just me, but 2 years sounds like enough time just to get started. Don't quote me on that; I will probably regret those words. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward with anticipation to the next 2 years.

More to come...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Life & Death

I saw a man die last night. I was driving on my way to church and the car in front of me plowed over a man in the crosswalk on a bicycle. I don't think they saw each other. I pulled over & called 911. The guy on the bike was DOA. It was so sobering.

The man who hit him was in shock; seemed like an average nice guy just not paying attention. I stayed for about an hour in the cold, it had stopped raining by then. The police took our information and I left as the ambulance took the body away. All I could think about were each of the men's eternal states. The man who died: did he know? Did anyone tell him about Christ? Did he believe? And the man who hit him. Did he know that he's forgiven? That there's hope in this broken world?

I don't know why I am surprised at the ways that God correlates our lives with those around us. I got to youth group late, and as I walked in they were singing the song "Walk by Faith" by Jeremy Camp. It's powerful, especially after facing the realities of death. Then the study was from 1 John about worldliness, and how you can't love the world and love Christ.

One of my girls poured out her thoughts to me last night. She's faced death this week, too. She goes to a school where a 19-year old alum had just been killed in war in Afghanistan. She knew him, had had classes with him. She's confused and upset. We're both clinging to the Lord through the ways we've been effected.

My mood matches the weather: gloomy with bursts of sunlight. I can't get the images of last night out of my mind. Part of me wants to recoil and get away and think. The other part of me wants to shake the nonChristians around me and beg for them to believe in Christ. Neither is very effective. At the end of the day, I am ever more thankful for my own assurance of salvation, and I have been reminded in a tangible way that our bodies are only temporary.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

First Day of Lent

I skipped mass this morning in lieu of spending time in the sunshine with my Bible and God.

How refreshing solitude is!

Just the first day of giving up "extras" in the schedule has been difficult! As the Lord would have it, I have been asked to do many things later in the week: dinner with a friend, setting a "Leprechaun Trap" (as has been tradition with a family we both know well) on March 16, coffee with my Nature Mom friend, babysitting for a family at school, meeting with a doctor in town to seek advise about medical school, and the list goes on.


Fighting for solitude is going to be a lot harder of a battle than I had anticipated.

I suppose that's the point.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why Lent?

"A journey, a pilgrimage!
Yet, as we begin it, as we make the first step into the "bright sadness" of Lent, we see--far, far away--the destination.
It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom."
- Alexander Schmemann

Day after tomorrow, March 9, marks the first day of Lent in this year's Liturgical Calendar. For the first time since high school, I am going to observe the liturgical calendar event of Lent. I am well aware that Lent has a lot of Catholic baggage that comes with it, but I have other convictions for participating this year.

In Lent, we have a time of self-examination, listening, preparation, and repentance. It is important that we have 40 days to give to this vital work. We give little space in our world to this kind of attention, particularly to thinking about the gravity of our sin. At least, I do. This is why Lent involves choosing some discipline--an ordered way to obey the Spirit's voice in our life and to identify with Jesus' 40 days fasting in the wilderness, where Jesus wrestled with temptation and heard from the Father. We, too, must wrestle with temptation. We, too, are desperate to hear from the Father.

However, the focus of Lent is not on us or our sin. The focus is on Jesus. The focus is on mercy and renewal. Repentance leads us to the joy found in forgiveness. As Bobby Grass said, "In the solitary sojourn, we turn away from our sins and temptations and toward God and his great mercy." This is why the 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays. There are 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Each Sunday we break our fast. Each Sunday is a mini-Easter.

The point of a discipline is not to prove you can do something hard or to show God how serious a Christian you are. Rather, the point of a disciple is to allow a way to practice what God is calling you into--or what God is calling you out of. A discipline is a response to the work of God's Spirit in your heart. Lent is probably most well-known for its sacrificial aspect, for the giving up of something in one's life. I have been given a list of questions and things to consider, so I will share them with you:

- For generosity, you could give away $10 each week of Lent.
- For simplicity, you could say "no" to all but essential appointments and duties.
- For solitude, you could cut off the internet and phone each day at 6 pm.

For discerning a discipline:
- How is Jesus prompting you into deepened intimacy and daily communion with him?
- What do you find yourself addicted to?
- How do your addictions (sins) keep you from the Lord and from living with freedom?
- Are you aware fo the ways you try to manage your life on your own?
- What does repentance look like for this season?

What have I chosen? I have chosen simplicity. Being quiet and still is something that I desire yet have a difficult time accomplishing. I'm a mover and a shaker. Time is of the essence. Time spent with God is vital. Will this be difficult? Yes. Will the discipline result in closer communion with God? That's the goal. Do not take it personally if I turn down requests. Pray with me through this season of Lent.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sojourn

I must share this band with you. Must.

Top 5 reasons to hear me out:
5. They use a trumpet among other obscure traditional instruments.
4. Your cool factor will instantly go up because it's so trendy to listen to undiscovered recording artists.
3. Support yer local Christian band.
2. You will probably not find such excessive musical talent in any one unprofessional recording group.
1. The lyrics they write are so theologically profound that sometimes I think I'm listening to hymns of old.

Convinced yet? You can stream their newest release off their website here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snapshots

I've been inspired to take snapshots of something each day of my life. 

I recently read about a guy who took a snapshot at exactly the same time each day. That was cool. Unfortunately, my life is pretty redundant in this season, and I figured that if I took a picture at the same time each day it could end up pretty boring. Instead, I will do my best to capture a moment of life each day.

Ideally, I want to post the snapshots each day.

Realistically, it might happen a few times a week.

Here is today's snapshot:


Homemade cinnamon rolls!
  

I used this recipe.
I am trying to find a recipe that I can do with my after school cooking classes.
I made a couple of alterations, like adding heavy cream and cream cheese instead of buttermilk.
And I spread chunks of butter on top of the cinnamon/sugar mixture, much like in a pie.
I did in fact have a taste (shocking, I know).
They were pretty delish.
And the best part was that it took less than 1 hour to make!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

11 Thoughts for the "11" Day

My school's secretary said as I walked in this morning, "Oh. That's weird. I just wrote the date. 1-11-11."

So, in honor of the number 11 today, here are 11 thoughts from my scattered brain:

1. Grooveshark
Has anyone else discovered this gem in the music-listening world? My sister introduced me to it over Christmas. It's kinda like Pandora meets your personal iTunes account. They have more eclectic music than Pandora and you can customize your playlist more than on Pandora. It took me a little while to get used to, and I'm still not sure if I have it figured out. Regardless, I'll be frequenting it more often! Thanks, sister!

2. Decorating
I got guilted into decorating our home's living room. Mainly, to put something up on the walls. I ended up making my own fabric photo bulletin board and sticking some neat scrapbooking paper in coordinating frames. It is very clean-cut with a hint of vintage. No promise, but pictures may follow in another post.

3. Winter Camp
This weekend is our annual high school youth ministry winter camp. I like to think of it like a paid mini vacation. Until I realize that I'm one of the responsible adults. Fortunately, we have a low-key, drama-free group of students going this year. We spend Friday night through Monday morning at camp worshipping the Lord through song, listening to a man speak the Truth of God, go on outdoor adventures, and have quality time with our students. We wrap the weekend up with snowboarding on Monday. Last year the weather drove us home early. I'm crossing my fingers for another snowboarding adventure this year.

4. Latin America
The more I think about it, the more I want to move to Latin America. What a culture! Do you think I'd fit in with my blue eyes and lack of Spanish knowledge?

5. Illness
So many sickies in my class today. Boy A was gone yesterday and then came late today. Boy B was fine until right after morning recess. He was hit with a wave of nausea that I could see in his eyes. Yuck. Then Girl A complained of chest pains and pneumonia-like symptoms halfway through the day. To top it all off, my co-teacher had to cancel our dinner plans because she was starting to feel ill! Personally, I'm working on building up my immunity to it all.

6. Sojourn Music
Is. Awesome. They're a church worship band from somewhere in the Midwest (I think). I first heard them on Noise Trade (an artist networking site). Their Christmas album cannot be beat. Cannot. I've tried. My current favorite of theirs is "Warrior." This is the best video I could find of it. Not only is this group super gifted in music, but their lyrics are significant and rooted deeply in theology. Support yer [not so] local worship band!

7. Kale Chips
Are a great way to enjoy another leafy green. I don't know where I got the original idea, but I make them with each batch of kale that comes in my box. And I eat the whole thing in one day. Normally I'd feel guilty. Not with this! To make: slice leaves of kale into bite-size pieces, discarding the thick stem. Toss in a bowl with a splash of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt. Lay flat on a baking pan and bake until crispy, about 4-6 minutes. They are delish right out of the oven or after they've cooled. The taste and consistency slightly resembles seaweed. But not as sea-y.

8. Sarah's Wedding
My sister's wedding is in 2 weeks. And counting. I feel so useless as her maid of honor 350 miles away. She's not very good at wanting to delegate things to others, anyway. I am honored to be a part of her wedding and thrilled that she found a godly man to spend the rest of her days with, Lord willing.

9. Contentment
Blast contentment. It comes up frequently in conversations with other believers. I am discontent. I was thinking yesterday through praying for my heart and relationship with the Lord to change rather than praying for the circumstances He has me in to change.

10. The Gospel According to John
I've been reading through the Gospel of John with our church. As I was reading chapters 6 & 7 this morning I had the thought of how many times Jesus emphasized that "the hour/time has not yet come." I want to observe that more and understand on a deeper level what it means.

11. 11 Years Ago
I was 13 1/2 years old. I was in 8th grade. To this day, 8th grade was my favorite school grade. I had a cool group of friends, I was excelling at sports, and going regularly to youth group. I can't say that I was a Christian at this point in my life, but it was a pretty pivotal year in terms of the Lord softening my heart. My close friends were all non-Christian. I did dumb things and had almost reached the height of my rebellion toward my poor mom and dad. But I loved being at church and had a bunch of college-aged youth leaders who invested time in me. Goes to prove that attending church doesn't mean a thing without Christ as your motivation.

Happy Tuesday, blogging world.

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