Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Photos from Birthday in Germany

Here are some photos on Facebook of my day in Germany

Video of orphans singing

I've been showing friends this video I took at the orphanage I'm invovled with and people seem to LOVE it, so I thought I'd post it on the House of Hope blog.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Free Passport photos

Hey! Need an ID photo? Check out You can save digital passport photos to your computer and get them printed for the normal price of like 20 cents! Yay! Passport photos are normally so ugly and expensive! Or you can do wallets of your kids or whatever. Just upload a photo, choose the format you need, crop it how you want, and download it! It's great!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Alternative Xmas and Year-End Giving

Hello from iced over Salem, OR! Are you too stuck inside unable to complete your Christmas shopping? Or looking for a way to give away more money and not pay so many taxes? Consider giving to the House of Hope in Brazzaville, Congo. We'd really love to make a sizeable down payment on a new house for the orphanage by the end of the month. For more information see the blog about the project.

Merci beaucoup to all the precious people who have already donated! May God bless you!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You Crazy Americans

Whenever I come home after an extended time in another country it's fun to do a little anthropology on my own culture. Here's a few quick observations I've made so far...

--Rushing, rushing, rushing! Sheesh people! No body's rushed me in over a year, so I'm a little befuddled by all this hurrying and scurrying and worrying about being 5 minutes late. In Congo you say you'll be somewhere at say 10. But 10 is 10 until 10:59, so you can be almost an hour late and not be late at all!

--I'm not used to the kind of interpersonal relations we get with servers here. My waitress tells me her name and asks how I am! Congolese waitresses, a la francaise, kind of look like you're bothering them when they have to come take your order. Americans are hyper friendly when it comes to customer service.

--America is fat. Sorry folks, them's the facts. I'm used to twiggy Congolese bodies. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out why...we eat JUNK!!! When was the last time you actually had several servings of fresh fruits and veggies in a day? The Congolese diet isn't healthy either (sometimes the fish is actually floating in palm oil, the veggies are cooked to death and also floating in oil, fruit although it's falling off the trees all around isn't eaten much). But in our little missionary community I think we eat exceptionnally well--cooking from scratch, using lots of fresh fruit and veg, avoiding expensive snack foods, eating a lot of well-rounded home cooked meals. There are perks to the missionary life!!

--You can get stuff done here. Going to the PO isn't a major event like it is in Congo. You can get a week's grocery shopping done in an hour at just one store. The indoor temperature is perfectly adjusted for optimal comfort and productivity. I can get just about anywhere I want to go in my town in 15 minutes in my very own car. Woowee!!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Oregon doesn't usually get good snow. Just slush. But this week's been great! I decided to be snowed in with my sister and her family, so we're having fun!
I planned on staying one night and now it's been 4! One change of clothes...Fun times!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Mandolin...coming soon to Jessica's repertoire

So this is the funny story of why I will soon be playing the mandolin. A couple of months ago during a 40 day period I’d set aside to seek the Lord, I had the idea that a fun adventure when I come home on furlough would be to take up the mandolin. I confess I know virtually nothing about this instrument but the key factor was that I knew my brother had one. My mom had the inspiration to give him one for Christmas a few years back, but I’m not sure its strings have ever been plucked. I emailed my mom and she got Casey to locate his mandolin, and he went and pulled it out of the warehouse for me.

I don’t know the first thing about mandolin-playing so I also asked my mom to find me a teacher. Where do you go to take mandolin lessons? My mom just happens to be in the middle of working on a music project with a young man, and she was like, “Hey, he plays a lot of instruments, I’ll ask him.” Sure enough, he teaches mandolin! What are the odds? So I don’t know where this experience is going to lead me, probably not to Carnegie Hall, but I think it will be fun and who knows, maybe I’ll find a new passion and a way to express myself! It would be cool if I could use it to lead worship or to play with my Congolese musician friends. Yeehaw!

How God Gave Me a Car

This is the amazing story of God giving me a car. Since He apparently wants me to have this car, I’m looking forward to seeing how He uses it in my life!

I’m going on a 3 month furlough starting in December. When I return to Congo in March 2009 I will be transitioning to a new assignment helping people use Scriptures in a local language here. When I was talking with my future supervisor about this work she asked if I would be able to obtain a vehicle. I’ve never wanted to have a car here since public transport and walking are so convenient and having a car is expensive and troublesome, but for traveling around the region for my work next year, public transport probably won’t cut it. I said I figured I could ask my partners and raise the funds if a vehicle was really necessary.

The NEXT DAY, I was driving along with some friends and I realized that they would be leaving Congo soon for a different assignment. “Are you going to be taking your car with you?” I asked. “No, we’re going to sell it or give it to a mission.” “You could sell or give it to me!” I said.

I decided not to say anything else about the car but just prayed. Two days later I got an email from my friend saying they were getting lots of offers for their car but that they would like to sell it to me if I wanted it. After reading the email I went on some errands and was praying about the car and composing a letter in my mind to some prayer partners asking for their advice. Not finding what I was looking for, I decided to stop in a little shop before heading home and there in the shop was my friend! She gave me a ride home in what would be my new car and we chatted about how to work out the details.

After prayer, counsel, and looking into the costs of maintaining a vehicle, I decided it was not only an offer too good to refuse, but that it was another open door from God for my work next year. It turned out to be less complicated if I just purchased the vehicle from them, rather than figuring out how to get it donated to me. But my friends decided to give me a donation for my ministry, which would give them the tax write-off they were looking for. When they wrote the check they made it out for much more than what I will pay for the car, so now I don’t even have to worry about the expenses of changing the papers or paying for insurance or maintenance or even a whole lot of fuel for the next year!

I was really touched by my friends’ generosity. The only sad part is the reason they can sell me their car is because they won’t be here anymore when I return. I look forward to telling them the stories of how God uses the car in the next year! Watch for updates on the Pathfinder’s travels in Congo :o)

PS: The photos of pushing the car were taken on our adventure with Carrie to see the gorillas. We found out after the trip that the 4-Wheel Drive wasn't actually working! We were very impressed with what the car did with just 2 wheels. Now that it's fixed they've been having even more fun driving all around!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Outta Town photos

I finally posted some photos on Facebook of my trip to a town called Ngo when my friend Carrie came to visit in July.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Orphanage needs urgent help

Hello my friends! The orphanage I've been going to for a year and a half now is in urgent need of a new house. Together we can buy them one! We're just getting it started, but check out:

Please pray that:
--People would give to the project and we'd be able to make a downpayment soon
--The owners wouldn't sell the house to someone else (they're receiving lots of offers but so far have been faithful to us)
--God would put peace in the hearts of the workers who are very stressed about the situation

You can also check out my Facebook photos of the kids.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Why I'm proud to be American today

So I'm down right grumpy about election today, but as I read about it from my perspective here in Congo I still have cause to be happy for my country. Praise God for a country whose transitions of power are without violence! Praise God for a president who telephones to congratulate the new guy, promising to make it a smooth transition and telling him to go have a good time. And praise God for an opposing candidate who sees he's been defeated and graciously promises to do all he can to help his opponent succeed in his task. I'm thankful that we don't use force to determine the outcome of our elections. It's truly amazing.

I'm also proud of America because we have shown today that truly great strides have been made in our society. What joy for little old black ladies who lived through the civil rights movement to go and vote for the very first black president. So cool. And I'm happy that an entire continent can share in this victory as well, feeling that a great thing has been done for their whole race. People lean out their car windows and shout "Obama!" as I walk down the street :o)

So there is cause to celebrate America today! I did it by taking advantage of our tax dollars and eating a complimentary breakfast at the American cultural center. I even got a little Republican notepad :o) Consolation prize I guess! I also met the new ambassador who greeted me as "Linguistica" :o) Just never know who is reading this thing!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Who I spend my time with

Meet Barb and Espérance. These are the friends I spend a big chunk of my time with. Barb lets me come over and enjoy her air-conditioned apartment and drink her cold coffee and tell my stories and listen to her godly counsel. Espérance is my Congolese confidant and my co-conspirator at the orphanage and choir. They both are like family to me and have been a big inspiration in my life and walk with God.

It's funny how age or race or background or nationality becomes irrelevant in the choice of our best friends. There's something magical about the way God brings people together. You just never know!


Heather and I met up last night to go to a friends' house and discovered we were twins! And even another girl we got together with was also wearing jeans and a black top. So 3 out of the 4 women present were dressed alike. Spooky :o) This is the outfit I've decided to wear on the plane home (unless I buy something better on my day layover in Frankfurt). Yes, I'm already compulsively planning every detail of going home and it's still 4 weeks away. Family, think we can go to the Cheesecake Factory after the airport? PS: I'm not short, Heather's just REALLY tall!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The world watches

I’ve been in northern Congo without Internet access for the past 3 weeks, so I at least have a legitimate excuse for this last blogging dearth! I figure to be a good blogger I better post something about the elections which seems to be the topic invading all of our lives, even here in Congo. I don’t have strong political persuasions (unless you count thinking that killing unborn children is a tragedy), so I’ll just give you a little rundown of what the elections look like from here.

Perched in Congo, my view of the US elections has been interesting. I feel out of touch but everyone else around me seems very clued in. I don't have a television, but every Congolese does. Not actually living on US soil, I'm not especially interested in the elections, but the rest of the world is. Today's experience was typical...

I was sitting in a restaurant with Heather licking an ice-cream cone. A man comes and sits at our table and proceeds to ask us 3 questions: Do you speak English? Will you help me learn English? Who are you voting for? When we said we weren't sure if we were voting or if we did who we would vote for, he pleaded with us to vote for Obama. I get the same request every where I go. The stranger today couldn't give us any reason for voting for him other than that it would be a change and he's black. I explained to this man that Bush was in fact the first American president to visit Africa in many a year and that he's given more aid to Africa than any previous president. Like everyone else, he didn't know that. Yet Bush is detested and Obama, solely on account of his skin, is seen as the future hope of the continent.

One night a few months ago I about fell off my chair when our rehearsal was interrupted by one of the common power cuts and a musician declared, "This wouldn't happen if Obama were president!" Wow! If a black man becomes president suddenly the problems of Congo will be solved?!!

My funniest (er, creepiest) experience regarding the election was in northern Congo where a man propositioned me, asking if we could make ‘little Obamas’ together. A Lebanese friend of mine was like, “What?! That’s so offensive. You’re a republican right? That’s political harassment!” I’m not sure if this is going to come across funny on my blog, but at the time it was hysterical.

My American readers are probably going, “Huh? This is all really crude and racist sounding.” I hesitate to post these things, but this is reality--and I got it approved by my mom first :o) I don’t think there’s any such thing as ‘color-blind’ in Africa. Maybe it doesn’t impact you and I that much to consider that a black man is running for president, but we are living in historic times and Congo knows it.

I find it fascinating how the world is following with such great interest the election of the next American president. What will his impact be on our planet? I fear many will be sorely disappointed because surely no one man can live up to the expectations of every American citizen, let alone 6 billion other people around the globe.

Still don’t know if I’ll vote. I got my absentee ballot in the mail, but I don’t know if I can get it back to the States in time. I might try to just for the sake of exercising my American rights, not because I believe any of these candidates are adequate for the task. I think my political strategy will have to be to pray really hard for whoever gets elected because he’s got an enormous job ahead of him.

“I urge, then, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savoir.” 1 Timothy 2:1-3.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Video about Bible Translation in Cameroon

My dear friend Nathan from Ireland recently led a trip to Cameroon and here's the video he put together about their trip. It's a good reminder about the power of learning to read and receiving God's Word in one's own language.

I also like the part about how the people became aware of how special they are when this team came so far just to see them. I always hope that just my simple presence here in Congo might testify to someone of God's love for them. In fact, on my recent trip up north quite a number of pastors told us that it's absolutely essential for the believers there to travel so they understand that the message of the Gospel is universal and not something someone there just made up. A young man testified in one church service: "Doesn't it mean something to you that these people came here on account of the Word of God? It must be true if it could motivate someone to come so far!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monkey opens doors

My cat is amazing. She can open all the doors in my house. The other night I even thought I saw her trying to turn the key in the lock!

New Profile Pic

Time for a new photo

Running the race

In August I attended my first marathon. It was quite the sight! I'm sure if you've seen one in Chicago or Boston you'd be quite surprised to know how it happens here in good ol' Brazzaville. First of all, the idea of running for a couple of hours, sucking all the polluted air deep into your lungs is kind of a frightening thought. Second of all nothing starts remotely on time here and it wasn't even scheduled to start until 8am. So it ended up starting after 10am. Imagine running a marathon at high noon on the equator! Yes!

Thirdly, yes, if you can see the photo, those girls are running barefoot and in socks. I'd say at least half the runners did not have footwear. Some were wearing sandals and very precious few had good running shoes. In spite all of this, my cute friend Amelia had great spirit! You go girl!

I've taken a liking to short jogs in the morning, but not sure I'll ever be ready for the Brazzaville International Marathon! When I run I always think of Romans 5:3 "We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope." When you run it feels good to work hard and persevere even when it hurts. And then you start to see results: stronger muscles, going longer distances; this is character. And then the pain to get there doesn’t seem important because you know you’re going to reach your destination; this is hope.

I love how God gives us physical metaphors to help us understand spiritual realities. The barefooted runners in the marathon were certainly symbolic of the hard working spirit of the Congolese in spite of limited resources. May God bless and strengthen the people of this country!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Check out the pics from our awesome trip to a gorilla reserve!

Also, check out the coolest news ever about gorillas in my very own little Congo.

Friday, August 15, 2008

yeah, yeah

OK, so I'm a terrible person. No bloggage in ages. Sorry people! I'm back. Here's a link to some photos on Facebook from Carrie's recent visit. She was here for 3 weeks, which partly explains my blogging silence.

No worries, much more blogging to come...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What missionaries do for fun

Last week my teammate Dana sent out this invitation:

Come de-worm with us!

Dear all,

Yes, hard to believe it’s been 6 months already, but it’s time to flush the system! Won’t you come de-worm with us? Grab your meds and join us as we celebrate the start or finish of treatment.

We’ll have a nice dinner chez nous on Wed 25 June around 6:45. All the yummy servings will have the shape and/or texture of our favorite parasite. Don’t be afraid! Just wiggle on over!

Please let us know if you can make it.

See you then.

Dana and Heather

Note the wiggly yarn garnishing the table. We ate spaghetti and green beans. Even Monkey joined in and brought her pills too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Facebook photos from June

Here are some recently uploaded photos of interviews with pastors, a BBQ, a concert, etc.

PS: My friend Carrie comes in only 20 days!!!!

"Revealed Medicine"

Last week I interviewed pastors and visited a number of parishes of a large denomination here in Brazzaville. I really enjoy this work because we get to see cool things that God is doing in this country and we get to meet wonderful people who are serving Him.

At several of the churches they mentioned their "therapy center" or their practice of "revealed medicine." At one parish they invited us to come see. These leaves and roots were arranged on the floor. We were told they are used to make tea to heal various ailments. They know which ones to use according to the inspiration God gives (although I think they also have knowledge of the healing properties of the various plants). I asked if something could be done for my eczema since it's hard to find things that help it. "Nothing is too difficult for God," they said. I was told to come back in the afternoon.

When I arrived these pots were boiling over large fires in this courtyard. It was really cool to see! Several people were sitting on a bench, presumably awaiting their treatment, while several men and women bustled around checking on the pots, taking out the roots, etc.

They called me into the office and the man who had talked to me earlier in the day presented me with a wine bottle full of the freshly brewed tea. "Take a half a glass full three times a day, " he said. "And put this oil with these crushed leaves on your skin in the morning and at night after you've bathed." He prayed for me, thanking God that I had come all the way to Africa and that I would trust my African brothers and sisters to take care of me. I think people thought it was cool that I would try their methods and have faith. He told me, "Don't put your faith in the tea. It is God who will heal you. We are the intermediaries, hearing from God what to give you for your healing." There was a really sweet spirit in the place.

So I'll have to report on how it goes. I've been taking the stuff and so far it seems like it's maybe a little worse :o) But I know that if God wants this to be the way He heals my skin that He'll do it and it will be for His glory. If not, then He has another plan.

I'm thankful that there are churches helping people in this way because pharmaceutical treatments can be so expensive. Also, many Christians are still tempted to see the fetisher when they have a problem. This is a great way for them to be able to seek help while also satisfying their need to handle problems on a spiritual level. Reminds me as well that even when I'm taking more "scientific" meds that I still need to put my faith in God and not in the pills. Ultimately He is our Healer and we can't do anything without Him. Our faith "does not rest on man's wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Corinthians 2:5)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Principles of Language Learning

Since I’ve been planning my own lessons in Laari, I’ve been dredging up from the recesses of my mind the things that I learned back in 2002 at Oregon SIL in my Language and Culture Learning class. Here are a few principles of language learning that you’ll want to apply if you’re wanting to break the great American monolingual mold.
• Get comprehensible input. I don’t know why, but when we start learning a language we want to collect long lists of words and try to memorize complicated expressions right from the start. We should begin by spending time listening to things we can understand, which often means using concrete objects. When I wanted to learn the names of different food items, I brought in a basket of food, learned the phrase “What do you call this in Laari?”, and began pointing to items and writing down their names. Then I had my consultant ask me to give him or touch different items as he called them out. Sometimes he can’t resist making it more complicated and adding in new things, but I just keep reminding him that I need to focus on what I can actually understand. Sometimes he can add new things in a comprehensible way, such as by showing me what he wants me to do as he gives the command.

• This leads us to another important principle: Total Physical Response (TPR). This means actually doing or touching the thing you are talking about. Sit down and stand up as you learn those verbs. Pick up the tomato and the onion as you memorize those words. Our brains just function better this way. Also, it allows you to associate the new vocabulary with the item or action itself, rather than with the word you know in English.

• Listen first. This is just a good principle for life in general, eh? In language learning it means hearing the words and phrases many times before you try to pronounce them. One good tool for doing this is to make recordings of the vocabulary to listen to over and over. Another way is by doing drills where you respond to commands given by your consultant. Only after hearing and recognizing words many times should you attempt to use them yourself; and you’ll be surprised how much you can say when you open your mouth the first time if you’ll really spent a good amount of time listening first.

• Another handy tool I like is to use photos. I cut out pictures from magazines, looking for different kinds of people and common actions such as someone washing their face or eating. I started by learning phrases like “This is a man,” “These are women,” “This is a girl,” etc. Then I added descriptors: “He is tall,” “There are two women,” “They are beautiful.” etc. Next I plan on describing actions in the photos (“The women are dancing”) and talking about the setting (“The girls are in the kitchen”). For verb practice you can describe the picture using different tenses (“Yesterday the women danced.”). More advanced speakers can make up stories about the photo, describing what happened before and after the present scene (“The women were tired after coming home from work, so they danced and now they feel happy.”).

Those are just a few of the principles of language learning that I have been applying and it has proven to be a fun way to study. My consultant is impressed with the method and thinks I’m learning quickly. Bon apprentissage! Happy studies!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Doo-doo's Day Card

Click to play Happy Father's Day!
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Socks, sweatshirts, and La Saison Seche

So it's the beginning of the dry season, which also happens to be the cool season. Hallelujah! The Congolese are pulling out their sweaters and scarves and winter coats. I'm not quite that bad, although I have a confession...Today I'm wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, shoes and socks. Granted, this afternoon it's feeling a bit warm, but this morning I was seriously cold!

I decided I should find out what the temperature actually is. According to Yahoo Weather it is currently 84 degrees. There's something wrong with people here, including me! But the low was 64, which you have to admit would feel really cold if you're used to 80s and 90s and 99% humidity. Today the humidity is only 62%. In any case, this means I've got problems when I go back to the States in December!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

bo betsy--hand embroidered sweetness for you!

Hey everybody, my Good Sistah Cathie Jo has started a store at ("your place to buy and sell all things handmade"). She's got some really cute embroidered items and there's a big sale going on until June 15th--free shipping within the US! Check it out here

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Someone is watching...

Hey! Check this out! I'm being watched. Better be careful what I post!

Friday, June 06, 2008

More Adventures in Language Learning

I’m learning a new language. Not that I’ve mastered Lingala already, but I’ve decided to move on to Laari because it’s the language most of my friends speak and it’s the main language where I do my marketing, so I have more opportunities to hear and use it than I do Lingala right now.

Laari is more difficult. Lingala is a trade language so it’s simpler in some ways, kind of like the grammar of English is simpler than German. Laari has more of the typical features of Bantu languages. Here are some fun things I’ve learned so far.

There are 15 noun classes, which means that a lot of words in a sentence are different depending on the class of the noun one is talking about. Just to say something like “Is there ____?” requires different forms:
Dimpa ha die? Is there bread?
Nsusu ha ye? Is there chicken?
Mbiji ha ze? Is there fish?
Loso ha lue? Is there rice?
Mungwa ha we? Is there salt?

My Lingala sometimes helps me because there are some words that are the same:
Sala: to work
Tala: to watch
Mona: to see
Loso: rice
Mafuta: palm oil

And sometimes the words are similar to what they are in Lingala and I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep the two languages separate!
Lingala: Mbisi Laari: Mbiji “fish”
Lingala: Telema Laari: Telama “to stand”
Lingala: Soso Laari: Nsusu “chicken”

When learning a language it’s always interesting to pick up on some cultural items. For example in Laari there are two words for “to lick.” One is for licking like we would an ice-cream cone and the other is just when you stick your tongue on something once. I’m like “Why do you need a word for sticking your tongue on something?” Apparently they do that a lot for when they have some salt or sugar on their hand. Not really sure of how that works just yet, but it’s important enough to have its own verb!

When my language tutor had the opportunity to teach me whatever he wanted one day (as opposed to me planning the lesson), the important expressions he wanted me to know included the commands: “Bury your spit” (like cover it up after you spit on the ground), “Wipe your mouth” and “Stop making noise.” Not exactly the first expressions I would think of to teach a beginning English speaker!

Learning local languages is fun here because people freak out and are so encouraging. You can just say a simple greeting and they’re like, “You speak my language!” My friends don’t get tired of hearing me say the same simple phrases, “I’m fine and you?”, “Until tomorrow,” etc. People also get a kick out of learning that I have a Laari name, “Mikembi.” A boy at the orphanage exclaimed, “That’s an old person’s name, like a mama who works out in the field!”

There’s a French guy here who sings with a Congolese group and speaks fluent Lingala and Laari. I heard when taxis pick him up they won’t let him pay. People all over recognize him. He’s highly revered for his adaptation to the culture, like a legendary hero. Someday…

Thursday, June 05, 2008

life mottos

So I've made a new hobby of creating personal life mottos the past couple months. They take on a sort of informal vow-like quality for me...

"Everything is better with basil." So true. With basil sold at the market for about 25 cents I've decided I should put it on and in pretty much everything I eat. And don't forget the fresh pesto!

"Never drink Nescafe." After all the great espresso in Kenya and Ethiopia, I've sworn off the stuff at our coffee breaks at the office. Why do I drink something I don't even like? No, friends don't let friends drink instant.

"Don't bother posting videos." (not really a life motto, but I need to vent) OK, so 5 stinkin' days ago I posted 3 clips. This was like a technological miracle. Where's the love? Granted, they weren't fantastic, but I was so excited to finally share my choir with everyone and what do I get? Silence. See if I post any more videos!!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A few more pics

Hey, since I've got a good connection I'm just uploading everything I can! Added a few more pics to the Facebook album. Went to an amazing concert tonight. If you like Jack Johnson, check out "Tete" who is like his French counterpart. His latest album is "Le Sacre des Lemmings." Haven't heard it yet but I'm ordering it this week.

Monkey's Theatrical Debut

This is a lame video intended for the familial audience only. I figured they'd like to meet their grandcat slash cat niece. I tried to capture Monkey Business playing with her ball. She usually does summersaults, but of course for the video she just wants to lay there. Cats.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Another video!

This was our best song at the concert last weekend. Awesome soloist!!

Above All Video

Miracles do happen...I uploaded a video to You Tube! (The miracle is I have bad Internet connection here in Brazzaville). Here's a little clip of one of my solos at our concert last weekend. My solo isn't outstanding and the choir was actually pretty bad that night, but hey, God was there and we had a ton of fun!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Facebook photos from May, Strengths Finder, etc.

Here are a few pics from the past month (including photos of Monkey Business, my new braids, my roomie Theresa, Amelia's bday party, etc.)

Life's been a blast lately. Theresa and I keep coming home at 11 or midnight. Just not enough hours in the evening for all the fun we want to have :o)

Work's been going well too. One fun project has been writing drafts of 2 papers about things I've learned from singing with my choir.

I recently took the "Strengths Finder" test in preparation for an upcoming leadership workshop in Cameroon in September. The premise is that we work best by turning our talents into real strengths (rather than emphasizing overcoming our weaknesses). Gallup compiled like 34 themes of different talents people possess. A talent becomes a strength when you invest in it through learning, practice, etc.

My top 5 themes were: Communication, Strategy, Belief, Activator, and Woo (Winning Others Over). I definitely agree with Communication because I love giving presentations and writing. Woo was cool because it says that networking is one of my talents and that's exactly what I've been working on lately. Belief I definitely resound with because I absolutely have to do work that resonates with my values or life is completely meaningless to me. Strategy is sort of me because I'm analytical and can pull out the important themes in a discussion, but it doesn't really describe me in that I don't think through all the possible outcomes before making decisions. Activator is what I wish I were, but I don't really see that it's my natural strength to get things started and be impatient to put ideas into action. Looking forward to the leadership workshop because as team leader I have a lot to learn!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Amelia and Me

Haven't written about anything besides my hair and my cat for a while, so I figure I better talk about something with a little more depth, if only to prove to myself that my life is indeed deeper than braids and Monkey Business (I do live in the Congo, after all).

So something cool is that I have an amazing new friend named Amelia. Her new hubby is a "special agent" with the US gov't, so they're here for the new embassy building project. She's an artist and recently ran a half-marathon in South Africa. She comes over to hug me when I'm sad and bakes me muffins when I'm sick. On a scale of 1 to 10, they're "totally awesome." Meeting cool friends can't be taken for granted when one lives in Brazzaville. What are the odds of meeting someone I totally click with? God's grace and goodness are astounding. Amelia and I like to go to the orphanage, make cookies, address each other as "Hey Woman", hang out in her air-conditioned home, invite each other over for dinner, etc.

Fun times.

Liberation Day

After 2 weeks, my braids were getting a little fuzzy and I decided it was high time to wash my hair. The experiment with extensions was definitely a success, however, and will be repeated.



A place for everything, and everything in its place...

J'adore mon chat. She's so stinking cute. She sleeps on my feet while I do the dishes. She bites my ankles in the morning before I feed her. She does frontward summersaults when she plays with her tennis ball. So, so cute.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Artistic Me

My musician friends adore my new look. Byas is like "From now on whenever you perform with me you have to do your hair like that. It's artistic." My choir director asked if I was a jazz fan. It's been in for 5 days now, so I'm starting to wonder how much longer it will last. Getting a little frizzy.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Monkey B the girly social cat

Time for a new pic of my kitten who's all grown up. This is what she does seriously every single time I open this manicure kit. She fits in there a little snugger than she did when I could hold her in one hand!

She's very social and hates it if I put her away when guests are over (many Congolese people are terrified of cats). I have to shut the door with a key, because she knows how to open it! When it's locked it's really pathetic to hear her flailing herself against the handle to no avail :o)

In short, j'adore mon chat!

Le Nouveau Look

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Top 10 highlights of trip to Kenya and Ethiopia (Cont.)

5. LALIBELA: Heather and I flew from Addis to this obscure little mountain town which is home to 12th century rock-hewn churches, an amazing sight for Sub-Saharan Africa. This will need its own blog entry.

4. ANIMALS: We went to Nairobi National Park, the Giraffe Center, and Lake Naivasha. I saw lots of zebras, giraffes, cape buffalo, ostriches, hippos, and various birds and antelope/gazelle-like creatures. Next time I’ll have to find some lions and elephants. It’s very cool to see these animals just doing their thing out in the wild. Many have remarked that my photos finally look like Africa…Well, I guess if east Africa is all you know of the continent then that’s true, but I felt less like I was really in Africa since I was just a tourist. Congo is the real thing for me!

3. ETHNIC FOOD: It was a real treat eating out at a variety of restaurants. We had fantastic American, Korean, and Ethiopian food in Nairobi. We also delighted at the chance to eat Thai, Indian, and Italian in Addis.

2. OLD FRIENDS: It’s really fun that pretty much wherever I go in the world I get to meet up with people I know. Of the 35 people at the conference, I had already met 20 at previous trainings and seminars! I vacationed for a few days in Nairobi with my friend Angi who I met when I went on vacation in Switzerland a year and a half ago. In Addis I got to spend 10 days with my good friends Michael and Colleen who I knew from my summers at ORSIL. No one in my life is really stable—we’re always on the move, coming and going—so it’s always a comfort to cross paths again and see familiar faces. And within the organization I can pretty much count on seeing people again some day.

1. AFRICA AREA LANGUAGE ASSESSMENT CONFERENCE: I guess it’s pretty good, especially considering all the other cool things I got to do, that the coolest thing on the trip was the real reason for the trip. The conference was very interesting and helpful. My team came home with a big list of action items to pursue, new tools to use, and a whole lot of ideas to think about. It was encouraging to consider my professional growth plan and to glean from the experiences of others who have been doing language research much longer than I.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Top 10 highlights of trip to Kenya and Ethiopia

Well, after 5 weeks in Kenya and Ethiopia I've got quite a blogging backlog. I just sent my newsletter, though, so I think most of my readers at least have the synopsis of my trip. How about a top 10 list? OK, here are the 10 best things about my trip...

10. BRACKENHURST, the conference center outside of Nairobi where I stayed for 3 weeks: Three great meals a day, having my room cleaned everyday, abundant flowers, and trails through the nearby tea fields were just a few of the perks.

9. LEISURE TIME: We had great fun in the evenings of the writers’ workshop playing various card games and watching movies. On the weekends we made interesting excursions (more on that later). In Ethiopia Heather and I had plenty of time on our hands for browsing shops, drinking coffee, a day at the poolside, long talks with our friends, a few episodes of Lost Season 4, etc. Leisure time has become a rare commodity for me in Congo between work, choir, orphans, church, etc.

8. NOT SWEATING: I can’t say one of the best things was the “cool climate” because actually I was miserably cold about half the time, but it was really great to not sweat for a few weeks. It was fun actually blow-drying my hair and wearing it down. No frizz! We are grateful to have missed a few of the worst (hottest, humidest) weeks in Brazza.

7. NEW FRIENDS: It was fun to get to know some of the other people doing language research in Africa. At these kinds of events I can’t help but make a few lasting friendships since we have so much in common and there are so many quality people involved.

6. ESPRESSO: Good coffee at cheap prices. Need I say more? There’s a Starbucks-esque place in Addis called Kaldi’s, named for the goat herder who according to legend discovered the coffee bean when he noticed his goats dancing after having eaten some. Fantastic caramel macchiatos for less than $1.

(Top 5 Coming Soon...)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Nairboi Nat'l Park

Last Saturday I went to Nairobi National Park. It's kind of like a zoo...except you're the one in the cage! :o) It's crazy, one minute you're in the city and the next you're driving thru the savannah looking at giraffes, zebras, ostriches, cape can see my pictures on facebook here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In Kenya

Arrived in Kenya on Saturday with my teammates Dana and Heather. We're out at this really charming retreat center. Pretty much the nicest place any of us have ever seen in Africa. It's a bit surreal. Our schedule is packed for our conference, but I think we'll get to have some excursions on the weekends. Maybe I'll see some big animals! We were really excited to wear our "team pagne" together :o)

There are some beautiful places to walk around here, although getting into town is a bit difficult.

This place is surrounded by tea fields. Very cool. Although we're mostly enjoying drinking good coffee.

It's a small world: MBiz achieves fame at 5 months

So, funny story for you. Here I am in Kenya (more on that later). I met a man in my organization who I'd never met before. He works out of Dallas. One night at dinner I was about to tell a humorous anecdote about Monkey Business and he interrupted me to ask "Do you have a blog?" I thought maybe he was going to say I needed one since I'm such a funny, interesting person, but he said "I remember your cat. I don't remember you, but I remember your cat from your blog. She has a boyfriend, right?" Ha!

Monday, March 03, 2008

my apologies

So my blogging has been PATHETIC lately. Perhaps a reflection on my life? Nah. At the end of the day I just don't feel like sitting at my computer. And the interesting things in my life are complicated, so then I just write about my cat. Sorry. So here's a little spicy synopsis of the last few weeks:

Two good friends proposed to me. I said no.

The guy I like told me about the girl he is interested in. Awesome.

I preached in French with a Lingala interpreter last Sunday. Very cool!

My team interviewed 5 pastors for our study on language and Scripture use. We were given cokes, avocados, and cash, even though they were the ones doing work for us. Score! We really enjoyed meeting these people and are excited about the project. Yay Jesus!

My gospel choir is revolutionized by our new director. We work really hard at rehearsals and I have a big solo that's really stretching me to improve. So fun!

I'm leaving for 5 weeks starting Friday. 3 weeks in Kenya for a conference and 2 weeks vacation in Ethiopia. Hallelujah!! Stoked to travel with my super cool teammates Dana and Heather. Life is a blast. It's hilarious to be white in Africa and we don't miss a single occasion to laugh about it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ho-hum, after work entertainment

I've been working a lot lately. So in the absence of creative energy, here are some frivolous internet quizzes...

What Kind of Guy Will You Fall For?

You would fall for the sensitive guy. You'll find your future man wherever turtlenecks are sold. He will have depth, introspection, and a disturbing knowledge of musical theatre. And he may be a little weird. But hey, while your girlfriends cry over broken hearts, you'll be having Shakespeare read to you every night.
Find Your Character @

Which Disney Princess Are You?

You are Pocahontas. You defy convention and sometimes do what is considered taboo. Unfortunately, others do not always appreciate your differences, so it's good that you are so strong-willed. You are loyal and you believe in fate. Your true love will find you one day.
Find Your Character @

Sunday, February 10, 2008

TV Star

The aweseome opportunities I have here in Congo never cease to amaze me. So now not only am I a rock star in Congo, I'm also a television star! My fame may be somewhat fleeting, but who's complaining? Last week my choir was interviewed for a local program called "La Musique du Ciel" ("Heavenly Music"). We all sat inside a music recording studio with the vibrant host of the show who made flamboyant commentary in Lingala (and I was pleased to actually understand most of it!). A bright light was directed on us as the camera man panned around the room, getting some close ups of me since I was in the front row! Thankfully I didn’t have to say anything because just 4 members were selected to respond to the questions. Between questions we sang some of our songs.

Yes, I'm a TV Star

The TV host is sitting on the stool on the right.