happy new year!

We're headed to another country for several days. I can't tell you just how much we are looking forward to this time of fellowship and retreat. And of course, warm weather, the beach, malls, and beef! We just have to survive our trip to the capital first...via a night bus. Husband somehow talked me into it. It's a 10 hour bus ride, but the good thing (I hope) is that we'll sleep through most of it, since it leaves here tonight at 10pm. The options of getting in and out of the mountains can be limited.

All this to say, hope you all have a very Happy New Year and ring in 2006 with friends, family, and the thought of glorifying the creator in the coming year. Happy New Year!


if only in my dreams...

You know that song, "I'll Be Home for Christmas"? I never understood it before. I thought, Who in their right mind wouldn't go home for Christmas? And now as I sit here, literally on the opposite side of the world from my loved ones, I must not be in my right mind. :) I now understand how I can be home, if only in my dreams. Husband and I have enjoyed a quiet Christmas Eve and now Christmas morning. Great news is that this morning, we were able to have a big breakfast of eggs, biscuits and gravy, and best of all, bacon! (thanks Mom-in-law!) Also, we talked with husband's family on the webcam, and now we're waiting on my parents to get on the webcam as well so we can open up presents! And I've heard that my brother and his wife will be calling us sometime in the middle of Christmas day, to heck with the time difference. Fine with me...just as long as we get to talk with our families. And as long as they don't mind our groggy mugs displayed across their computer screens.

So last night we watched through Google Earth as Santa made his way around the eastern most side of the world. Let me tell you, those Japanese kids should be very happy today because he was in Japan forever. This morning, I stumbled across this article on MSN, which just made me smile. Those NASA folks sure are on top of things:
NASA identifies Santa above Cape Canaveral — 10:10 p.m. ET
Dec 24: Cape Canaveral, Fla. — After some confusion in past years involving Santa’s sleigh and UFO activity in Cape Canaveral, NASA was more than prepared for his arrival this year. By using the NORAD tracking system NASA was able to follow Santa’s progress around the world, so when an un-approved blip showed up on their radar screen they were able to give him the all-clear. “I tell you what,” one NASA employee said, “this NORAD system has made Christmas much less stressful around here!”
Did anyone hear that NASA employee channeling Hank Hill a bit? I tell you what! Hope you all enjoy a Merry Christmas with your family and friends. Don't take for granted the blessing of seeing your family for Christmas!


musical chairs and the christmas story

Since we have never hosted a party here before, we had no clue what to really expect. We were warned that all sorts of crazy things may happen: people would show up hours after the time allotted, they would bring their entire family, extended family, and village, or they wouldn't show up at all, etc. So we asked everyone to be here at 5, because since it's so cold, they like to leave by 7 or 8. We were very relieved when Sagar, his wife, and son arrived at 5:15. Soon, our house was filled will 25 people, 27 including us. They ate the food, and then ate some more food, and then ate some more. I never thought they would truly like the American food, but they did. They especially loved husband's ranch dressing; they would eat it straight with a spoon. We had a hard time explaining the concept of a dip. Same with my spinach and cheese dip. And the salsa. I think next year we should lay off the dips. :)

After the kids were done eating, we played musical chairs for the kids. We decided that if the adults got into the game enough while the kids were playing, we'd play an adult version. The South Asians love musical chairs, and in the middle of explaining the game, they took over the explanations and even re-set up the chairs in their own way. The adults got into it, so we started to play another round, and then they asked for a third round. We gave out the word in their language to the winners. I have to admit that I cheated and watched so that Sagar's family would be able to take home the word.

Then we told the story, and sang carols. As of now, we don't know if there were any decisions or lightbulbs going off, but we do have the promise that the word never goes out void. So please remember the 25 people who were here, that the boss would begin speaking to them, and that they would listen intently.

As a final gift to them, we gave them booklets in their own language and repeated how eternal life was the best gift we had ever received. Several people were reading them throughout the party, so we know that their interest is piqued. Most of these people have never heard this before, so they are thirsty.

We have ideas for next year, ideas that involve you! Please be thinking about this already, even though you (and we) do not even know yet what this completely entails.

We are going outside to enjoy the snow now! Merry Christmas to y'all, and to y'all a good night!


the most wonderful time of the year

*I was requested by a friend to change my settings on the comments, so now anyone who wants to can comment. Thanks, Ashley S.! :)
The last few days have been filled with sweets over-indulgence. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Just kidding…I know what it’s all about:

On Thursday, I decided to start practicing for the Christmas party. I have to find egg-less recipes, because most of the people here not only don’t eat meat, but they also don’t eat eggs, either. So I found a recipe for some Mocha Caramel cookies, which didn’t call for eggs. I scanned the ingredients (the first thing I do now when looking at recipes) and saw that everything was available here. I mean, I didn’t have the 24 caramel squares it called for, but I figured I could make my own caramel sauce. And of course, I didn’t have the cookie cutters to cut out cute tree, ornament, and star shaped cookies, but I could use a knife, right? And I didn’t have an icing tube, but it couldn’t be too hard to use a spoon to drizzle caramel and chocolate sauce over the cookies, could it? Of course not, I convinced myself, and made my way into the kitchen.

2 hours later I was asking myself, “What were you thinking?!” Cutting out shapes isn’t too hard…when you’re not making 3 dozen cookies and when you actually know how to do a star. And the caramel sauce kept cooling off, so I repeatedly had to put it back in the microwave in a sorry attempt to melt it again. They ended up tasty, but definitely not worth the effort. Eggless or not, these are not going on the Christmas party dessert list. I also made some of my mom’s snicker cookies. Much much easier, even though I had to make my own powder sugar.

Friday, Anna and Hannah had a girls’ Christmas party. They invited me, along with Priya and Suniya. The 3 Americans baked the traditional Christmas cookies and other goodies. Priya made what I think is the most popular South Asian treat, a “GJ”. We have dubbed them “soggy doughnuts” because, well, that’s what they taste like. Except Priya is some sort of culinary wizard because hers were delicious and didn’t make my jaws hurt from the sickening sweetness of them. (they are fried dough balls doused in sugar syrup) Then we cranked up our favorite South Asian movie music, and attempted to follow Priya’s moves. No matter how silly I look, I am never one to turn down a dance party. Then we ate so many sweets our stomachs actually hurt. Priya, completely serious, asked, “During Christmas, do Americans eat anything besides sweets?” Sometimes, yes we do.

Later that night, husband and I had Anna and Hannah over to eat some chili and cornbread (and ultimately, hot chocolate and more Christmas goodies) and watch White Christmas. This is a family tradition of mine – for as long as I can remember, my family has watched this every year, and sang along to the songs. (my favorites: “Sisters”, “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing”, and “Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army”) and Anna and Hannah gave us permission to sing along. And they’ve heard me sing, so you know how generous an offer this was. It was nice to feel a sense of family here during such a family-oriented season. And to eat cookies with.

It’s a wonder we aren’t in a sugar coma today.


did you feel the mountains tremble?

Sorry I know I've been blogging a lot lately. But I'm guessing this one is probably necessary, for my family's sake, at least.

Once again, we're okay after an earthquake. This one was a bit stronger, to us at least, but not in Richter's opinion. We were awakened at about 3am this morning because our house was shaking, which also made our bedroom door rattle around a bit. Not ever feeling an earthquake before (remember the last one I was at the market and didn't feel a thing), I think it was pretty intelligent 3am conversation for me to turn to husband and say, "We're having an earthquake." I'm now ready for my Rocket Science degree.

So, to summarize, we're okay, our town is okay, and from what we've read so far, the epicenter is okay as well.

come again?

Today at lunch I ordered a "mushroom and black shoe" pizza. In this language, shoe sounds like olive. The waiter actually walked away from the table laughing, went and told the other waiters, and came back still laughing about 2 minutes later. I don't blame him; I mean, I ordered a shoe for a topping. And not just any shoe, it had to be black. I've had quite a few experiences like that lately. I recently told a person "See you mustard!" instead of "See you the day after tomorrow!". It kind of makes me nervous that I'm done with language this week...I mean, I'm going to go wandering around, asking if I can hear someone's food instead of their music (yes I've done that too) or asking people if they are forks. (okay, so I did that one in Paris, but given today's episode, it could definitely happen in this language as well)


top 14 things i love...

...about this city and country. (I couldn't narrow it down to 10) I'd love to see a post or comment of your list! (this goes for my overseas and stateside friends)

14. Morning chai, afternoon chai, and evening chai
13. Even if all I say is "thank you" or "hello", the locals freak out and begin complimenting on how well I speak the language.
12. Hearing a cow moo right outside the window. I'm not sure that will ever fail to make me laugh
11. The stunning views every way you look.
10. The guys at the coffee shop know me by name (what's that you say about coffee addiction?)
9. Being able to have talks about the boss without people immediately jumping on the defense wagon, spouting off about being PC and tolerance
8. When monkeys take your clothes off the line (alright, so that belongs on the hate list)
7. Learning the odd regulations, such as having to sew white cloth around international parcels
6. The shop keepers know what I mean when I ask for stuff like "yellow flour" (translation: cornmeal)
5. A bus ride to just about anywhere costs about a nickel (that's assuming you also love the buses)
4. The locals make a valiant attempt to cater to my "low spice tolerance"; the food goes from chemical burn level to merely lip-numbing
3. Without exception, each movie involves hours of drama, laughter, tears, singing, and best of all, dancing
2. The joy of sharing about the boss to someone who has never heard about him
1. If the shopkeeper has no change, it's not a problem. He just pays me back in gum.


"i feel light"

If you got our last letter, we talked about our friends Deepak and Naina. Deepak's brother, Epaenetus, has been staying with them for awhile (not sure how long he has been here or how long he'll stay). The three of them came over last week with the specific reason to have chai with us and find out more about our boss. Not our request; theirs. Can you tell he's already been working on their hearts? So while husband was answering Deepak's questions, Epaenetus listened on the edge of his seat, literally. He told husband he had never once in his life heard the story of our boss. Last night, Deepak, Epaenetus, and Deepak's father Aman asked husband - twice - to come over to their place to tell them more about our boss. Husband did, and glory to our boss, Epaenetus accepted the truth last night! We have a new cousin! After sending money to ask our boss to be his leader, Epaenetus looked at husband and said, "I feel light." Isn't that what our boss promised us, to take our heavy burdens?

Now we are sending money to his family so he doesn't face problems. Deepak, Naina, and Aman are searching and questioning, and we are hoping that means they will be following in Epaenetus's footsteps soon, and then they can all be immersed as new cousins. Thanks to all our friends and family who responded to the letter we sent out!

o christmas tree

It's here! Our scraggly sparse crooked beautiful tree has arrived! Our friend even brought decorations and lights; he went all out! And, he has 13+ hours of Christmas music on his computer that he gave us as well. He's like Santa! And since he hasn't shaved since we arrived in this country 4 months ago, he's even starting to look like Santa. In a David Crowder sort of way.

And you'll never guess what we had for dinner last night - cheeseburgers! Not mutton burgers, not chicken burgers...100% FDA non-approved beef burgers. Take a long look at this picture...a burger in South Asia doesn't come around often.


christmas is early!

I'm listening right now to Natalie Cole's Carole of the Bells... I love that song. I forgot to bring my Christmas CDs with me, so I had to download some. Since they are $.99 a song (!) I had to choose carefully. I like her version because it's longer than that boy choir, so I get more for my money. :)

So we have been getting our Christmas packages in! It's so fun. Our friends and family are too too generous, it's overwhelming. Mom sent pretty wrapped gifts that we got yesterday, husband's mom sent us some longjohns (now I have pink and blue!:) and pepperoni!, among many other things, and now our friends from Africa sent us some goodies. Husband got what we think is a contraband item here (I just know that for the next few months I'm going to be hearing him say in his best Crocodile Dundee voice, "That ain't a knife...this is a knife.") And they sent me a batik print material, complete with zebras and everything! I'm sure I'm supposed to get it made into a skirt or anything else besides what I'm using it for, but it matches the spare bedroom perfectly. Now the spare room is nicer than ours.

Also, since Thanksgiving, I've been sending money for a Christmas tree. I've heard that in our town, we can only get them around the 20th of December, but anyone who knows me knows that I like to start decorating for Christmas sometime around August. I also liked to listen to the all-Christmas music radio stations in the States. Yes, I'm one of Those People. Well our friend in Ctown just south of us called me about an hour ago. Apparently in Ctown you can get fake Christmas trees! Anna, Hannah, and I were going to make the 4 hour trip down there to get one as soon as they came out, but our oh-so-nice friend is going to buy them for us and bring them to us! The boss is so faithful, he not only provided the tree, but also the transportation! Front door delivery. I can't wait to put it up. With my carefully selected Christmas tunes blaring in the background, of course. "Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me..."

P.S. Mom, the 3+ hours in the kitchen turned out to be worth it. Husband said the chicken parmesan was better than Olive Garden, an very welcome exaggeration. This pic's for you:


a bad voice is funny in all cultures

On Monday I went to the girls school to see if I could sign up for a class. Turns out, the school is closing in one week for winter and won't open again until March. So it looks like I will have to wait until March to learn how to stuff toys. There is a family on the corner, though, that husband has befriended, and is going to take me over there soon so I can meet the wife. I'm excited there's a chance to get to know a woman in this area!

Last night, husband, me, Anna and Hannah went to Anna's language helper's house for her parents' anniversary. It was so fun - they served us chai and snacks, and we chatted as much as we could, since they hardly speak any English. They are cousins of ours, so it was beautiful fellowship. Husband picked up their guitar and they asked us to sing a song, so we sang amazing grace. They sing upbeat songs almost exclusively, so the father had a somewhat hard time trying to beat his tambourine along with the song. Then, we asked them to sing a song, which they did. We then sang one more, a fast one that they enjoyed much more (i'll fly away) and then they sang a few more. I was overcome as I listened to a song I could not understand and realized that one day, we'll all be able to understand each other as we sit around the throne and sing. I wonder if then my "joyful noise" will make people laugh as much as the cousins laughed last night. :)


making friendships

On Saturday, E, Anna and Hannah (the new girls) and I went to a women's health conference at the local office. I've been having a hard time developing friendships with the women, except for my language helper. I had heard that before coming here that it's just hard to meet women in this country, but I arrogantly shrugged it off, and said to myself, "Whatever. I'm outgoing, I won't have any problems." Ha! So here I am, almost 3 months in our city, and I have a close relationship with only 3 women, all of which are our employees. So of course I was very excited to see the outreach that the local office had planned so I could meet some women. E and I had a long talk before about how everytime husband and I had a strategic opportunity, one of us would get sick, and for some reason we had never put the pieces to this puzzle together. E pointed out it seemed like we were being attacked, which totally made sense. So sure enough, sitting in the women's conference yesterday, my stomach just started going nuts. Another strategic opportunity, another wave of the sickness. (it happens so often to us in third world countries that we end up speaking pretty frankly about it, but I'll spare my stateside friends :) Turns out all 4 of us, save for E, ended up sick within the hour! We're still not sure what it was from, because we all ate the same things. We figured E must be immune to it after 9 years overseas. Whatever it was, it kept us from staying the whole time at the conference, which was disappointing, but the conference turned out to not be exactly what we thought it was anyway. It was fun, though, because this culture is incredibly modest, and even for women to talk about feminine things in front of only other women, is embarrassing to them. There was plenty of giggling and blushing going on. They had us rolling in laughter, though, at how cute they were at such common things that even my grandma wouldn't bat an eyelash.

Today was a different story. I still wasn't feeling my best, but I was determined to not let the evil one get the best of my Sunday. During the meeting, I asked my boss to show me who I could open a friendship with, and after it was over, a woman walked up to me and said with a huge smile, "I like you." Well that was easy, thanks! So we chatted in both our languages, and she ended up asking for my number and I told her when I was home and to come by anytime. I'm really excited for how my faithful boss answered my request. Hopefully I'll be able to get together with her soon.

Also, E gave me a great idea while she was here. There is a, for lack of better word, technical school for women here in the city. They offer classes on sewing (mother-in-law would be proud!), painting, "beautician", and oddly enough, toy stuffing. I'm going to talk to the school tomorrow about signing up for one of the 1 month courses so I can develop some relationships and practice my language. I'm just hoping the next class they offer isn't the toy stuffing one. Otherwise, my family is going to up to their earlobes in stuffed animals by the time it's over.

So for all these opportunities, I ask for you to send some money my way, one, that the attacks would stop, and two, that my boss puts me in a divinely appointed class to meet women and develop strategic relationships. Thanks for your part in this!!


turkey heads + no water = a great day

Thanksgiving was a success! 4 girls and 1 guy, none of whom had ever made a turkey, prepared a 12lb turkey in a counter top oven with no water. Yep, our water has been out since yesterday afternoon. We prepared our entire thanksgiving dinner by the help of two of the girls lugging water bottles from their apartment (which does have water) to our own.

It was fun this morning when E, our friend from the capital, started preparing the turkey. When she took it out of the bag, she noticed that the butcher oh so
generously included the head of the turkey. We had fun with that. A quick call to my mom taught us how to prepare it, and it went off without a hitch. Water shortage excluded, of course. We had to be creative on which pots and pans and utensils could be used twice without washing. Fortunately, after sending a lot of money, it all worked out. We had a nice sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, Mema's dressing, fruit salad, regular salad, and turkey and gravy.

We had a great time of p&w after dinner, and I was so thankful that the boss had surrounded me with great new friends to celebrate with, and the technology to talk with my family. (and see!) Then we enjoyed the pumpkin cheesecake and apple pie with coffee! Real coffee, not instant. What a luxury!

All in all, it was such a great day, even with the hustle and bustle with preparations and the mess that has become my kitchen. (no water really does you in, but it is a great excuse to not do the dishes)

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving preparations are officially underway

YEA! Tomorrow is my second favorite holiday, running a close second to Christmas. Today, a friend of ours from the capital arrived to celebrate with us. On the train and busride to get here, she had with her a 12 lb turkey, a roast, canned pumpkin, and tons of other fun food items! Since our oven is pretty small (look at your toaster oven and imagine it's giant twin. That's our oven), we had to prepare half of the stuff today. Fortunately, the two new girls here have an oven as well, and we are using both of them at our house. Today, I made cornbread for the dressing, a double portion of the hexagonal apple pie, and green bean casserole. Husband made tortilla chips and salsa for us to snack on, and tonight we are having fajitas! We're also hoping to play cards, because it just wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving without a big card game (that traditional came from husband's side of the family). One of the things I'm most excited about is our friend from the capital is making a pumpkin cheesecake!

The only damper so far is that we just lost all water. So the group of girls walked down to their apartment to try their luck with the spicket, and are going to fill up our pepsi and water bottles and now we're going to have to boil the water. We should get more water by tomorrow at 11am...that's when the city pumps the water into the tanks. We're not quite sure why the water is gone, but we are thankful for alternatives.

So I've never realized how much work goes into Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for all y'all did, Mom, Aunt B, and Mema. I'm putting in a lot of effort to not think about how much I miss my family for my second favorite holiday. Instead, I'm thinking about how excited I am to co-host my very own first Thanksgiving dinner. I guess I am not longer welcome at the kid's table.


in the middle of chaos, he's still in control

We really enjoyed our trip to the capital, but now we're so glad to be home. The train ride was both very fun and uneventful. We did get to see the beautiful morning countryside and they served us a nice breakfast of an omelette with peas on top, bread and butter and juice. It wasn't bad, either (see I told you I'm not picky!). While we were there, we did so much stocking up on stuff, and enjoyed all the American food! We also saw three wedding processions in one night which was really cool. One was right outside the restaurant we were eating at and when we got up to leave, they procession was coming into the parking lot so our way was blocked. We stopped and watched the celebrations, and the guests got a kick out of us. They actually had a marching band just like from a high school, and people were dancing like crazy. The groom rode in on a white horse, and it was sad because he really couldn't dance, but then he started dancing on the horse. One guest came up to husband and the other guy with us and asked them to come dance with the rest of them! But they decided it would steal the thunder away from the groom (especially since the videographer had already come over to us and taped us, and the photographer snapped our pic. We pretended like we were dancing in that one) It was really cool and made me want even more to be invited to a wedding!

Yesterday we had carpet installed in the living room and our bedroom to help us keep warm. We love our house even more now! But it sure was hectic getting it done. First, the breaker to allow the water to lift to the roof was broken, so we had no water. Then, the carpeters called about 45 minutes before coming to say that we needed to move all the furniture out and sweep and mop (never having installed carpet before, we naively figured they would do it). Our maid was already late, and then called to say she wasn't coming. We also had the two new girls here for the weekend because their landlord said they couldn't move in until Monday so we were trying to help them get moved out and buy several items they needed. In the middle of all the chaos, though, the mailman came and there was a package from my mom and one for husband, and it lifted our spirits tremendously. Our boss knows just when to meet our desires! Finally, we got our breaker fixed (it was completely melted!), the carpet installed, and the girls moved in, and were able to enjoy the many blessings our boss has bestowed upon us.

Now we are gearing up for a great Thanksgiving with our new friends!


road trip!

Tomorrow husband and I begin our journey to the capital city. We will take a bus to the nearest large city, 4 hours south of here, and stay the night. Then, we are waking up extra early on Thursday morning to take our first cross-country train trip! We are so excited. I don't know if I'm more excited about the train or for spending 2 days/nights in the capital city. We are going to eat at American restaurants, see our friends, and enjoy weather that doesn't involve layering shawls and fleece over wool sweaters. I can't wait!

We'll be back on Saturday night after a long 10 hour taxi ride. Our purpose for going is because there are two new girls coming to our city for a few months, and we need to escort them back here. It will be fun to hear their reactions to the mountains as we drive in them. I still remember how excited we were when we first arrived here.

Alright, time to pack! TGI Friday's, short sleeved shirts, Bennigan's, cheddar cheese...here I come!


shh...don't tell PETA

This past weekend, husband and I went to mail off two more packages, and while there, an Australian guy asked us where we got our box wrapped. We told him a tailor, and he looked dumbfounded. "You mean they don't do that here?" I laughed and said no. Apparently, the woman at the post office had told him to come back at 3 (the time they stop sending international packages) and he could get the package wrapped there. He stood there slightly arguing with the ladies about what they told him then vs. what they were saying now. I felt for the guy, especially when he said he was leaving on Sunday to go back home and had no way of mailing this package off. We laughed, though, when he dramatically told the women, "You ruined my life and all you have to say is I'm sorry?!" It was a bit over the top. And as bad as it sounds, I was kinda relieved to know we weren't the only ones who didn't get the system.

Also on Saturday, husband figured out a way to scare off the monkeys. Someone gave us a walking stick, and so he held it up like it was a rifle, and they slowly scattered. I still think a bb gun would work wonders. One week of that, and we'd be rid of them forever.


celebrate good times, come on!

You're welcome. (for putting that song in your head, of course) Tonight, husband and I went to a birthday party! It was for our maid's daughter who just turned 5 today. This was our first time to meet her kids, and they were so sweet. The little boy was a mess, and the girl was the sweetest thing, giving us kisses on our cheeks everytime we turned around. She lives in a neighboring area, about an hour's walk away, so we made the trek and were rewarded with some beautiful new views of the mountains.

After dinner, our maid put on music, and we broke out into a good, old fashioned dance party! It was awesome! First, our maid taught me her traditional type dancing, which involved a lot of arms flailing about. Then, husband's language helper taught me her traditional dance, which was more upbeat. Picture a mix of Latin dancing and Saturday Night Fever and you have somewhat of an idea of what it looked like. There was even a moment where we did the two-fingers-over-the-eyes move. It was so much fun! Husband danced around with the kids while us girls played around.

One of the most exciting things about the night was we spent 2 hours there, and only spoke about 25% English, and we understood everything! It's so encouraging to spend time like that where you get done and feel like you can survive in this language.


here we go again

I posted on Saturday that husband and I tried to take our packages to the post office and were told we missed the mail truck by 10 minutes. After getting back from the hospital, I tried again. I took 3 packages this time, and showed them to the worker. He told me that actually, international parcels had to be sent from the main post office of our town, that no other post office had the customs labels. I asked him why he didn't tell me that on Saturday, since we had shown him our boxes and told him we were sending them air mail to the States. He just kept nodding and saying, "Yes, I remember you." So, for the second time in 3 days, I walked back home with the packages. You should have seem husband's face when I walked in the house with those packages.

Today, I stuffed 2 of the packages in a bag, and headed up to the main post office, a 40 minute walk from my house. Halfway there, I suddenly became surrounded by monkeys. I cautiously crossed the road, careful to not look at them directly. A woman walking toward me grabbed me and said, "You have a bag, be careful!" I suddenly felt like a spy in Cold War Russia. I nodded, took a step, and stopped. The monkeys were all over the road, and weren't budging. The woman and her husband stopped walking and blocked my way to protect me from what I'm convinced are God's most vile creation. We stood still for about a minute, just eyeing the monkeys and waiting for them to leave, which they didn't. Instead, they actually started coming closer to us. We ended up crossing the road at one point, the two very kind strangers still instructing me on how to behave. I've never seen monkeys like this. A group of about 20 of us walkers were huddled together, waiting to be able to walk again. The monkeys slowly scattered, and the husband of the couple looked at me and said, "Go!" ("here's your chance, defect! defect!") Ugh they really ruin my walk to the market.

I got the post office without anymore primate encounters. It was 3:11. I was so excited to get rid of some of these boxes! I showed the boxes to the woman worker, who promptly told me that the international parcel pickup is at 3pm, and I couldn't drop it off today. She also informed me that all international parcels must be taken to a tailor and had a white cloth sewn over them, otherwise the postal system would not mail them. I am glad she told me this; otherwise, the next time I take those darn boxes back to the post office, I would've been told to go back home for the 4th time. There's gotta be something in Proverbs 31 about this.

The silver lining to all this is that lugging those boxes around have got to be toning my arms a bit. And husband's dumbfounded reactions everytime I walk back home with the yet unmailed boxes are priceless.



For those of you who haven't heard, husband was admitted to the hospital Sunday morning (our time) because of what we found out was 'amoebic colonitis'. He was released Monday morning, feeling better than he had all week, according to him. The hospital room actually had two beds, so I was able to sleep at the hospital with him, and in the midst of the earlier seriousness, I couldn't help but notice the humor that was moving all around me.

For example, as I posted on Saturday, our neighbors were joining us at the office Sunday morning. So when husband said to me at 8am on Sunday, "I need you to take me to the hospital," I dressed quickly and went downstairs to tell the guys the bad news. I woke them up, but within 10 minutes, they were walking up our stairs (without knocking!) to rush into the living room to see just how bad husband was doing. They informed us they would be joining us on the way to hospital. This was a form of their hospitality, which can be overwhelming at times (present situation included).

So we arrived at the hospital. Our "deluxe" room, which I picked out for the TV for husband to watch, included two gurneys straight off the set of M*A*S*H, cracked walls, faded carpet, a dirty bathroom, and a TV that didn't work. It was alright, though, because the beds were actually comfortable, and all husband really needed was some medicine and rehydration solution. And the view must have been the best view from any hospital in the whole world. We entertained ourselves with books, rest, and our laptop computer complete with James Bond movies.

Lunchtime came and I found out I was not allowed to eat in the room, so I went up to the cafeteria, which gives a whole new meaning to hospital food. The nurse pointed me to the menu and told me to order anything. I should stop right here and say that I am a lot more adventurous when it comes to food than I used to be, but there are still 4 things I just absolutely can not eat. We're talking gag reflex and the whole bit: cucumbers, any form of melons, cilantro, and cabbage. (I found out about the cilantro effect upon arriving in a country where cilantro is considered as common a seasoning as salt and pepper) I scanned the menu and ordered the potatoes and bread. The cook told me they didn't have it. After looking at the list of over 30 items, I asked him what he did have. Rice, lentils, vegetables, and a sandwich was his response. Rice and veggies sounded pretty good, so I asked what the veggies were. Cabbage. Okay, strike the rice and veggies. What kind of sandwich is it? Tomato and cucumber.

So I skipped lunch.

Dinner came around, and I was starving. The nurses, who so kindly told me I could eat in the room, told me the cook could make me an omelette for dinner. I love breakfast for dinner, so I agreed. They asked what kind, and I said tomato and cheese, simple enough, which they said was fine. Then they came back about 20 minutes later and asked me to go to the cook and order my dinner, which I thought we just had. I shrugged and went upstairs, and the cook agreed to the order; no problem. About 15 minutes later, they brought in husband's veg soup (which he declared as good) and my green omelette. Green? Are those chilis? Oh, no, those are green onions, the nurses reassured me. I like green onions, I really do. They're probably my favorite onion. But not in the amount to where the entire omelette had lost it's original color. I asked for the tomato and cheese again, and the nurses told me that he didn't have any cheese or tomatoes. I briefly wondered why he agreed to cook it in the first place if he had no cheese or tomatoes, before realize, hey, this is South Asia. What did I expect? So I just ordered the scrambled eggs, and received a look from the nurses as I had asked to eat their firstborn sons. I had suddenly received the reputation as the picky and difficult wife. I ended up eating only toast for dinner. When I asked for some tea later, I received some rolled eyes before getting it. What? What did I do?

This morning, husband woke up feeling great. Praise our boss for his mighty works and kindness! They even brought him semi-solid food for breakfast which was nice. They also brought me some cornflakes and hot milk. Yes, hot. Husband had pity on my growling stomach and asked for some cold milk, which they thought was the strangest request, but since the Difficult Wife didn't ask, it was no problem.

After breakfast, we were told the senior doctor would visit husband before releasing him. What they failed to mention was that seven curious staffers would be joining the senior doctor. I'm not kidding, the door just kept opening. Husband and I were dying laughing by the 8th walkin. I was in the hospital once for pneumonia, and a couple of times a nursing student would come in to listen to my "textbook wheezing" as directed by her supervisor, but never have I heard of 8 doctors and nurses coming in to look at someone who had common intestine problems. What's that you say, Doctor? Someone had diarrhea?! Well, this I've gotta see!

I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that we were strange Americans in a very asian hospital.

Finally, after having to promise the hospital manager that we'd pay him after we got home (they didn't have a credit card machine or an ATM...and we didn't have that kind of cash on us), we left the hospital and are now free to eat all kinds of normal food. Well I am, anyway.

I say all this with a laugh, and not a complaining voice, I promise. You know I love this culture. I am just so relieved that husband is okay, and that the boss took care of him in only a day after they originally told us we'd have to be there for 3 days. He's in such good spirits, and is especially humbled by all the care and love he received from our family and friends who were concerned. Thanks for the money - the boss was faithful, as always.


you learn something new everyday

Breaking news! This just in! Husband has befriended the three neighbor guys downstairs, and tomorrow, they are going to join us for a meeting at our house. Our first people to join us! We will be doing some p&w, and then husband will tell a story, and we will all talk about what that story says to us, and of course, send money. Speaking of, please send money for these 3 guys to be touched by the boss tomorrow morning.

Alright, back to regularly scheduled postings.

I love finding out all the weird things about this city and its systems. It can be so fantastically frustrating sometimes. Today, after finishing packing up the boxes to send to our families for Christmas, we took the hike up to the post office. It closes at 5, and since we left after 4, we hurried a little to make it on time. We arrived at 4:40, and showed the man our boxes. (we only took 2 today...we are taking them up in small amounts because 1.) it's not an easy walk, and 2.) this city knows nothing of small boxes, and so we have small presents jostling around in big boxes) The postal worker told us, "I'm sorry. The truck has already come for today." We told him that it was okay, we just wanted to drop them off, and he could mail them out when the next one came on Monday. He told us, "No, you can't leave them here because it's not safe." We thought it over, and realized there was nothing to do but take them back home with us. At least he was honest. But we had some letters to mail out, too, so we thought we'd try our luck with them. Nope, same response; he refused to take our mail. While I did appreciate his concern for our items, and would much rather take the boxes back home than have them stolen, I couldn't help but wonder, "Then why are they still open?"

The electricity went out for awhile last night. The is nothing new; it goes out at least once a week for 5 minutes, or more. Last night, just as I turned on the oven, the lights flickered, and then there was pitch darkness. It wasn't just a breaker; it was our entire community. Husband told me it was probably me who caused it, because otherwise it was just some incredible coincidence. Oddly enough, I didn't feel too guilty, but more like a little pride. After thirty minutes without electricity (and without heat! yikes!) husband went into the kitchen, and noticed that the oven wasn't even plugged in! It wasn't caused by me afterall. He picked up the plug, put it in the socket, and the electricity immediately came back on.

Incredible coincidences never fail to make me laugh.


light in the darkness

Oh yeah! Husband made the best tortilla chips with the leftover tortillas. The best I've ever had. He's a mexican food genius.

This week was a huge holiday here. People hang up lights outside their houses (Christmas lights! It was beautiful) and light candles after doing their worship.

All the shops were open, with sweets and lights and decorations pouring out of their doors, and everyone has been so cheerful.

The fireworks have been the most notable celebration tactic! Ever since the middle of October, kids have been popping their black cats or lighting up their sparklers. Last night it sounded like the sky was exploding...we stood outside to listen to the fireworks and look at the lights, and we remarked at one time we felt like CNN correspondants in Baghdad. Two days ago, the big news was that in the big market, there was a fire at several adjacent firework stallss. I can't imagine how loud and crazy that was. Supposedly, the owners of the shops lost millions in fireworks. Yikes! The fireworks went on until after 2 in the morning, and someone (undoubtedly a kid who was forced to go to sleep before he could finish popping all of his) was popping fireworks right outside our window at 7 this morning. Thanks for that, buddy!



I know I keep blogging about food, but it's because I am just so excited to actually be surviving here on "regular" food. Although I'm not sure how Mexican food is "regular" for an American. Being inspired by our good friends in Africa, we decided to try our luck at tortillas tonight. Fajitas and rice were on the menu, and unless I could get the tortillas, it would just be stir fry chicken and veggies. The tortillas worked, though, and here's the picture. Except for the chunk husband took off to taste, they were even almost in a circle. I hear that's the hardest part. Now with the leftovers, husband is going to try his hand at frying the tortillas tomorrow to make some chips to go with his salsa he's been making.


curiosity feeds the girl

We're still having heater trouble. We now have 3, and unless we sit directly in front of the heater, we still can't keep ourselves from staying icy. I think we're going to have to go to another town down the mountain because they are literally hundreds and hundreds of USD to get the bigger heaters here. Cars are hardly ever used for deliveries...ever. Even if it's a refrigerator or table and chairs to be delivered. Shops just hire men to strap things on their backs to carry them. So at least if we keep buying little heaters, we won't cause a carrier to have to do what this poor guy is doing.

Fridays are Date Night for us. Yesterday we decided to make it "Date Day" and grab lunch instead, since it's starting to get pretty cold to be walking around at night. In our search to find a new place to eat, we followed signs to some place called the Garden Restaurant. It turned out to be a restaurant in the garden of a hotel that used to be a British Palace. Here are pics of the hotel, the restaurant, the garden (which will be gorgeous in the spring when the flowers are blooming like crazy!), and the delicious chocolate mousse cake I had for dessert. :)

On our way home, the dry cleaning family invited us in for tea again. They are so friendly, and it's fun since they speak no English. They were laughing so hard at us, because in our attempt to break the silence, we would point at objects we knew and say the word. "Floor!" "Wall!" "Chair!" Even the little boy was laughing.

Today I finished wrapping Christmas gifts to send out. Now I just have to find some cardboard boxes to mail them in. In awhile we're going to go p walk around our area and to map some strongholds. We know of at least two that are just down the road: the Tibetan school, and a temple.


attack of the monkeys

Here is a picture of the big grocery store. It's blurry and doesn't have the best view, but I didn't feel comfortable taking a picture of the grocery store, so someone else took it, and I'm not brave enough to go back and take another one.

Oh by the way, I was nearly attacked by two monkeys today. They were all over the place today, and had me so jittery, even before the big attack. There were 3 coworkers in town, doing some sightseeing, and we took them to one place, and on the way there, there was this family of about 7 monkeys on the side of the sidewalk. I was holding onto the back of husband, knowing that if baby monkeys are around, mama monkey is being very protective. As husband passes by, a monkey on each side of us started hissing, looking at us straight in the eye. Eye contact is not a friendly gesture in monkey body language. I froze, while the two monkeys put me on their target list, and started hissing and coming at me. I backed away slowly, and they finally, after what seemed like an eternity (it was probably only 30 seconds), got bored with me and turned their attentions elsewhere. I had visions of rabies shots in my head, and was so scared, I even had tears in my eyes. After it was over, I looked behind me, and there was this crowd of about 50 people bunched together about 30 feet behind me, all waiting for it to be over with. When I saw them, they all started laughing. Laughs of released tension, I'm pretending. Sometimes, it's just not fun being the crazy white woman.


super walmart it's not (and for that, I'm kinda grateful)

I don't know if I've described our "grocery stores" yet, but I'll do it briefly. The only one we have in town is a 45 minute walk away. All the other ones are just one 12x12 room with shelves stocked to the brim with minimal variety. (rice, crackers, cookies, milk, eggs, and tons of ramen noodle type stuff) So this big store, which I love, has three aisles about ten feet long, and even a dairy section (a refrigerator). It's great! It is stocked with typical items, but then also every time I go in, I see something new. My favorite aisle is the international aisle - it lways has random items like Kraft Mac and Cheese, Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, or Dole pineapple slices. When these items are actually in the store, they are usually the only item like it, and usually have some other language besides English printed on them. For some reason, there must have been a large shipment of the mac and cheese, because there are about 5 or 10 boxes on the shelf. I have no clue how they get these items, or why they only get one at a time, but I'm grateful nonetheless. Anyway, so today I went in, looking for a chili tomato sauce, and right in front of me, like some cruel joke, was a jar of steak sauce. Seriously! It sat there, mocking me. I think I even heard it say, "Nanny nanny boo boo."

Tonight is my second night of Thanksgiving Planning. I'm making green bean casserole. I'm cheating a bit because I bought one of those arbitrary cans of cream of mushroom, so I didn't have to make it, but I did find a recipe for making the cream of mushroom next time. But the green beans and fried onions are from scratch, so that counts right?

I'm still looking for a good chicken recipe to replace turkey or ham. Ooh, maybe some sort of honey baked chicken. If you have a good recipe, send it to me!


my first hexagonal apple...hexagon

For the first time ever I made a pie tonight. I am beginning to plan out Thanksgiving meals, and since I really don't access to any of the foods I know how to make for Thanksgiving (which really isn't much), that's why I'm having to start practicing a month in advance. I've never made a pie before, and even if I had made one in the states, I would've bought the crust first. I think once I tricked myself into believing I had made cherry cheesecake, with that ready made crust and ready made cheese and ready made cherries. Anyway, so I'm not expert on pies. I think I've already laid out my credentials of being a slight airhead, and tonight was no exception. After almost fully completing the preparations for the pie, I realized, Hey, shouldn't I have a pie pan? Of course I didn't, but I did have some hexagonal baking pans for some reason. Seeing as the crusts were rolled out and the apple filling was already made, I had no choice but to try it out. And guess what - it worked! And having the pan made the little diagonal cuts very easy to center, which is something only a scrapbooker can appreciate. Husband told me all pies should be hexagons because it makes cutting the pie that much easier.

So here is a picture of my first apple pie...that's not a pie shape at all.


naturally beautiful

The city we live in is naturally beautiful. Here's a pic of last night's sunset from our terrace, and also a photo from our walk to the office today.

i'd jump through hoops just to have some meat...

I love Sundays. Day of rest, time of fellowship, usually a restaurant for lunch...ahh. Today on our walk to the office we passed by a Tibetan school. We had heard at our house this loud commotion of people who would cheer and clap, and someone talking over a loud speaker. When we passed by the Tibetan school, we realized where the sound was coming from. They were having some sort of celebration and had even lit a hoop on fire, and boys were jumping through this hoop! It was very strange, and the people walking on the road were all stopped and lined up to watch this event. It was like the Tibetan version of when we'd have big Sundays back home and hire people to come entertain the students. (click the picture to get a bigger version of it)

At the office, there was a group of Americans who will be here for just under 3 weeks. They are from the same state my inlaws are living in right now. One of their men spoke, and it was so refreshing to hear a speech in English! He even reminded us of our shepherd back home - he would say something, and then say, "Turn to your neighbor and say..."

Afterwards, we went to what I guess would be considered fast food. The place even had sausage and mutton burgers! There's no grill in there, though, only microwaves, so it's obvious they just take a frozen burger and nuke it. I was so excited because there was a sausage, onion, and bell pepper pizza on the menu, and I realized that I was obligated to try it out. I owed it to my meat deprived self. Turns out, the sausage was actually sliced vienna sausages! Judge all you want, but after going more than 2 months with no meat other than a little chicken and mutton, those teeny weenys were good. I don't care if they came out of a can.

This fast food place is also one of the only stores I can find frozen meat, and yesterday we picked up some pork and chicken sausages. I have no clue what they'll look like when I open the box, but in my mind are visions of links and links of tasty, juicy meat. Hopefully they will be close enough to hot dogs and we can have some Foster dogs tonight...yum!!


where in the world...?

This morning I got to work out! I mean, besides the usual 10-15km walk a day. There's another american woman here who actually has a background in dance as well, and we have agreed to work out every Saturday morning. This morning we did some kind of pilates cardio, and she has a ballet workout that we're going to try out soon!

Yesterday during my language study, I was at the coffee shop, and decided to get some lunch there, and proceeded to have a cringeworthy experience. When I was waiting in line, these two western looking women were next to me, so I smiled and asked them where they were from. One said Canada. The other woman said something like, "Izzy Eye." I looked blank, and she repeated it. "Izzy Eye?" I said. "Yes," they said. "Is that somewhere in Canada?" I asked. At that exact moment those asinine words left my mouth, I realized in her thick accent she was saying Israel. They looked at me gapingly, and I tried to laugh it off. I told them how embarrassed I was. They were okay with it, but when they asked me where I was from, I was so ashamed to claim America at that point. Luckily, I redeemed myself (a tiny bit) when the Canadian (actually Quebecoise) woman and I conversed in French. But I'm sure one of the first things they will do when they get home is tell their friends about the dumb American girl who thought Israel was in Canada. (what could I do: insult her accent by telling her I couldn't understand, or laugh it off and say I misunderstood?)

Yesterday I finally got to scrapbook! Oh it was such a relief to just sit and work on two layouts and watch season 4 of Friends (arguably the best season). And after language study, I found a place that prints out great pictures for cheap, so I'm excited to keep scrapbooking.


birthday coffee

After dinner, husband took me to a coffeeshop for coffee and dessert, and the guys who made the coffee put "HB" in chocolate syrup on the coffee, for "Happy Birthday". This city is so friendly. They also brought me a fork with my chocolate chip muffin. They think Americans eat everything with a fork here, which is really funny. Or a spoon. I'm actually surprised they didn't bring a spoon, because restaurants will give a spoon no matter what we order.

Today is a special holiday for the women in this country. They fast all day for to (not for) their husbands for long lives, and they wear traditional wedding clothes. Then when the moon comes out, they all go out on the street, worship the moon, and then the husbands buy them a gift, and they eat. I've been asked many times if I'm fasting to my husband today, and I have to tell them no because I do not believe my husband is a god, but I will send him money all day for a long life and fruitful life. I read in a new book the boss wrote about how two men, Paul and Tim, were sending money to a small group of people living in colosse for knowledge and understand so they would honor the boss the rest of their days and bear all kinds of fruit. When I read that, the boss told me to send money to my husband for that, so I have been and now I can tell any person who asks me if I'm fasting that this is my money for my husband. It's a good expenditure for any body, married or not. It reminds me of how my "cousin" back home told me she used to send money to her husband before she knew him and I followed her example and can see how that money was used.

happy birthday to me!!

Thanks to everyone I talked to this morning, I am having a great birthday so far. Between the emails, calls, and chats, it's very nice. In this culture, it's customary to give gifts on your birthday instead of getting gifts, so after yesterday's conversation with Priya, the boss gave me an idea. Today after language study was over, I told her that in the US on someone's birthday the custom is to get gifts. I told her that out of all the gifts I had received, the best was the gift of eternal life. Then I said since here you give gifts, I had a gift for her. I gave her the truth written in her own language so it would speak to her in ways I could not. It was a small booklet, and asked her to read it tonight and we could talk about it tomorrow. Please send money for her that it would speak right to her heart as she has admitted she is in search of peace.

She has been talking about my birthday for over a week now, and she forgot today was it. She realized halfway through the lesson, stuck her hand out for me to shake, cupped my face in her hands and then gave me a hug! It was a warm greeting, although I'm still having to shake off my American perceptions and go with the flow when it comes to contact here. The women holding hands, or men strolling with their arms wrapped around each others' waists or shoulders is becoming more and more usual to look at, but when it happens to me, I usually freeze. Husband didn't tell his language helper that it was my birthday, and so when Priya told her, she glared at husband and said, "Why didn't you tell me?!" haha


dominant species

Today I was studying language in a coffee shop (it seriously may be the best idea I've ever had), and I looked out the window and saw these two monkeys. One of them grabbed what looked like some sort of plastic container of orange jello, and stuck the whole thing in his mouth, plastic and all. He sat for awhile and chewed and chewed, probably wondering why it was taking so long to swallow. But instead of spitting it out, he just kept chewing. And it made me think, some people actually think we evolved from them? I mean, my dog (ahem, I mean my parents' dog) at home wouldn't even do that. Granted, he went through his scared-of-ice phase, but everybody has irrational fears. And if evolution turned monkeys into humans, why are those annoying creatures still around?

There are no mailboxes here, so you have to go to the post office to mail anything. We went for the first time last week, and it was an experience. Since there are so many people here, everyone gets assigned pretty much only one task at their work, and so we went through a few people at the post office. Just to mail 3 letters, we had to go through paying for postage, pasting on the stamp (literally...the guy pulled out old timey paste and wiped it thoroughly on each stamp), then I had to watch the guy put the letters in a box, and then someone else gave me a receipt. They would not let us leave until we had that receipt. Each letter cost 15, which is the equivalent of about 33 cents. Nice! I went back today on my own with 2 more letters, went through the same process, except this time, no receipt. I wonder why it wasn't important this time. Also, the price went up from 15 to 24. I asked why it increased, and she told me because they both weighed more than 20 grams or something like that. I was about to argue when I realized that I was going to complain about mailing something air mail overseas for 50 cents. A regular stamp in the US almost costs that much. An example of something that's just not worth fighting over.

Priya is so close to coming to know the truth. Please remember to send her money. She is to the point where she realizes how empty her life is, which is when I came to personally know the boss, and I'm hoping she will meet him soon as well.


pictures of celebration

Top: holy man gesturing and dancing in front of plastic idol scene
Middle: holy fire of god
Bottom: Vendors trying to make a sale


lessons in humility

What a day I had yesterday! Between being called fat, being asked if I was pregnant (mom stop worrying, I'm not :), being told I'm not a stylish dresser, having my pimple pointed out to me, and being told that my husband probably cooks better national food than me, I should be cowering under the covers of my bed forever. It was quite interesting. I'm so glad the boss gave me such a great mood yesterday and a sense of humor to laugh it off. Also, I had quite the scare with a monkey. I had my good towels hanging dry, and when I was in the living room, I saw a monkey climbing up the tree towards the terrace. I was not going to let him take my cushy towels! I went up there, made a ton of noise opening the door in hopes to scare him off, and slowly peeked out the door. The coast was clear - I grabbed a few towels, and glanced over shoulder. There he was - all fat and hairy, perched on the ledge of the terrace, just looking at me. I jumped and ran inside, and made noises at him to leave. He merely sauntered over to the side directly in front of the door and took up another perch - just inches away from my towels! Finally, he ran off, but only to the slanted roof, so I grabbed only the good towels, and ran back in, terrified he was about to leap onto me while I was least expecting it. Believe me, every moment I've been on the terrace since, I've been expecting it. I'm sure I look like a spy, sneaking around corners, looking this way and that. Those monkeys have ruined the terrace time! I think a fake gun is in order.

Last night, we joined Priya and her mother at a temple. We spent a lot of money before leaving for protection, and the boss was faithful. We saw many strange sights: hordes of people, bowing to plastic idols, kissing walls, and lying face down on the ground. In a separate room, there was a major throng of people, all watching a holy man gesturing with incense (almost dancing, really, with a very loud drum in the background) in front of a large plastic scene of idols, and many of the crowd was bowed as well. Then, a man came around with a pot of fire, and people would swipe their hands over it and "wash" their face with the fire. Priya said it was the holy fire of god. On the road to the temple, there were dozens of vendors set up to sell all the holy items to offer to the idols - coconuts, scarves, bananas, incense, etc. We were able to take pictures and will post those in our letter home. Even in the midst of all the glittery gold and sparkling lights, this area is desperately in need of the Light.


earthquake not harmful

The earthquake that hit south asia this morning did not affect us dangerously, just in case anyone had heard about it in the states. Much of south asia felt the tremors, as did we. Actually, I shouldn't say "we". I was out at the time getting vegetables, and when I came home, a woman we know called us from another city and asked if we were okay, and told me about the tremors she had felt. I asked my husband later if he felt anything, and he said he definitely felt them. He said it wasn't as bad as the other earthquake he's been in. Later on that day, we had just finished talking about the aftershocks, and sure enough, the water bottle on the table began shaking, and I could feel the couch shaking. I've never experienced an earthquake or aftershocks of any kind, so it was quite an experience. But needless to say, we are safe, and so is our city.



I had already typed up a different blog for today, but I'm changing it. Something too exciting happened to us tonight.

We were at the big market, and we went to Sagar's shop to chat with him and his father. The shop closed about 30 minutes after we sat down, so they offered to take us home since they live nearby us. One our way out, a policeman stopped us. On the main market area, cars are not allowed, and only people with certain permits can drive on certain roads. Since they were driving us home, they went a different way than their permit allowed, and they were pulled over. Sagar and his father had to get out of the car, and Sagar told us they would have to pay a fine. I asked how much, and he shrugged and said, "We'll negotiate." (the police here are so corrupt, they take the money and pocket it themselves. It's so weird to hear him say negotiate. I guess it's the equivalent of crying your way out of a speeding ticket) Well as they were stepping out of the car, husband told them, "we'll send money for you right now." So we did, asking that they would not have to pay anything. They came back to the car after about five minutes or so, and Sagar looked at husband strangely and said, "Did you send money?" We nodded, and asked why. He said because the police man let them off free! We were so overjoyed, and Sagar and his father both claimed it was a miracle and that our boss must love us very much, because the police are so corrupt that they would never let anyone off free of charge. We told them our boss loves everyone, and were able to share a little bit more about him. We were so overjoyed we kept pinching each other on the way home with goofy grins. Now this incident will be on the forefront of their minds, and the best part is, they told us their shop is picking up again, which they earlier credited to the holiday season right now. But now that they've seen this, we are sending money in hopes that when the shop prospers they will call to mind what happened tonight and think this boss must really answer, more than theirs.

I hope all that made sense. I'm so excited right now that I'm probably rambling on!

To any of you who sent me money so I would be more motivated to practice language, thanks! The boss revealed to me a better plan, working during my best hours, and I was able to go out today, first to the dry cleaner's mother, and then to the lady who owns a cloth shop. She also has women in her shop, so it's fun to just go and sit in there and chat with them. I haven't met a friend of hers yet who speaks English, so it's an ideal place to practice. I told them the days of the week, and that I would be coming on Monday, and they were so thrilled I said it all in their language! They also correct me if I pronounce something wrong, or have incorrect grammar, which is what I want. Priya is wanting me to teach her a little French, and so I am hoping that I don't have as bad of pronunciation of this language as she does of French. (that hope, I'm sure, is in vain, judging by the laughs we constantly get when trying to speak! :) It really makes a huge difference if I get out and practice what I've learned.

One more thing - unfortunately, my chocolate diversion wasn't so good. The snickers was that whitish, old, crumbly chocolate, the kind that has a bit of bitter taste to it. It is so sad when the package on the outside looks so good, and you open up to a huge disappointment. This has happened so many times, I can't name them. At least the Twix was still good, but that was just pure luck, seeing as the last Twix we bought was old chocolate as well. Oh well...you win some, you lose some.


father's love

This morning in my quiet time I had a real image of the boss, one of the most vivid I've had in a long time. In reading one of his old books about his favorite people and what they had done to him, he said if only they would come back to him, he wouldn't be mad and he'd forgive them. I got this image of a father yearning for his wayward child to just come back home, and I gained a heart knowledge of so many images of the boss in this. It hurts me to think of ever putting him through that kind of pain, of earnestly hoping every minute the child will show up so he can comfort and take away any shame. That is ultimate love.

We found some major chocolate yesterday at the grocery store and were beside ourselves! Snickers, Twix, M&Ms, Chips Ahoy...stuff we hardly ever bought for ourselves back home, but we stocked up on them last night! Husband even found some salsa and that was the first thing he opened when he got home. I'm sure no one is surprised!

I can't believe how cold it's getting so fast here. We already have our heaters on, and we're going to have to get 2 more. This winter ought to be pretty interesting for me, considering I found my hometown's May/June 90 degrees pleasant. But I can't wait to see the snow!


isn't that our towel?

I should have mentioned yesterday the funniest thing that happened to us. I had hung up to dry the towels that we used to clean the bathroom. Wait, I'll stop and explain something really quick. The bathrooms here are obviously not like in the states. Our "shower" is a small corner area of the bathroom with a drain, a faucet, and a new shower head. Here, they don't use shower heads, they use buckets to shower. That's another discussion for another day. Anyway, there is no blocked off area for the water to go, and even though we have the privilege of a shower curtain, it doesn't keep the water from getting all over the bathroom floor. So until we bought a squeegie last week to push the water to the drain, we had to use towels. So there, that was quick right? I'm trying, guys! So anyway, we had hung up the towels on the roof on the line to dry. There were 2 of them, along with some small hand towels. Being the slight airhead I am, I didn't notice that there was only one towel to take back in the house when they were dried. Husband and I were on the terrace later, and he pointed to a tree with one of our new towels hanging in it..."Isn't that our towel?" The monkeys had gotten ahold of it! Oh we had a good laugh, and I breathed a sigh of thanks that it wasn't one of the lush towels my mom had given us before we left. Mom, the towels here just aren't the same!

So my meal lesson today was great! Although, I wonder if I'll be able to do it without Priya's help. She left some dough for me to practice frying tonight. Let me tell you, she gets that dough on the rolling board and rolls it out into a perfect little circle in seconds. I tried it, and the dough kept sticking to the rolling pin! So today should be pretty entertaining to see the little oblong pieces of bread I'll be making.

I think I've learned how to attach pictures to the blogs, so I'm attaching a picture of the towel that is just out of reach from receiving in the trees. Notice all the pollen - it's awful! I just went up to the terrace to take the picture, and my husband is up there studying his language (he's so good - he's going to catch up to me at the rate he's going, even though I've had a helper longer than him) and his glasses had pollen all over them for just the hour that he's been up there! The second picture is of the water purifier and water heater. Sister-in-Law, this is for you! You said my geyser story confused you. The purifier is the white thing above the sink, and the metal thing above the purifier (you can't see much of it...it's just a little bigger than the purifier) is the geyser. Anyway, it shares the plug with the purifier and it eventually heats up the water. Or is supposed to, but like I said, ours is a bit quirky.

I need someone to send me money so that I can be motivated to go out into the community and practice my language. It takes guts to walk up to someone and say, "let me tell you what I learned today." Husband does it just fine. (I'm sure no one is surprised! :) but the evil is influencing me from going to practice. I have the head knowledge that these people find it so entertaining, and not annoying, when a foreigner does this, but I can't get my heart to commit to it. And without using what I've learned, I won't retain it. Thanks for all you do!


all the quirks

So we're getting used to all the quirks of our new (old) house. I'm not exactly sure how old it is...it could be as new as 10 years, or as old as 50. Or older. But it's fun. For instance, we know now to not have the geyser (the hot water heater) and the oven on in the kitchen the same time the computer is on the in office, because the electricity will blow. And we also now know that in order to have hot water for washing the dishes, the geyser first must heat up (that's a given!), and the hot water will run for 30 seconds, and then you must turn off the water and wait for it to reheat some more. Maybe 2 minutes, in which you continue filling up the huge bowl with soap and dishes to wash. This cycle goes on, as does the red light on the geyser, until finally, after several minutes, the dishes are allowed to soak in their steaming water. I suppose it may be faster just to boil up a big pot of water, but for now, the system works.

Also, we got the washing machine working today! It is actually on our roof, since there is no other available place to drain the water, except in the shower, which since we're not fond of electrocution, we thought the roof was fine enough. Plus, I can hang the clothes right there. I was in desperate need of kitchen towels, so even though it was after 4, I had to put in a load of towels. Of course, they weren't done washing until almost 6, and I doubt they will be dry enough by time to wash the dishes tonight, or even tomorrow morning for that matter. Plus, the pollen is bad right now, I can't imagine them still being clean by morning. But even if I have to use damp towels to try to dry dishes, I don't care, because I am so excited to have the washing machine!

And the biggest achievement in the past 24 hours is that I cooked chicken spaghetti last night from scratch! I was so excited, I even made the white sauce to put over it before baking it! And tomorrow, my language helper is staying after our studies to teach me a simple lunch - fried bread (my favorite!) and potatoes and vegetables and spices. It's one of husband's favorites, so I now he's looking forward to it. I'm so grateful that my language helper is so nice and helpful. She even looked at all my family pictures today, and oohed and awed over the babies (of course!), and my beautiful family, friends, and inlaws (she made personal comments on everyone), and loved seeing our wedding pictures. It's funny that I've always thought the pictures of their traditional weddings are gorgeous with all the colors and flowers, but since ours are exotic to them, our bridal gowns, and veils (or whales, as she calls them), and tuxedoes are incredibly beautiful. I love new cultures!


husband will survive

I'm so excited about what happened today, but I'm going to have to wait and put it in our update we're sending out tomorrow. Suspense, I know. I'm a regular Hitchcock.

So just to make everyone feel a little better for my husband, yes, dinner worked out last night. I made an enchilada casserole over rice, and it turned out good, except for the rice. I followed the directions exactly on the rice, but a layer of it burnt to the bottom of the pan. At least most of it was still edible, and the other stuff was good. Although this is coming from someone who enjoys Nutella out of the jar (which I'm actually enjoying as I type), so I don't know if my opinion counts. And I'm learning how to make traditional tea in a saucepan, so things are looking up from the whole raisin bran bread mistake.

I know this is a short blog...the update will be more interesting, I think. At least it will have pictures.



Today we were invited over to Priya's house (my language helper) for lunch. This week is an annual celebration where they honor their ancestors. Today, we got there and were served almost immediately. Her family is extremely nice, and they live in a tiny, but adequate house. They of course showed us their idols, which we've noticed many people like to point out. Theirs is a religion of showing off: if you do something good, or religious, you let others know how pious you are. Anyway, the food was delicious! It's funny because Priya had told her mother to cook things extra bland for me because she knows I can't take the spicy food too much. Knowing this, I took a big bite of potatoes, and much to my surprise, my mouth immediately began burning. Priya said, "It's not too spicy, right?" Of course I answered no, that it was perfect. We also had some sort of fried bean things covered in a yogurt sauce, which was really good, and the best (besides the fried bread that is to die for) was this pumpkin stuff. I've got to get that recipe, although since husband really loved the potatoes, I need to get that one as well. Priya assured me it's really easy. In fact, she is so interested in learning southern dishes, that she has said she will teach me her food if I teach her mine. I'm excited, and also nervous. See, at this altitude, the food takes forever to make. I actually have been without a stove since yesterday, and had the burden of trying to find dishes to make without having to use a stove at all. Sounds simple, right? Well first don't forget that many items need to boil to be cleansed. Second, don't forget that I am cooking from scratch, and without several items that are commonplace in the states, such as brown sugar. And third, don't forget that I'm in a place that doesn't sell beef, and even other types of meat are only available half of the time. So I'm cooking mainly with vegetables, that almost always need some sort of stewing or sauteeing, even when put in a casserole. So, I finally found something I could at least make for breakfast - this raisin bran cinnamon bread. The recipe called for 20 minutes in the oven, so I was pretty discouraged when over an hour later, the bread was still undone in the middle. I think I've learned my mistake from it, but it was pretty discouraging when it happened. So this is why I'm going to practice, practice, practice on all the dishes before even attempting to teach someone how to make them!

We were also invited to have a meal with another family, who husband has really developed a relationship with. Food is such an important event here, and we love how hospitable everyone is. Today, I wore traditional clothes, and I had so many women smile from ear to ear when they saw what I was wearing. One woman even crossed the street to come tell me that I was "looking smart." We had so many people come up to us today while we were walking, almost all of which we had met already, and we are really beginning to feel a part of this community which is so exciting. The father and son whom husband has developed a relationship had apparently told their wife/mother about us, and today, as we were walking home, a woman approached and us and said, "You must be [our names]." It was so funny that she could pick us out of a crowd of hundreds of thousands merely by the description from her family!

It's time to try my hand again at another dish. This time, something easier. And I learned how to make correct tea. I will let you know how it turns out.


life in this country

Did you know that in order to get a washing machine, you first have to order it, a man delivers it (on his back), and drops it off, and then another man comes to hook the water up, another man comes to hook the electricity up, and a final man comes to demonstrate how to use the washing machine? Or in order to be able to cook, I must first buy a stove, then call the gas man who delivers my gas cylinder full of gas that will last about a month, have to get another man from the same gas company to deliver a pipe to connect the gas cylinder to the regulator, and get yet another man to deliver the regulator that connects the pipe to the stove? And to top it off, as foreigners we must go through hoops to get the gas company to agree to give us a regulator in the first place? Or in this country there are two different types of mattresses...one is simply foam in various sizes and densities, covered to fool any foreigner into thinking it's a mattress just like home, and the other is a mattress with coil in it, in only one size: 4 inches thick?

All of this was extremely exhausting to cover this week. And I didn't even get into the buying the fridge, getting the electricity inspected, trying to reach the internet man, special ordering a queen sized bed with queen sized mattresses/foams in a country with only two sizes of beds, twin and king, searching for a computer desk and chair, finding rugs, bedspreads, shower curtain and rods, pillows, and various household items.

BUT...our queen sized bed showed up yesterday evening. The queen sized coil mattress with a 2 inch foam mattress, all covered with material, arrived on time last night. Our bedspread showed up, along with the rugs and pillows and blankets and spare bed sheets. All we need now is to install the shower curtain rod and shower curtain and we'll be almost done! So as much as we ran around like chickens with our heads cut off, we are now settling into a wonderful new house that with all the small added touches, will become a home in no time.


and the flag was still there

My language helper, Priya*, has made it clear to me from day 1 that she is not a cousin of mine. Instead, she is devoted to something else, and I've been sending money that she could turn to the light. I found out last week that she is married to a man in the States, who she married in a court ceremony this past August. He lives in the US, but is planning to move to another English country, and take Priya with him. It may sound strange to us westerners, but it's actually very common for the men to go work in the west, come back to find a wife, and either take her with him abroad, or wait to earn more money to either come back home or bring his wife to him. Well I had been sending money that both Priya and her husband would become cousins both so that neither would be in the way or harm of the other. I thought, he's in the States, it's highly possible the boss would put someone in his life to bring him on the narrow path. Today I found out the saddest thing: turns out Priya received a call from an American woman last week, who had looked at Priya's husband's phone and called Priya, whose number was on the phone consistently. This woman, Amy*, claimed to be the real wife of Priya's husband, and they had been married over a year ago, making Priya's marriage void. Priya said she was shocked, and stayed in bed and cried for three days. She and her family will be traveling to visit her "husband's" family to make arrangements for annulment. (when Priya confronted her alleged husband about this, he didn't deny it, but merely said, "Amy should not have called you.") She is very distressed and hurt, understandably. Just this morning, in my quiet time, I had asked the boss to provide an opportunity today to share, and in the instant that Priya told me this, I knew what I needed to do. I told her I would send money for her and her family. She then told me that she wonders if she did something so horrible that the gods are punishing her. I told her that my husband and I eat the bread, and asked if she had heard of our bread, and she nodded and said she actually owned one! (bridge!) I told her we believe the bread, and it speaks of a boss who is always forgiving when we ask, and not a boss who punishes us physically for every wrong we do. She continued to tell me of how hurt she was by the whole ordeal, and I shared with her my personal story of the time in my life when I felt so lonely and empty, and turned to the name above all others, and he gave me peace. I told her I would send money for the boss to give her peace as well. She was very grateful, and I'm hoping for many more opportunities to share with her.

Is it "understandably"? That reminds me too much of the whole supposedly/supposably thing, and I'm afraid I sound like uneducated.

I've been watching all the weather reports on CNN today, very concerned for my family and friends back home. The reporters were in several cities, one of which was where one of which is the small town my husband's extended family lives. In both of those shots, the reporters showed the flags that were flying behind them, pointing out in one the two flags remaining, the American and the state flag. He said the American flag had initially been intact, but now was in shreds. The state flag flying next to it was in perfect condition. In the other shot, there were 3 flagpoles, 2 of which were empty. Again, the only flag to remain (and in perfect condition, I add) was the state flag. I love America. But is it wrong that I had an immense, gleeful pride at the fact the state flag remained over any other? Anyone else with me on this? If so, we probably are as arrogant as everyone says we are.

I'm waiting to hear from my family and friends that our town is safe, and the surrounding areas are safe and unharmed as well...