Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ole Miss, etc.

From Birmingham, we headed on over to Oxford, MS, home of the University of Mississippi, where my sister Laura attends school. She's lived there for a couple of years, earning a degree in American literature and teaching composition and lit to undergraduate students. She's one smart cookie, and I sincerely believe that by the time she finishes her degree, she'll be able to speak American! Here I am with Laura near her office:

Laura recently successfully passed her 'oral exams'. She had to study over 60 books for that, and the exam consisted of two hours of 'grilling' in the room pictured below:

Congratulations, Laura, on a job well done!

Laura shares her home with a variety of critters, including fish and a turtle that live in the aquarium seen below. We joke with her that if the literature career falls through, she could also go into herpetology. Hey, it's a thought!

Laura is a connoisseur of fruit smoothies, and she shared her productions with us numerous times:

During the week, we took some glorious walks around Oxford, a town full of towering oaks and gorgeous homes. We also liked perusing antique stores...especially the old books section!

Over the weekend, we drove up to Memphis to visit some friends, including Curvin & Joann Hursh, folks Terrill has known his entire life. Curvin & Joann work for Choice Books, the same company Terrill's father works for in Alabama.

The Hurshes kindly shared part of their Saturday with us, taking us up into downtown Memphis, where we first pigged out at Miss Polly's, a local joint known for serving waffles with chicken. I never would have put those together, but it worked!

Later we met up with Aaron & Hannah Mason, a couple with the Southern Baptist mission board who will be joining the Echelon team in Kaabong this coming January.

In the evening we walked with Laura and the Masons along the mighty Mississippi River:

That night, we drove with the Masons up to the home of Bob & Janet Lane, the parents of Robert Lane (whose wife is Maridith) who is also a member of the Echelon team mentioned above. We've known Robert and Maridith for ten months now, and they are great friends to us, so it was a privilege to get to meet Robert's parents:

Sunday afternoon, we and Laura made a spontaneous decision to go to the Memphis Zoo. Having been in so many African game parks, I thought the zoo would only be mildly interesting, but man was I wrong. We ended up spending 4.5 hours there and still didn't see everything! Awesome time.

Northern Mississippi and western Tennessee were just beautiful this time of year, and we feel so thankful for being able to visit friends and family in these wonderful locations.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sweet Home Alabama

From Powhatan, VA, we headed southwest to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit some of our relatives: Steve & Lenora Longenecker and their family. Our deadline was to reach Birmingham in time to attend Steve & Lenora's twin sons' evening concert. They are in a Christian rock band called Redemption Row. When they started their set with a Needtobreathe cover song, I knew it was going to be a good night...and it sure was!

Some friends of ours told us to do all those things on furlough that we miss when we're in Uganda. Going to concerts is one of them (especially for me), and this was a weekend for concerts! The following day, after chatting with Steve & Lenora and watching football with Derek & Eric, Amber and I went to a Switchfoot concert. Switchfoot is one of our favorite bands who help us break through the emotional funk we sometimes find ourselves in overseas. The concert was good, but we had to wait in the freezing cold through a series of rather bad musical acts (I won't mention any names)!

A big thanks to the Longenecker family for welcoming us and sharing their fun-filled weekend!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A friend reflects on the Ik

A friend of ours from Oklahoma, Sam Beer, has been studying the Soo/Tepeth and Nyang'i languages, both of which are closely related to Ik (in fact, they are the only two other languages so closely related; and they are both near extinction). Sam visited us in Ikland this past June. With stunning photography and poetic prose, Sam has been reflecting on some of his experiences and perspectives through his blog Latent Yasila. We invite you to read!

Monday, October 8, 2012

On to Powhatan, Virginia

Terrill & I have a 'history' of sorts in Powhatan. Terrill used to spend summers here as a kid on his great aunt & uncle's farm. He also spent his senior year in high school here. So he has a number of friends and family here as well as connections to a church, Powhatan Mennonite. I just so happened to have two friends from Blountstown, FL that have migrated to Powhatan after marrying local guys. It was actually kind of exciting to visit Powhatan and reconnect with high school friends. 

Since my birthday was on Tuesday, we wanted to go on a special outing. Instead of giving gifts, Terrill & I like to make memories together. This time around, we decided to go fossil hunting with our dear friends, Jan & Phoebe Ranck. Jan drove us down to the James river to a strip of shoreline where she's gone for many years to find shells. 
 A closer look at the wall. 
Sadly, we found that the riverbank where the fossils are found is being destroyed to make room for property development along the river. Above the rocks in the photo below is a cleared area where someone can buy a two-acre plot for $450,000 and put up a house. We dug through the sand looking for fossils even as we lamented the destruction brought by 'development'. Is it worth it, folks? 
 While digging through the sand along the water's edge, we found a tooth of some kind. It looks a little small to be a shark's tooth but it was in remarkably good shape. 
 After fossil hunting, we had a picnic on the beach. What a fun day with friends and a memorable birthday!
 That evening, 'Mammaw' (Phoebe Ranck) made me an apple pie to celebrate. It's my first birthday celebrated in the states in the past five years.
 The next day I got to take a walk with my dear Blountstown friends, Allie and Ruthann. A new friend, Rachel, also came along for the stroll. I got the chance to meet Allie's new baby girl, Heidi. 
 On another day, Terrill & I gathered with some friends at the County Seat restaurant. On the left are Pres & Carolyn Nowlin who we stayed with in Powhatan. They are dear people who opened their home and hearts to us. We thank God for people like them who continually love, encourage and pray for us while we're overseas. Phoebe (on the right next to Allie) is another one of our prayer warriors. This lovely lady is my penpal and constantly remembers us in her prayers. I know this because she tells us so. And I'm certain that the grace of God has covered our lives because of her prayers. 
 Terrill & I with Phoebe. How good it is for the body of Christ to come together! This is one reason we travel around during furlough and see our friends.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Swiss Heritage

Before I write more about our travels, I want to share some parting photos of Ohio. We left last Monday and headed towards Powhatan, Virginia. It continues to strike me as odd that I've ended up in Uganda considering I came from a place like Ohio. The two places are worlds apart and yet similar in some ways. Both the Amish and Ik will farm for survival this year. Terrill & I love living around farmland whether it be here or in Uganda. 
A real treat was visiting the Swiss festival with my cousins. It's a celebration in Sugarcreek, Ohio that is put on to remind us of our Swiss roots. Sugarcreek is known as the little Switzerland of Ohio. As a child, I used to wear a little Swiss outfit and march in this parade, twirling a baton. Not my finest moments...but full of good memories. The band played polka music for the near-by crowds.

This is my maternal grandmother, Doris, and I sharing a moment. It's good to have these times in life when we stop to reflect where we came from and how those people/places have shaped who we've become.