Category Archives: Abner

דוד (David)

My friend Abner was recently traveling over in the Middle East.  “Meet up with me for a few days in Israel”, he messaged me.  He would cross the border from Jordan, and I would fly into Tel Aviv where we would connect and head to Jerusalem.  I’ve been wanting to go to Jerusalem for a long time, and if I could work out the details, I wanted to go.  I got the time off almost last minute, arranged for a cat sitter, packed a backpack, and went.

Being a person who is both fascinated by and terrified by politics, seeing the Knesset and watching the public debates was on my “to do list”.  We were only there for four days and saved the Knesset for the last day, Tuesday.  Unfortunately, that is the day that the Knesset isn’t open to the public until 4:00.  We got there at 11:00.  This is as close as we got:


So we went across the street to sit in the Wohl Rose Park to discuss our Plan B.

The first thing I saw in the garden was a tent.  A tent that looked like it had been there for a long while.  Repaired with strips of colored tape and surrounded by stones, it seemed that someone was living there full time.  The area around the tent was neat and tidy and it looked like it might be cleaning/airing out day as the fly was open and bedding was folded and piled onto a chair outside the tent.


Then I saw the probable occupant of the tent.  An elderly looking gentleman was washing dishes at the drinking fountain nearby.  As a lover of people’s stories, I knew I had to talk to this man.


So I put some shekels in my pocket and although I had a full Nalgene bottle of water, I headed over to use the fountain using the pretense of wanting a drink to strike up a conversation.

I asked him if that was his tent, and introduced myself.  It was.  His name was David.  He spoke English very well, but in a thick Hebrew accent.  “Do you live here all the time?” I asked.  He did.  Under my questioning he told me was there to protest, “a private matter”, he said.  He’d been protesting there for eight and a half years.  He asked where I was from.  He’d never been to Colorado, but wanted to go some day.  He had lived in the states before and served in the U.S. Army.  I could tell he wasn’t used to casual conversation, and I didn’t want to pry further.  I offered him a blessing and asked that God would incline his ear towards this man through the Knesset so that his issue could come to resolution.  I gave him the money I had put in my pocket, and we shook hands.  He told me I was a “very kind lady”.  I thanked him, wished him well, and left.  He returned to his dish washing and I to planning Plan B.


Why I Do Not Make a Good African Woman – Reason #1

And this is a big one!

In many parts of Africa there is a form of transportation called a “bike taxi”.

The bike taxi strikes fear into my heart.

Take a battered bicycle and put a “seat” on the back of it over the rear tire, and you have a bike taxi.

Like this one?

I wish.  No.

Like these ones.  (These have really good seats on them, by the way).

I recently went on another adventure to the African continent.  The trip in a nutshell went like this:

Fly to Dubai, meet up with Abner, hang out in Dubai for a bit waiting for our next flights, and sleep in the airport.  Fly to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania…me via Qatar, Abner direct.  Meet up with Abner again.  Spend night in DAR.  Take boat to Zanzibar.  Spend time in Zanzibar.  Take boat back to DAR.  Spend night in DAR.  Take buses and minibuses from DAR to Malawi.  Spend time in Malawi.  Take buses/minibuses to Mozambique.  Spend time in Mozambique.  Fly from Mozambique to South Africa.  Say good-bye to Abner as he heads to Lisbon.  Fly home.

This post is about the middle part of the trip.  The part where we meet up with friends in Sani/Nkhota Kota, Malawi.  There’s a lot of stories to tell up to this point, but this is as good a place as any to start.

In Malawi, especially in the rural “bush” areas, women wear skirts.  So, I was in a skirt.  And we were backpacking, so I had a big pack on my back, and a smaller one on my front.  And I’m not a young thing anymore…pushing 50 in fact.  And we’d been on the road for over two days, so I was tired and sore.

As we neared the place where our bus would drop us off to meet our Malawian friends, I began to wonder how, in the dead of night (it was after 10 PM) we would get from the roadside drop off point to Sam’s house (about 10 km) into the bush.  Is it too remote for a regular bush taxi?  Would we walk?  Or, please God, no, would he have arranged for bike taxis?

As you have probably guessed, it was the latter.  I took one look at those taxis and pictured myself trying to jump up onto the back to ride it sidesaddle with all my gear, and in a skirt, and I nearly died.  That was SO not going to happen.  “Fortunately”, once the “taxi drivers” saw the color of my skin, the previously agreed to price all of the sudden became seriously inflated.  I took that as my opportunity to encourage their immediate dismissal, opting instead to do the long walk.

Sam was quite amused.  African women have literally no problem with this form of transportation.  Even the very old ones with a parcel on their heads and one grandbaby in their laps with another one their backs.  And they are graceful while doing it.  Of course, they’ve been doing it their whole life.  This would have been my first time.

I seriously hate being a “problem” like that.  I try very hard to do the best I can to just quietly do what needs to be done.  And normally, I am extremely “game” in most travel circumstances.

But not this time.  I just couldn’t do it.  So we walked.  So I made all of us walk.  😦  And I was glad we did.  It was so very dark and the dirt road was bumpy and full of washed out areas, rocks, and potholes.  Even if I’d have gotten up there, I’m pretty sure at some point I would have fallen off, and possibly injured myself.  This is what I tell myself to make myself feel better about not doing it.

Perhaps the next time I find myself faced with a bike taxi I won’t be in a skirt, I won’t be loaded down, it won’t be dark, and there would be a step stool.  I’d give it a whirl if so.

But not this time.

In this particular case, I did not make a good African woman.

La Mort En Rose

Some Parisian cemeteries are destinations.  We (okay, it was me, not we) picked Cimetière du Père Lachaise because it is where Edith Piaf (singer of La Vie En Rose) is buried.  Also, it’s famed for its beauty in all of Paris.

We went on Halloween, just because, well, why not?  This was part of the decoration of one of the “sepulcres”, and seemed appropriate for the day:

There were many other visitors to the cemetary.  And lots of chrysanthemums, which I learned after returning home is the flower best known for remembering the dead (the article pointed out that mums should never be taken as a hostess gift).  So, there were not just touristy types at the cemetery that day, but people coming (often with mums in tow) to honor loved ones and notables who had passed.

I was expecting a large and beautiful gravesite for Edith Piaf.  But it was small and simple.  In fact, if not for the other people visiting the site, we might not have found it.  Edith Piaf was not her given name.

Fittingly, those visiting her grave brought roses…

The cemetery was laid out much like a randomly plotted city.  There were winding cobblestone roads marked with street signs.

In a number of strategic locations there were “roadmaps” to assist in the location of gravesites.

This “city” is also the final resting place of Modigliani, Molière, and Jim Morrison.

The “notable” M’s

We didn’t look for Modigliani’s or Molière’s graves, but we did seek out Jim Morrison’s.  I also expected somewhat of a spectacle for his grave.  But it was even more simple than Edith Piaf’s.  His was, however, surrounded by a low fence to keep his fans from getting too close.

Nearby trees and light standards have been turned into message boards of a sort for those who come to visit.

Even the wads of gum stuck to the tree have messages written on them.

There is no shortage of beautiful art or architecture in this city within a city.

As it was late fall, the leaves had mostly turned color and many had fallen.

Those that remained in the trees lining the cobbled streets made the place just a little bit golden, and a whole lot beautiful.

This trailing vine was hanging on to its smashing color and looking mighty fashionable as it decorated a grave largely forgotten over time…

While it was not in the least a creepy place, I don’t think I’d want to be there during the night time.  But if you ever are lucky enough to get to go to Paris, add “visit the Cimetière du Père Lachaise” to your “must do” list.

La Vie En Rose

“Go to Paris” has never made it to The List of Fifty.  In fact, historically speaking, I’ve never much wanted to go to France at all, despite having studied the language (la langue d’amour) for four years in high school.

But I am SOOOOOO excited to be going!  My friend Abner (same friend of the Timbuktu/West Africa adventure) and I decided we wanted to go on a trip to a place where we could drink the water, not have to take malaria meds, and leave the sleeping bags and mosquito nets at home.  We wanted to eat bread and drink wine, and listen to music while sipping coffee in street cafes, and cross bridges and take pictures of loveliness.  And Paris just seemed like the exact right place to do it!  PLUUUUSS, being late fall, it should be nice and chilly and maybe drizzly and rainy and gray and perfect for taking moody Fronchy photos!  🙂

ALSO, ever since I read about the catacombs under the streets, I decided I needed to see them, if ever I went to Paris.  Other things I am hoping to see?  La Tour Eiffel, l’Arc de Triomphe, the gardens of Versailles, Notre Dame, and I would love to cross all 23 bridges.  I am sure that a week will not be long enough to completely explore the city, but it will be long enough to get a feel for what life in Paris is like.  However, no matter what we do or do not do, if this song ever plays anywhere where I can hear it while I am there, I will consider my trip complete!

I rented an apartment for the week we’ll be there, and it’s in a real neighborhood with real Parisian neighbors.  How cool is that?

Fear of Falling

April 10th, 2011

Day 25:  Kakum National Park, Ghana

When I was younger, I was kinda fearless.

I’m older now, and I have phobia baggage.

I’m afraid of falling.  It’s kind of like being afraid of heights, but not exactly the same.  I am fine with being in planes.  I love roller coasters.  I’m fine up in REALLY tall buildings.  As long as I am enclosed in some way I’m okay.  No, it’s not really heights that bring me to near panic…I’m afraid of falling.  There’s a couple of types of fear of falling.  There’s basophobia, which is the fear of falling, but it leads people to not want to stand up at all.  That’s not what I have.  There’s climacophobia, which is the fear of falling down stairs.  That’s incorporated into my phobia, but mine is bigger than that.  There’s bathophobia, which sounds like the fear of taking a bath (that’s called ablutophobia), but it’s actually the fear of falling from a high place.  THAT’S what I have.

I came by this fear rightly.  There were two specific events that took place in my life that set me up for my fear.  The first was when I was 16.  I was on a mission trip to Haiti.

(Me, laying block in Haiti)

While standing on a rickety scaffolding and concentrating deeply to lay concrete blocks, one of the missionaries’ kids grabbed my ankles and shook me.  The fear got a hold of me then and grew over the years.  I eventually began to struggle with getting up on my stepladder to retrieve items from upper shelves in my kitchen.  Ridiculous.  I got tired of being that afraid, so I worked on desensitizing myself.  I got over (mostly) the worst of it…I could climb my stepladder!  🙂   And then some years later, the second event took place.  On a trip to Chicago with my big bro, his wife/my best friend, and one of my other good friends, we went to the top of Sears tower.

(Taken from the top of the Hancock Building, not the Sears Tower, but close enough!)

I was deep in thought and standing by a window looking down down down at the ground so very far away, and my brother came up behind me and shook my shoulders and made a “aHAHAHahahah” yell.  The fear returned with a vengeance.  Since then I have been challenging myself to get better, again.  I am better with being high up, but still very fearful in certain circumstances, especially if there are people anywhere behind me.  I just don’t trust them.

My high up place doesn’t even have to be very high.  I don’t like looking over cliffs.  I don’t like walking across bridges.  I don’t like open ferris wheels (closed ones are just fine).   I want to sky dive.  I want to bungee jump.  I want to walk over insanely high bridges.  I want to not feel like I can’t breathe and that I’m going to die if I need to jump over an open ditch.

Abner also has a fear of heights/fear of falling thing.  Which begs the question…”why on earth did the two of us decide to go on a canopy walk in the rain forest?”.  Excellent question!  Because we NEEEEEEEEDED to.  And because I trust Abner with my life, I decided if I could walk across swinging rope and wood bridges high up in the trees with anyone, it would be with Abner.  You’d have to ask him what his impetus was!

While we were in Cape Coast, Ghana, we were very close to the Kakum National Park…and they had a canopy walk there that we heard about.  The walk was comprised of seven of these “bridges” hundreds of feet up in the air over wild jungle.  We hiked up to where the walk started.  It was rather hot and humid.  I’m very sweaty, BUT I’m an official green card carrying NGA!  A Non Ghanaian Adult.  🙂

Since a major component of my fear is having someone behind me, we waited until the rest of the people in our group had set off across the first bridge.  Abner went before me, and I went last.  I was confident and walking without my legs shaking beneath me until I felt the bridge shaking behind me.  Oh great.  My biggest fear, and it was making ground behind me.  There’s no place to pass on these 10″ wide bridges.  And this guy ended up so close behind me that he was clipping my heels as I walked and he was stressing me to move faster.  I called to Abner to make the guy back off before I freaked out.   He did, and I collected myself.  I let the guy pass me at the first opportunity, and once he did, I was able to actually enjoy myself.

We walked all those seven bridges.  We didn’t see any wildlife, but we heard the birds in the trees.  It was really a cool thing we got to do.

Five years ago I tried to walk across the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge here in Colorado.  I got out about 15 feet and I started to panic.  I want to conquer that bridge!  Abner and I will get around to trying sometime in the near future.  Cuz we’re rock stars!  And we can do it!

Dying To Get A Visa

Days 5 & 6, Bamako, Mali

Figuring out which countries you will need a visa for and how is the best way, or only way, to get them, is one of the challenges of international travel.  Abner figured it all out for us for our trip.  Ghana, the last country we’d be visiting, was going to be the trickiest visa.  Ghana requires that visitors obtain their visa in their country of residence.  So we’d need to get in the States before leaving for our trip.  The embassy is in Washington, D.C.  So, we mail off our passports and all the requested information and the application in duplicate along with passport photos and pray for the best.  Which normally wouldn’t be cause for much concern…however I needed my passport for my trip to Haiti, and would have to send it in when I got back…which would give me less than two weeks for the turnaround.  Abner did most of the legwork, including coming to my office to pick up my paperwork and taking it to the Fed-Ex office and doing the calling to check on the status.  I got my passport back with my faboo Ghana visa in it just a few days before leaving for West Africa.  What a relief it was to have that in hand.  Only two more visas would be needed for our travels.

Senegal did not require a visa for Americans.  We’d obtain our Malian visa in Senegal.  We’d obtain our Burkina Faso visa in Mali.

Hyperbole aside, I nearly died getting our Burkina visa in Mali.  I was as close to being in a medical emergency as I’d ever been.  It was well over a hundred degrees in Bamako.  That was just the air temperature.  There was scorching heat coming up from the ground beneath us.  The air was toxic.  People riding motorcycles often wore medical masks to help filter the pollution from it.  On our first day in Bamako we left our hostel, La Mission Catholique, in the late morning to head to the Burkina Faso embassy.  Lonely Planet did not provide an exact address, but gave seemingly good directions on how to get to the location.  It was just a few miles from our hostel.

We’d arrived that morning after a 36 hour bus trip (that story is another post!) and we were tired.  The cabbie we’d hired to bring us to our hostel didn’t know quite know where the hostel was, and didn’t know any of the street names provided on the map we had.  He got us to the general neighborhood and then after asking around, finally pulled up to our location.  We thought his not knowing his way around well was a fluke…wrongo.

We flagged down a taxi to take us to the embassy because it was already oppressively hot and we didn’t feel like walking even a mile in the heat.  This taxi driver had literally no idea where the embassy was.  We had a map, but he did not read and could not understand maps.  We found this over and over again with the subsequent cabbies we’d hailed.  We finally decided we’d just walk there…seemed easy enough…well, easier than trying find a cab was turning out to be.


Getting our bearings wasn’t too difficult.  We each had a Nalgene bottle of water with us.  We figured we’d find the embassy before our water ran out.


Man, it was hot.  I live at altitude, and so I am naturally blood doped.  Despite that, I needed to stop frequently to drink water and try to stand in whatever shade I could find to try to cool down.  It didn’t take us too long to get to where we knew the embassy had to be close…only we couldn’t find it.  We asked and asked, but no one knew where it was.  Down one street that seemed to be the one the embassy was right off of, we saw a guy in a uniform.  Turns out he was a private security guard for some nice secured housing.  He knew where it was and sent us off in the right direction…”down the road, cross the big street, and then go down the street on the right”.  He said it in French though.  It wasn’t far.

Sooo,  off we went.  My water was gone, but we’d come back to the little store we passed along the way once we’d dropped off our passports.  Only that’s not quite how it went.  We went down the road, and we crossed the big street, and we found a road on the right, and we walked down that road, only there was no embassy.  We walked around a bit seeing what we could see, only we couldn’t see anything ebassyish looking.  We found an official looking building with official looking uniformed men and so I asked them, in rather clear and concise French thank you very much, if they knew where the BF embassy was.  By the way they looked at me, you would have thought I was speaking Bikya.  I asked and reasked, slowwwwwly and clearly…nope, nada, or should I say, rien!  But then a groundskeeper who overheard my attempted conversation approached us and said he knew where it was and that he would take us there, and that it was close.  HE understood my French.  I understood HIS French.  What was with those military guys anyway????  He took us back down the road we’d abandoned, then turned down another dusty little road, and there, just a few hundred meters down THAT road was the embassy!  Woo Hoo!!!  We’d found it!!!  Thanks groundskeeper guy!  Here’s a nice tip for you for your help!

By now I’m hot.  And beet red.  Abner is sharing his precious water supply with me, and soon, his is gone too.  We approach the guardhouse and make our request.  We are told to return in about two hours, that this is when the passport office is open again.  We head off in search of fluids.

IT IS REALLY HOT.  We realize that there is a bit of a short cut if we take a different route, so we head back to the little store we passed on the way to the embassy.  My heart is pounding and pounding fast.  I’m getting redder, and hotter, and drier by the minute.  My pulse is 140.  My usual resting heart rate is half that.  I’m feeling woozy.  It’s at this time that I tell Abner that I’m not feeling well at all and that we need to get to some liquids pronto.  The shortcut takes us past rotting chicken remains alongside the road.  The smell of death makes me even sicker.

I’m about a minute away from delirium and heat stroke when we make it to the store.  A couple of men outside the store take one look at me, and they give up their lawn chairs for us.  A few liters of fluid and soda and an hour later, my heart rate is down to a hundred, I’m sweating again, and my color and skin temperature has returned to normal.  Crisis averted.  And lesson learned.  No matter how tired I am and now matter how heavy it is, both Nalgene bottles need to go with me all the time.

We trudge back down the road, across the big street, through the shortcut, past the rotting flesh piles, and back to the embassy we go.  A short wait and we are allowed access to the embassy’s passport office…

Where we learn that passports are picked UP in the afternoon, but they are dropped OFF in the morning.  We’d have to come back tomorrow.

TIA, my friends…This Is Africa.

Since we are pretty certain that no cab driver will know how to get us back to our hostel, we decide to walk back.  I was feeling fine to make the walk.  Only our walk back didn’t quite go as planned either.  At first it was all good.  We walked with confidence!  We found our way back to the neighborhood we were staying in.

And then we were lost.  We got disoriented and turned around.  Nothing looked familiar and everything looked familiar.  We knew we were close, but we couldn’t find where we were supposed to be.  We asked a dozen people for help.  No one knew street names.  No one knew where the mission was.  Abner was getting frustrated.  I was starting to panic.  I was overheating again.  And as all the life-saving water I had imbibed earlier had worked its way through my system, I was now nearly in a bathroom state of emergency.  I’d been praying often on this trip already…but now I’m praying out loud.  “Please, Jesus, send us someone who knows where we are and how to get us to where we want to be”.  I was begging.

Then, like a beautiful black angel, a young man,  working a jigsaw puzzle of all things, motions us over to him.  Without even asking him for help, he tells us that the place we are looking for is down this street, turn left at the corner, and then left at the next corner, and it will be on the right.

And it was.  And we were safely back to where there was water and a bathroom.

The next day we returned to the embassy early in the morning and dropped off our passports.  And we made it back in the afternoon to pick them up.  And we stopped for shawarmas on the way “home” where we took victory photos of us and our freshly minted Burkina visas.

It was looking like we’d both be filling all the pages of our passports on this trip!  I’ve never filled up a passport before!!  At the shawarma restaurant:  my Ghana visa on the right, our hard won Burkina Faso visas on our lefts!

None the worse for wear in the end, but getting this visa was a bit scary there for a minute.  This was a good place to learn the water lesson.  Further down the road, having plenty of water was going to be even more important as finding it would be more difficult.

After shawarmas, and without making a single wrong turn, we made it “home” once again.  Feeling a little contented, and a lot jubilant.

I Wish I Was In Ouagadougou…

Days 18, 19, and part of 20

I’d never heard of Ouagadougou before Abner and I started to plan our trip.

Best name for a city EVER!!!!

Capital city of Burkina Faso.

Even though there’s not exactly a whole lot to do there…we put it on our list of places to spend time mostly because we liked the way it sounded when we said “Ouagadougou”…

We wanted to take pictures of ourselves in front of some sort of  “Welcome to Ouagadougou” sign.  But we couldn’t find one.  Best Ouagadougou sign we could find was the one on a big trashcan downtown.  See????

It was rather awkward taking this picture…there was a cop across the street that made us nervous…like he might wonder why we were taking pictures of a trashcan…and it would be difficult to explain.  So we tried to look nonchalant while each of us surreptitiously tried to take a picture of the other.  I am casually sucking on a water sachet…I don’t look out of place at alll!!!!  🙂

Since getting to Timbuktu and back was a bit draining, we planned on relaxing in Ouagadougou.  We had a great room at a great hostel.  Hotel le Pavillon Vert.  I’m sure I’ll post on that at some point.  If you ever go to Ouaga, and you’re on a budget, you probably can’t beat the place.

Abner decided to not shave on this trip.  He started out being confused by people with being Korean…a little bit of beard and he became Japanese…a little more…Pakistani…full beard by the end of the trip and he was completely Saudi!  Oddly, not a single person thought he was Filipino!  When people would ask him, and he would tell them where he was from, very few people even knew of the country or where it was.

By the time we hit Ouaga, and were as tired as we were, I thought he was looking like a Laotian refugee…


Veggie Tales…West African Style

We stopped on our bus rides across West Africa.  We stopped (and broke down) a LOT.  Most of the stops have blurred together in my mind.  But, it WAS somewhere in Mali.  I’m sure of that.  I see a guy walking down the street towards Abner and me and he was wearing a white shirt with what appeared to be a familiarish cartoonish green cucumber on it.

Me to Abner:  “Look!  How funny!!  That guy is wearing a Veggie Tales shirt in the middle of nowhere Mali!”

Abner to me as the shirted man gets closer:  “Uh, that’s not a veggie, that’s a condom!”

So it was.  (It was an HIV education shirt).  And much laughter ensued…


Bon Anniversaire, Abner!!

Happy Birthday, Abner!  Thanks for bringing so much awesomeness into my life!  🙂  Here’s to the next visa and the next stamp in our passports…

Three Glasses of Tea

“The first is strong…like death.

The second is sweet…like life.

The third is sugar…like love.”

~  Aziz

Tea is a fundamental component of the Tuareg way of life.  The tea they drink is  Chinese Green Tea.  Apparently through extensive trial and error, this has been determined to be the best tea.  And among the Tuareg, it’s a universally held opinion.  We had seen these small glasses of tea for sale all over Mali.  Vendors would sell it by the glass either from small stalls or on foot.  We had one bus driver who frequently purchased a glass during our innumerable stops.  We wondered what it was, but because the glass was a shared glass and the liquid within looked turbid, we declined…that is, until we were in Timbuktu.

Our hostess at the Sahara Passion where we staying made us aware that tea would come to us regularly and in a series of three glasses.  I guessed then that tea was something important in this place.

The tea is served hot, even though the weather is stiflingly hot already.  Despite this, it’s somehow refreshing.  The glass it is served in is reminiscent of a slightly oversized shot glass.  Each of the three glasses of tea is different, but all have many ingredients in varying amounts.  The first cup of tea is somewhat bitter, and yes, strong.  The second is my favorite.  It’s plenty sweet and a little bit minty.  The third is crazy sweet and crazy minty.  It is made in very small pots on very small charcoal braziers.

For the Tuareg, there is a tea ceremony of sorts in the brewing, mixing, and serving of it.  Aziz, a young Tuareg man who was our guide and became our friend, shared a story about the first time he was allowed to go on a salt caravan.

“You have to be eighteen to go.  And everyone has to have a job.  My job was to make the tea.”

Tea is that important…important enough to be a whole job.

Ghahahahana!! :-)

My recent adventure to West Africa started in Senegal.  From Senegal we traveled to Mali and then on to Burkina Faso.  These three countries are French speaking and largely Muslim.  The final country on our itinerary was Ghana.  English speaking and largely Christian.  I’m skipping to the end to do a little bit of an easy chuckler post.  🙂

The minute we crossed over the border from Burkina into Ghana I started chuckling!  And the chuckles continued throughout our time there.


Well, the names of the businesses which lined the road pretty much cracked me up!  Most of the time you really didn’t know what the place sold by the name.  Sometimes you’d get a hint in the name.  Sometimes you could tell from the sampling of wares you could see…from caskets to tires to bread…

Here is a few of the names that were on my side of the road as we drove by:

  • Power House of Cement
  • The Blood of Christ Can Do It Better
  • Born Again Supermarket
  • No Sweat and Joy Drinking Spot
  • God’s Will Enterprises
  • No Bribe At Heaven
  • Patience To All Enterprises
  • God’s Grace MTN
  • God First
  • I Thank God
  • God Is Good
  • By His Grace Perfect Touch Beauty Salon
  • Maranantha God
  • Pray For Life
  • Great God of Wonders
  • Ps 121 Home Cooking
  • Jesus Never Fails
  • Iddi(sic) Amin Enterprises
  • In His Time Store
  • Christ the Redeember Beauty Salon
  • God is Our Strength

And my favorites…

  • Patience Fast Food
  • With God All Things Are Possible Beauty Salon
Pictures on loan from Abner…best travel partner EVER.  🙂

Happy Birthday, Abner

Hey Abs,

Happy birthday!  Sorry you have to work today – even sorrier you’re stuck up in South Dakota.  Bad way to spend the first day of your “late 20’s”.  LOL!  😉

Much love, and let’s do Jack Quinn’s to celebrate when you get back!!

Yo Mama



“Juxtaposition” – Photo Friday

Today’s Photo Friday is entitled: “Juxtaposition″


1. an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, esp. for comparison or contrast.
2. the state of being close together or side by side.

This week was my choice for the topic!  I picked “juxtaposition” because 1) I absolutely LOVE the word, and 2) I thought it was a challenge that could be interpretation in a bajillion ways.  I had no preconcevieved idea of what I was going to do for it.  The word just came into my head when I read that the choice was to be mine this week. 

I took this picture this past weekend in Denver.  When I took the picture I was only taking it because it tickled my fancy.  I thought it would be way cute to have my little friends copy the big blue bear’s pose, all lined up.  Only after I got home and was going through and catalogueing the photos from the weekend did it strike me that this would make an excellent and FUN submission for this weeks “Photo Friday”.  So, here is “Big Blue Bear and Little Friends Peeking”!

From L to R that’s the Big Blue Bear, Abner, Stephanie, Colin, and Clare — in juxtaposition!  🙂

This Big Blue Bear is peeking in the windows of the Denver Convention Center.  His body is made up purely of planes.  Pretty cool.  Designed by a computer.

The sculpture was unveiled in June of 2005 and is called “I See What You Mean”.

They are all interested in what’s going on in there!  🙂

Please visit the other participants’ work!

 Sky Windows 

Idea jump!

A Curious State of Affairs 

Just For Fun

Welcome to CordieB of the blog “Looking Through The Window

(Jan’s entry – A Curious State of Affairs – uses a cool online tool called a Hockneyator to create a collage.  You should check it out and snag that link to try this tool yourself!)

I’ll add anymore links should I find that there are any more new players out there!

Next week’s topic comes to us from Tina of SkyWindows and is “Religion”. 

A Day in LoDo

A couple of weeks ago I met my friend Abner up in Denver to spend the afternoon.  It was a lovely day.  We’d been threatened with snow, but there was barely a cloud in the sky and it was warm in the sun.  We decided to meet at the Breckenridge Brewery.  It’s one of the local microbreweries and I’ve heard they have some good offerings.  I tried the Agave Wheat.  It was a murky looking glass of darkish amber stuff.  But it tasted awesome! 

The area of town that is host to the Breckenridge Brewery is known as “LoDo”, or Lower Downtown.  It’s an historical district, also known as the ballpark district.  The brewery is right down the street from Coors Field where the Colorado Rockies play.  I love baseball (I believe I have mentioned this before).  I used to adore the Dodgers, but fell out of adoration with them in the 90’s.  I tried to fall in love with the Anaheim Angels, and things were going sort of okay, but then they became the Los Angeles Angels, which, even removing the absolute redundancy of the name from the equation, was just wrong.  End of that fledgling relationship!  And then I moved to Colorado.  I wondered if I could become a Rockies fan.  Well, after seeing the Rockies “house”, I think I could very well do so.  I drove past Coors Field the last time I was up in Denver and I wanted to explore it further by walking all the way around the stadium.  Of course that took us into a couple of restricted access areas, but despite passing a number of empty security vehicles, we were successful without even being approached.

What a great stadium and wonderful location for it.  On the 20th street side there was a pedestrian walkway which brought you through an archway of sorts.  The supports had a collection of “ball” tiles on the fronts and backs.  Here’s one of the panels:

One day I’ll go back and try to individually photograph each and every tile in these columns.  Some are mighty clever.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

Through the archway and a there’s a perfect “out in left field” gate upon which to take a foot picture, which of course, we did.

In the process of meandering around town, and laughing hysterically at this and that, we passed by a number of buildings which had either been, or were being converted into lofts and condos.  Of course, with my love of 1)  cities, 2)  buildings, and 3)  real estate, my heart was pretty much palpitating.  There was one small row of loft-type spaces in particular that caught both of our attentions.  The units were three stories tall, and on the backsides there were balconies off the second and third floor.  Rising from the third floor balcony was a spiral staircase leading to rooftop terraces.  From those rooftops I bet you could see the entire downtown skyline as well as Coor’s Field.  And I bet you could easily hear the roar of a baseball crowd from there, too.  I was imagining being up there on a hot and sticky summer day basking in the fierce high altitude sun and BBQ’ing with friends while hearing the crack of bat on ball.  Perfection.

I have longed to buy a property in a city center for decades now.  Chicago has always been my city of choice for this, and Dublin would be pretty amazing, too, as would London.  An apartment in Syracuse, Sicily or Kinsale, Ireland has been a dream floating around my head.  I even looked at lofts in Los Angeles which were pretty spectacular, but after being in this area of Denver, I think Denver could suit me nicely!  Pipe dreams!!  🙂

Near the end of our LoDo traipse, we crossed a street only to be faced with the biggest set of doors I’ve ever seen that weren’t at the front of an old European church!  Here’s Abner being dwarfed by the doors:

Thanks for another fun day just hanging around, Abner!  Let’s do it again soon.

…Jiggedy Jig

Home again.  Home again!  I have spent much time away from home since moving to Colorado.  This latest trip took me to Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, and Wyoming.  And Mexico!  Almost forgot Mexico.  I was gone for three weeks.  This trip was a driving trip.  It ended up being MUCH more driving than I had planned at the beginning.  The final tally?  Four thousand four hundred and fifty eight miles driven!  Yikes.  I haven’t even bothered to add up all the tanks of gas I bought.  I am only hoping that the trip falls into two different credit card billing cycles, and doesn’t all show up on one bill!  🙂  I am going to have to do some serious carbon footprint penance for this little vacay of mine!  😉 

Highlights?  Driving Utah’s Highway 128 (post on that to follow) on the way to Arches National Park.  Spending 9/17 with Phil sharing memories, stories, Dom Perigon and Creme Broulee.  My family’s meeting about and decision to start our own ministry to work alongside “Connie’s Heart” in Africa.  (Much more on this as things develop).  Seeing Janet, Shawn, Susie, Abner, and Koni.  Sharing a stateroom with my sister Liz on her birthday cruise to Mexico (and winning the onboard “Pictionary” competition with all three of my sisters).  Taking my four nieces and nephews (Phil’s kids) for haircuts.  Having lunch with Liz and her son Louis.  Shopping for Donna’s jewelry store in L.A.’s jewelry district.  There were others, too.  But I need to post my “I am home” post before I leave again!  🙂

(Lowlights?  Sure.  Had some of those, too.  But we won’t talk about those here and now!)

Watched a couple of movies.  I forced myself to watch “An Inconvenient Truth”.  It was my latest Netflix offering.  I dragged it to Cali specifically to watch with my friend, Shawn.  I had started to watch it a number of times prior to watching it with her, but failed as it was sooooo bad.  So we watched it together and lamented that a movie so poorly made and sophomoric was awarded an Oscar.  I have lost whatever shred of respect I had for the academy.  I’ve seen better films made by junior highers on YouTube.  I also tried to watch “Spiderman 3” while on the cruise to Mexico, but fell asleep each time.  I have added it to my Netflix queue so that I can see the ending.  I need to find out if Peter lost Aunt Mae’s wedding ring!

I ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant, La Capilla.  I also dined at some of my fave joints that don’t have franchises here in Colorado.  Like “Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf” (a Starbuck’s competitor which is far superior), Togo’s (a Subway competitor which is FAR superior), El Pollo Loco (a char chicken joint), and In ‘N’ Out (by far best burger in the known universe AND a mean pink lemonade to boot!).

I got home yesterday afternoon after spending most of the three day time span before getting home in the front seat of my car either driving or sleeping.  I worked today.  I’m wiped out.  I’m glad to be home, but could have spent weeks longer seeing friends.  I really wanted to try to see Yosemite and Yellowstone, but that will have to be another trip.  I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to wrangle a trip to Washington for a wedding the first week of November and then a Chicago trip for Thanksgiving later that month. 

Thanks to Mike and Brandy for taking such good care of my Mew!  She was spoiled rotten, but I think she’s glad I’m home.  Not a lap cat, she has spent much time there since I got home. 

Thanks Whitney and Mitchell for sharing their space with me and for putting up with all my junk in their room.

Thanks to Phil for his friendship and love.  Phil…I’m prenvious of you!   🙂

(Why do you suppose some of my emoticons are turned into animated faces, and some are left as punctuation?)

Where Is Iz?

I was adopted this summer.  “She” showed up the day that we did at the Camp in Ispica.  She was sitting behind a fence that separated the camp from the property next door.  She attached herself to our team almost immediately.  She was fearless and always underfoot.  Initially I attempted to keep her out of the kitchen, but it was a losing battle.  And she would sit on the floor and look up at me with the most soulful eyes begging me for a taste of that beef, that chicken, that turkey, that tuna, or whatever else it was that caught her nose’s attention.  (She particularly loved melon rinds.  How bizarre is that?)

I missed my cat, Mew Ling.  So sue me.  I started to feed the skinny gray kitty.  She needed a name.  The girls first came up with Etna, which I thought was really a cute name.  But it didn’t stick.  Isabella, and then eventually Izzy, and Iz, did stick.  And Izzy somehow became my cat.  She had been abandoned by her mother along with a couple of siblings.  The next door neighbor sort of took them in and occasionally fed them.  But only Izzy came over the fence and made friends with us.

Last summer I missed my cat tremendously.  But I had Abner to keep me company, to make me laugh, and to have deep grown up conversation with.  It was a pretty lonely summer for me this past summer.  I was the only head leader.  My assistant leaders were both very young.  All the adults that were at the camp spoke either Italian or German.  Some spoke a little English, but not enough to easily have more than the most simple of conversation.  I think God sent Izzy to me to keep me company and to alleviate my aloneness.  She did a great job of it, too.  It seemed to me like it was her personal mission to be my companion.  And I know that God loves me enough to take the time to arrange something like that for me, too.

At first Izzy never made any sounds except purring.  It was a couple of weeks before I heard the most faint little mews coming from her.  I don’t know if she was abandoned so young that she didn’t know how to meow or what.  When she finally did “learn” to talk, it was so pitiful sounding I couldn’t help but want to make sure I did whatever necessary to make sure she was safe and healthy.  I got sucked in by her situation and her phenomenal cuteness.  I was a goner and it didn’t take long til I was crazy for this kitty.

Good Grief, is that a cute face, or WHAT?

I think Izzy thought I was her mother.  She would snuggle up to me or snuggle down in my clothes and find a little wrinkle of fabric and suck on it.  For hours she could do that.  I once woke up with a huge wet spot on my shoulder.  She had been sucking on the back of my shirt for who knows how long.  She’d play all day with the kids, following them out to the work site and playing with them into the evening hours.  But when it was time for bed, most nights found Izzy in my room and on my bed.  Since no one was allowed into my room without my being in there, Izzy would retreat there when she needed alone time.  I would often find her stretched out (or curled up) on my bed in the afternoon taking a long leisurely uninterrupted nap.

Izzy Stretches Out

Izzy’d come when I’d call her, too.  I’d make a very loud long kissing sound, and if she was within hearing distance, she come running like a gray flash.  Sometimes I’d do the sound when she was being held by one of my kids just to see all the acrobats of her twisting and twirling and trying to get down.  It was fun to watch whoever was holding her to try to hang onto her as long as possible.  It was like watching someone trying to hang onto loose Jell-O! 

Izzy liked to hang out in the kitchen.  Probably because she knew she’d be able to get food out of pretty much anyone, especially me.  She got stepped on a lot.  Eventually she found a place she could hang out without getting crunched.  She’d curl up with the pots and pans in the kitchen island.

Izzy Hangs Out In The Kitchen With Me 

When I’d go to my room to do paperwork, or whatever, Izzy liked to jump up on my shoulder.  Why do you suppose she would do this?  I have no theories.  But it seemed like she was very interested in whatever I was doing and liked a good view.

Izzy On My Shoulder Where She Can See Better 

And we all absolutely loved her.  Me especially.  And I had to leave her behind.  Sad day.  I had been hoping to bring her to Colorado to live with me.  The missionary’s son said he’d help me get her if it was possible.  It doesn’t look like it is.  Even if I could arrange to get her to a vet there in Sicily and get a certificate of health (a requirement of British Airways), British Airways makes all animals travel as cargo.  They don’t offer cargo services from Catania, Sicily.  The only way I could get her to the U.S. IF I had a certificate of health, would be to have her fly out of Rome.  I guess Iz is staying in Sicily. 

I’m worried that Izzy has no one to feed her.  I wonder if she is trying to get into my room at night.  Do you think she wonders what the heck happened to all of her people?  I feel terrible that we had to leave her behind.

Stupid.  I know.

Junkyard Cat

She’s just a cat, afterall.  Right?

Abner Hits the Big Two-Five!

And a Big Happy Birthday, to you, Daddy! 

Abner eats dried and sauteed kapenta (a little fish) in Kansoka, Zambia, last summer!



“That’s what poverty teaches you.”

Abner said that to me when I asked him how he learned to do all the things he knew how to do.  Like make me kerosene lamps out of ketchup bottles aluminum foil and medical gauze when my “real” lanterns broke after just a few days of use.  Abner grew up in the Philippines and didn’t have much.  Not much in the way of possessions anyway, but much in the way of determination and ingenuity.

I got to spend a few hours with Abner when I was in California last week.  You can see how much he misses Africa just by looking in his eyes.  I longed to be able to sit with him under the African night and all its stars, and to sit in the freezing cold by the hot coals glowing in the brazer, and to laugh about our day’s adventures and plan for the adventures of the next day.  We seem out of place together in America where things like our jobs and our cars and the messes of our romantic and other relationships muddy the waters.  I’ve never worked with somebody so seamlessly as I did with Abner.  I never felt safer than I did in the two months we lead our team together.  We never, not once, found ourselves in conflict with each other.  It was just another one of those miracles.  Boy.  Do I miss that. 

Mama Lou and Daddy Abner, March 2007

But I wax nostalgic.  The subject was ingenuity, so back to THAT!

See what poverty is teaching Africans.  Necessity IS the mother of invention!

Visit AfriGadget.


Just nicely home from my latest trip.  Some weeks ago my dad asked if I’d come to Oregon to help celebrate my Great Aunt Enyd’s 90th birthday.  I’d never met this great aunt and thought it was a good time to do so!  I figured I’d fly out there for that and then spend a week down in the Los Angeles area to see family and friends.  I flew out of Denver and into Portland last Friday.  My dad drove up from Los Angeles for the party and met me at the airport.  And the whirlwind of activity ensued!

We headed out to Vancouver, Washington to pick up my niece, Natalie, who was to spend the rest of the day and evening with us.  I took my Dad and Natalie over to friends’ house in West Linn, Oregon.  I was to meet up with all of them later for dinner.  I headed out to another Portland suburb.  A friend of mine where I live has a sister who lives in Tigard.  Their mother was visiting from California and they invited me to come over since I was in town.  Lovely folks!  The time was too short before I was off to West Linn again to meet everyone for dinner.  I drove my niece home after dinner and she cajoled me into stopping at a dive bar near her home for a drink and some pool.  Since Natalie is smart, funny, articulate, and well-read, I was delighted to do so!  Besides…how often does a 22 year old niece beg her old lady aunt to hang out with her?  You gotta grab those chances, don’t ya?!!

Early the next morning my dad and I were off for Grant’s Pass for the party.  My aunt Enyd is 90, but sheesh, is she ever spry and mentally sharp!  She is an artist and has a large studio filled with her various works.  She tells me that being an artist is a disease and tells me to stay away from it!  I stopped doing my art back in the late 80’s and have been considering taking it up again.  I’m having second thoughts after her admonishment!  🙂  We went to a wonderful riverside restaurant for dinner meeting up with many of my aunt’s friends and a number of relatives that I also had never met.  AND my favorite cousin on that side of my family (everyone knows he is my fave, so I can tell you that) and his very fun wife were there from out of town as well.  I hadn’t expected to see them, so that was a wonderful surprise.  That was Saturday.  My dad and I spent the night at Enyd’s adorable little cottage in the woods.

We were up at six the next day (not counting the time change) and on the road headed for California not too long after that.  We drove past Mount Shasta as the sun was rising.  Quite an impressive and beautiful sight.  We stopped at a Lumberjack themed restaurant (“where the big boys eat”) for breakfast where I had one of the best omelettes I’ve ever  had in my whole life.  About halfway home we stopped at “Casa de Fruta” off the five freeway where we picked up some dried apricots, cashews, artichokes, and avocados.  The rest of the drive down to my brother’s was filled with flowering trees of all varieties and with spring bursting forth all along the freeway.  What an amzaing valley of plenty!  We made it to my brother’s house just after dark on Sunday.  I missed Amazing Race.  As it turns out, it was an important episode to have missed!

Monday came early!  Phil (my brother) doesn’t work on Mondays.  We decided to incorporate geocaching into his kids’ school curriculum and have a field trip for school.  We went out (with Mitchell, too!) to find a number of caches placed by a friend of mine and his four children.  By reading what people wrote who had found these caches in the past, I could tell that they were clever ones.  They didn’t disappoint!  We did find all three of them.  Each of them was very different!  To celebrate our geocaching success we went out to our favorite Mexican Restaurant, La Capilla.  After lunch I went out and ran a few errands to buy things I can’t get where I live (like Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffee extract, and Paul Mitchell’s Heat Seal).  Well, I was pooped and went to bed early.  I put in “The Man From Snowy River” and was asleep before Jim Craig got to gentle either Old Regret’s last foal or the rancher’s daughter.  This was Monday

And was up early the next day.  I had brought all my tax stuff with me from home and spent many hours organizing receipts and paperwork and filling out the form from my tax man.  I was off in the early afternoon to drop all the tax stuff off to have my taxes done and then on to Pasadena to visit friends of mine.  Mike was one of “my kids” from my 1985 Teen Missions team.  He’s married and has six kids now.  And he recently moved to Pasadena from Oregon to work at the US Center For World Missions.  They are doing amazing things worldwide through that center, by the way.  Had a GREAT visit with him and his wife and didn’t get home until well after midnight.  This was Tuesday.

And I was up early the next day.  I packed a backpack and headed out to Ridgecrest to visit my friend Donna.  Got to her house around noon.  Delivered a package for a lady who lives where I do.  (Her daughter lives in Ridgecrest just a couple of miles from Donna!)  Donna recently followed her dream and started a jewelry business.  So we went to check out her new space!  The store should be opening in the next month or so!  Very exciting!  In the evening we went over to her sister’s house and spent some time visiting with her parents who are out visiting from Michigan!  Good timing!  I hadn’t seen them in years and it was a good time of catching up.  We all went out for some pretty awesome Chinese food.  This was Wednesday.  Got to watch LOST and was asleep the moment it ended (a great episode!!!  Who knew Claire would turn out to be Jack’s sister????!!!!).

And I was up early the next day.  Spent a few more hours with Donna (it’s never long enough no matter how much time I have) and was back on the road by noon.  I had to be back at Phil’s by 4:00 as ABNER was coming up to visit!  Woo Hoo!  Had about an hour to kill once I got to Phil’s so I went to the “greenbelt” to play Frisbee with Jon, Avalon, and Mitchell.  It was a very long hour waiting to see Abner.  Mitchell begged to go with Abner and I and we headed out to the Redondo Beach Pier.  We walked along the pier and chatted, getting caught up from the months that have passed since we said good-bye at the Lusaka International Airport last August.  Mitchell had fun.  He talked a fisherman into letting him hold his fish and the fisherman let him throw a sanddab back in the ocean.  Mitchell didn’t hesitate to touch those fish!  I had to stop him when I saw him heading for the fish the fisherman planned on keeping!  He would have thrown them ALL back in the ocean if he could have!  While at the pier, Mitchell talked us into going down to the “fun place”, an old fashioned arcade.  We bought tickets to the “Tilt-O-Whirl”.  I have NEVER had any problems with rollercoasters and the like, but this little arcade ride nearly brought me to my knees!  I didn’t barf, but could have!  Back to Phil’s for dinner with the family and then off to Irvine to meet up with brother Low at his church, Mariner’s, for his singles group meeting.  Low was the emcee (M.C.) and it was fun to see him in action.  Abner headed back to San Diego from there (sad day) and Low drove me back up to Phil’s.  We sat around yakking until late.  Then off to bed to fall asleep three minutes into “Pirate’s of the Carribbean II”.  That was Thursday.  Thought I missed “Survivor”.  Was glad to realize that it’s March Madness and I missed NOTHING! 

Friday.  I had awakened Thursday morning with a bad case of bronchitis.  I coughed most of the night.  And I had a lot on my mind.  The combination of the two made for a nearly sleepless night.  My brother had also come down with a respiratory thing and so we loaded up on NyQuil.  I hope it helped, because I don’t think I could’ve coughed more than I did!  I can’t imagine coughing any more than I did that night.  I had plans with my friend Darren and his kids (the ones who placed the really cool geocaches) for Friday afternoon.  We had talked of going geocaching and I had invited Jon to come with us.  What we ended up doing though, was going out to Disneyland!  I don’t know where those kids got the energy, but we closed the place down.  And then we tried to break into a car that looked just like Darren’s!  We eventually found his car and Jon and I were home by 1:30.  That was Friday.

AND I was up early on Saturday.  Mitchell had a tee-ball game!  HOW STINKING CUTE WAS THAT????  VERRRRRY!  🙂  He’s on the Dodgers.  He seems to really enjoy himself and he sure is enjoyable to watch!  After the game, Whitney and I went shopping for a BBQ.  My friend Mike from Pasadena and his wife and their six kids were joining us for lunch/dinner.  Mike’s six kids, Phil’s four, Whitney’s one, and a friend of Alaska’s….that’s 12 kids under sixteen.  Holy moley.  They all really enjoyed meeting each other and playing this game and that game.  At dusk they headed out to the back yard to play Mafia (we used to call it Murder, or Killer, but it’s that game where you wink to “kill” people).  We didn’t hear from them for hours.  We started a fire in the firepit and made S’Mores to close out the evening.  I think they’ll all be getting together again soon.  And that was Saturday.

AND I was up early on Sunday.  I headed out for Orange County.  I was on the road at 7:30 to meet up with my Dad to go to church with him.  He goes to Rick Warren’s Church (Saddleback).  Rick Warren is the guy who wrote “Purpose Driven Life“.  I got lucky.  Rick doesn’t preach there but once or maybe twice a month, but he was preaching that day.  It was a really good message on Pride and Humility.  After church we headed over to my sister Liz’ family’s house.  She made us a light breakfast.  It was nice to get all caught up with Liz.  I was surprised by her daughter Jesse’s interest in just hanging out with us.  She is growing up to be quite a lovely young lady and I very much enjoyed her company and what she brought to the conversation.  Smart AND funny AND beautiful!  (But of course she is!)  Later in the day we ate another one of Liz’ stellar meals.  She’s an awesome cook.  The roast that she and Toby rotisseried was, well, one of the most delectable bits of meat I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.  Dad and I stayed there until early evening (Low had joined us but had to leave for a wedding a couple of hours earlier) enjoying the time with Liz and her family and with one of Liz’ best friends and her two sons.  We headed back to Dad’s where I hopped in my Mom’s car and headed an hour back up north.

I was back at Phil’s on Sunday night in time to watch Amazing Race.  A few minutes into it and I realized that my favorite team was nowhere to be seen.  The episode I missed last week?  Wellll, it turns out that Rob and Amber were the ones to be eliminated.  I was sad!!!!  I wanted them to win.  Now I need to find that episode and see just how they were taken out! 

AND I WAS UP EARLY YESTERDAY MORNING.  I don’t really like getting up early.  Can you tell?  Well, that big new AirBus plane was flying in to LAX yesterday morning.  And my flight was scheduled to leave at 10:50.  I had to get to the airport early just in case there was alot of extra traffic and media and such.  There wasn’t.  And I ALMOST got to see the plane land.  Word was it was to come in at about 9:30 and would land visible from the windows in the terminal I was in!  Cool.  Soooo, I am going through security.  Lines aren’t too long, things are moving fast.  I figure I’ll be in the terminal and by a window with plenty of time.  Til the guy in front of me has to have his bag rescreened.  I wait.  The bag is rescreened.  Took them pretty long to do it.  I go through the metal detector and wait for my bags.  They have to rescreen one of mine.  Takes them a long time to do it.  Then they bring the back over to me and tell me they need to look in it.  No problem.  But the plane lands while they do so.  The thing that they were concerned about?  A bunch of coins in my wallet.  Didn’t get to see the plane land.  Didn’t get to see the plane at all.

That was yesterday.   And now I’m home.  And boy is Mew Ling glad about that.  You should have heard her when I opened the front door.  You’d have thought I’d been gone for a year.  I’m glad to be home too.

(I was up early again this morning.  But that is not MY story to tell!  Tomorrow?  I sleep until I wake up.)

How to Make Oatmeal in Zambia

Sorry “my kids” if you are reading this and get grossed out, but it’s a great story and must be told!  🙂

I learned something of vital importance in the “kitchen” in Zambia.  If I learned nothing else, this was key.  It’s one part oats or rice to two parts water!  Didn’t know that before I went!  Anyhow, this story is about Oatmeal!

I love oatmeal.  You’ve already been given the TMI recipe for “baked oatmeal” in a previous posting.  Love that stuff.  But I like regular old boiled oatmeal, too.  I like the gooey brownish gray stuff that you should never let dry on anything because it’s stronger than superglue.  Oatmeal was easy to make, very filling, relatively inexpensive, felt good to eat steaming hot on a freezing morning, and, I hoped, would be a favorite of “my kids”.  It was. 

Abner had brought a number of boxes of his favorite oatmeal with him in his duffel bag.  Some of the boxes broke on the way over, so he donated the loose oats to the food cause.  We just dumped them out of the bottom of his bag into ziplocks.  We had to pick out some lint and such, but it cooked up great.  We bought more oats at the Shoprite.  Every time we bought oats it would be a different brand.  Whatever they had.  My favorites were the Tiger Brand Jungle Oats.  (Wow, the stuff you find online is amazing!  I thought I might never see this familiar box ever again!) 


The first time we bought oats we had to buy the Shoprite brand.  I boiled up a big pot of water and poured the oats in.  A few minutes later Abner approached me trying hard to keep from busting a gut with laughter.  “We need to hurry and you need to help me!”  He dragged me over to the oats that he had gone to stir for me and showed me all these weevilly things floating to the surface!  GUH-ROSS!  It had been so dark when I measured the oats I didn’t see any critters in them!  We frantically scooped and scooped.  We had to get them all out before the mass thickened so much that the bugs would get trapped in it instead of floating to the top of it.  AND we had to try to do it without the kids catching wind of it!  Ultimately, we were VERY successful in both getting all the weevils out AND in keeping it from the kids (until now, that is!).  We were smug. 

But we leaders all LOST it when one of our girls, Allie, let out a stifled scream.  We thought we were in trouble.  We thought we’d failed in our deweevilling attempts.  But no.  It seems some other sort of bug found its way into Allie’s tea and startled her.  We’d only been in Zambia for a short time (we were at our first Rescue Unit in Chiwala) and hadn’t become completely desensitized yet.  She came over and begged for permission to be able to throw that tea away as she just couldn’t drink something that had had bugs in it.  I practically gagged on my laughter, and gave her permission to do so.  She returned to her seat and ate the rest of her breakfast oatmeal (seconds, too!) without incident!

You do what you gotta do!  I ate it, too, and I KNEW what had been in it!  🙂

(Second vital lesson learned – – be careful when preparing food in the dark in Africa!)

Abner and I laughed so much this past summer.  I miss laughing with him.  And I am SO excited because I get to see him next week!  The last time I saw him was at the Lusaka International Airport back in August.  We’ll be getting together somewhere between San Diego and Los Angeles, but wherever it is, I’m sure we’ll be cracking up!

Update:  12/19/2007

I get a fair amount of traffic to this post through various search engines.  People are looking for how to make oatmeal.  I guess this post doesn’t really go into that, does it??  So, oatmeal is wicked easy to make.  The recipe is one part oatmeal to two parts water!  (So, that would be like one cup of oatmeal to two cups of water).  You boil the water.  I add a little bit of salt to the water.  Then you add the oatmeal, stir it frequently until it’s done!  You can add less oatmeal for a looser end product.  See!  EASY!  🙂  The recipe is the same for quick cook oats, or traditional oats.  You just cook traditional oats longer.

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