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. :)