Showing posts with label travel adventures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel adventures. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

For those of you tracking me on my travels...

I’m at training!!!  Which means I happen to be in Orlando, FL for the week.  Don’t worry though, all my Michigander friends, I’m not living the life on the beach.  Rather, I’ve dubbed this place the land of rain, WIND, and an occasional spot of sunshine.  Either Florida never was actually sunny, or the sun just forgot to come out and play when I got here.

Regardless, I’ve been making some new friends and reconnecting with old while here.  One of my friends from Tanzania is here, and happens to be my roommate, though neither of us realized the other would be here!  What a blessing from the Lord!

I’m learning a lot – about how to deal with stress on the field and in the States, how to process transitions, and other “vital” information for any missionary who happens to be on furlough in the States for any length of time.  And... best of all, they asked us what our favorite candy is and BOUGHT IT FOR US before we got here!  Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, what?  I feel pampered! 

On the way down, I managed to see a few random sights.  (It happens when driving across the whole country, I suppose.  And you think a whole lot more about it when you’re driving solo and don’t have books on tape to keep you company…)  Since it's nearly 10:30 and I have training starting again early tomorrow, I'll have to keep you in suspense as to what these random sights were.  But... just wait.  And be prepared to laugh!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

On the Road Again... in Germany!

24 June 2011  <-- No, I'm not still in Germany.  But I promised someone I'd post this story "someday" and thought it was about time I got around to it!

Many of you know I had the chance to "relearn" driving a stick shift, on the right side of the road, and driving REALLY fast, in Germany the past four weeks.  Add this to culture shock, negotiating a new location in a different language, and four intense masters classes, and I kept pretty busy during my time there!  My housemate and I were staying outside of town a bit and the walk to class was about 50 minutes... so it was nice some days to have a motorized alternative!  My first experiences driving a stick were in Tanzania, on the left side of the road (shifting with my left hand...), and had some adventurous results.  So I was more than a little nervous to get behind the wheel in Germany!  But after a few "refresher" lessons I was feeling more secure.  I even emailed the person whose car it is to tell her how well it was going the first week!
Then one night, on our way home from a game night with classmates, I couldn't get the car going.  It stalled, then stalled, then stalled again.  And again.  x10.  A guy from class came by and gave me a few tips, which should have helped.  But it stalled again right away.  At this point I was TOTALLY frustrated, and extremely thankful that my housemate was patient and a "go-with-the-flow" person.  But it was also 10:30 at night, and evidently Germans don't do late nights.  Not in this town.  As in, you don't make noise after 10pm or before 7am.  So out comes the lady from across the street, in an effort to help me.  She speaks about three words of English, which is about my level of German.  And somehow, she communicates that she's going to drive us home. 

What?  I don't know how to politely say no, but "NO!"  I can do this.  I should be able to drive a car 10 minutes and get us home.  I got us to the game night even when we had to turn around 10 times because we didn't have good directions.  This was RiDiCuLoUs!  But she told her husband to follow us with their car, got in the driver's seat, and took off with us in the back.  I was totally embarrassed the entire way home but couldn't do anything.  Except, of course, think about how insane this was and how I should be able to drive a silly car down the road.

The “helpful” German lady parked the car in the parking area for our apartments, but she put it in a place that blocked another car from getting out.  I didn't bother having her readjust because I wanted to get back in the car before I went to bed... you know, that "get back on the horse" idea.  So after hiding out for about 10 minutes till the couple was gone... (they really were great and they totally didn't have to go out of their way to bring us home!  It was just, well, extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing for me along the way...), I came back out to start the car and put it away.  Except, the ignition wouldn't start when I turned the key.  No sound.  Not one iota of anything.  After several tries, and alternating between wanting to laugh and cry and giggle hysterically in frustration... I went inside to get my housemate.  We were sure it was a dead battery, but we were still blocking the landlord's daughter's car and she couldn't get out in the morning.

Then we got a fabulous idea.  It's a small car.  We're two fairly active women.  So we rolled the car back, and tried to push it up the driveway between the two of us.  It, uh, didn't work out as well as we had hoped. :(  I guess we underestimated the pull of gravity on a car trying to roll down a slight hill.

Hmm.  Plan B.  (Or maybe E?)  A friendly missionary family that lives right next door happened to still have their lights on at 11pm that night, and we were able to knock on their door to ask for help.  The teens helped push the car up and the mom offered to jump it the next day.

Cue 11am.  The mom invited me over for iced-coffee and to chat for a couple of hours.  Just because.  She's awesome.  Then we headed out to jump-start the car.  (After she got on Google to check the proper order for hooking up the jumper cables, of course!  Glad I'm not the only one who needs car help at times.)  We let the car run for a few minutes, then planned to drive around in a loop for a while to recharge the battery.  Unfortunately, as we went up a hill, I didn't downshift quite enough, and the car stalled.  It wouldn't restart, or even make a noise.  I backed off the street (thank goodness for gravity this time!) and the mom came back with her car to jump start me again.  Then we tried the main road to get the car recharged.  Faster = better, right?  But we had to go up a street to turn around at one point, and the car stalled again.  We jumped it, then it stalled again.  And again.  Seriously!  This time I was ready to just get the insanely-infuriating car back to the owner's garage and MAYBE deal with it again in a week.  or so.  If I had to.  After another jump-start though, we finally got it back.  At which point, the family offered to loan me an extra bike to ride to class the upcoming week.  They even made sure it had a bike lock with a key I could use.  Which was really sweet.  And (deep breath) I was feeling very much relieved.

After sharing my story the next day after church, a couple of people from the school (who are much more proficient at manual car-driving than I!) came and got the vehicle to bring it to the school.  A maintenance guy spent the next day trying to charge the battery… and finally concluded it was shot.  A new battery was put in.  And I had a couple of days to realize that maybe, just maybe, I could do this driving thing.  And so we began again.

Thankfully, I think the battery was a big part of the problem (along with some operator error, of course).  I still stalled out occasionally the next 2 weeks… but this time, it was 4-5 times a week, and not per day!  I even drove it on the Autobahn in Switzerland for about an hour and a half one day coming home... and was was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments!

me. in the car. on a much-better day!

I’ve actually discovered that driving a manual is pretty fun… and I've heard driving a stick is actually a good deterrent of theft in the States as many thieves don't know how to drive them!  However, I need to weigh the pros and cons before purchasing another vehicle again some day.  My mom continues to remind me that driving a manual limits your ability to hold a milkshake in one hand while you drive with the other, and this is a serious predicament to consider.  We'll see what rules as most critical - fun driving, or milkshake-drinking ability - when the time comes!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

North Carolina, Here I Come!!!

29 September 2011

Today feels rather reminiscent of a day about 5 years ago... a day when I packed up all my stuff and took a one-way road trip to NC (with my mom along for the drive).

I had spent the summer wondering what in the world God was doing as I applied for teaching jobs in:
               New Mexico
                                  Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and more...
and had the door shut every. single. time.

I had heard Him remind me again and again that my job was to
seek first the kingdom of God
(fill out applications up the wazoo)
and let Him supply the rest.
-Mat 5:33 (slightly paraphrased)

And, He did it.  Better late than never, right?  I finally had an answer.

Final destination: Tartown, North Carolina

Last time I got in the car, I was setting out for an apartment I had searched for and rented in the course of a single day.  I was technically trained but totally unprepared to teach in a school I had walked through for an hour the week before; my first teaching experience in my own classroom, ever.  I had briefly met two acquaintances in the entire state: my soon to be mentor Andi, and our school reading coach Debra.  I was headed for a different culture, different language, and some VERY different behaviors than I was used to for first grade kiddos!  Boy, was I in for a crazy ride!

my new apartment complex
This time is slightly different.  I've grown in confidence, have a few great years of teaching under my belt, and have lived in new places, experienced new cultures, and been forced out of my comfort zone WAY too many times!  I also have a teacher voice that I can pull out at a moment's notice, thanks to that first class who helped me find it within the first few LONG months of the school year.

This time, I know where I'm staying.  I know who I'll be seeing.  I'm prepared to hear endings cut off words, sentences all smooshed together, and the soft 'e' sound mutilated.  And while I am hoping to connect with some churches and pastors and new partners along the way, I'm also excited to visit with dear friends that I haven't seen in 3 years, and a couple of great friends that I know from Tanzania as well!

North Carolina (and new adventures), here I come! :)

Please be praying for...
- Good connections and opportunities to connect with people and churches who are excited to partner financially and prayerfully with me... and boldness for me in sharing!
- Safe travels and good times with God on the road :)
- sufficient time, energy, and expedience in getting coursework done throughout the week
- a peaceful, patient, trusting heart

Friday, September 23, 2011

Summer Adventures

I made this a long time ago, and thought I had sent it out.  Evidently, I didn't.  This is a brief sketch of my summer (crazy as it was!) in pictures and words.  Enjoy!    

Friday, August 19, 2011

Money Exchange in Kzoo

12 August 2011

As I settle into my parent's house in my old room, I'm finding there are a lot of ... things... that have collected here over the last ten years.  Things from High School (class pins, awards).  Twirling (I boxed most of my trophies up over Christmas, but a few medals and trophies remain, along with baton tips and twirling bags...).  Teaching (yep, my classroom collection of books are definitely taking over every available shelf.)  And missions.  (Pictures, pictures, more pictures... wall hangings, etc.)

I've also found a lot of coins.  After being all over the place these past few months, I've had a lot of random coins jingling around in my purse recently.  (Imagine going into Michael's to buy a $1.00 stamp, and pulling out 200 Tanzanian Shillings, then a 5 cent Euro coin, all in a quest to find an American quarter!)  In my quest to organize, I started an envelope system to keep track of it all.  (And since I actually will be going back to a lot of these places, it was worth holding on to them.)  I just didn't know how far it was going to go!

Granted, many of these have just a few coins.  But it's kind of amazing to see the variety of coins from around the world!

(Since this, I've added another envelope for PNG, and another for "random."  I could probably find some Australian coins around here, too, to add to the collection.)

So if you're traveling any time soon, don't bother going to the ridiculous money exchange places that rip you off.  Just come on down to Kzoo and I'll cut you a great deal on getting the cash you might need!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How you know you’ve been traveling for a bit too long…

6 Aug 2011

I'm back in the States.  Whew!  And soon, I'll be back in MI again.  Double Whew!  After sleeping in a total of 9 beds in the last two months, I'm ready to stay in one place for more than a few days!

Don't get me wrong.  I love to travel.  And I've been extremely blessed by the crazy route God has put me on this summer.  I'm not sure why He chose me to end up all over the place, but it has been a blast.  I've met amazing people, seen a lot of things, and gotten to spend great time with my family along the way.  I got to be a part of my brother's wedding, and see a bit of my sister-in-law's culture and family in Colombia.
my brother Jeremy and sister-in-law Claudia
The wedding party, plus parents
Me and my bro

Outside the Fernando Botero Museum in Medellin

But at the same time, I'm tired.  Of saying goodbyes.  And of remembering that the things I've come to think of normal, really just ... aren't. 

Here are a few things I've realized just might mean you've been traveling for a bit too long...
  • You see a car commercial and have to stop and think whether the driver is on the right side of the road for that country.
  • You go to pay for grad classes and completely forget there is such a thing as a check… you haven’t seen one in two years!
  • You realize how annoying commercials are, no matter what the language… and can’t believe people actually watch them!
  • You start comparing aspects of airports in different countries (calming music and blue colors in Cairns, Australia, letting you take water through security in Bogota, Colombia…) and think you should suggest these ideas to your “local” airport. 
  • You know exactly how many days your deodorant, travel-sized shampoo, and face wash last and can plan accordingly for trips. 
  • You know how to greet people in five different languages, but are never sure what version might come out at any given location or time.
  • You get just as excited for "football" (soccer) as the locals in any country... besides the US.  And have determined this is your favorite sport to watch.
  • You know the exchange rate from 6 different currencies into US Dollars off the top of your head.  
  • You have your pictures on your computer named and separated into files by what continent they were taken on.
  • You’ve ridden on enough elevators and moving walkways to contemplate why the hand-rail moves faster than the floor…

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Transition Tena (again)

July 12, 2011  <--(yep, this is a bit out of order... I forgot to post this last week!)

I’m in my last week of school at Black Forest Academy (Germany) through PBU… and it is going by fast!  I’ve completed three masters courses in the past three weeks, each in one week.  Needless to say, each has been very challenging in its own way.  I definitely “hit a wall” last week and wasn’t sure I would make it through to the end.  But here I am, still going   one    day    at a time, with grace being extended from people all around me to make it through   one   more   moment   each   day.
It’s crazy.  I feel like I’ve finally got my feet on the ground.  I can successfully drive a stick-shift car, fast, on the right side of the road.  I know how to get groceries.  I’ve found my way around the little towns where I learn and live.  I know where to get ice cream :), how to buy berries from unmanned stalls on the street, and which juice tastes best.  I’ve gotten to know my sweet housemate and we’ve gotten into a routine.  I know how to work the laundry machine and know not to do it on Sundays.  I mostly remember that I'm in Europe, and have successfully learned how to spell "Kazakhstan."  I’ve almost gotten a vague concept of how recycling works here.  (Gelbe S├Ącke, what?!)  

Of course, it would really help if all the instructions weren't in German!!!  It looks pretty clear on this diagram... but don't be fooled.  I spent many a minute standing in front of bins after lunch wondering what to do with each piece I had left!  Mostly I just gave up and threw them in... something.  Who knows if it was right.
I’m not so overwhelmed now when I see people wearing shorts, and am almost past thinking I should cover my legs when I go into stores “downtown” wearing pants.  I’m making connections with amazing teachers in international schools from around the world and with great neighbors who live in the apartments around me.  And now, I’m leaving.  In less than a week.  

I wonder if I’ll ever get used to a life of transition?

I was talking with my roommate today (who is from S. Carolina but lives and teaches in Seoul, S. Korea) about everything that has happened since we arrived.  I’ll have to catch you all up on the, uh, “adventures” we’ve been through on my blog when I get to the States and have a bit more time!  But car troubles, budgeting, walking for miles, everything breaking and going wrong, emotional transitions and embarrassing moments were definitely all a part of the initiation process to Germany.  And through it all, God has been faithfully showing up in little and big… weird and crazy… insane and mundane ways.  Every day.

my sweet housemate, Katie, and I

dinner and movie night with new friends
ice cream after celebrating the "graduation" of two of our classmates... they're finished after this year!
I’ve also really appreciated getting input and new ideas for teaching after not having much “outside” instruction the past two years.  And I’ve LOVED getting to know people who think missional, purposeful life is normal – who aren’t weirded out when I get overwhelmed in the grocery store – who have been on furlough before – who get it when the little things (like a hot shower, or a “beautiful” cloudy rainy day) are exciting - who understand what the ups and downs of transition are and happily listen to me process things out loud because they’ve been there before.  It’s almost like God knew what He was doing when He put me here for school!  (Crazy how that works!)

Looking forward to seeing you... or keeping in contact... soon!  Thanks for your prayers and support! :)

It's a Big World.

20 July 2011
Maybe it’s just me, but...  Whenever I’m getting ready to leave one location or culture, or have just entered another (which has happened a lot as of late), I start “seeing” people that really shouldn’t be there.  For instance, I’ll be in Germany and start “recognizing” people from across the street as someone who really lives in Michigan.  Or in Tanzania.  I guess my mind is struggling to adjust to the transitions and grasping at something it thinks should be familiar.  My organizational mechanisms are a little off at the moment!

I’m sitting in the public library right now working on grad studies in Comstock, MI.  And as I looked over to the bookshelves beside me, I suddenly recognized the person looking at books.  Not from my High School days, but from the organization I work with in Tanzania.  I nearly jumped up to give the lady a big hug and a warm welcome, but restrained myself just in time.  Luckily. 

It’s funny how our minds work!

Then, five minutes later as I walked to the front of the library, I saw none other than Kyle, my twirling/dance coach of over 12 years, talking to the librarian on her way from a meeting upstairs!  This amazing lady taught me how to travel across the country through airports, how to take care of myself on the road, how to do a high-toss double front walkover and make it look easy... :) and to NEVER give up on the dream of doing what I love and loving what I do.  This time it really WAS who I thought... I didn't have to restrain myself... and thankfully, the librarian didn't seem to mind our excitement and joyful hugging as I interrupted their conversation in mid-sentence!

Maybe the world is just a little smaller than I thought. :D

(P.S. Just so all my friends in Dar feel better… the reliability of the internet at this library is about as consistent as that at HOPAC.  Every five minutes, it tells me it can’t find the IP address.  Boy, does this feel familiar!  Just thought I'd empathize with you... I have to remember that sketchy internet might be a good thing.  I'll get more work done this way!!!)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Other Side of the Desk

2 July 2011

After a hurried leaving of Tanzania 2 hours after my last day of school, I shipped out (ok, flew) to Zurich, got on a train, and arrived in Basel, Switzerland.  After a confusing pick-up, I safely arrived in a little town named Kandern, which is the home of Black Forest Academy (an international school in Germany).  It is here that Philadelphia Biblical University Cairn University (they changed their name) has an overseas campus for international teachers interested in getting their masters in one-week intensive classes over the summer… people like me!
On the train in Switzerland
It’s been quite a change.  One day, I was teaching and explaining mathematical concepts.  Two days later (literally), I was sitting on the other side of the desk, taking notes on teaching methods from a powerpoint presentation and a very creative professor.  One week I was walking around the classroom, the next I was stretching my legs from constant sitting every chance I got.  One day I was creating the assignments, and the next week I was turning them in.
My housemate Katie and I working on our personal Theories of Learning from a Biblical Worldview... we spend a lot of time working at our computers each night!

It’s been fun. (Well, mostly.  Except maybe for the brain-overload bit! :)

Game Night after our first exam...
The first week, they took us back to Basel to go exploring a bit.  With only four people in our first class (so much fun!), it was easy to arrange transport across the border... only about a thirty minute drive.  Our prof (in the orange shirt below) even treated us all to ice cream!
My first McD's sighting in almost two years!
Basel. is. Beautiful!
Need I say more?  You should plan to come visit in two years so we can travel... :)

Since then, things have been busy.  I’ve just completed my second grad class – and second week of classes.  Two down, two to go.  My brain is full, to say the least.  I can now tell you my personal theory of education and how to apply this in my classroom… and have learned a LOT about teaching from a Biblical perspective.  It’s been wonderful to have outside input from amazing teachers after being “on my own” (without teacher-training) for the past couple of years.  I’ve also met amazing people who teach – and come from – places all over the world.  It’s been a huge treat for me to be around people who think that teaching overseas and learning new languages and dealing with cultural differences is normal – who can relate to culture shock upon hitting a grocery store in Germany – and who have lots of advice for a newbie going on furlough!

Keep praying for me these next couple of weeks to keep going strong... and to arrive in the States ready to finish post-course projects before my brother's wedding.  Pray too for good rest, the ability to take in information I need to quickly and well, and not to belabor projects as I'm prone to doing.  One day at a time!

The Stork Farm

2 July 2011

There’s a little place outside Kandern Germany in the Southern Black Forest region called “Holzen.”  It’s about a 5 minute drive from where I’m taking classes at BFA, and is a sleepy, beautiful little town with flowers galore, trails leading to everywhere… and storks.  Lots of storks.  Yes, I actually mean those big black-and-white birds that you always think of in fairy tales or stories but never really consider real… until you look out your apartment window and see a massive nest where a pair of them raise their young.  Wow.
Evidently, Holzen is known for its storks, or “storchen” as they are called here.  They are everywhere, and there is even a stork refuge of some sort where they can go if they get sick.  I went out exploring last week to see if I could find the place… and came back with some fun pictures.
The stork refuge.  If you look at the bell/clock tower in the background, you'll see nests there too.  They're everywhere!
The nests are HUGE!!!
For my German-speaking friends... um, I think that now totals two.  Maybe you can let me know what this says?
I really should put money in this to see if it sings.  Or moos.  Or something.
Actually, it reminds me of when Shrek and Donkey go into Duloc and get their picture taken.  Maybe this tells me the rules for the Stork Refuge?
I’ve been seeing signs all week for the Storchen Fest, 2-3 Juli… and was getting excited.  I would be here for it!  I thought maybe there would be a carnival or something.  Live music.  Or at least, stork meat grilled on a stick on the side of the road.  (Just kidding!)  But so far, it’s 1pm and all I see is the slow sign of ONE tent going up in the middle of the town’s playground.  No cars.  No crafts.  No food.  And no extra storks.  (Maybe they forgot to send out the invites to storks in the surrounding areas?)
Since I was here, I thought I should do a little research to find out about these fascinating creatures that evidently do NOT deliver babies to people.  (At least, I haven’t gotten one on my doorstep yet…)  One of the things that got me curious was a strange clacking sound that I hear from quite a distance, and finally figured out was coming from the storks.  My friend and I tried to capture the sound on video this morning, but the storks remained oddly silent… in preparation, I’m sure, for the Storchen Parade coming up later today.  Instead, I found that someone else had already accomplished the goal and uploaded a video to YouTube for my convenience.  

And... because you wanted to know... I'm bringing a random thought to you to add to your "nature facts" file in your brain:
Evidently, the reason storks were picked as the delivery mode of choice for babies is because these amazing birds are such naturally good parents.  They take good care of their young, and both mom and dad work together to raise them.  Yes, they still teach their babies to fly by pushing them out of the nest, just like all good bird parents do.  But as they keep the same nest (and mate) for a long period of time, I’m sure they might let their young come back for the occasional weekend visit, a home-cooked meal, and a load of laundry.  (Or, I could be wrong on that last part.)
Happy Storchen Fest Day, maybe!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Yet Another New World

Saturday, 19 June 2011... I think!

(aka... another glimpse into the life of transitions that I'm embarking on once again... I appreciate any prayers you might lift up on my behalf!  Hope you enjoy reading my random thoughts... :))

Well, I’m officially into my third country – and second continent – of this two month adventure God has set me on.  After finishing school at HOPAC at 11am yesterday, I turned in my keys, printed off train and plane tickets, and set out for the airport with Carley and Marie.  After many adventures and three cars later, we finally made it to our intended destination.  I said yet another set of “see ya laters” as Carley left to head back home, and Marie headed off to Minnesota to surprise her dad on Father’s Day.  I stayed at the airport for another several hours and got to spend some great time with a family from school that I’ve never really known before, but who welcomed me in with open arms.

After a quick stop in Nairobi (ok, I guess I’m in my fourth country), we took off for the great country of Switzerland.  At least, I’ve always wanted to go there, I love mountains, and it seems like a great place.  They were efficient, had a great airport, and had a blueberry muffin waiting for me at Starbucks when I got off the plane.  (Granted, it’s probably the most expensive muffin I’ve ever bought… but… BLUEBERRIES!!!  Kind of a big deal for anyone after living in Dar for two years.) 
After remembering how to use a credit card, slowly but surely figuring out the train schedule and system, and having a flashback to Narnia (think sitting on a bench with trains whizzing by in front and behind me…) and wondering if I’d be ending up in Germany or fighting alongside Aslan and a variety of talking animals… I jumped onto the appropriate train with my now-overweight bag, backpack, and guitar, and settled in to listen to the names of stops so I wouldn’t go too far. 
Evidently, God planned for me to make it to Germany.  This time! :)
Or maybe this is still in Switzerland?  I really can't remember!
I’m still trying to get over the fact that we just went across a border without showing passports, and that they never even checked my train ticket till the last stop (what would they have done if I didn’t have a ticket?  Send me back?)  But that was minimal compared to the transitions that I found ahead.

First stop after getting picked up by someone from the school where I’ll be studying was going to the bank.  In Tanzania, the largest bill available is 10,000Tsh (or about $7.00).  That means if you get money out in large quantities, you get a LOT of bills!  Here, I punched in the desired amount into the ATM machine, and got… 8 bills back.  EIGHT!  I had to check for a minute before I realized that they have such things as 100 euro bills… and I wasn’t missing anything.  From there we went to the grocery store, which was another shock to my system.  Somehow I hadn’t prepared myself for encountering civilization in Germany… I had only expected real grocery stores with fruits and boxed cereals and such in the States.  But as it turns out, such things are available in Europe as well.  Who would have thought. :)

Thankfully I had someone along who spoke enough German to get us by, and who could point me towards sandwich meat (ham!), cheese (swiss! For cheap!!!), and real, fresh cherries.  No water, since evidently you can drink out of the faucet here.  And juice, of course.  After learning that you put items in your own bag before checking out (isn’t that considered stealing?), I paid my 20 Euros and left with a bundle of groceries. 
A couple of things I’m adjusting to.  Cold weather.  Driving a stick shift car.  On the right side of the road.  Windows that open three different ways.  Flowers, EVERYWHERE!  Huge storks with a nest on a nearby building from the apartment where I’m staying (evidently there's a farm or something in the tiny town where I'm staying).  Not washing everything with soap before eating it, and not having to make sure every cherry is dry before consumption.  Clean water from the faucet, what?  A washer and dryer, hot water… and a bath tub!  Seriously!  The luxuries here are unfathomable.  AND… finding a bag of Crispy M&Ms (the kind that really DO melt in your hand!) on the shelf of the grocery and slowly but surely eating one at a time, treasuring each one and trying to remember there are probably going to be more there available to buy next time I go.  Good thing there are amazing berries to curb my appetite, or my chocolate intake might be rapidly increasing in the next few weeks!

Auf wiedersehen!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

♫ My bags are packed... ♫

Marie's and my bags in the back of the van... with our househelp's little boy Junior looking sadly on :(
♫ All my bags are packed I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside my door
I hate to leave HOPAC and say goodbye…
But traffic’s bad and it’s time to leave
Germany’s callin’ and there’s no time to grieve…
Already I am trying not to cry…

So hug me and smile for me
Tell me that you won’t forget me
Hold me in your arms and don’t let go
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh man, I hate to go

There’s so many times I’ve wanted to leave
Days I thought I couldn’t believe
Just what a crazy place Dar is to live…
but now, I know, it’s hard to say
Goodbye to people with whom I’ve played
and taught, and lived, and cooked, and sweatily stayed…

So hug me and smile for me
tell me that you won’t forget me
Hold me in your arms and never let me go
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh man, I hate to go

Now the time has come to sit in traffic
Watch the clock, and hope we make it.
Pray that God has something great in store…
Wonder what He’s got ahead,
Try to hope, and not to dread,
Wishing time allowed for just a bit more…
So hug me and smile for me
tell me that you won’t forget me
Hold me in your arms and don’t let go
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh man, I hate to go

Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh man, I hate to go ♫
dinner out with some AMAZING ladies on Tuesday night! 
Two INCREDIBLE, encouraging friends who have made my life (and packing) SO much easier (and more fun!) this past week just by being there... and being themselves. :)  Thanks, Jen and Lauren!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm Getting Excited...

15 May 2011

Many of you know I've been accepted to a Master's Program through Philadelphia Biblical University.  Since you all want to know what this is about, you can click HERE for more information. :)  The program I'm doing is actually located at an international extension campus at Black Forest Academy, which is an international boarding school in Kandern, Germany. 
The program I'm doing is a Masters of Science in Education, but is focused on teaching in an international setting with a Christian focus.  Each class is completed in one week: there are sessions Monday - Friday for class, and pre- and post-coursework outside.  I'll be there for four weeks; hence, will complete 4 courses during this period of time.  Since I'll get to spend time with teachers who are doing something like what I get to do every day, all around the world, I'm excited for the opportunity that is ahead! 

At the same time, as I sit surrounded by calendars, syllabi, folders, and schedules, I'm suddenly realizing what IS ahead. 

Before June 17 (five weeks!), I will be:
  • Finishing the school year at HOPAC with my third graders
  • Completing report cards and doing conferences with parents
  • Helping with the Sound of Music Production
  • End of Year Activities
  • Preparing/Organizing my classroom for the incoming grade 3 teacher
  • Sorting, storing, and packing to go back to the States on furlough
  • (HOPEFULLY) getting my textbooks from the States
  • Completing Pre-Coursework for my Masters classes this summer
  • Saying goodbye to kids, parents, friends, community I've been with for the past two years :(
Are you overwhelmed?  Because I am!

But then, I got on the website for PBU's extension campus again.  And I saw.


And this.
Wait, go back.  Did you see this? 
Ah, yes, mountains.  *Sigh*  Suddenly, my soul is refreshed.

And I realized, as long as I survive the next five weeks, I might just enjoy where I'm headed. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Puppy Practicalities

27 February 2011

Having grown up in America, I often joke about going down the street to buy such-and-such item at the local Office Depot.  Or maybe go get a drill from HomeDepot.
But here in Tanzania, getting what you need just isn't that simple.  It might mean a long (and I mean LONG) drive into the city center to get something from one of three - or thirty - possible dukas.  Or knowing someone who knows someone who can get them from the UK on an upcoming shipment.  Or something like that.

Another option is asking the local fundis (or "experts" of some sort).  We often joke that if you can't get something here you can always get it made... but it's not far from the truth.  Between inexpensive fundis for welding, carpentry, sewing, and everything else imaginable, you can just about describe anything and get something KIND of like it a long while later :)

Sometimes, as the go-getters that we are, we decide to just do it ourselves.  Like when we went out to get a shelf made, and the guy refused to make it for us.  We finally convinced him to sell a piece of lumber (it was just sitting there in a pile!), and carried it half a kilometer back to our house.  By ourselves.  People along the way stopped and stared at these crazy wazungu girls carrying a board down the road and didn't know what to do with us. Our guard, who was used to our schemes, just laughed when he saw us.  Then he went to borrow a saw to help us get started.

It's always kind of fun to play with people's cultural expectations... in a culturally appropriate way, of course!

But today was slightly different.  Today we’ve been worried about our puppy.  It’s been sick, losing weight, and her hair is coming out in tufts.  The vet came a week ago and gave us some stuff to put on her nose, but she just keeps getting worse.  And worse.  Now we’re pretty much slathering the stuff all over her poor, bare body. :(
Now, just for the record, we really do trust our Tanzanian vet.  He knows what he’s doing.  And I like him a lot.  He’s a Christian, AND he speaks English, which is REALLY nice!  But the puppy came to us in bad shape from the start.  The vet isn’t here today, and we needed a second opinion.  So I turned to my personal favorite vet, named “dad.”

I took a few pictures, sent them off in an email, and got a response back.  Fired back answers, got more questions.  The last email, though, caused a slight problem.  “What’s her weight?”

Hmm.  We don’t have a regular scale at our house.  We used to have a scale from the Chem lab, which weighs things in Newtons, and used it to convert our luggage weight into pounds from that before flying.  (Don’t ask me how much I weigh in Newtons, please!)  But now that we’ve moved, we don’t even have that.

So, it was back to basics.  The only scale we have in the house is a luggage scale, which I brought back at Christmas in an effort to skip the converting to Newtons on my next trip home.  A luggage scale, for a puppy.  Hmm.  We nixed the idea of hanging the puppy from the scale by the collar… but there’s got to be another way, right?

We have a garbage can that doubles as a bucket when our house help is here.  (Ok, it’s really a bucket that we use as a garbage can…)  So, using some basic skills that I learned in seventh grade or so Science… we weighed the bucket, stuck in the puppy, and weighed it again.
 The verdict?  She weighs about twice as much as the “less than three pounds” we predicted.  Which, I guess, is a good sign.  The weight went off, the verdict came back, and now we’re trying to figure out how to cut a pill into ten pieces for the right dosage for our puppy.

I’ll let you know how THAT goes at a later date!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Things I Never Knew I Needed... aka random sightings in airports

Things I never knew I needed

It's a funny thing, traveling through airports.  You're surrounded by people (great for people-watching!), and by stores.  You know that you don't want to add a single thing to your luggage to carry with you on the rest of your flight... but at the same time, you need to do SOMETHING to stay awake before boarding!  So, off you go to browse through the shops... and, as the shop owners are banking on, probably by at least a water or a candy bar.

Here are a couple of things I didn't know I needed... but would be great to have on hand, I'm sure.  (Or, maybe not...)

In a place where we just can't get fir trees, this seems like a great deal!  It's already prelit, and would look totally natural in the environment here, I'm sure. :)

Ok, I have a couple of techie friends that I'm sure would get a kick out of this... but really?  There are enough bugs around Africa without getting computerized ones you can control!
Guess where?  Amsterdam, of course!  The (other) land of tulips, wooden shoes, and windmills galore.  I SO wanted to buy some cheese and sausage (seriously bad cravings!) but continuously reminded myself that it would be cheaper when I got home. 
Cheese graters... with a Dutch girl in costume on top.  This would definitely come in handy if I ever moved back to Holland, MI... or if I wanted to smile and be reminded of my "other" home!