Monday, December 21, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 6

On Saturday, we visited a snake park. It was interesting and educational, but there was always a part of me just waiting for one to jump out at me. They even have a Black Mamba, one of the deadliest snakes in the world (yay!). It was creepy. But, you know, I am up for trying almost anything once.

One of my favorite parts was the sign that said “We only have 3 Puff Adders, and they are very important to us. Please watch your step.” We found out later they only have 2, but they like to see people’s reactions. Hee hee : )

This is a type of poisonous tree snake. It was behind glass (they all were), but it freaked me out because it seemed like its eyes followed you all over the room.

Don’t look at this next one if you are squeamish. It is a _______ snake (no idea what the name is- I was distracted), feeding on a rat. I am no fan of rats, but I even felt a little bad for it. The snake kills its prey by squeezing it to death. I have video, but I think it’s too graphic for this blog. By the way, he swallowed it whole. Yum.

This is a black Mamba, eating a rat. Sorry for the reflection, but I didn’t trust the glass enough to be any closer. I think he looks evil. These guys are super-scary and hyper-aggressive. Sometimes people say they can fly, because they will jump from tree to tree to chase after you. My goal is to never encounter one in real life, because I think I would just wet my pants.

This is a Boomslang (or something like that). It is a poisonous tree snake, but I think its coloring is rather beautiful. Can’t say that for most of these specimens.

The highlight? We held a boa constrictor. For real. And of course I caught it on film, because I need to have visual proof to show people. It actually wasn’t that bad, but once is probably enough for me.  I am smiling on the outside, but the camera caught how I really felt for a second:

My husband, the snake handler:

I think I am really more a giraffe and zebra kind of girl.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 5

When the place that you live in is so hot it melts candle wax (yes, our taper candle is now laying perpendicular to its holder (formerly a tuna can), beaches become…beautiful havens of God’s grace. Swakopmund is about the only place to escape the heat here, and even just looking at these pictures brings relief.

Swakop is the only place that I have seen overcast or cloudy in Namibia. I love the sunshine, but even I enjoy a break every once in a while.

On Friday night, Josh and I did some exploring at the beach. I have discovered a new love for tide pools- they are so cool! I love finding the little surprises in each one.

This sunset was particularly stunning, and I felt privileged just to witness it. This is all God, completely unedited.

I love how He sends us reminders of how amazing and powerful He is. I am so quick to forget.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 4

Did you know that Namibia has flamingoes? I really had no idea, but after we were done on the sand dunes, we were half way to Walvis Bay, where they congregate, so we took a little drive and a few photos.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 3

While we were getting ready to come to Africa, we spent a lot of time in prayer- A LOT. We thought and prayed about our service, the meaning of sacrifice, our team, our families and friends we were temporarily leaving behind, our marriage…it would impact every facet of our lives. It was very intense, and very serious, and very necessary, as it prepared us for what we would need to do here. In addition, we took a bit of time to think of some fun goals we had for our time here, things we wanted to learn or experience in another culture. My three were to see a giraffe, try African drumming, and go sand surfing (called sand boarding here). Check, check, check. Sort of.

On Friday of our Swakop adventure, we went sand boarding on one of the dunes found outside town. It’s so amazing- you are standing on a mountain of tiny grains, and yet you don’t sink in (I just can’t comprehend that!) You can see the Atlantic ocean literally across the road from the dune.

As we got there, we saw some parachutes landing (look closely)

Although Josh, Kitty, and I knew we wanted to sandboard, we thought we would need to go with a tour company (which is a bit expensive). While in a store on Thursday, we saw they were selling kits for sand boarding for really cheap, which meant we could avoid tour fees. We bought one kit, and split it three ways, so that was perfect. The only problem is that you have to use these sitting down, because you have to lift the front of the board up as you go. That’s probably okay though, as sand boarding while standing up is a lot more dangerous than snowboarding (have you ever heard of snow burn?  I didn't think so).

Here is a picture of Josh’s first attempt…

…and the resulting battle wound:

In spite of the hazards, there was a line of people ready to give it a try. What can I say? We live in Africa; we have adventurous spirits : ) Love these people!

Since the hardest part of the whole undertaking was walking back up the dunes, Jessa and I decided to take rides together, 2 for the effort of 1. Oh yeah, and it was REALLY windy.

Making memories with my best friend.

Love this

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 2

Africa is just…so different. I am pretty sure I can’t even describe it to someone who has never been here. Everything is bigger, and with less pretense. It is very raw; it can be beautiful, painful, challenging, and incredible all at once.
But without a doubt, Africa’s visual crowning glory is her sunsets. They are so…without description. Film doesn’t even do them justice. At the end of the day, they are the reward for withstanding another arid, brutally hot day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation, Part 1

You know how teachers always want you to write “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” on the first day of school? I thought, being that it’s actually summer here, I would tell you about what we did on our Thanksgiving vacation (although they say “holiday” here). To say the least, it was unorthodox.

On Tuesday that week, we arrived to stay with some friends in Arandis. Our travel plans were a bit complicated, because the national presidential elections were taking place on Friday and Saturday. It had the potential to be a challenging situation, so our unit director did not want us traveling for a few days before or after. In the end, praise God, everything was fine.

Our first “main event” was traveling to Swakopmund (about half an hour away) to stay in the Finnish Guesthouse, a really cheap, nice place that gives discounts to missionaries (YAY!!!). Together, under Karrie’s leadership, everyone was able to prepare a dinner very closely resembling those from home. Our one downfall? Cranberries- there didn’t seem to be even one in Namibia. Shame. Here are a few pics from our day:

The beautiful turkey. I have know idea where they found it, as it is not common here.

Josh carving the turkey. He did a terrific job.

A candid, timed shot of our dinner. Other friends came over from Arandis for the meal itself, and it was a full house.

Traditional? No. But, we were still able to celebrate God’s graciousness, even from a continent away. He is good, all the time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Public Service Announcement

A while back, I wasn’t feeling right. I didn’t feel sick, per se, but just…off. I attributed it to the heat, and left it at that.

Then one night, I couldn’t sleep at all. Not a wink. I felt very dizzy, almost as if I had vertigo. We decided I must be really dehydrated. We looked it up and, sure enough, insomnia can be a symptom of dehydration. The fact that we live in the desert supported our conclusion.

I made a concerted effort to drink more. A lot more. I had my water bottle with me everywhere I went. It worked for a few days, and then I felt sick again.

Being that doctor’s visits are costly, Josh convinced me to get a scan that we had seen advertised. Although I was less than convinced of its accuracy (and still am), I agreed. We trekked to Windhoek, only to find it looked like there were no clear answers.

It wasn’t until we were almost ready to go that the technician asked why I had answered that I drink 15 or so glasses of water per day. (Umm, hello? This is Namibia). I told her it was to stay hydrated. She looked at my chart again, and said that was the problem. Apparently, you can be too hydrated (hyper-hydrated?), and all the minerals in food are washed right out of your system. I just needed to take a second multi-vitamin each day.

Easy answer? I am so not used to those! I got over that really fast though.

Consider yourself warned ;)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What's Your Score?

Recently, I wrote a curriculum to use with foster parents. The subject was stress, and I included a little test that I had taken in college. It’s certainly not comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of where you are at. Try it yourself; for each life change that has happened in your life in the past year, circle the number to the left. If you aren’t sure if it applies, use your best judgment. When finished, go back and add up the numbers.

100 Death of spouse
73 Divorce
65 Marital separation
63 Jail
63 Death of a close family member
53 Major injury or illness
50 Marriage
47 Fired from work
45 Marital reconciliation
45 Retirement
44 Major change in health or behavior of a family member
40 Pregnancy
39 Sexual difficulties
39 New family member (birth, adoption, someone moving in)
39 Major business readjustment (reorganization, bancruptcy, etc)
38 Major change in financial status
37 Death of a close friend or more distant family member
36 Change to a different line of work
35 Major change in number of arguments with spouse
31 Taking out a mortgage or loan for a major purpose
30 Forclosure of mortgage or loan
29 Major change in responsibilities at work (promotion, demotion, transfer)
29 Son or daughter leaving home (marriage, attending college)
29 Trouble with in-laws
28 Outstanding personal achievement
26 Spouse starting or ending work
26 Starting or ending schooling (long-term)
25 Major change in living conditions (moving, remodeling, building new home)
24 Change in personal habits (dressing, manners)
23 Trouble with your boss
20 Major change in working hours or conditions
20 Change of residence (new town, new state)
20 Change in schools
19 Major change in usual type or amount of recreation
19 Major change in church activities (a lot more or less than usual)
18 Major change in social activities (a lot more or less than usual)
17 Taking out a loan for a smaller purchase (such as car, TV, freezer)
16 Major change in sleeping habits (a lot more or less than usual, change in
part of day when you sleep)
15 Major change in family get-togethers (a lot more or less than usual)
15 Major change in eating habits (a lot more or less than usual, different meal
hours or surroundings)
13 Vacation
12 Christmas/holiday season
11 Minor violations of the law (traffic tickets)

Do you have your score?

Below 150-Low stress: Only 30% of people with scores below 150 will probably encounter a significant health problem soon.
151-299 Moderate stress: 50% of people with scores between 150-300 will probably encounter a significant health problem soon.
Above 300 High stress: 80% of people with scores above 300 will probably encounter a significant health problem soon.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that if you have high stress you will get sick. To me, it is just a heads up that you have to be careful, and remember to do lots of things that relieve stress.

I scored 591. So, that’s relatively high. Quite frankly, that only includes one of our 4 moves this year, but that is not the point. [I don't say this to be one of those people who always takes pride about how busy they are. Do you notice how that has become part of American culture? It's like if you aren't overcommitted, you aren't doing anything. Ugh.] What I take away from this is not that I am on my deathbed or something, quite the contrary. I know that God is protecting us. I know that He is faithful, and that gives me so much peace.

At times, I have felt like a hypocrite when teaching about stress. I have a lot of answers and suggestions, but I fail to use them myself. I am working on it. There is a good chance that I will have a moderate to high amount of stress for most of my life, so I am learning to manage it.

The other helpful thing? It’s nice to know you’re not crazy. From now on, when I feel the stress is overwhelming me, I think I might just say “591” over and over. It’s like permission to feel overwhelmed, to just accept it. Stress is a part of life, and that’s okay.

Monday, December 7, 2009

‘Tis the Season, Part II

I am a traditionalist. I like repetition, continuity, knowing what to expect. I won’t have that this year. But the reality is that, even if Namibians celebrated Christmas exactly as we do at home, it wouldn’t be the same. But draw back, look at the big picture. It is not the traditions alone that are special, it is time spent with family and friends that makes the holiday season fun and exciting. Most people stop there, with reminding themselves that Christmas is not about gifts and decorations and parties, and that people are more important. That’s a step in the right direction, just not far enough. Even time spent with loved ones can distract us from the real reason for our celebration.
I know you know the story, but we can never hear it enough. The Son of God humbled Himself to become a part of our world. He was born a tiny baby, precious, helpless, and dependent. He lived life on earth, knew humanity, our struggles, joys, and pain. Jesus Christ became a servant to others. He saw firsthand how sinful and flawed we are, but He still chose to die for us. He chose; nobody forced Him, He did it out of love greater than we can imagine. He took our punishment, in order that we might be saved from our consequences and be able to have an eternal relationship with Him. He would have done it for any one of us.

It all started with a baby, born on this day.

If someone who didn’t know what Christmas was looked at your life during the holidays- how you spend your time, what you say, your behavior- what would they see? I am ashamed to say that I am usually stressed about buying the right gifts and fitting the celebrations into our schedule and food and decorations… I could go on. I get so caught up in celebrating Christ’s birth that I forget I am to reflect Him.
Being away from home for the holidays is so hard. I miss my family and friends more, and I know they miss us. It is not lost on us that we are blessed to be able to say that; many people can’t. But, being away from everything we are accustomed to has challenged me (Josh, too, but I won’t speak for him here). I want to celebrate Jesus without being distracted by things that really aren’t important. I want to be a light, to reflect Him to others. I want to laugh and cry with joy and praise for a Creator that loves me so much that He saved me from my sins. On Christmas, our Savior was born, and that’s more than enough to celebrate.

Friday, December 4, 2009

'Tis the Season, Part I

As I may have mentioned before, one of the [many] missionary mottos is “It’s not bad, it’s just different.” Sometimes this phrase goes through my head a dozen or more times per day. It reminds me to stop being egocentric and ethnocentric. It reminds me there is often more than one right answer.
Lately I have had the opportunity to think this phrase even more than usual. Why? Christmas. It is completely and totally different here. Obviously, there is the weather to consider. It is difficult to feel in the “holiday spirit” when it’s at least 100 degrees outside. We work up a sweat doing nothing. I have little desire for hot cider and candles and Christmas lights; it seems somehow counterintuitive. Of course, to those around us, this is completely normal.
At the end of October, Josh and I went geocaching with a friend in Windhoek. It was so hot that we had to stop every once in a while to sit in the shade [Random fact: When there is not 100% humidity, there is a difference in temperature between sunlight and shade. Somebody should let Minnesota know.]. We went into a store to get some water, and the employees were wearing velvet Santa hats. I could barely stand having my own hair on my head.
We haven’t seen decorations on any homes, but towns do put up shaped lights on light poles. However, when we were recently in Swakopmund, the shapes included seashells, starfish, seals, and a surfer. That just doesn’t say “festive yuletide spirit” to me. Stores have silver, red, and gold garland, and we even saw hanging snowflakes in the local grocery store (ironic since it never snows here). Additionally, it’s interesting to note that “Christmas trees” here are all artificial pine trees, which is interesting since they don’t grow here.

Check back soon for a post on how these differences have made me view this season differently.