Saturday, July 4, 2015

First Impressions

In no particular order, here are some of my first impressions upon arriving back in the U.S.:

Americans are so loud.  And rude.  And impatient.  Ugh!  (To be fair, it was NYC I landed in...)

The roads are SO wide!  And everyone (mostly) stays in their lane!

Wind chimes (at the neighbors')...what is that noise?

Carpet feels so weird.

Our fridge and oven are huge!

The ceiling in our house seems so low - and therefore makes me feel tall.

Where is everyone?!!

Target has so. much. stuff.  It gave me a bewildered and not-so-slightly overwhelmed feeling.  At least I had my sis along, so I didn't have a breakdown or anything.

Our neighborhood is so calm and quiet...almost eerily so, compared to my neighborhood in WA.

After the humidity of the approaching rainy season there, California seems bone-dry (maybe that drought they've been having?).  Everything feels dry - my lips, my eyes, my hands, my throat.

California has a lot more pollen.  Probably because there's a lot more growing, even with the drought.  And more pollen equals more sneezing, more itchy eyes and throat...

Everything - couches, pillows, my bed - is so fluffy and soft.

When I talk in English out in public, everyone around can understand (if they're listening).  That's just weird!

I can use my left hand?!

Credit cards, dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines and I even remember how to use them?

If I'm going to talk to a stranger, it should be in English, not French.

Taking a shower that doesn't involve choosing between running water and hot water?  What a luxury!

Temperatures in the upper 70's do not warrant fans.  In fact, I feel a bit chilly with the fans going here.

- - -

All in all, I'm walking around in a dazed, surreal sort of fog.  My neighborhood, my childhood home, my family, have all changed so little it's almost as if I'd never left.  But other things that should be familiar just feel so strange, so out of place, so...from another world.

My friend Jenn says it's like being in between two worlds.

Maybe she's kind of right.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Taking It All In: Another Island Trip

So the Mission has been a pretty happenin' place this month...lots of meetings (not necessarily involving all of us) and a fair amount of international visitors (for said meetings and for our WA Field Conference).
One day last week, we got an impromptu(ish) group together and took a little trip out to a nearby island.  I'd been there once before.  Oh, and no, it's not that island with all the colorful doors and window shutters that I always take a million pictures of.  This is a small, closer, and cheaper-to-go-to island.
It would be perfect, we thought, to give our international visitors a little intro to local sights.
So we thought.
Turns out that day, the beach was absolutely packed with people (you can't see it in this shot, but I assure you, the hoards were there...mostly behind me).
School had just finished for the year, so a lot of youth took the beaches that day.
You'll get a better idea of what I mean by "a lot" in a later picture.
I suppose, while not normal for this particular place, it was actually fairly very many people!
We crossed in a small pirogue.  It couldn't have taken more than five minutes or so.
There's our island, straight ahead.
One section of the beach.  Take a good look at that picture, and imagine at least twice that many people all together - just on the beach!
We quickly decided to hike to the other side of the island, where it was much quieter.
See them?  See them?
We were walking up the trail when Andrew spied his vendor friend(ish) that he seen on previous visits.
He stopped to greet him.
"Hey, how's it going?"
"Hey, yeah, it's been a long time.  Who did you bring today?"  Mamadou looked curiously at the line of us snaking up the trail.
Andrew started the introductions.  "This is my family -"
"Friends," I interrupted.
"These are my sisters [waving his hand towards Anna and I]...and my brother [waving his hand towards Zachary]...and more sisters [waving his hands towards the girls in the back]...and my mom and dad [waving his hand towards Barbara and Antonio...who are not married to each other]..."
Mamadou chuckled.  "Like families here."
"Ah, you understand," I replied, relieved that he didn't think we were all literal siblings with Barbara and Antonio as our parents.
We walked down to the water's edge, perched ourselves on the rocks, and talked.
We told sea urchins stuck in feet and other funny things.
"Hey, 'Mom', look at the camera!"
So between the rocks there were these weird red, squishy things.  Someone said they looked like cherries.
Which led to the brilliant idea to make some sort of cherry dessert with them.
"But what if they're poisonous?" I asked, quick to be the (unnecessary) voice of reason.
"Oh, we'll just have one person taste it and if they die, we'll know not to eat it!"
I think Zachary said that.
Doesn't that green stuff look a little like some fancy frilled lettuce or something?
There is something so absolutely magical and transfixing about the rhythm of waves, their foam crests breaking over the rocks, their crashing on the shore.
I could watch it for hours and hours and not get tired of it.
But there were other parts of the island to explore, so we didn't sit there for hours.
"Mom" leading the way with some of her "children".
Eee!  Come back!
Some people like to live life on the edge.
Or at least have their picture taken at the edges of cliffs.
I do not.
But I will take pictures for those who do. :)
This is a little drum-making place we saw.  I wish I had gotten a picture of while the guys were actually working, but I didn't.
I just thought this was kind of cool.  Funky, but cool.
Apparently this is a pool of sorts that you can swim in if the water is higher.  That day, however, there was only a bit of water covering the rocks.
I told them they should jump in and go swimming.
They didn't seem that crazy about the idea.
There's the mainland out in the distance.
Doors are my one weakness. 
Surf's up, dude!
We ended our little unofficial tour of the island with a visit to the Italian restaurant you see on the shore (note Italy's flag).
We talked and laughed over some fancy fruit drinks.
Since not all of us knew each well before, there were some of the usual, "So where you go to Bible School?" and "How do you get interested in New Tribes?" questions.
Antonio: "So Rachel, you went to one of the Bible Schools [NTM has two in the US], right?"
Me: "No, actually I didn't go to either one."
(He looks somewhat startled.)
Me: "I took courses from a correspondence school."
Antonio: "Emmaus?"
Me: (I look somewhat startled.)  "Yeah, how did you know?"
Antonio: (With a shrug of his shoulders.)  "Oh, you look Brethren."
We all laughed.
"Come on," we begged him, "guess what kind of churches the rest of us come from."
"Hmm," he said, looking reflectively at Zachary while Andrew rattled off random guesses.
Because no one could guess, Zachary finally told us he'd come from a Presbyterian church.
Antonio laughed.  "Well, you hide it very well."
Look, it's the "A" row.  And they're even in alphabetical order!  Andrew, Anna, Antonio.
I know.  I'm weird.
Most of the others were ready to head back after the island trip, but Jen, Andrew, Anna, and I decided to play tourist just a bit longer.
We went to a monument and walked to the top.  And by "top" I mean "top of the hill", which is really the base of the monument.
There are some impressive views up there.  We squinted and tried to figure out where we each lived.
"Look!  You can see all of Africa!" - Andrew
(He was talking about the Africa sculpture below us, which you can kind of see towards the bottom of the picture.) 
And slowly the sun dipped lower and lower...
We took turns posing for pictures.
Anna got this picture.
It's so perfect and so hilarious...and so completely Jen and Andrew.  (Yes, he really pretended to let her fall, and that was her 100% genuine reaction.  It just makes me laugh every time I see her face.)
"Isn't cute," they said, "the way we were standing from tallest to shortest?"
The obligatory goofy picture...
...and the accidental goofy picture.  (Except for Jen.)
I love these girls - as friends, as role models, as sisters in Christ.
So there you have it.  Yet another Taking it all in post.
I write and snap pictures, especially now with all the craziness and change, so I can look back one day.  So that I can look back and laugh and remember these good times and thank God for the privilege of calling these people my friends.