Monday, December 6, 2010


"I've wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don't want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn't remarkable, then we don't have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants."

I'm reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. The subtitle is: What I learned while editing my life, and the book is, so far, about Donald Miller's journey to turning Blue Like Jazz into a movie. He's struggling with how to write a screenplay about a memoir he wrote about himself.

Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has a podcast that I listen to quite regularly. I never thought I would be the kind of person to listen to sermons and NPR voluntarily, but I have become that girl. A few months ago, there was an interview with Peter Rollins who has some fantastic ideas about story and the significance stories/parables play in our lives. In the interview, he talks about how we aren't really the person we think we are. Our vision of ourselves is greatly skewed- the person we present to the world and the person we truly are inside are very different people.

Now for Donald Miller, trying to write a screenplay about the individual portrayed in his memoir is bringing this dualistic nature of us to the forefront of his consciousness. He has this image of the person in the book, a cool person who has it all together and who doesn't doubt himself, but this person called Don isn't really Donald Miller, even though it is. It's a fascinating read, and I'm really enjoying it, but the quote at the beginning of this post is really what stuck out to me. Because don't we all want to be the heroes of our stories? The answer is yes. The harder questions is: ARE we being the heroes of our own stories? For me, the answer is quite often a resounding no.

I feel like I've lost a bit of my writing voice. I don't know how to say what I want to say, but I'm hoping you can feel what I'm trying to say. I'm ending this post with a challenge:

Live courageously. Live your story in such a way that people see God working through you as His magnificent creation and are drawn to Him. Love. Laugh. Smile. Give time, give energy, give your heart. Be where you are, and be the best you can be NOW, not later. Write a story worth telling.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Breaking the Silence

Today, I'm breaking my blogging silence. In my head, I've been breaking my blogging silence for about three months now, but I realize that does no good for those of you who aren't in my head... which is all of you. So, here it is.

It's a story, actually. It starts with a young girl who had just finished her Freshman year of college going to a new place with only one other person she knew (and him only a little bit). Fourteen hours north of her hometown, she went to the North Woods to counsel at a Christian youth camp for two months, with no cell phone, only one hour of internet time a day, and a dream of seeing a moose.

When this girl got to the North Woods, she fell in love with the natural beauty surrounding her. She fell in love with (most of) the other counselors she was to be working with. She fell in love with her cabin (Cabin 3, even though it smelled like a weird maple syrup sometimes). And she eventually fell in love with absolutely everything else.

Despite the incredible number of loved things this post could be about, I'm narrowing it down (just in case you missed it, I'm the girl in the story). This post is about one of the two directors whose love kept me going throughout my three years as a counselor: Scott McEndree.

I honestly don't remember when I first met Scott. If I was to venture a guess, I would say it was probably about Sunday at 10:00 am right before the first week of Teen Camp. At this point, I had been at Flaming Pine Youth Camp for a week, going through counselor training, so I was comfortable. However, our first counselor meeting with Mr. McEndree found me as the proud caretaker of twelve 16-year-old girls, putting me in my place. It was Scott's first time directing Teen Camp, and he was armed with wonderful things, including a t-shirt for the Bible award winners from the session. At a camp where t-shirts aren't guaranteed, this was HUGE. Most importantly, he was armed with love and energy, ready to take on the two-week marathon that is Teen Camp.

At that point in my life, I acted like I knew I would be amazing at counseling, but I didn't really know that any more than anyone knows they'll be amazing at something before they've shown themselves and the world that they can be. That was a confusing sentence that basically translates to "I wasn't sure about anything other than my name for that first session." Having Scott in my corner gave me the courage to keep going that year. He acted as mediator when I had trouble with another counselor, as cheerleader when I felt like I was failing, and as friend when I just needed someone to care. The third year I counseled, Scott had finished his final round of chemo from his second bout with cancer two weeks before camp, and he still came. His courage and perseverance as a director gave me the courage and perseverance I often needed during Teen Camp (it's not easy, you know).

His beautiful wife and amazing children were always a bright spot in my weeks up at camp. The way Bonita interacts with her kids always left me in awe of how effective a soft-spoken word to well-behaved children can be. One of my favorite memories of Scott and his kids was the time we were standing in the Togo Dome when Mac and Rhone entered. They came running to Scott yelling, "Daddy, daddy, daddy!" hugging him before running to play basketball or something like that. As they ran off, Scott got a wistful look in his eye, and I asked him what was wrong. "Someday, they won't be that excited to see me," he answered.

Scott passed away one year ago today. The man who was determined that I get married someday because I "would make a great mom," the man who often mortally embarrassed me by making comments to his friend Kyle about me, the man who gave me hope for obnoxious boys everywhere (claiming that he had once been one, and I needn't worry), the man who believed that I was a great counselor, died after a long battle with cancer. I was blessed to get to see him the January before on a trip to Minnesota for Harding. I got to stay up late and talk with him and Bonita before I headed back to Arkansas the next morning, and it was fantastic. He had just been diagnosed with cancer for the third time, but he was just as wonderful as always. It was great to get to see the McEndrees in a different setting than camp. They took me upstairs to see the kids' rooms where Scott had built this AMAZING structure to serve as playground/bed. Basically, totally the room I would have wanted as a kid, second only to the PINK walls and bunk bed I actually had.

Scott is home. And while this post isn't everything I want it to be (not even close), it IS about a wonderful man who I love and miss. A wonderful man who many love and miss. It is such a blessing to know Who is in charge of this crazy world.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My New Job

Well, the day has come... I'm a grown up. I have a grown up job, I'm about to rent my first apartment, and I have monthly bills. Oh, and I'm apparently supposed to have my own insurance now, too. I know it's been too long since I wrote on my beautiful blog, but I wanted to give an update on what I'm doing now.

I live in Nashville, TN, and I work for a company called Orange, LTD. Orange is a direct marketing company who directly markets for, which is an office supplies website. It really is a good company, so I'm happy about what I'm "directly marketing" but it's basically a cold-calling sales job. There are some amazing things about doing this incredibly difficult job though. I will now list/explain a few of them:

1. I am learning how to deal with all sorts of people. When your method of sales is "tight to the right" and attempting to hit every business in a given zip code, you meet all kinds of people. Since this is my job, I am blessed enough to have this as a daily option... or requirement. My goal is to keep smiling, no matter how unfriendly some people are.

2. I am learning how to get out of my comfort zone. Some people are born with the ability to sell. My brother was one of those- he used to constantly be the top seller in his troop for Boy Scout popcorn. I, on the other hand, hated fund-raising, even for good reasons. I didn't even like fund-raising to go to Africa last year. Asking for money, even in exchange for a good or service is not something I've ever been good at. While this job isn't fund-raising, that's what little box people immediately put me in the second I walk into their office; their perceptions make it hard for me to believe something different about myself. While I work through their perceptions, I'm working on labeling myself to myself as a "business consultant..." which is actually what I'm doing!

3. I am going to learn how to let things slide off of my back. "It's business, it's not personal" is something I'm going to have to learn VERY quickly in this job. That's really all I have to say about that.

4. I'm going to learn how to better organize/utilize my time. This position is completely commission based and about 80% of my day is spent outside of the office in the field. This means how I do is completely dependent on me. The Law of Averages means that if I see enough prospective customers, I'll eventually sign enough, too. But in order to see enough I must discipline myself to make it to those doors. I also have to ensure that my notes from each day are in an organized state so that I can get where I need to be when I need to be there. While I think I'm good at organizing and utilizing my time, this will only reinforce good habits.

I'm blessed. I know this. But since I've gotten this job, I've had to constantly remind myself of this fact. I'm terrified of a completely commission based sales job, but I know that I can do it, and I know that if I stick to it, the rewards of the position will be great. Please pray for my continued perseverance, though, because every day is an uphill battle for me at this point.

To come: A beautiful post on my new living situation! It doesn't belong on this post, because it's just so awesome, it should get its own shout-out! Be excited!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nashville is My New Home

I leave for Nashville in less than half an hour. It's not college, it's not a year-long commitment... it's a "real" job. I wish I could counsel at camp or take classes forever, but that's just not how it works, so here I am, a lot of my stuff packed up and ready to go, not crying but only because I'm borderline dehydrated from all of the crying I've already done.

I'm excited, don't get me wrong. I just wish I could be closer to home. Except, I don't really wish that, because I was looking for jobs in Nashville. Until I had the position offered to me, I wanted to live in Nashville. Then I cried a lot. BUT it's a new experience! Historically, I've rocked new experiences, so I plan to do no less for this one.

Wish me luck. And give me a call if you think about it- 8 hours is a long time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

At Least We didn’t Get Stuck in Accra

I am in London. It is 10:35 pm, I’m listening to Shrek the Musical and finally regaining feeling in my toes and fingers. My eyes are droopy with exhaustion, and all of my bags (backpack, purse, and drum) are hooked together. The floors are being extensively cleaned, and I have migrated through three different spots throughout the day. What is this new adventure? Missing our flight by literally less than a minute.

See, here at Heathrow, they have a rule that you have to be through security 35 minutes before your departure. When the girls and I got into Heathrow at 6:30am and decided to go into London proper, a lady helped us with our tickets and communicated that to us, telling us to aim for an hour earlier. What we heard, though, was “Make sure you’re at security at least 35 minutes before.” Now, I understand that we were cutting it close with that, don’t get me wrong. We just didn’t realize we would regret those extra seconds in the left baggage line.

London was glorious, and we made it back to the airport in time to get through security. But a series of things that took three seconds too long got us a, “Sorry it’s too late” at the gate. I don’t know if you can imagine living in a developing country for eight months as a fresh college graduate female who is just ready to get home who “slept” on the plane the night before, but I bet you can at least imagine that with me involved, many emotions were then introduced into the mix. Fortunately, a beautiful lady with customer service aided us in getting our tickets changed for free, which was helpful. However, I also had a Delta flight to get me back to STL from ATL, and since I got it off of Orbit for a fantastic price, I ended up just having to buy another, very expensive, stressful ticket. Our itinerary is the same, though, so all that changes is my mom and dad come a day later to pick me up.

How do I feel about this? I’m so glad you asked. I feel glad, stressed, upset, poor, irresponsible, responsible, silly, depressed, anxious, exhausted, relieved, grateful, loved, stinky, and adventurous. Glad, because the girls and I have been absolutely forced to sit back and relax. We don’t even have free WiFi, so our time is literally full of nothing in particular to do but eat, talk, and process. I don’t know how many of my readers are familiar with the concept of reverse culture shock, but it has something to do with coming from Africa where my feet were always dirty to London where this Zamboni looking thing has passed me going over the same patch of floor four times now. I had Starbucks, was cold, and was not the visible minority today. Weird things happen in an individual’s brain when a cultural change is made, and the girls and I just made a ginormous leap. As Nicole says, we entered the “magic portal” (airport) and travelled into a different world/time. Even short term missions often have symptoms of culture shock... Eight months is a while.

When I called my mom, she was utterly sympathetic, not upset at all, worried for me, and asked me what I needed. She just loved me in the way I needed. That’s where all of those good feelings in that last paragraph come from. The ones like stressed and upset, I bet you can imagine. I feel poor in the financial sense only; there are so many blessings in this situation. I’m stuck in London rather than Accra (where I hardly feel safe during working hours and the security guards constantly hit on us), I’m with two of my closest friends, my mom loves me and can support me financially when I need aid, my friends’ parents/siblings responded with grace and offers of helping hands. I’m exhausted because, I mean, who can actually sleep on a plane? Really. Relieved and grateful for our parents’ reactions and the help the staff here have given us. Stinky because travelling for three days doesn’t wear well on anyone. Adventurous because I’m about to sleep in an airport.

Airports stress me out. They really do. I don’t know why other than exactly what happened today- mistakes cost you in time, money, and stress levels. Trains aren’t like that, or at least not as extreme. With planes, you spend hours and hours getting your bags packed just so, and then you pay extra money for the extra pound that somehow was still there. If you miss your plane, there really aren’t alternatives that are viable, especially not here where my goal is to get from London to Atlanta. Talk about stressful. I was working to analyze this experience, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while my various airport experiences might have the effect of easing future flights/pre-flight stress. However, I don’t think that’s the effect at all- I think it’s having the effect of making me a permanent Stateside resident for a while. It’s not that I’m scared to be here or to be sleeping here. I feel completely safe, I really do. I know I can protect myself, and I know I’m going to be ok. It’s just the pre-stress, and now the prolonged stress that just glares into my being. I didn’t cry until I talked to my mom on Skype... Then I lost it. I just want to be home.


Monday, May 3, 2010

In London!!

We're in London, on our way to Atlanta. Safe and sound so far, and hopefully we make it the whole way. I'm sitting in a Starbucks in flipflops in 40 degree weather, but my heart is happy! Pray for continued safe travels and no major issues, particularly with my huge African drum!!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Daddy!!

It's my dear father's birthday today- if you talk to him, see him, or are friends with him on Facebook, please be sure to wish him a hearty "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Wisdom From Children's Literature

We have moved to half days in school. The fourth grade class only has one test and one “investigation” left to do, and then we’re finished for the year! It’s crazy to think so much time has gone by... It’s almost been a year since my grand ol’ Harding days. 

After our Oxford Book of Illustrated Poems was finished, I borrowed Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends from the Kennell household and not a school day has passed since without a poem. Today’s poems were intense for me to read. Perhaps I’m simply emotional and connecting with these poems because of life circumstances, or perhaps I am not alone in the world and Mr. Silverstein has been able to express what’s in my heart even when I cannot. I could take the time to explain why each of these is so profound to me, but I’d rather just let you love them for what they say to you. Enjoy!

From Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

“Just Me, Just Me”

Sweet Marie, she loves just me
(She also loves Maurice McGhee).
No she don’t, she loves just me
(She also loves Louise Dupree).
No she don’t, she loves just me
(She also loves the willow tree).
No she don’t, she loves just me!
(Poor, poor fool, why can’t you see
She can love others and still love thee.)

“The One Who Stayed”

You should have heard the old men cry,
You should have heard the biddies
When that sad stranger raised his flute
And piped away the kiddies.
Katy, Tommy, Meg and Bob
Followed, skipping gaily,
Red-haired Ruth, my brother Rob,
And little crippled Bailey,
John and Nils and Cousin Claire,
Dancin’, spinnin’, turnin’
‘Cross the hills to God knows where-
They never came returnin’.
‘Cross the hills to God knows where
The piper pranced, a leadin’
Each child in Hamlin Town but me,
And I stayed home unheedin’.
My papa says that I was blest
For if that music found me,
I’d be witch-cast like all the rest.
This town grows old around me.
I cannot say I did not hear
That sound so haunting hollow-
I heard, I heard, I heard it clear...
I was afraid to follow.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

Winding Down

Well, I’m writing this on Friday, April 16, 2010, and I leave for Accra, Ghana (where we fly out of) in 15 days. I land in Missouri in 17 days, and I get to see people in Searcy in 18! I am absolutely stunned that 8 months have gone by so quickly... Absolutely stunned. I really don’t know what to feel or think or dwell on, but I do know that I love the team/our other friends here and leaving will not be an easy thing. I’m sitting here watching my kids work on their 118th math lesson’s homework, and I’m wondering what I’m going to do without them. It’s actually making my eyes well up, so I’m going to move on and stop dwelling on it!

I’ve already packed one trunk and partially packed a second. The girls and I have made arrangements to have a Papa John’s pizza waiting for us in Atlanta when we land (thanks wonderful Cannon parents!) and my mom is bringing pillows to the airport for Sarah and I to crash on in the car on the drive home. Yesterday at ladies’ prayer time, we planned our Open House and the 6th grade girls’ tap recital. I still have to make the costumes for that beautiful event. I’m also the official slideshow choreographer, so I have a collection of pictures to put in a glorious order with fantastic music to accompany them... Maybe even a few videos. The Millers’ grandmother is coming and will be here for Open House, which is nice- I’m always happy to let family in on the goings on at school. We have a week of half days next week, which also happens to be “Spirit Week” full of dress-up days, and (surely) laughter and fun. 

I can’t see how the events of the next two weeks are going to help me say goodbye.

I love you.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Test Day Blog

My beautiful children are on Test 20 in their math curriculum. This means that for about an hour, I get to sit here, listen to my “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” podcast, and constantly remind my kids to “Work, guys! Seriously, you need to pay attention to your test, and don’t get distracted. Please, just work...” It also means that, if I so choose, I have time to write a good blog, rather than the small and insignificant ones I’ve been giving you lately. So, here is my Test Day Blog!

The dust rolled back in a couple of weeks ago. What this means for us is that our house is very dusty. Very, very, very dusty. As in, you can see everywhere anyone’s foot has touched all over the house, even though our houseworker, Abla, mopped on Saturday. It’s something we’re getting used to, but something I’ll be very happy to not have as a part of my daily life when I move back to the States. For someone who has developed into a compulsively clean individual, it’s difficult for me to deal with the constant dust problem that we’ve had for the whole year, but especially now, when I can hardly see to the house across the street because the dust is so thick. Imagine driving through thick fog. That’s what this is, except it’s not low water particles, it’s dirt! Of course, right before the dusty came back, I had dusted all of our windows of their accumulated dust. Frustrating? I think so!

I learned to knit! Sarah taught me after we visited Tiffany’s house and the kitting-fever caught. I have to say, sitting in the living room with my roommates, with me crocheting and Sarah knitting, is scarily like a movie scene of old ladies hanging out. As Bethany put it, we looked “matronly.” Of course then you realize the movie we’re watching is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the “matronly” label changes a bit.

Last week, Sarah and I went over to the Shanks’ house to have a Wallace and Gromit party with Mr. Joshua Shanks. It was marvelous! Tiffany made waffles, complete with syrup and strawberries for toppings, and we ended up trading many many recipes after the party was over and Joshua went to bed. I also got Newsies put on my computer, which is super nice because I apparently didn’t think it was necessary to bring to Africa!! Goodness, that was a nasty shock! Anyway, Tiffany and Jesse are always so welcoming and Joshua is always such a joy- I truly love going to their house.

It’s Spring Sing weekend, and as a Spring Sing junkie I’m a little sad. I really do love Spring Sing, and it’s weird to know that I’m removed from the process now. I’ve seen the Chio/DGR show on YouTube, and it looks good- I’m cheering from Togo for them to place first!! It’s weird to not know any of their competition, though... So weird.

Things I love about Spring Sing:
Glitter in the Benson
Glitter in the McInteer
Glitter in the classrooms
Glitter on the stage
Glitter all over campus
Glitter all over my room
Glitter all over my clothes
Glitter in my hair
Glitter on people who aren’t even in Spring Sing’s faces :)
Glitter in every bathroom near the Benson
Ensemble’s amazingness
Fast dances
Watching guys dance well on stage
Visitors on campus
The Student Center after performances
Dancing on stage in the Benson
Getting ready in a room not made for a dressing room
Our beaux and the amazing stress relief they provide
Amazing Benson stage-makeup!!!
Seeing all of the creative costumes
Knowing how much energy the directors have put into a show and seeing the show do well
Ms. Cindee and Dr. Frye
The sound Keds make on the Benson stage
The way Keds feel on the Benson stage
The finale
United We Stand... I cannot believe I’m missing that song

Anyway, I feel silly making a list like that, but I wanted to, so I did. I am sad, but I’m happy to be where I am, so I’m good. Today after school, the sixth grade girls and I have dance class- we’ve almost finished our Rockin’ Robin dance, and I’m excited to finish it completely. It doesn’t replace Spring Sing in my life, but it does go far in making me feel ok about missing this weekend in Searcy. Love you, girls!!

Other random tidbits: I made chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream from a Ben and Jerry’s recipe... And it was AMAZING! We finally visited the seamstress who was doing a lot of stuff for us, and I now have some really cute new stuff. My mom and grandmother both had surgery within the past two weeks- both surgeries went well, and both Mom and Grandma are doing well. Last night at the Hangen’s house, we watched a show called “Top Gear” and it was hilarious- I feel I must have BBC access in my life. I’ve often wondered why I wasn’t born British, and I think I’ve come to an answer- if I had been born there, I wouldn’t love the accent as much as I do. Seriously. I’ve been having the most random dreams- I’ve dreamed about extensive remodeling in the Honors House and a spontaneous color guard show at a JC homecoming. Bethany’s parents are going to meet us at the airport in Atlanta with PIZZA!!!!! There are some lizards that have decided that they should live on the stairs we have to walk on every time we go to our apartment- they are providing a lot of stress in my life. I have a stye- it hurts. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is adorable, and one of my new favorite children’s movies. I am applying at Barnes and Noble for the summer/fall- cross your fingers.

I hope everyone is doing well- I’m sorry these posts are becoming so few and far between. I started writing this blog last week, though, so know I’m trying! 


This is a picture of me with our apartment pliers. I used them to change the gas can you can kind of see behind me. Also, note the super short hair!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Within the Last Seven Days...

... I had a bunch of clothes stolen from the back of the Kennell's truck.
... I finished Alias season 4.
... I read The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown.
... My computer's external speakers stopped working.
... I made amazing wheat bread.
... We got a new A/C put into our room.
... I slept with long pants and a hoodie on.
... I made part of a grocery list in French.
... I had a dream about Tory kidnapping me and taking me to a Princess camp.
... We've gone multiple days without running water.
... I woke up to fog... that turned out to be massive amounts of dust.
... I have made some solid plans for my Stateside adventure.
... I have gotten one week closer to seeing my parents.
... I have almost popped in my Spring Sing video at least four times.
... Our candles wilted. Literally wilted. They looked like how I felt. Pictures to come.
... I have talked to some of my dearest friends on Facebook and Skype.
... I have taught a dance class in which Caleb (cute 3 year old on the team) joined in for a while.
... I have (hopefully) done a more permanent job fixing our bedroom door handle.
... I have experienced post-lizard attack stress syndrome, that implements itself in the form of extreme skittishness in the presence of lizards... which is mildly interesting and highly entertaining in Kara.
... I have a renewed passion for owning a dog soon.
... I watched Fireproof and while I still shudder at some of the acting, I totally see the merit of the movie, and recommend it to everyone.
... I got to talk to Ryan!
... I chipped a tooth and talked to my dentist from Africa. Yeah, I'm cool.
... I have started actively looking forward to driving my car again.
... I have seriously considered living in Alabama, Texas, Minnesota, and Missouri.
... And I have counted my blessings that I have so many people who love me.

I love you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Week

Just so you know, I’m eating Gobstoppers sent in a package by my lovely mother, and it’s kind of fantastic. It’s the little things :)

Last week was Spring Break for Kara Christian Academy. Sarah, Bethany, Andrea, Becky, April, Grace, Nicole, and I climbed in the car and set out for Accra, Ghana. Approx. 11 hours later, we got to the Baptist Guesthouse (Baptism Guesthouse, if you ask some of my coworkers) and checked in. Then... we went to the mall. Yes, the mall! With stores and a food court and even a movie theater! It also has a (fake) Apple store, but even though it was fake, it was marvelous. We got some groceries, then at at an amazing restaurant called Rhapsodies. I had some wonderful pasta with chicken and a cream based sauce. Goodness, it was amazing. We went back to the guesthouse and slept like babies.

The next day, we at breakfast at the guesthouse, then headed back to the mall. After some more time there, Andrea took April, Bethany, Sarah, and I to a store called Wild Gecko where we shopped and looked at super cool amazing African souvenirs. We finished up there, then picked up the other three from the mall and went back to the guesthouse to clean up (it’s very easy to get stinky here. It’s warm, and humid in Accra). Our evening consisted of dinner at “the chicken place” in the mall’s food court, then Did You Hear about the Morgans?, a super cute movie about a couple put into the witness protection program. Can I just say that it was an interesting feeling being in a movie theater in Africa? It was a good movie, though, and I really enjoyed our time in Accra. However, Accra wasn’t the highlight of our trip.

The next morning, after a breakfast run with Andrea, and some extra time in town getting various things (like gelato!), we left for Coconut Grove. We had a fairly uneventful drive there, then drove into a beautiful resort. We got our stuff in our rooms, and went into the conference room where our retreat group was already singing worship songs. The table with my small group was, of course, at the front of the room, so I walked up there and sat down, in time to listen to the speaker for the night, Becky. We broke for dinner, which was very yummy, and went back into the room for our first night’s fun activity. It was a great ice breaker and one of my favorite ones of my life so far!

I was rooming with Sarah and we loved the A/C that cooled room 21 off more than you can imagine. It was nice to come back to it every break. For the rest of the retreat, we swam in the ocean, we swam in the pool, we made wonderful friends, we sang songs, we prayed, we were pampered, we were counseled, and we were loved. I don’t want to write about the details, for a couple of reasons, but I would love to talk to anyone about it individually. Just know that it was lovely and wonderful and perfect for all of us. I made some new friends who are in a very similar place as I am in life, teaching in Africa as young single women, and it was a beautiful thing.

Some personal interesting facts from the retreat: I got to play in the ocean which was great, although I got a big bruise on my back from a particularly strong wave followed by another one that caught me off guard. I got to meet with someone and talk about grief and how to deal with it in a healthy way. I went to a great seminar on grief and transition and loss. I had my toenails painted orange. I worked out for three mornings in a row by the pool overlooking the beach. I watched some Olympic figure skating with my roommates and Dana, a new friend who lives and teaches in Ghana. And I chopped my hair off. See picture of myself and my new amazing hair, along with my hair stylist friend, Stephanie, and my pedicurist, Blair!

It’s nice to be back, but this retreat was very important at this point in my life. It was so wonderful to meet the amazing ladies who were there, and I loved making new friends.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Too Much

I see myself as a smiler. Joy, that runs deep in my heart, brings a smile to my face ALL THE TIME. This morning a nice man at the guesthouse I'm currently at in Accra, Ghana responded to my "Good morning!" with, "Good morning, Smiley!" We are on our way to Coconut Grove, which is also in Ghana, for a ladies' retreat, which I am incredibly excited about.

Fun paragraph:
Last night, we went to the mall. It's a mall. With ATMs, a food court, and stores. And A/C. We ate really good food. Today, we went back to the mall and I had ice cream and went to a grocery/miscellaneous store and I ate in the food court. Then, we went to this super cool African store. And tonight, after a shower, we went to dinner and a movie. Yes, all in Ghana! It was great.

Serious paragraph, so you can know what I need prayers/love/more prayers for:
I'm desperately lonely. I'm surrounded by lovely ladies who I love, and I know I'm blessed. I know my parents love me, and I could start a list of friends who love me, but it would be really long. But you know those times when you just don't feel it? Today/most of this month has been like that. It's really not fun. I'm not sure what's going on, other than I'm in an interesting position in life without any real stability and as a planner, it's eating me alive.

Today, when I was writing this blog in my head at the mall, I was humming. I kept humming and humming and humming this same song, a song my beautiful and wonderful French teacher, Essowe, taught Bethany and I to remember the days of the week. I have absolutely no idea why I was singing it, because Ghana is a former British colony, so I haven't even had to use French the past two days. The main part of the song repeats, "Jesus is my friend" over and over, and then it goes into, "My friend on Monday, My friend on Tuesday, etc." I said I didn't know why it was stuck in my head, but I guess that's not entirely true- I do know why I was singing it: God was trying to remind me that even when I feel friendless (which once again, I realize very much that I am absolutely not friendless by any stretch of the imagination), I'm not. He's always there.

We are loved.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ode to Pink

Last night, I went over to the Miller’s house with Sarah to celebrate AnnaMarie’s third birthday with the family, complete with pink rice for our taco pile-up. Now, if you know AnnaMarie, which most likely you don’t, you know she’s one of the most animated three year olds ever, and she loves pink. She has this amazing ability to make me laugh, usually over the dinner table, as she makes faces at me and says things that are out of the blue. I truly adore this child... And she truly adores the color pink.

I brought my iPhone to Africa. It’s served me well throughout my time here, and I really love having it. Well, when I first got here, I let the kids play with it often, and AnnaMarie was no exception. She knows how to make pictures bigger and change the landscape- she’s a three-year-old technological genius who is growing up in Africa. Somehow, it came about that when you would ask her what she wanted for Christmas, it was a “peent iPhone.” Alas, Santa did not deliver on that wish, and she did not end up with a pink iPhone, but she still smiles :)

Because of her and her brother, Asher’s, amazing ability to make me laugh whenever and wherever, I asked them earlier this year, “Someday, when I’m a big businesswoman, and I work in a boring office, will you two come and make me laugh? Anna, you could be my pink bubble of happiness.” Since that time, she will randomly bring up how she’s my pink bubble of happiness. On our drive to Pendjari, she was explaining to me how her Kelly doll was her pink bubble of happiness and she was my pink bubble of happiness, just randomly and completely unprompted. Sometimes when she’s upset about something, I’ll just say, “Now where’s my pink bubble of happiness?” and she’ll struggle to not smile, but you can tell she’s trying to figure out how to be my pink bubble of happiness with a frown on her face.

As I type this, I’m about to leave for Anna’s birthday party, which is sure to be very pink and adorable. I’m sitting in a pink shirt with a pink pagne. I considered wearing my Crocs, but as it’s super super hot, I don’t really feel like constricting my feet to my Crocs. So I’ll wear my Nike flip-flops and eat the pink popcorn I made (oh yes, pink popcorn!).

Happy Birthday, AnnaMarie!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Waterfall

On the way home from safari, we stopped at a waterfall for lunch and swimming. It’s this little tourist trap place with a restaurant and a beautiful waterfall that you have to climb up to. Sarah and I went with the Kennell girls/Mark, the Reeves clan, and the Miller clan to the swimming hole at the base of the fall. As Mark told me on the way up, it’s the most perfect place ever to reenact the Lost episode where Kate and Sawyer find the case of guns. He was right, but I’m not sure I would have gotten in the water if I thought there were dead bodies at the bottom of the pool.

So, here we are, in this lovely little cove, swimming in the brilliantly blue water, enjoying the wonderful coolness. I swam across toward the waterfall with Maddie, following Aidan and Matt to a little bunch of rocks that they started to climb up. Matt jumped off of the little rock ledge, then it was Aidan’s turn. He was a little hesitant, and I was worried he would jump weirdly and hit a rock, so I climbed up to where he was to point to where he should land and to give him a little encouragement. Aidan soon let go of the tree and leaped off of the ledge, so I climbed back down. Maddie and I worked our way closer to the waterfall, then swam back to the other side where all of the non-swimmers were sitting.

Once I got there, Andrea asked me why I hadn’t jumped. I told her that it takes me an incredibly long time to get the nerve up to take my feet off of solid ground to leap off of high things. The story of the time at Paige’s lakehouse, right after high school graduation came up: I sat at the top of her diving platform for an hour until the sun had gone down and my friends had gone in for supper. I wasn’t going to climb down, because I needed to jump off. I wasn’t going to jump off because I couldn’t convince my body that I needed to. So, I sat there. After that hour and sometime before I went to bed that night, I jumped. “Why didn’t I jump, Andrea? I didn’t want to lose the respect of everyone on the team!”

In response to her (and in my mind, my) question, I swam back to the rock, and climbed up to the ledge. Yeah, I don’t really know why either. I hate jumping off of things. But, it was a challenge I presented to myself. So, I climbed up and looked off of this super tall, massive, huge 8 foot cliff. Dave kept saying, “You have to jump, I’m blocking your way down.” Becky convinced me it had spiritual application and once I jumped, I would officially be an adult. Little 6 year old Gabe encouraged me with, “Come on Miss Jacque! You can do it! Yaaayy!!” Andrea had her camera poised and ready to snap. Sarah had her camera recording. Everyone on the shore was cheering for me, just like they had for Aidan.

So there I stood. And stood. And stood. Sarah’s camera, full of pictures from Europe and safari only had about three and a half minutes of video space- she took three videos, and missed the actual jump because it was unexpected when it finally happened, and her camera was full again! Andrea caught the moment on her camera, though, because she persevered through the fifteen minutes of false alarms.

I climbed back on a ledge that was half submerged (no more heights for me), dove in, and swam across the pool back to where everyone else was. Aidan informed me that until I jumped, my position as his favorite teacher was very threatened. Which is totally legit.

After I (finally) jumped, Gabe climbed up on the ledge after me and leaped off. It took him at least 30 seconds to decide to jump.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Look! A Animal!!"

Yes, I went on safari again!! This time it was with all three of my students’ entire families and Matt and Grace Hangen. Bethany was having back pain so she stayed at Chez Kennell for the weekend. She and Buster (the Kennell’s dog) sat looking on while Sarah and I climbed into one of the three stuffed vehicles going to Benin.

This was a very different experience from the last safari we went on. I didn’t ride on the top nearly as much- I think I had more of a desire to be clean. A couple of times, I just couldn’t resist seeing the animal kingdom without the frame/confines of a window. On this particular safari, we saw:

*“One million and four” cob (as I told Tiffany yesterday) (cob are the African version of deer)
*Two lions (two different times!)
*Multiple elephants, but only about five up close
*Abyssinian Rollers (the most beautiful birds in the whole wide world. No, really.)
*Hippos galore!
*Baboons (one, “Scarface”, a little too close for comfort. Keep reading for details.)
*Lots of crocodiles
*Water buffalo
*Roan antelope (which always make me think of Scott McEndree’s son, Rhone.)
*Countless numbers of countless species of birds
*A “Jesus” crane (a bird standing on an underwater hippo’s back as the hippo walked along the bottom of the lake, making the bird appear as though it was gliding on the water. Also, this bird isn’t really a different kind of bird, but it has a great description!)

There are probably other things, but I’m not going to strain trying to remember. I am, however, going to tell you some of the more entertaining stories from this particular safari.

Safari #2 Story #1: The First Lion- the Saga

On the second day, after our first night of camping, we ate at the hotel. As we were getting ready to leave, a guide with a group of tourists talked to Matt and told him that they had seen a few lions. They told him where to find it, and we started off down the correct road. We had all just had showers and lunch and spirits were high. It was too warm for the kids to get on top of the car, so there were three of them in the back seat, Sarah, Asher and I were in the middle row, and Matt, Andrea, Abby and AnnaMarie were in the front. As we’re driving down the road, Asher looks at Sarah and says, “Can I have something? I don’t feel good.” Sarah then asks Andrea for a bowl, and Matt pulls over so Asher can get out and throw up outside. I pulled him out and he leaned over for a few minutes, but didn’t do anything, so we got back in the car and start driving again. Abby decides that Asher should be in the front middle, with the air conditioning blowing right on him. They switch seats, climbing over the front seats to do it. Less than three minutes pass before Asher is vomiting into a plastic sack one of the cars following us had given to him. We pull over, get him cleaned up (I’m out of the car, because of my very sensitive gag reflex), then continue on our merry way. Less than ten minutes after that, AnnaMarie was drinking some water, and she starts coughing which leads to more up-chucking in the front seat. Oh yes, the joys of carsickness- poor kids.

After Andrea got herself and AnnaMarie cleaned up, we started off again toward the lion(s). We drive to “the place across from the baobab trees, where there used to be a village” and start peering intently into the brush. We drive past the place where we are supposed to be looking without a sighting, so Matt turns around and we head back. As he’s driving, he randomly looks underneath a tree, stops the car, grabs his binoculars and stares off into some very thick brush... Where he finds a (notice the singular article here) lion. We all get out and start looking, taking pictures, and passing around the binoculars. I was a little nervous, however. If you remember, on our last Pendjari visit, as I was looking at one lion, another jumped out of the very tall grass next to the other, growling at us. I think I now have a built-in fear of only seeing one of two reported lions- I made a few visual sweeps around the other side of the road, just making sure the lions weren’t in cahoots, “luring in” the safari goers for a little afternoon snack.

Safari #2 Story #2: Scarface

Since I got here, the kids have been talking about a particular baboon who isn’t afraid of people. He will come up to you and take things out of your hand, like food and pencil bags (I know, it’s strange, but pencil bags are a big deal!) Well, after Lion Sighting #1, we went to a lake called Mare Bali, which has a lot of different animals. I’ve yet to go there and not see at least three hippos and a million crocodiles. Our car drove up last (everyone else was already at the lookout point, which is a little bit of a walk from the parking spots), and I got out. As I walked toward the lookout deck, I was looking at our friends who were already there. Then, something to my right caught my eye- it was a baboon. Now, you must understand something. Baboons aren’t just cuddly little fun animals who come up and pick things out of your hair. Brett, on our first safari, kept saying, “I don’t want the baboons to rip my face off,” and Nicole had told me earlier, “Have you seen their fangs? They’re huge!” So, seeing this fully grown baboon between me and the rest of the group was far from comforting. Everyone told me he would be ok, though, and Nicole came to walk with me, so I made it safely to the deck. 

Scarface (so named by the team because of a scar he has on his nose) hung out with us for a while. He climbed on some branches, and I got some good pictures/videos. I did some running commentary on what he was thinking, and we all got a good laugh out of him. The kids went and got some snacks to much on, in Tupperware (a fact which will soon be very important), and brought it up to the deck.

After the snacks came out, I relocated to a position fairly close to them to get some good video of a hippo that had just climbed out of the water. I was also videotaping a crocodile that kept randomly thrashing, hoping to catch it doing something cool. As I was focusing the video camera on the crocodile, I heard some crunching leaves, and looked down, thinking it was the lizards under the deck making all of the racket. I look down to see what’s going on with them, then realize there are screams and kids scrambling toward me- it took me a second to get my bearings, but I did realize that I needed to relocate VERY quickly to the other side of the deck. I slammed my video camera shut (still recording, however), and hustled kids away from the noise. As I turn around, I see Scarface sitting on the bench holding the Tupperware (I think he was at least. Even if he wasn’t holding it, he wanted it), and Dave throwing something at him and shouting. The kids are in hysterics, and my heart is thumping loudly in my very shaky body. Scarface leaves, but the kids are really stressed out, so Nicole and I take them back to the cars, where we all get in and drive away from Scarface and his friends, retelling the story and how we all felt for the remainder of the afternoon.

Andrea, Nicole, Grace, and I decided he just wanted the Tupperware. When you live in a wildlife park in Benin, West Africa, you have to get it where you can. Real Tupperware is hard to come by.

Safari #2 Story #3: The Campsite

We finished out the day with another lion sighting, then drove back to our campsite, which was right next to a lake. When we got there, Sarah and I needed to go to the bathroom. It took us a while to find toilet paper, and by the time we were headed back to our “potty place,” Nicole and some of the girls had already gone, and were telling us that they thought there might be a hippo out of the water back where we went, so we should stay close to the path. Sure enough, when Sarah and I started down the very short path to the “business bushes,” we heard what sounded an awful lot like growling. When you’re in a safari park where you’ve just seen two lions, you don’t really stick around growling noises, so we quickly headed back toward the tents, the fire, and the loud children. There, we went straight to Andrea, who then acted as our counselor and kept us safe as we went about twenty feet away from the tents and utilized the darkness rather than bushes for security purposes. It’s hard to convince yourself to walk into tall grass where you’ve just heard growling, whether it was a lion, or that hippo, it really doesn’t matter in the end.

*FUN FACT: Hippos are very dangerous- they kill more people than lions. Granted, that’s usually in the water, but still, do you want to come face to face with a massive hulk of an animal whose territory you’re in? No, you don’t, and neither do I.*

That night, Nicole heard multiple baboons calling to each other (which she knew, because she heard an NPR documentary on baboon calls. Yeah, she’s that cool). And the next morning, after we left for our early (EARLY) morning drive, Mark (who had stayed behind), looked up to see a lion stalking out of the woods right behind our tents. It looked at him for a few minutes, then stalked off- thankfully. 

It was a great campsite.

Safari is fun. Animals are great. Road-trips with toddlers and kids are interesting. I don’t like jumping off of high rocks- and in my next post, you will hear about the waterfall we went to where the team was able to experience my fear... For about half an hour.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Market

I have so many things to write about that are going to take some time. In the meantime, here is a new post to make you smile.

This conversation actually happened today when I was at the market.

Random Woman: "Blah blah blah, french french french, blah blah blah."

Me: "Je ne comprend pas Français, desolée" (I don't understand French, sorry)

Random Woman (we'll call her Marie): "Oh, Anglais?"

Me: "Oui."

Marie: "Is your pagne for you or for me?"

Me: "Well, it's for me."

Marie: "Why isn't it for me?"

Me: "Mainly because I don't know you."

Marie: "I want to be your friend."

Me: "Ok, we can be friends, but I'm still going to keep my pagne."

Marie walks off.

I love going to the market.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


This summer, I started to defend my apparent over-use of the word “love.” I bought a journal for the year with “Love... Of course” written on the cover, bought my first pagne that the lady told me stood for “love” (and April told me that was probably the only word in English she knew, but it felt like a sign!), and started noticing every use of the word “love” in the Biblical passages I read.

There are times when I use “love” where “thoroughly enjoy” or “extremely like” would be more appropriate. But when I use “love” to talk about how I feel about someone, I don’t feel that it is misused. I’ve been told that both the frequency of times I say it and the number of people I say it to “cheapen” the word when it leaves my mouth. Even just now, Sarah came in laughing because she keeps finding “I love you, Miss Sarah” in random places in her classroom. I have to say, though, my use of the word has greatly decreased in the past four months- I think part of my inspiration for usage was environment/company dependent.

As I think about this particular character trait of mine, I keep wondering where it came from. My parents told me they loved me growing up, but it’s not like other people’s parents didn’t- and I don’t think I “loved” everything as a child any more than every other little drama queen in the world. No, there was nothing special about my childhood that made me use the word “love” so much.

So where does it come from? Well, I love when people tell me that I mean something special to them. I think everyone does- there’s something life-changing about knowing you make someone’s day by smiling at them or calling them or even thinking about them (and letting them know, of course, because otherwise this wouldn’t be common knowledge). My heart smiles when I get a text message, when my phone rings, or when I get mail (that is actually from someone, of course). **Side Note: This summer, I got a piece of mail congratulating me on my recent marriage. It was from an insurance company asking “what better way to start a life together than to blah blah blah.” I kept it, brought it to Togo, and still get great joy when I think about it. This particular piece of mail doesn’t prove my “someone special” thing at all. End side note** There’s a psychological principle that says we project our feelings/thoughts/lots of other things onto others. Well, since I like hearing “I love you” from people who do, I figure other people like hearing it, too.

Another reason I can think of is that somewhere in my subconscious (and also often my conscious thought) I’m desperately afraid of something happening to either myself or someone I care about without them knowing how I feel about them. When I was a crazy-emotional teenager, I used to leave the house to walk to the bus-stop after fighting with my mother. I would get to the bus-stop, go to school, and have a horrible day. As I got older, I would start the trek angry, get halfway to the stop and run back home, sobbing, to tell my mother that I loved her and I didn’t mean it. Those mornings, she would either have to drive me to the bus-stop or drive me to school for me to get there. She would hug me and we would make up, then my day wouldn’t be ruined.

In Eighth grade, the boy that sat next to me in English class, BJ, was in a car accident over Christmas break and he and his brother were killed. BJ and I never really got along, but his death made me seriously consider the last words I said to someone. The interesting thing is that the last thing I said to BJ wasn’t something awful, but I know it wasn’t necessarily nice, either. 

This last summer, a good family friend passed away in her sleep after church. It was completely unexpected and very hard to deal with. She was a beautiful, godly woman who had an amazing family, an amazing spirit, and a serving heart. Earlier in the summer, a friend I had visited in hospice before I left for New Zealand told me to live a life for God and to live it well. I found out when I got home that he had passed away a few weeks before. This fall, my friend Scott passed away after a year-long battle with cancer. I loved each of these people very much, and I am pretty sure each of them knew it. That’s important to me.

Now, please don’t be worried that I have a fatalist mind-set and always tell people I love them in case they die. That would be extreme, and I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. But I do think that living my life in such a way that those around me know what they mean to me is important to both me and them.

This entire blog post came from thoughts originating with one of my new friends. Last Sunday at “Dinner with the Emersons” (it’s like one of my favorite shows, so I’m punctuating it as such), four-year-old Caden said, “I love this chicken.” His mother then explained that he had discovered the word “love” and was now using it in many sentences. After, “I love this corn,” I told Brett and April that spending four days with me on safari is what did it. 

I love Caden. And I love you. So there.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I Smiled

Today, I left my apartment sad to come to the Emerson's house for dinner. I didn't even say good-bye to my roommates, I just called to make sure April and Brett were home and walked over. I don't really like being sad. It's not my favorite emotion, in any way, shape or form.

Fortunately, God knows I don't like being sad, and He put me with a beautiful people-group that smiles a lot. Less than five minutes away from my house, I greeted some neighbors sitting outside their house, and they offered me some peanuts. Of course, they offered me peanuts in French, and I didn't know what they were talking about. So, I held out my hand. The man put some peanuts in my hand, and I said, "Oh, peanuts!" Then I looked at him and motioned to the peanuts and said, "En français?" He told me the French word for "peanut" and I thanked him, bade him a good evening, and went on my way.

I kept walking, and was greeted by a man with a friendly smile before I greeted him. Then, I had a nice conversation with two boys who go to University here in Kara.

It's hard to be sad for too long here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Days Gone By

I am 23 years old today. While reminiscing about days gone by and visiting my old xanga site today, I found these little bits of writing I did when I was a senior in high school in AP English Lit. I hope you enjoy them.

She realizes that she’ll be having to leave soon, that she has to move on with the rest of the world no matter what her heart is telling her; time goes on, the clock keeps ticking, the sand keeps on pouring, and no amount of wishing, hoping, thinking, planning, crying, heartache, promises, or lying to herself will change that, because things are made to change; high school isn’t meant to last forever, all of the fun things, the friends, the homework, the teachers she likes, the teachers she doesn’t, the cliques, the papers, the football players, the pretty girls, the band geeks, the drama kids, the constant struggle to fit in, the stress that is really self inflicted, the band competitions, the trends that seem so silly three years later yet so vital when they’re “in,” the life all kids hold for four years; she knows that in four years, maybe even sooner, all of her life now will seem so trivial, but now, at this exact point in her life, she’s not ready to let go, she doesn’t want to leave; so, she goes to all of the senior activities like Senior Sing and cries when she leaves because she isn’t prepared to leave this life she has known for all of her years, the life that goes like this: home, sleep, school, home, sleep, school, home, sleep, school, over and over and over, with new things thrown in there every once in a while like vacation, summer, dance class, name it, it’s in there, because life is like that for the first eighteen years of life; then, she will be thrown out into the “real world” sent off to college, or the armed forces, and she will no longer be a part of that life she’s led for eighteen years, because there’s a new routine; no parents, new schedule, and new people, not the same ones shes known for years and years, the ones she used to hang out with when she was seven that know her most embarrasing secrets but she doesn’t have to worry about because she hasn’t talked to them in at least five years, and shes not even sure if they know her name anymore; these are the familiar things that she doesn’t want to leave, even though she’s ready to get out of the life she leads and start anew, leaving will be hard; it hasn’t even happened yet, and it’s already hard... her last homecoming, her last competition, her last concert, her last prom, her last... everything; what will come next is a mystery, a book yet to be started, a life that is scary but exhilarating and exciting at the same time, holding the mystery of “life beyond school,” she doesn’t think shes ready; but when it comes right down to it, when she is thrown out by herself, she knows that since she has to be ready, she will be.

Heres the second one:

I watch the bands perform, watch the flags fly in the air together, the rifles spin perfectly together, and the sabres rotate with glinting blades and deadly hilts, while tears form then disappear over and over again; it’s my last weekend ever of band competitions, something that seems to have taken forever to have gotten here, but at the same time seems to have come so fast; it seems like just yesterday I was trying out for the colorguard, with Mrs. Grubbs sighing every time I ran away from my flag when I tossed it into the air, my frustration at how hard guard was compared to what I thought it would be; first band camp came, and I hated every minute of it, going home each night crying myself to sleep because I knew that I was committed to do this terrible activity for the rest of the year, hating myself for even thinking I could do it, wishing I was a quitter; then, the next year, I kept going because Mrs. Grubbs made me love guard, even though it was hard at times, I loved what I did, I loved the feel of a flag in my hand, and once a rifle was put in my hand, I was in love with it; I learned the pain of being hit with a dense wooden block, and the joy of catching it perfectly with a “snap” in unison with the rest of the rifle line; I learned that even when I dropped equipment in the middle of the show, it was ok, and I just had to keep going because most likely, unless I made a big deal of it, no one else noticed and having a judge notice that I dropped the weapon is almost as bad as the feeling that comes with knowing I hadn’t done my best because every other time I’d done that toss, it had landed perfectly in my hands; that was the problem actually, the reason I was so upset about the fact that my prelims performance might have been my last; I over rotated my sabre toss, catching it at half a turn past where I was supposed to, making my heart break thinking about how that could have been my last time ever to have the chance to have a perfect show, and knowing that I lost that chance, all because I was nervous; I was nervous about making finals, I wanted it so bad so that I could honestly make my last show my best, and when we made finals, I got that chance; I nailed every toss, and just performed my show, making my last show one of the most memorable I’ve ever had; no drops, no falls, no missing flags when I got to my spot, no regrets, none at all because I know that I did my best; after four years of failures in guard, after the heartaches that came about after my second year, after the pain all of the seniors experienced this year over seemingly stupid things, it all came to a close at a national competition where the Jefferson City High School Marching Jay Band made history, being one of the two first Missouri bands ever to make Bands Of America finals... now it’s over; I think I might be ok with that; in fact, I know I’m ok with that, because it was a good journey, and I’m a better person for having made it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Bed-time Story

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Jacque whose parents gave her the travel bug. She traveled all over the US in her family’s mini-van on family vacations seeing sights and making memories. She went to Australia and New Zealand with People to People Student Ambassador groups the summer after her freshman year in high school, and studied abroad in Italy her junior year of college. Three days after graduating from college, she hopped on a plane and led a campaign to New Zealand for six weeks, staying for an extra week just to fall in love with the country a little more than she already was.

One day, she and two friends named Bethany and Sarah met at Carino’s in Atlanta, GA. They drove to the airport, where their parents helped them check their bags then hugged them goodbye. The girls went through security, got their first final Starbucks, and boarded a plane that took them to London. At Heathrow, they got their second and final final Starbucks, looked at chocolate shops, and boarded a plane that took them to Accra, Ghana, West Africa. They sped through customs after retrieving their trunks and suitcases, met two new friends named Nicole and April, saw big guns up close, and went to sleep in the Baptist guesthouse. The next morning, they piled into Nicole’s little truck, and drove 11 hours to Kara, Togo, West Africa, where they moved into Nicole’s house and got over their jet lag.

They settled into their routine pretty quickly once the other families got back and school started. Bethany taught sixth grade and Art, Jacque taught fourth grade and Science, and Sarah taught the kindergarten class and French.

Before they knew it, the first half of the school year was over. They had a Christmas party, complete with a snowball fight and snowman building contest, and went on break. Les trois filles (“the three girls,” a nickname given by Brett Emerson), had their first Christmas away from home, first at their adorable apartment, then at the Kennell’s house where they spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day. They caroled at their fellow expatriates’ homes, and had hot chocolate and popcorn.

Then, they went on safari. This is that story.

Les trois filles piled into the Emerson’s car bright and early on Sunday morning. Spirits were as high as they could be at 6:30am, and they were off! They drove all the way to the border of Benin, crossing into their first new country since August. A few hours later, they were at the gate of Pendjari, the safari park that is the site of this particular adventure.

They saw cob (deer-like animals), antelope, hippos, and crocodiles at their very first lake.

Before the day was over, “Elephant, elephant, elephant, elephant,” saw the car backing up for their first elephant sighting- four young males. It was terribly exciting and was a great end to the day. The safari crew got to the hotel where they ended up setting up camp and going to bed, eager for the next day. As they fell asleep, they heard a lion making its presence known to all.

The next morning, the girls bundled up and climbed on top of the truck. They watched the sun rise through the dust as they drove around the park looking for animals. Throughout the day, they saw warthogs, more cob, baboons, a jackal, more antelope, more elephants... and a lion.

Actually, they saw two lions. It was quite a rush, actually- these particular lions were quite close to our three heroines and their fearless leader, Brett. They had been informed of the lions’ location by some of their safari friends. A not-too-distant bush was under close scrutiny for a few minutes, but the lions were not making an appearance, so the troupe drove off. They returned not too much later and were looking intently at the same bush, wondering where the lions could possibly be.

“There’s the lion!” Brett exclaimed and pointed at a tree even closer than the original bush. The lioness had just stood up less than fifty feet from where les trois filles were sitting! As everyone turned their cameras to the new location, Jacque turned on her video camera, which is why she was able to capture one of the best videos ever. The four on top of the truck were excited to see the lioness, but they had been told there was also a lion. As they pondered his whereabouts, they heard a growl and their eyes flicked to see Artie the lion (as he was named by Jacque to protect him from Brett) leaping out of the tall grass right next to the lioness... toward our happy crew who were still perched on top of the truck, with nothing between them and the agitated lion who was less than thirty feet away.

Someday, maybe you’ll get to see the video of this event. Until then, you can just fill in your own conversation following the lion’s emergence from the grass. Needless to say, lots of pictures were taken, and footage that will make anyone laugh (and maybe some cry) was taken and now rests on our narrator’s computer. At one point, a truck came and blocked the road to escape, panicking our brave friends, but they survived the ordeal and lived happily ever after.


Author’s Note: This story is true. No names have been changed to protect identities, because there would be no fun in that.

I enjoyed our safari immensely and will always remember it as one of the super-cool things that teaching missionary children in Africa has allowed me to experience. I loved watching the sun rise and set from the top of the truck, and I loved seeing God’s beautiful creation without the confines of cages. I’ve always loved the zoo, and I always will- safari was no substitute for the joy of going to the zoo. However, it was an amazing opportunity that was thrilling in a completely different way that will always be a part of me. Yay safari!!

I hope your Christmas festivities were full of joy and family and amazingness, and that your new year is blessed.