Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
Vacation Part I: Rabat -> Kandern, Germany.
I spent Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, and his sister and her husband who live in Kandern. It was a really great week. The first thing I did when I got to their house was eat bacon. Then I slept a lot and laid around in my pajamas enjoying a heated house. For the first time in a month and a half, I wasn't freezing inside the house! That was a very, very nice feeling. That week we ate a lot, played a lot of games, went hiking, and took a day trip to Christmas markets in France.
We took a hike on Christmas day and saw little beautiful things like this
and big beautiful things like this.
A Christmas market in France
Vacation Part II: Kandern -> Salzburg -> Munich
Salzburg was amazing. It's one of my favorite cities now. It was small, beautiful, tasteful, and romantic. It wasn't crazy and busy and over the top touristy like a lot of big European cities are. It was a really nice place to spend a few days. It was so, so beautiful. It wasn't just the city, with the incredible old architecture and the castle and the river running right through it, it was also the backdrop of picturesque mountains which surround Salzburg in every direction. And the best part was that I got to see a bunch of the places where the Sound of Music was filmed! We also went skiing one day outside of the city, but let's just say the slopes were a little too hard for some of us.
Me and my amazing sis in Salzburg
A couple dancing to live music
The gazebo from the Sound of Music
On the way to Munich we went to Cinderella's castle, which is also the castle that the Disney castle is based on. We didn't go inside, but it was pretty cool to see it.
Munich was really nice. My favorite part about it was that there were dogs everywhere: on the street, in stores, and in restaurants, places you would never see a dog in the U.S. They were all well behaved and wonderful. I'm getting a dog as soon as I possibly can. I didn't take any pictures in Munich because I was tired of lugging around my big camera and huge lenses with me everywhere by this time. But we went to some museums, ate good food, walked around a lot, saw a couple movies, and did other touristy things.
I don't remember what this was called but it was in Munich and it was pretty.
Vacation Part III: Munich -> Cairo
I hadn't exactly planned what I was going to do after Europe, but I realized I didn't want to spend two weeks alone in Morocco, so my wonderful parents bought me a ticket to stay with Kristen and Robert in Cairo for the remaining two weeks of my vacation. I had to fly back to Casablanca and fly to Cairo from there, and the six hours I spent in Morocco made me so glad I didn't have to go back for two more weeks. I bought a salad at the airport, and then after hunting for a fork for about five minutes, was informed that there were none. So I ate the salad with my hands. Then I walked back and forth between the two terminals about three times because I was really tired and started out looking for Terminal 2, but then forgot which terminal I was looking for and thought I must be looking for Terminal 1 because I couldn't find Terminal 2. But no, I needed Terminal 2, and the lady at the Royal Air Maroc thought I was crazy because I came back and asked her the same exact question I had asked 15 minutes earlier. This whole time I was sweating profusely because I was lugging around my huge, stuffed, extremely heavy packpacking pack, my stuffed, heavy school backpack, and my camera case. Moral of this little story, in case you ever fly out of Casablanca, Terminal 2 is really hard to find. Just follow the yellow line on the floor. Anyway, six hours later, at 1am, I finally was on my flight to Cairo. I had already eaten dinner and all I wanted to do was sleep, but the flight attendant was not ok with that. She kept waking me up and insisting I eat. Oh, Morocco. I love you but sometimes I hate you.
Cairo sure isn't Europe, but it was wonderful to be in Kristen and Robert's nice big apartment, have a full kitchen stocked with American ingredients, and cook, sleep, watch movies, and take stand up showers to my heart's content. The best part was Stella, their dog. Stella and I had a two week love affair and leaving her was very, very hard. She was a street dog that they saved, and she is the most precious ball of white and orange and brown fur that ever was.
You can't get any cuter than this
One of my favorites
Stella and I
I've been back at school in Rabat for the past week. It's back to an ovenless kitchen, curtainless showers, and a heaterless house. But it's really great to be back with my host family and in my own room. I bought a beautiful houseplant for the room this weekend and put up all the posters I had bought last semester but never got around to putting up. It's a lot more homey now. My baby sister is as cute as ever. God is good. The end.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." - Kahlil Gibran
The beauty of this earth is a reflection of the One who is always good, even when bad things happen.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
- Habakkuk 3:17-18
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Anyone who has known me in the past two years knows that I love Invisible Children and strongly believe in their mission to stop the longest running war in Africa. For the past 25 years, the LRA has been kidnapping children, brainwashing them, forcing them to kill their family in some instances, and enlisting them in the rebel army ranks. The LRA terrorizes innocent civilians in four different central African nations with impunity.
Invisible Children has told the world about these atrocities and has gotten millions of young people excited about stopping injustice in central Africa. I would probably be on a very different path in life were it not for Invisible Children. I have made so many wonderful friends and have had some incredible experiences because of IC and the work I have done in support of their mission.
So when I criticize this organization, it’s not because I don’t deeply believe in their cause. But as I have been putting more and more thought into the images and sound bytes and methodologies that I see encouraged by IC, I have been wondering if the effects are always productive.
What provoked this post is one of the publicity stunts that Invisible Children is currently promoting. An IC employee, Timmy Harris, is locking himself in a cage until 2 million dollars are raised for the Protection Plan. He’s making a sacrifice for something he believes in, and that’s great. Now, I don’t like how much emphasis IC has been putting on the amount of money they raise for the Protection Plan, but I can definitely respect someone with a different opinion about that (and that’s more of an over arching ideological problem about Western organizations doing development in Africa). The money part is not my main problem with what this guy is doing. What I don’t like is that the tagline for this stunt is #FreeTimmy.
For those who don’t know, #Free_____ hash tags are currently trending on twitter for all the bloggers and activists who are being or have been unjustly arrested and held in Arab countries (particularly Egypt and Syria). These jailed activists represent the struggle for justice and accountability and democracy in the Arab world. They have been beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and tried in illegitimate military courts. These are the activists who have been jailed, not killed. Those who have been killed in uprisings since last December number in the tens of thousands.
The #FreeTimmy hash tag trivializes the significance of the #FreeAlaa, #FreeMaikel, #FreeRazan, and #FreeMona hash tags. I know that Timmy is raising money to stop injustice in central Africa. But he should not be comparing himself to those who are being held against their will, tortured, and sexually assaulted, regardless of what he is raising money for. Terrible atrocities are ongoing in both Arab countries and central Africa. But these are two different situations. What Timmy Harris is experiencing is much, much different from what Alaa Abd El-Fatah, Maikel Nabil, Razan Ghazzawi, and Mona Eltahawy have experienced or are experiencing. Invisible Children and Timmy Harris should find another tagline for this campaign that is both catchy and respectful.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
A poor sheet awaiting his fate.
The past couple weeks have been really hard. Initially after I got back from fall break it was so wonderful to be back in Rabat, but those feelings faded as soon as I got back into the grind of classes. I thought I had adjusted to life in Morocco weeks ago, but I’ve been feeling even more out of place and homesick than I did when I thought I was at the low point of culture shock. I miss Tuscaloosa and everyone there so much (and a few people in Huntsville, too).
Certain things about the culture here are just so hard to get used to. Yesterday I forgot I needed to get home for lunch by 12:15 since that’s when the men start overflowing from the mosque for Friday prayers and blocking the entrance to my apartment building. I decided to try to get home at 12:30 anyways, and as I walked up my street and saw rows of men already lined up on the prayer mats spanning the whole length of my apartment building, I got so incredibly angry. I had been sick the day before, so I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning. I was hungry, hot, and tired, and all I wanted was to go home and eat lunch with my family. But Friday prayer trumps all in this dominantly Muslim country, and for those few moments I just wanted to storm through all the stupid men who were so rude to keep me from getting in or out of my house every single Friday afternoon. It wouldn’t be that hard for them to leave a path to my door so that I and all the other people in the building who don’t pray can have access to our houses. I stormed off to the grocery store which is the normal getaway for Katherine and I when this happens. I did my grocery shopping and impatiently waited for prayers to be over. When I finally could go home, I was still mad. I walked up to the door of my apartment building, and the men were leaving but they hadn’t taken away the giant prayer mats yet. I knew that walking on the mats (with shoes on) is incredibly disrespectful, and I thought for a split second about asking the men who were standing around to move it. But one, I already felt (as usual) very self conscious wading through hundreds of religious men as an obviously non Muslim foreign woman, and two, the thought of asking the men who I already had a grudge against to move the stupid mat that, in my opinion, shouldn’t have been there preventing me from going home in the first place was just too much for my ego to take. So I walked across it and got some very dirty looks and mutterings.
But honestly, the hardest part about Eid was that it reminded me so much of Thanksgiving and Christmas that I got really depressed thinking about how I’m going to miss celebrating those holidays at home with my family and friends. I was at my host grandparent’s house for two days with a bunch of relatives who didn’t speak English for Eid, watching sheep be killed, then eating the weirdest organs, and no one really talked to me until the afternoon of the second day when I made friends with my host cousins.
I know that a lot of people would give a lot to be where I am right now. People think I’m brave, living the dream, and having the time of my life. But I think so often how much I would love to just be in Tuscaloosa this semester, living at Jamestown, tending a little vegetable garden in the backyard and some flowers in the front yard, being on leadership in RUF and worshipping with my church family every Sunday at Riverwood. But if I was in Tuscaloosa, I would be complaining about how boring my life is, and thinking how much I want to go discover the world and do something exciting. It’s all a matter of perspective.
What I came to remember last night and this morning is that I’m not here by chance. I’m here in this city, with this program, living with this family and this roommate, at this time, for a reason. My Lord and Savior didn’t live a perfect life and die a perfect sacrificial death to redeem me so that I could just live life randomly, doing what I feel like, with no purpose. I’m here for a reason. Living in Morocco has ended up being harder than I planned, but that doesn’t mean it was a mistake. I miss my friends, my family, and my church, but the Lord is providing me with new friends, new family, and a new church. The Lord is using these experiences to teach me more about Him, to mold me more into His likeness, to make me long for Him even more, and for other reasons that I may never understand. And even when I feel like a miserable excuse for a Christian (which has been a lot lately), I can still rest assured that when God looks at me, He sees Jesus. And even though I don’t really believe this most of the time, I know that God is using me as I am, right now, in all of my shortcomings, failures, and depression for His purposes. I don’t have to be a better person for Him to use me. I don’t have to pretend that I’m not as messed up as I actually am, or try to convince other people that my life as a Christian is all nice and fuzzy. I am a very messed up person, but because of the work of Jesus, I am salt and light, right now, as I am, no exceptions.