Monday, November 11, 2013

Settling in Botswana

There are many stories to tell from our first month and a half in Botswana. An overall brief update follows:

After a summer in England waiting on the government of Botswana to let us know if it was OK to stay in the UK they let us know that they were not going to grant the approval near the end of August. Thankfully, KG had planned for that contingency, and we quickly moved forward with plans to ship all of our belongings (including our car which we bought early in the summer) with a group of others.

We arrived in Gaborone at the end of September hoping to ease our way into the hot summer, but had no such luck. The first few days were 35 degrees C (95 degrees F), which was a pretty rough shock to our systems (especially without AC).

Since then, we have been working hard to get settled. Finally, last week, we were able to move into the house we are renting (which is air conditioned!!) nearer to Gaborone and received our shipment. Today, KG started work.

I'll start sharing some of the stories from the last several weeks and new ones that come up as I have internet access. We still have a way to go for our house to be totally settled, and one of my top priorities is a great internet connection, but that will happen in Botswana time - meaning most likely not be fast.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Adventure in the Dales

Kagi and I had a really exciting week last week. There are lots of stories to be told, and although it is no longer lent so I probably won't be blogging daily, I'll try to tell them.

First, I'll tell about the climax of our week. In the autumn, +Kara and Forrest blessed us with a gift of a night at a bed and breakfast where they spent a night while in England. Kagi and I were looking forward to using it for months, but obviously needed to wait until I got back to use it. It worked perfectly to take a few days in the Dales during the university's Easter break.

Kagi also arranged with Jako and Anneke and their family to visit and coincide with our trip so we could get a day out together. They stayed with us on Sunday evening and then Monday morning we headed out, planning to meet them at Bolton Abby.

We rode our bikes down to the train station about a mile from home and took the train to Ilkley, a beautiful town on the edge of the Dales. From there, we rode our bikes to Bolton Abby.

Our cycle route from Ilkley to Bolton Abby. It's about 7 miles, and thankfully mostly down hill.
On some of the Abby ruins, next to the main part and looking at the main house. I believe all of this belongs to the Duchess of Devonshire. We had a picnick here. It was nice but it was unbelievably cold. 
Kagi skipping rocks near the Abby.
After our lunch, Kagi and I headed off on our bikes toward the bed and breakfast. Here is the route we took:
It was about 20 miles to our destination.

I loved this -- a solitary ewe with her lamb in the Dales.
When we came upon this Kagi and I did a little exploring. It's a very old ruined building.
One view of the inside.
We think this was a defensive tower from some of the signs we saw around.
I thought the flower boxes in the walls were interesting. Between them and the fire places you can imagine what this might have been like.




We continued cycling, and at one point were held up by the traffic:

Finally, exhausted but very happy, we arrived at the Tudor House. The owner served us tea with brownies and a dessert bar, and we decided to spend the evening in. We really enjoyed being there!
Our room.
Fresh flowers on the window sill.
 In the morning, we had an absolutely wonderful breakfast made from local produce which included everything you could imagine. We enjoyed our time eating and then relaxed again before heading on our way.
The B&B owner recommended the scenic route back to civilization. It was beautiful...

And then we came upon a little problem since we had bikes.

But the only option was to keep going at that point!
I know... looking cool!
Eventually, we made it back to the main route. We rode along this canal for 10-15 miles before getting on a train toward home.
It was a really nice trip, and it was also nice to get home and rest up:-)!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Friday, and etc

I forgot to post again yesterday. Kagi and I went out in the early afternoon, and didn't return home until midnight-ish and went straight to bed. We had a great day with friends.

One of the most significant moments of the day for me was meditating on this song:

We look forward to another big day tomorrow with lots of Easter festivities and friends visiting. We're going out of town on Monday so Tuesday will probably be my earliest opportunity to blog again, but we shall see!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday

Today is such a special one of remembrance in the Christian calendar. We remember the day that Jesus celebrated Passover with the disciples, taught them to remember the gift of His life given for all of us and the new covenant God was offering through Him, and physically taking the role of a servant by washing their feet. We remember Jesus' prayers for the disciples and all believers recorded in John 17. And we think about what led up to Good Friday when Jesus, though all powerful and innocent, died in my place.

I am excited for the coming weekend. I love having the opportunity to think about what He did, imagining I was there, grieving and rejoicing in the weighty but triumphant meaning of it all. I look forward to the dramatic conclusion to the story, when Jesus physically and spiritually conqueres death on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What a Day!

Today has been very busy, and very good. This is my first moment which hasn't been very relational and/or active since waking this morning. It's 10pm and I'm tired but happy and thankful for good food, great friends, and a good-crazy kind of day.

This morning Kagi and I woke up, had our breakfast, and prepared for a day in the city. We walked the 2.5 miles to the Discovery Centre (where Global Cafe is headquartered and Kagi used to live) through freezing wind and stinging snowfall. There, I helped Kagi with his weekly cleaning job. Because both of us were working quickly, we finished in about an hour and booked it down to the City Centre.

In the heart of Bradford, we met with our friend Ben who has been a very good friend to me since I first came here. He was even there the day Kagi and I met. Now Ben lives in Finland, and I am so glad we took the rare opportunity to hang out during his visit to Bradford this week. It was especially fun to hear how God has been answering prayers that we have been praying since meeting almost three years ago, and to share stories with someone whose journey of faith makes Kagi and my last few years look relatively simple. We are so encouraged by Ben and I am reminded what a blessing he has been to me. Although we have never seen him all that often it does seem that Bradford is missing something without him here.

After that meeting, we went back to the Discovery Centre for an amazing Spanish lunch prepared by our friend Juanma's parents. It was so fun to meet his family and to spend time with international students and other team members. In our multi/inter-cultural lives, Global Cafe provides a community which feels more like home to both of us... sometimes even more than we feel at home in our countries of origin. For me, it is a reminder of my beloved International Friendship Club in Maryland.

Following lunch, Shell, the leader of Global Cafe, took me with her on her trip to Costco! I blogged about strangely missing Costco way back in this post. Finding out there is one near Bradford was very exciting news for me, and I was not disappointed on my trip there today. It was really nice to hang out with Shell, first of all. She shares my love for Jesus and for cultures, and is someone I have really enjoyed getting to know over the past few years. Today I found out that her husband who is also from Southern Africa is a "meatetarian," like mine. She has offered to help me find ways to feed Kagi without going broke, which (especially after recently instituting a new budget) I am very excited about!

Costco was also much more similar to the Costco in the States than I was expecting. They have most of the same items and kept the prices about the same as they would be in USD but just made them in GBP, which makes everything about 1.6 times more expensive. Compared to importing these items myself or paying the supermarket price for these American staples which are considered luxury items here, the prices were great. I bought things like Kirkland almonds, a big tub of crunchy peanut butter, a big tub of salsa, and Costco bagels. They also have the big bags of Crasins and affordable vanilla which was a thrilling discovery even though I decided to hold off until I have a little more in the budget another time. It was laid-out and looked just like it does in the States.

As we were leaving the store at about 4, I glanced at my iPhone to see a message my dad sent me about the staff meeting I was prepared to join at 5pm via Skype. I had told Shell about it and planned to be home in plenty of time for it. However, while reading my dad's email I realized that I forgot that the daylight savings time changes earlier in the States than in England. We are only 7 hours ahead instead of the usual 8. While kicking myself for being late, I realized that, not only had I not realized the time change, I also had mis-calculated. 8am is 8 hours before 4pm, not 5pm. I was both sorry and embarrassed about this clumsy mistake. I sent an email as we headed home.

To keep this story from going on forever, I'll just say that Kagi and I ultimately got home at about 5:30 after traffic and a few other delays. We unexpectedly had a few of the guys from church come home with us, which was a lovely surprise. I figured out that I had totally missed my call and set to hanging out with them, preparing dinner, and having some great conversations.

There is more, but I guess for today I'll leave it at that!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Harry

Today, Kagi and I had the privilege of dog-sitting Harry, a very cute jackadoodle who belongs to one of our friends. We have both enjoyed having him around.

Just look at this little guy!


:-)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Starbucks Scandal

I'm not sure if the Starbucks Tax Scandal has made the news in the States, but it is a big deal here in the UK. It won't surprise many of you that Starbucks comes up in my conversations fairly frequently (since I love coffee and like Starbucks a lot). So, for the last six months, every time it comes up I have heard a little more about the scandal. I actually don't know tons about it, but apparently Starbucks took advantage of a tax loophole and has not been paying income tax in the UK. There have been protests and boycotts. It's big news.

What my siblings and I call the "Green Circle of Pleasure," just the sight of which gets the serotonin flowing!
My immediate question the first time I heard this was, "So wait, did they do something illegal?" to which the answer was, "No."

Americans think very differently about taxes than Brits do.

This difference is something I am convinced is deeply true, and this is just one small example. American companies' first obligation is to their stakeholders, particularly their customers, employees, and shareholders. They are, obviously, bound to obey the law, but I don't think many Americans would consider it immoral to not pay taxes which are not required by law.

In England, though, this is a very different thing. In the UK, taxes are used for things which people highly value, like the National Health Service (NHS) and benefits meant to create equal opportunities. There is an expectation that the State can and should care for its citizens and a high value for government programs.

We (typically) feel so differently about this in the States. I realize that I come from a conservative background in America, and I also realize that I live in a particularly liberal part of the UK. But even with this acknowledgement, I think that there are longstanding cultural value differences stemming back to the founding of our various nations.

In a monarchy, there is an expectation for the king or queen to take care of his/her people. My theory is that this translates much more easily into a state with large and strong social services, because whether or not it works perfectly the people have a value system which allows for this. And because the system is relatively consistent with the values of the population people feel comfortable making it work. Paying taxes is a huge part of making the system work. Starbucks, therefore, seems to have committed a moral wrong in the perspective of the British value system.

However, we Americans have a very high value for individual achievement and we tend to distrust large structures, especially the government or those mandated by the government. I think this goes back to the American Revolution, the outcry against "taxation without representation," and the entire political system that developed out of that. We tend to think more about keeping it in check than in making sure it gets its dues. If there is a tax loophole, we all want to know about it so we all can take advantage of it. I think this is why tax accounting is such a huge business. We figure that it is the government's responsibility to close up the loopholes (we probably would consider if immoral if they don't). I have every expectation that the companies I invest in are not paying taxes that they don't need to. I would be very unhappy if they were.

I find it interesting that a company like Starbucks, which has a reputation of taking the high moral ground on issues like health insurance for part-time employees and etc, has ended up in this scandal. I think that it is a very interesting matter of cultural value mis-match. I am guessing that they never saw the public outcry coming.

For me personally, it is another reminder of the difficulties of cross-cultural living. There are phenomenal opportunities to have our values and expectations challenged. Maybe what I've always thought isn't actually right after all. Or maybe what I thought was an absolute is actually more a matter of opinion. Or maybe my culture is right on this thing or that, and I need to remain committed to it even when it's not popular in another context.

It's kind of nice to know that massive companies commit cross-cultural faux pas too. Somehow, it makes mine feel a little more understandable.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

On the road

Kagi and I travelled to Manchester today for me to see my friend Ffion, who is a dentist in training, and to visit Jaco and Aneke, Kagi's pastor from Bots, who now live here too. We are now at their house.

I can't type much but hope to share about our adventures in Manchester (and winter wonderland Bradford) when we get home!!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Outing


What do you think these strange statues are (they may be hard to see)?


It was SO incredibly cold today... But we got ice cream anyway! I thought it was funny that I wore gloves and Kagi wore a hat while eating it!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Charity Shop

Today I spent most of the afternoon in a "charity shop" which one of the other young ladies from my home group manages. It was a nice afternoon in the fairly small, one-room shop.

I think this must be what Goodwill stores were like originally, but I'm not sure. Thrift stores in the States are very different than charity shops in the UK. This one is owned by a network of local churches who give out the proceeds from the shop as well as additional funds they steward to local charities. They provide a service to the low-income residents of the neighboring community by offering low cost clothing and household items.

The shop has one part-time manager and is otherwise run by volunteers. Most of them are ladies who volunteer once or several times a week.

This is definitely a part of the British culture. There are small charity shops all over. I find it interesting.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lovely Walk

Today I took a walk in the late afternoon through some of my favorite places in this area. Here are some pictures from my journey.

I began my walk in the "Heaton Allotments" which are little individual gardens which I believe people rent and use. It is a beautiful area with paths and hedges on the top of "Heaton Woods" which are beautiful -- more to come.


I thought this fallen tree was really interesting looking.

The view from the top of Heaton woods. You can see several nearby towns.

Apparently this part of England is known for these special stone fences which were painstakingly built. Here, you can see only part of it is left standing.

Walking back through the Allotments.


Then I walked down through Lister Park. There are so many beautiful parts of it!

I think this best captures the mood of the day:-).

Quiet Snowfall

Today, Kagi and I woke up to snowfall, which was especially surprising because a few days ago I was thinking about putting my heaviest coat away and moving toward my lighter waterproof jacket for spring.

The day ended up being a pretty quiet one with day-to-day kinds of things -- laundry, work, cleaning, cooking. Probably the most exciting thing for me was making a curry for dinner. I loosely followed this recipe, and both Kagi and I really enjoyed the result.

We have been pretty busy this past week.We had an evening activity every night except Tuesday, including two sets of dinner guests and leading Global Cafe. We have loved having friends over and really enjoyed the week. Today was one of those days which seemed to have its pace set by the clouds and snow. We mostly stayed in, did work and chilled out. It was good to be quiet after a lot of hustle and bustle.

I think it's good to have days like this every once in a while (although I'm hoping for bright springtime to come soon)!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oops...

I woke up this morning and I realized with some shock that I forgot to blog yesterday!

It was a really nice Saturday. In the morning, the we had a church ladies breakfast which five of us came to, which was very nice. I love times of sharing with women -- there is so much to learn. We had a nice time reading the Bible, sharing, and praying.

I came home and hung out with Kagi for a while. Then we had some great Skype conversations with good friends -- I especially loved speaking with Bumo and Hle who live in Toronto.

After the Skype conversations, though, I realized that it was later than I had planned to start preparing for our dinner guests, Tim and Bethan. We were just having spaghetti  but especially after my Friday baking catastrophe I was uncharacteristically nervous to prepare the meal.

Ultimately, we had a great meal and a great time with these amazing friends. They are such a tremendous blessing to us, and we have a lot to learn from both of them.

We headed to bed pretty shortly after they left. Today has been a pretty perfect Sunday so far -- church for us is in the afternoon (soon, actually), so we slept in and then had a nice relaxing morning talking to each other. This afternoon I cleaned the kitchen and made bread:-).

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

St. Patrick & A Baking Incident

I had the honor of leading Global Cafe tonight. We celebrated St. Patrick's Day with green cookies and Jeopardy. It was very fun.

In spent most of the day preparing for the evening. I found a Jeopardy template for PowerPoint and did the research. Earlier in the week I had decided to use the Veggie Tales rendition of the story of St. Patrick, which is both cute and gets the point across nicely. I recommend it (http://youtu.be/fg5ejLGEnZk). Oval it went well, and it was fun to learn about a man living the message of reconciliation by taking the message of salvation back to a land and people who had enslaved him for much of his life.

I made Grammy's sugar cookies earlier in the day. I kept feeling like I did something wrong and so when the cookies came out of the oven I tasted one. It was not pleasant and I immediately knew what was wrong. The answer is in the name of the cookies-- sugar. I totally had forgotten it.

I think I realized a new low in my baking!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Trip

I must have been weighed down as I considered what to write about earlier and decided my walk up the hill would be a worth-while blog. I actually wrote most of another blog but decided it needed too much work to iron out before publishing tonight. So we're back to the original idea...

Since Kagi and I don't have a car we do our main grocery shopping online and have it delivered. We did our big shop last week. Today I needed to get a few things we've run low on, particularly because I'm leading Global Cafe's St. Patrick's Day celebration tomorrow night.

While at the store there was an attempted robbery. It actually was kind of funny, a guy walked in and filled a big bag full of groceries. The man behind the counter had his eye on him via the security cameras, and while I was at the counter the guy walked out. The grocer ran after him and brought the overflowing bag back in. Overall, and interesting thing to watch. It kind of seemed like it happens all the time.

So I walked down the hill (it's only a 1.33 mile round-trip which makes the fact that I decided to document my struggle rather comical) and visited the local grocery shop. I got what I needed and then knelt on the store floor to pack it all into the backpack which I had (thankfully) thought ahead enough to bring with me. Then I began my journey back up hill:

It was a nice day and I enjoyed a (very) slight diversion through the side of the park. I liked seeing pigeons, ducks, geese, and possibly a swan all in one glance in the pond!
About at this point I was feeling the burn. My house can almost be seen on the left just past the white building.  The hill's slope is pretty painful at this point... and it's clear that it's going to get worse.
The hill is worse and sadly you can't see the house anymore. But it really is getting closer.
So here's what all of the fuss is about. This is the backpack I was using. Doesn't look that bad, does it?
I felt a little better about my internal moaning when I saw all of this again -- now in my kitchen. This counted as my weight-lifting for the day! (Note: each of those bags of flour is 1.5 kg).
Life without a car is certainly different!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hurdles

I always thought running hurdles would be more fun, interesting, and exciting than just running straight through a race. Similarly, I think I'd enjoy a warrior dash much more than a straight-forward long run. One of the things I struggle with the most while running is the mental battle to stay interested and engaged when my objective is just to keep going, one step after another.

I guess that is true for much of how I live my life. I like having shorter-term objectives to keep me focused and interested while working toward the prize. I like hurdles.

That's probably one of the reasons I like living internationally. There are lots of interesting things that happen, lots of surprises and diversions. Life is very rarely boring. It can be both challenging and rewarding.

Some days, it feels like you are flying through life, leaping over barriers as they come. Other days, you're reminded that there are far more opportunities to fall on your face or break your leg.

Either way, it's an adventure.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Flowers and Sunshine

Today has been a really nice day. To start with, I have THREE bouquets of beautiful flowers in my kitchen. Daffodils from church on Mother's Day, amazing brightly-colored roses from Bethan as a "welcome home" gift, and red roses from Kagi when I arrived last Tuesday. The sun is shining brightly, and after yesterday's frigid temperature today has been warm.



Kagi and I are having a friend from church over for dinner. I've been working on the meal, laundry, and cleaning the house (finally) for most of the day. I also got to exercise (a little) and went to the nearby tennis club to inquire about a part-time job. I've actually been really busy, and I'm not done with everything yet.

I have two thoughts for today. First, it is good to work. This has been on my mind a lot lately, but today was a great reminder. Sometimes working feels fun and sometimes it doesn't, but the rewards are always worth it. Mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, it is good.

Second, I have continued to think about what I realized during last night's church prayer meeting. I was struck while we sang the song Bless the Lord how often I rejoice or despair in my circumstances -- hoping in God for good things to happen in my life rather than in rejoicing in Him. In fact, I even rejoice in His creation more frequently than I do in Him. I love people -- both specific people and people in general. I also deeply enjoy other elements of creation. I rejoice in animals and scenery and flowers and sunshine. I thank God for them, which is good, but there is so much more to it.

I think it's right to enjoy creation. Really, I think it's good and suitable. People are amazing. The rest of creation is amazing. I could never make any of it, it's so far beyond my creativity and ability to even understand. But it pales in comparison to the Creator. It's nothing in comparison to Him. He's more beautiful, intimate, majestic, complex, and the list goes on. The creation should make me more interested in the Creator. It can be delightful and wonderful, but it cannot replace my hunger for the One who made it all. It should never be the primary source of my joy. He should.

The beautiful thing is that the more I can keep that straight, the more joy I know, the more courage I can demonstrate, and with all the more accuracy I can live my life. I can glorify Him all the more, which is the best use of my life. It's exciting!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Encouragement

Yesterday a man who I met during my first trip to Bradford came up to me at church. He is a very gentle man who spent a little time with the team I was with in 2010. I was one of three women who ended up spending time praying for him one day -- that God would break into his situation and free him from oppression which was weighing him down. Particularly, he had been unable to play musical instruments, something which had been a great joy all his life. It seemed difficulty in his spirit prohibited him from expressing himself through his musical gift.

He told Kagi and me that he still remembers me because of that time of prayer. God began working toward restoration in his life at that time. He has been able to play music since and spoke of great intimacy in his walk with God. He thanked me for being a part of it.

To be honest, my memory of that day is vague. I was not the leader in that situation and I am very aware that whatever part I played was very small as God brought healing in his life.

What a blessing, though, to hear that from him. How wonderful to know that over two years ago God began healing which still growing and going deeper in him, which I got to be a witness to. What a beautiful thing that in the family of God we can have moments of joyful remembrance and praise for what He has done in our midst!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Friends

Last night Kagi and I went to Global Cafe, a ministry we have been involved with for years. It was so fun to be back in that environment and catch up with friends. A whole group of us stayed around after the cafe telling stories and laughing. Today, we had a "team day" where we spent time together preparing for the coming season.

After our meeting many of us went to a nice curry house.
Other thank Kagi (who took the picture), this was our lunch crew.
I'm thankful for the opportunity to be with friends and for lots of laughter!

This evening, I was in the kitchen when Kagi asked me if I was expecting a guest. I wasn't, but it was a wonderful surprise to see Bethan! She gave me the beautiful roses pictured below and we got to catch up a little. Kagi and I are really looking forward to an evening with the Greens tomorrow night.

Beautiful roses from Bethan:-).

Jesse

Today is my baby brother, +Jesse Fritz's twenty-second birthday. I guess he isn't a baby any more.


But I remember when he was. I have vivid memories of the day he was born, in fact. I was almost six at the time and remember how my friends loved him. It drove me crazy how when they came over they figured it was their turn to "hold the baby" since I could hold him anytime. It didn't seem fair to me... he was my baby, not theirs:-).

I remember when Jesse was three and we had a Pumba and Timone birthday party for him. My mom made a cool Lion King cake. He remained three in my mind for a long time. He was so funny, playing outside in the snow in shorts and galoshes. He was the topic of conversation for my dad at work every day -- I guess he was funny from the start. Boy was he cute!

Halloween
Christmas Morning
I have a few specific memories of him in elementary school, going through hard things. I remember trying to take care of him. I remember being protective of him as he grew up. It seemed to me that being a boy was more dangerous than being a girl. Especially when you are a boy like Jesse who knows no fear.

When I came home from college one time, Jesse took me to ride bikes in the greenbelt near our house. I thought I could do anything and was a pretty brave person. Let's just say I was terrified the whole time as he went through the dirt path with ramps and jumps everywhere. At that point, I was more scared for me than I was for him. He seemed to really know what he was doing. And how did he get so cool? I wouldn't have been eligible to talk to guys that cool in high school!

I remember when I was living and working in Maryland and +Jennifer Fritz was staying with me for the summer. We woke up early one day and drove down to Dullis Airport to see Jesse and his friend as they were traveling home from six months in West Africa. They told us stories and we drank coffee. Jesse was 18 and I was so proud of him. Truth is, I've always been proud of him.

I was able to go with my parents to Jesse's graduation from Army boot camp the following spring. He earned an extremely prestigious award and was clearly loved by the other soldiers and the drill sergeants alike (although they tried hard not to show it!). It was so special to hang out with him for a few days and see how life had been for him. I wished I could shield him from how hard life in the army can be, but there was no way. Jesse doesn't take the easy road, and the reality is he doesn't need his big sister's protection.

Saying bye.
Pops, Jesse, and me.
There are lots of other memories, like the times Jesse took me on dates when I was lonely, when he was the life of the party at my wedding, came to my rescue during my recent visa troubles, or when he was my primary partner to inspire the family to clean out our parents' basement. Or when Jesse and I were "sniper running" through a crowd right after the New Year was rung in when our paths quite literally collided and we almost took a few other people down as we fell.

New Years
So here's to the best brother I could have ever asked for on his birthday!

Goofing around at my wedding.
I love you!