happiness is...

happiness is...
kenya 2010

Monday, May 28, 2012

my voice...coming soon to a ringtone near you

Today (Wednesday) was super rewarding. It started yesterday. I had been praying about what kinds of opportunities could be available for me here in Dadeldhura… the best use of my gifts is probably not passing meds or doing general ward/bedside nursing, though I will probably be doing some of that when we are short staffed, etc… Doug and I brainstormed a little yesterday about possible roles for me and ways that I could share god’s love and my gifts, and best serve the people here. One common theme was bringing heart back into the hospital. During the civil war, when the hospital lost all the TEAM staff, they also lost some of the Christian service behaviors, as well. The staff is very task focused and not patient focused, per se. Doug would like to see me model and teach the staff and nurses here how to treat patients as valuable people, and use compassion, love, and heart at work. I was pondering that yesterday evening during some downtime and decided to go out and play guitar on the porch to take a break. There were two little nepali boys outside playing ball, and when I started to play and sing, they came to me and held hands and watched. They were standing there soaking up praise and worship songs without even realizing it. God’s word was being planted in their hearts while his gift of music poured from me. That’s when it hit me… I need to play at the hospital.

So today I took my guitar with me, and after rounds, I played. First I sat out in the courtyard and just started playing and singing. Pretty soon, 4 people turned into 8…then 10 or 12. All standing or sitting perfectly still and listening. I sang and played
every praise and worship song I could remember. I saw smiles and for the first time since I got here, the patients and visitors looked content and even happy. After a few songs outside, I went into the ward. While I was playing the adult ward, people were recording me on their cell phones.  Then, as I moved to the pediatric ward, I could hear my voice and my guitar playing behind me. According to Kripa, they were using my songs as ringtones on their phones. Wow! The kids and the parents/grandparents seemed to really enjoy the performance and some of the folks from the adult ward wandered over to watch again. I could get used to performing with all eyes riveted on me. Haha. Seriously, though, it was amazing. They looked so entertained and were smiling and laughing (with me and not at me, I hope!)…

I am not great on a guitar but I did my best and sang my heart out… about god’s love… and prayed the whole time that it was sinking in. I moved through the whole hospital that way. I went to labor and OB where they seemed to really love itI also went to the waiting room to play for the people waiting to be seen. A very loud waiting room became nearly silent except for my guitar and voice.
There were even a couple of people trying to sing along on the more repetitive parts. I found something I could contribute. Something that uses what god has gifted me with, and something that as far as I know, no one has ever done for them before. I was blessed more than they were.

My fingers are on fire from playing so much and it even hurts to type- but it was so worth it!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

the people, the place, and the critters that awaited me

Meeting the families  The missionary families that are here are great. They are so welcoming and friendly and fun. They met me with hugs all around and a lunch that didn’t include rice. My kind of people! Doug, Ruth, Maddie, and James were the first to come out and reestablish the team- and Jeremy, Ona, Nathaniel, Christian, and Josiah followed. There is one other American missionary that lives in Dadeldhura who is not affiliated with the mission group i'm visiting- and as far as I can tell, that’s it. They have all included me like I’m already a member of their team. I have had dinner at both houses-twice, lunch at one (and an invite for lunch at the other), and breakfast at Doug and Ruth’s. I have led worship at their English fellowship group, and gone with them shopping in the village. Tonight we will go to the Nepali worship fellowship at a local church member’s house. Doug has let me shadow him, and has come to get me whenever there has been an interesting case at the hospital. They talk to me like I’m here to stay, and that feels good. I like them a lot and already feel like I’ll be among friends when I come.

Guest house and guest on wall The guest house is nice. Not fancy (though it is by Nepali standards, of course) but it is clean and well-kept with good amenities like electricity, a water heater, toilet, and a gas stove top.  It still isn’t as easy living here as it would be at a guest house in the US, of course… you have to turn on the water heater, light the stove each use, and the electricity is out fairly frequently…but it is still very comfortable and nice by mission standards. When I arrived they pointed me to my room which is at the end of the hall. There, waiting to greet me, was the largest black spider I have ever seen in person that wasn’t either at the zoo or the pet store.
It was on my wall, inches from the comforter on my bed which happened to be pushed up against the wall. I was very brave and managed to keep most of the hysteria out of my voice as I yelled for Doug to come kill it. The first thing I did after that was to pull the bed away from the wall in all directions and to check the covers and pillows for other friends (shudder). I don’t think I slept 10 minutes in a row that first night, and I kept turning on my headlamp and shining the light on the walls and ceiling to make sure no other friends were creeping up to get a look at me. I pulled myself into a fetal position and created a “circle of safety” and prayed to God that he would protect me in my circle. I read somewhere that “If you are afraid of spiders, Nepal isn’t for you.” Well, God must have called me here because I am terrified of them but I’m still sticking it out. For now. Kidding!!!

Cat in the dark Tonight, I had dinner at Doug and Ruth’s. Zucchini/ricotta fritters and rice. Oh, and brownies. I think I’ll like it here just fine. J Ruth is an amazing cook and has figured out how to adapt lots of recipes to local ingredients, cooking challenges, etc… I look forward to learning from her. After dinner, Doug walked me home. I fought the urge to be stubborn and insist that I could make the trip solo, and I’m glad I did. First of all, everything looks much different in the dark. I am not entirely sure I would have gone the right way. It is a simple walk back, so I probably would have made it, but there are no electric street lights in the village, no car headlights to light the way, and rarely even lights in the buildings or homes, so at best I would have been unsure I was in the right place until I actually made it home. As we came down the hill toward my guesthouse, in the pitch black, my headlamp illuminated eyes on the path in front of us. Big eyes. Animal eyes. It looked at us for a few seconds and then it’s shadowy form disappeared into the vegetation alongside the path to our right, and probably headed down the hill. It moved like a cat, and according to Doug was either a jungle cat or a jackal based on it’s size. So cool!! And more than a little scary considering one of the nurses at the hospital, Kripa, told me that they have “a lot of patients with leopard bites, tiger bites, bear bites, and boar bites.” Um…. Yike! Note to self- keep accepting those walks home!

pine trees- a sign from god. you're just gonna' have to trust me on this.

I have to mention something that probably isn’t going to sound too powerful on paper, but that was beyond powerful to actually spiritual when it happened. We drove through the pines. That was the exact moment that I knew this is where I belong. It had the feel of a sign from god. For the past several years- 5 maybe- I have had an almost visceral reaction to the smell of pine trees. Not fake pine, or air fresheners…just the real thing. This goes beyond loving the smell. It is as if it reaches down and stirs something in my soul that I can’t quite place. When the scent reaches me, I stop what I am doing and just experience it. It is like a brief feeling of ecstasy. I have never been able to figure out why this is. It hasn’t always been that way, and I have never had an experience, to my knowledge, that has made such a positive impact that it could have created this association. Regardless, it happens. Every time, over the past 5 or so years.  As we drove up the mountain to Dadeldhura, we drove through a stand of pine and it hit me again, but this time it brought an instant lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. It was as if that was god’s way of telling me I finally found it- the place he’s called me to. Here, halfway around the world from my “home”, I am experiencing that visceral, spiritual reaction and it has the earmark of a word from god. It is both comforting and exhilarating. It feels like with each breath, as I breathe in that scent, the god shaped hole in me is filled just a tiny bit and I am closer to completion.

See? I told you it would be lost in translation. You’ll just have to believe me. When god speaks to me, no matter how random the delivery of that message, I listen.

the trip up- definitely a trip!

The last two days have been as challenging as the first few! The good news is that I am up in dadeldhura. I made it! Yesterday, it looked like that may not happen. My ride was supposed to come and get me at 8am. Guess what? At 9am, he still wasn’t there. Nepali time has proven to be really similar to Africa time (which means it has no bearing on actual time at all and things just happen when they happen), so I wasn’t surprised he was running an hour late- but I called my hosts in dadeldhura to let them know since they were heading to church and would be out of pocket until noon. Doug made a phone call to the driver and called back to say that the roads were closed due to the bandha and he wouldn’t be able to reach me until afternoon or evening, at the earliest. What he didn’t tell me was that he really didn’t think there was any way that I would make it up. Missionaries had been stuck in Kathmandu for weeks trying to get home, and others were stuck for weeks up in dadeldhura, unable to get down. Instead of telling me that, he said “maybe this afternoon or evening.” I settled in for a blistering hot day in my hotel room in the middle of the Terai- and an hour later, the young waiter that had been bringing my bottles of water and a roll of toilet paper on a tray (I didn’t even have to ask! After all, I brought my own) came running up the stairs shouting and pantomiming driving a car. My ride was there! He started grabbing my stuff and shoving it in my backpack while I stuffed the rest in my suitcase- and then we ran down to the car, loaded up, and literally sped off. I breathed a sigh of relief when we made it through town (we were literally the only car on the road. There were dozens of bikes and people on foot, but no vehicle traffic because the roads were still supposed to be closed.).

My relief lasted about 4 minutes, until we started our ascent up the mountain. In all the excitement of “Will I get there? Won’t I get there?”, I never once considered that the road and the drive would be terrifying. Oh, but it was. It was 3 hours (that was part of the problem, considering it should take 4 hours to get to Dadeldhura) of white knuckles and desperate prayer. It was a very narrow road that twisted and turned while it climbed to staggering heights- with sheer drops on my side of the car the entire way.  Boulders and piles of smaller rocks littered the road where they had broken free from the cliff face above and crashed down onto the road. Sometimes we came careening around a corner to find a herd of goats or cows blocking both lanes. My driver was a good driver, but a fast driver, and he passed anything we came up behind. Most of these were huge trucks crammed with people and with supplies and people riding on top, or buses that were double capacity. There was never a full car width next to them, but we passed- on that sheer drop side- every time. One bus tried to close us out and cut us off and we barely made it by.  There was one part of the road that was gone completely, along with what passed as a guardrail, and was covered only by sand. We skidded sideways when we crossed that patch. Several other patches were covered with thick jagged rocks instead of pavement and the car jerked and jutted across. I can’t believe we didn’t pop a tire. I chewed a Dramamine but it was still all I could do not to get carsick.

I will also say that it was 3 hours of some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen.

 It was gorgeous, soaring mountaintops and thick jungled slopes. There were terraced farms and animals grazing along the road. It was primitive and the tiny towns that dotted the road were the poorest of the poor- but it was breathtaking when I could look away from the road ahead long enough to enjoy it.

And then we were here!

Friday, May 18, 2012

BYOT (bring your own toilet paper)

today has been quite a day!

i am going to start by saying that a lot of this wasn't my fault but i'll learn from it, anyway.

i woke up this morning to more of the same- confusion as to what continued to be affected by the strike, and whether or not i'd be able to travel to dadeldhura today. my host called up to TEAM hospital in dadeldhura (DDH) to see if doug, the medical director, had news but he didn't have a definitive answer at that point. what he did have was a bus accident on his hands, and 30 patients to care for as a result. it looked like we'd have to figure it out ourselves. the plan was to leave for the airport at 1045am to catch my 1230 flight. that changed. flora, the girl i went shopping and exploring with yesterday, called and said that she found a driver who would ignore the bandha and drive us to the airport but he wanted to leave right away when it was safer. evidently, the later the day the higher the tensions. instead of 1045, we were leaving at 9:15. did i mention we got the call at about 9:05? well, guess who waited until the last minute to pack so wasn't prepared for such a hasty departure? yep....me. i shoved everything i could into my suitcase and backpack and ran out the door. there wasn't time to purchase a cell phone so we put a SIM card we'd purchased the day before into an old phone my host had at the house, and programmed 3 numbers into it. flora's, my hosts (marcy) and doug in DDH. in the car, i took out the phone to play around with it and make sure i knew how to operate it. that's when i noticed it had one battery bar. i was hoping it would last since there are no outlets or charging stations at the kathmandu airport. oh- and i don't have a charger that fits that phone. :/

we arrived at the airport. no one there could tell me if the flight would go. flora wasn't allowed into the building, so the plan was for her to wait until 1130 in the taxi. i would text "okay" if the flight was going and "wait" if it wasn't, and i needed transport back to marcy's. there are no departure screens or electronic info available. there are two desks for yeti airlines (yes, you heard that right) and you know the flight you're checking in for because they tack up a printed piece of paper with the name of the destination on it. period. no departure time, no flight number. just white paper with a name. all i could do was wait and see if my paper got tacked up. at around 11:10, the guy behind one of the desks seemed to get enough of my english that i believed he knew what he was saying when he said the flight would go. i texted "okay" to flora and sent her off.

the plane was a 2 prop deal, with no overhead compartments so your carry-ons are on your lap, and the flight attendant's seat is literally in the bathroom. you fold up her jump seat and pull this knob that says "toilet". a small panel in the wall pulls away revealing a toilet. that panel swings past you to block the view of the toilet and you hold it shut while you pee. i made a mental note never again to drink fluids before or during the flight to or from dhanghadi.

when we landed, we landed in "strike zone".

the bandha was in full effect and there were no vehicles on the road and the airport was non-functional. we disembarked on the runway and 30+ machine gun wielding officers directed us around the building to a dirt patch where they dropped our bags and told us to start walking. a man came from the crowd and told me "there is someone coming for you." that was music to my ears. i grabbed my bags and headed the 1/4 mile to the security gate with the others. just inside the gate were rickshaws and men on motorcycles to take travelers the 1-2 miles into town. i didn't see my driver, so i waited. i was told that the hospital vehicle was going to take me to DDH so that is what i was looking for. after 15 or 20 minutes, i approached an ambulance to see if he was waiting for me. he wasn't. i went back to the gate and waited some more. i chanced my battery and called marcy who called doug for me. evidently, my rickshaw left with someone else aboard. i was told that another would come for me in 20-30 minutes. at this point, it was just me and the 30+ armed officers on a road in the desert. a couple of them kept pointing down the road and saying "go" but i took advantage of the language barrier and just stood my ground, pretending i didn't understand. there were no buildings except a few rundown shacks/homes as far as the eye could see. i wasn't about to head down that road with no destination and a nearly dead battery. about an hour after the second rickshaw was supposed to arrive, i talked to doug again. he had no idea what had happened but would find out and call back. i had to tell him that at any minute, my phone could die. we agreed that no matter what, i would stay put until someone arrived that was coming specificially for me and knew my name and where i was headed. even if my phone died, he said- stay put. someone will come.

at this point, the officers left. now, instead of me and 30+ armed officers, it was just me. periodically, an old nepali woman would come and sit across from me and watch me. i would say something in english. she would say something in nepali. we would both just smile...and i would continue reading and she would continue staring at me.

then a young boy joined the fun. he was bold enough to stand right next to me and stare down at me sitting on the side of the road. he, too, would wander away and then return on occasion to entertain himself. finally, doug called back. a guy was headed my way in a blue car and he was going to take me to a hotel where i'd stay overnight. the driver said it was too unsafe to travel today and especially at night- so we'd start in the morning and head up the mountain. in about 10 minutes (2 hours after landing), a silver car arrived. yep- silver. not blue. i asked the driver if he was there for me and guess what? no english. he sort of smiled, picked up my bags, and headed for the car. i had a decision to make. i decided i had enough of sitting on the side of the road in the terai. at least for today. i climbed in the car and thank god he brought me to a hotel. that's the upside... the hotel itself is the downside. ugh.

there are stains on the sheets, stains above the beds, a toilet that doesn't flush, a bucket to pour water down the toilet that doesn't flush, a showerhead right in the middle of the room (between the door and the toilet) so you just let the water run all over the floor in the bathroom...the cold water because there is no hot...and it is BYOT. Bring Your Own Toilet paper. it is, for nepal, probably a 5 star hotel. beware- that rating system isn't the same everywhere. haha. it beats sitting in the sun in the desert, though, so tonight it will be my palace. i will eat my turkey jerky and dry roasted almonds because the rest of my food melted (even the tiniest chocolate chips can make a monster mess) and the staff here speaks less english than my driver- who spoke none. i don't think i have the energy to pantomime food prep- so jerky it is. it'll be good for me. after yesterday's shopping spree, i'm determined to be more "nepali sized" when i return.

tomorrow, we try again.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

dadeldhura or bust!

good news- the bandha (strike/protest) in the far west is over.

bad news- there is a call for a bandha in kathmandu tomorrow which may effectively shut down travel routes TO the airport- and then continued bandha in the terai, which includes the area between the airport in danghadi and the road up to dadeldhura, means that even if i can get to the airport tomorrow, and can fly from kathmandu to danghadi, i may not be able to get to the road that will take me to dadeldhura.

so again, i pray and wait. i wonder what kind of lessons i'm learning here? hmmmmm.... such a mystery! haha. gotta' laugh. at this point, there isn't much use in doing anything else. i have always preached to my mission teams that flexibility is the single most important characteristic they can have. now it's time for me to put my money where my mouth is.

it was a good day here in kathmandu. flora, a really sweet nepali, took me on a sightseeing and shopping mission. we rode in a micro (the name of the minivans that can comfortably seat 8 but transport as many as 24 people at a time to destinations around the city), toured temples and royal courts, bought souveniers in small shops, ate veggie samosas (oh yum) and something that was suspiciously like fried donut holes soaked in syrup, and searched high and low for a traditional nepali outfit that would fit me. let me say here that the average nepali man is 5'4" and the women on average are 5'2". fitting me was a challenge. i started by hitting my head on the doorway of every room i entered. then, after much giggling and searching for the biggest get-up they could find, they would hand it to me and point me to a room the size of 1/2 a phone booth. inside, the ceilings were so low that i couldn't get my arms high enough over my head to put on the top, so i'd have to crouch down. then, i usually get stuck inside the top AND the room and flora would have to extricate me while the shop laughed. this was great on my ego- but did double my determination to lose some weight- and maybe 6 inches of height if i can figure that one out! haha. i did finally find a beautiful kourtas (not sure how it's spelled but that is the name of the bright embroidered top over the flowy, puffy circus pants that make up this regalia and it was in my size. we found it in the back of a darkened shop pretending to be closec because of the bandha (if you are found open, they will break your windows and trash your shop). we then took back alleys and up tiny crooked staircases to the tailor- 3 men sewing on foot operated machines and 3 ladies with children sewing by hand in a 3rd floor room in a broken down building. 

one of the men made me sleeves for my kourtas so my shoulders will be covered when i wear it in the village.

they measured my arms and then commented in nepali, while looking at me with odd appreciation, that i had the biggest most muscular arms of any woman they'd ever measured. great distinction.lol. one sewed and one interrogated me. was i married? why not? didn't i have children? how old am i? what do i do for a job? again, why wasn't i married? was i looking for a nepali boyfriend? man, they sew slowly.........haha. i felt like a bond girl. very "spy sexy".

i had dinner at the home of ...okay- i have been writing this for two day and have lost internet connection and/or power 4 times since i started- so am going to send, though it is incomplete. i'd rather get SOME info out than none. i'll keep you informed when i hear the news i'm most interested in. will i or will i not get to dadeldhura today??!!??

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

on a clear day you can see everest- and other news from nepal!

well, so much for the blissful night's sleep in the abu dahbi hotel. it was more like a blissful 3 1/2 hours sleep. sigh. they had this "sleep program" that came complete with a little booklet explaining all the best ways to ensure a good night's sleep (exercise, hot bath before bedtime, dark room, etc...) and both pillow spray and aromatherapy roll on essential oils to put on my pulse points to lull my brain into sleepy-land. they also had luxurious all cotton sheets and puffy pillows and a comforter. how could i NOT get a good night's sleep? well, have a person start pounding on my door at 2:30am. that's how. i still don't know who it was. i woke up to super loud knocking in the middle of the night. insistent, persistent, loud banging. i sat bolt upright in the dark, not knowing where i was or what time it was. then i came to my senses and started trying to find (in the dark) enough clothes to throw on to allow me to open the door. i heard the pounding make its way down the hall to other rooms as well. i was fumbling for light switches (which i never found) and yelling "who is it?" and "hang on!" and "what?" at the top of my lungs with no answer. the banging returned to my door. by the time i got to open it, though, the person or people who were responsible were gone. i didn't know if it was an evacuation or a fire drill, or my abducters finally arriving (joke!) but they were gone. i called the front desk who had no idea what i was talking about and sent security up to check it out. needless to say, it was tough to drift back to sleep after that. i even put some of the roller ball essential oils in my nose. nope- didn't help. rats!

the rest of the day has gone pretty smoothly. i left the hotel and said a silent prayer of thanks to god that he has NOT called me to serve him and be a full time missionary in abu dahbi, where it was already 98 degrees at 0730.

(the view from my hotel in abu dahbi)

wow. it was interesting to see once, but i don't feel a draw to spend any more time there than a layover or two. seriously, thank god for that.

(abu dahbi airport- mosaic tile ceiling with real gold)

the 4ish hour flight from abu dhabi to kathmandu was a snap after the 14 hour one the day before, and the plane was a big one that wasn't even 1/10 full, so we got to spread out and stretch out. i got to move with the window view and guess what i saw? on approach to kathmandu, the clouds were thick below us- and sticking up above the very highest clouds was the peak of mount everest. amazing. all i could think was that when people summit everest, they are nearly the same altitude as our plane. just standing outside above cloud line and even with a 747 or airbus or whatever we were on. i waved just in case they were up there and watching.

i am not usually a weeper. really, i'm not. i know i know- i cried at the ticket counter of ethiad airlines and was given the go ahead to take my ginormous backpack on against regulations, but i thought that was the exception and not the rule... evidently, i was wrong and i AM a weeper. at least on this trip. the second set of tears were ones of joy and amazement and not born of frustration or irritation- these were tears as i flew high above nepal and saw the himalayas unfold beneath me. they were tears of anticipation as i saw the villages far below, joined only by thin dirt tracks. they were tears of appreciation as i finally entered the land that god has called me to. they were tears of awe as i began to truly understand how powerfully god is moving and working in my life. i felt like destiny was there to greet me and the emotion of that was overwhelming. in some strange but not small way, i feel as if i'm home.

my bags are here!! my bags are here!! that made me very happy since my theory was wrong and day 3 in the same clothes wasn't more fun than day 2. i now have a completely different skirt on and have changed underwear twice- just because i can! that, folks, has made for a very happy woman. :0)

my prayer warriors have come through for me. as i landed, i was told that the bandha (strike) will end today and we will move ahead with plans to head up the mountain to the village of dadeldhura, where TEAM hospital is located. i didn't come literally half way across the world only to be stopped short of reaching my destination. once again, walking by faith and not by sight has been rewarded. i love it when that happens.
now, as i write this, i am in the small guest house of the family i will stay with until friday when i head to dadeldhura in the "far west". steve and marcy and the girls are wonderful. warm, funny, friendly- and teaching me things like how to eat the daal-bhat (lentils and rice) with my hands. they also have a gentle giant of a german shepherd named dakota, so i feel right at home.

so far, so goood!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

let the games begin!

well this ought to be interesting. as i write this, the entire blogger site is in arabic and the cursor is on the right hand side of the screen and the letters feed to the left as i type. i have been awake and traveling for 2 solid days now with no sleep, so we'll see how this pans out. lol. i will keep it short, and sweet because i need some long sweet sleep.  i am now in abu dhabi but not without some traveling snafus along the way.  the flight from KC to chicago was fine. the trouble started at the international departure area at o'hare. it is truly like a foreign airport. lots of loud talking...no one standing in any particular line and no real order. most people didn't speak english- or at least they didn't while there. the "line" for lack of a better word took about an hour to get through. then i got all the way up to the passport checker at the security counter and she said "this boarding pass that they gave you in kansas city doesn't work here. you have to go check in at the etihad airways ticket counter. um...? wow. so i asked if that meant that i had to stand in line again after going and standing in THAT line to get a boarding pass that i already had. you guessed it. the answer was yes. it gets better- as i got to the ticket line, the guy told me he'd have to weigh my backpack. mind you, they didn't weigh it at KC where my journey started-... so he informs me that it is well over the allowable weight and i cannot carry it on. he said i would have to check it (complete with my laptop, camera, chargers, medical equipment, etc.....inside) and to add insult to injury, it would cost me $50 for the honor. when i started to protest, he said "if you'd gone just a little heavier, it would have been $75." i think he thought this was helpful. instead that's where the last piece of straw broke the camel's back and i began to cry. there i was in line, late for my flight (which is ridiculous considering i had a 3 hour layover), pulling items out of my bag and trying to stash them around my neck, and under my arms, and in my purse....and the tears were flowing. i didn't even try to cover them. i made no apologies. i openly wept and looked everyone straight in the eye. no regrets. this had a wonderful effect on the etihad manager assisting people in line. he took one look at me, waved me to the counter, and proceeded to do everything he could to get me to stop crying. i love the power in making people uncomfortable. in a few short minutes i had my bag (still full of all my stuff and FREE), and my new boarding pass, and was heading to the front of the security line with an etihad escort. from that point on, the flight went pretty well.

ethihad is a wonderful airline...they fed us 2 full meals, one light meal, and a snack (klondike ice cream bars!!) and the plane was new with all the (working) bells and whistles. the flight attendants are beautiful and professional and all about customer service. everyone smiled and was friendly. it was one of the best flights i've been on, save for the fact that it was 14 hours long and i still can't sleep on an airplane (ugh). oh- and the fact that the lady in the seat in front of me reclined so far back that her seat was about an inch off my lap. (double ugh). it was smooth and uneventful, really-

until i reached the airport in abu dhabi. abu is hazy from the sky and on the ground- the result of all the sand in the air...and it is blistering hot...and when you look down from the sky on approach, there is nothing as far as the eye can see except brown. sand on all horizons. then, in the middle of the brown is the city. an impossible city in the middle of nowhere.  it looks and feels like no man's land with disneyland built in the middle of it. very odd.... the airport was like the plane- new and shiny with friendly people and a lot of them...but not much baggage. they managed to lose both of my bags en route- we think they may be headed to kathmandu, but that''s more of a theory than a certainty. we'll see. funny, but i thought wearing clothes for 2 days in a row would be more fun than this. i am hoping it gets better day 3. yum. i am SO thankful my hissy fit prevented me from having to check my carry on, too. then i'd be completely emptyhanded. i. am. so. smart.

okay- off to bed in my luxurious hotel before getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to head toward nepal. let the games begin! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

there's always something, right?

i had so many witty and interesting things to write... quips about my pre-travel preparations and my "roommate is moving in while i'm gone" preparations... deep and insightful thoughts about my upcoming trip (i leave tomorrow!!)...but all of that has taken a back seat to the email that i received a few minutes ago from nepal. there is a political strike going on that has lasted 18 days and has blocked off the western region of nepal (the area where i'm headed) from the rest of the country. the roads are blocked and nothing is moving up or down the mountain. i am headed to kathmandu and from there, i will try to see if there is a way up to dadeldhura. i desperately want to visit the area that i'm called to serve. i have had to walk by faith and not by sight for so long now...i can't bear the thought of getting that close and not getting to "see" where i'm going! i will do my best to remain flexible, though, and just pray that god has me where he wants me and where he needs me. the hospital is running out of diesel fuel to run the generator. here is an update from the medical director at the hospital there:

Please pray with us.  We are on day 15 of a bandh (general strike) here in the Far West of Nepal.  There have been no supply trucks coming in from the lowlands – where most of the food, and all of the fuel, medicines, and supplies are brought in from.  Vehicles have not been allowed to be on the roads.  Starting a few days ago, all of the shops and offices here have been shut down as well.  Usually bandhs do not last this long and are not this severe; but because the deadline for the Nepali constitution is coming up in a couple weeks, various political groups are staging bandhs across the country (to put pressure on the government). 

Patient flow at the hospital has dropped significantly due to the roads being closed.  The hospital has a back-up generator for when the power goes out (which happens for hours every day here), but since there have been no supply trucks to bring diesel up here, we will only be able to run the generator there for an hour a day.  No one knows when this bandh will end – it might last for another couple weeks.  If the protestors do not allow supply trucks to come up the mountain soon, we will eventually run out of needed supplies at the hospital.

Our family is okay for now – we still have food in the fridge and in our pantry, and some greens growing in our garden.  But most people here do not live with that kind of margin.  There is some local produce grown here, but not enough to sustain the whole population here for very long.  Because of the bandh, many people have not been able to go to work and earn money to feed their families.  Given that the average yearly income in the Far West is less than $200, being out of work for a few weeks hits many families very hard.

Please pray for Nepal and that this bandh will end soon.  The situation is not violent here, so we do not fear at all for our safety.  But tensions are high across the nation as the constitution deadline approaches.  God only knows how many people have suffered because of this.  We will try to update you all when we can.

so- tomorrow i head out to see my future. my prayers are that i get to see it up close and personal, and not from half a country away. bon voyage!