Friday, November 27, 2009

Worshippin' Friday

Dear Friends,
Greetings! This has been such a nice day. I was collected this morning by the family of a colleague and friend from the college and taken to the KCC, Khartoum Community Church. This is a Pentecostal service. It was very multi-ethnic and multi-cultural and reminded me of the International Fellowship in Nanjing China. The advantage to this particular church (vs the church in Nanjing) is that the local people can attend it as well. Both this service and the service at the Khartoum International Church are in English.

It appears that basically what is available here is Baptist or Pentecostal. This is not to say that there are not other options, it just means that I haven't come across them so much yet.

I need prayer as to the transportation issue. It appears that many people here in Khartoum started out living near where I live (Bahri in Khartoum North) but they have migrated across the bridge over the Nile River to other parts of Khartoum such as Odurman. The friends who brought me today will be moving to another part of town tomorrow and as such will not be able to help me out again. Ideally there would be a neighborhood church to which I could walk every week -- be it Friday or Sunday -- but where I am living now this is not the case. I trust that something consistent will appear on the horizon to one of the English speaking services in town, either the KCC or the KIC (see names above and match initials), or that I will be led to worship in an Arabic speaking service closer to home.

After service we joined with friends of my friends and went to a Syrian restaurant for lunch....I was so very excited to see humus for the second time in Sudan! Again, it may be here all over the place, but I haven't seen it! I was able to order tabouleh salad, a great favorite of mine and lentil soup that was vegetarian. It was great fun to sit with others for a meal again.

I am slowly realizing that religion and culture are intricately intertwined here in Sudan. This may be true all over the world, but since this is the place where I find myself residing for now it is the place that I am analyzing. I have learned things from The Will to Arise, a book on African theology from a feminist perspective; discussions with colleagues and others; from The Princess, the book I recently read on Saudi Arabia, and also from the Madeline Albright book which I am currently reading. The way that I am beginning to tell if something is cultural is if it is practiced by both Muslim and Christian Sudanese, although this is certainly up for correction.

Tomorrow should be laundry day. Yesterday would have been but the electricity was out for several hours and today might have been but I didn't return from worship and fellowship until late afternoon and a nap was in order.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

American Thanksgiving while in Sudan....

Dear Friends,

Greetings! I made a fun discovering yesterday. I've had some long top/skirt sets made for me here in Khartoum. Looking at the length of the long top I was wearing yesterday decided to try it on as a dress -- it made an adorable short dress! I can't wear it like that here in Sudan but the next time I leave the country I will all have sorts of cute short dresses to take along with me!

By the way, at church last Sunday someone told me that there is an exercise gym on the second floor of the Alba (may not be the correct name) shopping mall near the airport here in Khartoum. She said it has stationary bikes and the like. She is interested in looking into it in mid-December when she returns from her home country and invited me to consider joining her. I don't know how I would deal with the transportation issue but I am quite thrilled about the idea of having a possibility -- and someone to be accountable to as well. Several people have told me that there is just no way to get exercise here in Khartoum. It is too hot to walk and I have not seen one single piece of exercise equipment in any of the stores that I've been in or walked by or gone by in a car. So this is hopeful!

A friend who is also on Facebook said today that he heard his first Christmas commercial. He is in the states. I remember my first Christmas in China in 2007. I went into the Walmart store in Nanjing and there was a whole section of the store devoted to artificial trees and decorations and Christmas music being played that could be heard through the entire store. I was in shock. It bothered me a great deal because I realized that in Communist China Christmas certainly is not a holy Christian holiday. China had found a way to milk a Western tradition as a money making venture. It was worst for me to have this in China than even in the United States because at least in the states there is still a vestige of understanding of the true meaning behind Christmas. This is not to say that there are not Chinese Christians, because there are. But even my Chinese students at China Pharmaceutical University who were not Christians and had no idea what the meaning of Christmas was, were excited about Christmas trees and presents and a festival.

In Sudan it is going to be another matter altogether. I was in Israel and Palestine in December of 1996. I remember how subdued Bethlehem and the West Bank were. And in Israel proper it was eerie for me knowing that I was there in Advent and there were no Christmas decorations, no Christmas music and no glitterama. Of course Israel is Jewish and Northern Sudan is Muslim, but the point is that same. There will probably be no Christmas decorations, no Christmas music and no glitterama here in Khartoum. This coming Sunday, November 29th, 2009 marks the beginnning of Advent. The International Church here in Khartoum is not liturgical per se. The college has ended chapel services for fall semester as it is almost finished now. Tomorrow I will accompany another teacher to a Friday morning Pentecostal service which will likely be non-liturgical. I do not miss the commercialized aspects of Advent and Christmas in the United States. I DO miss the markers that we are in a set apart season, a time for awe and anticipation. Instead I will need to do this setting apart for myself.

Today was my first American Thanksgiving in another new country. From my experience so far in traveling and living abroad I would say that the first year in a new country is the most difficult. There is the adjustment to the new culture. It takes time to learn where to grocery shop and the proper ways of dressing. And it just plain takes time for friendships to form and become a vessel for nurture and joy. I spent today alone although someone from the college did accompany me to purchase a large container of water for my water machine and vegetarian pizza. The power went out this afternoon and into the first of the darkness. I was planning to sleep in the living room with the doors open so as not to be locked into an airless darkness. And then, praise God!, the power came back on. I may still watch a movie. I trust that Thanksgiving next year will be different. By then I should be sufficiently connected with an ex-pat community of Americans somewhere that I will have fellowship on this American day.

I was asked today to teach English to some of the students at the college, along with History of Missions and New Testament Background. I was assured that this was more of an Oral English than a grammatical English. I've realized that I can do with these students so much of what I wanted to do in China and was not able to do because of the limits put on Christians in that country. I can hand out readings from all sorts of literature that are based on Scripture or on thinking from around the world and have the student's discuss those readings. There is potential for this being a rich time of learning for both my students and for me.

I am currently reading The Mighty and The Almight by Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State in the United States. I would recommend this read to anyone who is interested in learning more about the United States and our relationships with countries in the Middle East. It is a fascinating and informative book.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Last Few Days....

Dear Friends,

I've just finished listening to the haunting Call to Prayer of the mosque closest to my apartment. Khartoum has a lot of mosques and each one of them has distinct architecture and colors. I am discovering that I enjoy sitting in my covered porch area with a lit candle listening to the morning call. It brings me into prayer as a Christian.

Yesterday the college sent a man to change lightbulbs, hang pictures and fix a broken chair. I was sitting on the chair at the computer when the leg fell off -- fortunately nothing on me broke! It was pretty amazing watching him nail the chair back together...I would have thrown it out.

Thanksgiving is of course tomorrow in the states. I've decided to celebrate by going to one of the two local pizza joints here in Khartoum North and getting a vegetarian take-out pizza. They also have sweets that I have admired at the pizza place and I am going to treat myself to some of those as well. I am grateful to have a new home and thankful for a place to buy familiar foods.

Sunday and Monday I was included in dinner plans with one of the other teachers at the college and his family. We went out for Egyptian food as the family is from Egypt on Sunday, then went on to church and afterwards went shoe shopping! I came home with a lovely pair of purple shoes from Egypt that are designed to be worn with henna tattooes. My henna is fading fast -- but once I understood how the shoes were worn (they have pointy toes and human toes don't go all the way to the end of the point!) I could see how they would show the henna to best advantage. It was great fun shopping with the family!

Monday we went to an Indian restauraunt for "lunch." Now I must explain that in Sudan breakfast is eaten around 10:00 a.m., lunch around 4:00 p.m. and dinner at 8 or 9:00 at night. Needlesstosay I am going to have to do some balancing when I am teaching because I need to eat breakfast in the early morning and lunch around noon! At any rate, a friend of the family joined us for lunch on Monday and we had a blast! I love spending time with women friends, we have the mutal language of laughter in common and it is a beautiful language!

I was told that there are places where I can go and have a coffee and nice pastry for a fix when I need one. I explained that when I was in Nanjing I found some Western places for a fix when I got too homesick....and after seeing the shoe stores on Sunday I realize that there are more modern in stores in Khartoum than the ones that I have hitherto been exposed to.

One of the questions that will face me at some point is: will I try to get a car or not? Another question has to do with language study. The colleague whose family I ate with took me to the Arabic school on Monday and it had already closed by 2:30. I am not having much luck getting hold of the people who teach there. Maybe I need to be content with December as the month for preparation for teaching in January.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Sudanese Adventures

Dear Friends,

Yesterday afternoon I was one of several guests at the home of the Principal of Nile Theological College, and his wife. We were invited for lunch, which in the states would be an early dinner. The food was wonderful, I am quite certain that his wife spent the day cleaning house and preparing food. They do have a grown daughter and her children staying with them at the moment, so there were probably extra hands pitching in as well.

We were shown the house which, in the African manner, has a bedroom for the girls and a bedroom for the boys as well as one for the parents. I believe that if this had been an Arab home the parents would have slept separately in the men's and women's quarters. It felt like a loving home, attention to details such as bedspreads, which were quite lovely, added to that feeling that the people who live there are important.

We then went to the "company" living room which had a traditional African set-up for furniture as well as the dining room table. The table had the food which was served buffet style and then we returned to our seats where there were small tables (nicer than American TV trays) to put our plates on. Esther, Rev. Thomas' wife, had kindly made special vegetarian dishes for me. It was so good to eat homemade food, since of course I am as yet not producing much of my own!

After dinner we sat and talked. I asked questions about African tribes and found that the tribal relations and inter-relations are at least as complicated as what I know about American Indians tribal history. It is clear to me that for me to thoroughly understand the situation would take a great deal of concentrated study. Suffice it to say that there are many, many tribes in the totality of Africa, and each of them appears to have particular traits. This is similar to American tribes which were, say, warriors or nomads. There was a feeling of true generosity and hospitality in the evening. I was very grateful.

It is a marked difference, and a very gracious one, to be invited into the fellowship, the life of the community in the college. I am being included and people are helping to care for my needs. Today one of my colleagues/friends from the college negotiated at a mattress making shop for a cotton mattress to replace my twin mattresses which I continue to wrestle with at night. I ask you, have you ever had a mattress made to your specifications? Frankly I did not know that such a thing was possible. It will be a firm cotton mattress of sufficient quality to be long-lasting.

Today was the final chapel for the fall quarter. Once again there was beautiful singing by the men in the choir -- there are no women, I don't know why. For this final chapel we had communion; in Southern Sudan the church celebrates communion but twice a year.

So today I celebrated my first African communion with my sisters and brothers in my new community in Sudan. The Principal presided wearing his black robe and stole. He received his Master of Divinity degree at the Johnson Theological Seminary in the states, it is one of our Presbyterian Seminaries. I was excited to learn that! Communion was received not by intinction but with each element served one at a time pew by pew. And it was good.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

All Sorts of God's Critters Got A Place in the Choir.....

Dear Friends,

I got a lousy picture, although it IS a picture, of the lizard just now. I was outside of the kitchen looking in and he/she is sprawled out (the only position a lizard has) on one of the burners on the gas stove. Fortunately for said lizard the stove was not turned on for I am STILL avoiding cooking:)

I will get the picture to you at a later moment/day/year/century -- it just depends on my mood....

I was accompanied to the suq (sook) again today by Christine, the woman whose family will be returning to New Zealand next Monday. I will sorely miss her sense of humor which, by chance, happens to be like my own...witty, sarcastic, kind of cynical. Anyhow, I was passed on to her vegetable person which is fine with me because in China I always tried to go to the same person. It can be very nice to build a relationship with one person vs going to a different place each time for one's food.

The water cooler has been acting up again and two of the men from the college came today to haul it to the company for repair. They looked inside it first and lo and behold there was a huge hunk of ice that was preventing the cold water from moving! I had inadvertently turned the temperature too cool. They were so kind and defrosted and drained it, reassembled and cleaned it for me.

I found out today more about the schedule for the classes beginning in January. This is good as it will make it a measure less challenging to do my planning. Tomorrow people will be at the school dealing with the accreditation process that NTC is in the midst of. Always a hard thing for schools/colleges/universities from what I have observed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunday Coffee with the Ladies.

I like this veiled picture.

Part of the group of graceful women.

Graceful serving

Very eager to have her picture taken -- a very sweet spirit.
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday Morning Fellowship

The two families with whom I shared Friday morning and early afternoon.

One of my new African outfits, me in the green, center.

Dear Friends,

I was invited by two of the other teachers at NTC, and their families, to join them for fellowship on Friday. As Friday is the Muslim day of prayer it is a "day off" in Sudan. Hanna, in the red striped shirt, his wife Eva and their daughters Phoebe and Joyce, drove me to Christoph and Tina's home. We talked, prayed, and shared a wonderful cake that Tina and their children had made for us!

I am thankful for new friends to share life with in Sudan. On the way home I learned that Egypt has a large middle class and that Sudan has practically none, just as in many other countries where the gap between rich and poor is growing as the middle class disappears.

By the way, I found switches on the back of the water cooler and have figured out why there was not hot and cold water. It is now working correctly. The next project is to get a new queen size matress. I had hauled a down comforter with me from the states which, while a bit too warm, has proved to be a great thing to have here. The tailor made a cover for it, at first with no opening through which to get the comforter out, it has now been altered. Okay, so in other countries the cover is known as a duvet. I now have a nicely made bed and will look forward to having other duvet covers made so that I can inexpensively change the look of the room -- and having a queen size bed to put it on!

I will be teaching New Testament Background as a concentrated course for three weeks in January and then in February will begin 24 classes of the History of Mission. Today I have been starting the work of reading through books to see which ones will be of most value. Cecelia the house helper came as well. It is absolutely amazing to me to see how much dirt and dust she sweeps out of each room. I am thankful for her availability to me because I don't know that I would put enough care into the housework on my own. It is terribly nice to have her come and clean it well each week.

Tomorrow Wahiba will come and if traffic is not so bad in the morning we will go to the Catholic church and then to the tailor again. There may have been plans for tea as well later, but it all begins to melt into one long line at some point. Perhaps I will be able to go to the International Church tomorrow evening a last time with the neighbors who will move soon. I still need to sort out the church issue, finding out for instance what time the Reformed church service is in the church near the college.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Day of Pampering in Khartoum

The Henna artist creating a henna pattern on my foot. She learned the art from her mother.

I like this metaphor...transparent veil in the land of veiling.

We had Arabic coffee made from the scratch -- Wahiba's cousin roasted the coffee beans on her oven. She used real coals (glowing in the middle of the picture) to keep things warm and to put incense in.

Ta da! Henna'd feet!

Dear Friends,
Today I realized that no matter how good an education a person receives, unless there are opportunities to put that education to good use, one is faced with dead ends. It is very difficult for a Sudanese person to get a visa to certain countries where the opportunities might be more plentiful, on the other hand "brain drain" is a real issue for many African countries whose educated people must leave their homelands in order to find employment.

Wahiba and I went to the tailor's today. I was again impressed by the skills of this man who taught himself to sew. A small crowded shop and he cut into material with such smooth movements and confidence, it made me think of surgery. No patterns. No pins. Nothing to clutter the process.

After the tailor we went to Wahiba's cousin's home. There we had Arabic coffee made from scratch -- ah so delicious!! And I had henna painted on my feet and my hands. I realized why we don't do this in the West -- no one would want to take the time to relax and sit long enough to be painted and have it dry. Maybe a woman's group retreat would be a good setting for it. It was definitely a pampering day. Nice. The henna is painted on, the drying is longer on the feet as the paint will remain on the feet longer than on the hands. At the appropriate time in the drying process I was taken outside and the paint was washed. The water turned quite brown, or perhaps black. A beautiful process.

Wahiba seemed quite surprised that I not only knew about squat toilets -- she called them Sudanese, I called them Chinese -- but I also knew how to use one! Took me back to the bathrooms at the China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing!

Last week we drove through an impoverished section of Khartoum. This week we drove through a middle class section. The home of her cousin where we had coffee and henna was in the middle class section. The ceiling was of a natural material that appeared to be something like what I would have seen in the Philippines -- it keeps the home cooler. There was a fan but no swamp cooler. The home had beds for coaches, and from what I could see in another home this is the norm. Makes sense -- it is very practical, either extra beds for company or a place as a family grows larger. The T.V. was on at Wahiba's cousins home -- it has been a while since I've seen T.V. We turned for a minute to BBC World News -- it is different than internet. After I buy a new bed maybe a small T.V. will come. Who knows?

I am sleeping on two twin beds pushed together to be one large bed. The problem is that I keep ending up in the crack between the two. This morning I must have been sleeping on one bed to try and avoid the crack and I ended up falling out -- oops! there comes the floor!
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pictures of contrast.

Peeking into the Nile Theological College Compound



Posted by PicasaI have wanted for a while to share pictures that are of similar themes from different countries with you. This is my beginning. In Khartoum I rarely see a man dressed in a business suit, although the Principal of my college does so. The picture from China is that of a man in a remote Western village participating in a play -- while this was not typical attire for China, his joy in what he was doing was so clear that I am sharing this picture anyhow. In Japan what struck me was that just about every man that I saw WAS in a business suit. A great contrast to China and Khartoum.

Chapel Day

Dear Friends,

Today was the weekly chapel at the college. I will tell you that I am totally impressed by the musical gifts and dedication of the all-male choir at this college. There are seven men, they put on royal blues robes and sit at the front. It doesn't matter if they sing in English or Arabic, they harmonize beautifully and give such pleasure to all of us -- and I am sure to God as well!

I went to the library at the college today to scope out some help for my NT Background and Mission History classes and was pleased to find Raymond Brown and the Open Secret. I'll have some good help and some good company on this journey!

Please keep me in prayer as I continue to adjust to the difference in the meaning of time here. People come early or late or not at all. Please pray also for those issues which remain unspoken and yet which need prayer and lifting up. We know that God knows what they are.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Settled

Dear Friends,

I am definitely feeling more settled here in my little apartment/house in Khartoum. I can't remember if I mentioned it before but my quarters would be like a mother-in-law or grandma apartment in the states. The house is really set up in a rather ingenious way, something like a compound. Through the back of my area is the rather huge, long garage where the landlord and his wife (the landlady) keep their cars. Their kitchen is in a room off of the garage opposite their main rooms. Maybe originally they had planned to house one of their children and family here but have been able to use the area to earn some income instead.

I attended the faculty meeting this morning where we received our teaching assignments. Far cry from China. I was included and was clearly a part of the faculty. I was originally assigned NT Background in the concentrated three weeks before the regular semester begins in February and Music in the Church for the regular semester. Needless to say I let the Academic Dean know quite quickly that I am not a musician and am not qualified to teach the Music class! No one else was or is either.... I was able to replace that class with The History of Mission. Oh how I wish had my class notebook for the Long Distance Learning class I took from Fuller on the Biblical Theology of Mission! That course was excellent and I could really use its wisdom right now....thankfully I have had a Facebook friend offer to help me out with some other materials via internet.

I now have NT Background and History of Mission and I feel good about those two classes. This afternoon I have begun looking through the resources that I DO have and this week I will have to start reading them so I can begin planning the class outline and looking towards the syllabus.

I wore a jumper (not a sweater for anyone from the UK who might be reading this) with a t-shirt under it for the meeting. This was fine for teaching in China but I felt really under dressed here. Thank goodness for the top and skirt sets I had made in China, and for the African clothes that are getting sorted out here. I tell you, it is so nice not to feel like a freak wearing long skirts...I am quite the fashionable one here!

Speaking of fashion, on the way home today I was struck by two men who walked in front of the car crossing the street. One of them was wearing a tucked in shirt and the other had his shirt untucked. Here they are both perfectly acceptable. And then on the same street there were the men with one long white garment. Then there were two women, one with a head scarf and the other with the full body tobe. The material of the tobes is so lovely, I would want to have it made into a dress or skirt and not worn to cover the rest of my clothing up.

My water machine is back and it works. The landlady's picture has been hung up, albeit a bit crooked, in the living room. The apartment is beginning to feel much cozier. I was picked up to go into the college today and brought home by car.

Yesterday I ran out of electricity and the college sent someone to buy me more. This was a first time adventure for me! The landlord came the night before last to tell me I was down to 17 kilowats (I believe that is correct) and that I would need the next day (yesterday) to get more. He suggested that I buy 600 this time. He said that the reason I, and they, are going through so much electricity is because of the coolers. That would be the swamp coolers. It is so hot out that the only way to keep somewhat cool is to have the water running all of the time, the fans alone are simply not effective. I called the college yesterday morning to let them know I needed more and sure enough about three hours later everything stopped. I went out to check the meter and it said "0". So, it was out. I called the college back to let them know it was out and someone came to get my old receipt for the meter number and purchased more. The numbers of the new receipt are then punched into the meter and the meter shows the new amount of how much electricity is now available. It is a whole new world!

The water is on a flat rate, the phone is prepaid with scratch cards and the internet appears to be something along the lines of a flat rate. I am beginning to get an idea of what my monthly expenses will be.

Tomorrow is chapel so I will back at the college and then I believe that Wahiba and I will go back to the African tailor's shop to get the clothes finally straightened out. One outfit in particular I really like and I am hoping that I can have some others made just like it!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Life in Khartoum

Dear Friends,

I've posted pictures today of my Aviary, the place where I can enjoy some of the bird life here in Sudan. And also pictures of the Family Half Day with the Khartoum International Church which took place this past Friday.

I am still waiting for my water machine to be repaired, it has been a week since it was picked up by the store. I am back to buying water by the smaller bottles. I have found a place now to buy fresh pita bread and falafel -- so it doesn't matter quite so much right now that I don't feel I can cook as yet. I need to water machine to have the water for washing vegetables for cooking and eating. Apparently the tap water can have things in it that are not good for consumption.

Wahida picked me up today and we went to an Ethipoian Market in Khartoum. I think that this is related to a church and it reminded me something of the flea market that was described in Kite Runner. The flea market in the book was a place where a certain amount of courtship could take place under the watchful eyes of parents.

I realize today that a new car would not be a good idea here. Not that I can afford one! But it would be so obviously different that I think it would not be good. In my very first call to a small rural church in Southern Oregon new cars were not a good idea -- they were simply too far above the purchasing ability of anyone in town. It is that way here. Living beyond the normal means sets one up to be a target I think.

I am realizing that just as in Jerusalem and in Nanjing I need to find a Western style place, if possible, where I can and hang out when I need a fix. This is not undoable. I am just recognizing that the differences are so great between Khartoum and Seattle that occasionally I am going to need a cool and green place to be an American.

After the family half day on Friday I realized that I am going to need to explore some other churches in the area besides just the International Church. I may need a church with tradition, deeper roots and a sense of context in the culture. I would rather be the change than having everything in the church being the change.

A Life in Khartoum

My own private Aviary. There is the main room in the apartment with a bathroom off of one side of it, on the other side are two bedrooms. This is the main compartment of the house/apartment. There are double (Dutch?) metal doors which I bolt with a lock at night...the doors lead to a room that has a double metal door bolted kitchen off of it and the next outdoor wall is mesh with a screen door on it. This leads to the outdoor courtyard type area, where my Aviary is. The courtyard area is surrounded by a tall metal fence/barrier with a bolted entryway. The kitchen is nice and big.

Family half day for the Khartoum International Church. It was nice getting fed things like MASHED POTATOES (my children know how much I love those!) and cinnamon rolls! It was also nice getting to meet some locals and other foreigners. Apparently there are only two other Americans in the church, I've been told that Americans aren't well liked here.

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