Friday, December 31, 2010

Freedom being a Constraint

As I said in my last blog, I'm reading a book by one of my favorite pastors Tim Keller called, "The Reason for God." I have had the book for a while, but with school being in the way and the amount of reading it requires; it is been put on the back burner for a while. Now that I have had plenty of downtime, I've been able to get in to it quite a bit. The book deals with questions and doubts that skeptics, and sometimes even believers, deal with in the church. What I really like about the book is that it provides a platform to stand your ground as a Christian when you or your beliefs are challenged.

One of the areas of topic Keller deals with in his book is the area of Christianity supposedly limiting personal growth and potential because it constrains our freedom to choose our own beliefs. Keller argues this by saying, "Freedom cannot be defined in strictly negative terms, as the absence of confinement and constraint. In fact, in many cases, confinement and constraint is actually a means to liberation." Keller gives an example - "If you have musical aptitude, you may give yourself to practice, practice, and practice the piano for years. This is a restriction, a limit on your freedom. There are many other things you won't be able to do with the time you invest in practicing. If you have the talent, however, the discipline and limitation will unleash your ability that would otherwise go untapped. What have you done? You've deliberately lost your freedom to engage in some things in order to release yourself to a richer kind of freedom to accomplish other things."

Keller does say that there are certain restrictions and disciplines are not all liberating. He gives an example of a small 125lb male trying out for the NFL as a lineman and how all the discipline and effort won’t help him because he is fighting against a reality that isn’t possible. However, what he’s getting at is that constraints and disciplines only liberate us when they “fit with the reality of our nature and capacities.” Again, another example is a fish out of water – the fish will die if we do not honor the reality of its nature and it is only free if it is restricted and limited to water where it can breathe.

It made me start to wonder how many people work really hard to find something that makes a lot of money, while sacrificing family and love, rather than find something that fits their talents and interests. Such careers can be suffocating that in the long run stifle and dehumanize us. Where’s the freedom in that?

I love this quote from Keller…

“In many areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions. Those that fit with the reality of our nature and the world produce greater power and scope for our abilities and a deeper joy and fulfillment. Experimentation, risk, and making mistakes bring growth only if, over time, they show us our limits as well as our abilities. If we only grow intellectually, vocationally, and physically through judicious constraints – why would it not also be true for spiritual and moral growth? Instead of insisting on freedom to create spiritual reality, shouldn’t we be seeking to discover it and disciplining ourselves to live according to it?”

Just some food for thought

Keller also ties the freedom of Love with being restrictive and constraining. I’ll delve in to that one on the next blog.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Alone in Africa

Coming to Africa has been a whirlwind of emotions for me. I was so happy to finally be finished with school and focus on a greater objective. I was probably more excited about flying to Africa than I've ever been for flying anywhere. For those that don't know, I'm not crazy about flying and breathing recycled air. However, I anxiously awaited seeing the staff of Onesimus and the kids that are a part of it for the first time in around six months. It is hard to believe that a kid can have that much of an impact on me after being with them for only a week in June, however, there is something different about these kids. They love spending time with you and are not distracted by the things of the western world (iPods, facebook, cell phones, etc..). So time is all they have; and they love giving it to you.

We were able to spoil Nega and his wife a little and focus on a few aspects of the ministry. One, we loved on the kids, which was the most important for me. Two, we were able to work with the kids with some sports clinics and give them a little exercise in the process. Three, we took in a few football matches and got to see their competitive spirit come out. Four, we got to see go see a few beneficiaries of the Income Generation Activity and how Onesimus, with the Lord's hand, has helped sustain the families and provide food and shelter for them (Mrs. McGoo can explain more about this project in another blog). So overall, it has been a busy, fruitful, and worthwhile trip so far to see all that the Lord is doing in and out of this wonderful organization and city.

However, I must admit, these past few days have been difficult for me. I put Mrs. McGoo back on a plane to the US on Christmas night and immediately felt alone and attacked. Around that time at night is about the time in the US where people made their way to facebook and began bragging and celebrating all the wonderful gifts they received Christmas morning. It was tough to see and read. While I love that so many people were made happy on this day, Satan began attacking me in a way that I wasn't prepared for. Here I sat in a room with a bed, window, and desk, while my wife went back to the US and all I read where people shouting for joy for the material gifts they received and how they were with their families. Satan hit me like a Mack truck. He kept telling me that I was all alone, no one cared, and there was not anything I could do about it. So I spent most of the night and day worrying about where my wife was (internet is very spotty here so flight tracking is impossible), if she was safe in Istanbul, if the weather allowed her to arrive safely in Chicago and so on. Literally these thoughts have eaten me up inside for the past two days. I kept thinking, why am I here in the mission field feeling so alone and suffering when no one back home cares?

This morning I spent some time in conversation with God. I finished the book "Crazy Love" and began reading Tim Keller's wonderful book "The Reason for God." In the second chapter, he tackles the question, 'How Could a Good God Allow Suffering.' Keller says, "In Jesus Christ, God experienced the greatest depths of pain. Therefore, though Christianity does not provide the reason for each experience of pain, it provides deep resources for actually facing suffering with hope and courage rather than bitterness and despair." I began to think, ok, so how does this apply to me? I've been praying for you Lord to show me I'm not alone in this - that what I'm doing here is worthwhile and for the betterment of Christianity. Later in the chapter Keller writes, "On the cross Jesus's cry of dereliction - MY GOD, MY GOD, why have you forsaken me? - is a deeply relational statement. Jesus did not die renouncing God. Even in the inferno of abandonment he did not surrender his faith in God by expressed his anguished prayer in a cry of affirmation, 'MY GOD, MY GOD.'"

I sat on those words for a good bit of time this morning. Even while Satan was attacking and in my loneliness, I was still crying out for the Lord for something. While I'm certainly not putting my small insignificant bit of boredom up with my Saviors sacrifice, it did resonate something in me. I haven't lost my faith, far from it, but I felt in some small way, I wanted to know or have some assurance that what I have doing mattered - that God understood my suffering - because Satan was telling me otherwise. Keller goes on by saying, "Christianity alone among the world religions claims that God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and his death, God suffers in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken."

Keller's words were perfect for me this morning. Godly perfect. Who of all people would know abandonment more than Jesus? Finally, Keller went on to say, "We also need hope that our suffering is 'not in vain'...For one who suffers, the Christian faith provides as a resource not just in its teaching on the Cross but also the fact of the resurrection...we can know that God is truly Immanuel - God with us - even in our worst sufferings."

Have you ever heard someone say, "God spoke to me" and meant it?

This morning, God spoke to me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Of Rock's and Men

It is pretty common knowledge when you live in Memphis that violence is a part the life of the city. People carry all sorts of weapons on them; some legal, some not. While most Memphians arsenal include guns, knives, pipes, and bats, you'd never hear of violence committed by a rock.

Addis Ababa is completely opposite of Memphis. Here, people do not have the type of weapons you'd see in America. One, they can't afford it, and two it isn't part of their culture. I hear stories of people being robbed and the robbers return everything in their wallet except the cash. Crazy, I know. A criminal with a conscious.
The one form of violence you see here is fighting with rocks. There are a lot of rocky and dirt roads here and even the nicer roads have their fare share of rocks. Most of the parks that we play at are dirt and rocks. Heck, even the field that the boys are playing their games on are rocks. They slide and dive and tackle on these's impressive and scary all in one.

Last Wednesday we were at one of the fields we've been using for clinics and had a few run ins with people wanting to fight with rocks. The first instance we had some of the boys scrimmaging each other. There was another game going on with some older guys...most likely in their early twenties. Out of no where, one of our players comes running and hides behind me. I look at him as he is pointing and a younger guy comes running at me with a very large rock in his hand. My first instinct was to level the guy and protect our kid. About that time Nega stepped in front of me and started talking him down. Apparently the ball we were using went into their match and the boy went to retrieve it and did not apologize about it. So that deserved a man possibly ten years older than him to come running at him with a rock in his hand.

The second instance happened the same time the first was going on. Mrs. McGoo was working with a few smaller boys when some of the neighborhood kids came and wanted to join in. We're never really sure who starts it or what is said but before she knew it, kids the age of 6 are throwing rocks at each other. We didn't see what was happening and anyone that has heard Mrs. McGoo knows her screams sound more like a kid that is hoarse. She finally got our attention and Nega went over and calmed things down.
This past Sunday, I was watching a football match with two teams and after the match a fight broke out in the streets. No punches were thrown because no one was close enough to each other to do so. But large rocks bigger than my fist were thrown and it's a wonder that no one was seriously injured.

I'm amazed at how people have taken to defending themselves by throwing rocks at each other. Maybe Ethiopians just aren't good fighters...I dunno. I asked Nega about it and why is it so ingrained in their culture. I guess I can see why a kid living on the street would want to defend himself at any cost, but for adults to go after a kid with one is amazing to me. It can be difficult to discipline a kid that is doing so on the street because you do not know whether you can turn your back and expect a rock in the back of the head.

What I do know is I aim to change the culture in and around our kids. Tomorrow I am speaking with them about it since it is fresh in their mind from the fight they had on Sunday. Also, I've been asked to work with Onesimus ministry to develop policies for their organization in every area. One of the first things I plan on doing is working on policies for children and rocks.

Something has to be done about changing the culture. If not, we're just stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Differences: Walking and Driving in Africa

Mrs. McGoo and I have blogged countless times about how there are many differences in Africa and America, but two things we haven't discussed is how we are viewed and how the driving is here.

Think of the busiest city you know, say New York, where people are constantly walking in and out of traffic (While I have never been to NYC, I have seen plenty on tv to know that tons of people walk to and from work amidst a ton of traffic). Now take the same amount of people and shrink the city and you have Addis. It's really crazy. However, unlike the melting pot that is NYC, Addis 99.999999% black; meaning, there aren't many white folk walking around here. So, when there are a few walking around, it is a spectacle.
If you are the kind of person that doesn't like people staring at you, the Addis is not the place for you; or at least you might want to work on getting over it. There is no where, and I repeat, NO WHERE I go, that everyone isn't staring at me. If someone were to stare at you in the states, you might think someone has it out for you or your fly is open or something. So naturally, when you see someone stare at you in the states, you're first inclination is to respond, 'What? Got a problem or something?' Here, you kind of have to get use to it, because it happens everywhere you go. Here's another problem...they think you are someone else. I'll let Mrs. McGoo elaborate on her blog what has been going on lately with me, but let's just say that I'm getting called names by people now.
I continue to ask Nega (the Onesimus Director) why everyone stares at me (outside of the obvious, I’m good looking). He tells me that because I am a foreigngie (their word for foreigner) and they wonder why I’m here – what have I come to do? Also, because I’m a bigger guy (and apparently look like someone famous), which is not very common here in Ethiopia. On the negative side of things, they also think we have money, which leads people to beg quite a bit. While it isn’t overwhelming, it is bothersome because inside of you, you want to help someone. The problem is, if you give to one person, it’s over. You’ll get mauled by beggars who all think you’ve got some more to give.

In addition to people staring at you a lot, that isn’t the only strange thing here; the way people drive is another. I've never seen driving like this. I always thought Memphis drivers were horrible, then I went to Dallas, then I went to New Orleans, and Mexico, and so on. None of those places hold a candle to the way driving is here. Again, people are walking everywhere and traffic is so busy here, it is controlled chaos in that, everyone seems to know what they are doing, but it is completely crazy driving. I believe that I have seen ONE traffic light that is working here, but the rest are not. If you come to an intersection, you have to be what I call, ‘cautiously aggressive.’ You cannot stop and let everyone go, otherwise, you’ll get dominated and never will move. However, you cannot completely drive either or you’ll wreck. Speaking of wrecks, I’ve never seen one here and you’d think there would be one every five seconds. Yet, everyone knows what to expect. I actually like it better than in the states some. No one gets their feelings hurt, no one drives angry, and road rage is not an issue. Likewise, no one follows the dotted lines; they just give you a guide for where you need to be. I see people swaying back and forth all the time – no one bats an eye. In the states, you’d be pulled over for reckless driving. Again, the way people drive is expected here and no one gets their panties in a wad if someone flashes their lights at them, honks their horn at them, or passes them. Flashing lights and honking the horn is just their way of letting you know they are there and they don’t want you to get hit.

All that being said, there are two types of driving here: City driving and country driving.

City driving is a lot of how I explained previously. You have to be cautiously aggressive with crossing intersections and on the major roads. If you give someone more than a few feet, they will take it. So it is always a game of inches…or should I say millimeters here internationally. You also have to be cautiously aggressive with pedestrians. There are more people walking, than there are driving and they want a piece of the road as well. Sidewalks here are pretty much useless since vendors are set up on them, people are sleeping on them, or the sidewalk is destroyed. It is not uncommon to drive millimeters next to another car on one side and millimeters next to people on the other. All the while, both are trying to get ahead, in front, or around you. All of it makes for a very interesting ride.

The other type of driving is Country driving. I experienced this first when we took Nega and his wife Emu to Lake Awassa this past weekend. We made our way out of the city and then began to drive on a long stretch of road. Lake Awassa is 270 km north of Addis Ababa and we remembered every bit of the journey. When I think of all the times I’ve left Memphis and headed north to Nashville or Lexington, on a clear day, the worst one may have to encounter are traffic jams and a truck that is slow here or there. The thing you don’t have to account for is driving while large groups of people are walking on the shoulder, a buggy with a horse or donkey is driving in front of you or on the shoulder, or animals are crossing or walking on the shoulder. It makes for a very stressful drive when having to account for all of the other distractions that may be thrown in you path to get to a destination. On top of that, about every 30 mins, you come to a small town or market where it looks like a parade has come and you are the featured guest. You drive through with people and their animals all staring at you and walking around your car.

Now, imagine all of this, and then imagine YOU actually get to drive in it. Yep, I did. I relieved Nega of driving duties about halfway so that he could rest a little and I could get a taste of what it was like to drive. At first, I felt pretty good – nothing much in my way. Then about 45 mins later, I have three goats standing in the middle of the street. Keeping in mind what I saw Nega do earlier (he went through a line of cows and bulls by honking and slowly moving through them, they managed to move), I honked at the goats and slowed down a little. Apparently goats are completely oblivious to loud noises or are just dumber than cows, because they didn’t move. So I started to drift over to the shoulder where I could go around them. Then they started to move…toward the shoulder and our car. I hit the brakes harder and got a few millimeters from the goats and they jumped out of the way and I carried on. Nega, acting like this was nothing new, was talking on his phone and didn’t bat an eye. Emu, sat in the back seat and didn’t say a word. Mrs. McGoo on the other hand, channeled her inner Cindy Wilson and gave me a tongue lashing (Lloyd knows what I’m talking about). I just brushed it off and kept going. I encountered a few more animals along the way, but handled them like a pro – all the while still freaking my lovely wife out.

In conclusion, it’s crazy over here. And I love it

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Government in Addis

Wednesday was a rather long day, so I decided to make my last blog short and talk about my struggles with Christmas and where we are. However, we stayed pretty busy on Wednesday.

First, we made our way to the Drop In Center to have morning devotions. After that, I, along with Nega, Alex, and Heather headed over to one of the government buildings to talk with them about the sports program. The government is tiered in three here. We went to the second tier at first. I spoke to three individuals about my vision for the program....sort of. Unfortunately, when dealing with government's, it isn't a good idea to bring up religion in to the equation, especially in other countries. So we kept that out. But I did get to talk about how I saw the program bringing together the community, letting them be proud of the kids for a change, and providing opportunities to the kids. I'm learning that facial expressions are difficult at times when you don't understand the language. There were not many times when I spoke, did any of the three people I spoke with change facial expressions. So it wasn't until the main guy offered up his thoughts to Nega and Alex, did I know what I said made any sense. However, they were very thrilled to hear about my vision and in so many words, said they wanted to help in any way possible. He offered up tax breaks for land and supplies, which, coming from the government here, is very positive. Here, in the city, there isn't much land, so it is very precious and generous to offer it up.

We left second tier government and went to the third level. There, we were told the guy that we were speaking to was in a meeting and that we should go and wait outside the doors. Before I know it, we're being invited in to the meeting and it is one man sitting behind a desk speaking to about 50 teens and say 10 adults. They put chairs in front of the room and we sat there, while everyone was whispering and smiling. So we sat and listened and didn't understand a word about what was going on. Then, Nega left the room with another gentleman and walked back in 2 mins later. Nega walked up front and said something in the ear of the guy talking. They both looked at me and I knew something was up. They asked me to stand up and speak. So I stood up, introduced myself and then looked at Nega and said, "what is it exactly that you want me to say?" He told me to speak on character and sport. So I started mumbling some random stuff about what it meant to be of high character. Even Mrs. McGoo can attest, it wasn't my greatest hour. While I wasn't nervous, I wasn't prepared. Then, somehow, I pulled it together and started making sense. I talked to them about opportunities that are presented to us through sports, school, and other forms of networking and that it was important for them to maintain focus on their education and that whatever they did, do it to the best of their abilities. Talked a bit about how knowing multiple languages would set them apart from their peers and provide them with opportunities to excel. All in all I thought it ended pretty well. They clapped for me and I sat down. Then they asked Mrs. McGoo to speak. She was, on the other hand, very nervous. I kinda of got a laugh because she sat their in her chair when I was speaking giggling and smiling and found out later that she video'd it. So she then stood up and talked about providing opportunity for girls to play sports. When she finished, we walked out and they gave us another round of applause.

We then met with one of the guys that was in the meeting and his assistant (who spoke very good english). They rolled out the red carpet for us, giving us coke and some type of nuts. You may laugh, but this was a big deal to them in their culture. Again, I talked about my vision for sport and again, they offered up many resources. One thing to note...they don't offer up money because they do not have a lot. However, they do offer up other resources, which is very generous.

After meeting with the two government levels, we made our way back to the center. We took a little time for lunch, then prepared to have a meeting with the community leaders and coaches. This went for hours. Imagine sitting somewhere for that long and not understanding a word of what was going on. I started out by telling people about myself, my vision, and my involvement. Then I talked to them about coaching and being a good role model for the kids. We talked about winning, losing, and what was really important in coaching kids. Overall, I thought it was pretty productive. Then I fielded some questions from the leaders. They asked if I would come and work with the teams and also my thoughts on what I had seen from the previous weekend. So I told them the good and bad and everything in between. Then I sat and listen to a language I don't understand for about two hours. I could figure out some of what was going on here and there. Some were complaining about refs and what Nega's involvement would be. They addressed age issues with some of the kids and other stuff. Eventually, they left and we had a chance to stand up and breathe.

Overall, a very productive day. I'm learning that as a foreinge (sp? their word for foreigner) that everyone is waiting to see what I do and say. I'll write more about it later, but they are really interested in us. Everyone has really seen us as people who can come in and make a difference. It's encouraging to say the least, however, I can't wait for the day that I can truly say it isn't me, it's only God who provides these opportunities and only God who makes it all click.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Music

I'm not sure if I made it publicly known before we left for Africa that I felt a little attacked. This time around Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love decorating the house and the colder weather, but most importantly, I love Christmas music. For some reason, hearing that music really sets my heart in tune with the time of year and most importantly, the meaning behind it all. So as I was preparing for the trip, and taking studying for finals, I got a little bit of my listen on to some music, however, I started feeling a little down about my trip because I was going to be gone and not around family and friends for this special time. I watched as people posted on facebook about all the neat things they were planning to do, trips, shopping with family, spending time with family, decorating, and many other things that I began to realize I was going to miss out on. I shared my feelings a bit with my Sunday School class before we left how a part of me felt like I was missing out.

Tuesday evening I came back to the guesthouse late at night to find all the lights out in the place except for a few. The few lights were a small wreath and Christmas tree decorated with lights and ornaments. I cannot explain to you how much this meant to me. Even more so that the next morning after breakfast, I sat around the hearth where the ornaments were and closed my eyes to take some of it all in. Out of nowhere Christmas music started playing on a piano. David, a South African, who works for "Youth for Christ" decided to sit down and play real Christmas music, not the stuff about Santa, and it completely fell over me that again, God was in control. As I sat there and listened, there was such a peace that came over me. It was like God knew exactly the small little nudge I needed to realize, Christmas wasn't about being cozy and warm at night while watching "It's a Wonderful Life", which just happens to be my favorite Christmas movie ever. Christmas isn't about where you are either. So it was such a blessing to know that God and Christmas isn't only in America. It just took me to sit back and close my eyes to realize that.

A side note. Anyone know of any good places online where I can listen to some good Christmas music?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fantasy Football, Jet Lag, and Africa

Have I told you how much I love having the internet here? Yeah, I get to blog, but I also get to follow my guilty pleasure, Fantasy Football. See, I'm in the playoffs and I won my first round match-up in both of my leagues...not that I didn't expect to. My team is called the Living Legends and we dominate. Now back to being humble...

I am still struggling a bit with jet lag. Or at least that is what I'm calling it. Could be that we didn't get in Sunday morning until 4am, then hit the ground running on Sunday and then last night (Monday night) stayed up late to watch the Arsenal vs Man U match...which I was not happy about the outcome. If I were watching it in Memphis, it would have been at 2pm in the afternoon. However, here in Africa, it was 11pm at night. Kinda late to get in and get to bed. So that probably doesn't help with the lack of sleep.

Today we took an inventory of all the donations we brought in and we were amazed at it all once we counted it. I wish I could show you the look on Nega's face when we gave him the total. It really means a lot. So for those of you that contributed to the donations, we really and I do mean REALLY appreciate it.

We started our program in the afternoon for the younger girls and while it didn't go as we would have planned, overall, I felt like the girls had a good time...and that is what is important. I say it didn't go as planned and mean that once we got there, people from all over the community made it their business to start to come in and join in the fun. We even had a few teams that were going to scrimmage disrupt the matches.

One of the things I noticed, which I don't know if anyone else did, was boys started pouring around us like vulchers waiting to attack the girls. It really started bothering me. Anyone that is a man knows this...we see how other men look at women. So naturally, I started getting a little bothered by it. See, in America, the probability of something happening is small. Here, girls are sexual molested at very young younger than 10 years old. We got out of there without any incident, but it did open my eyes to just a small piece of what women here go through.

Tomorrow we'll have a busy day. I am going with Nega to the government to talk to them about our program and then am meeting with the local community leaders to discuss coaching, leadership, and the overall need for the program. Please pray that my words are fruitful and are received with openness. Also, we'll be continuing the program and starting to interview the girls.

By the way, my wife rocks. She's great with these kids.

To our friends and family, we really appreciate your support and prayers. We miss you all. Especially the Grinch.

Monday, December 13, 2010

First Day and Rocky Top

On our first day here, we tried to take it easy, but sitting around the guesthouse can be boring. First of all, there is no one here during the day and there really isn't much to do. So we got up, ate breakfast, and headed over to the Drop in Center.

There we took part in a devotional which was very good. Here was what we discussed....

JAMES 2: 14-19
Faith and Deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Can I just say...I loved it?!?! Here we are in Ethiopia and the guys we are working with are teaching about faith without deeds. Awesome. Keeps me in the mind frame that my faith and my life are not about living according to my own rules. I think one of my favorite lines is "SHOW ME YOUR FAITH WITHOUT DEEDS, AND I WILL SHOW YOU MY FAITH BY MY DEEDS."

So I'll ask you...where's your faith? Mine was certainly checked at the door today.

So that was the good part of the day...the great part was when the kids started pouring in. I got a chance to teach them how to shoot a basketball (they just recently had a goal installed) and the girls were much better than the boys. They kept wanting to kick it around.

We had a meeting with Nega to discuss the plan for the weeks that Mrs. McGoo is here. Tomorrow we start our program with the girls. Then Wednesday we are going to the government to meet with them to discuss the program and then in the afternoon I am talking to the community leaders/coaches. Please be praying that I have the right words to say to both.

On a side note, everything has been great here with the exception of one thing. When Nega's phone rang today, the ring tone is "Rocky Top"

I think I almost vomited. We're going to have to change that before too long. It's bad enough to listen in Memphis...but not thousands of miles away...not going to happen.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Plane Rides and Africa

We're finally here in Ethiopia. This seemed to be a longer trip than it was the last time. Maybe it is because this time our flight schedule was longer. Last time, we went Memphis-Charlotte-D.C.-Rome-Addis. This time around it was Memphis-Chicago-Istanbul-Addis.

Our first flight to Chicago was a rather easy one. We were on a puddle jumper and made it in and went to get something to eat. Chicago Airport is interesting. They have a few terminals devoted to regular travels, then one all off by itself for internationals. And believe me, it was like an island all to itself. All the nice restaurants were in the other terminals and we were left with McDonalds. Maybe that is considered nice in other countries, but I wasn't too crazy about it. I had my mind set on one last really nice meal before we left. Didn't happen.

We did however run into some folks that were traveling to Addis by way of Nashville. We were told by our friends the Harder's that they were on this flight and they run a organization called Ordinary Hero ( we spent the rest of the trip getting to know them.

For those that know me pretty well, know I'm not a fun one to travel with. I've got this thing with tight spaces, recycled air, and smells. Doesn't work well with me. So we get on the plane and it is hot and no airflow. Then we have a kid behind us that is kicking out chairs. (Somewhere in K.C. there is an old man laughing right now) Mrs. McGoo would say that I started to panic, but I would say that I started getting irritated. Anyway, we got going and I took my valium as needed and settled down.

While on the plane, we encountered some really horrible service. They would serve food and tell you their options (chicken or fish) but then would say, sorry, we're out of the chicken. Well, dude, why did you offer it in the first place?!?!?

Has anyone ever seen the movie "Stand By Me"...well, you know in the movie when the main character is telling the story about a really big dude that goes to a pie eating contest, not to win, but to make everyone sick. Yeah, well, that was kinda like our flight. We must have descended too fast or something because one person in a row in front of us started getting sick. Then before you knew it, a barf-o-rama started. Everyone was throwing up or grabbing their barf bags. Crazy I tell you.

We got off in Istanbul and took in their mall of an airport. It was pretty nice I must say. Even had their own Starbucks...for those people that like Starbucks (sorry, can't waste my money on that stuff...and I don't like coffee). We then made our way to gate 310 as shown on the flight info screen. When we got their and went through security checks, we noticed the gate was changed to 207 with not much time before boarding the plane. So we hurried over to the new gate with its own security check. Finally, we got on the plane and had to get the flight attendant to come to our aid because a lady was sitting in our seats with her two little kids. She wasn't moving either. Eventually, after causing a huge jam getting in the place, we got everything straightened out and sat down. Because of some ice, we sat on the run way for another hour and a half before finally taking off.

Around 3:30am Ethiopian time (6:30pm CDT) we finally made it in and got our bags and headed to the SIM Guesthouse.

Today is Monday and it is 7am (10pm CDT) and I'm finally rested up. Took a while. I'm sure Mrs. McGoo posted some pics on her blog for all to see. I'm not the picture guy.

Until next time...