tree background

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dans La Republique Du Bonheur!

Sunday, while riding the bus in Lyon, I saw a sign and thought...yes...that's exactly right.


It says, "In the country of happiness."

France, for me, is like coming home. It's like seeing an old friend you haven't seen in a long time but didn't know you were missing. And a million other analogies like...your favorite shoes, or your old favorite song, or like when you smell something that takes you back to honeysuckles in spring.

Walking around France is also like walking through my memories real time. Kind of terminator style. (the boys on my group just informed me that that reference doesn't make sense.) Basically, if you imagine a pair of glasses where one lens looks back and one lens looks forward and you're looking at both at the same time. I love that I'm making new memories in parallel with my old memories...sort of like re-memories.

One of my favorite re-memories are the pastries. Oh la! The pastries. I've had to exert some level of self control...only two a day.
My health coach is cursing me right now! But I've also been able to stick to my exercise goals because Lyon is an amazing place to run. There are two rivers that go right through the heart of the city with a great running trail the entire length of both. Can you see the stairs descending the side of the river?


It's also just a great city to explore on foot and get your fit bit steps in! I finally passed my friend Marshall on the now I feel really good about things! That's straight up 7.5 miles in one day! Just walking around!

And when you're done eating and walking around, France is just the kind of place where you sit in a park and drink hot chocolate in a tiny glass and reflect on the meaning of life. After all it is the country of happiness.

Here's a fun video of the team exploring the city!

Loves to you all,


Friday, August 27, 2010

Owen & Mzee

I've been home a little over a week. And i've had a lot to come home to! And there's a lot to say about that, and think about that, and process with that. And all that is the blog post for another day. Sufficeth it to say that reentry, although blissfully laden with hot showers and doctor pepper, has not been easy. And I feel the joy in my eyes slowly seeping back into the hidden crevices of the bottom shelf like a bubble bath left alone too long.
I've done little to retain the joy, to prevent it from slipping back into the deeper parts of me. I could attribute my reemersion into reality to the 2x4 of confusion that painfully wacked me upside the head one week ago today. Or to the functional necessity of work and the mass's petty dramas of human interaction. Who knows why America errods me?
For whatever reason, I know that my face does reflect the joy, the incredible sense of rightness, that I see when i look at my picture with Owen. (Owen is the beautiful african baby that I met while in Uganda that cosmically shifted my universe for those of you that don't remember...)
And then today, God sent me a little joy bug. Like an annoyingly persistant mosquito that swarms around your head, you can hear it, you can sense it approaching, but you can't quite locate it enough to squash it before it gets you. And instead of sucking your life from you for its selfish purpose, it infuses you with a little burst of life force and then unselfishly goes on its merry way. And today that joy bug is a book called Owen and Mzee.

On my way back from a week long regional training event in Chattanooga, a week of out to eat suitcase living, and a week of still not feeling home home, I decided to stop at Nashville's montly flea market. I've been living here in Nashville for a year and have always wanted to go but have never been able to. Last night I had a dream of a treasure chest for Ft. Miriam and decided that I needed to stop by the flea market and find one.

So I park for free becuaes it's friday. And i immerse myself into the smells and sounds and sights of an american day in the south. It reminded me of the african markets with crates of junk, smells of fried food, and lots of interesting people to see. I found my treasure chest after about 20 mintues and $20. Perfect! But I kept wandering.
And then i ended up at this children's book vender. $3 a book he warmly informs me. $3? What the great day? And so i joyously read all the preschool books wondering to myself if Owen has any books? If he has anyone to read to him at night as he's falling asleep? If anyone has even taken the time to teach him his letters? I opened all the pop up books (they are my favorite.) I touched all the fuzzy books. And I giggled at all the countdown books of monkeys, acorns, and bumblebees. I try to experience these silly books like Owen would. The first time feelig the soft fake fur of a bear, the cuddly material of a baby sheep. It's enough to break my heart the longing I feel to curl up with this baby and read him a story.
I picked up two copies of my favorite book " I love you becuase you're you" and nearly cried wishing I could hand deliver it to that baby in Africa and tell him how true it is and how enternal it could be if only it's God's will.
And i started to hear it...the buzz buzz of the joy bug. Zooming around my head and heart, reminding me that there is a Creater and a Master Planner who knows where each of His children are and what each of His children need. And I stood still a moment to see if the joy bug would land so that I could feel the full infusion.
And then I saw it. The joy bug. Right on the tip of my nose.
In a book named Owen and Mzee. It's the real life story of a rescued baby hippopotumus from Kenya and his unlikly friendship with a giant turtle named Mzee.
Owen was lost, stuck, and hurting for a family. He was vulnerable and yet already heavy. Mzee was solitary, hardened and protected by an enormous shell perfectly content to roam the boma alone.
Owen's uncanny ability to persistanlty force Mzee to face him, their supernatural ability to communicate (they developed sound paterns unique to both of their species), and the obvious force of need and affection, created an inseperable and unusual connection not before seen or fully understood in the animal world.
Now they can be seen eating, swiming, sleeping, and playing together. Scientists don't know what provoked or maintains this connection. All they know is that "no matter how things turn out, the story of their frineship will always remind the world that when you need a friend, one will be there for you. And that best friends come in all colors, shapes and sizes."

And so do mommys and baby boys.


Monday, August 16, 2010

ground zero

Today is the last day... the countdown says zero. ground zero to rentry. ground zero to the new shai who has lived in africa. The jumping off point for my new life, my new adventure, my new future. I don't even think it's going back home. It's not going back at all. Everything is different now...

wow. That's really all i can say. Wow. It's over. I did it. And now i'm coming home. I can't decide what i'm feeling really. I know i definately don't feel like working on my last day...i'm totally distracted, totally checked out from this whole school policy writing business...

This weekend was frustrating and confusing and overwhelming. It gave me realization that yessh i'm so done with the african schedule.can't people just show up when they say the will? I mean seriously!

And then there was connection and some of the strongest most powerful love i've ever felt in my life and i thought yessh how have i been living without this my whole life? How can i ever leave these people.

I bought an african dress. With a head wrap and everything. I felt so silly - like a total poser. But strangers stopped me on the street and told me how smart i look. (thats african for beautiful) And the complements were flowing like orange fanta. It was a nonstop onslaught of "wows! and incredibles!" and my favorite - "you make a beautiful African woman." and even though it's crazy - why not believe them? Why not accept that I look smart?

i'm sure my 36 hour return trip will give me time to process all the lessons and changes that africa has given me. I haven't put them all together yet.

But this weekend i took a bus by myself. Negotiated my own taxi fares. Met with a man who wants to open a school here and told him what he needs to do, like i'm some sort of expert. Handled the Genocide memorial with out a shoulder to cry on - i handled and processed all that emotion and pain and then released it into the past of Rwanda. I went to the market by myself, bought my own dinner, and did my own bargaining. I spoke in church, lead the music, taught an unexpected sunday school lesson. I gave open and complete love to the frustrations of family and cultural differences. I committed to the universe to jump into the unknown and the scary. I totally navigated the city and the waves of the weekend.

and on my taxi ride home last night, i thought to myself - wow. i've done it. I've totally done it. I've helped to open a school for women in a developing nation. I've fallen in love. I have a new son, a new future. The past 18 years of planning and dreaming have happened.

I make a beautiful African woman.

Godfrey's eyes are closed but we're still cute huh?

See you wednesday America.



ode to dr pepper

the thirst is a haunting me like a child hood ghost story
lurking under my bed
ready to appear
ready to attack
ready to overtake me at my weakest moment

the need is aching like the missing of a memory
stuck inside my subconscious
ready to appear
ready to attack
ready to overtake me at my weakest moment

the want is consuming me like the obsession of an adict
breaking through my will to work
ready to appear
ready to attack
overtaking me...

Friday, August 13, 2010

ahhh...uganda day 2

Wow Life is happening so fast i don't even have time to record everything!

Before i recap Uganda day 2, everyone please know i'm safe and protected and everythign is fine. Elections happened here. They were peaceful and beautiful from what i hear (I was in Uganda on day 3). Until Wednesday night. There was grenade attack in town where several people at a bus stop were injured. Final numbers have not been released yet. I was about 30 yards from the attack but inside a building and didn't hear or know about any of it. Luckily, my friends were looking out fo rme, called me, and told me to go home right away. I was obviously distraught but a guardian angel apporoached me, and, in french, asked me what i needed and how she could help. She got me a moto taxi, explained to the driver where i needed to go, and sent me on my way. She smoothly transitioned me from a panic stricken crazy situation to the safety of home. I'm so grateful for the french guardian angel lady and that once again God saw it in his wisdom to teach me french. Please pray for those affected by the terrible and vicious stupidity of others.
Ok Uganda day 2.

Church. I went to a little church that meets in an old house. There is a keyboard but no one to play it. Instead we sing off key occapella with all the ferver of the pioneers. These people really sing with joy. and the man conducting the music, who didn't actually know how to conduct (or even sing for that matter) was just waving his arms around and smiling with his whole face and practically shouting hosanna with his heart. It was beautiful to watch. But no pictures in church so you'll have to imagine him!

Then sunday school taught by a 17 year old. And he was soo Good! We sat the garage of the old house with no windows and folding chairs. We had our back to the sun and our hearts to an old chalk board proped up against the wall. And then the class for the women - what we mormons called Relief Society. And we had a talk about Faith in Christ. And noone knows faith in Christ like an african woman. They don't just believe it. They are it. They are a walking testimony of the power of Faith. how else could you live with the burden of being an African women caught inbetween the past and the future. Loving your children but hating the possibilities denied to you becuase of your gender. And for some reason they thought i had somethign meaningful to say and asked me to speak. So i shared about the power of dreams and the committment of our Heavely Father to the happiness of his children. And that the universal language that unites us all is the love of God. And it seems the message was for me and not for these beautiful women. It was a testimony to my own ears that my heart was sharing with me.

After church a lengthy and bumpy car ride to the place where my life changed. We went to see Godfrey's mom who runs a boarding house for 150 boys that are attending school. As we pull up, a small boy in a red shirt, walks up to me and puts his hand in mine. And the stars alingned and the heavens shifted and my world moved to orbit this child.

His name is Owen. He is 5. He's had a terrible story and the burn marks on his arm to prove it. But he has the most beautiful smile, and face, and soul, and everything. And he is now part of me. And will be coming home with me soon.

Illogical? Yes! Difficult? Hell yes. Detered? Not in the least.
Thenwe drove to another villiage to meet Godfrey's grandma. She wasn't there but we found several other beautiful children running barefoot through their front yard. And woman making dinner in banana leaves. But not for us becuase we were eating at Godfrey's sister's house. Spagetti and mashed potatos and this awesome salsa thing. DELICIOUS!!!
During our driving around in the villiages and staring into the face of so many children, I felt their eyes begging me why i was born in the land of limitless future and they were born to play in a trash heap. And I had no answer for them. No response.
What can a middle class white girl (who spends an entire villiage's salary on one semester of universsity) say to these children begging me for future? What can this middle class white girl say to herself when her heart is breaking for the children of africa?
I know i'm not the first to travel those bumpy ungandan village roads. and i know i'm not the first to morn for the limited future of the trash pile children. But for that Sunday night car ride i felt like i was moving through a simulated reality. I was driving back to my $40 hotel room and my limitless options, and my wide open future - and leaving behind red dirt and beans for dinner, and barefooted trashpile entertainment. And I could feel my heart breaking as I watched the sun set on the villiage.
I moved as rapidly as i could muster a response to the "evening welcome home sista" to the security guard, secure my hotel key, and make it to my room. And then the african emotional tsunami hit. And i could feel the injustice and unfairness of the russian rullet of life cresting inside of my body like a boiled over pot of ramen noodles. And the total helplessness of knowing that i left those children in the villiage, and my meager resoucres could not take them all to my nashville cottage, and that giving them american might not even change anything, left me totally drained on the bathroom floor.
Even sitting on the toilet while taking a shower did not help my heart as it would in any other circumstance.
And all I could think is "why do i have a future and they don't?" all those babies. all that need. what can i actually do here? but maybe they don't want the future that I had. maybe they like the villiage. maybe i should stop projecting my own american guilt onto their simple and happy life.
Maybe i should jsut sit on the toilet and wash my hair.
And wonder how Africa incited so much emotion in me that my nose actually started bleeding.
Which is a first.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ahh....uganda - Day 1.

I made it! I am not a sex slave. I did not get kidnapped. And it was not a huge mistake. It was incredible.

First the bus ride. We loaded at 5:00pm after a brief run in with a money changer. (they tried to rip me off like $20 bucks!) But we caught them! And then we were on our way. 10 hours of bumpy twisty turny dirt road yuckyness. But we made it around 4am uganda time. And i'm almost certain I contracted a parasite somewhere along the way. Maybe it was the peeholes or the lack of sanitary food...who knows. But for the majority of the trip it felt like rabid squirrels were trying to claw their way out of my intenstinal track. Rabid quirrels and windy dirt ugandan roads at 2 am was not my favorite combination. But the anticipation of the experience was a legitimate distraction.

After a brief stop at the boarder between Uganda and Rwanda, and a deliciously cold Mountain Dew,

we made our way to our hotel, Hotel Barbados. and you could sit on the toilet and wash your hair in the shower! The hotel was 80,000 Uganda Shillings per night which equals about $37 a night. And I had a big four poster bed with a mosquito net that had lace around the edges. and even thought the matress was like a big foam rock, I had a pillow and a hot shower and scrambled eggs every morning so I was a happy happy camper!

After very little sleep, we headed out for a town called Jinja, like ninja but with a J. A total tourist trap for idiots like me who treasure natural wonders. Jinja happens to be the source of the River Nile, the body of water that has privided life for millions of people for millions of years. The price into the park was in Ugandan and Non-Ugandan price. Ugandan - 3,000 UGX ($1.40). Non-Ugandan - 10,000 UGX ($4.55). Talk about a rip off. And the determiniation of Ugandan v Nonugandan was not scientific in anyway. I could have totally been Ugandan. Stop judging me based on skin people!!!

So we walked through the gauntlet of tourist temption in the form of little huts that lined the staircase down to the River. Yessh so many lovely things. Drumbs and earings and sculptures that were made out of banana leaves. How can i resist such temptation? But alas, the River was calling me. We walked out onto some beams that jutted out into the river. And all you can do is stand there and soak in the power moving under you. And then i got sucked into a boat ride to the real source of the river nile. How could i go oall the way to Ninja Jinja and not see the real source? So of course it was worth the Non-Ugandan price to jump in the yellow and green boat called "god is good" that went about 10 feet up the river and the stoped with awh and wonder. At first i was thinking, man these people got me again. This is just 10 feet up the river.

And then I saw it. The way the water was bubbling and moving in one spot. 40,000 liters per second. Just bubbling up from inside the earths belly supplying half of history with it's entire story. And i just sat there. What else can you do? Well except take a picture and make a face?
Until the tour guide told me that on the other side of the river were two prisons. One for adults over 18 and the other for 17 down to age 6. You put 6 year olds in prision I asked? What for? Well you know for 6 year old crimes he answered in total seriousness. Hmm...nothing could destroy the Nile River like a prison for 6 year olds. What is this world?

We also saw some water falls, and some more crafty goodness. And a sign along the road that seems pretty profound if you ask me.
We stopped by the church house there just to poke around. I met a missionary whose family just moved to memphis. Took his picture cause i thought his mom would appreciate it. Then back to Kampala.

We stopped a roadside market and bought grilled bananas. Ummm...yumm!
And then Hakuna Matata for dinner. I might have previously mentioned the fame of Ugandan pork. Well, that night, i consumed. Not quite up to Nashville Barbeque but i'm not gonna lie - it was delicious. Pork on a stick. Like a kabab. With rice and beans and cassava (this tree root thing).

and then off to a cozy slumber in my lacey bed. The security guard greeted me and said "Welcome home sista." "well thank you security guard. Thank you so much."
What a great day.

Day 2 to follow! Blessings


Friday, August 6, 2010

Today is the day

so i'm off! On a grand adventure, or horrible mistake.

I guess it could be both at the same time. Often our horrible mistakes turn into grand adventures that are just what we need.

This weekend is the Presidential Elections in Rwanda, a Ugandan adventure, the source of the river Nile, makets, buro buros, pork, hot showers, and NO WORK!!!

I'm pretty sure it will be my best weekend in Africa yet.

Please pray the borders are open, the pork is clean, and that I don't get kidnapped and sold as a sex slave. All very desirable things to ask of the universe.

and when I get back, I will only have 7 days left. 7 days!!! I can't belive it!

I've promised my boss at the YMCA that i will submit to full YMCA ownership for my first and second weekend back. But after that...

it's party time!