Thanks for joining me here.
Read some thoughts on issues affecting daily life and life around our world. Read and join in the conversation. What moves you? How do you respond to the issues we face today?



apartment hunting

did you know there's a craigslist Delhi? well, now you know. i found out about it because i'm back on the housing hunt. unlike LA's overwhelming craigslist community, however, there have been no new Delhi apt's listed since Friday. so that means i've told everyone i meet that i'm searching for an apt:
  • i told friends Sunday morning
  • i was added to a list serve for expat housing
  • i have a friend e-mailing contacts from when she lived here four years ago
  • another friend gave me a contact of someone in the States whose sister is renting a place in Delhi
  • i met a fatherly man in the park today who introduced me to his friend that has apts available
in short, i've got all the feelers out & i'm just waiting for the right one. at first the task of finding a place in such a big city was daunting, but now i'm getting into it.
all this begs the question: "why is Sarah moving to Delhi?" great question! i'm shifting NGOs and my new NGO works out of Delhi for the winter months until the area in which we work thaws out. that means three months in Delhi and three months in the mountains - sweet deal if you ask me.
enjoy your new year's celebrations, wherever you might be and be in touch in '08!

reflections

I'm still on the road, traveling, so this is yet another reflection on life in India. Here are a few seemingly large differences between life last year and this year:
-Instead of my weekly "tall, non-fat, sugar free, cinnamon dulce latter, no whip," I now consume more Nescafes than I can count
-I used to work in a cubicle in SoCal where my computer was wallpapered with mountainous views but in Palampur I stared out my office window at the real deal
-Dressing was a chore with too many trousers, shirts, and shoes from which to choose. Now it's a matter of properly rotating my few salwar kameez suits.
-30km took 15 minutes to drive but now it's at least a one-hour ride through mountainous terrain or traffic
-My Dad, brother, and I summited a mountain in NH a couple days after Christmas last year. This year it's the Taj Mahal. (No, I'm not attempting to summit the Taj.)

reassignment

So I was on the long bus ride from Shimla back to Palampur today (9 hrs without toilet or chai/meal breaks – read on to learn more), as opposed to the short bus ride (8 hrs WITH toilet and chai and meal breaks) and my eyes went into snapshot mode. My brain started capturing myriad images of quintessential Himachali India. It began with the salwar-clad man riding a horse-drawn cart loaded with mud bricks. Then came the cow patties drying on a stone wall as nature's fuel source to heat homes. We passed a motorbike with a woman riding "side-saddle" in back, her goldenrod scarf called a dupatta flying behind. I caught a glimpse inside a temple dedicated to Hanumant, the monkey god, who stood at the door with his brilliant red-orange coloring. On the grosser side, my fellow travelers left their own technicolors on the side of the bus owing to the winding mountainous roads. And while I'm at it, I know you're dying to hear how I survived the nine hour bus ride without toilet or meal breaks. Well, at hour 3.5 there was a traffic jam due to road construction. The driver shut off the bus and stepped outside - I saw my chance. I, too, stepped off the bus and, at a loss for toilet facilities, found an abandoned building to crouch behind. And then, the buses began to move! I rose to my feet as quickly and gracefully as possible and high-tailed it back to the bus. Desperate times call for desperate measures. On the food front, we had a 10 minute layover and I was able to grab some biscuits, fruit, etc. to tide me over. This, my friend, is Service Corps!
But just so you don't think it's all work and no play (or vice versa), I was in Shimla, the capital of my Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh (HP) to meet with people familiar with the Himachali NGO space. Sometimes the first NGO placement just doesn't work and I'm living proof of that. My original host NGO and I came to the table with differing expectations and areas of expertise that led to my current search for a replacement. I do love the mountains so and I look forward to working with a second HP-based NGO. Next time I write, I anticipate sharing exactly which NGO that will be so stay tuned.

high places

Just back from a trip to Anjanisain, a little hamlet high in the mountains (6,000 feet), where two of my friends are working. Picture a full moon hike to see sunrise over the snow-capped Himalaya. Or how about a nearly-full-moon run followed by a dawn hike? Yep, I was in my element and so thankful to feel free to be me with my friends.

Shameless Propaganda in the Indian Himalayas
as seen posted on roadside signage
“License to drive, not to fly”
“If you are married, divorce speed”
“Mountains are a pleasure if you drive with leisure”
“Speed thrills but often kills”
“Caution and care make accidents rare”
“Start early, drive slowly, arrive on time”
“Clean toilet, 100m”
“Overtake with caution and care”
“Better late than never”
“On the bend, go slow friend”
“In case slide road block, please call at :”)(!@#$%^”
Life is a journey. Complete it.”
“Slide area ahead. Drive cautiously.”
“Be slow on curve”
“No race. No rally. Enjoy the beauty of the valley.”
“Help the accident victim”
“Hurry makes worry”
“Safety saves”
“Twenty-one. Tough one” (I don’t understand that one)
“Do not overspeed”
“Mind your speed”

And a phrase on a Gold Bond-like product that made me laugh: “dhobi itch”

sweet!







As promised, I have stories with which to regale you. I’m writing from a sugar-induced stupor, polishing off the box of sweets I received from an all-too generous wife of the Director of the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP). You see, Diwali is the celebration of lights but it might as well be the celebration of all things sweet.
Sweet Stop One: We began the Diwali Bonanza Friday afternoon, stopping at my friend’s aunt’s home where the uncle shared his philosophy on the Father and love and logos and love and the Son and Father are one and love. By the way, he’s Hindu.
Sweet Stop Two: My friend, his wife, his son, his brother, his sister-in-law, his nephew, and I descended on the home of the Director of the GHNP. Apparently the Director and his wife do not practice any religion and do not celebrate Diwali. I think the wife grimaced at the thought of providing sweets, juice, and chai to the entire lot but she dutifully set about her service and was a gracious hostess.
Sweet Stop Three: I stayed in the car while we stopped at my friend’s uncle-in-law’s place and avoided a certain sugar overdose.

Intermission: Puja: I followed the goddess Lakshmi’s painted footprints up the stairs to the patriarch’s bedroom and watched the family offer rupees, sweets, rice, and devotion before a neon Shiva, requesting Lakshmi’s financial provision. We went from room to room, placing candles to guide Lakshmi to the home.


Sweet Stop Four: We waddled down the road to the grand patriarch’s home, a 92 year young man that lights up every time we meet. I also met a holy man that walked across a mountain range to be in Kullu for Diwali.
Sweet Stop Five: After a terrific show of firepower in which the pyro in me made its Indian debut, we had dinner and a final dose of the sweetest white, round balls you can imagine. And I ask myself how I could possibly be eating more sweets as I type!


There are a few other tales left to tell. Panki and I were taking a motorcycle ride high above the Beas River and passed a sadhu (holy man). Panki told me that the man has held his hand clenched in a fist above his head for years so that his fingers have atrophied and his long nails curl.
On our way to meet the former Director of the GHNP, Ankit and I came across a traditional wedding celebration. While the women surrounded the bride, the men of the village, in traditional dress, danced circles around a band playing long horns and drums that resounded across the mountainous terrain.
I figured the day after Diwali, a Saturday, would be a good time to return home, avoiding the crowds traveling home on Sunday. Apparently someone leaked my good idea to the masses. I had to take three buses to get home and ended up standing for 3 hours of the 7 hour journey due to lack of seats. Every the optimist, I was glad to at least be on a bus with a tall ceiling so I had enough headroom.I returned home to find a large, boldly colored banner over the end of my street, marking a marriage celebration. The tell-tale tent was being erected outside the house as I passed by. If you haven’t guessed it, this is the marriage season in India. I counted no fewer than 5 weddings on my daily jaunt. A loud band, food, and gaiety marked the day of the marriage down the street. The following day, as I was preparing to leave for the local University, I heard wailing. As I turned onto my road, the sobs became louder. Then I realized my un-auspicious timing – the bride was in the car, preparing to leave her family forever. She would no longer be part of their family and now was forever joined to her husband’s family. All the attendees gathered around the car, blocking the entire road. The family crowded into the car to bade final farewells and comfort the distraught bride. I am told this wailing is expected, dare I say required, to express how much the bride will miss her family. Regardless, in its final moments it resembled a funeral more than a wedding (in my oh-so humble opinion). What fun stories to re-tell!

bought with a price

sorry, no pic's yet. once i get back to palampur i'll post some. i'm seven hours away in kullu, visiting friends from last year's trek in the Great Himalayan National Park. let me set the scene for you - picture rugged hillsides so high that the sun sets at 12:30pm. the rushing river at the bottom of the valley is lower than it's ever been before due to climatic change. cacti grow beside the road and apples fall in abundance. the women wear scarves tied around their heads and men cover their heads with traditional himachali topee. there is a bite in the air as winter encroaches and people bundle up in the warm, beautiful shawls for which the area is known. i'm currently sipping an ayurvedic (naturopathic) tea to combat the cold resulting from this dip of the thermometer.
tomorrow heralds diwali, the Indian festival of lights. last night i got my first, up close look at a couple of the fireworks popular at diwali. i recalled the evening prerna sat me down and drew pictures of the 10+ different kinds of fireworks, each with a unique name. diwali is a day filled with sweets, puja (offerings to gods), & fireworks - quite the celebration. look forward to my post-diwali update next week.

life

Head's up - this is from a couple weeks ago. I just never got to "publish" it. But I figured you'd appreciate the sentiments, all the same. As an update, I'm back in the mountains, lazing about since my mentor's not back from Delhi and I'm at a loss for things to do. I might explore local sites tomorrow. Might as well see this beautiful place, right?
Oh, as an update, you'll be glad to know I emerged victorious against three, count them - THREE, big monkeys (with plenty of little ones milling about). I had my stick, I began walking rather than running, and I audibly quoted scripture at the three growling monkeys circling me. I was NOT going to fear those vile creatures and it paid off.

Aight, on my rather long bus ride back to Palampur from Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, I sketched out a few random thoughts. Shimla was beautiful, btw, with a central promenade that people stroll in the evening. The architecture reflects the British influence and appeared to be some combination of a Bavarian village and English hamlet. Check out my pic’s to see the real deal.
-Is high-pitched, Indian music a) the right of bus passengers, b) meant to cover the noise of squeaking brakes, or c) merely a product of the young dirver’s and conductor’s musical tastes?
-picture this: looking down from the precariously high, narrow, winding roads to see brilliantly yellow corn cobs drying on flat rooftops in the sun.
-eagerly awaiting reuniting w/ fam in 8-1/2 months!
-sweet fellowship time w/ a group from CO and being able to say, “it is well with my soul”
-learning the value of inches and the expertise of these crazy bus drivers that navigate with only inches to spare
-seeing kind faces of Nepalis
-having freedom to wander the streets of Shimla at night in safety
-“God shave me” on the front bumpers of mountain vehicles

dust


I've been shaking literal and figurative dust off my feet since coming to Delhi a few days ago. It's been great to meet up with another Fellow, some friends based in Delhi, a friend from the States, and even a friend from Palampur who's visiting her Mum. Paul, Monk, and I checked out India Gate this afternoon.

I love the speedy internet service but mostly the company (thanks for both, Paul!). A lot of insightful, soul-searching questions have been asked of me concerning my work here and I appreciate the opportunity to expand my mind. Here are a couple "sound bites" from my visit to the big city:

-A mall in Gurgaon (a cosmopolitan suburb of Delhi) had all the trappings of modernity, including an escalator with directions for using the escalator

-I have had two salads and loved every bite

-Cost Center Taxis run between Delhi and Gurgaon and enable those welcoming claustrophobia to travel between the two locations for a mere 25 cents

-Naina and I crashed a 40-year old's birthday party last night when we heard good music and went exploring


Sunday evening it's back to the mountains where there's clean air and no traffic.

righteousness

I’m taking a break from my Educational Philosophy paper to tell you about a few joys in my life recently.

Numero Uno: Pepsi’s Club Soda makes every sip of sparkling juice good to the last drop

#2: An entirely magnificent, exceeding-all-expectations package from some amazing ladies in CT AND a card from my dear CA pastor

Drei: Introducing myself in Hindi to a group of students AND recognizing my first word in Hindi (samaj = society)

Char: Thinking critically about educational philosophy in preparing my application for an Associate Professor position.

So now you know what I’m aiming for after India. August ’08, baby, on the North Shore! I’ve never been the kind of person to hide the fact that I’m going for my driver’s license, etc. I prefer to be an open book so you get to see the ups and the downs. This is life, after all, right? A very wise friend wrote, “All the masterpieces of art contain both light and shadow. A happy life is not one filled with only sunshine, but one which uses both light and shadow to produce beauty.” Ed knows that I’ve faced both the light and dark here and I deeply appreciated that affirmation. Ten months in the Himalayas sounds idyllic, right? There are many parts that DO transcend imagination, and yet . . . Hmm, how to capture some of this hard journey AND reflect the hope, meaning confident expectation, that I have . . . The path that I walk here defies so much of whom I have been to this point in my life. And the hope comes because I am painfully shedding layers I will be better without. I know my Maker has led me on this path so that I might SHiNE for Him. He doesn’t need my identity to be founded in achievement but in Him. He doesn’t need me to rebel at every request but to recognize the extension of His authority here on earth. If you want to know more about this, please call or write. I am blessed to be known and loved by One Who far exceeds all the joys I listed above. And with that, I think I’ll continue my paper on my educational philosophy.

authority

Guess what?! I rode a bus today – all by myself. “So what,” you may ask. Well, I have never found, boarded, paid fare, and alighted on my own in India previously so this marks a turning point.

The story began yesterday when my mentor and I went to the Agriculture University in Palampur to visit an entomology professor. My mentor is interested in a proposal to research the use of bio-pesticides in the state of Himachal Pradesh. He also wants to submit a proposal to study organic farming within the state. The head of the Entymology Department referred us to a professor in the College of Agroforestry and Environment who works closely with the organic farming program at the university.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. My mentor went to a meeting today so he told me to return to the university and talk to this organic farming prof. He told me to spend this morning writing a letter to Dr. Poonam and then visit her in the afternoon to deliver the letter. I double-checked with my landlord who was working on our building today (or, I should say, overseeing work on the building) and he confirmed that hand delivering a letter of introduction is unnecessary when going to meet someone. I typed a letter just in case then printed it off up the road since we don’t have a printer in the office. The printing process took 45 minutes as usual because the printer man’s printer never likes my jump drive. I thankfully remembered where to get on and off the bus and found my way to Dr. Punam’s cubicle. I quickly surmised I would not be delivering the letter since I had misspelled her name. She spent a bit of time with me and suggested I return when the head of the department is present and when I can receive a proper tour of the organic farm. So then I got to play the “find the bus, jostle my way on, pay the fare, and get off” game. As a side note, on the way to the university I pass the Sperm Board buildings. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with breeding animals. I hope so.

Oh, yeah, about the picture. As many of you know, I’m not fond of cooking but I have no choice here. Tonight I made something really weird, even by my standards. I had tofu flour balls with garlic and raisins. It tasted all right but, yeah, it was strange. OK, as usual, I can't upload a photo today so check out "My Pic's" for a view.

rivers of living water

OK, it’s just about bedtime since I went to sleep late last night but let me fill you in on the latest. I went to a friend’s home for dinner last night around 6:30 PM after we finished our ballet lessons. We stopped by a roadside market to pick up veggies for dinner. We started making dinner around 7 PM and were finally eating around 9 PM. My friend was feeling a bit out of it last night. She SO wanted to have a festive evening, but she ended up conking out while playing Uno. Seriously, she was in her PJs and in bed before I was out the door!

The latest “this is India” moment came a couple days ago during a morning run. I was attacked by a monkey! Granted, the thing was maybe 1/4 - 1/3 of my size but it was FEROCIOUS! It was the biggest of all the monkeys on the street and I saw it come barreling across a stone wall and leap off in my direction. I turned to see it nipping at my heels. I let out a deep yell, ran, turned around and yelled again, and then kept running. Now I know why the old men carry sticks. Maybe I should have gotten that rabies vaccination . . .

everything we need for life

It’s 12:30 and I’ve finally made it to the office. Have no fear that your favorite blogger is slacking, however. I’ve been working on a proposal all morning. My English language skills are being gainfully employed (hmm, can I truthfully say that since I’m a volunteer?) as I revise a draft of a proposal to assess and improve the socio-economic status of Dalits (see previous blog) within Himachal Pradesh. I’ve been working from my sitting room, a nicer environment than the office. Though my manager is still out of town, I’ve had the company of my landlord and his troupe of Mr. Fix-its. I use that term slightly deridingly because I asked my landlord today to call a different toilet repairman since this is the fourth time within a week that I need my toilet repaired.

On the cooking front, I boiled a kilo of milk this morning and promptly poured a large portion down the drain. I buy milk in ½ kilo bags and then boil it to ensure healthfulness. I have been storing the milk in an old Whiskey bottle after boiling it. Unfortunately, the mouth of the bottle is too narrow for my pot and, hence, I poured a lot down the drain. At least I completed this operation in the sink. I wasn’t so forward-thinking last time. After pouring the milk down the drain and in the bottle, I heard a glass-cracking sound and noticed the bottle had broken. I quickly re-poured (successfully) into a series of cups lest the bottle shatter (which it did not). So that’s my fun morning activity in Palampur. Oh, when I opened my fridge, the uncovered cup of milk spilled on the floor but I’m not crying over it.

By the way, you can check out my local “market” in the pic above. OK, I can't upload pic's on here at this time so click on My Pictures to your right and look for the Palampur folder. The pic's in there.

let the oppressed go free

I must say, it’s strange to look out my sitting room window and see my manager’s underwear hanging out to dry. I’m working from home today, hence the view from my sitting room. I am reading through Dalit Freedom by Joseph D’souza. Understanding the background, atrocities, and threats of Dalit exploitation helps me focus on the assessment RTDC hopes to complete on the Dalit population within Himachal Pradesh. I just finished an appended article by Udit Raj, “The U.S. Should Stop Caste Virus.” The article outlines how this deep-rooted disease has infiltrated America and I wanted to share a bit with ya’ll.

A few years ago, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a 501(c)3 Hindu extremist organization, held a rally to encourage orthodox practices among American secular Hindus. No one objected. This same organization raises funds in the West to support their activities within India such as the 1998 mass murder of minorities, specifically Christians, in Gujarat. One day-to-day example from Raj’s article also serves to bring this into focus and closer to home. Two Vancouver, Canada taxi drivers of Indian origin got into an argument. The upper caste driver assaulted and defamed the Dalit driver, requesting that the Dalit driver be suspended from his job by management. While there are no simple or quick solutions to this virus, your awareness provides a starting point. I encourage you to read Dalit Freedom to learn more. The book contains articles by leaders of the Dalit Movement.

On a lighter note, my landlord just arrived and I shared my ongoing toilet leakage problem. He’s going to fix it, hopefully. He also chastised me for not watering a plant he left for me. Hmm, watering plants was never an area of giftedness for me.

i waited patiently

I can't always get on-line to post, so here are a bunch of posts all at once. Enjoy!

Things I miss:
-A mgr who speaks my language and is disciplined in his approach to work.
-A landlord that ensures everything is clean and properly functioning.
-Heat available at the turn of a knob.
-A “getaway vehicle” that enables me to get out & explore expediently.
-Knowing when to be where with the confidence that scheduled events normally occur as planned.
-The food that suits me best.
-Clothes for every occasion.
-My mobile.
-Available internet connectivity on my laptop.
-Seeing dear faces everyday in person.
Things I enjoy:
-The most amazing view.
-Evening walks through the field.
-Running at a higher elevation.
-Practicing simplicity of wardrobe, food, language, travel, scheduling.
-Short commute to work.
-Encouraging e-mails.
-Conversations about family and life purpose (in English, no less!)

Let me tell you about the road from Dharamsala yesterday evening. I wish you could have seen it so I will do my best to recreate it in your mind’s eye. But first I have to tell you about the 5-1/2 hours I had just spent at the Foreign Registration Office so you can understand why that drive was so welcome.
First, the registration official told me it’s illegal for my landlord to rent to a foreigner. So Sukhdev and I tramped across the street to a cybercaf√© and composed another letter to outline how I was staying with RTDC for the duration of my fellowship. When questioned whether I was single or double, I tentatively answered, “double?” Once I had filled out the registration form in quadruplet, my file status became “under consideration.” Sukhdev and I went to lunch and returned – my file was still “under consideration.” The Police Superintendent was in a meeting all day and the Assistant Superintendent was at lunch. We then met up with an RTDC Advisory Board member and returned - my file was still “under consideration.” 5-1/2 hours after entering the building, I was finally a proud holder of official foreigner registration papers.
Now, back to the drive. The Dhauladar Mountains pierced through misty shrouds to our north as we drove east from Dharamsala. Driving past hillsides covered in tea bushes and pines, the sun sank behind us into golden waves. Ascending the hill to Palampur, the cotton candy pink clouds contrasted with the baby blue sky and the low-hanging purple clouds turned gray. The voluminous clouds swathed the sky from mighty mountains to the left to tea plantations to the right. Tuning out the Hindi from the front seat, I marveled at creation, captivated by the natural wonders I am privileged to witness.

here are some random musings:
-I’m growing out my eyebrows. Mom would be so proud – no more checkerboards. I figure that I’m enough of a spectacle already, no one will notice if my eyebrows are not properly groomed.
-I skipped a surprise party tonight to write a concept note on a watershed assessment and pilot project in palampur. plus I got to write it with a really cool lady who’s doing phd research in the area.
-I hosted a dance party Saturday night complete with ballet AND bangra!
-I’m teaching ballet lessons in exchange for bangra lessons, starting today.
-I went on a site visit yesterday to the watershed area mentioned previously. I got to rock climb a tiny bit, too. better than a day at the office! we ate samosas between white bread at a goddess temple atop a hill overlooking the palampur valley.

kindness

I just finished a lovely, romantic, candlelit dinner. “Do tell,” I hear you saying. Well, my electricity has been out since this morning. Men from the electric company/department (I’m not sure how electricity is managed here) came tonight at 7:45 PM, pulled some wires, and determined the pole holding up my electrical wire is faulty. It was too late at that point for them to do anything, so they will return tomorrow morning to fix it. I went to the market today to buy a torch (aka flashlight) because I had a feeling this might be the outcome.

Oddly enough, this actually IS romantic (e.g.; idyllic) to me! Akin to my bus experience in coming to Palampur, I enjoy a bit of unexpected adventure. Let me tell you about my bus experience while I’m at it. I was meant to take a luxury overnight bus from Delhi to Palampur. Little did I know that my bus ticket had NOT been purchased in advance and, much to my chagrin, there were no tickets available when we arrived at the bus depot. Intense discussion Hindi m√© (i.e.; in Hindi) ensued and I ended up on the government bus. This was definitely not a luxury liner: the minimally padded seats came up to the base of my neck and did not recline. Jonathan kindly bought three seats or one row for me so I could have my baggage next to me. That meant I had 1-1/2 seats left for me. Once we set out, I quickly ascertained that my seat was directly below the horn, positioned on the side of the bus, which the driver used liberally. But I liked the adventure in setting out in that way. I felt badly to be taking up three seats when there were people crammed in other parts of the bus and I was glad to be arriving by the local means of transportation. (All that being said, I’ll opt for the luxury liner next time!) AIF’s trusty employee, Sirjit, ensured that a couple ladies on the bus would look after me and they did – standing guard outside the toilets at rest stops and inviting me to eat dinner with them.

I sat through a meeting in Hindi today and was grateful for the Indian Canadian sitting next to me that translated the general gist of the conversation into English. We discussed a proposal for clean drinking water in Palampur. The water here is unpotable and too dirty to write about. In fact, I’m concerned my boiling and filtering plan may be ill-conceived. I’m not sure I want that water anywhere near my lips after what I heard today! I might get involved in developing a business plan for an ecotourism outfit to provide funds to maintain the water improvement project.

Well, my candle is dwindling so I think it’s time for bed.

peace


Some in my readership are clamoring for details. No, I won’t name them slave drivers, simply motivators to ramble a bit and satiate your curiosity. And, truly, the following blog entry follows more of a stream of conscious than any nice & neat format so here it goes.

I went running Tuesday because I simply HAD to get out & move at more than a walking pace. I ran up the road with Prerna (my 8-year old neighbor pictured above with her mom, Bimla) and her friends the previous night & realized how much I missed getting out to stretch my legs. When I returned home, Bimla and her friends suggested I run with them the next day at 6AM. I balked at the time and they said 6AM is really not so early. I guess I am a lazy American, after all! They do not seem to run regularly, but perhaps I’m providing some motivation. I think they also want to show me a nicer, safer place to run.

I planned to go to Dharamsala to register as a foreigner today BUT I do yet have proof of residence (required to register), so I wandered about the Palampur market by myself for the first time and getting out independently felt great. Hmm, I’m sensing a trend here. I suppose I’m also the independent American, too. I almost got a SIM card for my phone on my outing, but proof of residency (& ultimately foreigner registration) is required for that, too. The SIM card was actually in my phone & the store owner was writing in a local person’s name & address so if authorities checked, the card would appear registered to a legitimate person. It pained me to put a stop to it, but I couldn’t (& didn’t want to) quench the feeling that I ought not go that route. Alas (& I use that in the true sense of the word), I am still without a phone number.

I made a glass of chai tea tonight after dinner. This process resulted in the dirtying and washing of three glasses, two spoons, a pot, and a strainer. I have a long way to go to perfect the art, but in my defense, I “decaffeinated” the tea first which accounted for an extra glass.

I caught a gecko in my flat last night. I had seen it the previous night in my bedroom, high up near the ceiling and just hoped it wouldn’t crawl into my mouth in the middle of the night. Last night it visited me in my kitchen and I used my mad Crocodile Hunter skills to trap it under a bowl, slide a pot lid underneath, and safely transport the lil’ guy outside. I saw him again today on the stairs outside my flat. He’s intent upon keeping me company – rather endearing.

My mentor/manager has been sharing his ideologies with me. At his mention of Communism and Marxist philosophy, all sorts of barriers rose in my mind. Yet again, the capitalist American rose to the occasion. Wasn’t Marx ultimately oppressive rather than liberating for the common man? Please, history buffs, help me out!

I am typing from my sitting room that is currently empty save for my table and chair. My flat has all marble floors, windows lining every wall, a Western-style toilet, a fridge, a stove range, a double bed, more storage space than I can fill, balconies outside my bedroom and front door, and that most incredible of views I described in a previous entry. Please, do live vicariously through me on this point as I am living in the nicest place short of good Ol’ Highway (at a monthly rate of ~$70!). But just so you know it hasn’t gone to my head, I do not have hot tap water so I heat water in a bucket for my showers. Also, the toilet flushing mechanism is broken so I have to turn on the toilet tap, wait for the water level to rise, open the back of the toilet, pull up the plunger, and, voila, my toilet flushes. Oh, and then I have to turn off the toilet tap or water leaks all over the bathroom floor. I also have to open the gas line from the gas container every time I want to use the stove AND remember to turn it off after use. I haven’t forgotten yet but I’m only on Day 3. Closing and opening my front door requires more effort than opening the Hiney’s refrigerator. Since I have such a large, empty sitting room, I turned on some sweet tunes tonight & danced, at my sis’ suggestion. (Thanks, Li!)

I cooked dinner for myself for the first time last night & rather enjoyed some alone time. While eating, I began reading Dalit Freedom to educate myself on the issues facing this population within India. I didn’t realize until RTDC Orientation a couple days ago that my organization is now focusing a majority of its time on Dalit issues within Himachal Pradesh. No time like the present for me to become more knowledgeable.

I practiced Hindi while sipping my labor-intensive chai tea. Some friends urged me to learn the Sanskrit script in addition to learning to speak, so I made flash cards of the vowels. Then I experienced the sugar crash after my sweetened chai and stopped for the evening.

You may know that cars drive on the left side of the road in India. What you might not have pondered is the fact that pedestrians also walk on the left side of the road. I pondered this while running with traffic yesterday. Granted there was limited traffic on the country roads I treaded, but the pedestrian “oppose traffic” rule doesn’t apply here. Then again, cars here are not guaranteed to stay on their respective sides of the road, either.

I got to listen to a traveling musician play this afternoon. He played a guitar & drum at the same time.

how lovely on the mountains


Take a look at the view out my front door! Yes, I have arrived at my post and am relishing evening walks with Prerna, my mentor's daughter, in the shadows of the Dhauladar Mountain range. My mentor, his wife, Bimla, & Prerna live downstairs from me and they have been my hosts at mealtimes, navigating my way through the market yesterday to outfit my flat, and sharing their lives with me. I have heard much about Kirstin, a former volunteer, who became fast friends with Prerna, also. Prerna has been a lifeline of sorts to me since I do not speak much Hindi and my hosts do not speak much English.
I have been here two days now and am adjusting to a slower pace where meeting times are merely a nicety, where I have to register as a foreigner before I can get my mobile working, where any trip to the market seems an enormous affair. Even getting drinkable water is an ordeal (thankfully I have purification drops just in case - thanks, Jason!).
Despite the beauty of this place, I miss home. My hosts decided it would be helpful for me to have someone clean my flat once a week. Mina came yesterday to clean but I also cleaned this morning for 2+ hours. Perhaps I AM my mother's daughter - I sorely missed Mom's company and refreshing cleaning presence. Thankfully, Prerna weathered the cleaning storm with me and proved quite stringent in her standards. While cleaning, we uncovered what I considered a large spider. It was about 5 inches across with a medium sized body and it JUMPED! Though I am usually the one to come to the rescue when arachnids encroach, trepidation filled me while Prerna cheered from the sidelines. Her father laughed when we retold the story. Apparently that was a small spider compared to what we might have found! Hmm, Aidan, this might not be the best place for you.

but these


Hmm, I'm about to embark on my adventure to Himachal Pradesh, to the mountains, to a semi-familiar place, to a place where beauty surrounds me, captivates me, and motivates me to live wholeheartedly. My next blogs will be about that, but for now let me tell you about a study in contrasts.
We took a trip to Rajasthan to see a rural microfinancing group of women pictured here. They were blessed to be visited and to have their stories heard. They fine their husbands if they attend the meetings!
On the other side, we had a private audience with the Ambassador yesterday. I was decked out in a business pantsuit, sitting around a solid wood table on a top floor overlooking an enormous water fountain. Hmm, this country needs agricultural reform, the Ambassador says, and making way for more big business. I seem to remember some words about the least of these, but I have been guarding against a critical spirit that so easily entangles.

one for another

Hmm, Sarah's added a picture - why, yes, she has. Fancy that! Yes, my friends, I have re-entered the world of the cyber-savvy in a cafe with free wi-fi (just not between 1-4pm, & I'm not sure why). And guess who's in the above shot. Yep, that's my dear friend, Capt. Plush whom I happened upon in a shop in Delhi. How strange to find this SoCal native halfway around the world. Yes, we were both amazed and simply stared at one another, marveling throughout dinner. I ALSO was blessed to meet Renee, who participated in Jefe's Himalayan Escapade this year. Capt. Plush & I bonded in the Indian Himalayas last year and he returned for another excellent adventure.
Also captured in this shot is my trusty sidekick, Monk. You might see him from time to time as he makes cameo appearances throughout the year. And I'm sure he will be one of the world's most widely traveled monkeys cum finger puppets by the end of this year.

press on #2

I took my first auto rickshaw ride in Delhi this evening to arrive at the internet cafe. After a tour down the road, around the barricade, past the police department, by the hotels, into two off-line internet cafes, our group of 15 or so Americans arrived. One of my fellow Fellows is haggling with the internet cafe proprietor sitting behind me, who's reading over my shoulder and asking for a copy of my license for his records. Hmm . . . We enjoyed an afternoon of Bollywood dance instruction and will have a group performance at the end. It felt good to laugh at ourselves looking ridiculous. Off to supper now.

press on

One final blog before I'm off to India tomorrow. Once upon a time 10 months seemed like such a very long time. In view of the past 10 months, it seems like quite a short time, actually. I know, I know - it might seem long when I'm on-site but I am looking forward to being there. My room is finally clean (though I have yet to pack), dear ones have volunteered to ensure my car is sold (thank you SO much!), and I have seen &/or called everyone time has allowed me to. All in all, I am ready. I look forward to some quiet moments in a couple weeks when I will respond to the encouraging e-mails sent my way. They have buoyed my spirits and reminded me to remain focused on the path that lies ahead. So I press on with the goal in mind. I'll be in orientation for almost two weeks in Delhi before traveling to my post, so look forward to my next blog from Southeast Asia.
There are no photos this time around, but let me leave you with a few mental images:
-Falsetto karaoke singing late into the night dressed in Hawaiian clash style at my going away luau.
-While prepping dinner in the Adirondacks on my recent backpacking trip, I noticed a rustling in the woods. I asked, "are, are you human?" No response . . . "Are you human?" Still no response . . . "Umm, Tim, umm . . ." Thankfully my first wild bear encounter was entirely peaceful.
-Choosing the perfect finger puppet companion to accompany me to India. I settled on Monk, the Monkey.

dwell together in unity


Yep, it's that time again. Time for Sarah to see how quickly her fingers can type to update all y'all on my latest wanderings. I've just spent a few hours in the pleasant company of the friendly folk at the Southbury Public Library, my local haunt for free wi-fi. Let me tell you, we have the friendliest Reference Librarian. Plus I got to meet a man from Bangalore. He encouraged me to live like an Indian while there. He attested to how well his "when in Rome" philosophy worked when he came to America in 1946. By all outward accounts, he seemed happy & healthy.
Tonight we have the Grande Sarah Send-off, complete with costuming. HOWEVER, I will have to post pictures because I have not been able to view the top-secret invite so I'm unsure what the theme is. Jess assured me I will be furnished with a costume upon my arrival at the Yacht Center. Doesn't that make me sound like a Yankee Snob? Really, the Yacht Center in all its dilapidated glory has been a blessing this summer and we've enjoyed many a lovely evening overlooking Lake Quassapaug.
Another fun part of the summer has been all the sibling time. Tim's my climbing buddy & Lisa's my daily breakfast date. And that was the inspiration for today's title from Ps. 133:1. The picture is from slip 'n' slide on the front lawn (Lisa's brilliant idea!).
Now that I'm back in stride on the good ol' blog, you can expect more regular updates. 'til next time . . .

look at the birds

I always intend for these posts to be brief and then verbosity overcomes me. Perhaps this one actually WILL hit the mark. I'd like to tell you a little story about a pair of sisters I know (and I just happen to be one of them). So Lisa receives this gift one day from someone that will remain nameless. It's rather an odd gift for my sister so we adopted it as the family souvenir. Sarah's going to CA? Pack the birds in her ski boot. Lisa's in CO? Leave the birds in a suit jacket. And so the joke continues.
This trip, we upped the ante. No longer were the birds left in dark, hidden places. They attained a position with a view as they proudly road atop the dashboard. Yes, they incurred headaches as we took turns a little too quickly and they careened into the windshield. But these were stalwart birds in need of names. We pulled from the nameless ranks to bestow upon them regal names befitting their upwardly mobile positions: Tweet, Chirp, & Hughie.
I thought I had "won" the game this weekend when I slyly slipped T, C, & H into Lisa's pocketbook. I must admit it was with some chagrin that I opened my car Sunday morning to find the three on my car's floor mat. But it's no use crying over being "beaten" and the birds DO deserve some respect so they are, once again, proudly positioned on the dashboard, taking in the southern views.
This was a good reminder that if God cares for the birds (Matthew 6:26), how much more will He care for us and meet our needs? I know this to be true & I get to experience it daily! With that thought, I'll sign off. Be forewarned that I might be away for some length of time but I'll be back within the month.

honor thy father

Let me tell you why this seemingly innocuous photo carries so much weight. I am posting it on a public forum and therefore NOT charging royalties on this photo of my Dad kayaking. The significance comes from the fact that Dad has essentially held hostage pictures he took of me kayaking. We're still in negotiations on exactly what royalties will be exacted for my use of those photos.
The joy in all this is that my Dad "gets" me and I get/understand from where I inherit some of my idiosyncracies. For example, after biking to the ocean today, I went for a long kayaking voyage. I told myself I would make it as far as a distant beach. Halfway there, I began wishing I would turn around as the wind blew in my face and I literally paddled to sit still. Wish as I might, however, I simply could not convince myself to admit defeat and turn around (I don't like asking for directions, either). When Dad and I met up on my easy return trip with the wind at my back, he informed me I had paddled down to the nudist beach. I was so deep in thought about this perseverant tendency that I hadn't even noticed the bathers weren't wearing anything. My lack of observation concerns me sometimes. The great moment came after kayaking when Dad likened our need to bike back home to my unwillingness to turn around. We had already determined we were not taking the easy route (a car ride home with Mom) but biking, instead. Tired as we were, there's some unrelenting spirit in both of us that will NOT allow us to take the easy route, that pushes us the extra mile, that convinces us that we KNOW the path to the top (del Cerro, anyone?). Perhaps that's why, at the end of the day, I can honor my father (Exodus 20:12).
One more note before I sign off. Here's an example (loosely translated) of our negotiation still in the works:
Dad: You know, I'm charging royalties for those photos.
Sarah: But they're not even in my possession yet.
D: Royalties begin at the time of the photos.
S: Yes, and we have not reach t=0 because I have not received the aforementioned photos. To me, the photos are not reality.
D: What are you talking about? I cannot control your reality. It is unfortunate everyone does not see the world as I see it.
S: Are you going to take your water bottle to the beach? I mean, my water bottle that you're borrowing?
D: That's right, it's my water bottle. I'm glad you're seeing things my way.
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wine that gladdens the heart

Today was truly a wonderful day spent with Aunt Pam & Cuz (aka Shannon). I slept until 11AM since I've formed perhaps an unhealthy habit of staying up late into the night due to this blog, pictures, and a general unwillingness to go to bed. Aunt Pam & Cuz came shortly thereafter and we headed to Race Point for some biking (see My Pictures). While at the beach, Aunt Pam retold the story of my grandparents' neighbor who may need a toe amputated. The greatest inconvenience resulting from this possibility is the lost ability to wear flip flops. The neighbor conjectured that he would be forced to duct tape his flip flop to his foot.
Mom was determined that Shannon would experience the joys of kayaking so we left Race Point and headed back to "the compound." I'll make a minor note that Mom kayaked before Shannon or Pam - you can draw your own conclusions as to who REALLY wanted to experience the joys of kayaking. We flew the trainer kite for the second day in a row with some impressive twists and turns by the elder Hiney & daughter. Kayaking really WAS joyous with a GREAT set of waves as I paddled into shore.
Then it was time for sunset hors d'oeuvres & wine (Psalm 104:15) on the roof. In addition to Aunt Pamela's British imitations, Cuz & I had one of the greatest conversations I've had in a long time. Was it the sunset or the wine or the company? Perhaps some mystical combination of the three in the bewitching hour.

sent an angel

This picture captures the continual state in which we exist both here on the Cape & in life. Mom could not be happier that we're together. Dad's waiting for the automatic timer to flash. I'm Wild At Heart, gazing into the foretold magnificent sunset.
A small group of us discussed John Eldredge's book Wild At Heart this past weekend at Gordon. While I agree, in part, with the many critiques of the book, the fact remains that Eldredge's book acted as a catalyst in my life. God instrumentally used it to propel me across the country on His wild adventure. Remembering this process reminded me of how faithful God has been.
Reflection marks my life these days. God graciously sent an angel (Numbers 20:16) to lift me out of the melancholy accompanying too much reminiscence. Viewing numerous photos of friends buoyed my spirits, too. I posted some old photos for you to catch a glimpse. Let me share a few clips of what I've been reading lately that contributed to this pensive blogging state:

"As the weeks of her narrative unfold, she digs deeper and deeper, eventually coming to what is the most difficult task we face in this life: to know and to love at the same time. Can we? Is it ever really possible? Don't we choose otherwise, almost always? There is a 'wound to knowledge' in the words of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and most of us feel that reality in our deepest hearts, and it is painful. To know like that costs us. We find it hard to talk about." ~Stephen Garber reviewing A Dark Oval Stone by Marsena Konkle in the publication Critique, Issue #8-2006

"Mr. Jain . . . says he was unaware Mr. Thoti was a Dalit . . . [Mr. Thoti] says he's happy. 'I never ask him about his caste,' says K. Sreenivasulu, a 30-year-old colleague from a higher caste. 'Caste doesn't matter to me here, especially in the work environment.' Outside the office, the picture remains more complicated. Recently, Mr. Thoti learned he would have to move, and began searching for a new apartment. He approached a building just around the corner. The landlord's response: 'Brahmins only.'" ~Paul Beckett in The Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCXLIX No. 146 (6/24/07)

"Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts. As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the notions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn't go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection." ~Wendell Berry from Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front from The Country of Marriage: Collected Poems

And now I'm off to view the stars from that lovely widow's walk perch in the photo above. I'll think about how I flew a kite today (finally) and how the waves bore me towards shore in a kayak. I'll think about friends near and far and this evening's good conversation over berrytinis. I'll laugh about the de-treaded tire incident that marked my journey yesterday and the resulting sweet time with Dad today around the tire shop in search of finger puppets. And maybe, just maybe, I'll dream a bit.

Driving out of Bighorn NF

Same drill as the others. Click the colored link below to view the video.
Bighorn National Forest
This was possibly the most epic drive of my life! You're catching the tail-end of it after I descended thousands of feet down precipitously winding roads. Lovin' it!

youth renewed

I took a trip down Memory Lane (by Lane, in fact) this morning & felt God renewing my youth (Psalm 103:5). FYI, the pic above was taken on the Great Lawn at Coolidge Reserve in Magnolia this afternoon. For those familiar with Gordon, this will surely jog memories of your own . . .
-Remember when we sneaked a peek into the new recital hall in Phillips, Cat?
-Alas, Wood is no more
-But the Berry Girls & IHOS live on in infamy
-SO tempted to ring the bell and bring all sorts of bad luck on my head
-Hanging out on the roof of Frost - don't fall down the fire escape ladder
-The great stuffed pineapple conspiracy undercover of night outside Frost
-So much tomfoolery during High Adventure Camp - tipping canoes, singing our team song
-Davino emerges from Gull with a leach in tow during Ecology & Evolution
-Cat's x-country, -hill, & -dale ski adventure around Gull Pond. Drat, we fell over a fallen log again!
-Tang's firelight confessions of anti-American scandal & grapefruit shampoo. I think I found our camping site, but it's overun with bike paths now without a trace of a campfire.
-Ahh, the days of leaving old recliners on the quad festooned with balloons. It truly was a public display of art.

And then there are all the others memories sparked by walking about this weekend . . .
-I tromped through the mud today and thought that if I'd only had such a messy experience sophomore year I might not have "lost it" when ketchup appeared on my pants. I also might have responded with greater understanding to the great Duran Duran shut-in (Fowler).
-What wonderful Sunday evenings spent eating dinner in our room to the sounds of A Prairie Home Companion, or basking like cats in the sun in Ferrin, or illegally lighting candles, removing screens to throw snowballs, or playing Secret Agent, dark sunglasses & all.
-Remember Thrilla in Tavilla? I'm typing this from Tavilla right now.
-How about countless hours of Dance Min? Eden's Dad was here for the conference this weekend.
-Was anyone there the night we ended up on the Great Lawn where today's picture was taken? I realized once we got there today that I had been there in the dead of the night once when I was convinced they were building another Monticello. Turns out it was only the remains of the foundation of an original building that still lies there today.
-How about the Magnolia Cliffs?
-I remember a night Pete Cherry, Nate, & I (& maybe Snead) were star gazing & determined we saw a military high altitude aircraft. We were near the testing facility, after all. Cat, we never returned to investigate that! It was easier to convince myself of seeing UFOs then.
-Ahh, Hagopian and his bleeding-hearted liberal accusations - and to think he just got married!
-How about rearranging the banister across Erik's door?
-Steve in his trench coat & hat.
-The midnight food fight that all started with Davino's ill-fated slingshot & a grape.

I'm realizing I could go on and on. Fowler & Cat, you're probably the only two that will appreciate this so hopefully this will spark some fond memories - I miss you both!

Yellowstone National Park Videos

Click the purple links below to view my videos.
Good Morning
This was taken my first morning in Yellowstone, camping at Shoshone Lake campsite 8S2. Night sounds and a deflating Therm-A-Rest kept me from sleeping most nights, so I generally fell asleep around dawn. I left all time-keeping devices in the car but figured out that my camera kept time within 20 minutes, give or take. That's how I determined that I was waking around 10:30AM.
Shoshone Lake @ Dawn
This was taken my second morning at Shoshone Lake. The mist was still swirling across the waters. While the mosquitoes drove me to my tent around 7:30PM, this morning I was determined to be an early riser. Of course, I then went to sleep again until 10:30AM. Although I camped near a wide open field, I surprisingly did not witness any large wildlife. Although seeing a bear away from the flash of camera-happy tourists would have been a treat, I gladly went without that experience.
Yellowstone Geyser
Sorry for the sideways view. You can hear the voice of the Ranger in the background on this guided tour of the geysers near Old Faithful. Sulphurous scents prevailed.
Old Faithful Inn Pianist
This is rather a dark (9:30PM) view of the grande lobby of the Inn, taken from the third floor balcony. The video opens with the Pianist and scrolls down to the lobby and up to the second and third floor balconies. It was from this perch that I wrote all my Yellowstone postcards.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
As I narrated in this video, I left the beaten path for a view less frequently seen. The Grand Canyon was awesome to behold and I couldn't help feeling rather satisfied as I gazed across the abyss at the tourist vista crowded with RV's and camera-laden folks.

Grand Teton National Park Videos

Click the colored links below to view my videos.
Grand Teton Panoramic View
This was taken at Fox Creek Pass during my two night stay in Death Canyon in Grand Teton National Park. I conducted a recon trip to scope out my planned path to Marion Lake. As you can see, the snowy landscape void of trail markers made me think better of attempting a solo orienteering expedition. I did the unthinkable for Sarah Hine and retraced my steps out of the park! And yes, Dad, I lived to tell about it. Unfortunately, I don't have freezing temps, white-out conditions, and gale-force winds to bolster the tale.
Dandelion Video (sideways)
I simply couldn't resist on my hike out.

seasoned with salt

I've returned to the land of "open hall," Gillie's Cafe, & Coy Pond - Gordon College. Returning to campus after my six year absence feels like homecoming. To the left is a shot of Frost Hall, an administrative building, taken by a Gordon student. Frost Hall is the incomplete original structure of what was once the Prince estate. Legend has it that construction ceased once the wife, for whom Frederick Prince was building the structure, passed away. The place is fascinating. I remember discovering an abandoned shaft one night while studying w/ Cat. We crept as far as we dared before the shaft headed precipitously downhill.
All the memories are coming flooding back. "Open hall" signs are posted around the dorm in which I am staying. This refers to visitation hours when men and women can visit rooms of the opposite sex. When I was on duty as an RA, this provided a challenge. During "visits," the door needed to remain open with at least one foot of each person in the room on the floor at all times. Additionally, at least one light needed to remain on within the room. Picture little 18 year-old Sarah policing the rooms of her 24 year-old students. Gillie's Cafe served as the scene for numerous open mics and also hosts the Wittenburg Window, a place where students could post potentially scandalous essays on issues ranging from reformed theology to defining our neighbors. Coy Pond and Gull Pond are two of my fav places here - I'll pay homage tomorrow morning on my run.
I have traveled to the North Shore for an alumni weekend conference focused on vocation. Returning to the student lifestyle of communal eating, essays, and discussing philosophy late into the evening suits me well. One of the questions I hope to wrestle with as a group tomorrow is, "How do we maintain youthful excitement and hope regarding our vocational calling? This includes concern for living an ordinary life AND recognizing that what may externally appear ordinary is always renewed extraordinarily internally by God." Similar questions were raised by my peers and conversation was most definitely seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6).

suffer the little children


While at The Faces (aka Mt. Rushmore), I saw this friendly group of people coming down the stairs. Their T-shirts boldy proclaimed "Pro Life." As I moseyed around the tourist trap that is The Faces, sundry questions came to mind. In a place making any number of grand statements, their T-shirts left only one statement resounding in my mind. This group was surely pro-life and anti-abortion. As I entered the Sculptor's Studio at the monument, the group was sitting on the benches where you see them in the picture. They willingly posed for the picture and explained that they are part of a group walking across America. The began in Seattle, although no one in the group originates from Seattle. They represent states including Florida & Iowa. Groups from all corners of the country are walking in order to convene on Washington, DC August 11 for a Pro Life rally. So the questions came more quickly: 1. Would I be so bold as to state my convictions in this manner? 2. Would one of them wear that shirt individually or was their strength in the group? 3. What message does this send to staunch pro-abortionists/women's choicers? 4. How often does each "camp" recognize that they argue separate points? 5. Is there room for compassion in the face of a Pro Life rally?
I began discussing this with a friend on the long drive across PA & NY back to CT. He and I both value the sanctity of life. He surprised me when he shared his view that abortion ought to be legal. He reasoned that abortion will continue, whether legal or illegal. Legalizing abortion allows for more humane methods. Hmm, never considered THAT angle before. I will state here for the record that I am pro life. I also recognize that enormous pressures and societal constraints cause women to choose abortion over life. My friend and I pondered how a peaceful sit-in to support life would be received. What if there were no placards or jeering crowds? What if we sat in silent witness to life that was ended before it breathed on its own? What if a dialogue began between sides over reconciliation between the sanctity of a woman's body and the sanctity of a life newly created? Those are some thoughts that this picture initiated for me. I welcome some good discussion on the issue. Btw, the title's from Matthew 19:14 - kids inherit the kingdom.

Here are a few more fun things I came up with while on the road:
Cheapest Gas: $1.97 in ND
Best Sign: Cowboy Credit Union in Buffalo, WY
True Picture of the West: cowboys herding cattle on the side of the road
Most Memorable: cruising down Route 16 out of Bighorn National Forest to Neil Young
Preferred Drink on the Road: Green Machine by NAKED
Prettiest Sunset: headed East out of Bismark, ND (check out my pictures)
Indulgence of Choice: Trader Joe's chocolate-covered pretzels (thanks, Daniela)
Silliest Moment: pretending I was on a roller-coaster, arms in the air and screaming, as I rounded the ONE turn on Highway 85 between Amidon and Belfield, ND
Where I want to hang out someday: Cody, WY
Sign that I'm not @ LBM anymore: UW stands for U of WY, NOT Underwriter

I'm not sure when I'll be on-line next, so for all those tracking me, here's an itinerary:
Gordon College this weekend
Cape Cod next week
Winston-Salem the following weekend
Ballet Magnificat! July 5

i lift up my eyes to the mountains

hear ye, hear ye - I just received word that I will be working in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh with the Rural Training and Development Center once I arrive in India as a Service Corps Fellow. Hmm, I just looked at a map and it looks like I'll be near the Dalai Lama in Dharmsala.
For a "peak" of why the mountains inspire me (I can hardly believe I've resorted to such levels of corny-ness), you can check out the video soon to come. Yep, my help comes from on high (Ps. 121:1). I've been loading the video on this blog for the past 30 min & it's still not done. You know when you reach that point where you should hold out just 1 more min? Well, I'm there BUT the Faces are calling @ Mt. Rushmore & then Fargo to see Brian. On to Chicago and the Amazing RW on Sunday and the final push home Monday. Patience, grasshoppers. You'll get all your videos soon enough.

shine forth like the dawn

You guys (read: the many inquiring minds wanting to know more) are fun. I love reading your responses, answering your questions, & being chastised for not blogging enough. It's late in the so-called "booming" town of Gillette, WY but my court clamors for news from the royal highway so I simply must meet the demand. Oh, wait, I'm not the Queen. Well, I can at least share a bit of insight into the past week since I've last been on-line. I feel like a different person and blogging seems a humble mode of communicating. Perhaps I'll go deeper & require you to take your snorkels in a next go-around. For now, how about some superlative action? I won't issue a disclaimer, but if I DID it would go something like this: These opinions are solely those of the blogger and in no way express what she expects might be your own opinions. Additionally, it should be noted that superlatives lend themselves to judgment and exclusion of other likely candidates. Please suspend your judgment.
Best Natural View: Fox Creek Pass in Grand Teton National Park, ele. 9,650'
Chillest Rangers: Grand Teton National Park
Best Read: submerge by john b. hayes
Scariest Night Noise: howling wolves or coyotes near my tent in Yellowstone
Most Thought-Provoking Verses: Isaiah 58:6-8
Luckiest Addition to Backpack: Natrapel bug repellant
Best Manmade View: Old Faithful Inn Observation Deck of the geyser
Most Melodic: pianist at Old Faithful Inn
Jolliest Trail Mate: Bog Trotting Joe from Dublin
Newest Experience: required 30 min video on proper backcountry behavior in Yellowstone
Most Beautiful Rugged Terrain to Explore Next: Big Horn National Forest

And for your viewing pleasure, I'm slowly adding photos so take a look at the initial efforts.

P.S. I really AM tired for all those that I was talking/IM'ing w/ while bemoaning my lack of sleep. Still, I just couldn't help myself & I suppose you'll thank me for making the effort.

leap for joy

Greetings from the land of Knee Shorts modest clothing, virgin margaritas, & clean flicks. Yes, I really encountered all those at the Great Salt Lake. The drive rivaled the drive to Vegas for number of praises from Mom. In my humble opinion, the drive to SLC wins, hands down. Mountains rise from clover-covered valleys, climaxing in snowy peaks. Cows & horses graze in bucolic pastures. We had a 2+ hour conference call w/ the siblings filled w/ Lisa singing Mariah Carey & Tim claiming he really was listening to everything we said.

We arrived to the perfect hotel where we got to run, swim, AND bed jump. Thanks to Christine who introduced me to a bed jumping website (http://www.hotelsbycity.net/blog/bed-jump/), I had to try it. Caution: bed jumping can result in sleeping with one end of your bed on the floor OR with your suitcase holding up the mattress. By the way, Mom has declared a new gift. In addition to Master Map Reader and Spatial Arranger, she hereafter can speak as Expert of Fixing Broken Beds. Our predicament resulted in me collapsing in hysterics and Mom grimacing. The title of today’s post comes from Luke 6:23, leaping for joy indeed!

Before departing the LBC Wednesday, I said a few final goodbyes, crammed more bags in my overstuffed car, and received a gift of pepper spray to ward off the Yellowstone bears. Mom and I DID high five as we said, “Vegas, baby!” We stayed on The Strip and caught Spamalot at Wynn Las Vegas. It felt great to laugh and be reminded to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Awaking two days in a row to sunny skies made me smile, too.

Today, Mom’s off to NYC & I head North to Yellowstone. Look forward to some great pic’s & stories of how I did NOT use the pepper spray (positive thinking) and DID tranquilly reflect by serene streams somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

clothed with gladness

This picture offers a glimpse into the past two weeks. When a friend suggested a Rockstar Party as a send-off, I was all for it! As a huge fan of costume parties, the idea of my friends dressing the part thrilled me. Add to that the backstage passes, microphones, and music and we had all the makings for a grande finale. There have been many joyous closures including dinner tonight with many friends that sent me packing with trail mix and a gas card - brilliant! Even better, they prayed over me before we departed - I felt desperately needy for that so thank you.
There have been numerous tearful goodbyes, too. Those who have ever departed or remained behind may ask, "why bother investing in the lives of others if leave takings are so bittersweet?" I know this is a short-sighted question and I assure you I would never have it any other way. I'm a relational being, created for community. We grow, stretch, and are transformed through relationships. Painful though departures may be, graciously we have hope that we will be used and grow in new ways that actually deepen those relationships. Ever the optimist at heart, I choose to be clothed in gladness (Ps. 65:12).
Here are a few snippets of the Life of Sarah:
-Mom & I had a good laugh today as Mom approached her trusty sponge to resume cleaning and said, "oh, my long lost friend, how I've missed thee these past few hours."
-Did I mention how thankful I am that Mom has scrubbed my apt from top to bottom as I've packed, visited, cried, & laughed?
-For once in my life (seriously, this is the first time), I am packed hours in advance of my departure.
-Nevertheless, sleep still evades me so I plan to be up for awhile.
-True to the plan, we're staying in Vegas tomorrow night. Mom isn't in the know yet. She will be, though, as soon as we hit the road with a high five and "Vegas, baby!" This should be fun.
-For each kindness, hug, smile, card, box, and tear I thank you.

taking a far journey

Wow! How do I capture the essence of these days? It seems that each time I turn, a new blessing awaits. The people I encountered over the previous month since sharing my plans have humbled me by their gracious responses. I commented Wednesday how mahvelous 'twould be if we could but live like this daily - living out the gratitude we harbor internally each day. I only pray that we might each choose to act on our thankful impulses!
In an attempt to honor those lives that touched mine, I have turned over a new leaf by blogging. If only I could post my blogs upside-down (for anyone that's ever seen a group card I've signed), all would be as I'd wish. Still, I hope you'll read, respond, challenge my assumptions, and encourage me as you have already.
For those WaMulians in whose company I have been blessed to work for the previous 21 months, thank you for the outpouring affections and words of support. You will be among the first to read this since I committed to posting something before my imminent departure. Take a moment and update your development plans to reflect your new found interest in global development (always your consummate HR professional here) and then add this to your favorites and follow my journey. You'll probably learn new things about me that you never knew AND you'll get to see Yellowstone, New England, Winston-Salem, Mississippi, India, & beyond through my eyes.

And now for some stream of conscious thoughts:
-I am tired and ought to sleep soon - this has been a trying week filled with much encouragement and moments of light amidst the challenges
-Mom arrives @ LAX late tonight for a final LA escapade. We'll see if I can convince her to stop in Vegas on our way to SLC.
-I haven't truly begun to pack yet and I refuse to be stressed out by that.
-Reality's hitting me at a snail's pace. At dinner with a friend tonight I actually realized tomorrow's my official last day at work.
-3-1/2 years ago, 3-1/2 years seemed an eternity. Now that 3-1/2 years have passed as a blur, 3-1/2 years doesn't seem like such a long time anymore.

As a final note, I'll issue a few explanations. SarsiSue (in the weblog address) is my Mom's nickname for me. Rivers in high places (blog name) refers to Isaiah 41:18 and reminds me of promises yet to be fulfilled. Taking a far journey (post title) seemed an apt kick-off and derives from the idea of sojourning in distant lands. Listening to Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," I can't help but issue one more effusive thought of how overcome I am by the many people in my life. I will miss seeing each of your faces daily and am thankful that we get to remain in each others lives around this wonderful world 'til we meet again.
~s :)!