Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Good Things in Life

I've talked about all the bad things that have been happening lately, so here are a few good things to counter those to some extent.

(Although before I begin, the latest word from MS support is that _I_ need to go buy a new hard drive. I've already replied asking why _I_ need to buy new hardware for a relatively new (and rather expensive) computer that died as a result of installing SP2. That actually felt pretty good too, so it can also fall into the "good things" category.)

Anyway, a few days ago I finally relented and did some laundry. I was really hoping to be able to hold out until I got back home, but a few "recyclings" convinced me to bite the bullet. It's been 15 months since my clothes have seen a clothes dryer. They were pretty excited. My jeans actually _fit_ again! And my shirts are almost back to looking cute again instead of being horribly stretched. :) Dryers are very nice.

And today, I went out to lunch with "the girls" (Jaime, Jen, and Donna, in this case), then we went to a salon. Donna and I got pedicures while Jen and Jaime got waxed. Now my toes are nice and pretty and shiney again. I usually keep them painted (at least during sandals months), but they do a much better job at it that I do. And now my toes are all shiney. :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Henry & Evan

Well, the big news is that I got my OS CD last night (a few people went into Baghdad for about 24 hours in order to pack up things to send out to us since we'll be here a while). The MS tech support people told me to repair my installation of Windows (btw, I've been bumped up to a "higher level" of tech support). When I tried it, instead of showing a Windows installation, it showed that about 95% of my hard drive has a format which is "unknown." What does that mean, you ask? (Well, those of you who didn't just get nauseated.) That means that it's highly likely that everything I had on my computer is completely gone.

I _think_ I have most of my pictures, since I just sent my parents some CDs of pics and I'm pretty sure everything else is still on my camera...but a year and a half of journal entries...months of work on some language stuff I was doing for the Company...(this is very important to the Company) all of my monthly financial reports...the work I was doing on my own with my language tutor (fortunately, I have hard copies of at least the basis of this)...copies of online receipts...basically, everything...

So my "hope" for the day is that He will restore my computer miraculously. I've recently come to the realization that while I have a great deal of confidence in His ability to protect me, I have very little (almost no) confidence in His ability to do the miraculous.

In other, but somewhat related news, Evan's been giving me some "serious" trouble this past day or two. Today especially, he's been rather painful and there's not really a hormonal reason for him to be that way right now. I'm looking down the road and foreseeing a lifetime of chronic pain and it's not a happy thought. So here's another chance for my faith to grow. "Hope" with me that He will help me through this either by removing Evan (which would be miraculous), or removing the pain (also miraculous), or by doing something else that would be more than I could ever ask or imagine.

And thanks for the perspectives and encouragement that y'all have given me concerning being here in Amman at this time. I'm still working through what the possibilities are for me here. We're getting together each morning and studying both the chronological Qur'an, and right now the Gospel of Mark. After about five hours, we're about 2/3s of the way through the first chapter of Mark. :) But the time of study is really productive for me. As I manage to borrow time on other peoples' computers, I'll try to relate some of what I'm learning.

In the meantime, it's pretty discouraging to be here, despite some of the reasons that I see even now for us being here at this time.

The world goes not well, but the Kingdom comes!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Creative Alternative

Well, while the company will allow us back in, not enough people are feeling called to go, so none of us are going to go.

I just don't know how to deal with this, so I'm going to be asking Him to help me find a "creative alternative" like Daniel and his friends found in Babylon. And I'm asking you to ask Him for this with me.

I'm sure I can fill my time here, but if I'm supposed to be there, I need to find a way for the Company to allow me to go.

My Place in This World

I know many of you think I'm crazy. Who would want to live in Baghdad right now? And why is it so traumatic to me to be kept out for a few weeks when I wasn't really doing much before I left anyway?

I don't really know what to tell you. I have no idea why I should go back. I just know that I should. As much as I miss all of you and would love to see you again, like at Christmas Eve, I'm reassured that right now there's no place I'd rather be than in Baghdad. It's just _right_.

I think a lot of it has to do with trusting that God will protect me. People tell me how brave or courageous I am...but is it really courage if you're just not afraid at all? It seems to me that courage is doing something despite your fears.

I've always been somewhat "binary" in nature, meaning that it's usually all or nothing with me. I've never really been good at "medium." My enjoyment of logic and reason only add to this. We read all of the Scriptures about God taking care of us and us not needing to be afraid, and yet we'll only trust Him so far, then "common sense" kicks in. We start contemplating the "what ifs" and begin to worry.

So logically, let's look at the "what ifs:" 1) I'm kept safe by His Hand through which He will grow me and others for His glory, 2) Hardship is allowed in my life through which He will grow me and others for His glory, 3) I'm allowed to die through which He will grow others for His glory. None of those is a bad thing. In choice #1, I'm ok. In choice #2, I have the assurance that He'll be there with me and that He has a purpose for everything that happens. And in choice #3, I'm in heaven. Woohoo! :)

I guess my biggest "thing" is that you have those three options no matter who you are or where or when you live (well, except for #3 - not everyone is sure that they would go to heaven). So even if I still lived in Laurel, MD, those three options would be pretty much the only ones I'd have. If I lived in Baghdad, Iraq, it'd be the same three.

Anyway, I'm kinda rambling today. We'll be having another meeting in about 45 minutes. I think its purpose is for each of us to tell the rest of the team what we think we're supposed to do at this juncture, but I'm still not sure how much say we'll have over when we go back or how long we can stay. I'll let you know what happens.

Friday, September 24, 2004

In Sha'allah

Well, we finished our meeting a little while ago. The bottom line is that the company will allow us back in under very stringent regulations. Basically, we all have to live in one of two houses, so I'd be living with my boss' wife, and we can only be there if we're doing something "strategical," meaning that I'd have to be continuing work that was ongoing...and since I wasn't doing anything myself due to travel restrictions, I'd "have" to help out at the English school.

We've been given until tomorrow morning to come to a decision. I'm not sure if it's a completely independent thing, or if I'll only be allowed to go if a large enough contingent of others go, but for me, the choice is easy. Others were called to work with the Iraqi people and there are about a million Iraqis in Amman that can be worked with in Amman. I've never felt called to the Iraqi people themselves. I've felt called to be in Iraq and to help the people who are in Iraq (which currently includes many nationalities). That's somewhat against the grain of Company policy right now as they lean more towards sending folks to work with a certain people group, but it's just the way I personally was called here.

But I would far rather live under the close scrutiny of those in authority over me and under restrictive regulations than to stay here or go anywhere else.

We also don't know exactly how soon we would go back in if we did go, but it would likely be before the end of the month, in sha'allah. And that's really the bottom line. I'll stay here if I have to and try to continue making good use of my time, if that's what He wills for me. And if it's His will that some or all of us go back in soon, then He'll work that out for us.

But I'm almost afraid to hope. So I'm falling back on things like "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Ps. 37:4) and "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." (Is. 26:3) and "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Prov. 3:5-6)

Grace Livingston Hill

Sorry it's been a few days. There's not much to do here, so there's not really much to say.

A few days ago, I discovered a cache of books left at the apartments we're staying in (they're kept by our company for people passing through Amman). I snagged several for my reading pleasure and one of them was a romance by Grace Livingston Hill. I'd read one or two of hers back in the day when I was first reading "romances" as a pre-teen and had laughed at them then, so I figured that this would be good, enjoyable reading for a day or two. It was! :) Her novels all follow a pattern:

A beautiful, completely innocent girl is left alone for some reason (parents/guardians die or whatever). She undergoes some journey, either just aging or a physical journey in which she's tempted to lose her complete unworldliness. But instead of being tainted in the least by anything remotely resembling "the world," she instead converts everyone she meets, even just in passing. With a few people (usually the ones who are determined to make her a "woman of the world"), this takes longer, but for the most part it takes all of about two minutes for her to get the others to believe that her beliefs are right. Anyway, somewhere along this journey, she meets a guy (sometimes the first guy of marriagable age that she's ever met before) and he's not yet a believer, but she changes his life in the course of a few minutes, so after a painful separation, he also comes to believe like her. But literally in the last page, she gets reunited with her family, her guy friend shows up (as a believer), and all of those hard-boiled cases come to believe as well.

Anyway, if you're curious, read any of GLH's books and you'll come to realize that I just told you the plot. Heehee. But it _was_ entertaining for a day or so. Now I'm back to Plato (needed a break...that's some heavy stuff just to keep track of the conversation). I also finished the Qur'an a week or so ago. It was interesting. I've learned a lot recently about how it points to Jesus as the Word of God. I'm going to read it again here shortly (probably after I finish with Plato), but this time instead of reading it in the traditional order (literally longest to shortest surah or chapter), I'm going to read it chronologically.

I'll be updating the sidebar here shortly. Oh, I finished with Wordsworth too. I think that "I wandered lonely as a cloud" (or "Daffodils") is probably one of my most favorite poems of all time, but taken as a group, I prefer Burns to Wordsworth. a meeting to go to. We're going to be told possibly how much longer we'll be here. I hope it's not long. I'm enjoying pizza delivery, movies in a movie theater, and McDonalds, but I'd still rather be in Iraq.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Finding Nemo

Well, I've now officially gotten to dive (diven?) in "real" water. We went down to Aqaba and I went with a friend to the Royal Dive Center (Jordan is a kingdom, if you didn't know). My first dive was apparently quite advanced. It was a wreck dive around an old tanker or something that had sunk a few years ago. It was a lot of fun, although I burned through my tank of air pretty quickly. The dive master said that I moved around too much. He didn't know until later that it was my first dive outside of the quarry where I did my checkout and the tank at the research lab where I worked as an undergrad. The friend I was with said that I did really well though. And I saw a lion fish that time, and apparently had a barracuda swimming above me, but I didn't look the right direction in time to see it.

The second dive was easier and much more pretty. Don't get me wrong - there was great coral, etc. on the first dive and I had a blast seeing everything and being upside-down as often as possible, but it was mostly just this wreck which was cool, but not especially pretty. The second one I got to see a _huge_ fan coral. I'm talking 5-6 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide and in perfect condition. I also saw a moray eel (very colorful) and a stone fish! Plus, just as we got in, we saw some flounder-looking thing that's apparently really rare. It was colorful and flat, with both eyes on the top. But there were all sorts of colors of coral and anenomes and lots of clown fish, although I never saw a little one with a gimpy fin. :)

I was pretty tired afterwards though. And it's _definitley_ been a long time since I've had a regulator in my mouth for that long. I could hardly open my mouth to eat my lunch! And the muscles are still a little sore (in my legs too).

But I got a pretty good tan laying out the day before on the beach. That was pretty much all there was to do in Aqaba (lay on the beach and dive/snorkel), so I figured I'd "done it all" and came back yesterday.

Today we went shopping. The girls wanted some clothes since we'll be here longer than anticipated, and while I was out with them, we happened across a music store, so I bought a guitar to tide me over until we get back home. It's a classical guitar that the guy said was made in China (it makes a big difference in price here, depending on where things were made - China's usually near the bottom of the list), but it sounds pretty good now that we've got a new set of strings on it. They're still stretching though, so it'll be a few more days before it'll last through a song without losing its tune.

We also saw the Roman Amphitheater here in town. I hadn't seen that yet, so that was fun, although I didn't have my camera with me...but then I've already got pictures of me at the amphitheatre at Pergamum in Turkey and at one in Cyprus...and, really, they all look about the same, so it's not _that_ big of a loss. :)

I did attempt to race Chris up to the top, but his young legs beat my old ones. :)

Not much else to update on my computer. So I'll talk to y'all later!

Friday, September 17, 2004

Tommy G is the Winnah!!!

Special thanks to my friend Tommy G for his excellent post commenting skills. :) I hope that his comments encourage the rest of you to try your hand at it. Not only do _your_ comments mean more email for me (always a good thing), but they also mean the possibility of true discussion following one of my posts. Don't be afraid to try it for yourself. If nothing else, it lets me know who's out there reading.

And, btw, the name. I was confused as to who it was until I saw the email address, then I laughed and laughed. Take care of your girls!


No, no such luck for me yet, but you'll understand the reason for the title eventually, so hang in there.

Last night, we were called in for a meeting. They've announced that because Italians are being taken to try to intimidate the Italian government to remove its troops from Iraq, and because Americans working for a contractor working in Iraq were taken to try to intimidate the company to pull out, that it's not safe for us to return for the time being. They will re-evaluate the situation on the 26th, but until then, we're stuck here. Don't worry, I had my say during the meeting. They had their say in return, but the bottom line is that I made a committment, and just like I'm never going to divorce my husband (assuming I'm given one someday), I'm not going to break this committment either.

But that may make me re-evaluate my trip to Egypt. I may see the pyramids after-all, just for something to do. I'll decide after I get to Acaba. Since Henry's feeling poorly, I'm leaving him behind (the last thing that I need right now is a _stolen_ $3000 paperweight), so contact may be sporadic over the next few days, but I'll drop y'all a line as soon and as often as I can.

But seriously, one of the things that I've learned from this whole experience is that I am capable of sticking out a committment, no matter how hard it gets. And that gives me hope for a future marriage. Now I just have to find a guy who's willing to put up with _me_. :)

Well, in sha'allah.


You know? I never named by computer. Huh. I always name things like that. Well, then, computer, I dub thee "Henry." Aunt Mom and possibly Beth will get the significance of that name. In any case, Henry's not any better today. It's possible though that instead of it being a SP2 problem, it's actually a virus because I got two emails returned (that I never sent) saying that they were undeliverable due to viruses. I never click on obvious virus things, but others borrowed my computer, so maybe someone else did (the last virus I got was due to someone else borrowing my computer).

I don't know if that makes it better or not. But in any case, my contractor's daughter (let's call her "Lana" since that's her name) works for a computer company here in Amman that fixes Dells. When I get back from Acaba, I'm gonna give her a call and arrange to 1) have dinner with her whole family (her dad will be back from Baghdad by then), and 2) bring my computer in to her shop to be fixed.

What's kinda funny is that Henry and his virus attempted to infect one of the servers of a Kerry for President group. Heehee.

Dead Sea!

Today started off like all the other days here in Amman - I woke up well before the crack of dawn (today with the help of a mosquito), made myself stay in bed until it was later, got up, ran for a bit, then before I showered, I saw off Jen, Jaime, and Chris. They were headed for the Dead Sea and were going to take the local public transportation. Donna and some others were going to be going there as well, but they had arranged a taxi. I was supposed to meet the whole lot of them later, but I hadn't really figured out yet how I was gonna get there.

First thing's first though. I spent the morning and early afternoon with the wife and oldest daughter of our former contractor for the schools. A few days back, I'd called someone to get his number, then when through an extensive rigamarole of tracking down through multitudes of people who didn't know me _or_ the guy whose number I was looking for, but eventually was passed to his church's secretary. The intent of calling him was to finally get to meet his family here in Amman since I was actually staying for more than 12 hours. Well, after literally about 10 phone calls, I found out that he's currently in Baghdad. But I called his house anyway and spoke with his wife and set up a "breakfast" time today to meet her and their oldest daughter. That was a lot of fun and they arranged a taxi for me to take me to the Dead Sea afterwards.

So I got there just about the time that Donna and her group were coming back. They were supposed to be my way back, but they didn't really have room, and I kinda wanted to stay a little longer anyway, so I figured I'd just reverse the girls' and Chris' expedition from the morning. So I floated in the Dead Sea for a while, then swam in the pool a bit, then floated a little more, then swam a little more, then got my picture taken by Chris after covering myself in the mud (after which I took _his_ muddy picture), then cleaned up and got ready to head back.

Jen, Jaime, and Chris were going to be taking local public transportation south to whatever town they got to today, spend the night, then finish the trip to Acaba in the morning. But they weren't too keen on their trip to the Dead Sea, and didn't suggest that I reverse their trip, but they were looking for buses too and figured that where ever they could find the one they wanted, I could find one back to Amman. So we ordered a taxi from the hotel where we'd been Dead Sea-ing, but when it came, it asked an outrageous price for the trip to Madaba, so we talked him into dropping us off at a closer town that definitely had busses to Amman, and might have others. Well, it didn't have others, but it did have one for Amman, so they talked him down on the price a little and went on to Madaba. I stayed and waited about 15 minutes before the bus came. It was pretty full, but a guy gave up his seat so that I could sit. It was pretty much your stereo-typical television bus ride not in the Western world, except that there were no loose farm animals roaming around. I discovered later that the guy who gave up his seat for me (God bless him) actually did _have_ some live fowl, but they were in a box, so they don't really count.

The ride back was a _lot_ longer than the ride in (the taxi driver on the way in was pushing 100kph the whole way, and I think the speed limit was like 60kph...I dunno what that is in mph. Figure it out yourselves. You're smart people.), but it was relatively uneventful. I didn't know where the bus stopped officially, so I decided that I'd get off when most of the other people got off. I actually ended up keying off of a group of women sitting near me, which meant that I got off pretty far from where I was staying, but it was a place with lots of taxis, so I grabbed one of those and made it safely back to the place we're staying.

Anxiously awaiting me there were the folks I was taking out to dinner. It's the family that I usually stay with as I pass through and I ended up getting back about two hours later than expected, but still within a dinner-ish time (it was 6:30). They were getting to the point of thinking about sending out search parties, but (thankfully) hadn't quite arrived at that point when I showed up.

So then we went out to this great Italian restaurant and had a typically great time just hanging out and talking and now I'm "home," a little sunburned, tired, with very smooth and exfoliated skin (which is also due to my first experience at a Turkish Bath last evening), and full of fettucini alfredo with mushrooms and broccoli (only once in 15 months have I seen fresh mushrooms in Iraq and that was at a store that caters to Westerners, and I have yet to see fresh broccoli there, although we can, on occasion, find it frozen).

Tomorrow morning relatively early, I leave with Donna, the McCs, and Rob for Acaba on the "Jet Bus." I don't know really what that means except that we're supposed to be there at 9AM. I think it's a tourist-y-type bus.

I'll spend at least a day there before heading to someplace in Egypt for diving and possibly more. I'll talk in another post about that though.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Laying on of Hands

Please be thinking about my computer. I've tried probably 20 times now to install Service Pack 2 onto my computer, each time unsuccessfully. I'm in contact with support from MS, but they haven't been able to solve the problem. This last time, it gave me different errors, then began giving me the blue screen of death, citing a kernel fault. After that happened three times, it now refuses to boot up at all and now only says "disk read error."

So, at the moment I have a $3000 paperweight.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Well, the visit with the doc went well. Evan is now 1.3mm wide (he was 1.2mm the last time), but she said that that "growth" was well within the margin of error of the equipment, so basically, he hasn't grown any. She also gave me some good ideas as to what's actually causing the pain, so now I can try to find new ways to deal with it. That was somewhat relieving, and somewhat troubling, but I'll save the discussion for a slightly less "mixed" company.

Anyway, after the meetings yesterday, the girls and Chris went to the Citadel and saw soem flaminco dancing there. They're having some fesival or something and having different entertainment there every night. It was a lot of fun! Afterwards, we went to a cafe and they had tea/coffee. I had hot water because they were all out of decaf tea and for once, I didn't have any with me. Oh well. The fellowship was fun!

And if you didn't know, the Citadel is the center of the old Amman. And rumor has it, it's where Uriah the Hittite (Bathsheba's first husband) was sent by David to his death. Remember that David sent him to fight the "Ammonites?" Ammon...Amman...not a big stretch. Well, the Citadel is apparently where they would have done the fighting. Now it's just a couple of broken-down romanesque columns, but it's a neat place to see and the dancing was great! :)

I haven't gotten my computer to hook up to the internet here, and now it's doing some scary blue screen of death things. Hopefully I'll be able to get SPII to finally install and it'll stop doing all these funky things, but please be "thinking" about my computer. It was really expensive for it to become a paperweight after only a year and a half.

Anyway, so if you've emailed me and I haven't responded, it's because my internet time is limited at this point. I'll get back to you eventually!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Evan Update

I've been having a great time here, taking taxis by myself. Running by myself. Walking around the mall by myself. Are you catching the pattern there. In Baghdad, we're almost always with someone else. When we're out on the town, we've at the very least got a driver with us. We're not supposed to walk around our neighborhood by ourselves and have our guards walk with us around everywhere. It's so nice to be able to be completely independent again for a change! I miss that.

Anyway, since I was going to be spending some time in Amman this time, and since the doc told me when she checked Evan in March to get him checked again in 6 months to a year, and since I'm not expecting to be here again except to pass through in January and when I leave in March, I figured I'd go ahead and get Evan checked out again.

So my appointment is at 1PM this afternoon. He's not been giving me too much trouble as long as I don't carry anything on that shoulder or swing that arm too much (except for sometimes when the hormones get away from me), so I'm not too worried, but it's always unsettling to have lumps in places where lumps should not be. And while I can for the most part ignore and forget, trips to doctors for the sole purpose of checking out said lumps make it impossible to ignore and forget...which help to raise worries about things beginging with a "c."

Anyway, most of you are already asleep and will remain so until after I'm done, but that's ok. I'll let you know the results when I get back.

Monday, September 13, 2004


Well, I arrived in Amman yesterday with Jen, Jaime, Rob, and Chris at about 5:30 PM local time. Being typical Americans, after hitting the local ATM (not yet available in Baghdad), we went to McDonalds where Chris and I at least enjoyed the "sweet ecstacy" of our own respective BigMacs, large fries, and a soda.

After that we had a little introduction meeting, then we went to the Blue Fig, a really trendy local restaurant. I had a salad with kinda weird blue cheese dressing, but it was still blue cheese. I miss blue cheese dressing. You can buy it in Baghdad, but there's not a "normal" salad on which to put it.

But by far the best thing was that this morning, when I woke up an hour early (due to the time change), I was able to put on my running shoes and go for a jog around the neighborhood. It was heaven. It's pretty hilly and I winded myself just in getting out of the guest house because it starts on a steep hill...but I managed to run for a while. And it was good.

Today we start our real training. I'm looking forward to it as much as anyone ever looks forward to training.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Another Trip

I've been negligent in talking about this because it's kinda snuck up on me. The original plan was to go out sometime in late October or early November, see the signts of Jordan (many of which I have yet to see), head south to the Jordanian "resort town" of Acaba, then take a ferry across the Red Sea to Egypt. Once in Egypt, the plan was to dive a bit on that side (which is arguably the best SCUBA experience in the world), then head over to Cairo to see the Pyramids with maybe a day or so in Alexandria before returning to Amman, then Baghdad.

But then they told us that we were going to a required training in Amman in September, but that while the Company would pay for the trip, the money for the plane tickets was going to come from our R&R money, and therefore we needed to take our R&R time while we were out unless we wanted to pay for the trip ourselves later.

Being cheap, I opted for a second "vacation" in as many months (practically)...but I guess I've lost my nerve somewhat. So after the training, I'm going to head down to Acaba, take the ferry over to Egypt (at some point), dive, then come back to Amman. The diving was the main thing, although I hate to leave this part of the world without having seen the Pyramids...but at the same time, I'm just not up to wandering around the Arab world by myself at this point...although I "probably" could have been convinced if it hadn't meant lugging all of my SCUBA gear with me along the way. Granted, I don't have tanks, reg, or BC, but it's still a good bit of stuff to carry around.

The training should be interesting too and I'll get to see a few friends in Amman (not to mention getting to go to a grocery store that'll have RediWhip (for my tea) and Cracker Barrel cheese, or just being in a town with Pizza Hut and Domino's)

I'm not sure what day I'll be coming back, although I think I'm scheduled for the 21st right now. It just depends on if I end up exploring Egypt or not and if so, for how long.

Fortunately, the place we're staying in Amman has an internet connection, so I'll be able to keep in touch at least during the conference.

So, family o'mine, don't call tomorrow because I won't be by the phone. I fly out just before our normal chat time and will let y'all know when I'm coming back.

September 11th

I feel like I should say something special regarding today and its rememberances. Last year, I did that in my email home. This year, I just really feel removed from it all. When I think about it, I remember the day and the horror of the days to follow. The pictures that were shown over and over again, that I still can't watch. The stories of those who died and those who survived.

And I'm sure that there are memorials being shown on TV and happening all day, all over the States today. But over here, there is nothing. Last year, there was an expectation that terrorists would choose the 11th on which to attack the military or other Western influences...but this year, either we've all realized that terrorists in Iraq don't really care (or know) about the national holidays or other special days from other countries and so we're not concerned, or I just haven't heard about anything. Last year, there was a moving memorial service given by some of the NY firefighters who'd left NYC for their patriotic duty over here that was shown on CNN, but this year, I don't know about anything happening.

And it's not that no one here's not that at all...everyone who doesn't think that it was a Jewish conspiracy thinks that it was a terrible, terrible thing, and very much different from the ideals of mainstream Islam (Shia'a _or_ Sunni)'s just that it didn't touch the people here like it did us at home, so it doesn't enter their thoughts unless someone else brings it up.

And for those of us who were touched by it in one form or another, the days here often seem so like the day(s) in the movie "Groundhog Day" that it's sometimes difficult to remember special days.

But even though I'm far away and feel very removed, I remember.

Friday, September 10, 2004

I Am A Skilled Metal-Worker

If you get that reference, a) you have kids and/or b) you're a really cool person.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Yay for BloggerSupport!

As you my have noticed, the sidebar is again to the _side_ of my blog. Many thanks to Steve at BloggerSupport for identifying and fixing the problem!

Now if only Microsoft support can come through for me. I've managed to get all of the office computers running properly again after installing SP2 on them, but my computer still refuses the "update." MS Support is working with me on the problem, but I'm still concerned about the message that comes up at the end of the non-installations saying that my computer may not run properly. It also makes me a "little" upset that these many attempts at installing SP2 have apparently taken several gigs of space on my hard drive.

Monday, September 06, 2004


Hey! For those of you who have been so faithful in sending me packages, for one, you have my undying gratitude...but I'm gonna have to ask you to stop at least for now. The folks who were letting me mooch off of the system are going home shortly, so they can't receive any more packages for me. I don't have a replacement address yet, but I hope to at least in time for Christmas presents. ;p

Just hope that my Absentee Ballot gets here before they go. Not that I think it'll need to be counted in TN, but it's the principle of the thing.

Asking for Patience

I realized a day or two after my Good News/Bad News post that in house club the previous Saturday, I'd made the "mistake" of asking Him for patience. As the words were coming out, I knew it was a "mistake" because when you ask Him for patience, you often receive it - and then are tested - so I'd made a point of never in my life asking for it. But it was the right thing to do and I knew it, so I did it. So I guess I can't really complain that it was immediately put to the test.

No changes though. I'm in the process of getting all of the computers up to snuff prior to passing the responsibility off, then will work with "Haman" after the fact on any problems which arise. It's frustrating, but I also recognize that I would _never_ have had the time to do many of the things that I'm doing now were I not to have come here.

It Had a Certain "Pumpkin-esque" Quality

So on the way home from my HIV test (in order to get a visa to live here), I was riding in a car with Jen and Jaime (my two roommates) and our driver when we saw a sight that I'd not seen in my 1.25 years here in town - something that very much resembled a pumpkin or other orange-colored member of the squash/gourd family. Even though it meant turning around to go back to where we saw it (which is a chore on some roads due to medians that don't stop), we decided to investigate. We were happy to discover an 8.5 kg gem of a faux pumpkin which we bought for 1000ID/kg (~$0.65/kg). Not having time on Saturday to play with my new pumpkin-esque friend, he remained in our kitchen overnight.

After a time of waiting, he gladly gave himself to the cause of pumpkin-esque pies (among other things). Now, you may or may not know, but you can make a "pumpkin pie" from any type of squash. For instance, around the March 2004 time frame, I made a "pumkpin pie" from zuchinni (with the help of a little food coloring). Some of the WarEagle guys bravely tried it (most of them prior to discovering the main ingredient), and as true gentlemen, mostly said that it tasted good and that they wouldn't have noticed a difference had I not mentioned it to them. It didn't help that I was laughing as I was giving it to them. Anyway, the point of this paragraph is to say that "pumpkin pie" is all about the spices, not the squash used.

This particular faux pumpkin was very similar to a typical American pumpkin though, with just a few differences - it wasn't as juicy, it was denser, and it was thicker in spots. The denseness and thickness caused the first "issues." For one thing, it was a bear to cut open due to the thickness, but the real "issue" was in cooking. Part of the reason the cooking took so long was because it had to be done in two parts - half of the faux pumpkin first, followed by the second half. But the real "problem" was that, due to the thickness and density, it took _FOR-EV-ER_ to cook. I began the cutting/cleaning process shortly after my language tutor left at about 1:30 and didn't take the pies out of the oven until after 10PM. It cooked literally from about 2 until about 8. The good thing about the lack of juiciness though was that it didn't require much draining, which was good since I only had a tea-sized metal sieve (I could have sworn before we started that we had a larger one, but apparently I was wrong). I'd taken the time to drain the zuchinni back in the day, but I had a LOT of faux pumpkin.

Anyway, so after the cooking came the Foley Food Mill mashing which is always fun. Messy, but fun. Once that was accomplished, the crusts were made. The ladies here keep telling us that shortening is readily available in the markets in town, but we have yet to see any, and since our very limited supply of Crisco had finally run out, I had to use butter. It worked pretty well though, so I might end up switching to that for the time being since Crisco doesn't exactly grow on trees here.

After the crusts came the mixing of the spices. But first, a portion of the faux pumpkin mash was removed to save for a later experiment since there was _plenty_ for the two pies. Then I added the spices - salt, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a dash of cloves (all ground) - then a can of sweetened condensed milk. Now, usually you'd add evaporated milk and sugar, but evaporated milk only appears in stores on very rare occasions, so I just addded the sweetened condensed variety and decided to forego the sugar. After that, I put the mixture into the pie crusts...only to realize that I'd forgotten to add the eggs, which are a very necessary part of the pie (they make it stiff), so I scooped the filling back out, added the eggs, then put it back in.

After a little over an hour in the oven, they seemed mostly done. I brought one pie into the office today. Everyone gamely ate it, but no one appears to be going back for seconds, so I'm not sure if it was all that a pumpkin-esque pie could be. Not being a big fan of pumpkin pie myself, I've not tasted much, but what I have had tastes about "normal" to me, so I'm declaring my pies to be a success.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

But Before I Go

But before I go, I need to wish my little sister a very happy 17th birthday! I didn't manage to find an e-card that I liked, Bethie, but rest assured that, unless the USPS goes under in the next 2-3 days, you will receive your present. And I think you'll like it. Be sure you poke Toby with it the next time he's home.


I'm sure that all you other XP users out there are experiencing the same joy that I am right now - the downloading and installation of the infamous "SP2." Hopefully though, you're not enjoying the same issues that I am. On my own computer, it downloaded relatively quickly, but about 1/3 of the way through the installation, it said that it just couldn't go on and my only choice was to uninstall what had been installed. After that it wanted to reboot with the warning that XP may not function normally. Again, my only choice was "ok."

So I ask you, Microsoft, what if I'm _not_ "ok" with the idea that because your huge patch won't install properly on my computer (even after a second and third try), that now _my_ computer "may not function normally?" Because, I'm just really _not_ "ok" with that.

On one of the office computers, it decided that it no longer liked anything other than a 4-color screen set to the lowest resolution. No reason. It just didn't want to play legibly any longer. It might have fixed itself upon multiple reboots, but I can't tell yet. That computer spontaneously decided to "check" itself, which may or may not be a good sign. Either it has become self-aware and senses the problem which is SP2 (or anything else), or it flagged some self-test (which is a sign of another problem...on a computer which has gotten a fresh load of the OS roughly every other month since we got it...hence, not a good sign).

And what's crazy is that I've spent many hours today downloading and installing various things on these computers simply for the purpose of passing off my responsibility of them to someone else. The thing is...doing what I did today (the downloading, installing, and troubleshooting) literally makes me want to poke my eyes out with my little screwdriver....but the thought of the days to come makes my brain turn to mush. And I can't decide which I prefer.

But at least for today I had purpose and achieved something. I successfully installed SP2 on two computers (among other things), unsuccessfully didn't install it on one, had two hours of language study with Mahasin, transcribed the melody and words of Song #2 into Finale Notepad, and practiced piano for a bit. Since it's almost 8PM, I think I'll go home as soon as the other computer finishes checking itself. If it starts to talk to me (due to its newly-acquired self-awareness), I'll let you know.

Good News/Bad News

Good news first: "my" former driver has been given the raise he deserved _long_ ago.

Bad news next: the added responsibility given him in order to have a reason to give him a raise was my job of "network administrator."

Why is this bad news, you who have heard me complain about that job may ask? Well the answer is this. When asked what I do here, my only valid response now is, "nothing." Others in my position with this company are in places as language students, so it makes sense for them to sit in a village a talk to people. Me who is here with a humanitarian organization...not so much. With the SysAdmin job, I could at least tell people that I kept the computers running in our office. Now I have nothing.

As a friend put it, I'm now unemployed without having to worry about the money.

Have you ever spent approximately 8-9 months doing virtually nothing but wait for transportation, etc. to where you're supposed to be working...only then to be told that not only should you continue waiting, now we're going to take away the only responsibility you had which semi-legitimized your stay here?

On the plus side, this is very good for my reading life, and has proved useful for piano practice. If I keep going like I've been going, I'll actually have in my long-term memory all those songs I played for recitals back in the day.

Please keep me in your thoughts over the next few days as I do the odious task of preparing all of the computers for the hand off (this includes at least three installations of SP2), then transition into the far more odious task of finding _more_ things with which to fill my repeating Groundhog Day. Hope with me and Bill Murray that I can find useful and edifying uses for my remaining time and that I can convince the powers that be to actually follow through on all they've been telling me for the past several months.

Of course, the next question is: "Why stay?" And the answer is: "1) Because this is where I'm supposed to be right now, 2) because I made a committment which I will continue to uphold to the best of my ability, and 3) because I love it here and it's gonna be hard enough to leave in 6 months - I don't even want to think about leaving early and 'in disgrace.'"

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

For Heidi

This is a late birthday present for "Cousin" Heidi, courtesy of Hurricane Frances and Netscape News:

"I'd like to get through with this one first before we start the next one,'' said C.W. Blosser, 37, a paramedic who stayed at a hurricane shelter in rural Arcadia during Hurricane Charley. "If it comes here, I'm going to fly my family to North Dakota or something like that. I don't know anybody in North Dakota and never heard anything bad happening in North Dakota, so it must be a good place.''

Chariots of Fire

Barbara sent me a copy of the movie "Chariots of Fire" for my birthday (I received it a few days ago), and I just watched it this morning. Not only did I get to yell out on multiple occasions "I ran on that beach!" (the beach-running scenes and some of Eric's training scenes were filmed in St. Andrews, Scotland which my family visited when we were on our tour of England and Scotland.), but I also got to see again just how extraordinary Eric Liddell's life and faith were, and how excellent a movie this is. Not only is it quite clear in Eric's Message and life goals, but it also so clearly shows the difference in motivations between Eric and Harold Abrahams (Abrahams considered them to be rivals, but I doubt that Eric ever gave it much thought), and the results of attaining your goals, given those motivations.

Eric ran because when he ran, he could "feel God's pleasure." Harold ran "to win" and to prove himself and his kind to the world. In the end, Eric was happy to continue running for God's pleasure in China, while Harold was left with a huge emptiness after winning because he realized how meaningless a goal that was.

Eric Liddell was an amazing man, and this movie was spectacular. It is one of few movies where I agree with all of the awards and reviews. It truly is exceptional, mostly because it's about an exceptional man and his faith.

Gilbert Blythe vs. Caspian

I've lived in and through books so much of my life, it's hard to find real people who match up to those ideals with whom I've played and learned and grown all these years. That got me thinking the other day about the boys in the books with whom I've grown right fond. I've come to the conclusion that I'd be hard-pressed to choose between Gilbert Blythe (from the Anne of Green Gables series) and Prince/King Caspian (from the Chronicles of Narnia), were I offered the choice between them for the office of "Melissa's husband."

Gilbert has the advantage that he's "more real" than Caspian, that is, his series is set in a "real" place (Prince Edward Island, Canada) during a "real" historical period (late 1800s, early 1900s). Although, I guess you could ask the Velveteen Rabbit about "real" vs. imaginary. Gilbert basically fell in love with Anne when he first met her, and he waited for her, through her "hate" of him, through her dating other guys, through her rejection(s) of his love. Nothing deterred him and he wanted to be no place other than with her. He was also a doctor, which is always a handy thing to have around the house. I guess my biggest issue with Gilbert is that, while he _did_ evidence a sense of humor, he was almost too perfect. There's one time when he and Anne have been married for 13 years or so when he gets slightly distracted by a patient, but other than that, he's perfect. I'm not sure I could deal with a perfect man. Seems to me that he'd be pretty boring. Also, the pictures that they have of him on the covers of the book...well, let me tell you...he's not much to look at....not that that matters in and of itself, but it's still something to think about when looking at pros/cons of imaginary book men who are aiming to become your life-long mate.

Caspian, on the other hand faced tempations and even fell to them on occasion, if only for a time (Goldwater/Deathwater Island). He believed in "fairy tales" (Aslan, talking animals, etc.). He was adventurous (let's sail to the end of the world!). And he, too, fell in love with Ramadan's daughter basically at first sight. That seems to be a theme with me. And while Caspian lived in an "imaginary" world (Narnia), well, that's not necessarily a bad thing, since I've been in love with Narnia basically since first "sight." And speaking of sight, Caspian is always described as a very nice-looking example of manhood, so no problems there.

I could live through my romanticised notion of the turn of the (last) century and the first World War with Gilbert, or I could live in "imaginary" Narnia with Caspian. In one, I'd be a "real" person, and in one I'd be the queen of an "imaginary" county. Either way, I'd get to wear some great clothes. :)

But I guess the bottom line between the two is that in Narnia, there are occasional glimpses of Aslan in the flesh, while in PEI, you have to "make do" with just knowing that He's always with you.

So, Caspian, if you're out there listening, and you ever choose to propose to me instead of Ramadan's daughter, I accept. You just have to ask my dad first. :)