Wednesday, April 27, 2011

From the Frontline

I am both very happy and unhappy to report that there is a reasonable amount of computer access available to me here in Asia Minor, at least for this week. Happy because it means I could let everyone know that I made it alright and a little bit about how things are going so far. Unhappy because I was really relishing having 2 weeks off of the grid. Well, at least I am still phoneless.
Things here are different than I had imagined they would be, which is not surprising. But I am so excited about what the Lord has been doing in my heart and the body we have gotten to participate in. The plane ride was fine- actually, I was lucky enough to get an aisle seat AND no one next to me! For those who have never tried to sleep on a plane, this is the royal flush of the intercontinental transit world not lucky enough to be in first class. Sleeping, however, was greatly restricted by the inappropriate Spaniard across the aisle from me. He was travelling with an older woman who I hope was his mother (some questionable cuddling has put this in doubt) and literally, every time I was acually falling asleep, he would screech out a laugh or crank up his techno music, meaning that my in flight sleep was limited.
However, we all arrived in Asia Minor in one piece, and our hosts were there to help us get to the home we are staying in. The owners have graciously vacated for us and it is quite a large flat. I've been surprised at how large all the flats have been. Anyways, it is so nice to be able to stay in a home rather than a hotel, especially since we have a question. The TV channels are interesting - I think they must have purchased the I <3 Jesus cable package, since the English channels are all either the news or monks singing hymns on keyboards to children. It's also been interesting getting used to the calls to prayer that happen throughout the day... Arabic yodelling at 5am is not as condusive to sound sleep as you might think.
We have toured around a bit, though that will mostly be next week. I am struck in the same way I was in Athens and Corinth, in terms of how rich the context of the geography and atomosphere is for exegesis and comprehension. Ephesus was simply amazing and we actually read Acts 19 in the place where the riot happened.
But more than anything, I am overwhelmed by the hospitality of this culture. Everyone is so warm and accomodating, and don't (at least) outwardly display the disdainful attitude towards Americans that I've encountered elsewhere. Church on Sunday saw dozens of people coming up to us, just to shake hands and welcome us. They invite us to their homes for meals. They bring us snacks or tea throughout the day. They practice extreme patience with our very limited linguistic abilities. And aside from nearly killing us with their cars several times, they have been the picture of kindness to us all.
I have and continue to learn much about kindness from the natives and the foreign workers- it is really challenging to our individualistic, self focused mentality, which I undoubtedly possess. I feel like I'm really getting a glimpse into what it would look like to live in world where  we looked out for the interests of others before ourselves. That would be something, indeed!
Anyways, I had a few empty moments with a computer in front of me, so I thought I would check in. More to come!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello, Gigantic Juicy Filet Mignon-er, um, Readers

So I am well under way with Lent and I realized I haven't given an update on progress. The season kicked off with a Toberlone bar and a lovely Ash Wednesday service, where I got the eponymous administration of ashes and sang any number of obscure Lenten hymns. This is an area rich with opportunity for improvement- so to my musically inclined friends, please get on it. I know it has to be somber, but maybe something just a bit catchy? Is that permissible?

The meat part hasn't been too terrible- though, as predicted, whenever I let myself dwell on it, usually during a conference call, I can only think about having a delicious, succulent slab of beef product seasoned ever so subtly with garlic and salt. And then whoever I'm talking seems to have their head begin to look awfully like a well marbled cut. I have to quickly shake my head and refocus on requirements traceability matrices and lessons learned. The other major discovery of this vegetarian season? Veggie fried rice isn't worth the calories. It needs some slightly grizzled "chicken" meat in with it to get the full experience.

Sweets, on the other hand, have been a much stiffer challenge. I think the most interesting part has been realizing what times of day I get the strongest cravings. Because I don't really dig coffee, I've realized the extent to which I've relied on sugar to keep my stimulated during the day. The mid-afternoon has been the real dip in energy and I find myself twitching to have a chocolate or cookie or froyo. I've tried to mitigate through increased hot tea or diet Snapple intake. Yet I still find myself very tired and head-achy by 3pm every afternoon.

The other time is at night, when I get home, if my roommates aren't there. I didn't realize it, but I begin to lust after sweets at that time of night. It's when I've not gotten home until 8 or 8:30 after a long day and don't have dinner until 8:30 or 9- then the yen sinks in and I can only think of something terribly sweet. I had never made this connection until it was denied to me. I think it's because I'm tired and a little lonely because I only have an hour before I have to be in bed and no one to chat with. I just want to sit there and tune out until it's time to sleep. But not having the numbing affect of sugary anesthesia has forced me to engage in the evening, and I must say, I am relishing being made to enjoy my evenings again. I'm reading more, initiating with far away friends more, writing more- who knew?

And I also have to say, only have one day a week to have sweets has been really rather good for me. It keeps me from wasting on little caloric packed fillers and just indulge in the  items that I've truly been craving and are worth the calorie count.

So, all in all, this is a successful venture so far. In fact, don't hold me to this, but I may keep the sweets thing going after Lent. I like that I can tangibly feel the difference in my spiritual life and overall enjoyment of life. But we'll see how I feel after 40 days :)