Barbara's Random Thoughts

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hey from South Africa

I know I said I didn't think I'd blog...but I have access, so I'm dashing off a short post before I head for bed after another LONG but amazing day here. I've been here only a little over a week, but it feels like so much life has been crammed into these days here:

-Hanging out with families in tiny tin houses in Soshanguve
-Watching tiny black kids show us their dance moves to the now oh-too-familiar DJ Clio
-Being taught how to play netball by girls in a detention center/home for abused kids
-Being one of only 11 white people in a packed out church on Sunday (they introduced our team and asked us to stand people couldn't tell who the Californians were)
-Talking music with homeless guys in downtown Pretoria
-Visiting the Apartheid Museum in Jo'burg
-Seeing hippos/rhinos/elephants/giraffes/and so much more today on a game drive

So, so many experiences to thank God for and so much to think about and to process in the coming weeks. I'll arrive home on Saturday. Hard to believe my time here is coming to a close. Blessings to you all...can't wait to share more stories with you soon.


| posted by Barbara | 9:56 PM |

Friday, May 19, 2006

Caution: this blog is currently unattended

I would be more profound, but I have a ton of stuff to do today. I will be flying to London tonight. I land tomorrow afternoon, and will then get on another plane, this time in the direction of Glasgow, where I will camp out with Lloydie for a couple days. Then it's back down to London on Monday to catch my flight to Johannesburg. I'll be in and around Pretoria, South Africa for two weeks, and don't know if I'll have the chance to blog or otherwise be online.

I'm excited, nervous, so totally unprepared, yet completely ready to go. I can't wait. Stories will follow, no doubt, after I return. If you're the praying sort, keep me in your prayers. I'd appreciate it.

Don't go too crazy while I'm gone, y'all.
| posted by Barbara | 5:44 PM |

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Musical convergence

Lucinda reminded me about Pandora this week. David turned me on to it several months back, and I played with it a bit and then forgot about it.

If you're unfamiliar with Pandora, do check it out. You enter a song or an artist and it creates a streaming station playing songs that it thinks are musically similar to what you've entered. And if you wonder why it played a particular song, it'll tell you. Currently playing: The Shins' cover of We Will Become Silhouettes (who knew The Shins covered The Postal Service?!). Here's the explanation: "we're playing this track because it features a subtle use of vocal harmony, meandering melodic phrasing, major key tonality, acoustic rhythm guitars"...hmm, meandering melodic phrasing. I like the sound of that.

So anyway, Lucinda mentioned last week that I should listen to M. Ward, and yesterday she sent me a link to her M. Ward station on Pandora. I checked it out, and discovered over the course of the afternoon that Regina Spektor kept showing up. Far more often than the original object of the whole exercise, in fact. But I'm not complaining at all.


| posted by Barbara | 11:02 PM |

Monday, May 15, 2006

About as political as this blog gets

This post on Andrew Osenga's blog got me thinking today.

The truth is not so much, though, that Jesus isn't a Republican or a Democrat, it's that those types of questions didn't seem to matter that much to him, and I wonder why it matters so much to us.

The government during Jesus' time was in a pretty awful state. Ours is, and has been, a teetering boulder in some ways, but the government of the age had shattered into flaming rubble where Jesus showed up. Racial fighting, oppression, heavy taxation, psycho kings... you name it. Pretty much the only thing he had to say about that mess was "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" and then he went on feeding the poor, healing the sick, touching the untouchables, and telling us about His Father.

I got to talking a little about politics and religion with my boss last week, discussing how I grew up in a Baptist church and some of the expectations that go with that--like the idea that being a Christian means being Republican. One of the things I remember saying was that I don't think politics makes that much of a difference. I'm not saying I won't try to be informed, I'm not saying I won't vote, I'm not saying there aren't issues that matter. But politics and government aren't going to save the world. It's on the individual level, FAR more than on the national/international level that meaningful change happens.

I was talking about career decisions with a friend while I was in grad school, pondering teaching and writing, and my friend asked me what had a larger impact on me: reading Dickens or discussing Dickens in Todd Pickett's Victorian Lit class. I love Dickens, but Todd's classes had more of an influence on me than Dickens did. I think the same kind of thing applies with this. It's the people who directly touch my life who have more influence on me--who make me think and grow and change--than any law or proposition or politician. And I guess I'd like to think the same is true in reverse--that I have more influence on people around me than government and politicians do. That's where I need to spend my energy, day by day--doing what I can to make a difference right here where I am.

Anyway, check out Andy's post...good questions, even if I don't have answers either.
| posted by Barbara | 11:16 PM |

Talking about music is like dancing about architecture

The irony of my complaints over having nothing to blog about is that now there's a lot to talk about, and not really the time to say it in. I started a post about Thursday's concert and never finished it. Then I was enticed to go to another concert yesterday. I've got a lot of music swirling around in my head, and I'm sure I'm not going to do justice to describing it all. But it's not like I'm going to have time later in the week, so here you go.

Live music is such an awesome and yet such a fleeting thing. I feel like I want to soak up everything at a concert: the lyrics, the melodies and harmonies, the vocals, the instruments, the performer's mannerisms and quirks, the vibe of the audience, the looks exchanged with friends, the smile of recognition when a familiar and beloved song is played...I want to remember it all.

I think it's partly because of this desire to absorb everything and hang on to it, that I usually enjoy a concert more when I'm familiar with the music. I'm such a lyrics girl. When I listen to a new album, what I love to do if I can is sit down alone, with the lyrics in hand, and read through as I listen. If there aren't lyrics in the liner notes (which always bugs me), I'm compulsive enough to try to track them down online. But I can't consult lyrics during a concert. ;-)

With live music that's new to me, there's so much to take in. If I know the music, it takes me one step closer to being able to remember everything better later. Because I've already absorbed part of it, I can enjoy it that much more. (That said, not knowing Regina Spektor's music certainly didn't keep me from thoroughly enjoying her show on Saturday. What that girl can do with a keyboard, her voice, and a couple of drumsticks on a chair...)

Wow. I totally went off about that. I'm gonna rein it in here. I'm currently sitting at the dining room table, and am being distracted by the roommate conversation going on around me. (It's a miracle...we're all home at once!) Julie just said: "You know what you should do right now? You should write your blog with us all sitting right here." Heh. Ok.

Maybe I'll just end with this:

Over the Rhine
Regina Spektor

Go check them out. You have been given links. You have no excuse.


| posted by Barbara | 8:28 AM |

Friday, May 12, 2006

Blogging by request, part 2

Elise asked; I'm answering. It's interactive blogging!

1. What is the travel time to South Africa (total)? Are you able to sleep on the plane? Are you going to bring any books to pass the time on the flight-- which ones?

Travel time broken down by flight:

SF to London: 10 hours, 23 minutes
London to Jo'burg: 10 hours, 50 minutes
Total flight time: 21 hours, 13 minutes
(But outbound I have an extended layover in London--2 days--during which I may hop on a short flight to Glasgow.)

Coming home:
Jo'burg to London: 11 hours, 15 minutes
London to SF: 10 hours, 53 minutes
Total flight time: 22 hours, 8 minutes

Interestingly enough, though the actual flight time coming back is longer by an hour, it takes two calendar days to get there and only one to get home. Crossing time zones fascinates me. It's like time travel!

I have a really hard time sleeping on planes. Mainly because my falling-asleep position is either flat on my stomach or curled up on my side, and these are hard to accomplish in a plane seat. I have a feeling that this trip will be an exercise in learning to sleep on planes, especially on the way home!

Of course I will bring books to pass the time! One I'm definitely taking is: The Celtic Way Of Evangelism by George G. Hunter, because NC asked we read it before the trip and I haven't yet! And of course, the Lonely Planet guide to South Africa. I have not yet settled on the other final book candidates. I do have a pile on my floor that I'm considering, and right now it contains:
-Atonement by Ian McEwan
-Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
-Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Somehow none of those seem to quite fit the occasion, therefore this list is totally subject to change. I'm determined to take my own books with me, because I'm just uneasy about taking borrowed books (from friends or the library) all the way to South Africa.

2. On this trip, where will you spend most of your time?

From what I understand, my time will be split fairly evenly between three things:
-experiencing culture and history (going to an indigenous church, visiting the Apartheid museum, visiting townships like Soweto...etc.)
-time spent serving in townships surrounding Pretoria
-learning time at the NC site

3. There are many needs in South Africa-- 5 million people are infected with HIV; the effects of apartheid. Is there a need that is close to your heart, in particular?
The HIV stats break my heart. That said, finding out more about the history of apartheid and its effects and current ongoing struggles is what fascinates me. I'm not sure where my heart will be drawn just yet, and that's something I want to get out of this trip.

4. i heard there are like 11 official languages recognized there. Do you know how to say "hello" in all 11? =)
No. =) Just for you, I will attempt to learn some of those hellos while I am there. Maybe when I come home, I will be able to say "hello" in Xhosa, complete with clicks. But don't count on it.

5. You've been on many missions trips before, (have you gone to Africa?) what do you think will be most different about this trip compared to the others?
I've never been on a mission trip to Africa before. I have been to Egypt, which is technically Africa, but was only there for one day (to climb Mt. Sinai!). I think what will be most different about this trip is being somewhere that the needs are so overwhelming. I'm anticipating that this will be a life-changing time, in large part because this trip will be so different for me. I'm not sure yet what those life changes will be.

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| posted by Barbara | 10:19 PM |


I have to dive into some serious work today, but I just wanted to take the time to say that last night's Over the Rhine and Hem show was AWESOME. I mean, I knew Karin Bergquist could sing, but wow, that woman can SING. More later.


| posted by Barbara | 7:03 PM |

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Blogging by request

I really don't have much for you, but blogging has been requested, so blogging there shall be. I feel such pressure to entertain. Perhaps I shall approach the post in subhead and bullet point form.

Things I am looking forward to:
-Over the Rhine. San Francisco. Tonight. Woo!
-South Africa. One week from tomorrow. (If I look a little overwhelmed in the next week, this is why.)

Non sequiturs I have received via text message:
-How's your knowledge of pulp fiction? (Um...does this have to do with dating, Kristy?)
-Euonym (Yes, it's the name of my car. And you're messaging me this because...?)
-Cheese, Gromit!

Um. Yeah, I've really got nothing for ya. Anybody got a good meme I can steal? Dumb online quiz? I'm grasping at straws over here.
| posted by Barbara | 6:17 PM |

Friday, May 05, 2006


I'm listening to Lori Chaffer's 1Beginning today. This is usually a sign that I'm feeling a little down. I do love this album, but it's not exactly a happy one.

first there was the dawn
and I couldn't sing a song to you
then there came the rain
but I couldn't seem to blame you

sometimes it rains
sometimes it snows on you
sometimes it sleets
sometimes it defeats you

Kristy asked me a while back what is it that affects what I choose to listen to. I told her it's more based on my mood, but I've been wondering lately if the weather has more to do with both my music listening and my moods than I thought. When the weather decided to go all sunny and spring-like last week, I started craving Ivy. Today it's cloudy, and I've chosen the Cowboy Junkies and Lori Chaffer to keep me company as I work.

Maybe there are other things going on with me--a certain restlessness and mild discontent--which are contributing to my mood. But can I blame those things on the clouds, too?
| posted by Barbara | 9:47 PM |

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Comic-Book Superrman Impervious To Copyediting

I'd love to see Superrman come up against the mispeling vyrus in Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots.
| posted by Barbara | 10:49 PM |

Monday, May 01, 2006

April showers bring May flowers

Last Sunday, I wore my new yellow skirt and yellow flip flops to church, and was asked to explain the wearing of such items on a gloomy and cloudy day. I said I was hoping to hasten the arrival of spring. Well, I think it worked. The weather was BEAUTIFUL this weekend.

Reasons I believe spring has arrived:

-Short sleeves are now the order of the day.
-I took a sweater to church yesterday and never put it on.
-My flannel sheets have been put away.
-Today is my second consecutive day of wearing a skirt and flip flops.
-I purchased a pink tank top yesterday. PINK! Barbara doesn't do pink. Clearly, spring must be here.

This was a low-key weekend, but nicely balanced between laziness and social-ness. On Saturday, I slept late and made waffles for lunch. Then I caught a matinee of Akeelah and the Bee with Jenn & Lori, before heading out to dinner and a play with two friends from work (thanks, Jess!).

Then Karen dragged me shopping with her yesterday after church. As shopping goes, the Stanford shopping center was a good choice. We wandered in and out of shops, enjoying the sunshine and admiring the beautiful flower-filled planters. (We also debated whether foxgloves and hollyhocks are the same things or not. I was mistaken. They are indeed different things, and these were foxgloves.) I deepened my fascination for ankle-strap shoes, but resisted the temptation to buy.

I got in a good evening phone chat with Heather, and another with Elise later last night. Then I made my bed with non-flannel sheets and went to bed with no socks on. (Yet another reason spring must be here.)
| posted by Barbara | 8:41 PM |