Barbara's Random Thoughts

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Because Anne wants a shout-out

This quote made me think of my Britney-loving friend Anne:

"The people who passionately love bad music are much closer to good taste than the wise men who love with good sense and moderation the most perfect music ever made."


| posted by Barbara | 10:48 PM |

"Death, Death!"

If you follow book news or Harry Potter news, you've probably heard of J.K. Rowling's recent announcement that two main characters will die in HP7.

I love this response:

What is with JKR? Does she get so lonely writing away in her study that she feels the need to pop out on occasion wailing "Death, Death!"

And is it really such big news? It's not like she hasn't killed off main characters before! But of course, I'm still eagerly anticipating the next book.
| posted by Barbara | 7:47 PM |

The journey home

I've got several other posts in the works--I'm finally writing about my thoughts on some of my South Africa experiences. I have one half-finished post of reflections from visiting the Apartheid Museum, Soweto, and Kliptown. I was going to finish it tonight before heading to small group, but was derailed by some emails I needed to send for my own mental well-being, if no other reason.

So you get this other post. It's not very deep.

I left Pretoria at about 5:00 p.m. in order to get to the Jo'burg airport by 6:00-ish, as my flight was around 9:00. I hadn't thought about it before, but this meant eating dinner in the airport. They serve dinner on the plane, but that wouldn't be till at least 9:30! And so I was confronted with a quandary.

My best friend had given me strict orders not to eat anything served at the Jo'burg airport, because of a story she'd heard of a friend of ours getting really bad food poisoning from a hamburger he ate there. I had heard the story firsthand and it wasn't pretty. The mental image of a green-faced Pete puking all over the prayer chapel didn't make me want to go off and chow down on a hamburger. On the other hand, it wasn't like the food establishments looked sketchy. I was very tempted to get food. I refrained and bought candy instead. I couldn't resist these Cadbury chocolate bars that had questions printed on the wrappers, things like: "Will you be my date?" and "Do I do it for you?"

Then my flight didn’t board for about an HOUR after it was scheduled to. Oh, for food.

It was interesting to observe the quite obvious cultural differences between Jo’burg and Heathrow. I sat in line, on the floor in a small hallway in JNB, for over an hour. No announcements were made at all about my flight being delayed. For an hour. Everyone in line pretty much took this in stride, joking about it a bit, and settling in to wait, unconcerned. This was an occasion when the African concept of “abundant time” became quite evident. When we finally did board, there was no actual announcement; the line just started moving ahead, and I filed onto the plane with the flight attendant casting just a cursory glance at my boarding pass.

Then I got to Heathrow. Oh, what a world of difference. “I don’t think we’re in [Africa] anymore, Toto.”

The international departure lounge is rather tightly controlled at Heathrow (annoyingly so, actually). Announcements are made regularly about any change in schedule, and you are shuttled off to your gate with appropriately timed boarding announcements and a “boarding now” note flashing on the many monitors throughout the lounge. We boarded the plane in preassigned groups, and heaven forbid if you tried to board before your time, because they would scrutinize your boarding pass and DENY you. Not that I tried.

I’m afraid of airport personnel at seems I ALWAYS get pulled aside for frisking when I’m going through security there. (I feel like a scolded child when they pull me aside. Do I look suspicious? What did I do wrong?! Don't touch me!) I attempted to be very pleasant and keep a low profile, and I didn’t get searched this time. Woo! Or maybe I just looked so tired and haggard that they took pity on me.

It was while on one plane or another at Heathrow that I looked out the window and briefly wondered which country I was in. I concluded it must be England, since the grass was green instead of brown. And then I realized I was definitely ready to go home.


| posted by Barbara | 3:23 AM |

Monday, June 26, 2006


somedays aren't yours at all
they come and go just like they’re someone else's days
they come and leave you behind someone else's face
and it's harsher than yours
and it's colder than yours
they come in all quiet, sweep up, and then they leave
and you don't hear a single floorboard squeak
they're so much stronger than the friends you try to keep
by your side
--Regina Spektor

The night before I left for South Africa in May, I called my parents to talk. One of the things my mom said to me that night was: "I don't want you to go to South Africa." She said it almost half-jokingly, but with my mom, I know there's always truth underneath such remarks. I returned joke for joke and said it was a little late for that, as my plane was leaving in less than 24 hours. She said that if South Africa was where God wanted me, then that's where I should go. A somewhat mitigating comment, but...well...let me fast-forward a bit.

A conversation with my dad soon after I got home found him talking excitedly about CRM and NieuCommunities, and saying how he had found pictures of the NCSA site online and how it seemed like a really beautiful place...this was such an encouragement to me. I felt like my parents were on board with this opportunity, and even excited about it.

This weekend I made the decision to definitely pursue going back to South Africa in January. I did the semi-cowardly thing yesterday and emailed the family instead of calling. I did want to include my brother & sister in the news, and it made some sense to get out what I wanted to say in an email rather than making three phone calls. I almost immediately got a glowing, encouraging response from my sister. Today, I got an email from my parents. It included the following: "South Africa is not where I want you, but I do want you in the Lord's will, and if that's where He wants you, then that's where you should be."

My mom again, I'm pretty sure, even though the email was signed "Us." I've been swinging between being excited about this decision, and being completely overwhelmed (because--I'm moving to Africa in 6 months?! Aaaa!). But this email sort of squelched any excitement I had today. I've grown to realize just how much I am affected by criticism/disapproval/disappointment from my mother. And the repetition of "this isn't what we want you to do" felt oh-so-much like disappointment.

Friends have expressed both excitement on my behalf and sadness that I'm leaving. There's a lot I'll be leaving behind, and that's weighing on me a bit today. I don't like letting people down, and in some ways, it feels like that's what I'm doing in leaving. I know that's not entirely true. But today, that's the way I'm feeling, and I hate that.

But if I must go
Things I trust will be better off without me
But I don't want to know
Life is better off a mystery
--Derek Webb


| posted by Barbara | 11:22 PM |

Aracataca, Period!

Gabriel Garcia Marquez' hometown has rejected a proposal to rename itself "Aracataca-Macondo," after the fictitious town that's the setting for One Hundred Years of Solitude. Hey, if you're going to rename the place, what's with the oldname-newname hyphenation? Why not go all the way and just call it Macondo?

"The important thing is that we're all still friends," said the woman, wearing a T-shirt that said "Aracataca, Period!"

"It was a good, democratic debate," added one of her drinking companions, who sported a shirt with bright green letters saying "Aracataca-Macondo, Si."

They should totally sell those shirts online.
| posted by Barbara | 10:40 PM |

Monday, June 19, 2006

Weekend Soundtrack

Another road trip to SoCal, this time for Father's Day. I went through a ton of CDs on the drive down & back, and it seems it was a rather eclectic music weekend...

Soviet Kitsch - Regina Spektor
10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack
Tracy Chapman (self-titled)
You Were at the Time for Love - Don Chaffer
My Calm//Your Storm - Caedmon's Call
Songs from the Voice
Sink or Swim - Waterdeep
40 Acres - Caedmon's Call
More to this Life - Steven Curtis Chapman
Glow - Innocence Mission
Sixpence None the Richer (self-titled)
O - Damien Rice
Mineral - Jesse Harris


| posted by Barbara | 6:52 PM |

Friday, June 16, 2006

Far less than profound

I'm at work early. I don't think I've ever arrived at work as early as I did today. Go me. I have discovered that at 7:30am, my office gets some really nice morning sunlight. This is probably a sight I will never see again, but it's nice right now.

I brought a peach with me for breakfast today, and I'm now in the process of trying not to drip peach juice on the keyboard every time I take a bite. I have already succeeded in dripping peach juice down my sleeve and onto my arm. This morning isn't an isolated incident--it's not the first time I've dripped something inside the cuff of this sweater. How I manage to do this so often puzzles me. It's not like this sweater has wide sleeves. Profound musings for a Friday morning. (I told you I never get to work this early.) I fear for the email correspondence I must now plunge into...
| posted by Barbara | 4:46 PM |

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pretending to work

How easy it is to fill my days with things that masquerade as work. I spent a good part of the afternoon yesterday organizing plans for the books I'm developing for 2008 & 2009. Not unhelpful, but not really getting into actual work. Then there's the "Employee Engagement Survey" I'm supposed to fill out today. (I SO want to answer "I shouldn't have to fill this out; I'm not engaged." But I don't think they mean THAT kind of engaged.) There are a thousand and one things that vie for my attention, and not all of them are irrelevant. They're just not entirely productive. (And I solve this by...blogging? Heh.)

I'm kind of in the same place personally. I've set myself some deadlines for thinking through and reflecting on my trip, and for making decisions about what I'm going to pursue in the future with NieuCommunities. And I've been busying myself with idle thoughts about it rather than getting into the real "work" of intentionally working through my experiences and nailing down what I've learned and what I want to do with that.

I feel like Scarlett O'Hara: "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."

I don't know if it's laziness or avoidance or both. But I'm tired of my self-created distractions. And in the meantime, I have some real work to do. At work.
| posted by Barbara | 7:24 PM |

Monday, June 12, 2006

Needs and action

I've been experiencing a lot of convergence lately. Things I was already thinking about keep showing up in many, many different places, from totally different sources. I keep having these "get out of my head!" moments. Which is actually pretty cool. This is kind of one of those. I've been slowly reading through blog postings I missed while I was out of the country, and when I came across this on Dave's blog, it made me pause. I'm quoting you, Dave, if I may:

Jesus made it a point to reach out to people who were shunned by society because of their circumstances and behaviors. People who lived promiscuous lifestyles, people who suffered from deadly, incurable disease, people who were considered low-class and no-account. These were the people He loved. These were the people He went to and told that God was offering the kingdom to them.

They all mattered to Him. The blind beggars, the adulterers, the lepers, the demon-possessed, the sick, the shamed, the scorned, and the scared. He loved each of them fully and freely, accepting all of them to his table just as they were, and sharing with them the news of God's mad love for them.

As much as I believe in the above, I realize that I've never put it into action.

Before I left for South Africa, Elise asked me: "You've been on many missions trips before...what do you think will be most different about this trip compared to the others?" My answer was: "I think what will be most different about this trip is being somewhere that the needs are so overwhelming."

I don't think it sunk in at the time that I have never gotten directly, hands-on involved with any overwhelming needs. I've never sought out the broken, the shunned, the ignored. But these are the very people I met in and around Pretoria.

-Guys who are homeless because there's no work for them in their own communities, and they have few options besides living on the streets and sending money home to their families, thousands of kilometers away.
-Kids in an orphanage because their parents have died of AIDS; kids who were born with AIDS.
-Girls in a state-run boarding school that doubles as detention center--there because their parents aren't fit to raise them.
-Kids in Kliptown with dirty, ragged clothes, living in poverty; where the running water they have is one tap shared with 40-50 other families.

And of each of these I only caught a glimpse. That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. I don't really know what to say about all of the above; I'm still figuring out what these experiences are going to mean for what I'm doing, where I am, and where I will be. In the meantime, I've been challenged to seek out some needs right here, across the freeway in East Palo Alto. I've thought about this before, but have never done anything to get involved. It's high time I did.


| posted by Barbara | 9:53 PM |

I should post.

Some random quotes from the trip. You may find these funny, or they may be more in the vein of "you had to be there." I have a couple more reflective posts in the works, I promise. I've just been inside my head a lot lately and not venturing out onto the blog much.

On the difficulty of spotting animals at game parks:
"Elephant? Or Elephant Bush?"
(In addition to the Elephant Bush, we also saw many Rock Rhinos, Stick Kudus, Tree Giraffes, and Bush Lions.)

Other game park humor:

"People get friendly at game parks."

"Kudus to Doug!"
(I suppose this isn't funny if you don't know what a kudu is. I promise, it's much funnier if you've spent the day spotting kudus.)

Further random quotes:
"My brother always says 'Africa's not for sissies.' But then he emigrated to America, so I'm not sure what that says..."

"Brittney, you need to pull your pants down."
--Luc, after Brittney mooned us by merely sticking her khaki-clad butt out the window.

"Hey, don't talk like that to my sister!"
--Jon, to Luc after the above comment

And the quote Brittney wouldn't let me forget:
Brittney: "I don't want to sit next to Barbara."
Barbara: "That's not what you said last night."
| posted by Barbara | 8:00 PM |

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

When Rhinos Attack

I'm going to share one of the lighter stories from my trip, because right now I'm just not in the mood to be publicly deep about very much. So.

Last Wednesday, our group went on a game drive at Pilanesberg National Park. We left at 6am (ugh) and drove north. There was the requisite beautiful African sunrise on the way. As the sun rose, at least half of our car had Lion King running through our heads. We're just that cheesy. Fortunately, Bryan had the Lion King 1 1/2 soundtrack in the glove compartment. In it went. Not quite as good as the original, but we made do with what we had. I commented that the idea of listening to Lion King on our way to a game drive in the African bush was nearly as good as the Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg. I revel in this sort of thing.

Our morning began well. We saw a bunch of baboons hanging out on the dam. (This led to plenty of dam jokes: "Look at all those dam baboons!" Hee.) We saw a couple of swimming hippos. And then, one of the guys spotted a lioness laying down way off in the grass. Awesome. She was pretty far out there, but still. In our first half hour, a lion!! (Can you spot her?)

Before too long, she got up and stalked off through the tall grass, and we headed further down the road. We passed another car, and the people told us there was a rhino right near the road we'd just driven down. We turned the vans around and headed back to catch a glimpse of the rhino. We got a lot more than a glimpse.

We pulled up and saw the rhino, RIGHT THERE at the edge of the road. He looked like he was about to cross the road. The way we stopped the vans unfortunately kind of boxed him in a bit, with a hill to his back, and a van on either side of his escape route. He trotted out onto the road a bit uneasily (we were perhaps all a bit uneasy), and headed toward the other van, which started hastily backing down the road.

Then the poor rhino slipped. He just lost his footing with one of his back feet, and stumbled a bit right there in front of us. We kinda laughed. Poor rhino. We later decided that he must have gotten embarrassed, because he headed back into the grass from whence he came.

But then, THEN he walked back out onto the road, and started trotting toward the red van, whose sensible occupants started freaking out. The less sensible occupants were still hanging out the windows taking pictures as the van continued to back away from the approaching rhino.

Either his earlier stumble had damaged his ego, or he decided he'd intimidated us enough, because he left off with his semi-charge, crossed the road and left us alone--some of us freaking out about almost getting charged by a rhino, some of us (like me) simply exhilarated at our exciting rhino encounter. I really don't think the implications of what a charging rhino could have done to our vehicles really ever sunk in with me. It was just SO COOL.

The excitement of the rest of the day wasn't even overshadowed by the rhino charge. Because how cool are these?

Also cool: Listening to Hakuna Matata when we saw a warthog. I was just bummed we didn't see any water buffalo, because we all had plans to sing the Water Buffalo Song: "Everybody's got a water buffalo, yours is fast but mine is slow..."


| posted by Barbara | 11:29 PM |


While I was in Pretoria, Phinda, the sole South African on our team, teased me about how often I checked my email. Context: I think I checked email maybe 5 times during the 16 days I was gone. I tried to explain to Phinda that at work, I sit in front of a computer all day long and check my email probably a minimum of 5 times a DAY, so the checking email less than every other day was pretty low-key for me.

Being back home, I'm realizing the blessing it was to be freed from obsessive email-checking. I love being connected with friends so easily, but today I've felt a bit burdened by the long email strings discussing plans for tonight, tomorrow, the weekend.

I talked a little with one of the NCSA staff on Friday about a greater desire for simplicity. I'm definitely feeling that today. Of course, the 130 emails that confronted me this morning in my work email inbox may have a lot to do with that as well.

Sidenote for Elise:
I learned to say hello in Zulu: Sawubona.
Bonus word in Zulu (I think it's Zulu): Makua. This means: "white people!" We were greeted with this many times by children in the streets of the townships, even by the crowd of kids at the orphanage we visited. It was a source of constant amusement, really.
| posted by Barbara | 2:41 AM |