Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Screensaver Blessing

I have a Mac. Upon my Mac, I put a tic-tac. Ok, not true, but it sounded like a nursery rhyme...more or less. No worries, I'm not going into nursery rhyming.

I have a Mac. Upon my Mac, I have many, many pictures. Upon my Mac, I have a screensaver that cycles through the last six months of those pictures. Upon my Mac, I have a screensaver that reminds me how blessed I am.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

As Water to the Thirsty

This Sabbath was really exciting. Students had the opportunity to choose between four Sabbath afternoon activities, one of which was delivering water to a Maasai village in the valley. We SMs jumped on the chance to go and loaded up in a vehicle with Chris Smoot, Program Director of World Vision Somalia. He was able to answer virtually any question on culture, tradition, or history that we threw at him, and share stories from Mauritius, Somalia, Malaysia, and many more.

1.5 hours later, we arrived at Magadi with a dozen students, a handful of staff, and 22,500 L of clean water. People started coming from tin shacks, over the stony hills, and across the road, toting plastic water containers and huge metal drums. By the time we finally organized them into a line, many of us had nothing to do. Because many Maasai are offended or charge money when their picture is taken, we began to pose strategically so that the water distribution efforts were behind us and the camera wasn't as intrusive.

I felt useless until Cassie suggested we start playing clapping games and see if the children wanted to join in. I wasn't very good at clapping games in grade school, and aging hasn't helped much. I guess laughing at ourselves fail helped the kids think it looked fun, so one brave girl finally decided to try it with me. We slowly - she doesn't speak English, I don't speak Swahili - worked out the clap/left hand/right hand sequence and repeated and repeated and repeated as other children began to crowd around to watch. I asked if someone else wanted to try, holding up my hands: only giggles and bashful smiles. More grins and laughter surfaced as we got more comfortable with one another, and we finally moved on to new games like Ring Around the Rosie (without falling down; not sure how we would have explained that one) and Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light.
Then the kids figured out how the cameras worked and swarmed Cassie and Tyson, smudging the screens with tiny fingerprints over each of their faces. As our water was running low and time was running out, the kids surrounded me and showed me that they could jump as high as my hand. It felt like a friendly version of Whack-a-Mole, with much giggling and need for more than two hands. As we loaded up in the vehicles, waving as we drove off, I couldn't believe what had just happened. This kind of thing only happens on Mission Spotlight...

My smiling muscles are sore and my heart is full, for today I saw Jesus in 26 sparkling eyes and 13 toothy grins.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Heavenly HOMEsick

By the end of the Friday, I was plum tuckered out. I attempted to nap for a half-hour before vespers. (For future reference, do not attempt to nap in the hour before vespers on the other side of a girls' dorm bathroom door. Ever. You will fail.) Vespers was simply a detailed explanation of the new and improved (and confusing) worship service to follow the next morning; not much of the Sabbath blessing I was searching for. Vespers was followed by Faculty Families - each student "belongs" to the home of one of the faculty, with the SMs being one family - and by the time I could hit the hay, I was overexhausted. Everything started hitting me at once: the new names, the new faces, the new schedule, the new jobs, the new expectations, the new everything. New.

I'm tired of giving! I want to keep some! [But it was never yours to keep.] I want my routine! I want my niche! I want my surroundings! I want my circle. I want my kamikaze bear hugs. I want to stop learning new things. I want to stop meeting new people. What I want most?? I want to stop being unhappy. [It's OK to be unhappy. I created emotions! I share in your unhappiness. You don't have to - and cannot - be happy all the time. Admit your unhappiness and let Me wipe away your tears. Be HOMEsick with Me, for Me, because of Me. I love you.]

My eyes finally closed and I woke up to Sabbath morning.

**NOTE: Don't be concerned, guys. I really truly am feeling better. Quite cheerful and bubbly, actually! God knows just how to send a pick-me-up when you need it! Read Sabbath's post to see how big my pick-me-up was.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wild, Weary, Wonderful Wednesdays

Whew. What a Wednesday. I “slept in” until 6:15 and proceeded to spend the morning running about to prepare for the afternoon. Copying, planning, meeting, exploring, orienting…then it was lunch. As a faculty member of the Spiritual Committee (or “SpitCom”, as I’m told), I sat in on a meeting for the duration of my pasta and cheese meal, completely lost and wondering what I was doing besides holding down my chair at the head of the table.

I hurried off to the science building to set up the PowerPoint for that afternoon’s labs – all three of them. Mr. Mpiima had set me up with the safety lab slideshow and some handouts. Wahoo. First teaching experience. I stood behind the lecturer’s counter and looked out at the students’ desks. I’ve never been so intimidated by empty furniture. I turned on the projector, opened up the .ppt, and carefully laid out the handouts. The sophomores began to file in 7 minutes before the 1:10 scheduled start of Chemistry I lab. Ok, awkward stage; bring it on, I thought. A bell rang at 1:05. Five minutes until my first lab session. The students grew strangely quiet. I looked them over, confused. “Does this class start at 1:05 or 1:10?” I asked. 1:05. Of course. Deep breath. “Let’s begin with prayer.” I introduced myself as Miss Jessica – weird – and began reading through the slides. Sixty minutes slowly slipped away, taking two-and-a-half handouts and a lab walk-through with them. Whew. One down, two to go. I think I like this! The juniors seemed to follow on the sophomores’ heels.

Rewind and repeat with 15 instead of 20 students and a little less “shh”ing and glaring on my part. I remembered to learn names this time, but a reverberant room and new accents made strange names even stranger. “Brandon? Brendon? Oh, Wanjuki.” I still can’t understand how that sounded like Brandon.

One hour later: Physics I lab! I straightened my piles of handouts and navigated back to slide number one, waiting for the seniors to file in the door. Much to my chagrin, a very familiar group of sophomores plopped into their seats, loudly expressing their concern upon seeing the same slide that greeted them at the beginning of the Chemistry I lab. “Are we going to be doing the same thing???” they asked. “Well, uh, no! Of course not. Not exactly the same thing.” My brain started quarreling with my gut: Huh. Really? News to me, Jess. Who said this period was going to be different? “Let’s, uh, begin with prayer.” After a few more ums and uhs and much hand clasping/wringing, I began to ask each student’s name, home, and favorite hobby. Charmaine of Kenya likes to read. Ryan of Florida likes music. Yuot of Canada likes basketball. By the time we finished with names and intros, only fifteen minutes had crawled by. Uh-oh. Think quick! “Ok! Time for a quiz. I hope you guys were listening while we were doing introductions!” Of course they weren’t listening.
“Miss Charmaine: Where is Tracy from?”
“Very good, thank you Charmaine.”
“Mr. Ryan: What does Daniel like to do?”
“What does Daniel like to do?”
“You can ask a classmate for help.”
       “Daniel likes running and Facebook!”
“Thank you, Elana. Mr Ryan: What does Daniel like to do?”
“Uh, he likes music.”
“Well, that’s not one of the ones he mentioned. Miss Esther: What does Daniel like to do?”
“He likes running and Facebook.”
“Great! Mr. Ryan: What does Daniel like to do?”
“Good! And what else?”

Oh, dear. Sounds like the sophomores are going to be a fun bunch.

That took us to thirty minutes. Now I’m completely out of ideas. Surprise study hall! Too bad it’s only day two and these sophomores have barely an assignment to work on. I got to practice my librarian shooshing and glaring and “Face forward, please”. They did pretty well until the bell finally rang, and I was out the door.

I ran back to the apartment and quickly changed into sports gear. Our first PE class was starting in five minutes. Agh! After much schedule rearrangement, three periods were merged into one and Mr. Tyson and I now have the privilege of leading the entire student body – all 79 of them – through one hour of Physical Education. Whoa. Nothing makes you feel more like a sports jock than leading seven dozen teenagers through a series of jumping jacks. Halfway through the period, we were out of things to do. Well, this seems familiar. Name games don’t work with eighty people in a gymnasium, however. Open rec!

Two hours later, I headed to supper and sat in on the yearbook committee meeting and (again) contributed nothing. Two days, three committee meetings, and I’m convinced all these students do is plan things. Oi.

After computer lab supervision, it’s time for bed. Farewell, Wednesday. Let us battle again in one week.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Driving in Kenya!

I'm sure there's a line between blogging and oversharing, and I'm sure I've crossed that line if not walked it. But there are so many new things to encounter and experience and live! I'm sure this stage will soon give way to a blog-once-in-a-blue-moon phase (get it? Blue moon? Moon phase? Ha! Corniness can cross oceans). But anywho...

A typical jam of matatus
I drove in Kenya! And there are sweaty finger dents on the steering wheel of the navy blue school van to prove it. I climbed into the right side of the car, backed out of a diagonal space to the left, and made a right turn into traffic, then proceeded down the left side of the road. I hate driving in city traffic in the States; shoot, I generally dislike driving. And U.S. drivers don't generally cut you off. Or ride the curb to pass you. Or share one lane with you. Or pass you when there is an oncoming car. Or pull out in front of you. Or...well, it's very different. VERY different. Poor Mr. Raymond - my driving evaluator - probably felt he was going to go off the shoulder many more times than the once we actually did. Whew. I'm still shaking. But we are alive! And so are all of the pedestrians and matatu passengers and donkeys and goats and baboons. We offered a heartfelt prayer of praise as soon as the vehicle parked in front of the MAA Ad Building. Hallelujah.

Journal Entry

I'm sick of being uncomfortable. I think I'm doing better now than I was at this time last year, but I still feel... not myself. I guess I really define myself as a bubbly, happy person, but I'm only that way when I'm comfortable. I guess what I need are a couple of weeks.

Part of me is nervous that it will only get worse. But I don't think it is. Every day, I have another WOW moment of how perfect this call is for me. PE & Science? Yearbook? Great!

Nothing's ever "normal". Why do expect it to be that way?

Day 1

Chris Rice started singing to me at 5:30 a.m., well before the crickets' nightsong gave way to the twittering of birds. I rolled over to snooze the Mr. Rice alarm and laid back on my pillow to stare at the dark ceiling. Day 1. Lord, help me. It's the first day of school all over again: new schedule, new classes, completely new faces; a stomach full of butterflies and a heart full of anticipation. Jesus, let me be so full of You that I can't hold You in, that You leak out and spill over everything I do. I finally tore my stare off of the ceiling at 6:05 as the girls gathered for dorm worship. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear wafted through my window. I chose my Day 1 outfit to stand out as a mature staff member rather than to fit in as a student peer. The birds sang songs of confidence as I pattered over to the cafeteria in my light brown, faux suede flats. An anticipated anxiety washed over me as my eyes swept the dining room superficially nonchalantly, looking for a friend to sit with. I sat with the friendly SMs, quietly chewing my cereal and fruit while watching the clock. 3, 2, 1...Day 1 has begun.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Students are Coming, the Students are Coming!

Hello again!

It's Sunday. On our calendar of calendars, Sunday is "Students Arrive" day. I've never celebrated "Students Arrive" day. I've never attended "Students Arrive" day. I've actually never even heard of "Students Arrive" day. No wonder I have no idea what to expect.

This is simply new school year number sixteen for Jessica Mae. New school number four. BUT I've always been included in the "students" part of "Students Arrive" day. Why is it that when I am finally made aware of an occasion as momentous as "Students Arrive" day (it's on a printed calendar, after all), I am no longer a student? Tough luck, I suppose.

Strangely enough, I've been looking forward to S.A. day. In the week that I've been here at MAA, I've realized that this year is going to be student missions + task force + camp staffing all rolled up into a neat-looking spring roll. The apprehension of biting into the unidentifiable, strange task remains, but the curiosity and anticipation of finding out what is hidden in front of me is growing.

I can't wait for faces.

It's just like camp Sunday: kids from all over are arriving and unpacking all manners of suitcases from the trunks of all sorts of vehicles. Getting ready for an activity/week of camp/year of school is the worst part. Once the people show up, things get interesting. No longer will I be expecting "students" at P.E.; I'll be expecting Anna and Christopher and Sam. I won't be dreading tutoring the D, F, and I science students; I'll be looking forward to helping Susie and Jonny understand some pretty interesting stuff more clearly. I won't have to supervise couples, but I'll get to keep thinking of new ways to help Alice and Joe find positive avenues to express their feelings (oh, boy).

In other news:
I've done a few interesting things since my last email. The SMs ate out 3 times in 24 hours. Ha. Italian, Indian, and Ethiopian. No Kenyan yet...figures.
A little further down the Food & Flavors page comes a retelling of Jessica and Tyson's first experience with passion fruit. Tyson found the small, dark, hard fruit outside his apartment and decided to share. We cut open the little black ball and found a clump of yellowish-orange, juicy seeds inside. Consistency: slimy frog eggs. Flavor: sour! with a bit of sweet. Rating: 2 out of 5 stars. Likelihood to try again: 0.94.

Yes. I took this picture of a Maasai giraffe. :D
And Lake Naivasha! How could I forget? On Sabbath, all of the staff and their families loaded up the bus and headed out to Lake Naivasha, a large lake in the Rift Valley, a two-hour drive from the school. It's only 115km, but the insane number of speed bumps, crowding street vendors, and livestock doesn't allow anything faster. I'd probably never take my car some of the places this bus goes...sheesh. Anywho, before this trip, I'd seen no wildlife larger than a crane. In just the first fifteen minutes, however, I saw zebras, giraffes, impalas, and monkeys! After our potluck under the greedy monkey-infested trees – boys' dean Richard took the slingshot to a couple monkeys to scare them away from the food – we headed out for a long hike across the savanna and saw more giraffes, more zebras, waterbucks, and even hippos! An awesome experience.

Ok. Time to go meet with the science teacher to get my lab/class schedule! Woohoo! We're almost there. Registration tomorrow and classes start on Tuesday. Thanks for all of your prayers for lots of patience and energy as my first week as staff at an Adventist academy begins! Hoo-ah. I think the roller coaster has finally reached the top of the first hill. Hold on!

P.S. I just posted pictures on my Facebook! Here's the link.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Journal Entry

I was grumpy today. I pride myself on being bubbly and cheerful, but I was downright gloomy. Poor Herbert. lol. No small talk here! I really need my niche. I tend to define myself by the things I do and the people I'm with, and all of that is  new. I should be happy for the brand new clean slate. Instead, I keep grasping for ways to fil it up like it was before. A lot of my comfortable, "me" moments came from comfortable surroundings: staff-camper interactions, happy facade for campers, "real" me for friends... but I'm constantly on first impression grounds here. It's all new. It's all wonderful, but it's not comfrotable. I want to enjoy myself, but I can't seem to relax. There are short moments with the SMs that are glimpses of comfort, but... I was even avoiding people on our hike today. Terrible! Ugh. I keep thinking that things will improve when the students come, when we're in the swing of things, when we're busy. I worry it won't. Agh... I went through the same stage last year at AU. Until I find my spot, my role, I feel useless and restless and awkward. Like now. I'm not even sure what to pray for.

Lord, help me to be more like You.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jog Blog

I went running today. Boy, do I hate running. Runner's high? Never experienced it. Nausea and wheezing and general sense of doom? Every time. Running at Nairobi's 5500 ft elevation compounds matters, too. If I hadn't the obligation to keep up with my running partners, I would have likely turned back before the first hill. I loved the easy downhill stretches and grunted through the forever-long uphill portions – 85º grade, I'm sure. I encountered feelings I was expecting (exhaustion and frustration and accomplishment) as well as those I wasn't (not sweaty; odd).

I suppose I started a similar run exactly one week ago. Warm-ups and training are over; it's time for the real-deal.

Hebrews 12:1,2a :: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


We took a trip into town today to pick up supplies (a new hammock!) and have a bite to eat out (bite out to eat? out for a bite to eat?). As we rattled and clattered our way from one road to another, I began to see stick and mud huts with tin roofs; goats grazing in the ditches, herded about by seven year-old boys with sticks; small lean-tos with acacia thorn branches for fencing. How absolutely blessed I am! These people live in homes as small as the bedroom in my apartment at MAA. This is a ten month detour in my life; this is what they expect for the rest of their lives. I couldn't decide what to leave out of my suitcase; they'd have a hard time filling one. I have friends and family willing to give freely so I could experience the world with Jesus; these Kenyans probably never see the other side of Nairobi. I have free room and board at a gated private school; they'd only dream of attending one. I have a hope that burns within my heart; they fear what tomorrow brings.

Many friends told me that my year as an SM would mirror subsistence living; instead, I realize more and more how privileged I am to be a Stotz, a Wisconian, an Andrews Universite, and an Adventist. "Thanksgiving" isn't just a holiday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Journal Entry

I haven't found a routine yet, and that's really affecting me. I can't even seem to go to bed. No ritual, no closing to my day... I'm sitting in bed with a headlamp because I already turned out the lights, but don't want to go backwards. Ha.

I had a little "Out of Your Element" experience today. I was sick of being so judgmental, particularly of Cassie. I've had a bad attitude. These staff meetings are draining and I was convinced she was going to take over my PE room job. REally, I'm sure she's just as uncomfortable as I am and expresses it differently from me. A Voice whispered to me, "You're out of your element. It's OK. You don't have to be OK with everything yet."
Whew! I've been feeling better and better ever since. Let's see how I feel AFTER staff meeting tomorrow. :/
Nope! None of that. Good attitude. Positive. Cool.
Thanks for knowing me, God. Thou dost rock mine stockings. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Jambo from Kenya!

Jambo, friends and family!

This is Jessica (that one girl from Wisconsin), hailing from Nairobi, Kenya! Unreal. Short update: I’ve arrived. I’m safe. I’m in one piece. I’ve encountered lots of security, an episode involving my carry-on, restless leg syndrome, 7 and 8.5 hr flights, flight attendants who ask for my “rubbish”, a large Syrian man guarding me from the aisle, enough ear popping to rival a box of Rice Krispies, luggage lost for 2 days, jet lag, a Kenyan mall, a frustrating alarm clock, a 6 mile hike through the bush, herds of goats and their goatherds, and missionaries from all over the world.
Long version: Too long. I've been working on an email update in installments while waiting for internet access. Your email inbox would probably burst with an email of that length, so I broke it up into installments and posted it here on my blog (see below). This way, any eye injury sustained due to those posts is no fault of mine. ;)

Crowned Crane similar to one I saw on our Sabbath hike
First, I'll try to answer all of the questions:
- Location/mailing address: Maxwell Adventist Academy // Private Bag Mbagathi // Nairobi, Kenya 00503
- Apartment: somewhat spacious and completely lovely. Living room, kitchen, bathroom shared with fellow SM Cassie. Bedroom to myself. I'd have all my friends over if I had a set-up like this at AU.
- Weather: PERFECT (70º, no bugs, no humidity). They tell me this is winter. They also tell me that the temperature doesn't vary much from 75º year-round. I am skeptical, yet they have proven themselves honest in other areas.
- Food: Delicious! Haven't really had any Kenyan food yet; very international dishes. Potatoes/bread/rice/all of the above at every meal. Jessica and her palate are pleased.
- Sleep: I think I'm finally caught up. 24 hrs of travel and an 8 hr time jump didn't make the first couple of days easy.
- People: super nice and outgoing and eager to introduce themselves to you. Jambo! Karibu to Kenya.
- Time: 8 hours later than CDT
- Jobs: Science tutor, science lab assistant, PE instructor, yearbook advisor
- Internet: Connection in my apartment. Skype works well! Even when the internet's down...trippy.
- Wildlife: Roadside, I've seen one baboon and packs of donkeys. In the brush, I've seen numerous birds and about a dozen Thomson's gazelles that live on the campus.

I'm sure that doesn't answer all of the questions, but it's a start. :D

I feel as though I'm floating on all of your prayers! Thanks for your encouragement and thoughts and support. I can't wait to hear what adventures are knocking at your doorstep! Keep me updated.


BackBlog #3

We got to go on our first hike today. I saw thorns and grass and corn and dirt and a crowned crane and cattle and a goatherd and his herd of goats and a bunch of friendly, waving, “Jambo!”-shouting Kenyans. I even saw prickly pear cacti. 5 feet from a field of corn. I never thought I’d see the day.
Immediately preceding the hike was a smorgasbord of delightful dishes from around the world. Food from the Philippines, Spain, Colombia, Panama, the U.S., Kenya, Uganda, and more found its way "down the hatchet" as fellow SM Cassie would say. :D

Saturday, August 14, 2010

BackBlog #2

After a three-hour layover at London’s Heathrow airport, it was off to the races again. Same plane model, same seat location, longer flight. Ugh. This time, though, I slept. Yep. It was glorious. And I saw the Nile River! Also glorious.
As we prepared to land, the captain dimmed the lights in the cabin, and I could finally see the lights of Nairobi spilled out on the grassland below. I experienced a bit of the rollercoaster feeling again; that exhilarating, sickening feeling you get when you’re finally strapped in and there’s no turning back. As soon as this plane landed, I’d be grounded for the next ten months. Whoa (I’ve been doing lots of “whoa”-ing lately).
Cassie and I entered the airport and waited in the line for visas. Then we waited in the line for out-of-country passports. We were free to pick up our baggage! Maybe. We roamed the baggage claim area and inspected all four working carousels (two were, well, not working). We also checked the random piles of luggage. No luck. Two SMs, two bags each; missing. Uh-oh. We turned to see what the large “queue” (seriously, I want a British accent) of people was waiting for. “Swissport Luggage Services” the booth read. Lovely. Half of the 100+ passengers on our B777 flight were missing their luggage. After waiting in the visa and passport lines for 1+ hrs, we decided to have some more Kenyan fun and hop in this line, too. For 1.5 hrs. Joy. Thankfully, we had Pastor Kent and Dean Suzan Crutcher from Maxwell waiting patiently for us to come out with our luggage. Which we didn’t. But we finally were able to leave our address and luggage description with the service clerk and loaded up the Land Cruiser for the drive to Maxwell, sans luggage. Kent did his best to point out items of interest while Cassie and I scoured the darkness with bleary eyes for places like Tusky’s supermarket in the bustling suburb (can I call it that?) of Ongata Rongai. We arrived and unloaded what luggage we had and were shown the ins and outs of our new apartment. A kitchen with stove/oven/microwave/filtered water/toaster, a small living room, and two bedrooms with a bathroom in between. If I had an apartment like this at Andrews, I’d be quite pleased, really. ☺
We crashed into our beds around 12:30p local time and I slept well until 7:30a. Woot. We putzed around the house until about 9:30 before we went to the Crutcher’s house to ask for a campus tour from Kent. He showed us inside, outside, and around each building, but I’m still not quite sure I’m oriented. Blame it on my superb sense of direction. Then we had a little bit of chill time before lunch at the Sandoval’s at 12:30p; delicious. We headed out to the mall (at something Junction…I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually) and had 2 hours to kill in the mall. Give some jetlagged SMs a few shillings in a foreign mall before they’ve been there long enough to use anything up and you won’t keep them busy for more than an hour. Thankfully we ran into one of the other MAA faculty in the mall and she gave us the keys to the van and we took a little catnap. On the drive home, I was frightened at the thought of driving myself to these little shops, but it sounds as though the opportunity is available and somewhat encouraged. Driving on the left side of the road while avoiding donkeys and baboons and crazy passing vehicles and numerous pedestrians doesn’t sound appealing yet. I fought sleep when we got back and decided to go for a little stroll around the campus. Beautiful. The sun was just beginning to set over the Ngong hills and the temperature hovered around 70º with a light breeze. No bugs, no humidity…wow. I could live here…hey, I am! Yay.

Friday, August 13, 2010

BackBlog #1

The last day and a half has been like a very long moment frozen in time. It never felt as though I would eventually arrive in Kenya. Kenya is a far away distant land that exists in fairy tales and books and pictures, and other people go there, but it’s not real life enough for me to ever get there. I feel as though I’m a traveler stuck in limbo, like I’m going to be living in airports for an interminable amount of time. I’m in a dreamworld. I feel like I’m watching everyone go by without really being there, like I’m simply a human behavior data collection center disguised as a Midwestern nearly-travel-clueless blonde. Tricky.
Traveling has gone relatively smoothly. After a final Taco Bell run, I bid farewell to Mom, Dad, and sister Jo and headed inside the Minneapolis airport to find a nice long security line. I (quite frazzled by now) made it just in time for the scheduled boarding call, just to find the flight slightly delayed. By the time I was called onto the very full flight to Chicago, the overhead bins were full and the airline agent gate-checked my carry-on. No biggie. When we landed in Chicago, I checked outside the door of the plane to find my carry-on. Nope. I walked to the end of the breezeway. Nuh-uh. I asked the attendant where to find it: “Oh, you’ll have to go out through security to baggage claim 6, then back through security to Terminal 5.” I’m in Terminal 1. Ugh. My layover in Chicago was only a little over an hour to begin with, so the delayed flight really made things interesting. I waited and waited at baggage claim 6, all the while doubting myself: Shouldn’t the gate-checked luggage come first, since it was loaded last? Why isn’t mine here? Did I misinform the flight attendant and fail to tell him I was getting off in Chicago? Did I leave my bag at the gate, on the other side of security? More ugh. I impatiently watched the minutes slip toward the 4:35p boarding time. My bag appeared! Woohoo. I rushed to Terminal 5, all the while imagining a long line at international security, a closed gate, and my flight to London taking my luggage on to Nairobi without me. A continuous prayer – consisting of muttering only God could understand – was answered, and I got to my gate with minutes to spare. Some of the residual effects of the stress-adrenaline reaction were alleviated by a bubbly greeting from fellow SM Cassie. Though we shared the flight, we were sitting at opposite windows of the same aisle. Go figure.
Thoughts regarding the flight to London: I was pleased to have an empty seat next to me. I was also pleased to have a large, bald, very kind Syrian man on the other side of that seat. I saw the sun set on North America and rise over London; kind of fitting, I thought. I heard the most high-pitched scream known to man from the poor little girl kitty-corner to me – she didn’t enjoy flying. A flight attendant asked for my “rubbish”, tehe. Someday I will have a British accent and flaunt it everywhere I go.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Far, far away

August 11 has always been very far away, an intangible christening of my student missionary experience. Far, far away; like happily ever after. You know that happily ever after that just happens, but it's never experienced? The one that whisks away the knight and maiden into the sunset and everything is perfect? Yep, that one. The same type of adventure that steals away student missionaries, keeps them for a year, and returns them as the new and improved "them". The happily ever after that poses a time-space conundrum: the year that didn't exist. Those friends were just not around, and they were given some cool stories and photos to make it seem as though they were living life, not just escaping it for a few months. Yep. Far, far, far away, in a place that you'll never actually be, in a year that you'll never actually live.

T-minus 16 hours until take-off to far, far away.

I was pretty sure this day would never come. Well, I knew that August 11 day would come, but not "British Airways Flight Number 65 is now boarding, with service to Nairobi, Kenya" day. Not "See you later, sister! I mean, see you in a while..." day. Not one-of-my-four-bags-weighs-70-lbs. day. Nope. This day was a distant thought that grew and faded and died and was resurrected and blew in the wind and changed shape and direction and feeling and finally settled on August 11. And thoughts like these rarely become living experiences.

Nine, ten, eleven...It's August 10. August 11 comes next. That's all I know. I don't know what else to expect. But the best of adventures are the ones that surprise you. Woooohooooo!! I'm about to have the best adventure; care to join me? :D

Thursday, August 05, 2010


In the past week, I've had to bid a 10-month goodbye to many of my best friends. Oofta. As my friend Kristen put it, "Goodbye is just goodbye"; a statement that grows wiser with age. I always feel as though my goodbyes need to give some sort of closure, to somehow make the departure okay. But that's not a goodbye's job. A goodbye is simply a goodbye.

Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes.
I know what I need. I need more hellos. 

Well, lookee there; a wish comes true. For as much as I hate goodbyes, bad-byes must be much worse, and I haven't had any of those. I've got nothing but first-time hellos on the other side of the ocean. This has got to be good. Here's to more hellos.

Uv Ájéd

Exclusive screening of the opening scene of Kickin' in Kenya! Only two individuals were privy to this event...
I brought my Californian friend to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport today, and couldn't help but sense the backward viewing of the impending episode of déjá vu. I will be making the same trip, to the same airport, at nearly the same time, in just one week. WHOA. I got butterflies in my stomach, and I wasn't even the one flying. I'm going to be the one standing in that ticket line, putting my luggage on the table...the next time I'll see it will be in AFRICA. The next time I'll sleep in a bed will be in AFRICA. The next patch of dirt I'll step onto will be in AFRICA. This is UNREAL. Overuse of CAPS is VERY necessary.