Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When I'm With You (Song of the Week)

Hello People,
Its Tuesday again in Telmar and that means its time for the Song of the Week!  This week's song of the week goes out to Hazel.  Recently, Hazel and I have been playing a potentially record breaking game of Freeze Out.  Remember rolling down windows as a kid to see who would get cold and roll them back up first?  Thats what we've been doing the past few weeks, but the car is our apartment and the window is our heater.  In honor of that, here is a great summery song for a cold winter's day.  

Song of the Week
Best Coast-When I'm With You

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Hot Water At Ten and If It Rains A Closed Car At Four

Hello People,

And a very merry post-Thanksgiving to all of you.  I hope that your Thanksgiving found you surrounded by friends and loved ones.  Hazel and I found out this Thanksgiving how hard holidays can be away from family.  That is not to say that we were entirely miserable or to request your sympathy, but living in a foreign country during the Holidays can be difficult.  It made me fully appreciate the family that we have left in the States, the football, the Asparagus Casserole, and the delight of entering the Christmas season collectively.  

With that being said, we have a wonderful loving God who, despite my best efforts at doom and gloom, never ceases to amaze me with His goodness.  Hazel and I have been married for going on four years now.  Four wonderful years of driving each other batty and loving every minute of it.  I remember when I met Hazel. She was sitting in the coffee shop of a local church.  Actually, I remember the first time I ever saw Hazel.  My family had not yet moved to her home town and it was nowhere near a done deal that we would be moving there, but there we were looking around and there she was on a poster for the local Youth Group. I specifically remember thinking when I saw that poster, "Yeah, I could move here." When I met her a few months later in the coffee shop, there she was, this shy pretty girl.  I loved that.  Anyone who has met me will know that I talk enough for two people so maybe it was just natural that I would gravitate toward a person who didn't feel the need to let slip every passing thought.  We barely spoke then, but I remember it vividly.  

A little while later found me scrambling toward my favorite back left corner seat of a big van (the perfect spot for sleeping) heading to do block parties in Miami and who was sitting on the same row opposite from me?  This same quiet girl.  I think we may have carried on about three conversations during that whole 12-14 hour bus ride uninterrupted, but I saw her.  I was amazed by her, quite honestly.  Here was a girl who didn't need to be loud, who seemed to be actually genuinely bashful and who could devour books with the same enjoyment that made me listen to OK Computer and think, "Yes. This is it!"  And I thought, this is an individual that I want to know.  I won't deny the attraction, but it was not just attraction that made me want to get to know her.  I was fascinated.  Here was a girl who seemed to be seeking God's will and not just her way, which was something that I had not seen very much before.  And she was so shy that for the next week we barely talked.  I resorted to leaning over with a pen one evening during supper at a restaurant and scribbling a silly note on her paper placemat.  For the rest of the week I think thats all we did, just scribble notes and pass them back and forth.  

I remember a big moment in my life, maybe the big moment in my life came when we got back from that trip and she came to tell me goodbye.  I think it was then that it hit me just how much I liked this girl.  I had a sort of crisis then.  I remember thinking, "She's leaving for college in a few weeks.  Just be her friend."  I imagined seeing her every so often when she came home from school; the conversations held between rows of seats at church smiling and thinking of what might have been and then that inevitable day that she would bring someone back with her.  My mind's reaction to this imaginary friend was not polite.  There was this big moment, very much a sort of "Prufrock" moment of asking myself, "Do I dare disturb the universe?" when I told myself, "Chances are she will break your heart."  I remember so clearly the realization that if I didn't go for it, if I didn't disturb the universe, my heart was going to be broken anyway. 

Now here we are, six years later.  We manage to talk a little more now.  We are no longer restricted to silly puzzles scribbled on random bits of paper though we still have those papers, all of them, and pull them out occasionally to remember.  Three years of marriage and I am so very grateful. I am grateful to a loving Father who loves me enough to send His son and to give me a life abundant.  I am thankful that God thinks enough of me to send that quiet, shy, pretty girl to love me and to be loved by me.  

This year is stretching us in ways that I don't think that we could have imagined being stretched.  We are far from family, as I said, during the holidays, and yet God has provided us with family here as well.  Hazel and I hosted our first Thanksgiving celebration of our own this year.  Who would have thought that six years after meeting, Hazel and I would be living in Telmar and hosting a Thanksgiving feast with families from the U.K and Korea in our home? Yet here we were.  And you know what? It was wonderful.   What an amazing loving God we have!  Let us thank God every day for His infinite blessings that, even in the midst of trials, are so much greater than we could ever deserve or desire.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Song of the Week

Hello Peoples,
Its the Song of the Week!  This weeks song of the week is by Bob Dylan and this version is played by The Band. I especially identify with the line "Oh to be back in the world of Coca-Cola!"  Enjoy.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

When I Paint My Masterpiece
The Band

Saturday, November 19, 2011

They Wash Their Feet In Soda Water

Hello People,

I have set off on a long and arduous quest. A quest that may be the end of me, so great is its importance and the level of its difficulty. And, you should feel privileged, because of its intensity I will be chronicling the whole journey here.  Let me explain.

I am a gum chewer.  There, I've said it.  I love gum.  But I'm not just any gum chewer.  I'm a thinking gum chewer. Thats right, the Scarecrow needed a brain; I need gum. Yes, I need gum like smokers need cigarettes. Without it I get jittery and can't think well.  But with it, Ah what wonders!  Now, what does this have to do with anything? You may well ask that question, and here I will answer it.  I am also a very picky gum chewer.  I dislike sugary gum.  I detest fruit flavored gum.  I'm not even a fan of some of the milder mint flavors.  Juicy fruit is no good.  Double mint is right out.  Even pepper mint gum is pushing the edge for me.  No, the only gum for me is Orbit Sweet Mint.

Oh the taste of Orbit.  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I could chew a pack a day and die a happy man.  And therein lies the problem.  I have relocated to Telmar, home of the Telmarines, a vast and noble people the stores of whom do not sell Orbit.    This leaves me with the difficult and incredibly unwanted task of having to find a suitable replacement for the gum I left behind.  So get ready for a pointless and potentially boring set of posts in which I will share with you my findings about Telmarine gum.



First Subject:  Vivident
Flavor: Mint?
Shape: Cube
Key ingredient: Xylit
Assessment: Two Big Thumbs Way way down.  This gum tastes like...wait, the flavor didn't last long enough for me to find out.  Plus, I'm more than a little bit suspicious of anything besides Coca-Cola with ingredients as odd sounding as Xylit.  The square shape didn't help either.  Nobody likes a square.




In other news, last  Friday Hogwarts School for Gifted Youngsters hosted its semi-annual Parent Teacher Conferences.  For those of you who teach in the states, let me go ahead and dispel any misconceptions that will come from the term "Parent Teacher Conference."  This was not an evening or day wasted with not a parent showing up. This was an intensive day of sitting at a table for almost every parent to show up and talk about their child.  I think I may have only been slightly more nervous about my first day of teaching.  In the end it was great though, if puzzling.  I never imagined that I would have parents coming to me and asking if their students should be reading books about history at home.  Another parent informed me that I should make my class harder (I have seventh graders reading passages from John Locke!).  8:30-3:00 was a long time spent of talking with parents, but it was good.  It reminded me very strongly that I am blessed to be able to work in a school such as this one and to live in the area where I am living. What a passion I have for teaching these students and what a wonderful gift that I would be used for this purpose.  I was reading over an old journal entry recently and found this -

 For possibly the first time in my life I began to understand the severe challenge of being the “light of the world” and a “city on the hill” (Matt 5:14).  There can be no hiding or blending in when you contain light and live in a dark time.  As shocking as this realization was, I honestly believe that this is how God intended it to be.  Are we, the children of the light, meant to live together in our own secluded brightness?  I think not.  We are meant to go into the darkness.  For this reason it was written, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119: 105).  David, the man after God’s own heart realized that he was not called to stay in the safety of light and likeness.  He was called into the darkness to be led by, and dependent on, God’s own light.  With that in mind, I suppose my fears of the future should probably fade.  It seems possible that staring into a black void is where I'm supposed to be, and maybe what I'm supposed to do is to plunge right in.

That was written on the 7th of May this year.  Little did I know at the time that exactly a week later I would get a message asking me, "How do you feel about Telmar?"  We never know the next step, and isn't that beautiful?  I love that about God.  Often times that is my greatest frustration, but its a really beautiful thing. 

 I'd like to leave you with a passage shared with me by Fortescue that I will revisit later for those of you who are signed up for the newsletter. Being here, this passage has come to mean more and more to me over the last few weeks.  In this week of Thanksgiving in the States (and the homes of those from the States), let us not forget those who continually persevere in their faith in Christ.

Psalm 16
Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing." I say of the holy people who are in the land, "They are the noble ones in whom is my delight."

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Know There's Sunshine Behind That Rain

Hi. I am Hazel Strange (although if you wanted to call me Nancy Strange I wouldn't mind).  I must say that I have first post jitters. I have been thinking and thinking about what to write about for the first post so much that I have completely over thought it.  In the future I would love to write about the food, people, places etc. but for the first post I am just going to do a little bit of everything.

Lately I have started to look for things I am thankful for and I have realized how wonderful little and big things are and how they make every day blessed. So here is a list of things I have been thankful for lately with pictures and explanations that will give a glimpse of our new life. (The list is in no particular order.)

Sunny days-  It rains. A lot. Sunny days are days to get out, explore, and remember when it gets all gloomy and rainy.

Waffles on Sundays (or any day for that matter)- It is a type of dessert street food here.  I love getting a thin layer of dark chocolate and bananas. Yum!  Mr. Strange has choir practice after church on Sundays for an hour so I usually have lunch while I am waiting. I am not brave enough to try the fish sandwiches like Mr. Strange so I have waffles instead! This is a picture of the street on which our church is located.  I usually get a waffle near here.

Pogaca- Every Monday a couple sells chocolate pogacas at the school and I love them!!! It is sort of like a dinner roll but with a tiny bit of chocolate that is just amazing! I do spend a minute knocking off the seeds from the top but it is worth it! One week I was sick on a Monday and I had to wait a whole other week to get a pogaca! It was a tragedy. This is a picture of my desk at the school.

New to me shoes- The school holds a swap shop once or twice a year and it just happened.  It is like a yard sale. People can earn money while getting rid of stuff so you find stuff you need cheap! The school gets a portion so it is also a great fundraiser.  I might have come so close to swallowing peanut butter cookies that my throat got scratchy, but all in all in was a huge success for me. I found new shoes, a scarf and khaki pants (a size down from what I normally wear, yipee!) that I desperately needed. The shoes are not as gray as they look in the picture.

Language- My language tutor said that I am catching on really quickly! This is so encouraging because I feel like a dunce in language. This is a picture of the area where I go to meet my language tutor.  I thought is was an interesting picture because it looks like the couple on the bench is having a "where is this relationship going" heart to heart.

Dishwasher- The first dishwasher we have had as a couple has been wonderful.  We have hosted two parties/events with 9 people over one time and 11 (all women, sorry Mr. Strange) the other time.  Clean up was so easy with a dishwasher!  It is trivial but I always wanted to have a dishwasher.  We only had to go halfway around the world and the Lord provided it when we least expected it.  I kind of see it as a blessing that keeps blessing. I enjoy having large numbers of people over and hosting things, and the dishwasher takes the pressure of clean up away. Especially when you have so many people over that you use every plate, bowl, and mug you have. This is a picture of our living room right after we hosted a birthday party.  The balloons might or might not still be up today.

Dryer- It is not normal to have a dryer here but we have one!  The festival of sacrifices was going on which meant that there were mini farms everywhere. Well, until the sacrifices began and then there was blood everywhere.  So for a month there was a strong stench that permeated everything and since we can dry our clothes in the dryer, our clothes do not smell like animals. The tents above are where they kept the animals. 


Mr. Strange-  Being in a male dominated country has made me really appreciate my husband even more for who he is and everything he does.  The men do not normally spend a lot of time at home but Mr. Strange actually wants to spend time with me! Even if that means helping clean (which he does without complaining) cooking together, going on walks, stopping by my desk at least once a day to talk, everything.  He even memorized where the animal slaughtering was happening so he could make sure I didn't see it.  It might have been self-preservation though.  I think he knew if I saw the animals being killed we might end up with spared cow in our apartment.  He has had the majority of ideas that have really made our apartment feel like home by moving stuff around.  He is also so considerate of how men view women here and will take care of things that I am not fully comfortable doing alone.  At the same time he knows how to push me out of my box and help me do things I would not normally have the courage to do.  I cannot imagine ever being on this adventure without him.



Monday, November 14, 2011

In the Mountains, There You Feel Free

Hello Peoples,
Its Tuesday again in Telmar and its time for the Song of the Week!  

Pyramid Song-Radiohead

video
This week's Song of the Week, as shown above, is by Radiohead and is entitled Pyramid Song.  Its a really beautiful song and, as is becoming usual on this site, is set to footage of traveling.  I really love this song.  The lyrics:
I jumped in the river and what did I see?
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
All the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

I jumped into the river
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
All the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

all about time, time passing, and everything spinning around in it remind me of T.S. Eliot, as everything seems to be reminding me these days.  In the section of Four Quartets, which I still have not gotten my fingers on by the way, Burnt Norton Eliot writes,

Time present and time past
Are both present in time future, 
And time future contained in time past,
If all time is eternally present
All time is irredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been 
Point to one end, which is always present.

You can't imagine the time I'm having with this passage.  I consider my mind officially blown.  Every time I feel that I've gotten my head around what Eliot is saying, I lose it and revert back to my original state of perpetual flummoxation? Flummoxity?..  Being flummoxed.  Perhaps reinforcing what Eliot has been saying to me all along?  Hmmm....

You will notice  one or two things if you sit down and watch this video. You may even notice a few things, but lets not get carried away.  The first thing that you may notice is that I like videoing from moving vehicles.  This may or may not be true. You may also notice that bus travel is boring. This is definitely true.  If you reach this conclusion, congratulate yourself and pat yourself on the back. This leads me to another point.  You may have  had the mistaken impression, as I once had, that the ipod was invented for your car stereo or your morning jog.  If so, you are wrong.  The ipod was invented for long, monotonous, commutes on busses.  With the ipod, I enjoy these trips.  Without the ipod...

The second thing you may notice is actually a set of things. One (1) there are a lot of walls. Walls without, walls within, and walls for the spaces in between.   Two (2) you can't make out the faces.  That is on purpose.  I'm sorry folks, I don't want to be creepy.  The impression that this creates however, seems to me to be fairly true to the foreigners experience in a new country. Welcome to life as an "alien in a foreign land."  This is life in Telmar through my eyes.  Telmar, where despite the beauty and the friendliness of the people surrounding you, you will find yourself alone.  Alone in a sea of humanity and unable to speak to anyone around you.  This is the big struggle right now.  I took it for granted, being able to make small talk with the cashier or person in line with me.  I don't take it for granted anymore.  But enough of that.  Enjoy the song and have a great week everyone.  Oh and if you can think of me while you sleep Friday, we have parent-teacher conferences so wish me luck and a safe journey through these coming perils.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marie, Marie, Hold On Tight

Hello Peoples,

I want you to look at the picture below and just try to tell me that it doesn't sound like an amazing place.
Yes, there is a place in the world called Batman.  I hope to visit there at some point in my life.  I don't expect loads of caped heroes walking around (at least in daylight) but all the same, I may be a little disappointed if there aren't any.  

I'd like to welcome you to the first installment of "A(n uncommon) Day in  the Life" where we will be highlighting the not so common days that Hazel and I actually get to go and sight see.  As these days aren't as common as you may think, hence the name, the posts about them won't be all that often.  I hope you enjoy it. 

Last week was two days long.  The previous weekend, by comparison, was 5 days long.  This is because last week was Kurban Bayram, the Holiday of Sacrifice.  Yes, there was sacriice.  Right there on the side of the road.  While we didn't participate in the more "cultural" moments of the holiday, it was nevertheless very nice to have the time off to catch a breath after our first quarter of school was completed. Mostly, Hazel and I rested in our apartment  (aka completely rearranged it) but we did do a little sight seeing.  Possibly the most exciting discovery was this....
...the Virgin Megastore right down the street from church!  Woo hoo!  I still couldn't find T.S. Eliot there though so it wasn't a complete success.  I've been on the hunt for any copy of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets for the past few weeks and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I have come out empty handed.  

The more interesting thing, from your perspective, that we saw was perhaps the stronghold of Helm's Deep pictured below.
 
Ah, Helm's Deep.  It was a very pretty place, once we got past the french man insulting us from the top of the walls.  The Telmarines built this fortress and one like it across the Great River during their seige of Calormene in the 1500s.  It was erected in a manner of months, which considering how long its taken for the Occupy rallies to not accomplish anything (aside from TB that is), is quite an accomplishment.  
Above is a view of the Great River from Helm's Deep.  Before they were defeated. the local Galefreians (who were here before) built a large chain that stretched across the entire body of water seen, to keep the ships out.  Sections of this chain are now present at the fort as a sort of trophy.  Yes, I touched it. 


This is some guy, I don't know who, trying to look like he was calmly gazing out over the Great River, while he was actually shaking in his boots because of the dizzying heights and lack of railing on the steep, narrow stairways.  
This is the wall which overlooks the Great River.  You can see the Second Great River Bridge in the background.  Apparently it is not a good idea to stand on and look out over the edge.  Take it from me, Mr. Strange, the guards don't really approve of that.  


Would you believe that the area of the fort pictured above is, I think, the most nature I have seen since I've been here?  Last but not least is the picture below.  


If I'm not mistaken, thinking that he was going to his doom, Theoden King rode forth from that very door to ride down upon the orcs in Helm's Deep. Yes, I have seen where history happened. 






Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The River Sweats Oil and Tar


video
 Hello Peoples,
It has been a little while since I've written here.  I've been busy and I've had a lot on my mind.  I was going to write a post something like this one last week, but I just couldn't get enough distance to be able to express myself well.  I've been ruminating on the following passage all week in my devotions. 

2 Cor. 6 (Selected Excerpts)
What fellowship can light have with darkness?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  


I love this passage.  Honestly, I hadn't thought of it in a long time until the pastor of the church where we are attending mentioned it in his sermon last Sunday.


Recently I have been thinking a lot about holiness and finding fulfillment.  Somehow I've always either gotten the two confused or looked toward the "next step" in order to find them.  This has always been the wrong move. I've been struggling with the questions of what goodness is and how to find fulfillment.  Sad to say, I thought I had the answers fairly pieced together the other day at breakfast, but found them shattered by lunch.


This latest bout with self reflection started when my father, God bless Him, sent me a great email reminding me to find my rest in the Lord; a rest that I have neglected to find lately.  This got me thinking about  how wrapped up I've been in going and doing, rather than just being.  But I get ahead of myself.  
My self peace was further disturbed this week by the words of two very different artists, Doug Martsch and T.S. Eliot.

In Death By Water,  a section of his poem The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot writes the following about poor Phlebus.
  
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead, 
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss
A current under sea 
Picked his bones in whispers.  As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth 
Entering the whirlpool
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look back to windward
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and 
tall as you.

I've literally been reading nothing but this passage over and over again for the past week.  Phlebas, who spent his life on profit and loss, who was once so handsome, is now, like all of the rest of us will be, dead.  And what have his toils earned him?  What has he gained now from his life of work?  Nothing. He now withers away and fades.  Phlebas went, Phlebas did, and it has done him no good.  It has not changed his fate or the nature of it in the slightest.  All men will age, all men will die, and all men will slowly fade away.


In his song, When Not Being Stupid is Not Enough, (on the Built to Spill/Caustic Resin EP for those of you who want to know) Doug Martsch sings

In a world thats so bad its not hard to feel good
You do what you have to, not as much as you should
Just because you're not wrong 
Doesn't mean that you're right

Leave it to Doug Martsch, a man who claims not to pay any attention to the lyrics of his songs, to mess up my whole screwed up sense of self.  And how true these words ring! 
 I, and I think this is symptomatic of all of us at times, have become obsessed with the going and doing for the going and doing's sake.  I have, in effect, been constructing my own crown out of my own good works and rightness.  But am I right?  Am I good?  I may (and that is debatable) be better than some, but to what end?  What of my own good here will change the ultimate end?  And even could I be better than others, it would in no way make me right. No, to find out our goodness we must measure ourselves to a constant scale; a right scale.  When we do that we will find one thing.  No amount of being good compared to the world can make us to actually be good.  There is no way that we can measure up and holding ourselves to the ultimate scale will do nothing but show us our own inherent lack of goodness. 


And isn't this liberating?  Quite honestly, I've never had a realization so refreshing as this one. The very fact that we cannot of ourselves be good leaves us with no other choice but to rest in the goodness of our God.