c25k: untitled

my running shoes are stained with the orange-red sand-dust of karamoja.
when i loosen the drawstring a cloud of that orange-red sand-dust leaps from the tongue of each shoe and makes me feel romantic about that hot and dusty place called kotido.

kotido: that place i learned to run.

my favorite running socks, despite numerous hand washings and now machine washings, are also stained the color of the earth of kotido. i refuse to throw them away.

there are some prickly burrs mashed into the sole of each shoe and every time one disappears it makes me sad.

running in my parents basement on the treadmill is nothing compared to running through the bush in karamoja. there are no people, animals, clouds, flowers or trees to greet and appreciate. i try to get lost in my music, but when i am too successful i stumble when the treadmill ups the speed (with my music up loud enough to be lost in it i cannot hear it beeping to warn me).

the most amazing three runs i have had since being back in the states were  in california (two of them), running through the redwoods stopping periodically to hug a tree and gaze up to the lofty tip tops of these stunning beauties. those runs were magical–the holy spirit even showed up one morning, and we had a nice chat. and one in pershing state park near my hometown–this adventure again took me through trees and by a small lake– i saw deer and stopped to enjoy the fall smells, colors and songs of the migrating birds.

i wasn’t prepared to run in texas as it was far too warm for my cold weather gear, so i let those few days go by with no miles logged.

there was one run in the subdivision. i found it mildly traumatic and was extremely culture-shocked. perhaps i went too early after arrival? no telling. i should try it again, and will try to be positive about my surroundings. perhaps running outside in this place can be a challenge to find beauty and work on my understanding. we shall see.

some current running music favorites (all albums):
the lemon of pink by the books
lungs by florence + the machine
i and love and you by the avett brothers
the midnight organ fight
by frightened rabbit
go be
by jonsi


giving thanks [hands]

today i am thankful for the hands that have held mine, pushed me, held me up and caught me when i fell, for the hands who have taught and encouraged–for the hands who continue to do so–and for all those who are yet to be found. love.

 

 

“so, what have you been up to in amerika?”

so i have been ranting a bit (a lot?) as of late. perhaps because people are tired of my ranting or maybe just because you’re interested there have been several questions of “so, what have you been up to?” below is a response in photos.

the rodeo!


annual halloween cookie decorating


duck hunting

train ride from missouri to california

great grandma’s 101st birthday celebration!

cooking


running through the redwoods


re-entry: you don’t get it [being in uganda was not an ‘experience’]

recently while talking with a few other mcc-returnees the subject turned towards friends, family and stranger’s reactions to our “being home” in north america. we all had a shared experience of some variation of the following reactions:

“well! you must be glad that’s over!”

“that must have been quite the experience. but, now you’re home.”

“what an experience! but now it’s time to move on from that.”

“you are passionate about that place now, but it will fade the longer you are home.”

and i’m writing on behalf of those friends and many other “returnees” who know that you don’t mean to hurt our feelings, or belittle what we’ve been doing while away, we know that you don’t mean to demean our time in a different community by calling it “an experience” or necessarily understanding that we weren’t just somewhere else working, we were living our lives. making friends, falling in and out of love, learning a new way to speak (languages and culturally) and live in a different community.

during our service-term we spent a huge portion of our time forming relationships and community. we immersed ourselves in new culture and new work with new friends and people who would become our families. our leaving these communities, for many of us, feels as if we were betraying this community. we are grieving.

when you talk of our time with mcc we assume that you don’t mean to imply that we were just playing or having a good time while we were in-service. we assume that were it you, you would also engage your community and seek out friendship and companionship in your new community. that you would become a part of that community and participate to the fullness of your ability.

but the feeling that we are getting from you is that you just don’t get it.
and in a way, that’s okay.
you may not have lived in another community far from your own before.
perhaps your travel experiences are few, or consist of large groups being lead through large foreign cities and week-long-mission-trips with vetted and seasoned hosts in the host country or city.

but in a way we feel like we’re doing the bulk of the work, trying to meet you where you are and choosing to not engage in conversation about our time away because it seems like too much work. this isn’t your fault. its just really difficult for us.

it is difficult for us to find words to answer a question like “how was africa/china/appalachia/haiti/cambodia/nicaragua/etc.?” or the question of “how was it?”

well, how where the last three to five years of your life? can you tell me in a sentence? do you have an answer prepared?

and to an extent we realize that it is not fair to get upset about this question. perhaps you know no other place to start than a huge-over-arching question like “how was it?” you’re not getting a glazed look necessarily because i don’t want to answer, but probably because three years worth of stories, adventures, heart-break, tears, triumph and failure are whizzing through my head and i have no idea where to start. what do you want to hear? what do you not want to hear? what can i say that will not solidify stereotypes you have?

perhaps you could say something along these lines:
* tell me about the community you were a part of. who were you living with?
* tell me about the church you attended. what did you see god move? how can i pray?
* what was your job title? what was the best part of your work?
* [bonus points] do you want to return? (only if you ask in a non-accusatory tone.)

and finally, moving from the rant on behalf of the corporate returnees to the more personal: please do not say to me that my life in uganda was something in the past tense. please do not tell me that my passion and love for uganda and my friends and family there will fade with time. please do not tell me that i have to ‘move on’ from caring about a place that is not what you define as my “home.”

when i share with you that i love uganda, deeply and intensely, do not pat my hand and say “one day that will fade.” when i share with you that i long to return to uganda, and feel that i one day will but am not totally sure how yet, please refrain from referring to a calling to love as “youthful zest” that “will wane.”

typically i wouldn’t rant so much in a public forum, but the more i rant and the more i share what i’m feeling regarding being back in the states and talking about uganda with people, the more i hear similar things from others. others who have also returned and who express love and respect of their new home and culture and are met with statements and responses that we know are not meant to be inflammatory or backhanded, but they sure come off that way.

sometimes we’ll need help in the grocery store because we’re not sure if that is a zucchini or not. or help navigating new technologies that didn’t exist when we left. sometimes we’ll burst into tears in the deli section of the grocery store, or stare at the 200 choices of crisps as if in a trance. we’ll do weird things like get excited about drinking tap water, or want to work really hard to conserve water in ways that may seem crazy. our speech patterns or use of words may have changed, we might sound funny. we may not know how to greet you properly…do we hug? shake hands? make eye contact? bow? nod?

it truly is confusion, not trying to show off. trust me, no one wants to be that woman standing in the bread section of the store paralyzed by the sheer number of loaves with tears falling from her eyes. no one wants to be that guy who is overwhelmed by the rapid-fire speech of north america and has to say “um? sorry?” six times a paragraph.

on behalf of my fellow reverse-culture-shocked brothers and sisters i ask you to be gentle with us. we’re dealing with a lot and managing a lot of things that we don’t necessarily know how to cope with or explain. we want you to ask questions and we want to share with you but are still learning how. it is our hope that you will also be willing to learn with us.

culture shock: electricity (pun not intended)

having been home for over three weeks now one would think that some of my habits from life in uganda would begin to fray and/or fade. specifically i’m thinking about my relationship with electricity.

basically i hoard electricity. at least that is the best way i know how to describe it. to the definition i cannot actually hoard/store electricity, but that is what it feels like i’m doing. especially in regards to my computer, camera battery and phone.

i find myself rationing my computer battery when it starts getting low by turning down the screen brightness, turning off music or shutting programs. while traveling i found myself rationing my ipod battery even though there was a plug in my seat on the train, and in the places i was staying.

sometimes i fret if my computer isn’t totally charged by the time i want to go to sleep because “the power may go off in the night” or “what if we run out?” if either of those things happen in kansas city i’ll have bigger things to worry about than if my computer is fully charged or not. (staying warm comes to mind…)

this evening i wondered if we had too many lights on in the house and if the battery was going to be stressed. it doesn’t take long for my brain to click into gear and remind me that we don’t have solar power/batteries, that we’re not on erratic load-sharing schedules and the power isn’t going to suddenly blip off unexpectedly. and even if it did, we could call someone who would fix it in a (semi) reasonable amount of time.

somewhat related, when i was packing for the trip to california and texas i packed a converter. now, i did realize before i left that i wasn’t going to need said converter and took it out of my backpack. however, this did not stop me from digging around in my backpack upon arrival in california when i wanted to plug in my computer.
i couldn’t believe i hadn’t packed my converter!

what was i thinking?!
who could i borrow one from?!

oh wait.

the plug fits in the wall.

duh.

re-entry: getting there [visions of amtrak]

a collection of photos of everything but the vistas taken with my mobile phone while traveling by train half-way across the country. (vistas will have their own post, so, hold your horses.)

an interesting window

first cup of coffee

dining car menu (nothing to write home about, alas)

another cup of coffee, in a different kind of mug

epic people watching. epic.

a lot of coffee = happy t

waiting for my connecting train

everyone’s favorite intrepid traveler/blogger

re-learning how to be direct

isn’t irony delicious?

having spent the last three years functioning as a direct person in a very indirect culture i was under the assumption that–while i learned to function and communicate indirectly–my default communication style was still direct. this morning i learned that i was very incorrect.

i was the solo interviewee in a group of seven interviewers, i felt comfortable and confident in who i am, my purpose for being there and the subject matter. the  questions were posed and i answered, albeit with a bit of couching, in what i thought was fairly direct. the answer wasn’t clipped, and i hesitated while searching for words, but felt the answers were fairly straight forward.

this didn’t seem to be the case.

the advice, post interview, was to be more succinct and forceful. to be more decisive. to show “you can be in charge.”

so it seems i adopted and absorbed a bit more karimajong culture than i had originally thought or intended when it comes to communication. before the next round (january) one of my goals is going to be working on becoming a woman of powerful yet few words.post-meeting i was pondering why i seem to talk so much more than i used to–and have come to the conclusion that being drawn into a story-telling culture has influenced how i communicate. its with a lot more words, and a lot more repeating (that part is due to language barriers more than story-telling).

i’ve got some work to do.

 

a small rant

let me begin by saying that i know you mean well.

i know you do. and you are only being honest and trying to be helpful.

something that has always been a pet peeve of mine is unsolicited advice. not all unsolicited advice (some has come in quite handy over the years) but the specific kind of unsolicited advice regarding my life and it’s direction. most specifically unsolicited advice regarding my life and its direction from someone who does not know me. close friends, family and mentors? sure! advise away! because you know me. you know my life and have listened to me. we share together, learn and grow together, and converse.

and again, i know you mean well. oh people who do not know me and want to impart your life-wisdom upon me, you mean to encourage, to promote growth and depth in my life. but you don’t know me. you have not journeyed with me, you know nothing of my calling and vocation–nothing of the work i have done academically, theologically, internally and intentionally with my deep and close community.you do not know my gifts, talents and struggles.

please do not proverbially pat me on the head and say, “well, get back to me in 15 years!” please take this young-unmarried-woman seriously enough to realize that when i say i know something in the deepest part of my heart that i’m not just saying that. yes, i am open to change–and i am not bogged down by the process of getting somewhere so that i “miss the trees for the forest” (most of the time).

yes, i understand that the level of depth and conviction i have for my calling is jarring, potentially disarming and difficult to understand for some. please do not write off my passion as passion-of-youth. you don’t know me.

somehow i have reached an interesting age where  those who are younger than i am are now looking to me for life-advice (when did i get old enough to dole out life advice?!) and i am still young-enough myself (i suspect this has a lot to do with being unmarried? or maybe young-marrieds just have to deal with different kinds of life advice?) to seem to need tons of life-advice. i try to do my very best to take people seriously when they share their life passions with me. if you tell me this is your passion–then i want to hear more, to dialogue with you about what that means for you right now and what you see that meaning in the future. what i will not do is say, “oh, you’re young. you’ll change your mind in a few years.” because that’s not fair.

as someone who has been striving towards the same goal since i was seven years old it really rubs me the wrong way when people want to tell me that my passions will change as i get older. i am open to change, to shifts in what i pursue and how i get there but the direction in which i have been heading for over twenty years now has been unwavering.

this does not mean there have not been surprises.
my theology and interaction with the world has changed greatly since age seven.
the joy of uganda in my life was, in some ways, a surprise. (in others not. my father tells a story of my about five-year-old-self telling him that one day i would move to africa. so, yea.)
deciding to move to texas has been a surprise.
but i’m still headed in the same direction.

if nothing else, my passion has heightened. my desire to continue moving toward ordination, building relationships and understanding between uganda (and the great lakes region) and north america, strengthening and morphing what the model of ‘missions’ looks like and how we as christians interact with each other and the world…all of these things remain. no, i do not know how they are all going to fit together and no, i do not have a grand plan for how they will. but i trust in my calling and my god-given passions enough to know that if i do my best to be faithful and discerning that little by little things will become more clear. my life so far has been a testament to that.

so please, do not write my young-unmarried-self off.

i have things to say.

“what do you miss?”

a question that keeps coming up as i re-enter the united states is “what do you miss?”

let me show you, at least in part, “what” i miss:

light

 

faces and hands

 

where i ran

 

my animal/children

 

paths and places

 

friends/family

re-entry: getting there [the mr. drunk incident]

today is the first day of the mcc re-entry retreat that i am attending. we have yet to register so technically it hasn’t begun, i suppose. however, i purposefully began my re-entry a few days before the official retreat by choosing to travel by train half way across the country to california, where the retreat is being held.

if you know me very well at all you have probably heard me pine romantically regarding trains and train travel. perhaps you’ve endured my stories that go like this: “and then when i was in [insert random country name] i took the train from [city] to [city] and it was just [enter romantic adjectives]…”

therefore, on monday evening at around 10:30 this lady found herself happily [giddily] striding towards an amtrak platform that harry truman once used, patent leather red suitcase in tow, a nalgene full of water, chocolate covered kettle corn (!) and enough goldfish crackers to sustain a small city for several days. i was the definition of happiness.

the following few posts will be some stories, events and wonderings from my journey from missouri to california. they will all begin with “re-entry: getting there” and have a short title in brackets. my “foundations” posts still have two remaining–the final two have been more difficult to write, but be assured that they are coming. perhaps being at this re-entry retreat will help them along. as ever, thanks for reading and commenting, emailing and wondering with me.

__

it was late, about 10:45 or so, when we started out of kansas city. i was tired and ready to let the train rock me to sleep but managed to stay awake long enough to realize i wished i’d brought along a blanket (COLD) and to watch downtown kansas city slide past in her cold and wet state. there is just something about a down-town viewed through a rain splattered window that makes me quite happy. if only i had a cup of coffee in my hands at that moment, it would have been perfect!

the gentleman who plopped down in the seat in front of me smelled as if he’d been dipped in a bottle of cheap vodka. if by dipped i mean “slipped-and-fell-into-and-was-left-to-soak-several-months.” the smell was so strong i could practically taste the vodka. that was less delightful. however, i reminded myself that at least he wasn’t sitting next to/practically on top of me as he would inevitably have been were this public-transportation in uganda. it wouldn’t have been vodka, but waragi; not a train but a bus or matatu; and the conductor probably wouldn’t have had pity on either of us.

this gentleman is the one who, if you followed the journey on facebook, upon sitting down began belting out “taaaaake meeeee hoooooome, countrrrrrrrryyyy roaaaads!” in the way that only a truly drunk person can–filling the air even more with the smell of stale booze and even more stale cigarette smoke. being a safe distance away i chuckled and wondered if i had that classic song on my ipod (i do not, sadly). before i could even wonder if the concert would continue all night (i would have requested to move) he had totally passed out. snoring. within three minutes of the train lurching forward.

all’s well that end’s well, i figured.

until.

i awoke at about 4:00 that morning to a familiar smell. in my very-asleep-state it took me a good two minutes to realize that the smell was cigarette smoke. it took me another two minutes to realize where i was—on a moving train—and another two to wake up enough to realize that i shouldn’t be smelling cigarette smoke on a moving train regardless of the hour. mr. drunk had woken up long enough to smoke three or four cigs, popped open a beer–shotgunned that bad-boy–and promptly fell back asleep.

enter internal dilemma.

it is very against the rules to smoke on the train.
i very much dislike uninvited cigarette smoke,
most especially when i am trying to sleep.
i am a midwesterner, and while we have the propensity to be blunt, we also don’t really like to make trouble.
however. a rule IS a rule. (no, you’re right, i don’t really live by that motto very often)

in the end i didn’t end up doing anything other than also going back to sleep.
thankfully for me this all sorted itself out a few hours later when he lit up again.
almost immediately a conductor was upon this gentleman asking if he was smoking.
mr. drunk was still mostly drunk and happily narrated his evening of beer and cigarettes from pre-train boarding to the most recent smoke he’d just had.

the conductor  sighed a big sigh, took his hat off and scratched his head, and very gently said: “well, sir, i’m afraid i am going to have to put you off the train at the next stop.”

mr. drunk: equally as gently, “what?” he sounded as if he were going to cry.

conductor: “sir, this is a no smoking train. the sign is right here…” he points “and it is the rule that if you smoke on the train we have to put you off at the next stop.”

he walks away, this is clearly difficult.

mr. drunk: “oh. but. sir! i promise i will be good. i’m sorry—i promise!”

about an hour later the train arrived in la junta, colorado. the same conductor and one police officer came to fetch mr. drunk, who continued his plaintive plea: “but, sir, i’m very sorry–i will be good, i promise!” all the while complying with what he was asked to do…”pick up your things, sir…come with us, sir…”

i had been going down the stairs to exit the train when the conductor and the police officer were coming up–they’d gone farther so i backtracked and waited in my seat for them and mr. drunk to head downstairs. this put me directly behind all the conductor as mr. drunk was pulling his luggage from the lower-level storage. mr. drunk continued all the while, “i promise i will be good. i promise. sir, i’m sorry…”

conductor: “i know. i know, but it is the rule. maybe they will let you back on tomorrow.” he and i make eye contact–i try to give him a look that is sympathetic.

the police were gentle with mr. drunk, escorting him away by gently placing a hand on a shoulder when they needed him to turn.

the conductor and i stood on the platform, tightening our coats against the cold.
me: “think he’ll be okay?”
conductor: “i sure hope so. that was pretty sad.”
me: “i wonder how many times he’s said ‘i’m sorry, i’ll be better. i promise.’ and really meant it but just can’t seem to.”
conductor: “i was wondering the same. i always wonder about the ones i have to put off. all the same, we keep rolling on: ‘BOARD!”

and we were off again.