Monday, April 27, 2009

A Typical Day

Sometimes people want a day in the life. Those are difficult these days, because I'm still not sure what a normal day looks like. However, I'll try. I wake up sometime in the morning, turn off my A/C unit which costs me a significant though worthy amount of money and check my email, hoping for emails from my friends around the world. Note that the previous sentence was not a shameless plug for more emails from you, but also note that this one is. However, should the power have already gone out before I am out of bed, I skip most of the second sentence from this paragraph. I leave my cool bedroom and enter the sauna that will be my day. Lately I've been fixing oatmeal for breakfast, in an attempt to make healthy choices. I am, after all, close to 30. However, I have to let the oatmeal sit for a while as eating hot oatmeal in a sauna is less than comfortable, which I'm sure you can imagine.

After getting ready, I head out to work, Ipod plugs in my ears, normally listening to an old playlist in need of some tweeking. Lately, I've been picking Andy Gullahorn's "That Guy" quite a bit for the walk to work. The walk is a good 15 minutes and helps me mentally prepare a bit for my day. Once I get to school, I drink about half a liter of water, enter my classroom and prepare to teach some of the most amazing students you'll ever meet. Yes, they often drive me crazy, but at the end of the day, at which we have yet to arrive, I realize that I am the one priveleged to teach them English as a foreign language.

My day is broken up by eating lunch, which locals would call breakfast, because they did not eat oatmeal in the early morning like me. They probably just had tea with a biscuit or two. So, together with friends or alone, I eat something from the outdoor cafeteria, usually a bean, falafel or eggplant sandwhich. Trust me, all of them are really tasty. I often end up in the library at some point in the day. It is one of the places that is not a sauna as even if the elecricity is out as they have a generator, so I am just about guarenteed to have temps at the most around 85. I use that time to grade papers, prepare for classes, listen to sermons on my trusty Ipod (Mark Dever is a fave), or talk to friends. I realize that some of you might find it inappropriate to talk to friends in a library, but I figure that if the university choral group can rehearse in there, then I can whisper with a coworker.

I guess evenings are the most diverse of my days. Once I make it home I might stay in for the evening, during which I will probably do a combination of reading, exercising, surfing the internet or the very criticized-but-lets-face-it-we-all-do-it, TV watching. I like to do that last bit while exercising. The best investment I made here was the purchase of an exercise bike. It has a funny smell, which permiates my room when the door is closed. Still, I love it. If it were cooler I could get on it more these days. I miss the cool days, the days of non triple digit temps.

However, I might go on a visit in the evenings, to a student or friend's home. In these cases, we normally have tea and chat it up about a great deal of topics. Tonight I visited a friend with my roommates and we spent some time trying to convince our friend that our respective states were better than any other state. I find that such a fruitless debate. Everyone knows Texas is bigger and better. I suppose I can handle inferiority complexes for the sake of my beloved roommates (see earlier blog post).

And now, I am on the internet, a bit late, realizing that the wisest decision for me is to go to sleep. The internet has truly changed overseas life for ex-pats. It's good, but it's also not good. Minutes turn to hours lost keeping up with life back home. And, I don't mean keeping up with people back home, but rather those things from back home that we simply like. I'm also a big fan of Wikipedia, which my roommates often use as teasing fodder--never like something more than Michael Scott. But, I love to learn and don't have a lot of books, so Wikipedia works great for me. All around, I'm so thankful for the internet, but know that it is also a source of distraction for me at times.

And, that's a regular weekday for me, weekdays being Sunday through Thursday of course. Maybe someday I'll talk about Fridays and Saturdays.

Much Love

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Big Truck

Hey there friend,
Can't you see,
The glimmer of a splinter seen so easily?
It's swelling your eye!
Making you blink!
It bothers me so much that I can hardly think!

It's all I see
From behind this truck.
This truck full of tinder in my eye that is stuck.
But I don't understand,
It's what's blockin' my view.
Cause I'm only thinking 'bout that splinter in you!

Seriously brother,
You gotta get on this.
That splinter might just blind you if you stay so remiss.
So don't put it off,
What's that you say?
You can't see my face with all the logs in the way?

I guess you're correct.
I'm losing my sight.
I'm gunna need some time to get everything right.
Cause now I know,
What really bothers me,
Is my eye is too infected with all this debris.

OK friend,
Now their out.
But you've got a splinter I haven't forgotten about.
But this time I tell you
Because I love you so much.
I want you to live without nasty splinters and such.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Soul Windows

A proverb states, "The eyes are the window to the soul." It's true. So was Thoreau when he claimed, "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

I recently returned from a trip to the Gulf. What a crazy and exciting place. Full of foreigners, there is something for everybody in this wealthy and thriving part of the world. An economic boom has led thousands of South Asians to leave their homes to work in construction, malls, salons and more, in order to send money back to their families. I loved asking people in shops and restaraunts where they were from, because I always got somewhere different. However, I never talked to someone actually from the Gulf. After finding out about their home country, I normally asked if they liked living there in the Gulf, to which they almost always replied no. I don't blame them. They aren't treated all that great, make even worse money, live in labor camps and are away from their families.

I encourage people I know to thrive professionally if possible. If one is going to be doing something for so much of his life, he should enjoy it. But, I'm not sure if this isn't just a lofty ideal. So many of people work in these rough conditions just to help their families get by--families that they don't even get to see all that often. And you can see it in their eyes. Desparation. Clothes, language, even facial expressions can hide earnestness, but eyes most often cannot. Having to cater to the rich so that they can remain poor, if only a little less poor, I very often saw that look in their eyes. It doesn't seem fair.

I got to talk to a brother from the Phillipeans while in the Gulf as well. He didn't have the desparation. He had joy in his eyes because he had the Son in his heart. But so many don't.

Lest we think ourselves better, we do well to remember that we are not without our own similiar systems. Chinese immigrants built our railroad and were all the while treated with disdain not too long ago. And, in general, the rich will often find ways in any country to try to strip the poor of their dignity. We do well to remember that if we are rich enough to be sitting at our own computer, then we certainly fall in the rich person category by normal standards. However, I don't assume we all treat poorly those with less money than us. Even a camel can go through the eye of a needle when its Creator sends it through. And even the rich can be generous and gracious with God given gifts. But, I certainly understand better why it is otherwise impossible for the camel to make it through that needle.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


If breathing is hard then life is impossible.

I realize I write about how much I love life here and rarely give you glimpses of this life that make you understand why I love it so much. I guess I can't explain it exactly. I love speaking another language, which I could manage easily enough in San Antonio, though not Arabic to be sure. I love walking to work, saying hello to the people on the street, seeing the beautiful dresses that the women wear, which carry their owners down the street. I love that someone you don't know will go out of your way to give you a ride across town when you really need to get somewhere.

I guess I love it here because I was made to love it here. My Creator wants me here now, and He gives grace for me to thrive in Him and see His beauty all around me. And the truth is, if I didn't love it, He would still give me the grace to thrive in Him, and that would be enough. For sure there are the hard days, the days when you have a problem at work and would know exactly what to do if you were back home, but have no idea what to do here and want to curl up and watch a movie in your air conditioning rather than deal with the problem in one billion degree heat. There are the days which make those rough days at work seem easy. There are days when you just want to see your family and friends and let them see you and your heart, hear your voice and your passion, allow for comfortable silence over a pizza rather than manage so many relationships via letters on a computer screen. I miss comfortable silences with my far away loved ones. Just being able to be with someone and not say anything works so much more out than so many things I might want to say.

I have great roommates. I love them so much. I know for sure that I do not deserve them. They too are gifts from our Father.

There is Cool. She is so positive and giving. She loves to give and care for others. She's beautiful. She's full of grace and shows me how to give it. She's supportive, a great cheerleader.

And there's also LL. I love to bounce things off of her, listen to what she has to say. I don't share a lot of my strong opinions with many people, but she hears most, because she will never be angry if we disagree, and will always listen then respond, rather than simply wait to respond.

In case you didn't catch it, I'm J. Together we make LL Cool J. Catchy, I know.

I have a family here too, besides the roommates. Jane and Charles are like a brother and sister to me. Their recent addition to the family, Sweetie, is my niece. I realized that I wanted to be friends with Jane when I watched her selflessly love people around her. What a great person to learn from. She shows me how to be more like Jesus.

I have great coworkers, who love me when I am for sure a monster, and honestly share their lives with me. One is like a big sister. I'm not sure if she would like that, since I don't know if I would like my age thrown out like that. But she is, and only in the best way. I know I can go to her for advice and wisdom and she has years of experience that go behind her answers to my questions. Another is new, and I'm really thankful for her too, and how she has become someone I work with so much. She brings much wisdom and encouragement. I hope one day she gets to marry John Krasinski for as much as she loves him. If he ever meets her and doesn't realize how awesome she is, then he doesn't deserve her.

Another couple bring great wisdom and insight into life here. They have extraordinarily good perspective. I recently read The Cost of Discipleship and several times realized that what Bonhoeffer was saying was what these people lived and showed me in real life.

How am I going to leave these great people? I can only trust that the grace that brought them into my life will be enough to say goodbye as well. Saying so many goodbyes has been hard the last ten years or so. I'm tired of it, to be honest. One day we'll all be together, we'll all be at the throne, we'll all rejoice. And it will be for forever! One day.

I didn't mean for this post to turn out like this, but I guess it did.

Much love