Well, I started this year alone at my house in Baghdad. My roommates had gone to Amman for the New Year. I think I stayed up until midnight. Heh.
A lot has happened this year. I started the year expecting that I would be in Baghdad for another year and a couple of months. That didn't quite happen. Evan showed up and was diagnosed as most likely benign. I've visited Cyprus, England, Scotland, and Jordan. Mara and my friends died. Iraq regained its sovreignty on my birthday. We had a change in leadership of our team which _greatly_ affected life there. We moved from one house to another. We left for some training and weren't allowed to return. I got to SCUBA dive in the Red Sea. Instead of sitting around in Amman until my term ended, I came home five months early, surprising my family and most of my friends. Since then, I've mostly been sitting around my parents' house, helping to re-organize stuff.
This next year is still pretty fuzzy for me yet. I expect that I'll finish my Master's degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland. I'll have some job to help finance it (and give me medical benefits - I'm currently among the uninsured). I'll be involved in some way at my church. I'll either rent the cheapest apartment I can find, or I'll buy the cheapest foreclosure I can find in the hopes of selling it for a tidy sum at the end of the year when I figure out where I'm actually gonna settle and what I'm actually gonna do.
It's....unsettling....for me to know so little about where I'm gonna be and what I'm gonna do.
I've never really been one for New Year's resolutions. I'll let you know if I make any, but I can't think of anything right now. I don't need to lose any weight or stop smoking anything. I could probably stand to exercise more regularly. My house is definitely gonna be less cluttered than in the past. I'll definitely have a less hectic daily schedule than I had prior to my overseas adventures. I definitely want to keep up with my Arabic. But I don't have any measurable "resolutions," per se.
This year actually ended for me almost three hours ago, if you're counting 366 24-hour periods, but it won't end here for another six hours. My little brother's out with friends, as I expect my older brother is. My mom's asleep on the couch, my dad's cooking something, and my sister is playing "vulture" for the computer. We'll watch movies until my dad makes us turn on the Sesame Street New Year's thing. After that, he'll fall asleep and we'll probably end up watching Conan since he's doing a Central time thing.
But, tomorrow is not just another day, it's also another year, and while I'm somewhat unsure of what it'll bring, I'm also looking forward to it. So come, on, New Year! Give it to me with both barrels. I can take it.
Friday, December 31, 2004
Well, I started this year alone at my house in Baghdad. My roommates had gone to Amman for the New Year. I think I stayed up until midnight. Heh.
Posted by Melissa at 6:50 PM
Well, yesterday was something of a red-letter day for me and my family. In the morning, I finished reading Malachi!! I actually managed to read the Bible through in a year! I have no idea how many times I've attempted to do that, although I know that the first time I tried was in 7th grade at Mr. Lenart's encouragement. I'm sure that I've at least considered it every year since then, and attempted it some subset of those 15 or 16 years. So, yay me! Not sure what I'll do for devotions now.
Then, in the evening, our whole family gathered at my brother's house and played Cranium. I'd played it on several occasions before, but no one else had. It was _hilarious_! We got to see my mom act like Jackie Chan, my dad hum (incorrectly) "That's the way (uh-huh,uh-huh), I like it," and me, Toby, and my dad all try to act out the word "missionary"- try sometime to do that word in charades by pointing to someone, trying to motion the word "before," and holding your hands like you're praying and/or giving a book to someone. Beth finally got the word (yay, Turner daughters team!), but not before all of us were pretty much rolling on the floor, laughing. Apparently, that looks more like a Chinese waiter than a missionary.
So we had a lot of fun.
Posted by Melissa at 5:48 PM
Monday, December 27, 2004
I've been somewhat surprised at the coverage of Reggie White's life. Reggie White, the ordained minister (not just of defense) - his life was completely about sharing the Gospel. There was never an interview in which he didn't share some part of his testimony or the Gospel. All accounts of him on and off the field say that he lived according to his beliefs.
But the vast majority of the coverage I've seen has spent the absolute minimum amount of time and words on that "side" of his life. Basically, other than saying that the nickname "Minister of Defense" comes from the fact that he's a minister in "real life," they've said nothing about him _as_ a minister.
Somewhat unexpectedly, however, on ABC's Monday Night Football half-time tribute, they actually _did_ spend some time on that 'part' of his life (which was really his whole life). So kudoes to ABC and MNF.
And a Common Sense tribute to a good man who was blessed, and who used those blessings to give the honor and glory to the One who blessed him in the first place. Welcome home, Reggie!
Posted by Melissa at 10:56 PM
Friday, December 24, 2004
The weather people in Nashville did it to us again. They called for flurries and got our hopes up. Then the flurries sorta disappeared....then as the day approached, they came back....and got up to 1-2 inches in the area, with it remaining through Christmas because of the cold. But when the time came, we got ice instead. Lots of ice. It was pretty, and it kept flurrying all through the day yesterday, but the accumulation was rather limited.
Oh well....while "I'm Dreaming of a Clear Christmas" doesn't have quite the ring of "White Christmas," it's still not so bad.
Posted by Melissa at 10:39 AM
It's almost 6:30 PM in Baghdad right now. A year ago right now, I was sitting in the WarEagle chapel, getting ready for their Christmas Eve service. I'd spent the day before making cookies for my friends and all of the gate guards that I'd see on my way into the camp (and for some other friends and gate guards at another camp) - because it'd be pretty rude to walk past all those guys with goodies for folks inside and nothing for them. When it was a pie or cobbler, I'd do it, but whenever I made cookies, I'd make extras for them.
I'd spent that morning trying my darndest (unsuccessfully) to get a ride out to a rehearsal I'd scheduled, and ended up spending the afternoon with Mystery Date and his troop at their Christmas party.
This year I'm sitting in sweats, unwashed, watching Ted Danson search for the Loch Ness Monster on SciFi with my family. Later on, we'll go to my parents' church's Christmas Eve service (with all the talent provided by the Turner family, apparently), then maybe to one of the services at the church that pays Jesse to sing in their choir.
Posted by Melissa at 10:21 AM
At the end of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, there's a scene where the four hobbits return home. They're so excited to be back. Merry and Pippin are wearing their respecitve coutries' colors as they ride into town. One of the first things they do is go back to their favorite pub and get a drink, just like they used to. But it's different somehow - all the same things are going on in the background, but they're not the same. They clink glasses and drink, but it's just not the same anymore.
They've gone off and seen and done amazing things and their old world has stayed exactly the same. And that's what they wanted, wasn't it? Sam, Merry, and Pippin all managed to re-adjust, but Frodo didn't.
I guess the jury's still out as to whether elves will need to spirit _me_ away.
Posted by Melissa at 10:07 AM
Monday, December 20, 2004
So yesterday after the Michael W. Smith Christmastime concert, my siblings, dad, and I stopped off at Kripsy Kreme for a donut. As we were walking out, my older brother was eating his donuts - one regular glazed and one cake (i.e., without the glaze).
That makes them diet donuts, right? 50% of the sugar?
Posted by Melissa at 3:04 PM
Thursday, December 16, 2004
So I spent yesterday morning at the dentist again. She'd said that I needed one of my other old fillings replaced, and since my health insurance and other benefits end on Saturday, I figured I should go ahead and do it then. Well, she looked in my mouth and found two more old fillings that were on the verge of cracking or something and when she heard that my benes ended soon, she just went ahead and replaced all of them. The good thing about it is that now my mouth is set (except for cleanings) for a very long time. _And_ apparently dental technology has advanced considerably since she put those fillings in, 8 years ago. Back then, those fillings had to be so big or something that she had to use the metal fillings instead of the tooth-colored fillings, but apparently either the holes have shrunk, or the tech has grown because now all of my teeth look completely like teeth.
(Bee-dee, bee-dee, bee-dee - hey look! The bad guy is Jack Palance!)
It was funny at the end of the visit. They told me to rinse and spit, but I wasn't quite over the bowl. I thought that I'd closed my mouth, but apparently I was too numb to know that I hadn't. Fortunately, the assisstant chick was still taking off my bib, so she caught the river of mouthwash that came streaming out of my mouth. We both had a good laugh over that.
It's always weird going to my dentist though. She's latina and so are all of her assisstants (and apparently many of her customers). So, her working language is Spanish (although they all speak perfect English). It always takes me a second to figure out who she's talking to because I have to decipher the language first, then the content (if it's English) - all while there's suction and drilling going on inside my head.
There's just something wrong with a Dremel tool being used inside my mouth. I'm not a big fan. I find myself seriously tensing up. My legs shake from the tenseness. I don't even notice that it's happening, but literally every two or three minutes I have to force myself to relax.
(Ha! The little triangle made it above the purple line on the screen! That means that Buck's buddy escaped to warn Earth. And double-Ha! Wilma outranks Buck! Go strong chick characters!)
Anyway. I'm not sure why you'd all be interested in knowing about my dental adventures, but the other post I've been contemplating involves watching a DVD, which would mean turning off Buck Rogers, and that's just not gonna happen. Y'all are great and all, but it's _Buck_!
Posted by Melissa at 11:05 AM
So I was just flipping through channels, with Sci-Fi being one of my first stops (as usual) and who should be on, but my first love, Buck Rogers! He just found the magic bubble wrap at some factory on a world where the ruler is a sorcerer who can bend people's will to his eeeeeevvvvvil ways just with his words. And he found the magic bubble wrap to some kickin' background late 70s, early 80s bomp-chicka-wakka music.
Move over, Mystery Date. It's Buck Rogers. I fell in love wtih him at 3 (or so). And what's funny is that even then, and even with love veiling my eyes, I still could see the difference between the Saturn V rocket they showed launching in the credits (at least in the first season) and the space shuttle they found him in in the backstory episode during the second season. But it's also kinda cool that they kept up with the changing technology between '79 and '81 when the show aired.
Hey look! It's Wilma! I could never decide if I wanted to _be_ her (because she's a cool, strong woman character), or if I was jealous of her because she got to be around Buck. She always did have the best hair. Curly, bouncy, but not with Farrah wings.
I shouldn't have looked online to see what years it aired. Now I know that the entire series is on DVD. Bah! Curse you, Amazon.com and all of your choices!
Oh no! His ship was crashing and now it's "To Be Continued!" Good thing Sci-Fi is showing another one next. Buck, my love, I'll see you again soon!
Posted by Melissa at 10:46 AM
Monday, December 13, 2004
So I got back from MD today. I think I tied my fastest time - 9 hours and 45 minutes. That's a really long drive. When I got back, no one was home, so I thought that they'd gone out to dinner for Jesse's birthday without me and left very pitiful voicemail messages on everyone's phones. But, they'd just gone to one of those "Walk through Bethlehem" things and came home a little while later for dinner - I hadn't missed it after all.
My trip to MD was completely unnecessary. My main purpose for going up there was to get the license plates for my car and since I had to do it _some_ weekend before January 5th (when my temporary tags ran out), I figured I might as well go during the weekend of my church's Christmas musical. It was great to see everyone (and this time I actually got to _see_ people since it wasn't a secret anymore). All of the youth who were shorter than me when I left are now taller than me, the kids who were in my Sunday School class (3rd and 4th graders) are now youth, and the toddlers that I used to chase around the sanctuary and tickle don't remember me anymore (and are in grade school now)! And there were lots of new babies for me to meet (and babies that were new a year ago, but are still just "new to me").
I really enjoyed the trip, but let me get back to the "completely unnecessary" part - so apparently the tags were sent by MVA to CarMax. CarMax hadn't gotten them yet, but they would within the week, and as long as someone had a note signed from me giving my permission, they'd be allowed to get them for me. But it was really great to get to see everyone again.
I've _really_ missed getting to be part of a church music program. At the downbeat of the musical's overture, I teared up, and was fighting back tears most of the show, and not just because of the content. :) We'll see how much I can be involved in with school as my main focus, but I've really missed getting to be part of a _group_ of musicians. I've pretty much been on my own since I've been overseas, although there has been the occasional duet or trio. My skills have improved some as a result of that (no one else to lean on), but it's just a different thing altogether to get to play and sing with other people too. :)
One musical grouping that you might remember was my Christmas Eve program last year for the guys out at Camp WarEagle. In the email about that night, I mentioned "another guitar player." Well, said other guitar player and I spent some time getting to know one another while we were both overseas (it was all purely platonic, for those who would wave "the rules" at me), but lost touch when he came home in July. Well, we've started talking again since I've been back...and he's coming through Nashville this weekend and....(you might want to sit down for this).....he and I are going on a _date_.
You heard that right folks. Leia, the dateless wonder, will be seeing a gentleman caller for dinner and some blues music on Friday night, then hanging out again some on Saturday before he continues on his way to visit family for the holidays. Other than a possible "it went _really_ well" or "I don't want to talk about it," you probably won't hear anymore about my mystery date (the person or the evening), but I just had to share. :) I'm a "little" excited about it myself. :)
OK...well past my bedtime. Nighty-night!
Posted by Melissa at 2:33 AM
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
I was reminded yesterday that some of you are sitting on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting my retelling of how things went this past Sunday.
Well, there's not too much to tell. I got there, but there wasn't anyone else there. Eventually another girl apparently showed up, but before she made it to my class, she got taken to work in another classroom. I was sitting there by myself, in a puddle of sunshine, happily reading the paper when the pastor (the teacher of the men's class) caught me and invited me into their class. Then, since I'd prepared for the lesson, he had me teach "half." He took the half that was discussed in the teacher's book, and I took the rest. It was fun.
This Sunday, I'll be driving back from MD, so I won't "get" to teach, but I'll be back in the saddle next Sunday.
It's just after 9 here in TN and I'm all packed up and ready to go. Once I finish this post, I'm headed out the door to drive to MD. I'll be there through Sunday, obviously. My missions while there are to get license plates for my car, get a new license for me, and watch my church's Christmas musical. Those of you in MD who read this and who don't already know about the musical, they're doing it at least on Saturday night and Sunday night. I don't know times. Check out the church's website. I'll be there Saturday night.
The reason I'm coming back on Sunday (and not waiting till after church) is that Sunday is Jesse's (my older brother) 31st birthday. And while the family tradition for the past 10 years has been that I'm away (usually in MD) on his birthday, I figured that it was a tradition that could change this year.
Anyway, gotta hit the road or I'll never get there.
Posted by Melissa at 10:04 AM
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
So I was thinking about this today as I was writing to a friend about it. I've been reading through the prophets recently and am currently in Ezekiel. Are there modern-day prophets?
Was there someone who went up to Saddam prior to his downfall and said, "God told me to tell you that unless you turn from your wicked ways, the Coalition will come through and wipe your empire off the face of the planet?"
I'm not the first to liken Saddam to Nebuchadnezzar (heh...I think _Saddam_ was the first to do that). Thinking in terms of Biblical history...maybe there _was_ a prophet sent to Saddam prior to the first Gulf War and at that time, Saddam repented to some extent - to the point that being wiped out was reduced to being sanctioned for a few years...or at least delayed. Then the prophet came again only this time Saddam didn't listen at all and God's punishment was meted out by the Coalition.
You laugh, but why not? Do you believe that it happened in Biblical times? If so, then why not now?
I mean, we know that, historically, the Babylonian Empire took the Jews into captivity. That's not the question. The question is whether or not you believe that the prophets in the Bible were actually sent by God to warn them of this captivity in advance of them being conquered and captured.
And if that's the case, could it happen now? And if so, _does_ it happen now?
Now, granted, if there _was_ prophet sent to Saddam, he (or she) likely died a very quick death. But seriously, I'm very curious now. Are there modern-day prophets? Are there people God sends to speak prophecy to the leaders of the world?
Posted by Melissa at 4:44 PM
This is the article that was printed about me in the South-east edition of the Davidson AM section of yesterday's Tennesseean. Shew..the other editions of that section had the story, but not on the front page, and I wasn't in color.
Not sure how long this link will work.
Posted by Melissa at 3:11 PM
Sunday, December 05, 2004
So, tomorrow I begin my adult Sunday School teaching career. I'm not a member of this church, no one's ever questioned my theology at all (although they know my parents and my most recent job, which I guess would give me some credibility within the SB sphere), and I've never taught adults before....but I'll be teaching their female singles for my remaining time in TN.
As is typical for me, I read through the lesson for the first time just a few minutes ago (hey - at least I didn't wait until the ride tomorrow). I really wish I'd read through earlier though. I dunno. I guess I was expecting the teacher book to be like the ones for children - they've got lots of activity possibilities all laid out for you. The material I used to use even had activity books with stuff to punch out and color for the kids, so I didn't even have to scrounge up paper most of the time.
This has one activitity. It involves writing on a piece of paper or chalk/white board. Let me tell you how exciting and discussion-provoking I find this activity to be. Hmm...
Anyway...so I was reading in the prepatory stuff at the beginning of the leader's guide and came across a section entitled "Elements of Bible Teaching." It's a half of a page, so I guess the elements are pretty self-explanatory. But in the middle of this section, the following sentence caught my eye: "For the Holy Spirit to transform lives, participants must experience all [seven] elements [of Bible teaching] before, during, and/or after the session." Now, I'm taking this sentence out of its context, and the ending ("before, during, and/or after") does leave it open for a pretty big time span...but the implication of the sentence is plain - the Holy Spirit _CAN_NOT_ transform someone's life unless that person experiences a bulleted list of things.
This seems to bring up two things in my mind. 1) The pride of the author in having the confidence to make such a statement about the nature of God, and 2) the limitations we allow ourselves and others to put on the power of God.
Why _must_ the Holy Spirit jump through these man-made hoops in order to transform someone's life?
And I'm not saying that these elements of Bible teaching are bad things. They're all good things...but it's still humans telling God what He can't do. That's pretty silly, imo anyway.
So...I'll tell you how it goes tomorrow. In the two weeks that I've been attending this class, there has yet to be a repeat attender other than myself and the people who were teaching the class. Granted, that's partially because occasionally they split the men and women, but still....other than the teachers, it's been completely different people for me every time.
Might explain why they asked _me_ to teach.
Posted by Melissa at 12:48 AM
Friday, December 03, 2004
I just got back from dinner with one old and several new friends of mine. The "old" friend was a guy named Scot who was on the SWBTS team that got to Kuwait just a few weeks after I did, and then followed me to Baghdad. They were on the field with me for the first several months of my term, so the whole lot of us got pretty close. The new friends were a girl (Delia) who is going to Amman over Christmas, a girl (Leah) who may go to Amman next May, and Scot's girlfriend Katie.
We had a really great time talking about our various experiences. The girls obviously wanted to know what Amman was like to know how to pack, etc., but we also just had a good time talking about things in general. They've invited me to hang out with them some, so yay! I have friends now! :)
Wow...how much of a loser do I sound like right now? ;p
Also, while I'm thinking of friends, y'all be thinking of my friend from WarEagle days Tom (or more appropriately, his wife whose name I've forgotten). She's due any day now, but if the baby doesn't come before Saturday, Tom can't go to the Army/Navy game with Terron and possibly Jason (both also from WarEagle).
I'm sure they'd like to have the baby sooner rather than later for other reasons as well, but that's as good a reason as any.
So...since I now know _lots_ more Army folk than Navy/Marine personnel....Go Army, Beat Navy.
But Bryan O'C, if you happen across this, that was really a typo. I meant it the other way around. Please still tell the NASA people nice things about me when I ask you to! Remember - your own son is Army Reserves. Eh...what am I worried about? Insulting you at my interview got me a job. Go Army!
Posted by Melissa at 12:57 AM
Today I went with my dad to the funeral of my Great-Uncle George. Uncle George was the husband of my dad's mom's sister. He'd apparently been suffering from Alzheimer's for some time now, so this was not unexpected.
I discovered when I saw Uncle George that I _had_ seen him at some point previously in my life, although I couldn't tell you when or where. I vaguely remembered the faces of some of my dad's cousins, but apparently they all knew about me and my trip overseas, so Daddy wanted me to come along 1) to have some "quality" time with me, and 2) so that they could see that I was safe, etc.
I learned a lot about Uncle George today. He had been awarded the "Silver Beaver" which is the highest level of Scoutmaster in Boy Scouts. Both of my brothers were scouts, taking after my dad who was a scout. Apparently Uncle George got Daddy into it. My younger brother, Toby, and my dad have been teaching at a scout camp here in TN the past few years with a boy named Danny. We learned today that Danny was a grand-nephew of Uncle George as well, but on George's side instead of Elenor's (my grandmother's sister). My dad was impressed with this show of Uncle George's legacy as a scout - grand-nephews on both sides of his family were continuing the tradition of scouting without even knowing that they were related.
I was impressed with his service record. Uncle George apparently signed up for the Air Force in 1941 - just in time for WWII. No one among those I was talking to (my dad and his cousin Jerry) knew what he did in WWII. And apparently, after his term of service was over, he got out and worked elsewhere....until the Korean War started. Then he re-enlisted (!!!) and served as a navigator on 32 flights into Korea from where he was stationed in Japan.
So Great-Uncle George, I wish I'd been able to know you. You sound like you were a really cool guy. But in any case, we here at "Common Sense" salute you.
Posted by Melissa at 12:41 AM
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
I just finished getting photographed for a story in Nashville's newspaper The Tennesseean. I was hoping for a hot, young (male) photographer...and I got most of my wish....all except the male part. Well, and she seemed like an attractive young lady to me, but guys may have different opinions as to her "hot"ness.
Anyway...so it was a typical newspaper picture of me amidst my Iraqi memorabilia. And now I'm felling weepy. It was the maps that did me in. Stupid maps that I love. Well, and the pictures and all of the other stuff.
I miss it so much over there. Most of my WarEagle friends and other friends were coming back to wives and kids or grandkids (or they were bringing their families with them). Before I left, I lived 700 mi. from my family already. We talked _more_ while I was overseas than we did when I lived in the States. Maybe I'll feel less displaced when I'm back in MD with all of my friends. Maybe it would be different if Mara were still alive. I miss it all so much.
I just finished talking on the phone with the reporter too and now I'm teary again. It hurts to think about it. I want to go back there so badly.
So now I'm gonna distract myself by buying one last Christmas gift for my friends overseas and mailing the box to them.
Posted by Melissa at 2:14 PM
Monday, November 29, 2004
So over the weekend, I looked at the classes I can take this semester and how much they'll cost. The two classes I'm leaning towards are Satellite Design and Space Human Factors and Life Support. Those look like relatively low-key classes that I'll be able to use to get me back up to speed. There are only two problems...both are night classes, which isn't a problem except that the Satellite Design class is on Wednesday nights. Which means that I won't be able to sing in the church choir until May...of course, if I'd stayed overseas my full term, I'd have been there until March and in TN with my family until at least May anyway, so I guess I'm not really getting back any later than planned (although I was looking forward to the Easter musical).
The other problem is the money. I remember it being expensive, but not this expensive. Two classes are gonna run me almost $5000 (including all mandatory fees, but not books). So I spent some of yesterday looking for scholarships for the first time since high school. It appears that I'm most eligible for scholarships where you write an essay. Here's hoping that all of my writing practice here on my blog will do me well. I wrote one this morning. The biggest problem with those is that most of them award in time for the fall semester, so it might help me next time around, but not this semester.
But it was really weird filling out this on-line application (that's a big change in and of itself since I was in high school - we were slightly past LOGOS on an Apple IIe then (remember him?), but not by much - way back when the dinosaurs ruled the earth). They wanted a list of my high school and college extra-curricular activities and awards. Like I remember all of that crap. All I remember is that it was a _REEEEEAAALLY_ long list. At least in high school. As a friend of mine said this morning, my extra-curriculars in college were pretty much the Lab (where I worked), and JM (my boyfriend during college), although not necessarily in that order. I played a good bit of volleyball too, but that was really very related both to the Lab and to JM.
Somehow I don't think a scholarship grantor will be impressed with an ex-boyfriend as my primary extra-curricular activity.
Posted by Melissa at 11:20 PM
Sunday, November 28, 2004
I'm sure that most of y'all know that I was raised as a Southern Baptist, and what I will say in the following post is really just for other Southern Baptists. I'm sure that will spark the curiosity of all you non-SBs, but really, if you're not one, you don't need to read this. If you do read this, then I apologize for possibly adding to any dislike you might have of SBs in particular or organized religion in general.
Today in SB churches all across North America, people were shown a video of Jerry Rankin, President of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. In that video, they used the names, images, and work of four of my friends in order to wring your heart to get you to give them money.
I beg of you to not give a single penny to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Last year, I half-heartedly asked you to give to support the work of people on the field, but this year, I beg of you not to give a single, red (or any other color) cent.
The money from the general Lottie Moon fund does _not_ go to support the work of missionaries, it goes to pay for unnecessary conveniences like satellite internet connections and wireless networks. It pays for completely useless local staff who get paid more than twice what most of the workers on the field get paid. It pays for generators and security guards who cause the missionaries to be shown to be different from the people they're sent to work among. It pays for houses in the richest neighborhoods in town. It pays for vehicles that aren't needed or wanted. It pays for unnecessary travel.
It DOES NOT pay for projects. It does not pay for Bibles. It does not pay for training. The vast majority of those things are provided for by separate, designated funds, and/or the missionaries themselves.
The IMB has a god. That god's name is "Money," and they don't serve him very well. They're excellent at making heart-wrenching PR videos, asking for you to give your money to support their work. They're also excellent at stretching the truth as to the work being done currently.
As they wave the deaths of my friends in your face and say things like they were willing to lay down their lives - the least you can do is give money to suport their continuing work, they tell people who would give anything to be there that they can't go in. While they ask for your money to support the "work" that's being done in Iraq right now, they keep workers from _being_ in Iraq right now, and when they do allow them in, their movements are so restricted as to be next to useless.
If you want to support missions work as a Southern Baptist, give directly to a missionary on the field (your church will probably help you out with that if you're worried about your tax write-off) either for a specific project or for their own living (there are plenty out there with kids in college, etc. who aren't being adequately supported), or, if you're determined to work through the IMB, then donate to the Lottie Moon Challenge Database.
What do you mean, you've never heard of the Lottie Moon Challenge Database? Well, that's probably because it's not advertised because the IMB doesn't _want_ you to know about and give to the LMCDB, because they assume that if you do, then you won't give to the regular Christmas Offering. But you see, I'm all about that now. The LMCDB is where all of the missionaries on the field input projects that would greatly help the people with whom they're working, but which are projects that the IMB refuses to fund. Since the IMB does not allow its missionaries to ask for donations for specific projects (for fear that it will take away from Aunt Lottie's Christmas giving), this is its completely unadvertised method of allowing people to ask for money for a specific thing and still say that it's part of Lottie's Christmas Offering.
The entire database is not available online, although they do list a few of the most "strategic" needs at the following URL: http://www.resources.imb.org/giving/. You can go there directly, or you can get to it by going to www.imb.org, clicking on "your giving" near the top left, then clicking on "strategic priority needs" in the box on the right. Yeah...it's that "simple" to find.
Talk to your local Director of Missions to find out "strategic" needs for anyplace with which you're partnering, or talk to someone you know overseas to find out the 13-digit number you need in order to designate your gift appropriately.
But I'm begging you. Out of respect to my friends. Show the IMB that it is unconscienable for them to use the deaths of my friends as a means of squeezing more money out of you. I'm about to write a letter to Jerry Rankin and all of his VPs (all of whom live in very nice houses in Richmond, VA - paid for by your Lottie Moon Christmas Offering funds). You do it too (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Missions work and giving isn't about sob stories. Missions work and giving is about following God's will for your life. It's not about effective marketing. It's not about stretching to truth to get good PR. It's not about capitalizing on tragedies. Give because God calls you to give. Go because God calls you to go. But don't give to an organization who would capitalize on a tragedy. Give to the workers who can't get a dime from that organization in order to do the work that God has called them to do.
Posted by Melissa at 2:20 PM
Saturday, November 27, 2004
So my sister (a senior in high school) has a physics project for her AP physics class that's due sometime in the next week or so. She's supposed to watch some movie and see whether or not the movie is obeying the laws of physics and prove her postulation. The movie she picked, of course, was one of the Lord of the Rings movies (I think Return of the King).
One of the physics things she's looking at is when Legolas climbs up the oliphant's leg via arrows. She's trying to figure out whether or not the arrow would actually hold Legolas' weight.
Having a degree and a half in aerospace engineering, she, of course, asked me.
Not having worked with structures at all since I took the class cough...cough...seven, eight years ago, and not even having done any engineering of the sort for several years now....I'm more than a little rusty. We've found stuff online, and I could probably dig out a book from under Jesse's house to figure it out, but now I'm even more worried than I was that I'm not gonna be able to keep up with all of these young kids who'll be in my classes this next year. They're straight out of undergrad...I'm six years out, with the last two having done something completely different.
Speaking of which...I haven't registered for classes yet. Maybe I'll do that right now.
Posted by Melissa at 2:06 PM
I meant to include this in yesterday's post, but I forgot in my sleep-deprived-ness. My cousin Tanya (who always hosts all of the "Turner" family get-togethers and who makes excellent yeast rolls) has three sons. This year was the first year that none of them wanted anything hard-to-get (and requiring mega-early attendance at the post-Thanksgiving sales), so she was bummed, because she really liked the adrenaline rush or something.
So while we were discussing our BestBuy plans, she told us this story from post-Thanksgiving sales past.
One day after Thanksgiving, several years ago, she was in Walmart or some store of that nature in search of a scanner. She had acquired the very last of said scanners and was on her way back to the front of the store to pay for it and to meet her mom (my aunt) and at least one of her kids when a man walked up to her, took the scanner from her hands and said, "I'm bigger and faster than you," and ran off.
Fortunately for Tanya, a store manager witnessed the event and found a substitute scanner for her, then walked her up to the cash registers to ensure that she'd actually get to keep her scanner this time.
Posted by Melissa at 2:00 PM
Friday, November 26, 2004
My siblings have all camped out for Star Wars here in Nashville, while I was the lone Turner camper in Maryland...but this morning, we had a mini campout in order to get some stuff at BestBuy. None of us had ever really participated in the "day after Thanksgiving" phenomena. I bought a computer several years ago, but we didn't go especially early (and it turned out to be one of the crappiest computers I've ever seen - make sure you check those "amazing deals" they offer or you too might end up with WindowsME, a Celeron processor, and almost no RAM).
Anyway, so yesterday at my cousin's house, we were all looking through the ads. My younger brother is fixing up his computer and making the left-over pieces into a computer for my sister, so he wanted a new hard drive and a video card, my mom wanted a flash drive (I think they're commonly called "thumb drives" here, but I'm more used to "flash drive"), and I was sorta looking for a DVD player/VCR combo.
Well, there were several places that had hard drives for sale, but we determined that, per gigabyte, BestBuy's was the best deal, they had the video card that Toby wanted, the flash drive that my mom wanted, and the best deal on a DVD recorder/VCR combo. They opened at 6, so we made plans to leave around 5 to get there.
Toby, surprisingly, was the first one up (shows how much he wanted his stuff), and we managed to make it out the door by about 5:15 and to the store by about 5:25. We dropped Toby off at the end of the line (it was to the end of the parking lot by then) and Beth and I went to McDonald's for my traditional campout breakfast. Sadly, TN McDonald'ses apparently don't serve breakfast bagels, so I was at a bit of a loss, but we got breakfast and returned to where Toby was. The employees had passed out maps of the store, so we knew that what Toby wanted and what I wanted would be in different parts of the store and that we'd probably have to go to different registers. Since I was funding the operation, our plan was to split up - I'd go for the DVD/VCR, pay for it, then find Toby and Beth in the computer area where they'd be hanging out, waiting for me.
There was the typical stoppage of the line when we were next to go into the door, but then we were off. I found the DVD/VCR and a few other things and wound my way through the check-out line maze while Toby and Beth waited in the line to get into the computers area (to ensure good customer service). I practically walked up to a register and was out the door maybe ten minutes after entering. I talked to the bouncers as I was leaving explaining the situation in the hopes that I could skip the line on my way back in to find Toby and Beth....to no avail. So, after dropping my stuff off in my car, I got back in the line to get in - which was still about 3/4 of the length it was when we had first gotten there (and maybe 1/3 of the length that it was when the store opened).
After standing in line again, I got back into the store. Toby and Beth were still in line waiting to get into the computers area, so I got in line with them. Turns out, two of the three things they were assigned to get weren't _in_ the computers area, but they ran across them in the snake of the line. After another hour or so, we got in, Toby got his video card and we got into the line for the cashier.
We finally made it to the register and made our purchases and by 7:30 were headed home. On the way home, we stopped at Mrs. Winners for "second breakfast." :) We were completely successful in all of our purchases, and I even sat down and immediately filled out all of the rebate forms and even brought them out to the mailbox.
We now feel more a part of America, having participated fully in the "biggest shopping day of the year." We're also pretty tired.
But, to my audience in Iraq/Jordan....just let me know what TV shows you want me to record and send to you and you've got 'em (as long as you can read a DVD-R and have an address I can send stuff to).
This posting doesn't seem as fun as I'd intended it to be. Maybe you had to be there. Maybe I need to be less sleepy.
Posted by Melissa at 2:48 PM
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Last year this time, I'd just gotten back to my house after Thanksgiving with the WarEagle CA/PsyOps guys (and friends). As nice as it is to be home (and get to eat my cousin Tanya's yeast rolls!), last year was a great too. It was a really different family, but it was still a family. And they'd eat (almost) anything I'd make for them. :)
(Oh, and while I will still cringe until at least Dec. 1st, I will now stop yelling "It's not Thanksgiving yet!" every time I drive past Christmas decorations. This will please my family very much as it would usually startle whoever was in the car with me at the time.)
Posted by Melissa at 12:33 PM
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
BTW, I went to see the SpongeBob SquarePants movie on Saturday. I went with my older brother Jesse, his girlfriend Kate, and his best friend since high school Jimmy. Kate was the youngest among us at 22. :) We saw a Saturday matinee. There were a lot of little kids there. One of the funniest things though was to hear when the adults laughed vs. when the kids laughed. Usually they were at completely different things.
It was a really funny movie. I highly recommend it to anyone else with young kids and/or a "Peter Pan" complex like all of my family and most of our friends.
I "got into" SpongeBob without really intending to. I know I'd heard of him prior to going to orientation, but I'd never watched any and was almost to the point of considering it juvenile (yeah...I'm kinda surprised at myself too). But when we got to orientation, we had this thing where we were all supposed to get up in front of everyone else and say who we were, where we were going, and what we expected to get out of our experience. A guy who later became a good friend counted. Out of 108 people, 13 said that their sole purpose while overseas was to "be a sponge."
Now, obviously, they meant that they wanted to soak up the culture and learn all they could....but all they said was that they wanted to be a spineless sea creature that, at its death, is used on dirty humans to make them clean (or to water hermit crabs).
Anyway, that became a bit of a joke at our orientation...which then spread to my family...and so some of the "joke" gifts from my mom and my aunt have been SpongeBob-related. And then, my second roommate Jaime brought some SB (that's SpongeBob, not Southern Baptist) DVDs with her to Baghdad, so I watched....and especially when you're really bored with nothing else to do, they're pretty funny. :)
What's funny is that Jesse wasn't really into SB, Kate wasn't really into SB, I wasn't really into SB, and Jimmy knew nothing about him. And yet four completely legal adults, none of whom were really interested in the cartoon character in question, went to a matinee the day after said cartoon character's first movie opened.
On the plus side, we all enjoyed it. :)
And there _is_ something funny at the very, very, very end of the incredibly long credits, at least half of which we believe were made up. Either that or there are some rather oddly-named people on the SB SP team.
Posted by Melissa at 11:28 PM
I've been wondering why none of my post have been especially meaningful lately (I'm sure you enjoyed reading about my new socks, but still...not exactly high literature). I usually just post about whatever it on my mind at the moment. Lately, I've been letting "the moment" pass a good bit simply because what I was thinking about wasn't terribly important or interesting, and I was curious why that was.
Well, thanks to an email from a friend in Amman, I realized what was different about being here than when I was over there. Over there, we were studying Mark together three days a week, and I was being very dilligent about my own studies. Here, I've not been so diligent and the only other study I've gotten was on Sunday mornings at my parents' new church.
So, I'm working on being more diligent about my own reading again, and I'm gonna see what else is out there for me. I'll let y'all know how it goes and you can keep me accountable.
Anyway, so in his sermon on Sunday, my parents' pastor was closing out their "40 Days of Purpose" (purpose-driven) Study by preaching on the final purpose of our lives (according to Rick Warren) - Evangelism. It was a great sermon. He likened believers to mailmen ("postal workers" for the PC among you) - we just deliver the message given to us to deliver. It's not our place to force the person to respond or listen, it's just our place to "deliver the mail."
But he said one thing that bothered me, and he said it a couple of times....and I've heard it from other people in the past too. He said that God _needed_ us to deliver His message.
I just can't agree with that. I've spent the last year and a half working overseas. While I was working for an "unaffiliated, secular NGO," we all know that one of _my_ personal main purposes was evangelism. I think I learned a lot on the subject during my time overseas. One of the main lessons I think I've learned is that our participation in evangelism isn't _necessary_ to the spread of the gospel - it's a privilege.
It's like in Star Trek V when Spock asks, "What does _God_ need with a starship?" God doesn't _need_ our "help" to spread His message...but like we allow children to help in tasks to help them grow, He allows us to "help" Him to let _us_ grow.
Experiences like what I've been through for the past year and a half didn't happen so that the lives of people in Iraq could be changed by their interaction with _me_. It happened so that _I_ could be changed by _Him_.
Evangelism is something that we're commanded to do. There are no two ways about that. BUT, to claim that God _needs_ us in order to get His message out to the world makes God seem pretty powerless...like the "god" in Star Trek V.
(And for those of you who aren't Trekkers out there, the guy in Star Trek V that needed the starship wasn't really God.)
Posted by Melissa at 6:34 PM
So what's up with the commercials nowadays? I mean, it's one thing to show skin during prime time on a show that's known for its "adult situations" that you choose to watch and which has been rated by the FCC or someone and probably carried a warning prior to watching...but you can hardly watch a span of commercials (regardless of the channel or time period) anymore without seeing some woman in various stages of undress.
I'm really not fond of that. But I'm not sure that there's anything to be done about it. Granted, I have the choice to turn off the television completely or change the channel during the commercials....but at the same time, I guess I just think that commercials should be "rated" equivalently to the shows they're shown with.
Posted by Melissa at 5:59 PM
So I went to the dentist today. Back during the summer, one of my back molars suddenly started hurting when I'd chew on that side. Not being a big fan of dentists to begin with, and living overseas where doctors are scary, even though they're excellent and they all went to schools in the West, so it's really just stupid of me to be scared of them....I did what anyone would do - I just stopped chewing on that side. Eventually it stopped hurting and had even gotten to the point where I could chew on that side of my mouth again as long as the food wasn't too hot or too cold.
Since I hadn't been to the dentist since I'd gotten my wisdom teeth pulled in 1998, I naturally assumed that I'd finally gotten a cavity. But, like I said before, doctors are scary overseas (even though rationally, there's nothing different between them and doctors in the US except that they don't live in the US)...and not liking dentists to begin with, I put it off until I got home.
And then after I got home, I kept putting it off.
But then "fate" stepped in. (Heehee...Hi, Aunt Mom!) My mom was supposed to go to the dentist this morning. She thought she'd changed the appointment until tomorrow, but apparently hadn't, so I took her spot today and we rescheduled her until this morning. So I went to the dentist this morning at 8:30. Unfortunately, my purse (and insurance information) was in my parents' car, so we rescheduled the appointment for later in the afternoon and I went off in search of my sister's school (where the car was). After pulling her from class, I got my purse and came back home to sit and wait a little longer for the appointment.
I went back at 1, quaking in my new cute litte shoes since it'd been 7 years since my last cleaning and 6 since my last visit at all....only to find out that my supposed "cavity" was really a cracked filling (showing no signs of decay), and that my teeth looked like she'd cleaned them six months ago instead of seven years!
Go me with my mad tooth-brushing skillz!
I guess that's one advantage of not liking coffee and not being allowed to drink caffeinated beverages. :)
But what is it about your breath the day you go to see the dentist? It's fine every other day, but on that day, you brush longer and better than normal, you mouthwash like five times....and still you have nasty breath five minutes later. It's like the bacteria in your mouth know you're going to the dentist and want to make it seem like you never brush.
It's always weird going to my dentist though. She's the mom of a girl I went to high school with. Diane even went into her mom's business for a while - that was a _really_ weird visit - a girl I graduated high school with filled one of my teeth...and I was still in college, so we were like 21. But now she's married with three kids, so she didn't re-fill my tooth today.
It's now a few hours later and my 'mouf' is almost back to normal.
Posted by Melissa at 5:19 PM
Thursday, November 18, 2004
As one of my also recently-returning friends has pointed out, there are a _lot_ of reality shows on TV now. I mean, there was Survivor, American Idol, and Joe Millionaire before I left, but now it's like you can't flip through the channels without seeing at least two 'reality' shows and a couple of CSI: Debuque or Law & Order: Extra-Super Special People Who Investigate Bad Things Unit shows.
And while most of the reality shows are really, Really, _REALLY_ bad, there's one that's caught my attention. It's called "The Biggest Loser." In this show, a bunch of overweight people try to lose weight. They don't get it sucked out, they don't tie off half of their stomachs, they just diet and exercise. There are, of course, the stupid "challenges" and the inevitable back-biting when it comes to "vote people off" time, but the basic premise of the show is one that I can get behind. And even the people who get voted off continue in their new diet/exercise regime and continue to lose weight.
But probably the most fun aspect of it is that the biggest compliment for any of the contestants is to be named "the biggest loser" of the week. :)
Posted by Melissa at 10:17 PM
I haven't posted much lately....there's not a lot to say....I mean, there are plenty of funny, anecdotal things that I've thought about posting, but was too lazy to do at the time and then the moment passed, so I never wrote them at all....but in terms of important things...there's just really not that much.
I haven't heard from Rocketown yet. I stopped by there on Monday (most of a week since I'd dropped off my resume) and was told that the lady I needed to speak to was in a meeting, but that she'd gotten my resume, she'd just been busy. If I don't hear back by next week, I'm just gonna start being the weird 28-year-old chick who hangs out at a youth club.
I finally went through the clothes that I _did_ save. It was mostly skirts, a few 'church' dresses, and a lot of my 'fancy' dresses. I, of course, had a "try on" party. It was fun...and I could actually still fit into all of them. I'm a "little" bit hippier than I was, but I can still fit into everything. And it was weird because I'd saved so little, so what I'd saved should have been very dear to me. And a lot of it was - the dress I got my first kiss in, the dress I got "crowned" in when I became a "queen" in Acteens, this dress that I've had since I was a kid that I was waiting to wear until I was tall enough....and I almost am tall enough now, if I wear heels.....other dresses.....but after trying them on, I tossed most of them.
I kept a couple of them...all of the skirts, my prom dress (which is starting to show its age), a couple of other 'fancy' dresses (anyone remember New Year's 2000 at Jackie's house?), a couple of the 'church' dresses...but most of them I tossed. It's weird that what was incredibly dear to me two years ago is now only worthy of Goodwill. I'm almost afraid to go through all of my other stuff under Jesse's house....but then again, if I do that now, it'll mean a smaller U-haul on the way back to MD.
And a lot of me will be glad when I get rid of lots of my stuff. It's like a huge weight around my neck. I feel suffocated almost by it all. Maybe that's what I'll do during my mornings when I'm not being the weird old lady at Rocketown.
Posted by Melissa at 9:27 PM
Monday, November 15, 2004
I went to Walmart with my mom last night and bought lost of stuff like new socks and undershirts. Everytime I go inot a store like that, I get kinda spooked. I get past it, but I still get kinda spooked.
So...the socks. I put on my first pair this morning...and they made me go, "mmmmmmm...." There's nothing in the world like new socks after wearing the same couple of pairs for 18 months.
There's also nothing in the world like a Mrs. Winner's chicken breakfast biscuit. That also made me go, "mmmmm....' this morning.
And, interestingly, when I went into Home Depot this morning, there was none of the spookage that I've gotten in every other huge-mega store (which describes just about all of them nowadays) that I've been in since I've been back. Maybe it's because you never go into a Home Depot without a specific purpose in mind, so it's not completely just stuff.
I guess that makes me go, "hmmm..." instead of, "mmm...", but then again, we're talking about tools, so they make me go, "mmmmm....." too.
Posted by Melissa at 10:42 AM
Saturday, November 13, 2004
I'm calling for a massive boycott. I was watching WGN yesterday (a Chicago station which has always inexplicably been on Nashville cable) and they showed an advertisement for the Chicago Christmas parade which is occurring on November 20th.
Yes, you heard me right. Not only have all of the stores been completely stocked for Christmas since about two seconds after Halloween was over (if not before...I dunno, I wasn't here), but the city of Chicago is having their Christmas parade a week _BEFORE_ Thanksgiving.
So, in protest, I have decided _not_ to attend the Chicago Christmas parade.
I hope that you, like me, will choose not to attend this parade in the hopes that we can send a message to the city of Chicago that this is not acceptable. Christmas doesn't start until Macy's brings in Santa Claus.
Posted by Melissa at 4:35 PM
So I went shopping on Thursday with Beth (she had the day off of school) to get new clothes. In some ways, I was pretty proud of myself because I had kept a very small number of clothes in my brother's basement while I was away. That number got shrunk a little more when several bags got wet, but still...I didn't keep much all things considered. The downside of that though was that when I got back from being overseas for a year and half...and wearing the same limited number of clothes over and over for much of that time....I didn't have any different clothes to wear.
But the plus-side of not having different clothes to wear is that you get to go out and buy new clothes. And now we're back to where we started. So I went shopping on Thursday with Beth. I sorta intended to go several places, but we went to Ross first, and ended up buying enough there that other places weren't really necessary. I got several long-sleeve shirts, a pair of short boots (I'm very happy to be getting re-acquainted with my calf-length boots which _have_ been waiting for me under Jesse's basement), a pair of nice shoes, a pair of black pants (aren't you proud of me Jaime?), and several pairs of jeans. There was one pair that was my size and petite. Those are the pair that fit. Then there were two pairs that were one size bigger, but still petite. Those are my fat jeans. Then I got one more pair. A size too big and regulars....so those are for when I get fat _and_ taller.
But I do look very stylish in my new clothes. Its kinda weird.
After we went to Ross, we stopped in at MediaPlay and they had the music folio I've been waiting for ever since Kuwait - Norah Jones "Come Away With Me." Someday I'll even be able to _play_ the songs. :)
Posted by Melissa at 4:24 PM
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Today is Veteran's Day. I've always been a patriotic person. My dad used to always have our choirs put on a 4th of July musical which rivaled the Easter and Christmas musicals, so I grew up with it. I would regularly get teary at 4th of July observances, etc.
Today I attended a Veteran's Day assembly at my dad's school. They had veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces and combat veterans from each major war, conflict, and military action since (and including) WWII. They even had an Army MP Specialist who arrived in Baghdad two weeks after I did, and only returned to the States a few months ago (and who has just been nominated for the Bronze Star with Valor), and a Major who just returned from Afghanistan.
I have American Christian friends overseas who poo-poo patriotism. They think that asking God to bless America is stupid. I have American Christian friends in the States who think that to say the Pledge of Allegiance is sacreligious.
Is there anything Biblical which says "thou shalt be (or not be) patriotic?" No. There isn't. But people in the Bible were proud of their heritage, nationally, religiously, and ethnically. Paul is a great example of this as he's constantly citing his references - Roman, Pharisee, and Hebrew.
So, I proudly proclaim my heritage as an American, a Christian, and as your typical American mutt ethnically. And I ask God to continue to pour out His blessings on this nation, as He does on all nations in their time. He sets up rulers and He removes them. He allows nations to rise and allows them to fall, all according to His timing and His plans.
Today, for the first time since before I left the States, I proudly said the Pledge of Allegiance, was too choked up to sing along with the National Anthem, and did my best during God Bless the USA. I used up lots of tissues and my dad's hankerchief, and I'm still pretty moved by it all.
God _has_ blessed this great nation of ours, I hope that He will continue to do so in the future, and I'm proud and thankful to be a part of it.
Oh, and Mark Schultz should be shot for that song "Letters from War."
Posted by Melissa at 12:18 PM
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
I don't know all of the ins and outs of Yasser Arafat's life. I personally don't think that he actually weilded much power over Palestinians...but my dire prediction at the announcement of his death is that Palestine will erupt in violence, both internal and external. There may not be an official power struggle within the recognized Palestinian Authority, but there will be a struggle amongst Palestinians, and there will be a change in their policies toward non-Palestinians.
But I hope that my predictions will prove false.
Posted by Melissa at 11:30 PM
I don't feel miserable or anything, but I'm apparently allergic to America now. I got back late Tuesday night, and by Saturday, I was sneezing and had a runny nose. It hasn't stopped me from doing anything, but it's rather annoying. Almost as annoying as continuing to wake up well before the crack of dawn. It would at least make sense if I were getting tired earlier, but I'm just not (except for cold- and/or cold medication-induced sleepiness, but even that's not so far out of the ordinary that it'd be terribly noticable without the 6AM wide-awakeness).
Anyway...so if you'll pardon the sneezing and blowing of my nose, I'll tell you my reflections on my first week back in America.
Tuesday, Nov. 2: I was picked up by my friend Scott at about 8AM local time in Amman to be taken to the airport. Royal Jordanian has a city terminal where you can check your checked luggage the night before your flight (soooooooooooooo very convenient), so that had already been taken care of, it was just me and my virtual plethora of carry ons. I had myself, my jacket, my purse, my bookbag, my guitar, my camera bag, BB, and a satchel (approximately the size of a computer case).
The RJ carry-ons nazi at the airport tried to get me to check my guitar (which I refused outright since it was in a soft case). The security guy understood completely, but apparently the carry ons nazi held sway, so I was sent to the ticket counter to check _something_ (I would have been willing to check my bookbag, just not my guitar). After waiting in line for an eternity (behind about 12 guys who were obviously with some security company in Iraq), I got the counter guy to ok all of my carry ons. He waved me through the carry on nazi, I shared a grin with the security guard, and I was on my way.
The plane was virtually empty. In my row of eight seats, there were two people (including myself), and that was pretty common throughout the plane. They showed three movies on the 11-hour flight from Amman to JFK, but I only watched one of them because the rest of the time I was talking to a very drunk ex-Navy Seal who only likes to be on planes when he plans to jump out of them. That made for some amusing (if repetitive - he being a forgetful drunk) conversation.
We arrived at JFK about on time. My bags took about an hour to come out of the luggage thing, but they all made it, and were still in tact at that point, although one of the trunks was definitely in worse shape than the other. Then I went through customs without a second glance from the customs agent (I guess it's common for one small girl to have four very large suitcases/trunks plus myriad carry ons, then got in line to re-check my backs. Having misread my ticket (thinking that my flight left at 5:20 instead of 7:20 - 1720 vs. 1920 - I'd been on a plane for 11 hours by that point, mostly talking to a drunk guy with ADD - I was tired), I got brought to the front of the line only to be told that there was no way I'd make my 5:20 flight since it was on the other side of JFK...then told that it didn't matter since my flight was actually at 7:20, not 5:20, but since my luggage was already up front, I might as well just leave it and go. Which I did.
I then took trains to the other side of NYC, otherwise known as Terminal 7 at JFK, and sat there until we took off. By this time, I was getting pretty tired. I dozed fitfully the whole way to Dulles. Then I arrived at Dulles and had to walk (and take a bus) across all of DC before I finally made it to where Aunt Mom and Barbara were waiting for me.
Then we went to pick up my luggage. Three of my four pieces made it - the two suitcases and one of the trunks. I had visions of my belongings trashed in the hold of the little commuter plane that took me from JFK to DC, but that wasn't the case...apparently my other trunk had decided to catch a few of the sights in NYC before coming to DC, so they'd bring it out to me when it came in.
By the time I'd landed, we figured out that I'd been awake for close to 24 hours by that point...although thinking back now, I'm not sure how that could be...hm....I _left_ at 8, but I woke up at like 6:30 or 7, which would be midnight-ish on the east coast....ok, so by the time I went to bed (around midnight), I'd been up 24 hours.
But despite that lack of sleep, I still woke up at 5AM...which is noon in Amman, so really I slept pretty late, according to my body's clock. But I got up around 7-ish and tootled around for an hour or so before heading over to the grocery store to sate a few cravings. I'm sure that the Weis people thought that I was insane. For one thing, my eyes were as big as saucers the whole time, but I'd also randomly stop and exclaim over some food item that I hadn't had in most of two years, but hadn't thought about (like apple sauce)...and by the end, I was so overwhelmed that I literally had to talk myself through the end of the shopping ordeal. After that I went to the church to surprise the office staff and pastors. Barbara and Aunt Mom had told our senior pastor, but no one else knew. I went out to lunch with two of the pastors (and had a very yummy steak and baked potato and salad!), then I went over to Aunt Mom's for a while and we planned the surprise for Heidi. When Heidi came to pick Aunt Mom up for her birthday dinner on Friday, I was gonna be there. It was gonna be great. This tidbit will be important later.
That evening, I stopped by choir practice late (so as to avoid most of the Wednesday night crowd) and infiltrated successfully. despite some folks in the parking lot and in conference rooms as I passed by. It was fun to hear the ripple of exclamation start in the altos (nearest the door where I came in), then pass through the men to the sopranos (on the other side of the room). I said hello to everyone, swore them to secrecy, then went to meet Lauren P. who was born after I'd left. After playing with her and some of my other playmates (choir members children), I went back up and listened until I couldn't stand it anymore, then sang with them for a little bit before the rehearsal was over. Afterwards, I was standing outside talking to people when Heidi drove up, thereby ruining the surprise Aunt Mom and I had planned for her, but providing for some amusing hi-jinks in letting Aunt Mom continue to believe that Heidi didn't know I was there, and playing off my "surprise" appearance like it was nothing out of the ordinary to Heidi.
Anyway, so again I went to bed around midnight and woke up around 5...but was able to doze until 7, and stayed in bed until around 9. It was rainy on Thursday, which was interesting. I'd seen rain one time in Amman, but before that it'd been March in Baghdad since I'd seen rain. But I went over to APL to surprise my former boss Clay and former co-worker Sanae, only to be surprised that Sanae was out of town. Clay and I did lunch in an APL cafeteria, then I went and got a cell phone. The cell phones in the States have _WAY_ too many gadgets and things on them. All I want is Snake, a distinctive ring, and text messaging. Instead, even with the cheapest phone available, I got full-color games that you have to download, polyphonic rings that sound like crap, and text messaging that has the "space" button on a different key than I'm used to. So if you get a text message from me and there are an unusual number of 0s, blame Sprint.
Then I went over to my friend Grant's house and got to eat Papa John's pizza and watch the Farscape TV mini-series (at least part of it)!!
Friday, I didn't wake up until 7! Around 11 I went to surprise my graduate advisor at UMCP. He doesn't currently have any research assisstanships open for me, but he's always got proposals out, so maybe by the time classes roll around something will come up. But we had a good chat and he took the advising block off of my record, so now I can register for classes.
After that, I took the Metro into DC to make my pilgrimage to the National Air & Space Museum. It was cool, as usual. Still having ample time to kill prior to returning to Laurel, I figured I'd take a leisurely walk down the Mall...and ended up visiting all of the memorials (except for FDR which I still haven't found). It was my first time seeing the new WWII memorial. That is a beautiful monument...and it's so striking, seeing the wall of stars (each of which represents 10 US military casualties), and seeing the Vietnam Memorial....just how blessed we are to live in the day of "modern" warfare. Don't get me wrong, any loss of life is tragic....but just really stop and consider the tens of thousands of men and women who have died in each of the previous wars compared to the one thousand in this current war. It doesn't at all belittle their sacrifice to thank God Almighty that we no longer just line up and shoot at each other.
That's one of the quirks I've come back with - even though I never personally experienced (or even discussed) a battle, I know people who did, and I saw how they lived. It sounds silly, but it's even hard for me to watch MASH now. "War" movies are out of the question. It's just too personal to me now. My grandfather was stationed in India during WWII, my dad went to seminary during Vietnam, and apparently pretty much as far back as there's been an "American" war, there have been Turners either too old or too young to fight in it...but I got choked up at those memorials because even though they weren't any relatives of mine, they were like the guys and girls that I got to know over there.
War is a terrible, terrible thing to be avoided at almost all costs. Pulling servicemen and women away from their families for extended periods of time, the loss of life, the destruction of infrastructure...it's a miserable, horrible thing. But sometimes it's necessary to root out some great evil which would otherwise spread.
Anyway...back to my story...so then I went to Aunt Mom's house and we got ready to "surprise" Heidi. Heidi showed up as planned, and she and I acted non-chalant, also according to plan. Aunt Mom and her mom were dumsquizzled. Heidi and I both got slaps to the back of our heads for pulling one over Aunt Mom. :) But then we went out and had crab cakes, so it was all good. :)
Saturday morning I went and played with Lauren P. (and her parents) some more, then Barbara, Aunt Mom, and I went to CarMax where I purchased a blue 2001 Ford Escape. Her name is Sydney. Some of you will understand that. She's _very_ nice. I like her a lot. :) Then I went to my friend Grant's house again. We were gonna go out for dinner, but couldn't find a parking place at Arundel Mills, and the next place we tried looked crowded, so we got take-out from Arby's instead. :) Then we watched the rest of the Farscape TV mini-series. :)
On Sunday, so as to keep my secret an actual secret, I skipped church and instead had "coffee" with Sanae (who had come back into town by then) and her boyfriend Marc. It was cool to see them (especially since she brought me stroopwafels!) and just chat for a couple of hours. It was also my first time in a Starbucks since Kuwait. After that, I met Aunt Mom and some other folks from church for lunch, then napped for an hour or two, then came back to Aunt Mom's for her birthday/my return celebratory crab feast. Donna, the crab I ate in your honor was delicious (as were all of the others).
Monday, I got up regular time (I actually woke up at 4, but was able to doze until 6:30-7-ish) and left for my drive to TN just before 8AM. After a completely non-exciting 10-hour drive, I arrived at my parents house...only to find it empty. I curled up on my La-Z-Boy in the den with Monkey (who remembers me) and waited for about an hour before my mom and sister got home. They were appropriately surprised, as was my dad who got home about an hour later, and my older brother who stopped by a few hours after that. Toby then surprised us by driving home from school too (we'd called him). Today's his 19th birthday, btw. Happy Birthday, Toby! Look at his little ear!
Tuesday, my mom took off of school, and Toby stayed home, so the three of us met my dad during his lunch break, then met my brother Jesse for lunch during his lunch break (at an "Arabic" restaurant - that was out of hummos!!!), then we went to Rocketown to drop off my resume. Their HR guy wasn't in that day, but another lady took my resume and showed us around. She sounded hopeful that they'd have a spot for me and recommended that I upload a resume and cover letter to their website (which I did shortly after getting back home that evening).
After all of those festivities, we went over to Jesse's house and ate spaghetti. I didn't get to meet his new girlfriend, but I'm sure I will eventually. We watched the "Clone Wars" shorts from the Cartoon Network, then Jesse kicked us out.
Today, I've pretty much just been a bum, catching up on some on-line reading, checking my email, and updating my blog (it now shows me in my correct location). Everyone went back to school today except for Toby who is still asleep on the floor in the den (I took over his room which was my room long before it was his, so like some would say the Philistines have to Israel, I have a prior claim to it). I know that boys and girls are wired differently in terms of things like sleep, and I recognize that he's a college freshman and therefore keeps weird sleeping hours, but it's now 1:30PM. That's amazing. I woke up this morning before 6.
My only plans so far for tomorrow are to attend some Veteran's Day thing that my dad's school is having. They're not going to recognize me as a veteran, but I'll be recognized as someone who was working alongside veterans or something like that. I dunno. People that I've never met before are really proud of me. They don't know what I did, but they're proud of me.
Oh, and grapefruits still taste good.
Posted by Melissa at 12:58 PM
Monday, November 08, 2004
Ok, to those of you in MD and Jordan who kept my secret, I thank you. The secret, for those of you still in the dark, was that I'm in America now. I arrived on election day, stayed in MD for a few days (during which I got a cell phone and bought a car!! not to mention seeing old (and new) friends), and drove to Nashville today, surprising my family. Everything happened so quickly for me in leaving Amman, that I was leaving before I'd told my family when I was coming. Then I got email from my mom saying that she wasn't expecting me until the end of November....so it was a surprise just waiting to happen, and it did. :) Toby even drove home from college when he heard I was here. Apparently me waving in his direction from the interstate as I drove by wasn't good enough. :)
Anyway, over the next few days, I'll blog more about my first few days back in the States. It's not quite real yet, but I'm almost over the over-stimulation aspect of it all. I think the biggest thing that's struck me is how much _stuff_ everyone has here.
It was a lot of fun writing the previous blog. If you re-read, you'll see that I was not untruthful in anything I said...I just didn't tell the _whole_ truth, and instead relied on your assumptions of what "here" meant. :) Heehee....I'm sneaky. :)
The plan's still the same though....I'm gonna go check out Rocketown tomorrow. Y'all check out its website www.rocketown.com to see how cool it is.
Posted by Melissa at 3:42 PM
Saturday, November 06, 2004
I just realized that, not only had I not posted in a while, but I also hadn't shared my current plans for the future.
Well, the current plan involves me finishing up a few more things here, then after a week or so in Maryland, driving back to TN. I'll live in TN with my parents for a few months, hopefully working at this club in town called "Rocketown." It's a youth-oriented club founded by one of my favorite musicians, Michael W. Smith. Then, sometime in January, I'll come back to MD and will begin a year as a full-time grad student at University of Maryland, College Park. I'd been attending grad school part-time prior to moving overseas, so I'm still a student. I figure that this will be a good way for me to transition back into American life, and give me a year in which to figure out where I want to live and what I want to do. I heard from my graduate advisor yesterday that he doesn't have any research assisstant spots available for me right now, but that he's (as usual) got lots of proposals out waiting for funding, so it's possible that by the time classes come around, he might have something. Otherwise, I'll get a job someplace and pay for it all myself.
After that year, I don't know.
So that's the plan for now.
Posted by Melissa at 9:41 AM
Monday, November 01, 2004
I've given you a list of things I want to remember about Baghdad, so here's a list of the things I'm looking forward to in America (also in no particular order, so no offense...and by the way, I'm really tired, so my brain's not really working):
1. Maryland blue crabs
2. Sour cream
4. Papa John's
6. The Air & Space Museum
7. Seeing my family and friends
8. Live sports
9. Sliced ham
10. Convenience in shopping
11. Loaves of bread
12. Network television
ok...my brain's just really not working...I'm sure I'll think of other things eventually. Oddly, right now I'm watching Full Metal Jacket.
Good night, ladies!
Posted by Melissa at 3:16 PM
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Well, my absentee ballot is anxiously awaiting me in Baghdad, but since there's no way for me to get to it, I just went to the Embassy here in Amman this morning to pick up a federal write-in ballot. I only got to vote for president/vice president (or as the ballot says, "vise" president - tell me this isn't a government operation?!) and congressional representative (I hope I got the right district), but I still got to vote. The issue may be that it won't get back to the Davidson County Election Commission in time. According to their rules, it has to be in to them by the time that the polls close on Tuesday. But it's going by diplomatic mail, so maybe it has a chance. At least I did everyting _I_ could do to get it there.
The coolest thing about picking up the write-in ballot was that I saw my friend Col. Brennan (from the IAC)! He extended his reserve term for a year and has been working at the embassy here in Amman. He happened to be coming into work as we were talking to the folks at the information desk. Small world, huh?! For those who know them, I also saw Maj. Mendez, but not Cpt. Pogge. Although since I've never met her, I wouldn't have known her if she _had_ walked by.
So after all the hassle I've gone to in order to vote in a manner which it's not likely to be counted (they only count absentee ballots if the race is so close that they could swing it...and that's just not gonna happen in TN)...all of y'all had been walk the five minutes from your house to your polling place and do your voting too. And just in case my ballot doesn't get to Nashville in time, vote in my place still too. :)
Just remember - you have no right to complain if you didn't participate in the process!
Posted by Melissa at 9:25 AM
Thursday, October 28, 2004
I've been pondering over the past few months as to whether or not my blog should continue after I get home. I think I've decided that it will, at least for a little while. But, there will probably be a few changes to the format of at least the sidebar. I'm not really sure yet what that'll entail except that I'll definitely put in a spot that tells you where I currently am, since I expect to be travelling a good bit over the next few months.
I'm not sure how much there'll be to write about, but I'm sure I'll think of something. Especially right at the beginning you'll get fun stories of me re-adjusting to American life. After that, it'll be somewhat pot-luck.
Anyway, just in case any of you were worried about blog withdrawl, know that you'll be able to continue getting your "fix" for at least a little while longer. It won't be from quite as exotic locations, but it'll still be my random thoughts, which, hopefully, you enjoy.
Posted by Melissa at 5:48 PM
And I feel....ambivalent.
But seriously...I just finished reading "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (commonly known as "Revelation" or "Revelations") and I _swear_ I read something about a sign of the end times being that the Red Sox would win the World Series. I'm sure it read something to the effect of "And in that day, when the sixth seal is broken, then world will gasp, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth as a silver trophy is held above the heads of many on the north-eastern coast of a continent which has yet to be discovered(eth) who wear red and who name themselves after an article of clothing, except that they spell(eth) it wrong."
Of course, Rev. 21:8 says that liars go to Hell, so maybe I should recheck that reference.
Posted by Melissa at 5:40 PM
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Here’s a list of my favorite things and/or moments from living in Baghdad. Some of these you’ll understand what I’m talking about, some of them you won’t. They’re in no particular order, just the order that I remember them in, so there will probably be some amount of automatic grouping. There are just so many things that I want to make sure I remember forever…so many things that I thought I’d have plenty of time to tell you about…
1) City Center hamburgers, with the French fries on the burger and their “secret sauce.”
2) During any phone conversation of more than a few minutes, _always_ having to stop the other person for a few seconds to wait for the helicopters to pass.
3) The day at Khulood’s house.
4) Being “forced” to eat three times more than I wanted anywhere I visited during a meal because I had “eaten nothing!”
5) Learning the custom of eating “Iraqi-style.”
6) Drinking gallons of Iraqi tea and Turkish coffee for politeness’ sake.
7) Sitting with my feet up on my roof that first summer, web-surfing, eating watermelon, and listening to the Chronicles of Narnia on CD or to Norah Jones.
8) Finding my piano.
9) Making Thanksgiving dinner for the WarEagle guys. Then eating again right afterwards at the DFac – they had ham!
10) Fridays with the WarEagle guys, just watching a movie or shooting the breeze while eating whatever concoction I’d put together for them. It always got eaten, no matter what “substitutions” had been made – even the “gingerbread” made with pomegranate molasses and the “pumpkin pie” made with zucchini.
11) Hearing baby Sien laugh for the first time.
12) Learning to count with Ahmed.
13) Sa’ad’s wedding.
14) Learning the difference between the red tracers and the green ones.
15) Learning the difference between a Bradley and a Tank.
16) Eating pomegranate for the first time in my life and thanking God continually each day thereafter for one of the best things I’d ever tasted.
17) Just walking down the streets in our neighborhood.
18) Watching Alias at the Winships with the whole group.
19) Watching movies at the Winships.
20) Playing volleyball in the Winships front yard in the dark.
21) Becoming the “Dish Fairy” in my house.
22) Helping to write the “Dish Fairy” children’s book one bored Friday with Jen and Jaime.
23) The night that Oday and Qusay were killed.
24) The day that they captured Saddam.
25) The night that Iraq beat Portugal in their first Olympic match.
26) Memorizing the 26-character hexadecimal number that was the wireless network’s password.
27) Getting boxes and boxes of pork products from Emmanuel.
28) Having “date night” with Zach and Noah.
29) The process of getting dressed for Sa’ad’s wedding – involving multiple changes of clothes for everyone.
30) Getting my hair and makeup “done” by Fatima, Saubrie, and Sana’a – including my first (and only) eye brow “threading.”
31) My favorite TV commercial – random Arab guy dressed in jeans and a t-shirt among a bunch of people in more traditional garb. He runs through the streets, through his house, through his school, completely stressed out…until the call to prayer begins. Then he stops running and prays. When he’s done, he’s smiling and isn’t stressed anymore.
32) Channel 2.
33) Picking out Christmas trees with Jaime, Andrew, Renata, and Nashwan.
34) Driving out in Tesa’a Nissan.
35) Dropping in at each school, greeting the teachers, students, guards, and guard families that I knew.
36) Watching Jason W. tell “Mr. Al-Quaeda” the four spiritual laws.
37) Lacie and I on our random jaunts with the SP guys.
38) “Hot Paul” (heehee…Hi Paul!).
39) Sunday mornings with the guys in the Green Zone.
40) Eating in Saddam’s main palace.
41) Eating “Chinese food” in the Green Zone.
42) Discovering the joy that is a PX/BX when living far from the US.
43) Al-Alaweia restaurant.
44) The White Palace restaurant.
45) That Italian restaurant.
46) Hanging out with Daryl, Tariq, and Chuck.
47) Getting proposed to by Dhia due to his first bite of cobbler.
48) Ice cream with Bon and her daughters.
49) Getting signatures for Creative Associates.
50) Giving New Testaments and blankets to the families of each of the guards at the schools for Christmas.
51) Scrubbing “Happy Birthday Saddam” off of Al-Abrar’s walls.
52) Touring the medical clinics with the WarEagle guys.
53) Riding in a Humvee!!
54) Caroling with the C&MA Church “youth” group in the Green Zone.
55) Our MCI phones.
56) Stopping by the “Baghdad Space Research Center.”
57) Hearing the Iraqi National Symphony play for the first time post-Saddam.
58) My “stalkers” at WarEagle.
59) Christmas Eve at WarEagle and the reaffirmation of my place.
60) Having the Christmas box from my mom arrive on Christmas Eve.
61) Hanging out with Jason B. and the guys from Dawg Troop.
62) Finding Evan.
63) The Christmas Eve bonfire at WarEagle.
64) Getting the phone call from my dad about Mara.
65) The unreality of the days following the deaths of our friends.
66) The memorial service at St. George’s.
67) The memorial service at the main palace that Paul Bremmer came to.
68) Hearing the hope in the people’s voices after Saddam had been captured.
69) Seeing the Baghdad “zoo.”
70) Learning to love BBC Prime.
71) Getting the Company Directory ready for the DBX.
72) Iftar with Eric and Haitham.
73) The day Oday’s car was stolen from in front of my house.
74) Driving in Baghdad.
75) Seeing the room where the handwriting was on the wall.
76) Seeing Ur.
77) The surrealness of life in Baghdad.
78) Being well-known at all the checkpoints because I was the American girl there because I _wanted_ to be (and not even for the money), and who was nice to and friendly with the soldiers and Iraqi ladies at each place.
79) Having people think that I am Arab.
80) Seeing the mosque in Baghdad where Jesus was born.
81) Learning the language on my own, then with Falah and Bon, then with Mahasin.
82) Mighty Mouse.
83) Buying a bike with Andrew.
84) Going to the C&MA church the day that Saddam was captured and singing “How Great Thou Art” with them.
85) The Hammurabi Palace Hotel and staff.
86) Tea time with Sandy.
87) The water tanks.
88) Getting “stoned” at Al-Haq.
89) Random thoughts with Jaime and Jen.
90) Being missed at “my” store.
91) Mexican Train.
92) Sharing my birthday with Iraq
93) Sitting with Um Dhuha after her husband's death.
94) The party with teh neighbor women at Um Dhuha's house.
95) Teaching and being taught by Mahasin.
96) The SWBTS teams, and all the other volunteer teams that came through.
97) "The fish that stands up."
98) "Translating" at the education meeting.
99) The Christmas party at the office.
100) Seeing "Abram's House."
101) The "Prayer Room."
102) Going swimming at the Babylon Hotel.
103) The take-off and landing at BIAP.
104) Bruce, Snowball, and One-Eye.
105) Neighborhood Area Council meetings.
106) The early days of finding everything by GPS.
107) Babysitting Jayden and James.
108) Dotty's deviled eggs.
109) The jacket from Haitham.
110) Seeing Geraldo Rivera at BIAP.
111) All of the people. There are too many to mention them all by name.
I could keep going, probably forever. Maybe I'll keep adding as more things come to me.
I'm...resigned, I guess is the best word for it. Of course, I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family at home again, but...I love Iraq and the Iraqi people. I love the people on my team here. I love the family that we've become. Part of me is glad to be going, but all of me hates to leave.
Posted by Melissa at 12:14 PM
Monday, October 25, 2004
Well, it's 5:30AM here in Amman. I woke up yesterday at 8AM after not sleeping well for most of the night, and not getting to bed until about 3AM the previous night, and now I haven't slept at all tonight.
With each successive bit of news, my mind has apparently been busy working out the logistics of "getting it all done" to the point that I just can't relax enough to sleep. First it was getting all the goodbyes into ~two days. Then it was the realization of the number of gifts that I needed to buy, then describing those things over email to someone who is not a native English speaker. Then it was just thinking through all of my stuff and where it is so that _I_ didn't forget anything....and now it's thinking through all of my stuff and where it is, and trying to put down on paper somehow the description of the thing and where it is (or might possibly be) in order that someone else can (hopefully) find it for me.
I'm trying to remember what books are where and which I planned on leaving and which I planned on taking home. That's pretty much a lost cause. Same with the clothes. I think I'm pretty much just going to have all of the clothes brought, then what I planned on leaving behind, I'll just leave behind here instead of there...which works except that my "left behind" clothes were going to be a gift to my family by the school. I also have no recollection whatsoever of which DVDs our household had acquired, and which among those were mine (and also which of those that are mine I was planning on taking home and which I was planning on leaving).
In any case, despite hours of playing Escape Velocity, hours of reading, and hours of attempts at sleep, no sleep will come, so I've given up and instead wrote out the first of my lists of things, locations, what to leave, what to take, packing instructions, etc.
It "probably" hasn't helped any of the past couple of nights that there is one mosquito in here that will not die. Dude's bitten me no less than fifteen times tonight, and yet he keeps coming back. Attempts at swatting have been in vain.
HA! "Hail the conq'ring hero!" or "Ding, dong, the mosquito's dead!"
Now we find out if it was really _just_ one.
Posted by Melissa at 10:30 PM
Well, I was just informed that, while it's ok for my boss and his wife to go into Baghdad, it's not ok for me to go. So, if I want her to pack up my things, she'll do that for me, or they hope that I'll reconsider staying in Amman for a while.
I guess there's some improvement here. When I spoke with them on Saturday, they "selfishly wanted me to stay...so that I could finish up some work I was doing (which is hopefully still on my computer, awaiting retrieval)." Today at least they wanted me to reconsider staying because a) it might mean that in a month, the powers that be would allow me to go in to say my goodbyes, and b) I'm the only one of our team who's actually involved with an Iraqi family here in Amman (my language teacher Reghid and her family).
I've had my little cry (although I'm sure I'll have more over the course of the evening). But it's a lot easier to take "bad" news when you asked that God's will be done. That's really the difference between trusting God and not trusting Him, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy about not getting my way, by any means, so don't hold me up as a shining example...but sincerely hoping that His will be done, and trusting that everything that happens is according to His plan and for the good of those who love Him...well, you can be disappointed, but you just can't really be angry, shattered, etc. with "bad" news...because He's got it all under control, even if we can't see it right now.
Those among you, my friends, who are not believers probably think I'm stupid for feeling this way and saying these things. And those among you who are believers are at this moment building up my pedestal a little higher and giving it a little more of a shine. And both sets of you are wrong (but especially the believers).
I guess I just feel that I can't exactly rage at God when I asked Him to do His will, and not mine.
Anyway, my boss and wife asked that I think about things again. I have until tomorrow around 2PM (that's morning for you east-coasters) to decide if I want my boss' wife to pack my things before it would cost the Company money to cancel her ticket.
Heh....people think I want a husband for the sex and the babies, and well...yeah, that's true....but I'm also just tired of deciding things like this on my own. If I had a husband, I could make him decide for me, then just submit to his authority.
Right now, my gut instinct is to go home and curl up in a little ball for a few weeks. If it weren't for some things (in Baghdad) that are especially precious to me, I think I'd get on a plane right now.
Anyway.....so I've got about 20 hours to decide what I ought to do.
Posted by Melissa at 10:12 AM
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Ok...so I just was informed that we _won't_ be going into Baghdad tomorrow. The earliest we would go is Wednesday....except that we may not be allowed to go at all. Apparently it's in "Uncle Jerry's" hands right now and rumor has it that he's against the idea.
Which means that right now I'm having to consider the possibility that I may not be allowed to say goodbye at all.
So the immediate "thought for the day" is that...well...God's will be done.
It's probably quite obvious what _I_ want. _I_ want to be allowed to go back and stay........
Anyway, I'll keep y'all up-to-date on developments as they happen.
Posted by Melissa at 12:04 PM
Well, here's what's happened to me over the last few days. If you remember from my dreams post, I had "laid a fleece" (basically asked for a sign from God) to show me whether or not I was supposed to return to Iraq with the Company. Their plans were that we would not return as a group until after the Iraqi Elections at the end of January...so basically, not until at least mid-February (they would have to give it a few days to make sure that there wasn't renewed violence, etc. post-elections)...which meant that I would return about two weeks before my term ended and would spend my remaining time twiddling my thumbs in Jordan.
The "fleece" that I had laid down was that He would smooth the way for my return with the Company. I had a task that I could do in the country (another co-worker has been allowed to return to do this same task), all that I needed was the ok of the Company. Well, word came down yesterday that the answer was "no." As I'd asked God for a clear sign of His will, I can't really complain that it didn't go my way, but I was obviously...well...heartbroken.
My choices at that point were to finish out my term sitting in Amman, going to the mall, eating at McDonalds, and studying the language; or to go home and probably finish my Master's degree. Well, the way I figure it, I can go to the mall, eat at McDonalds, and learn Arabic (even from Iraqis) in America _while_ finishing my Master's degree. Not only would _I_ probably make more money, but I would also be saving "Aunt Lottie's" money for...well...other things.
Anyway, my bosses and I were going to take 24 hours from when I spoke to them yesterday (3PM-ish here...um...7AM Eastern, 6 Central, the rest of you are on your own) to decide if that was the proper course of action for me. It didn't take quite that long before I was completely freed of any feelings of regret for leaving the Company a few months early.
I will be returning to Baghdad tomorrow to take a few days to say goodbye to all the people I can, pack all my things, and try to get someone to buy all of the gifts that I was going to take a month to think about what they should be and where I should get them and who I should buy things for, etc.
Right now, I think my primary feeling is that I'm overwhelmed. I had expected to take about two months to find everyone, say goodbye, pack, buy gifts, etc. I have to somehow compress that to less than two days. Additionally, I have to get through the grieving process somehow at the same time.
I don't think I can explain how much I love Iraq and the Iraqi people. How much I was looking forward to another Thanksgiving and Christmas there. To another winter and the beginnings of another spring. There are so many people that I won't be able to say goodbye to (like my family at the school, all of the headmasters, in addition to all of the other people I know from other places). So many places I wanted to go, things I wanted to do, promises I wanted to fulfill. It breaks my heart to leave, especially so abruptly.
My heart is breaking. Please pray with me that I will be able to accomplish a year-and-a-half's worth of goodbyes in two days, in addition to packing. Pray that God will protect us according to His will while we are in Iraq. Pray that I drink enough water over the next few days that I don't get dehydrated from crying so much, because this is killing me.
Posted by Melissa at 9:23 AM