Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 15, 2010

I've been waiting for this day for a while. It's the first day of Christmas are bidding farewell left and right.

At camp, kids go home after just a week. A week is long enough to get to know the excited side of a person...4 months is long enough to get to know the ups and downs, ins and outs of someone.

On September 21, I noted that I was afraid to grow to love work here. I knew it'd hurt to leave it. On October 8, I wondered why we make new friends when we know it leads to more farewells.

As excited as I thought I'd be to see the students off, I'm getting a little lonesome. It will be nice to have a break, but I don't want to have the break without the students. The campus is going to be reallllly empty.

I think I'm afraid of being happy because whenever I get too happy something bad always happens. -Charlie Brown (Charles Schulz)

I've been avoiding liking life here. I like life at home so much, I don't want to be missing a life away from home when I get back. I've been guarding my heart, unwilling to be happy, comparing life now to life I know.

I'm going to miss this.
I knew I would.

I don't regret allowing myself to love it.
I thought I would.

I guess it's (kind of) like having kids. You know they're going to ooze from every orifice, but you want to have them anyway. You know they'll cry and whine and moan and keep you home and away from social outings with friends, but you want to have them anyway. You know they're going to grow up to be teenagers and act like they hate your guts, yet you want to have them anyway.
I know these students won't remember dilution equations next year; I'm lucky if they remember it for the period. I know they won't pay as much attention as I like while I'm explaining their homework for the umpteenth time. I know they'll show up late to class, and won't turn in their work, and will glare at me when I shush them in the library. I suspect they won't open up and spill their life stories...
yet I still want to serve them.

How much greater and more vastly unfathomable is the love of a King who would serve a nation that despises Him?

Life in Books

Reading of home is like reading a worn edition of a classic. I can read of snow and cold and fireplaces, but it's simply a distant memory that I can feel long ago, an environment that I can relate to; the characters are no more real than Huckleberry Finn or Oliver Twist.

Perhaps it's a defense mechanism. I can read the story, enjoying the mood and the scenery and the emotions of the characters, but I don't have to be wrapped up in them. I'm not missing from the story. I don't have to deal with those feelings if I don't feel like it.

It's easier to believe that home is on pause, frozen in the pages of a book. A "to be continued..." that has a 10 month hiatus between editions.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here Comes the Bride

Marriage = green card.
Marriage = popularity and fame.
Marriage = Jessica's near future?

Daniel speaking with 60s-man
Meet Daniel. A couple weeks ago, three hearty men (in their 20s, 30s, and 60s respectively) and one ill-informed lady took to the hills for a Sabbath afternoon trek. Daniel is from the Maasai village, a friend of the 30s-man. Daniel offered to show us around the hills.
Jessica is an mzungu (foreigner, European, white person, etc.). Jessica is also a female. These two qualities combine to make a prime candidate for a wife.

"So, Jaysca; you are not married?"
"Nope. Not yet..."
"And you live in the United States?"
"Yep! In cold Wisconsin."
"I've always wanted to visit America...will you be married soon?"
"Uh, um, yes! As soon as I get back home. Yep."
"Oh. ...You have friends?"

Oh boy.
I wonder how many cows I'm worth?

A Tale of Two Packages

It was a simple package; an off-brand ziploc bag with a message in permanent marker: "For Jessica Stotz. A taste of Wisconsin." The contents were invaluable: two slabs of cheddar and colby jack cheese (certified Wisconian) and a bottle of Wisconsin-brewed Sprecher root beer. Oh, beautiful joy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

An unedited, unlabored, unrestrained bbbbblah

It's Christmas Eve.

I haven't battled the crowds to get that special something for my family members.
I haven't made my yearly snowman/snowangel/dash through the snow barefoot.

I've just dined on mashed potatoes, green beans, and meatloaf (with Bullseye!) with two other Maxwell families.

I'm more worried about my family than I am about myself. This is a good thing.

If I had a choice, of course I'd be with my family now. But I wouldn't trade in this meal, either. I guess I'd choose to have all three families together...but Mom would accuse me of being too political. ;)

Christmas Eve is going to be ok. I'll love Christmas Eve a year from now too, though. I'm just praying that Christmas at home is happy. I feel special that there's a Jess-sized hole there, but I hope it's the kind of hole that makes people happy when they notice it.

Merry Christmas, family. I can't wait to celebrate it with ALL of you...maybe the shepherds will be there, too.

Journal Entry

Unto us a Son is given; unto us a Child is born. He shall be our King forever. Worthy is the Lamb, Who became flesh and dwelt among us! He shall reign forever and ever! Glory to GOD in the highest, and on earth: Peace to men.
Come (again) quickly, Lord Jesus, for we have this hope.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ahh, the Power of Cheese

What am I doing right now? Enjoying a little piece of heaven.

Even I had forgotten how absolutely wonderful Wisconsin cheese's a good thing there's no one else in my apartment to witness my face-stuffing, finger-licking snarfage. Oh wow. It's like a candy bar, but better. I can only bear to eat a small chunk at a time. Oooh the sharp bite! The rich aroma! The slightly squeaky texture! Mystery friend from Union who sent me this taste of Wisconsin, you are loved. Oh so much.

Happiness. Wrapped.

Merry Christmas. Seriously.

(Santa agrees with me: watch this)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jessica's Recipe for "Happily Exhausted"

1 brunch, cooked and served for 100 people
1 water park
2 water slides
1 pool
1 nap in the sunshine
1 amazing candlelit supper with SMs at a lovely house on the hill
Songs around the piano, as desired
1 Skype date with friend until 12:30p
1 sunrise on the mountain at 5:40a
4 bumpy rides in 2 Land Cruisers 
1 breakfast of mangoes and granola
1 30 minute nap
1 Maasai "friend" looking for an American mzungu wife (So, Jayssca, you are not married? You are
        young? Are you married soon? Do you have friends? I have always wanted to visit America...)
4 hours of hiking in the rocky highlands, traversing rocky/dusty/slippery/grassy terrain between 1800m
        and 2500m altitude (*wheeze*)
1 locked apartment door
1 forced entry
1 shower (oh, glorious day)
1 water heater turned BBQ grill
2 paving tiles heated upon above grill
4 pieces of pizza from said grill
896 spiders and webs cleaned from corners of church
1 late-night nap
1 Skype date with the parents (first time to see them in 4 months!)

    Combine all ingredients in a 40hr period. Bake under African sun long enough to get two different sunburn lines. Bundle into bed to recuperate.

    Things to look for at an African water park

    • Men in Hanes. Nothing else.
    • Women in white t-shirts and shorts. Nothing else.
    • Boys wearing red tights. 
    • Men wearing wind pants and wind jacket set.
    • Swimsuits worn OVER shorts.
    • Lifeguards without a lick of red on them.
    • Bellows echoing from the mouth of a water slide as three grown men splash into the pool, giggling at themselves while a gathered crowd chuckles and points jovially.
    • Numerous shaded huts, but no chairs to sun by the pool.
    • Hundreds of HUGE smiles.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    The Wise Man and a Student

    "Wise teacher", the pupil asked. "Why is it that when I am more closely aligned with the Way that I am more plagued by troubles and find it harder to follow what you teach?"
    "Walk with me," he replied.

    As night approached, they came to a clearing with a small fire surrounded a small handful of travellers as they paused on their way. They stood in silence, facing the flames, until the teacher finally spoke.

    "Do you see your shadow?"
    "No, teacher; I do not."
    "Because it is behind me."
    "Turn to look at it. Is it very clearly defined?"
    "Not as defined as a man face to face, but I can distinguish it as my own."
    "Is the shadow dark?"
    "Dark enough that I can see it clearly, Sensei."

    The wise man stepped closer to the flames, watching the sticks crumble, spitting sparks as they fell. The disciple stood beside him.
    "Do you see your shadow?"
    "No, teacher; I do not."
    "Why is this so?"
    "Teacher, you know as well as I! It lies behind me."
    "Turn to look at it. What does it tell you?"
    "It is sharper than before; more defined. It also appears darker than the previous shadow, in contrast to the light around it."
    "So you tell me that as you came nearer to the source of the light, the shadows became more pronounced and darker, more easily distinguished?"
    "Can a man very far from the flame trace his own shadow?"
    "Not without another source of light, no."

    "And where do you stand in relation to the shadow and the flame?"
    "I am between them, sir."

    "You have spoken wisely. The closer you are to the source of the light, the darker shadows seem. Coming closer to the light makes the darkness appear darker, making the distinction between darkness and light less grey.  Even things that did not appear as shadows in dim light are exposed as such when brought near to the flame's brightness.
    "Notice also that as long as you face the light, the shadows are unnoticed. But turning away from the light shows you a dark reflection of yourself, not the true you. Only the Light can expose what you truly are.

    "Both the shadow and the Light fall upon you. You choose which to face."

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Rumbly in my Tumbly

    I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; 
    I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.
    To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, you did it to Me. Matt 25:35, 40

    A long, bumpy, precarious drive into the brush brought a caravan of Maxwell vehicles to the outskirts of a Maasai manyatta. Clad in their brightly colored clothes and armed with their cylindrical jugs, women lined up to receive bags of rice, beans, maize, and salt, and to fill their containers with clean water.

    I was hungry, too. 
    Boy, did I feast.

    Monday, December 06, 2010

    The Door Says "Pull"

    We are gifted, aren't we?
    Push back the thoughts.
    Push through the impatience.
    Push against the constraints.
    Push back the memories.
    Push through the anger.
    Push back the frustrations.
    Push against the unexpected.
    Push against change.
    Push through the day.

    Push. Push. Push. Push.

    Silence! Be still. . .

    The door says "Pull".

    Stop pushing. Let your Gentleman open the door for you.

    Doing Hard Things

    I don't do very many hard things here.
    I get enough sleep, no intense physical labor, no studying...

    But I sure do a lot of things I don't want to do.

    I'm surprised by which is harder.


    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    The Night 'Fore December

    'Twas the night 'fore December, and really quite swell:
    'Twas Jessica's town day; time to rest for a spell.

    First she and roomie sped off to the store,
    Unfortunate parking left a vehicle sore.
    Their countenance dimmed and their spirits more lowly,
    They pulled into Nakumatt's parking SO slowly.

    Quick shopping returned them to school in a flash
    Fifteen minutes late for the piano bash.

    Jess listened with pleasure to hear students start
    Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and even Mozart.
    She enjoyed every moment, and when it was o'er,
    She turned to her apartment for an afternoon snore.

    No snoozing awaited in her apartment once bare;
    It was time for a deco fest, to make house guests stare!
    The festive doorway
    Reindeer and snowflakes and bulbs doors adorned
    To combat a sickness of those home-forlorned*.

    Now all too soon it was time for the game
    When Ms. Jess would suit up, not looking the same.
    Her mask she would don and her pads she'd arrange...
    For a floor hockey goalie she didn't look strange.

    A minute hand's trip round the clock time had passed;
    The Lightning were down 7-1 at the last.
    Jess cleaned up alone and scurried to dinner,
    Wishing oh wishing that she were the winner.

    Upon her arrival to the bustling café
    Her roommate rushed out, meeting halfway.
    "It's our night for worship!" she cried with a rasp;
    "Tonight?? In an hour?" dear Jess' voice gasped.

    Others 'round her were eating, but she just could not –
    Appetite disappeared for a pizza served hot.
    She dashed to the place where the meetings are held;
    There held her hands still and her nervousness quelled.

    They picked out three songs in the span of a minute –
    Each one was chosen for three chords within it.
    D, G, and A: an accompanist's friends
    When she's simply a pianist who fully pretends.

    Jess' topic of Tofu was chosen last second,
    Recycled from Improv when last minute beckoned.
    "You taste like your friends, so choose wisely now!
    "If you hang out with pigs, you'll taste like a sow."

    She stayed up real late to prepare for the 'morrow,
    She's quite sure it's packed full of grief, strife and sorrow.

    All that's now happened was December's eve.
    December 1st you just won't believe...

    Jess woke up and showered and dressed to the buttons;
    The chores on her plate were far, far from nuttin'.
    She hurriedly prepped for her afternoon classes
    To sub for a friend's test to drive with the masses.

    Elementary it was, but not Dr. Watson:
    3rd, 4th through 6th, and a girl from Wisconsin.
    It was fun! It was grand! But it ate up the morning.
    Soon it was lunchtime; it seemed without warning.

    She scarfed her food quickly and ran to the lab
    Surprisingly Jess was still feeling quite fab.
    Chem I came and went, followed right by Chem II,
    Just one Physics lab and the day's almost through!

    4:20 bell sounds, and she's off with a dash –
    Meets the maintenance man who's shaved his mustache.     (No Shave November's met its end!)
    She's Clark Kent of science as she ducks in her room:
    Seconds later she's out in her PE duds; zoom!

    Jess jogs into class with no minute to spare,
    But does not find all of her girl students there.
    She's tempted to "tardy" but is feeling quite gracious:
    Her students' malingering is far from malacious*.

    An hour has passed; skipping rope, giggles too:
    Ms. Jessica's day of days is almost through!
    She cleans up the gym, eats her food, cleans the lab...
    Comp lab supervision is last on her tab.

    Then she goes for a run to let off some steam:
    Five minutes, ten minutes, twelve and fifteen.
    Thirty-five is the finish, and the end of her play –
    PTL she can look back and say, "Great good day!"

    Now if you're feeling just like your day's overwhelming,
    There're bills to be paid, and the children are yell(m)ing*:
    Don't forget Who knows all of His plans just for you:
    "I know them," He says; "Let Me help you through."

    *No. These are not words. But I am also not a poet. Deal with it.