Saturday, August 30, 2008

Party with a Purpose

Last night some of my friends in Morgantown celebrated the many August birthdays with a "party with a purpose." Instead of asking for presents, these guys asked everyone to make a donation to Nuru International. The WVU chapter of Nuru has a purpose to serve as a campus advocate of Nuru International, a 501 (c) 3 dedicated to working together to end the problem of extreme poverty one community at a time. We will carry out this purpose by opening the eyes of the campus to the issue of extreme poverty and mobilizing people to make a difference.
The goal for this month was to raise $5,000 by September 2nd, and at the party we raised almost $2,000, which topped off the goal! Everyone at the party felt pretty pumped by the end of the night for reaching a goal that, to the average person, seems unattainable. I just have to say that I am so proud to have this group of friends in Morgantown, who care about helping others in developing countries. Its definitely a blessing to come home from Africa to not only great Christian friends, but Christians friends who put their faith into action by living it out in a radical way. Even those who will never go to a developing country, but speak out on issues of poverty in their hometown, are living their life in a radical way. Thanks guys, for letting me be a part of that.
If you are interested in giving to Nuru, click on the link to the right of this page. Your money is tax-deductible and will be going towards eradicating extreme poverty. As of now, a team is leaving for Kenya at the end of September. In that group is someone from: Agriculture, Community Health, Water Sanitation, and Video Production and PR. The Community Health individual is my friend Janine, with whom I worked with back in 2006, doing campaigning, fundraising, and on-campus awareness for Rx For Child Survival. Janine is described by others as "intense," and "she makes me tired," because she is passionate about helping the community health sector in Africa and works hard to do it.

This outgoing group will be the initial, ground-breaking group for the project in South-western Kenya. They will spend the next six months evaluating what needs to be done in the area, by listening to those in the community, getting to know the community, and using their expertise in their respective fields. God-willing, I will be joining them out there at the beginning of next year, where I will spend six months doing an evaluation from the Education stand-point.

So how is grad school? Well to be honest, it has been really hard this past week to get a grip on a proper sleep and study schedule. As of Monday, I got a job at Zen Clay Cafe, where I spend about 20 hours a week slinging cappucinos and making healthy wraps, soups, and muffins. The working environment is great and I get all the free coffee I can drink (good when on 2 hours of sleep) and a free meal per shift.
This past week I had to catch up on my class readings the night before each class because I did NOT do them over the weekend. Well, I learned my lesson after 3 nights in-a-row on 2 hours of sleep, that that is NOT my desired lifestyle and so I will need to be diligent in reading this weekend. Although it is Labor Day weekend, I think I will be taking it for its name-sake in laboring over my books! As of time of publication, I have not yet read for class, but I did enjoy some quality God time at Starbucks, reading the Word, and having an impromptu Bible time with Janine, and my new friend Mary, who were also there reading the Word.
My "study" chair

Today I read about about Joshua and the Israelites being defeated at Ai. It says that "the hearts of the people melted and became as water" (7:5). How often do we run away when we feel scared and/or defeated? Even though God had prepared us and called us to a task, one glitch, and we are fleeing and our hearts are melted like water. This makes me think of almost every big task I set out to do-- Sudan: I thought I couldn't raise the money; Grad school: I thought I couldn't do well-enough on the GRE and I feel defeated by my schedule; Nuru: raising $5,000 by Sept.2nd; and keeping my prayer time my main focus. These are all battles in which I want to melt and run away, but God has (or is) worked(ing) through those fears to conquer His goal. Proverbs 13:12 states "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." This verse spoke to me this morning. I need to work to fulfill the goals I have set in front of me and know that God will be the reigning force behind it, so it will be done.

Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone and GO MOUNTAINEERS! The first game of the season and the town is littered with Blue and Gold.
Here are more pictures from last night's events:

(Laptops were set up to make online donating quick and easy)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Videos from ABO

Here is one of the many funny skits from "fun night" while at ABO in Machakos, Kenya:

Super Miss

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Biking to school and wearing sweaters

So I have completed my first week of graduate school in Counseling! Yay! Now just 17 more to go! Not that I'm counting, seriously, I am really excited to learn about counseling techniques, Human Devt., etc. One thing that I'm less excited about, however, is the buying of textbooks. I knew that it would be more expensive than last time just because psychologists and science people love really expensive books, or at least all the books are always really expensive-- and there are a lot of them.
So far I could have paid 2 months rent with the amount I've spent on books. Although, most of them I will probably keep and cart off to Africa when I start practicing, and that will be the REAL expense-- haha.
The biggest thing in adjusting to America are the social patterns of college students. For example, the other day someone went to give me a "high five" and I went from the "high five" into a handshake, because that's what we do in Sudan. The louder the slap before the handshake, the better a friend you are. So, that was awkward, but then I explained the cultural miscommunication, and we laughed about it.
I even practiced it a couple times with them. The other thing is remembering that its not "cool" to show up to school all sweaty. Now you might be thinking, Meghan, TMI (too much info.), but really, I'm being truthful with you guys here, about re-learning your own culture. So, after the prompting of a classmate, I decided to ride my bike to campus everyday. That had been my plan all along, but for the first 2 days I was apprehensive because of the sweat factor. For the first 2 days I also wore outfits that had been previously approved by my sister, (but I have to tell you, when I start to branch out from there, the colors get a little wild) and then would drive part of the way to school and walk the rest of the way. This reduced the sweat factor. However, yesterday was my first day to ride the bike to campus and I don't know if it was the helmet, or my Kiswahili shirt, or the sweat, but there was a noticeable difference in conversations coming my way. I'm sure that I could do a sociology experiment on it, but its true. So I tried to make a joke about monkeys getting into the kitchen and eating all your bananas, and people laughed...sort of, but, yes I have become socially awkward.
Social awkwardness is probably not that new for me to be honest...pretty much ever since I became passionate about Africa, I have had some awkwardness, like bringing up genocides in a conversation about anything possibly, kind of related; and talking about people dying of diarrhea-- all stuff that the average person doesn't want to talk about. And to be honest, even when I became a Christian I became socially awkward. Its just not socially acceptable to be a Christian, and in college: to hold morals, views, or opinions is also not acceptable. So that part is not new, but I think getting used to being awkward within my own culture is the hard part. I come home from another culture and believe that I know this culture, but I don't really. And its because I'm seeing it with a different scope. I'm blended.
I find myself trying to live in both worlds-- I still haven't changed the clock on my laptop or my cell phone, and I think about what people are doing 7 hours ahead of me in a far away continent. When hanging out with people here, I try not to bring up being in Africa for the past year, especially when meeting new people, for fear of sounding pretentious. I don't want to bore people with my stories and so I let them bring up the questions, but then, something they say reminds me of a story from either Sudan or Kenya, so I begin to tell it, and then trail off, because I think that they don't really want to hear it, or that I have mentioned living in Africa way too many times. And so, living in both worlds is a rough adjustment but I'm sure
that once I make new friends and have new experiences here, the Africa experiences will come out here and there, but I will have things to talk about from here. Disclaimer: I don't want to sound like I'm discrediting my experiences and that they are totally compartmentalized off from this life, because I know that all my experiences mesh together to make me who I am. Its more about finding a balance of all my experiences as to not be off-kilter within whichever culture.
Well, so that is more or less my first week of school. The other things I need to get used to again are: reading (a lot of reading), writing papers (in APA format), deadlines, time schedules, sitting in a room full of people, standing in a line in a room full of people, Air-conditioning, wearing sweaters in class, and eating lunch that hasn't beem pre-made for you by someone else. All these things, plus more that I'm just not thinking of right now, are all new/old adjustments that I'm relearning in American, University, society.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Life, New House, New school

After a late night of putting together a powerpoint presentaion for both services at church, and the outline for speaking to the Sunday School classes, last Sunday I shared with Trinity about my time in Sudan. It was harder than I thought it would be, to cram about 7GB of pictures and a year's worth of life (a VERY different life) into one 5 minute power point presentation and a 45 minute talk. One of the church members commented that they could have had me speak at several of the sunday school classes, for as much information as they wanted to hear about Sudan. So, for those who attended, thank you for coming, and sorry that it was so short.

Currently, I'm enroute to Morgantown, WV for graduate school in Counseling, in which I begin on Monday. This has been an extremely quick turn around time from leaving Africa, to coming home, and then leaving again. I hope that my parents are coping. ;) Morgantown is about 5 hours away from Bowie, and I have fridays off from classes, so we will see about return visits now and then.

Just so you all are in the loop, last week when I went to Morgantown to meet my roomate and see my new house, I also had an interview with Nuru International (Nuru= light of God in Kiswahili), which is a new development organization for developing countries, such as Kenya, Sudan, etc. At first I was definitely going to decline an invitation to work there because I am set to attend grad school and then onto working at Tumaini Counseling center in Nairobi, Kenya; however, at the interview I was told that the contracts are only year-to-year. The CEO of Nuru was impressed by my interview and asked if I change my mind about grad school, to contact him. After the interview, I contemplated this.
A year is not very long in the span of life and grad school will always be there, and God-willing, so will Tumaini. I took this before God in prayer, and also to all my friends and family (even the Starbucks barista). Upon giving it great thought, made a pro/con list, and prayed, I decided that working for Nuru for a year is a great plan for the next year. HOWEVER, I don't officially have the job yet. If the funding is available for the second team to go out (the first team leaves Sept 22), then most likely I will be on that second team. The plan is for the second team to leave around February and would be in SW'n Kenya for 6 months. After the six months is completed, I would work for Nuru state-side for another 4-6 months.

So what would I be doing for Nuru? Well, based on my experience in Ikotos, I would be the Project Manager for the Education sector. My job would be to check out the existing school on the project site (if there is an existing school), and talk to the town elders/officials about what their needs and concerns are in regards to education. At the end of the six months, I would be doing a lot of processing from the data I gathered, and then training volunteers for the project. **Note: The information here is what I gathered from the interview, and from the website, So it is possible that my job description and description of Nuru is not completely accurate and some aspects may be missing.

What about grad school? Well, I will definitely be attending this fall, and we will see what happens in the next 6 months as to whether or not I continue in the spring. If I go to Kenya with Nuru, then I will be dropping out of grad school for a year and will attempt it again after Nuru. I am also looking into attending Liberty University instead of returning to WVU. That plan is still extremely undefined and undetermined. The most I have done is order an information packet from Liberty. The reason for the switch is so that A: I will need Bible school credit for AIM, and B: Liberty offers an online program in which I can work and go to school. The program is 48 credit hours and they offer 8-week long sessions. I still haven't decided if I want to do the online program or not-- I very much enjoy the interaction and debate that happens in the classroom. However, as I realized in the past, when I had an internship at the Dept. of State, I work better through distance learning, while working full-time. Apparently it keeps me focused.

So, we will see what the future brings. Thank you all for following along.

BTW- Here are some pictures of my new house in Morgantown and of my friends Greta and Melissa who came to visit while I was there. Greta is leaving for Nicaragua this week, through Mennonite Christian Council (MCC), within the SALT program. She will be teaching music at a cultural center. For more info on her, check out her blog that's linked to the right of my page. Also, my new roomate, Lori, whom I've just met, is very nice and I think we will get along well. However, she is leaving in February for 3 months with Mercy Ships, serving in Benin, W.Africa as a nurse. Wow, that connection is amazing, eh?

Fridge picture with some of my Africa friends, mixed with my old American buds

All the prayer cards I've received from other missionaries in Africa (if you don't see yours, contact me, so I can get one!)

In my bedroom, the giant tin trunk from Kenya that I brought my stuff in. It will now serve as a dresser because I currently don't own anything better.

My living room with gas-burning fire place!

Greta and I at our old favorite studying place-- We've waited 2 years to hang out here again, first she was in Amsterdam, then I was in Sudan, and now she's going away again. :(

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Trinity talk next Sunday

So its confirmed that I will be speaking at Trinity Lutheran Church on Sunday, August10th for all of Sunday school and little snipits during both services. So, if you're in Bowie that day, Sunday school is at 9:45am-10:45. Feel free to come by and hear about my time in Sudan and see some pictures! If you don't know where Trinity is, its off of rt.197, you can't miss the big church on a hill next to Cresthill Baptist.