The other side of Notting Hill Carnival…

September 6, 2014 at 7:54 pm (Uncategorized)

…the one time of year the most charming neighborhood ever turns in to a third-world country.

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This is down the street from my flat.  There really isn’t booths and stuff like we would define a “carnival”…it was more food vendors and walking around between street DJs.

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If you look up Notting Hill real estate, you’ll notice (after doing the pounds to dollars conversion) that the houses average $3 million.  This trash was mild compared to some of the other houses.  I can’t imagine walking outside my beautiful historical house to see half-eaten take out on my porch.  And in my rose bushes.

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The food vendor right outside my door…

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Looking out my 3rd story window…the line-mob for the bathrooms.

 

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The ‘Hood

August 31, 2014 at 3:55 am (Uncategorized)

in and around the Notting Hill neighborhood.  DSC00032[1]DSC00036[1] DSC00034[1] DSC00035[1] DSC00030[1] DSC00038[1]

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RAF Museum

August 30, 2014 at 3:48 am (Uncategorized)

Today I went exploring north London, specifically the Royal Air Force Museum.  It is a display of aircraft from WWI through Vietnam (I think).  The history was amazing, moving, interesting.  Dad, you would’ve loved it 🙂

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This was a memorial plaque in the WWII area.  Red poppies are the British equivalent of our yellow ribbons.

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Hangar #1. There were all kinds of training aircraft to fighter planes, Rolles Royce engines and early turbine engines.

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USAF fighter plane like the British Spitfire or Japanese Zero.  The Germans had one too, but I can’t remember what it was called.  A very agile plane used for dog fights.

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Rolles Royce engine.

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British Spitfire.

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Flight gear for pilots and crew.

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Stained glass window donated to a church on behalf of those in the RAF.

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Detail of the verse: Isaiah 42:16.

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One of the heavy bombers.  I think a B-19.DSC00188[1]

One side…

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…and the nose art on the other side.  All the little yellow bombs count the number dropped from this plane over enemy territory.  The quote is by the morphine-addicted commander of the Luftwaffe, also second in command to Hitler, Herman Goering: “No enemy plane will fly over the Reich territory.” 

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The back of an American bomber with a display of the types of bombs carried on board.

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Front and back of another American bomber….

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Nose art…

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More nose art…

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Memorial to the Americans who served in the RAF during WWII.

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The Joy of Cooking….in an English Kitchen

August 19, 2014 at 1:16 am (Uncategorized)

An adventure in cooking….

Because of the size of most English kitchens (not including the newer/remodeled ones along the lines of American kitchens), most people do their grocery shopping on a daily basis.  I’m still learning the fine art of only buying for “one day at a time,” so here was my attempt at making dinner the other day…

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I found a Whole Foods on Kensington High Street.  What you see here was a bag of groceries: 19.24 pounds.  Not all of this stuff will be gone in one day.  Except maybe the cookies.  I’m used to buying food with an eye for the week.  Now that I think about it, I didn’t buy the butter on that trip.  Don’t know how that snuck it’s way in to the picture…

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Here’s my refrigerator.  Some of you have these in your game room.  Or camper.  Yes, it’s that small.  At least it’s easy to find what I’m looking for!

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Prep in a kitchen with very little counter space.  The cutting board doesn’t fit fully between the sink and the oven/stove (the white box-thing you see on the left).

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I had to preheat water for the pasta in the instant tea kettle because the burner takes so long to heat up.  On a side note, where have instant tea kettles been all my life?  I must have one of these.

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The stove/oven.  Two burners on top, oven in the microwave-looking box below.  You can use one or the other, but not both at the same time. 

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The finished product:  butter and garlic rice pasta with tomato, zucchini and basil. 

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Sit down! I have a story to tell you!

August 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm (Uncategorized)

After the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua: “Choose 12 men from the people, one man for each tribe, and command them: Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests[a] are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.”

So Joshua summoned the 12 men he had selected from the Israelites, one man for each tribe, and said to them, “Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each[b] of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.” -Joshua 4:1-7

When I was in college, one of my favorite professors used to tell us this story.  He would walk up to the front of the room, drop some rocks on the floor and say, “Some of you may be wondering, why the rocks?  Sit down!  I have a story to tell you!”

Let’s start with India.  I have loved the ministry there for the past 4 years or so and always look forward to seeing the kids.  I cannot describe the joy of seeing those sweet babies run full tilt across the grounds just to jump in your arms and say “Hi Didi, how are you?”  That’s basically the extent of their English and it is precious 🙂  Some don’t say anything.  They throw their arms around your neck and hold on tight.  On a side note, they give really great hugs…

But India wasn’t what the Lord had planned this year.

For those of you who really know me, I’m not a “city girl.”  Not that I’m wrangler-wearing, country-listening farm girl either, I’m just not fond of crowds or…well, crowds.  Coming to London for a month was never “my plan” let alone coming to London at all! 

So how did it come to this?  Well, grab some tea and biscuits and get comfy!  Here is what the Lord has done over the past year…

Last August, I started to feel it:  restless.  The type of restless where you know God is moving and you should get ready, but you don’t know what or why yet.  I sensed the Lord stirring, so I started to pray.  I realized that what I had planned for my life hadn’t happened in the way I thought it would.  I thought I would be married with 4 kids by now.  Clearly, that hasn’t happened!  As I thought about my life and those around me, I noticed that I am in a very unique place.  Because I don’t have a family, I have the ability to pick up and go anywhere in the world on very short notice.  So my prayer was something like “Lord, use me however You want, in whatever way You will, wherever You will.”

Then plans were set to take a team to India.   I thought, “BOOM!  This must be it!”  But the craziest thing happened.  All the people who were committed to the team backed out leaving only myself.  I changed my travel dates from November to August to go with the team from Washington (so I didn’t have to travel in India alone). 

At the beginning of July I quit my job when I was offered a new job with the Stockton Police Department.  This gave me a month of rest before I was to leave the states.  Also, I had a talk with my new boss and she was completely willing to work around the fact that I’d be gone.  My start date will be sometime in mid-September.

Then a few weeks after turning in my visa application, I get notice that the consulate wouldn’t be accepting my application until closer to my departure date.  Then the consulate didn’t want to even see it until 2 weeks before my flight (they take an average of 3-4 weeks to process a visa).  Two conversations and three rescheduled submissions later, I decided to cancel my visa application.  The cancellation happened 3 1/2 weeks before I was supposed to leave.  Incidentally, I’ve been to India on 3 separate occasions; getting a new visa should have been a no-brainer.  Of the original 9 member team, 3 are in India as I write this.

This now left me with a month open and an international plane ticket.  As I mentioned, I’ve been praying.  Praying about what the Lord would have me do after India.  I felt a desire to travel around to different bodies of believers in different countries and be a Barnabas to them.  An encourager.  I wanted to come alongside them, pray with them, and point them to Jesus.  No agenda.  Nothing too technical.  During all of this time, I kept coming back to London.  The Lord burdened my heart more and more for this place and these people.  By the time the visa cancellation happened, I knew exactly where I would be:  London.

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I prayed.  Pastor Mark prayed.  The Remedy body prayed.  My friends and family prayed.  I skyped with Pastor Mark and the pastor with the church I would meet over here.  There was an excitement for what Jesus was going to do!

For the few weeks prior to leaving, I frenetically searched for a place to stay.  The first normal person who responded to my enquiry is an American from California.  She has her MBA and has worked in Finance here in London for the past 6 years.  On another note, I’ve worked in Finance for the past 8 years and in December I will be done with my MBA.  Incidentally, she has offered to connect me with her network in order to find a job in London….she is taking me to a BBQ pretty soon where I will be meeting a whole bunch of business people!

But with trusting the Lord comes warfare.  The week leading up to leaving there was some intense warfare.  Life starting piling up.  I didn’t know how much more funding I had or would need.  A friend of mine from high school committed suicide.  And then, I found a lump.  At first I thought I was imagining things.  But after 3 days it was still there and still very asymmetrical, I knew I should say something.  I mentioned it to my roommate and to Pastor Mark and my mom and sister.  We prayed.  The next morning as I was getting ready for church, it was gone.  Completely gone. 

Finances came in.  My huge bag was packed.  And now I’m here!  It’s been one week as of yesterday and can I just say, it didn’t take a full day before I was in love.  It has been the sweetest time of drawing closer to Jesus and meeting amazing brothers and sisters (who also give great hugs it turns out :)).  I’ve been to Bible studies, church services, met new friends for lunch, coffee, dinner, breakfast…  my heart is full!

So here it is: my pile of rocks.  This is what the Lord has done!  He has gone WAY beyond all I could’ve asked or even thought for this trip.  

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Lessons I’ve Learned in India and Other Curiosities

November 10, 2011 at 9:22 pm (Uncategorized)

1. Mosquitos are 5 times as big, sound like a jet engine and travel in mobs.

2. Earplugs help drown out the car horns and barking dogs, but they also keep you from hearing your alarm.

3. Missing a meal is not an option unless you are sick. Or severely jet-lagged.

4. “Do you want coffee?” literally means “Do you want a little dehydrated coffee powder in your warm, sweet milk?”

5. Driving rules are entirely subjective and optional.

6. Obeying Auntie, however, is not.

7. It is possible to buy a big bag full of Indian stuff for $20.

8. The expression “You owned that like a BOSS! Sheeoooot!” does not translate.

9. Children are the same in India as they are in America: they talk over their friends to get your attention, they want you to watch them do tricks, and the best games are the ones you make up with rocks and sticks.

10. If you are 32 and not married, you can easily get 80 kids to be your very own personal husband scout.

11. Dogs are not pets, they are alarm systems.

12. If a 17 year old boy knows how to build a house out of poles and blankets and bits of wire, chances are he also knows how to kill a cobra with his bare hands.

13. Meal times are a main event.

14. And if you let them, they will feed you to death.

15. Be careful the stories you tell to kids: they WILL remember every word 10 months later. 16. If it’s not syrup, it cannot be classified as chai.

17. Nalini and Auntie cook better food than any Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to.

18. There is no such thing as a “spanking”. There is, however, a slap on the back of the head.

19. “Bath” means tepid water and a 3 gallon bucket.

20. Roaches are the size of a small car and have the ability to appear as if from nowhere.

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Adventures in English Teaching

November 8, 2011 at 9:25 pm (Uncategorized)

 Today is the official first day of teaching English. Yesterday I taught only the oldest kids…mostly because they have the hardest English lessons ever. EVER. I really wanted to talk to my cousin Colleen yesterday…she’s an English teacher. I’m certainly not. So that means I’m constantly praying that the Lord will help me remember what in the world a “Gerund” is. The 10th grade book has a level of difficulty that would be challenging to American kids. But it’s written in such a way as to make it more complicated than need be. Really? I think whoever wrote the stupid thing just wanted to impress people with what they know…there seems to be no ambition to make the English language understandable or useful. Jerks.

So that’s my job! I get to explain modal auxiliaries, gerunds, prepositions, adverbs, nouns, adjectives, and verbs. To kids with limited English ability. And I have limited Marathi. The good news is, they are so, SO smart! They pick it up quick and are able to apply what they learn. The place where they struggle the most is with comprehension. Their books throw so many big vocabulary words at them that they can’t understand the gist of what is written. Then I turn into their walking dictionary. Along with being super smart, they are also good teachers; always eager and patient with each other and with me. I’m picking up a lot of Marathi this time around. I thought it’d be slow, but I’m continually surprised at the fact that someone will rattle off some phrase and I’ll know what they’re saying! Woohoooooo!!!! Fluency, here I come!

The rest of my classes are the 4th thru 9th grades. My mom and Lu teach English to the little kids (Kindergarten thru 3rd), Doug teaches math, and Mike and Bill work on reading and comprehension. We have such an awesome team.

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Little Buddies , Jet Lag, and Demon Spawn of Satan

November 8, 2011 at 12:24 am (Uncategorized)

San Francisco to Frankfur, 10.5 hours. Frankfurt to Mumbai, 7 hours. Mumbai to Nagpur, 1.5 hours. Nagpur to Lasina, 4 hours. Thirty-two hours and 12 time zones later, we arrived at our Indian home. International travel is a bear when you’ve been waiting for 10 months to see someone. Or “someones” in this case. The first leg of the trip feels like watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve or waking up too early on Christmas morning…time goes excruciatingly slow and you have no other choice but to wait. The last flight feels like the last part of a triathlon…you’ve already lived through the first two events, the last one is no thang. Once we’re in the cars and on the road, we get so distracted by the sights, smells, chai stops, roadside snacks, and random people waving that we barely notice the 4 hour car ride.

My favorite part of all the travel was the last 10 feet. I couldn’t stand it anymore so I jumped out of the car and ran to the gate. As I pushed my way in, my favorite little buddies in the WHOLE world ran to meet me. Big hugs, smiles, kisses…I couldn’t greet them fast enough! We spent the rest of the afternoon meeting all the new kids, playing cricket, eating bhaji, and getting our hair did. Yes, the young girls insisted on braiding and decorating our hair with flowers. I’m pretty sure they pulled out more of our hair than we would’ve liked, but it’s almost therapeutic being surrounded by little kids and listening to their chatter.

I tried a new trick this time to try and ward off any jet lag…per my sister, I was supposed to stop eating 16 hours before I wanted to wake up the next day. That meant that 3pm was the last bite I would take before 7am the next morning. That “fast” if you will, is tricky when it comes to Indian culture. Their hospitality includes a LOT of food and if you don’t eat that means you must be sick. The only way around it is to say you’re tired and going to bed. So I did  I took a Benadryl and was out for the better part of 12 hours. And NO jet lag! A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

The only bad part of having to go to bed early (besides missing out on dinner) was having to deal with the unearthly amounts of Demon Spawn of Satan in my room. Mosquitos. I’ve never seen them so big or so numerous. In the room I killed at least 9. When I opened the door to the bathroom there was such a cloud of evil I decided to wait until morning for a bucket bath. Unfortunately, they didn’t die overnight. Mommy (Nalini) supplied me with some bug spray and I’m happy to report it was nothing short of miraculous. I sprayed the bathroom, shut the door, and VOILA! Five minutes later all of the offending critters were laying in a glorious pile of carnage on the tile floor. As it stands, the count in the bathroom was 34 dead…that’s after my mom and I took turns taking a shower. And yes, I’m keeping count. That’s the only way to be if you want to win.

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the example of Jesus…

February 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm (Uncategorized)

As she spoke to Mommy in Marathi, Jodi and I carefully massaged coconut lime verbena lotion into her thin, leathery feet.  When we were all done manicuring and painting her toenails with the  agreed-upon silver color, she gently patted our faces and kissed our cheeks.  She was ready to go back to her duties watching the 4 and 5 year olds.  We watched her walk back across the courtyard as Mommy translated their conversation to us.  “It is truly God who gives honor,” Shoba said.  Mommy explained that Shoba, the elderly lady we both know as “Auntie” marveled at how Jodi and I, two white girls from America, delighted to get our hands dirty and serve her by doing the unthinkable:  washing her feet.  It was just this side of 10 years ago that her own children tried to starve her to death.  Her countrymen wouldn’t deign to give her the time of day if they knew their caste to be a higher level than hers.  And yet, here we were showing her love and honor.  Jodi and I listened to Mommy relay the story with tears streaming down our cheeks.  Who knew that such a simple act could say so much?  Five minutes later we saw Auntie hurrying back across the courtyard to us.  She handed Mommy a small plastic bag and quickly explained what it was, of course, in Marathi.  Mommy reached in and pulled out a small gold chain with a “J” charm and another with an “N” charm.  Auntie had gone into the village and bought these little presents and decided that now would be the best time to give them to us.  I don’t know how much the necklace really cost, but I do know that I’ve never been given anything so priceless.

 

In the short two weeks I had to prepare for my return to India, I only had a small inkling that the Lord wasn’t through teaching me about servanthood.  Looking back, I’m amazed at the new facets He revealed.  Especially through our sweet Auntie.  Every morning, Auntie was up at 5:30 and in the kitchen by 6 to start measuring out all the ingredients for breakfast.  She worked there until 1pm when she got ready to take over watching the 4 and 5 year olds.  When the older girls got home from school, Auntie was ready to start supervising their cooking of the evening meal.  After dinner was served, she came with all the kids to the devotion time and then tucked the little ones into bed.  Never once did she complain.  She joyfully poured herself out for our benefit and the benefit of the 74 kids who live at Ankoor.  Then when Jodi and I tried to bless her by washing her feet and painting her toenails, she heaped blessing on us again with her gift.

 

Even now, I sit here writing with tears in my eyes.  This is what Jesus meant when He washed the disciples feet and said, “…If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”  He’s not saying, “Hey!  Grab a bucket and towel and get to work!”  He’s saying serve. Be willing to get down in the dirt and do the most unglamorous job with joy.  Be willing to get up before sunrise so someone else will have a hot breakfast.  Be willing to help a kid with their homework when you’d really like a nap.  Be willing to love beyond the point of discomfort.  Be willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

 

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English, Guitar, and Tropical Diseases

January 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Recap of the last few days:

English class has gone amazingly well since I put the fear of Jesus into the kids. The high school kids are able to carry on simple conversation and write lyrics to songs that I play for them (I’m very proud of them :). The 3rd-8th graders are picking up much more and are not so behind as they were at the beginning of the week…that class is a lot like herding cats, so I’m glad they’re learning something. The young kids are sharp. 1st and 2nd graders are doing as much as the 3rd-8th grade kids. The kindergarteners are just cute…whenever they come into class they’re all smiles and run to give me a hug and say “Good morning, Didi!” Of course they’re learning as well; songs, ABC’s, numbers, colors, and I read to them a lot too…

The mosquito bite on my shin started to look weird yesterday. It scabbed over and took on a distinctively round shape.  Crap.  At first I thought I had malaria, then I considered that it may be Ebola.  No, it was ringworm.  So now not only did I just get rid of the infestation of my head, now I have a skin fungus.  Awesome.  On a positive note, the medicine was only 50 cents.  So, I win?

The boys guitar class is going SO well! They have learned how to change guitar strings, tune the instrument, how to play 7 chords (including one bar chord), a scale, sol-fa (in English and Marathi), scale notation on a staff, all the names of the lines and spaces of the treble clef, strumming and picking. I love watching them learn…our ½ hour lesson easily turns into 1 hour. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day: talking with them in my broken Marathi and their broken English. Somehow we are able to communicate just fine 🙂

 Two nights ago Jodi and I gave a gift to the older girls. We brought them into the main hall after the evening meeting under the pretense of guitar lessons, but instead we set up two stations and washed their feet and painted their toe nails. Mommy (Nalini) came with us and translated just so they would fully understand that we wanted to do this for them because we love them very much. Some of the girls were worried that their feet were dirty and they would mess up my sari…it was a blessing to tell them that they were worth more than my sari. The girls were between 13-17 years old; they come from tribal areas of India and if they weren’t here at the children’s home, they would be married by now. Girls really aren’t given much worth here except for what they can do around the house and how many kids they have. Add to that the fact that tribal people don’t even register on the Hindu caste system; an “upper caste” member would never go to the house of someone who is “lower” than them and being seen with an “untouchable”, as these kids are considered, would be unthinkable. Because we are American and light skinned, they automatically assume we are “higher” than them. I hate it. However, I’ve started to see that maybe the Lord is even using that to minister to them: Jodi and I both love with hugs and kisses, smiles and conversation…all things that fall into their “should never happen” category just because of who they think we are. If there is anything to like about that label, it would be the fact that everyday we have an opportunity to break it to pieces. We stay at their home, we eat with them, play with them, and hug them every chance we get. Washing their feet was a special thing for both Jodi and I…maybe we won’t understand the depths of what it spoke to the girls, but my prayer is that they would know a little more of what they’re worth and how much they’re loved.

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