Airports & Aimless Thoughts

•September 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’m in an airport for the tenth time in a month. My flight is delayed, so I’ve been sitting here for several hours surfing the web, and allowing my mind to wander aimlessly. Its nearly 1 a.m. and admittedly, I’m exhausted, so there’s not a lot of productive thought happening.

[Three days later.]

Obviously those aimless thoughts didn’t turn into much, as I never even finished my blog post. I did eventually make it back to Dar es Salaam–arriving home at 3:30 a.m., in time to get about two hours of sleep before getting up to go surfing with two of my YoungLife girls. The sunrise over the ocean was beautiful and we had a great day on the waves–so it was totally worth it!

Here are a few of those “aimless thoughts” and some of the things I’ve been up to recently:

Its Not About Me

This is just one of those things that I knew, but that God keeps reminding me of. Over and over and over. I attend the YoungLife Ladies’ Bible Study where we are going through “Gideon” by Priscilla Shirer and in the first page of the first chapter it says, “Gideon’s story is much bigger than…well…Gideon. Like everything else in the Bible, his story is actually about God and His people.” It doesn’t take much to see that this applies directly to me and my story: Its not about me. Its about God and His love for His people. The very next night, as I lead my Connect Group through the book of Ephesians, we studied an entire section where the theme seemed to be Paul telling the Ephesians that their salvation was not about them, who they were, or anything they had done, but only by the grace of God. Hey Ephesians, its not about you! And its not about me either. Then, in my own personal study of Scripture, I see the same thing. In Psalms. In Matthew. In 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews. Even in various circumstances that I’ve found myself in–some of them I’d even consider emotionally trying circumstances that attempted to steal my joy–there is the sense that God is saying, “Abi, its not about you. This is about Me and My story.” Over and over and over. Its not about me.

Hesed

The other key word that seems to be prolific in my life these days is the Hebrew word “hesed” (or “chesed”), which means “steadfast love.” My first recent encounter with this word was at the YoungLife International Schools’ Leadership training in Nairobi that I attended a few weeks ago. There, we were encouraged to spend time meditating on Psalm 108, and pointed specifically to verse 4: “For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” The phrase “steadfast love” is that word, “hesed.” Then, once I saw it in Psalm 108, I started seeing it everywhere. In Psalm 69, where the Psalmist is clearly in the midst of a trying time of suffering, he rests in the confidence of God’s steadfast love for him. In Psalm 78, where the history of the Israelites forms the all-too-familiar pattern of blessing, forgetfulness and sin, consequence, and, then, “hesed”–God’s unfailing love. It showed up in the Gideon study: “…the Hebrew word hesed…means love, faithfulness, or covenantal faithfulness.” Its there in the “But God” of Ephesians 2:4. Even when life doesn’t make sense, or I feel overwhelmed, I can choose to obey with joy–because I can be confident in the steadfast, hesed love of God for me. It might be my next tattoo…

YoungLife

I am incredibly excited about YoungLife this year. I’m continuing #surfsunday each month with several of my YoungLife girls and this month’s morning on the waves was absolutely fantastic. I’m considering inviting a few more girls along next month–but need to check on the status of what surfboards would be available for them to use. And of course, here’s hoping that there’s still waves in a month!

This week Friday is our HOPAC YoungLife kickoff event–the Back-to-School Burger Beans BBQ Banana Boats Brownie Bash!!! I clearly had a bit of fun designing the fliers for the event, and managed to hand out my allotment of 35 invitations all in just one day’s lunch break at school. We are praying for a good turnout of students and that we would be able to infuse YoungLife club with a new energy and excitement that gets kids enthusiastic about coming to club this year.

BackyardBashYL

Americanah & Feminism & Oppression

For A2 Literature (grade 12, for all you non-British readers) this year, one of the examined texts is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Adiche is one of my heroes. She’s brilliant. Her novel deals with oppression in its various forms in both American and Nigerian culture, as well as the complexities of identity. As such, it is an excellent text to spark in-depth discussion about such issues. As a part of our study, we watched Adiche’s TED talk: We Should All Be Feminists (which, if you haven’t seen yet, you should watch). As defined by Adiche, a feminist is “a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.” This has been key in our class discussion of the novel, but also in my own thought processes. I’ve been accused of being a feminist before, but, much like my accusers, I somehow considered that label to be a negative one–or to be only about the empowerment of women over men (which I don’t agree with). Perhaps through the influence of Americanah or Adiche or the multicultural education class I took this spring, or maybe merely through life experience and observation, I’ve begun to reconsider my stance. I do think I’m a feminist. But not merely a feminist. Because its not just gender inequality and oppression that bothers me. Its oppression in all its forms. Its racial oppression. Its class and socioeconomic oppression. Its religious oppression. And somewhere along the line, I also began to see a problem: that we don’t have a word for someone who opposes oppression and desires equality. I can be a feminist (with all its negative connotations and perceptions). Or a… what?

Photography: Dignity & Hope

As I traveled to Arusha to do some photography this past weekend (thus the airport), I also had the opportunity to think through some of the ideology that informs my photography. I’ve said in the past that I want to see people’s eyes dancing in my photos, and I do believe that’s true. In fact, my thinking about why I take the photos I take actually started with the line: Shooting stars. Sparkles of light. Clearly, I was thinking I might work on a poem…but that didn’t happen. Instead, I got philosophical.  My worldview informs my photography. When I capture people, I don’t want to create images that portray hopelessness and loss and desperation. No, because I believe that my subjects are more than what they seem. I believe that each one of those children has infinite value and worth. I believe that they were created by a good God. I believe that they are beautiful. As a result, my aim is to create images that communicate dignity and hope.

Photography in Arusha

Year 4: Week One

•August 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Surf Sunday

I am back in Tanzania for year four, and already through the first week of school. My class schedule is significantly lighter than last year, which was a pleasant surprise when I arrived on Thursday. I am still teaching English Literature for grades 10-12, Philosophy of Service and Research Paper Writing to grade 9, and helping with swim lessons for Kindergarten through grade 3. For the first few weeks, I will be assisting with and covering some of the middle school P.E. classes, but I am no longer the primary P.E. teacher for middle school (something I quite enjoyed last year, and will miss doing this year!).

Some highlights of the first week back:

  1. P3 (Praise, Prayer, & Pilau)
    Friday evening, The Ocean Church hosted a young adults event that they call P3, which stands for Praise, Prayer, & Pilau. It was exciting to reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen in two months, and the message was convicting and challenging. This month’s topic was purity, and we had a moving time of prayer and confession as we joined together as young Christians with a desire to be pure.
  2. Surf Sunday
    One of the things I love most about being a part of YoungLife is that it “requires” me to do something that I already enjoy: be a part of the lives of young people. That looks entirely different depending on the person, and with two of my “Young Life kids” (aka. friends), it looks like going to the early service at church together so that we can spend the rest of the day surfing. The waves were perfect, and we had a blast surfing together–something we decided should become a monthly tradition. #surfSunday!
  3. Kweli & Kitesurfing
    I don’t know who was happier at seeing the other–me or my dog Kweli. Having a giant, “tiger” dog who loves the beach, has unquenchable energy, and provides protection is a fantastic gift. We celebrated my first weekend back in Dar by spending all Saturday afternoon at the beach–swimming, playing fetch, and kitesurfing (Kweli had to be tied in the shade for that part!)–until we were both exhausted. I honestly couldn’t think of a much better plan for a Saturday afternoon.
  4. Swahili
    When I arrived in the Dar airport last Wednesday evening, I was surprised to find that I was able to speak Swahili almost effortlessly. Even as I’ve made calls to various fundis and drivers this week, I’m shocked at my own ability to put together sentences after not practicing or studying Swahili at all in two months. There are certainly things I still have no idea how to say in Swahili, and I’ve already scheduled weekly Swahili lessons, but I’m excited that progress is being made and that after four years, I at least know something!🙂

That’s about it for now. In some ways, I still feel like I’m in a bit of a daze, though the “transition week” should be coming to an end shortly. Nevertheless, I’m excited about the year ahead and can’t wait to see what God is going to do here in Dar this year!

Summer 2016: Road Trip!

•July 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The Plan

At Christmas, my brother Josh and I started planning our “epic summer vacation,” which included camping on the Outer Banks in North Carolina and mountain biking, rock climbing, and other general adventuring along the way. I informed my manager at the bike store that I needed a week off in July, and considered everything settled. Around mid-May, Josh accepted a new job, and with it, lost his vacation time. But all was not lost. I still had a week off of work, even if Josh couldn’t go along. My parents offered to let me accompany them on a cycling trip in Idaho, but after breaking my leg in April, I wasn’t sure if I was up for the challenge of riding a bicycle up mountains, so I declined and began planning my own trip. In what became the Great Summer Road Trip of 2016, I made plans to visit some friends in Florida during my week’s vacation. About a week later, a friend contacted me and asked me to stop in North Carolina and visit sometime this summer if I had a chance. I told her that I could probably make a stop on my “Florida Trip.” As I continued to plan, about a week prior to my trip, I realized that, though I have driven the 20-ish hours to Florida through the night before, I preferred not to. So I contacted some friends living in Nashville and asked if I could crash on their couch for a night. I also decided, at about the same time, that I should spend a bit of time with my other brother and sister in Pennsylvania this summer–and that this week would be my only chance. The plan was to leave Fort Wayne around noon on Saturday, July 9, and to return around 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 17.

Northeast Indiana

Northeast Indiana

The Reality

About three days before departing for Florida, as I was collecting the addresses of the places I would be staying along my journey, my friend in North Carolina mentioned that there was some sweet mountain biking near her house. At that point, I decided to spend a full day in North Carolina mountain biking on my journey back north to Pennsylvania–and to make room in the car for two bicycles: one mountain bike to use in North Carolina, and a cyclocross bike to use on the bike paths and roads in Florida. As such, the bikes were a last-minute addition–which meant that I did not necessarily think through what taking bicycles along on the trip might also entail: like bike pumps. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In typical fashion, I signed up to play in a beach volleyball tournament on July 9, thinking that with a 10 a.m. start, it would finish early–by 2 p.m. at the latest. We did not even make it all the way through the tournament (we lost in the second round), and it was still 4 p.m. by time we left the beach courts. I drove home, showered, threw some snacks in the car, and set out on my adventure.

By around 10:30 p.m., I made it to Nashville, Tennessee: my first stop. There, I stayed with a couple who taught at HOPAC during my first year in Tanzania. We spent several hours eating ice cream and reminiscing about people and places in Tanzania. Though I feel like I adapt well to life in the U.S., it was so, so nice to be able to talk with others who know and understand my other life in Tanzania.

I woke up early the next morning for the next segment of driving: 10.5 hours to central Florida. This was my originally intended destination and the home of the HOPAC middle school principal’s parents, who have in some ways “adopted” me, since visiting Tanzania last year and going stand up paddleboarding together. Here, I was able to visit with my middle school principal and her parents, spend time cycling around central Florida, and go surfing at Cocoa Beach. On my first evening there, my hosts took me on a cycling tour of their little town, and the next morning, I had plans of riding 50+ miles on a nearby bike path. It was as I set off on the second, longer ride, that I discovered that I had neglected to bring either a bike pump or an adaptor for my tire valve to be able to use a standard air pump. I also learned that the clipless pedals on my “new” cyclocross bike were not compatible with the cleats on my mountain bike shoes. So instead of riding to the nearby bike path, I rode to the nearest bike shop, about fifteen miles away. There, I chatted a bit with the sales people who wondered why I was in Florida instead of riding RAIN in Indiana, and purchased an adaptor for my tire valve as well as some cleats to change out the ones on my shoes before riding back to the house. I also took use of the few days there to do some reading and catch up on sleep. One of the things that I find myself valuing more and more over the years is the input and advice of those older and more experienced than myself–and I enjoyed the many conversations covering topics of everything from education to current events and travel destinations. They encouraged me to stop at St. Augustine, Florida on my drive north, so I left mid-afternoon on Wednesday to do just that.

Withalacoochee State Trail, Florida

Withalacoochee State Trail, Florida

When I arrived in St. Augustine, Florida, my first stop was a small cycling and surf shop about two miles from the beach. I had seen online that they rented surfboards, and after a successful day surfing on Monday at Cocoa Beach, was hoping to get a bit more time on the waves. As I walked in, I was greeted by what seemed to be a sales person, and the owner or manager of the store. Within five minutes, they had collectively offered me a job–either now, or if I ever came back in the future (after I explained that I actually live in East Africa at the moment). We chatted bikes for a bit, and then they helped me get a surfboard for the afternoon. I also got some rock climbing destination tips from the sales person who happened to be a climber originally from Louisville, Kentucky. The waves at St. Augustine weren’t great–small and mostly windblown–but I had a few good rides, and enjoyed being in salt water again. After returning the board, I spent about a half hour riding my cyclocross bike around town and taking photos before climbing back into the car for the next stretch of driving.

St. Augustine Beach, Florida

St. Augustine Beach, Florida

Early Wednesday morning, before leaving for St. Augustine, my former roommate, Abbi, contacted me asking if I would be passing through South Carolina, and if we might be able to hang out. Because I have visited Abbi three other times since being students together at the Miracle Mountain Ranch School of Discipleship, and because Abbi and I get along so well, I said that I would stop at her place instead of going directly to North Carolina to mountain bike. Thus, Spartanburg, South Carolina was my next stop, which was about 6.5 hours from St. Augustine, Florida. I arrived in the wee hours of the morning and made myself at home on the futon Abbi had prepared for me. The next morning, I briefly met Abbi’s husband for the first time, then went with Abbi for coffee at a local coffee shop in downtown Spartanburg, before setting out on our traditional cliff-jumping adventure at Turtleback Falls in North Carolina, something we’ve done on nearly all of my visits to South Carolina. We got back from Turtleback and Rainbow Falls around 3 p.m., and I set off for Tsali Recreation Area for some mountain biking.

Tsali Recreation Area, North Carolina

Tsali Recreation Area, North Carolina

My host for Thursday night was also a past student at the Miracle Mountain Ranch School of Discipleship, and is currently staff at a high-adventure camp in North Carolina. During each week of camp, they do a massive drama production that she invited me to watch. This put a bit of a time constraint on the time available for mountain biking, so once I arrived at Tsali, I calculated that I had just about an hour to ride. As it turns out, a thunderstorm chased me out right as the hour was coming to a close–so I wouldn’t have been able to ride any longer anyway. Regardless, Tsali was by far the best and most fun mountain biking I have ever done–super fast and flowy trails–and I will go back sometime in the future. I took enough time to take a few quick photos of the incoming storm over the mountains as I was leaving, and then drove the next hour and a half to the camp where my friend and host was working. The drama production was incredible, and I really enjoyed the message preceding it as well. Afterwards, we went back to the house, where my host made chapati and chai (a Tanzanian / East African staple) and we talked adventure sports, international life, and the camp world for several hours before heading to bed.

New River Gorge Bridge, West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge, West Virginia

On Friday, my goal was to make it to Miracle Mountain Ranch in Pennsylvania by 3 p.m. in order to see my younger sister’s drill team presentation at the evening rodeo. That meant getting up at 3:45 a.m. Friday morning and driving 11 hours from North Carolina with as few stops as possible. I made it, but I did stop on the way at the New River Gorge bridge to take some photos. At the Ranch, I caught up with old friends, hung out with my brother and sister, and even rode a horse for a few minutes. Sunday morning, I was back on the road in order to get back to Indiana for a sand volleyball game. Funny how my trip began and ended with sand volleyball.

Hannah in the 2016 Miracle Mountain Ranch Drill Team

Hannah in the 2016 Miracle Mountain Ranch Drill Team

In the end, I drove somewhere over 2,850 miles, spent well over 45 hours in a car, and visited 11 states–all in one week! It was an awesome trip and I am so glad that I took the time to go, to visit friends, and to enjoy the beautiful country I call home (at least for two months out of the year!).

(mis)Placed

•July 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Misplaced.jpg

One of the phrases frequently used to describe the missionary’s homecoming experience is “between two worlds.” It is very true that I often feel the tension that comes from being home, but not home, regardless of which city I’m in–Fort Wayne or Dar es Salaam. In both places, there are things that are familiar. In both places, there are “my people.” In both places, there are things that make me miss the other. And in both places, I feel out of place or misplaced.

This was the word that came to mind this morning: misplaced. Yet even as I considered the implications, I realized the truth: I am not misplaced, I am placed. God has me here in Indiana at this time for a purpose. He has established my life in Tanzania for a purpose. Neither is any less a part of His will than the other. The truth is that I am His. I am chosen. I am redeemed. I have been made holy. I am adopted. I am a child of God.

Knowing the truth about my identity in Christ settles my soul, but it doesn’t make the tension of being between worlds any less. Here in Indiana, I listen to a bit of Bongo Flava to ease the longing, and in Tanzania, I break out the country music. There, I long for the open spaces of midwest farmland, and here, I miss the beaches and city life. I can’t imagine one life without the other, and both are a part of me. And maybe that is part of the beauty of where I’ve been placed…between in two worlds.

Things. And Stuff.

•May 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

No matter how many times I tell my students to use better word choice in their writing, I still find myself using the very words I tell them not to use in my own speaking (and writing). Like “things” and “stuff.” But sometimes, there really aren’t any better words to describe a blog post that is full of random ideas bouncing around an overactive mind.

Finishing Well
June 17 is the end of the year for me, as, like all other teachers, my “year” is not measured from January to December, but by the school year. With just over a month of school left, my schedule has shifted slightly. I’m teaching a few less classes, and monitoring study halls and invigilating exams instead. Instead of teaching English Literature for grade 10, 11, and 12, I am starting English Literature with grade 9. Fortunately, I still have my middle school P.E. classes, and my primary swimming classes, which keep me sane in the midst of the exam season.

In some ways, this particular year seems more significant than others. The graduating class is the class that I joined as their homeroom teacher when I came to HOPAC in 2013, and I know most of the students in that class extremely well. I have climbed Kilimanjaro with some of them, traveled to three Moshi Sports’ Weekends with others, gone to Young Life camp with a number of them, and was on their Grade 11 Bonding Trip. I have seen them morph and transition and mature over the last three years. I consider a number of them friends. And now they are graduating and moving on to universities around the world, and I’m so, so excited for them. But I also realize, that in many ways, this is the “end” of my opportunity to share life and joy and Jesus with them. So more than ever, this year I feel the need to finish well. Not just in the normal way, of teaching well to the very last days, of preparing for next year, and of not getting lazy, but in the relationships I’ve developed with these students.

Spiritual Warfare
There is something about the end of the year that seems to invite spiritual warfare. Last year, it was the challenge of moving, the death of my dog, and numerous hold-ups in the arrival of my parents. This year, my laptop and phone are dead and dying, I’ve been in a boot for six weeks, my motorcycle has suddenly had random minor issues, and I’ve found myself in a battle to believe the truth. In all of that, God is still faithful. After an especially hard week, I started this week rejoicing to have re-discovered some old notes in my Bible surrounding Psalm 77, where David starts out the Psalm explaining how he has been praying and seeking God, but nothing seems to change. This is exactly where I was last week–questioning whether God does answer prayer, or even care. Then, in verse 7, David is desperate. He asks, “Will God hate us forever? Has he stopped loving? Are His promises forgotten?” Oh, how familiar these questions are! As I read, I can feel the breaking and hopelessness. But just at that point where David feels completely alone, when he can only conclude that God is far away, and not answering his prayers, in verse 11, it says: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” Can I just stop and stand up and celebrate right here? Seriously guys, there is a little note that I penned in the margin of Bible years ago, reading, “When we feel like God is not there, we need to stop and remember, that we can again praise.” How I needed to read that this week, and what a change it has made in my outlook! The rest of the chapter is David praising God for who He is and what He has done, and it is such a powerful testimony to the value of remembrance in defeating those persistent lies of the Devil and being able to stand in victory and thanksgiving!

GRE Math
More than a year ago, I started dreaming of eventually pursuing a Ph.D. in International Education & Culture. I researched programs and schools and admission requirements. I even settled on one particular school as my “dream school” and downloaded the application form and everything. But before I can apply, I need to take the GRE, and because I haven’t studied math since my 11th-grade year of high school, ten years ago, that is going to be a major challenge. I started trying to re-teach myself math last year about this time, then gave up. Then, at Christmas, I bought two books for GRE math prep, and did a few lessons each day, before giving it up again when I returned to HOPAC. Now, I’ve pulled the books out again, but haven’t managed to find time to open them. I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot work full-time and re-learn math–there just isn’t time to commit to both fully. But still the dream that requires this math exam burns inside me. I can’t shake it. Does someone in Fort Wayne want to tutor me this summer, or at least hold me accountable?

Booting It
It has been almost seven weeks now since I broke my leg, and a bit over five weeks of wearing the boot. I am sick of it. I hate running, but something about not being able to run makes me want to do it. I miss playing volleyball. I miss MMA training and hockey. I miss being able to ride my bicycle. On Tuesday, I went to get an x-ray to confirm that my leg was indeed healing, and it came back completely clear. So I took my boot off, thinking that I didn’t need to finish wearing it for the final week after all. But that wasn’t the case, and I soon heard from the doctor who has been advising me from the U.S., and the boot was back on. The unexpected hope and excitement of taking it off early, and then the all-too-palpable disappointment of needing to put it back on… I almost cried. But even in wearing the boot for six weeks, I’ve seen God’s goodness and faithfulness. I’ve been able to do things I would otherwise have neglected. I’ve been lifting weights and swimming and am probably stronger than I would have been if I didn’t have the boot and was just playing sports and normal. I’ve taken countless long walks with my dog, and done more photo shoots than I ever expected. I’ve learned more Swahili and gotten really good at saying, “Nilivunjika mguu” (I broke my leg), because everyone wants to know what happened (and everyone thinks I did it in a motorcycle accident). But come Tuesday and the end of six weeks, I will be very glad to give the boot a good wash and return it to its owner. I’m so done!

Prayer Experiments
For nearly six months, prayer has been the focus at The Ocean International Church. I am co-leading a Connect Group, and early in the year, we decided to go through the book, The Circle Maker, together. At first, I was a bit skeptical, because I felt the author was taking things out of context and not supporting his ideas with Scripture, but as we’ve neared the end of the book, I like it more and more. Needless to say, I’ve been challenged in prayer this year. One of the things the author mentions in chapter 13 is a “prayer experiment.” The example he gives is of a group of people who committed to pray for one thing together for 40 days. Something about this idea excited me–perhaps just the accountability of praying together with others for one specific thing for a set period of time–so I asked the other girls at Connect Group this week if they wanted to join me in some kind of prayer experiment of our own. The consensus was to pray for one specific request for each other in two areas – careers and relationships – for the next thirty days. Already, I am so excited by this, and feel it has helped me find purpose and direction with which to start my prayer time each morning.

See? Things and stuff. Its a good description for all this randomness. God is good, isn’t He?

 

The Adventures of the Boot

•April 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Once upon a time there was a boot.

Legend has it that this boot first came into existence in the southern United States sometime in the early 90’s, but since that time, it has traveled far and wide, eventually finding its place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Just one year ago, the boot protected the injured foot of a middle school principal, before being handed off to a Zimbabwean teacher, and then a grade 7 girl with a broken toe, an ever-active YoungLife staff member with a crushed foot, and even a high school basketball star with a sprained ankle.

Each time, the boot faithfully performed its duty–protecting the wearer’s leg, ankle, foot, or toe with pride. But as it did so, especially in the tropical climate of coastal Tanzania, it became old and dirty, worn down by dirt and sweat. Occasionally, the boot got a bath, whether by drenchings in puddles and rainshowers, or by soaking in Dettol and antibacterial soap. And then, after a drying, it went back to work, always protecting, always staying strong, and constantly getting passed around to a new foot. Eventually, the boot found itself on the leg of one English and Physical Education teacher at HOPAC. And thus began in earnest the “adventures of the boot.”

This boot had walked on dirt and gravel and pavement, it had ridden in cars and busses and bajajis. But never in a million years did the boot expect to be riding a motorcycle, much less, being the one in charge of using the rear brake. Yet that is exactly where the boot found itself every morning, every afternoon, and most evenings: careening through traffic on the right side of a Honda 250 XLR, doing its very best to bring the bike to a halt when needed, and not cause too much skidding. Riding the motorcycle was exciting, and dangerous, and mostly fun. Except when it rained.

Rainy season provided a whole host of adventures for the boot. On the motorcycle, it was inevitable that the boot would get wet, muddy, and entirely covered with the filth flying up from the road. When trudging along, there was always the risk of stepping in a puddle or sliding in a patch of slimy mud. Perhaps the dirtiest day of all was the day that Dar flooded. Yes, in some ways, that happens every time it rains, but on this particular day, schools let out an hour early to give the busses a chance at getting students home before dark. True to form, the boot readied for the after-school journey home by taking its position on the right side of the motorcycle. Usually, the 6km trip took no more than ten minutes, but on this particular day, traffic was jam-packed into a standstill. Mud, water, and terrible driving combined to create a “fuleni” (traffic jam) that even motorcycles had difficulty navigating. After spending nearly 40 minutes creeping through and around the edges of traffic to go only 1km, the boot, the motorcycle, and the tired and ill wearer of the boot, chose the off-road route: up and over the curb onto the grass (mud) median, where motorcycles and 4x4s carved a muddy off-road path through the grass and past the stopped traffic in the street. The boot had to strain and push to get the bike over the large curbs, and then cringed in disgust as clumps of mud covered it from head to toe. Gross. A shower with Dettol was definitely in order after that ride.

On another rainy day, the boot found itself once again drenched after yet another rainy motorcycle ride, but this time, the drenching had just begun. After a short trek through the sand, the boot was awkwardly perched on a large Stand-up-Paddleboard (SUP), then paddled out into the Indian Ocean. There, two girls and the boot attempted to fish despite rain that blurred the shore from sight, the occasional tangle in fishing lines, and even one paddle-bludgeoning. Surprisingly, the boot was only hooked once or twice, and despite its awkward and uncomfortable position on the board, enjoyed the paddling and even some swimming. That was not to be the last time the boot found itself in the sand and water of the Indian Ocean.

Perhaps the greatest threat to the existence of the boot was a giant dog named Kweli who found special delight in nipping at the loose velcro on the boot when walking, just as she nipped at the crutches used as an alternative to the boot. Because of the boundless energy of said dog, eventually, the boot found itself on a marathon-walk to the beach that included splashing through plenty of puddles, trudging up and down a steep hill, and moving awkwardly through the deep sand. It wasn’t that the walk was that long, but the boot returned to the house sweaty and exhausted from the effort of walking and balancing and controlling the excited dog on the end of the leash.

After only two of the six week indenture to the HOPAC English and P.E. teacher, the boot’s lifetime of adventure stories had increased exponentially. Who knew what the other four weeks would hold?

A Good Gift

•April 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)

Traveling to London for the second part of spring break was a gift trip from God in every way. I only made plans to travel out of Tanzania at all because, two weeks prior to spring break, I was still waiting on my residence permit, and needed to leave the country to get my tourist visa re-stamped. When I started looking at flights to Mozambique, a nearby, somewhat “normal” destination, I realized that between the busses and flights necessary to get to Tofu, Mozambique (where I intended to go diving), it would take less time and cost the same amount to fly to London. So I did.

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Once I started making plans, I found a good ticket for Les Miserables at a reasonable price, and a friend I had met here in Dar, Florian, started arranging beach volleyball during my stay. After my original housing arrangements didn’t work out, a friend of a friend, Marc-Andre, graciously offered to host me. Then, just a week before the trip, after everything had already been purchased, my residence permit came through. Finally, just days before I left for London, I received my tax return–a surprisingly large amount that more than covered the cost of the entire trip, including transportation and food while I was there. I absolutely LOVED London, and still cannot believe that God gave me such a wonderful gift!

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I arrived in London at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, and shortly afterwards met my host, Marc-Andre, who gave me keys to his flat and an Oyster Card to use for the week. From there, I was off to the Shoreditch Street Art Tour, and then wandered through London on foot and by bicycle (yes, even in the cold and rain) for several hours. The architecture and international flavor of London instantly appealed to me. I also found myself loving the crazy number of bicyclists and motorcyclists out in the rain–a funny thing to notice, about London, I know! I walked past St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Globe Theatre, the London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and eventually back to the flat. Later that evening, I went to Les Miserables at Queen’s Theatre, and having never seen a professional production like Les Miserables before, I found it incredible. I was fascinated by the turntable on stage, as well as the intricacy of the staging. Seeing Les Mis was another check off the bucket list–and a worthy one at that!

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Friday morning, I drifted through Brick Lane, before any of the markets I had been told to visit even opened (I’m not really that into markets), taking photographs of more incredible street art, before meeting Florian to play doubles beach volleyball with two Lithuanian guys. I was the only one on the court under 6’5″, and it was absolutely brilliant volleyball. We played for about four hours, and then grabbed some pizza as a late lunch. By time we finished lunch, it was about 3 p.m., so I walked from Shoreditch towards central London, past St. Paul’s Cathedral, and then to the Tate Modern museum, where I spent the rest of the afternoon. After reading Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey earlier in the month, I was eagerly anticipating visiting the Tate Modern, but once I was there, I found myself feeling increasingly unintellectual. I really don’t understand what separates the art found in prominent galleries such as those at the Tate Modern with the art created by the average human–especially when an entire gallery is made up of burlap sacks arranged in a seemingly random order. Yet I feel like I should understand it, or at least be able to make some sense of what it is saying about the world. At any rate, it was an interesting experience. After finishing at Tate Modern, when walking along the Thames River towards the Westminster Underground station, the sun was just setting, and I found myself seeing so much more beauty in the light and the city and the people along the river walk that evening than I did in the museum. By time I made it back to the flat that evening, I was completely exhausted, and just barely managed to stay awake to watch a French movie about the Rwandan Genocide with Marc-Andre before collapsing into bed.

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Saturday morning, I got up early to take photos of the outside of 221 B Baker St, the legendary home of Sherlock Holmes and go to Daunt Books at Marylebone, which was fantastic–I could have spent days (and lots of money!) in that bookstore! Unfortunately, I had to content myself with purchasing just three books before going back to Shoreditch to play more beach volleyball. We had a training session with a professional beach coach for two hours, and then Marc picked me up and we went over to Leyton to participate in an open beach session at Side Out, where we played for another four-ish hours. By the end of the day, I was in enough pain (both ankles, and my right knee and elbow), presumably from the cold, that I could hardly move, and actually bowed out of the last game. Only a week later, did I realize that it was at some point on Saturday that I broke my right leg and sprained both ankles. I fully anticipated, at the time, that once I got home and took a hot shower, that I would be completely fine. We went back to the flat, and I took my shower, only to realize that I was still in a lot of pain, and could hardly walk, as hilariously evidenced when attempting to descend the stairs at the Spanish Tapas restaurant where we went for dinner.

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The next day was Easter, so despite being hardly able to walk after two days of intense beach volleyball (and breaking my leg), I got my morning coffee and yogurt, then went to Westminster Chapel for the Easter service. The Westminster Chapel building is gorgeous on the inside, and they have a beautiful pipe organ, that, regretfully, they didn’t use during the service. That afternoon, I joined Marc and Wies, a Dutch guy who used to live and work in Tanzania, for the famous Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, an Easter dinner of lamb roast and a trip to an English pub with the post-boat-race craziness happening.

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Monday, being my last day, I was originally planning on yet another volleyball session (despite being in some serious pain), but a storm interfered, so instead I visited the British Museum, and had yet another coffee (I drank a ridiculous amount of amazing coffee while in London!), before heading off to the airport to return to Dar. It was my intention to get some fish and chips in the airport, but both airport pubs were sold out, so I’ve resolved to return to London in the future for fish and chips–and just because I really loved London!

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