Blogging Award #prettycool

•February 3, 2016 • 1 Comment

So this morning, I got a message from a good friend of mine, former co-worker, and incredible blogger, Carrie Wisehart, notifying me that she had nominated me for the Liebster Blog award. In all honesty, my first thought was something along the lines of, “But why me? My blog isn’t like that…its just my stories and adventures as I experience them.” But I suppose there aren’t any rules for blogging. At least not rules that say “life story” blogs don’t count. My second thought was that this is pretty cool (Thus the hashtag in the title. Because who says you can’t use hashtags in titles?).

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Apparently, the Liebster Award is a way of recognizing small or newer blogs, and so it works a bit like those Facebook question posts that were popular when I was in high school – where if you tag a friend, they then have to answer all of the questions that you answered, then tag more friends. The official rules are actually in Spanish, but from my best Google translation, they are:

  • Answer the questions designated by the blogger who nominated you
  • Nominate other new bloggers for the Liebster Award
  • Give your nominees a list of questions they have to answer

That doesn’t sound too difficult.

First of all, I have to say that the beautiful woman who nominated me, Carrie, has an incredible blog over at carriewisehart.com. We are not even on the same level. In fact, just this week, her post for February and love and Valentine’s day was reposted by one of my current co-workers, and I was so shocked to see it posted by someone living in Tanzania that the following conversation ensued:

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Yeah. About that #blondemoment. Haha. Still, Carrie is an amazing person and teacher and blogger. You should check her out (Not in that way, you pervs…check out HER BLOG!).

On to those questions:

How would you describe your writing process?

Process? Yes, I know I’m an English teacher, and I know that I drill the writing process into the brains of my students EVERY SINGLE DAY, but I’m sorry, I don’t have or use any writing process. I only blog when something is about to explode from my fingertips, and once I’ve written it, I don’t go back and revise it, I just hit publish.

Oh, and do you want to know a secret? *whispers* I-never-outlined-processed-revised-papers-for-university-either-I-just-wrote-them *end whispering*.

What do you wear/eat/drink/do when you write?

Absolutely whatever. Though, honestly, I would rather be in shorts and a tank top every day of my life than in any other kind of clothing. And drinking iced coffee or Red Bull ALWAYS is a good idea. But otherwise, it doesn’t matter. I’ve written blog posts down on the back of church bulletins during sermons, I’ve typed them on my phone at 40,000 feet (airplane), and I’ve sat at my desk with a laptop and written. Whenever, wherever, however.

What is your “go-to” pen brand?

PILOT G-2 07.

These are the ONLY pens worth writing with. The end.

Shameless-self-promotion: Post a link to your favorite article, book blurb, or social media post so we can check it out.

That’s hard. One of the poem’s I wrote that I’m a bit proud of is this one, called “Light.” Like any other writing, I can’t force poetry. I write it when it comes. This particular poem came to me as I was leaving the Serengeti last year and the light was absolutely sparkling over the grass. It was beautiful.

Where do you go when you need an hour of freedom?

The beach. I love the beach and the ocean and the sand and the wind.

Talk about your BFF’s.

Even this morning, I was thanking God for the place that He’s put me and the incredible people He’s surrounded me with. I am so grateful for the plethora (and I do mean plethora) of friends He’s given me–people all over the world doing all kinds of jobs in all kinds of places. But if someone asks me who my “core friends” are, I know immediately. There are two guys, Andrew and Josh, who I’ve known for about four years, maybe more. I don’t even remember how we met. But since then, we have gone rock climbing, midnight cycling, and book dumpster diving. We have tutored Burmese children, have caroled for the elderly and widows, and have worked hard together. We’ve shared our anger, fears, hopes, dreams, passions, and crazy ideas. And for all that, we’re still friends. These guys are like brothers to me (which is saying something, because my blood brothers are pretty incredible guys).

How did we meet? (You & Carrie)

Carrie and I taught together at Carroll High School in Fort Wayne for a year, just before I moved to Tanzania. At the time, though we were both teaching English, we taught on opposite ends of the school and didn’t see each other or interact very often. Then I left, and somehow, over the internet and Facebook and blogging, we reconnected. I find Carrie’s blog an encouraging and challenging space, and the real Carrie is no different. I so appreciate how she drives herself, her students, and her friends to live fuller lives, even if it means making the hard choices!

Coffee or tea? Why?

Coffee all the way. The only tea I like is the Tanzanian “chai,” which is a sort of spice tea with ginger and cardamom, and other delicious flavors. Its strong and almost always served with lots of milk. Otherwise, I’ll stick to coffee with milk (NO sugar!). My theory is that it helps me focus. It certainly doesn’t do anything to keep me awake. #ADHDproblems.

Talk about your fam.

My family is AMAZING. My parents rode over 4,000 miles on their tandem bicycle last year – that alone should tell you how incredible they are! My brother, Nathan, works at Miracle Mountain Ranch as a missionary, which is also where Hannah goes to school. Joshua is still working full time and is taking classes at Ivy Tech for welding. But those are really just the boring facts about my siblings. My siblings work hard, harder than almost anyone I’ve met, and they play hard. I love hanging out with them – whether we are playing Settlers, rock climbing, playing volleyball, or creating our own adventure (like dredging shopping carts out of raging rivers…or sleepy drainage ditches)! My siblings are also what I miss most being in Tanzania. If they all moved here, it would make life so much easier…

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The book(s) that changed your life…

I’ve read an enormous amount of books, and I’d like to think that a lot of them have changed my life in one way or another. Several stand out, however, for various reasons: Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life And Faith After You Left the Art Room, by Matt Appling, Surprised By Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebelsby Tullian Tchividjian, and the Marc Royce series by Davis Bunn. These three have all, in some way, shaped my current philosophy of life. For example, the tattoo on my shoulder says “live beautifully,” a phrase I began using after reading Life After Art. I love the idea that each one of us has a choice of what we create with our lives–and by our choices we create either beauty or ugliness. Life is art. Perhaps it is the beauty of the “unity moment” in Bunn’s novels that so attract me to the Marc Royce series. In each of the books, *spoiler alert*, he brings underground Christians, often Coptic Christians, made up of formerly warring tribes, religions, or people groups. At that moment, the glory of the power of Christ to change lives and to unify people – the idea that in Christ we are adopted into a new family – is brilliantly displayed. Its that opportunity to worship with Christians from every tongue, tribe, race, and nation that makes me think I’ve found heaven on earth – whether in Fort Wayne, Papua New Guinea, or Tanzania. And, really, that is only possible because of grace, a concept Tchividjian illustrates in his moving portrait of Jonah. But there are so many other good books too….

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Now, to nominate other bloggers.

Everyone Needs a Little Grace in Their Lives

I really don’t know how many followers Amy has, but that’s irrelevant. This blog is about living. Living adoption. Living in a developing country. Living loss and hurt and brokenness. Living hope and joy and success. Amy’s stories vary between heartbreaking and roll-on-the-floor-laugh-till-you-cry hilarious. She shares her family and her heart with her readers. If you are at all interested in adoption, missions, church planting, expat life, developing countries, etc., etc., etc., this blog is a must-read. Oh, and I have the privilege of knowing Amy personally…and she’s even more amazing in real life. Just saying.

To Learn to be Brave

Remember that guy, Andrew, who is one of my BFFs? Yeah, he has a blog. It started as a “Fear Project” a few years ago, where he set out to face his fears in a systematic way. More lately, it has been an honest look at how he sees the world, himself, church, and so much more. (And, though I’m going to nominate him anyway, because I know Andrew, I doubt that he’ll care at all about the blog award nomination.) Regardless, if you read his blog, you will not leave the same. Andrew is real, and thinks about things in a deep and meaningful way–and forces you to do the same, even when uncomfortable.

Journeying Beyond

As a hobby photographer, I appreciate the work of those photographers more talented than myself. Hana is one of those people. She is a likeminded friend who loves life and loves adventure, and isn’t afraid to think about life either. Her blog features some of her incredible photography along with the stories and travel tips that come with living the adventure lifestyle. (Oh, and Hana and I went to the same church for about four years when we were teens, which is cool).

The Love Bungalow

I never thought I would enjoy reading a “lifestyle blog,” but Lindsay makes recipes and shopping and homemaking interesting. It probably helps that she lives in Indianapolis, one of the cities in my home state of Indiana, or perhaps that she’s considerate of both budget and healthy choices. At any rate, I enjoy the fun and fresh look at “adulting” on The Love Bungalow!

Stone, Soup, Kettle

This is another friend of mine. Gabe and I met at Miracle Mountain Ranch years ago, and now he is in social work in Philadelphia and I’m teaching in Tanzania. I appreciate his realistic look at the world through the lens of a biblical worldview. This blog is not for the faint of heart, as the posts tend to be academic and theological in nature, yet relevant.

Bethica.com

Beth self-titles her blog with the phrase “stumbling along after Jesus” and this is really all you need to know. Her blog is about the reality of the everyday, the mundane, and the desire to love God with our very best. She is a musician, artist, parent, and friend – and in all of that her passion for beauty and truth shines through in written form.

And, finally, for the above nominated bloggers, should they choose to accept the award, a list of questions:

  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  2. If you had to recommend a book for teens/young adults, what would it be? Maybe a book that influenced you?
  3. Summer or winter? Why?
  4. What is a quote that inspires or challenges you?
  5. What is one dream you have for yourself, your city, or your world?
  6. Why do you blog?
  7. Current favorite song or artist?
  8. One worthwhile routine in your life?
  9. Apple or Android?
  10. What is one book on your to-read (or currently reading) pile? Why?
  11. What is one thing that makes you happy?

That’s all, folks!

Its a Small, Small World

•January 24, 2016 • 1 Comment

As I’ve said before, living in Dar es Salaam gives me the incredible opportunity to experience a plethora of different cultures all in one city. I get to hang out with people from Columbia, Australia, France, Russia, Finland, etc., hear their languages, and learn small bits about how they view the world. Somewhat surprisingly, Fort Wayne, Indiana isn’t that much different—even if I do have to try a bit harder to find those cultures and experiences. I suppose its all in making opportunities count and being willing to meet new people. During my latest stay in the U.S., I found myself meeting all sorts of new people—many of whom, to my surprise, knew other people that I already knew. What a small world!

One of the first “new people” I met was a guy, Joe, who was also back visiting the Fort Wayne area for the holidays. We met at a New Year’s Eve party, and immediately delved into an hour-long conversation on missions, ecclesiology, and church planting, only to discover that we had grown up with a number of mutual friends due to being homeschooled in the Fort Wayne area at approximately the same time. Small world!

Less than a week later, I was helping a friend start on some renovations to his home, when some friends of his, a couple, stopped by to see the house. I introduced myself, and in the pursuant small talk, realized that this couple had homeschooled their children and were well-acquainted with many of the families that were a part of my family’s social group. Maybe its only a small world in the Fort Wayne former-homeschooling-family circles. At any rate, it was fun to meet them and explain to them a bit of what I get to do working with Young Life in Tanzania and teaching at HOPAC.

After work at the house one day, several of my friends and I decided to check out the new “Wallen” church—Hope Church. When we arrived, a woman who I’d met with over five years ago, called me over and started asking questions about Tanzania. What I didn’t realize at the time was that she was now a part of the missions board at Wallen. She encouraged me to get in contact with the missions board, giving me the contact information of the gentleman in charge, and then introducing us several days later. I spent the rest of the week pondering the providence of God in arranging meetings such as that one.

Weeks later, on the opposite side of the U.S., I was a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding in Oregon. As soon as the photos of the bridal party were finished, I snuck out to the lobby where I had stashed my Vans under a bench. As I was removing my heels and putting on my much-more-comfortable Vans, a gentleman inquired if I was “the Abi who is from Tanzania.” I said yes, and was immediately introduced to Tom. Tom and his wife are involved with Young Life in Bend, Oregon, and their son is a Young Life leader in another nearby town. They then introduced me to a friend of theirs, a woman who was a part of Campus Life in that area, and who happened to know Ryan, the Campus Life leader that I worked with at Carroll High School before moving to Tanzania. How cool to discover Young Life family in Oregon! And maybe this small world thing isn’t all about homeschoolers after all!

When I arrived in Fort Wayne after the Oregon wedding for my last few days in Indiana, it was bitterly cold, but as previously arranged, I left the airport on foot. The plan was for me to walk from the airport to the nearest bus stop, about 2.5 miles away, then take the bus into downtown Fort Wayne, where I would meet mom after she got off of work. About a half mile into my walk, a gentleman pulled his truck to the side of the road and called to me, offering a ride. After a moment’s consideration, I accepted. As I got into the truck, Steve introduced himself by saying that he had just dropped off his pastor at the airport. This was the precursor to a conversation where he shared his testimony with me, told me that he had previously attended John Piper’s church in Minneapolis, and now that he and his wife were back in Fort Wayne, actually knew several of my friends who also attended his current church. Not only did I successfully (and accidentally) hitchhike a ride from the airport into downtown Fort Wayne, I also made a new friend! Small world, indeed!

Then finally, on the long flight from Chicago to Amsterdam as I made my way back to Tanzania, I met yet another new friend. Mark was seated in the seat next to me, and at one point during the flight, we started chatting. When he learned that I was living in Tanzania, he immediately asked if I knew Hannes, the dive instructor at SeaBreeze in Dar. Well, of course! I dive with SeeBreeze on a regular basis, and know both Hannes and his wife fairly well. What I didn’t know was that my new friend Mark and Hannes grew up diving together in South Africa. It was fun hearing his stories about running wild and diving with Hannes years before I ever knew him. Definitely a small world.

If I ever thought that the “six degrees of separation” theory was a myth, I’ve changed my mind. After this trip, I’ve made a lot of new friends, and am convinced that this crazy world we live in gets smaller all the time!

2015 Year in Photos

•December 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

2015 in Photos

The Best Job Ever.

•December 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Yes. That’s right. I have the best job ever.

Teaching at HOPAC is actually a lot of fun.

My job is pretty awesome.

I get to be mobbed by awesome primary students in the snack bar line.

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I get to wear crazy colors and celebrate togetherness with students and teachers of all ages.

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Photo Credit: HOPAC Student Photography Team

I get to experience the tragedy and triumph of winning and losing with students.

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I get to work with incredible people like this one.

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I get to laugh and hang out with crazy cool students.

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I get to coach this crazy group of guys.

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Photo Credit: Rebecca Laarman

I get to interact with students and cultures from all over the world.

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I get to celebrate my own culture.

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I get to pray with students who love Jesus wholly.

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I get to cheer on student athletes.

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I get to have fun and share Jesus as a YoungLife leader.

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HOPAC is looking for more people who would like to love God and love people and teach students in the beautiful city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. While this is most definitely a shameless plug to attract more awesome co-workers, everything I said above is 100% true and I do love my job. Check out the current openings for the next school year and apply right away! And, if you aren’t a teacher and can’t come teach yourself, spread the word to your teacher-friends, pray for HOPAC, and support someone who is teaching at HOPAC (me!).

Pamoja Week: Year #3

•November 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Its difficult for me to believe that this is my third year at HOPAC, but, as this is my third week participating in the legendary “Pamoja Week,” it must be true. Pamoja Week is our celebration of unity at HOPAC. In many ways, it mirrors the American “Spirit Week.” Pamoja Week is the highlight of the year at HOPAC, and concludes with International Day, where students dress in their nation’s traditional dress and/or colors, wave their nation’s flag, and share bits of their culture with the rest of the school. Living in Dar es Salaam, I regularly experience a plethora of different cultures, from the variety of languages that pervade every conversation (I really need to learn French), to food choices, and even the strange ideas of “normal” in varying cultures. It is near the top in my list of favorite things about life in Dar, and so when the opportunity comes to celebrate the nearly 40 different nationalities of students at HOPAC, I am all in!

Here are a few photos of Pamoja Week so far… and stay tuned for an International Day post later this week!

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A Series of Odd Events While Traveling…

•October 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Photo taken from https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4014/4379094927_85bd8fc549.jpg

Sometimes it feels like I’m living a part of Lemony Snicket’s series of unfortunate events. Traveling from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Colombo, Sri Lanka last week was one of those times. Though I’ve had a number of traveling adventures, including traveling cross-country to Victoria Falls bootstrap-style, this latest trip was, well, odd.

Perhaps the inciting event really happened nearly two weeks ago, when I developed a UTI and started a brutal round of antibiotics. The antibiotics killed the UTI, but also knocked me out. By time I finished them out, I was exhausted and fighting a sinus infection. Thus began my travels. In case you’ve never flown internationally with a sinus infection, just don’t. Breathing isn’t any easier at 40,000 feet. And the sinus headaches are on a whole new level.

My flight was scheduled to leave Dar at 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, which required me to leave my house at 2:30 a.m. Instead of taking a bajaji, two of my friends offered to drive me to the airport–but wanted to hang out at my house beforehand. Odd event #1. Being ill, the intelligent thing to do before traveling is sleep. Instead, I stayed up the entire night prior to arriving at the airport.

As I boarded the first of the three flights that day, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the flight was unusually empty and that I, along with most of the other passengers, had a full row of seats to myself. Alas, it was not to be. Enter odd event #2. Just as I was preparing to spread out into the neighboring seat, two punk dudes moved from the very front of the plane to the back where I was seated and sat down in the seats next to me. Before ever boarding the plane, I had identified these guys as punks–if the sagging trousers, flat-brimmed ball caps, and too-big t-shirts wasn’t enough–they had been trying to get my attention by winking, whistling, and nodding for the last 45 minutes. For the entire flight to Nairobi, I contemplated the peacemaking strategy of a well-aimed punch: my new seat-mate would.not.shut.up. Apparently, the fact that I was turned away from him, hidden entirely beneath a blanket, and not responding didn’t actually communicate to him that I, like most of the passengers on the plane, was trying to sleep.

Arriving in Nairobi, I compared my boarding pass for the next flight with my watch and realized that somewhere inside the airport, the P.A. system was garbling through the standard “….BOARDING NOW” for my connecting flight. Fifteen minutes later, I finally managed to enter the airport after waiting seeming hours for the transfer bus to leave the tarmac. Airport staff dragged me to the front of the priority security line and I ran to my next gate only to wait twenty minutes for the flight to board. I suppose I shouldn’t think this an odd event…it is Africa after all! Regardless, odd event #3. And #4.

Whilst waiting for my flight in Nairobi, yet another punk dude took it upon himself to fill the empty seat next to me. He then proceeded to take a selfie at a ridiculous angle just so that I, the lone mzungu (white person), would be in the background. I glared at him and turned away, pretending to ignore the multiple photos that he was taking of my turned head. If I ever forget, remind me that I never EVER want to be famous.

The flight to Mumbai was relatively uneventful, but I was quite surprised to see my name on a placard when I disembarked the plane. Along with one other passenger, they hurried me to the transfer desk. Travel experience tells me that typically, in such an event, the transfer counter needs to inform the passenger of a flight change, scheduling change, or possibly reprint a boarding pass. However, in Mumbai, they did none of these things. They made several phone calls, wrote down various information from my boarding pass and passport, stared at me in disbelief when I insisted that I didn’t have any checked baggage, and then sent me to stand in the back of the normal line for security. Well that was dumb. And odd.

Eventually I made it through security (for the third time in twelve hours) and boarded my final flight. Less than an hour later, I was taken aback by the flight attendant’s question: “Beer or whiskey?” Yes, that’s right. When flying on this particular airline between Mumbai and Colombo, apparently the options are not soda, juice, and water, but beer or whiskey. Very, very odd. Number six, if you’re still counting. Once again, I was seated next to an over-talkative passenger, but this time, instead of a punk kid, it was a friendly gentleman who insisted that I have a glass of whiskey and tried to share his portion of chocolate mousse that came as dessert.

I landed in Colombo, Sri Lanka at a little after 8:30 p.m. Until this trip, I had no idea that there was a part of the world that was in a “point five” time zone. Mumbai and Colombo are both exactly 2.5 hours ahead of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Odd, but this wasn’t especially particular to me, so I don’t think it counts. Its more like learning something new. Getting a visa on arrival was simple, though immigration did manage to mix up my passport (and payment) with the girl in front of me–who was not American. Or white. She was completely confused as to why they were charging her more than the rate for Indian citizens, and I a bit befuddled when they tried to hand me a non-American passport. Odd event #7. But we had a good laugh over it.

Eventually I got the correct passport and visa, along with a free sim card for my phone, arranged a taxi, exchanged money, loaded my phone with credit, and headed for the hotel. This very odd sequence of events was finally over. I had an incredible stay in Colombo, complete with a very educational and informative conference on teaching Literature and introductions to a group of Sri Lankans who were exceedingly kind and generous to me, making me feel totally welcome in their home country. Now, two days later, I’m back in Dar attempting to sleep off the six flights, eight airport stays, and nearly 8500 miles that I traveled in the four short days between Wednesday morning and Saturday evening.

Joy & Orthodoxy

•October 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Thoughts on joy from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:

“Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live.”

And again:

“Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian….The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual….He never concealed his tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight…Yet He concealed something….He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.”

 

 
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