Sunday, September 30

Streams for Sunday: Wake Her

Next time I post I'll be a little old lady in Pasadena.

Saturday, September 29

Am I A Falcon, A Storm?

Two bags packed, one to go.

Last night I had three teenage girls in my living room to help me "sort my clothes." To allow a sixteen-year old the right to advise you on what you ought pack in your suitcase is both enlightening and frightening. To have three of them is to invite a war, of sorts. There was much laughter. At one point, I had to ardently defend the rights of my favorite soft green shirt.

Girls: "That's for the give-away pile, Nelly. It spells, 'Grandma.'"

Me: "But!"

Girls: "Oh, Nelly, please. No Grandma shirts."

Me: "Listen you! I do not look like a Grandma in this shirt! I'll prove it to you." [Theatrically grabs a black skirt with the green shirt and huffs away to the dressing room.]

I won. The shirt lives. But a lot of other stuff dies to the give-away pile.

Operation Pack is spelled: simplify, give-away, simplify. The nice thing about two transcontinental moves in five years is that you learn to condense your belongings into a few suitcases. It feels good.

Before I fell asleep I read a nice poem by Rainer Maria Rilke (in translation). I found myself in it. From his Book of a Monastic Life:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Friday, September 28

I Like Big Books

This is ridiculous. I mean, really funny. The "I'll greet her with some holy kissin" part kills me. And the flirting over the flannel boards. In my high school days, I think I shamelessly knew the Sir-Mix-a-Lot original word for word.

I am happy to report that:
1. I have a cast-iron stomach and can handle the doxy-bicycles of my new Malaria preventative.
2. I have packed one bag out of three. And it is three days 'till I move. I am so ahead of schedule, it is insane.
3. History has told me that I freeze up if I do not have someone to help me pack unto the bitter end. So, two nice ladies are coming over to help me keep packing. Hooray, Heather and Lydia. Happy days.

Thursday, September 27

No More Whiny Pants

I am moving to California in four days, and I feel like I'm growing up. Two days ago, an eight year old asked me, "Do you think there is still gold on the ground in California?"

I smiled out, "I sure hope so!"

For me, like history's many, going West carries the hopes of a shiny new chapter. I hope the ground is golden there, kiddo.

But I have had numerous freaking-out sessions in the last few weeks. In the old days, I would try to explain these crying-fits and moments of I-am-being-impossible with the phrase, "I am emotionally overwhelmed." But I overused those words so much that they grew really old.

I don't know what to call it. There are moments when I'm just plain freaking out in the inside. I do wonder if that is why my heart has been beating strangely. Certain unknowns (like, "when will my next paycheck be?") have plastered over my waning trust in the Faithful One.

And then, my dear friend Carissa put a book in my hands: Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God, by Brennan Manning. I'd found it on her shelf. It was tattered. Tattered books always catch my eye. I like them the best.

I'd never read anything by Mr. Manning before, but I'm finding his writing so excellent and refreshing. I've grown so tired of books on God that are rich in content, but terribly written. There are many. And that makes me sad.

But this book is different. Manning is a writer. And as I was about thirty pages into his book, I started crying these good, healing tears. Not the whiny-pants tears, the nice, soul-opening tears. And something like scales fell from my eyes.

"So often what is notoriously missing from the external, mechanized concept of salvation is self-acceptance, an experience that is internally personalized and rooted in the acceptance of Jesus Christ...Self-rejection in any form is a manifest sign of a lack of trust in the total sufficiency of Jesus' saving work. Has he set me free from fear of the Father and dislike of myself, or has he not?" -Brennan Manning

In fresh terms, Pastor Brennan reminds me of how God sees me, in spite of my failure to trust him. And in spite of the unsuspecting self-rejection that has been creeping up on my thoughts lately.

Wednesday, September 26

Post Script: EKGs and Pterodactyls

Upon further review, I now realize that it was a naive oversight to use the idea of hearts palpitating and prophylactics in the same blog-title. I hope that the tiny corner of blogdom that walks across this "Hello" mat did not find me crude or racy. It was wholly unintended. (Cheers, Brian, for being the first to point it out in the commentary.)

I must say, there is a longer, sassier story attached to those malaria prophylactics, and how I first acquired them from Walmart. The pharmacist had given me expired pills, initially. This was not good. I happened to notice the very-fine print on the package before I got on the plane for Africa. And so, very gently (but clearly) I helped the pharmacist understand what a risk this could have been for me, and for Walmart. (There was very little argument.) I walked out with the $80 pack of medicine for free, plus some more cash. I love confrontation!

Needless to say, we're no longer using the Walmart pharmacy. We switched over to the small-town joint that's closed on Sundays. I like that a lot better. I've just secured some new malarial pterodactyls (a'la "doxy-bicycles") from the new pharmacy, and will begin using them tonight.

Mama says that doxycycline is very strong and could make me vomit. So tonight we will see if I've inherited my Father's "cast-iron" stomach, or my Mama's "kinder, gentler" belly.

(Surprised girl by Incinerator)

Sunday, September 23

Streams for Sunday :: Gratitude, Run.

This is a healthy practice. I will try to make a tradition out of it.

Maybe you should, too.

Saturday, September 22

EKG Me, Mr. Prophylactic

I had to go to the E.R. tonight. I've been having these weird heart-palpitations since I got back from Africa, and today they were on the rise. I was just shrugging it off as little-girl excitement over my transcontinental-skipping and my upcoming move to California.

That was until nurse Mama Rose said, "I think you should read the fine print on that Malaria prophylactic you're taking." So I did that.

It's always a good idea to listen to your nurse Mama. Especially when she says big crazy tyrannosaurus rexy words like, "prophylactic."

If you experience irregular heartbeat while taking this medication: CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.

I did that. (But I didn't appreciate all the SHOUTING IN CAPS.) And the doctor sent me to the Emergency Room.

It's funny the things you think about when you're young with not-extravagant health insurance. The nice ER nurses are hooking my heart up to the EKG machine, and Mama--who used to work at this hospital--reminds me that this procedure costs about $500. 12 seconds of EKGness. $500. In my calculations, that's $41.67/second. (Not bad, robot. Hope you're saving for retirement.)

I.V. dripping salt-water into my arm.......$50
Multiple blood tests.......$200
Doc saying I'm all-normal and should just stop taking my Malaria pterodactyl......Priceless.

She also said I should cut back on the caffeine. Oh dear.

I'm very thankful for health insurance. But the expense of the whole system just baffles my happy little heart.

Friday, September 21

People Shouldn't Be Bought & Sold

Make a step towards becoming an Abolitionist. Today is the last day to vote for Justice for Children International on the Myspace Impact awards. JFCI is a close friend of 24-7 Prayer and Stop the Traffik, and they are doing marvelous things to stop the buying and selling of children in the global sex-trade. (And yes, the sex-trade is alive and well, even in the USA.)

Justice for Children would really benefit from the $10k that Myspace will award to the winner.

If you are a Myspace user:
1. Sign in.
2. To vote, click here. JFCI is the first box on the left, once you scroll down.

Voting closes at midnight tonight. Tell all your homeys.

135 second video on JFCI's work:

Read more. Awaken awareness:
Stop the Traffik
Justice for Children International

Giggle, Inwardly

Things That Are Making Me Giggle Inwardly

1. After I've been back in the States for over a year, I get this nice email from the Portuguese embassy asking me politely, "Do you still need a visa for Portugal?" My visa was "in process" for 3.5 years.
2. I am going to be a little old lady in Pasadena in less than 10 days! I will make my home there, with the wonderful Klein family. (Well, it is really Altadena. But who's counting.)
3. I keep talking to people about "my bike" as if I already own a bike in California. (I like imagining me riding to "my new job at Peet's coffee" as if it is also already mine.)
4. I have successfully cleaned out my psychotic email inbox from 1000 emails down to 15. All apologies if you've only just received a reply to an email you sent me in June.
5. Since I had unanswered emails going back to 2006, I learned I've been using a recalled-battery for my iBook (her name is Pearl). For over a year I've used a Pearl that could've overheated and caught fire.
6. I missed a phone date last night at 9pm because I was already asleep. Jetlerium does strange things to little girls.
7. Remembering the size of the produce in England. I left my baby zucchini there.
8. Right now, 100 business cards are being printed for my new freelance writing/editing business...Fresh Green Writing!

Wednesday, September 19

Sky Blogging

I'm blogging from the sky on my flight back to Baltimore.

I almost always request the aisle seat because I think it's the seat with the most freedom. I can get up and skip down the aisle if I like to.

I am sitting next to a bona fide arm-rest hogger. Travelers, you know these people. They have these quick-moving elbows that overtake the arm-rest within seconds of sitting down. It's all over now, baby blue. Lean in to the aisle and don't start a fight.

Paris Je'taime is an excellent film that reminds me of why I like one-acts. 18 short scenes of life in Paris through the eyes of different directors. The very last scene is so ridiculous and true and lovely. A somewhat pathetic single American lady narrates as if she's awkwardly telling her French class all about her trip to Paris. Her accent is horrifically American. But by the very end I am crying these accidental wonderful tears, with her.

There's another scene where Natalie Portman is in love with a blind French guy. This little 8 minute scene is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I mean, it's incredible. I want the DVD just for this scene.

If you've happened to fall in love with Salinger since we last talked, this would be a good time to pause and read Nine Stories. My favorite is #6: "For Esmé - with Love and Squalor." It should make you raise high your eyebrows and laugh.

This is feeling like the longest flight of my life. I am a stationary bird flapping her wings forever atop the Atlantic.

At least British Airways has some interesting entertainment choices. I'm watching a documentary about Mary J. Blige. Did you know that Mary was considred the anti-Whitney Houston? I'm learning all about the soundtrack to all of the awkward seventh-grade dances where I tried to bob my head to a beat I couldn't translate. I was a terrible dancer. I'm still not great. I try.

Mary J. Blige made it to the record industry when a producer happened upon a tape of her singing in the mall. She was still living in the projects when her first single went big. I like this lady. Especially because BBC claims that she invented the curious phrase, "Ghetto Fabulous." Oh!

Tuesday, September 18

Goodbye, Hello, Uh-Oh

I said "goodbye" to the Bordens yesterday in Arusha. They waved me off on my 5-hour shuttle to Nairobi. I cried. And then I napped. I think those two things go well together.

I had two hours to kill at the airport so I ordered a veggie burger. A strange sort of curried-Kenyan version of a patty arrived, so I baptized it in remarkably gelatinous light red ketchup. The ketchup squeezie-bottle had a loose top, so when I squeezed, I emptied the entire bottle of mystery-sauce onto my plate.

Though I was sharing my table for four with three strangers, no one else seemed to think it was as funny as I did. They didn't even give my fresh ketchup pond a second glance. The only mzungu in the place was making a saucy-scene, but nobody was noticing. Maybe this sort of thing happens often. I felt like I was in a bad after-school special staged in an African diner.

After taking the red-eye flight to London, I arrived here in Virginia Water with Brooke and Tate and Baby Asher. (And Kerry, too.) I really enjoy these friends from Young Life UK.

I like that tired "goodbyes" are met with some sort of a fresh "hello." What would we do without rhythm? Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Baby Asher is making me grin a lot. He has clearly perfected the "uh oh" face. I think it would be a good exercise if we all worked on that face. We'd be more prepared to laugh at ourselves when we baptize our plates in accidental ketchup ponds.

I leave for Baltimore tomorrow. Then I'll be back in the States for awhile, but heading out to Pasadena soon. It'll be nice to hug my family again.

Sunday, September 16

Things I Like Abut Tanzania - Part 2

(Continued from Part 1 here)

10. Learning from Byron how to wear my Maasai blanket like a proper warrior.
11. Dala dalas mini-buses with (curious) names such as, "Pimp My Ride - Go to Church" and "Jealous People Never Win," painted extravagantly on their back windows.
12. Making friends with the geckos that sometimes chill on the interior walls of my bedroom. (Geckos eat mosquitoes for lunch, you know.)
13. Avocados 'a plenty.
14. Multiple marriage proposals in one day. (Well, I don't necessarily like that, but...)
15. Seeing ladies carrying unbelievable loads effortlessly on their heads: baskets of bananas, bundles of timber, or, my personal favorite, hot burning coals in a metal bowl. (Doesn't the Bible say something about that?)
16. The slower pace.
17. The stars in the sky. I think they might be the brightest here in Arusha. Yep.

Thursday, September 13

Travel Log #03 - Arusha to Dar es Salaam

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(Soundtrack by Sia, "Breathe Me")

Tsunami Warning

Ladies and Gents, I survived my very first tsunami warning. We took a nice road-trip down to Dar es Salaam on the Tanzanian coast to visit Young Life Africa's illustrious Dyan Larmey. (Oh, I love Dyan!) It was such a nice visit.

But then late last night a guy out in the road yelled in Swahili from a scratchy megaphone that we should all be prepared for a tsunami. The Indonesian earthquake could have watery aftershocks. We were in a house only about 100 meters from the beach, so this was a pretty unnerving warning. At least for me, it was. Calmly, the rest of the house just went to bed, remembering that the African side of the Indian Ocean was barely effected by the last Tsunami warning. I sat on the couch wondering if I was the only sane person in the house! A tsunami might come and we were only armed with flashlights?

Well, said tsunami warning was then retracted, but I still stayed awake. I sort of went into I-will-rescue-the-house-from-any-gnarly-wave mode, imagining how I'd run up the stairs and wake everyone on the ground floor. Silly. I used my cataclysmic adrenaline to edit a road-trip travel log video #3, which is (slowly-by-slowly) uploading for you. Hopefully after we return from an Indian dinner feast the video robots will be done with the loading.

Check out sweet Lisa's side of the Tsunami-story right here.

Saturday, September 8

Rest Now, Madeleine.

Dear Madeleine L'Engle died yesterday. She was 88. I read her classic tale (the one the publishers warned would probably fail), A Wrinkle in Time as a tween, and felt alive. So then I read A Wind in the Door, and Many Waters. Like C.S. Lewis, she had a way of dignifying children by writing phenomenal stories that called out our imagination. I would like to read every last one of the 60 books she published in her wild lifetime.

Reading this gorgeous NY Times article made me love her even more.

The Washington Post unearthed this fantastic anecdote:

She once told National Public Radio that she was in a phase of searching for a better understanding of theology when "I just came across a phrase of Einstein's, which completely excited me. He said, 'Anyone who is not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe is as good as a burned-out candle.'

"And I thought, 'Oh! There's my theologian.' "

(Image quote from Douglas Martin, NY Times, 9/8/07)

Friday, September 7

200 Streams

I wanted to have something terribly profound to say today because the Blogger robots tell me this is my 200th post. I tried to find a cool image with el numero 200, but couldn't find one. So I made one.

I think stream of consciousness writing is very good for the soul. Maybe it shouldn't always be shared. But, maybe it should. Maybe our brains need to be drained more often.

I would like to always remember this day when it was a difficult marriage for the First and Third worlds. There we were cursing the internet connection and the 10, or was it 20 kilobytes per second transfer rates. I told Byron that it didn't matter much, it was only the difference between ten and twenty cents, when most of the world's internet ran at speeds of 20 to 40 dollars.

Current, currency: nearly the same in the digital age.

There are simple wires in Tanzania that carry current and information and such. These are tough times for simple wires. We must be patient and just wait for our uploads. And so, we drink loads of chai.

Thursday, September 6

Mid-morning Passions

"Karibu, dada!"

Lilian hands me a plateful of passion fruit, watermelon, and peanuts as she calls me "sister" with a smile. I like having new Tanzanian sisters. I'm sitting at the computer in Chase and Leighton's room sorting through piles of video clips of beautiful Maasai women making beaded creations. I'm getting lost in the scenes of these artisan ladies threading beads with their passionate grace.

My mid-morning snack is crunchy and tart. It is clear to Chase that I am a passion fruit-eating novice.

"You can just swallow it whole, and it won't be so crunchy, you know."

"Well, what if I like slurping my passion fruit, Chase," I retort, with a sassy-grin.

Tuesday, September 4

Peace, Love, and Chapatis

Things I Like About Tanzania - part 1

1. The taste of hot fried dough with milky sweet chai in the morning. (I would like a t-shirt that reads, "Peace, love, and chapatis.")
2. Raw, rich beauty streaming from the smiling hospitality of impoverished African mamas.
3. Seeing Byron come alive as he speaks Swahili.
4. The adventure of being driven over unpaved roads with insane crater-like potholes.
5. Relying on lots of lovely candles when electricity cuts out. (Candles are so nice.)
6. Drinking Coca-Cola from 350ml glass bottles with old school bottle caps.
7. Driving down the road and having to stop to watch the baby giraffes.
8. Afternoon tea-time at the Borden's.
9. The cloud of joy created by forty adolescent African voices singing to Jesus in Swahili, acapulco-style, with much clapping and dancing.

Monday, September 3

Travel Log #02: On the Way to Tanzania

Well, I arrived in Nairobi, and then took the lovely, long, beautiful (but bumpy) Impala Bus ride to Arusha, Tanzania, where the Bordens threw their arms around me.

I happened to sit on the not-as-scenic side of the bus because I missed most of Mt. Kilimangaro. But my side caught the Maasai tribe and the trees and the Kenyan skies blending into Tanzanian skies. (So there.)

So here's another 2 minutes of lo-fi adventure for you as you sit next to me.

(Thanks so much, Janers, for the camera...can you believe what great video it takes?!)

Will try to post more soon. There is so much to say, but the internet here in East Africa is shoddy, at best. The electricity has been out every other day!

(Drum circle beats by the wild men: Jesse, Trevor, Colin, Skyler, and Chase.)