25 02 2006

Well, I’ve been “tagged” twice now (thanks Anthony and Carter!), so I guess I’d better play. Looking at the categories, I can tell this is going to be a bit torturous for one who lives so far from home, but I think I can manage. I’ve also taken the liberty of adding a “Four Favorite Pets” category.

Four Places I’ve Lived:

Davenport, IA – My only home until I left for college. Great place to grow up.

Memphis, TN – Lived here while in grad school, preparing to leave for Togo. The best BBQ in the world can be found at The Cozy Corner.

University Park, TX This is actually in Dallas, but the Park cities have their own police, city council, etc. Very upper class. We would have lived there if our sponsoring church, Preston Road Church of Christ, wasn’t located there and owned an apartment next door. We had to laugh driving our beat up Honda Civic around while everyone else was driving a BMW, Mercedes, Hummer or Rolls Royce!

Albertville, France We lived here for 8 month while in French language school. It is right in the French Alps, definitely the most beautiful place we’ve ever lived. Outside our living room window, we had a great view of the medieval town Conflans and the mountains. You know, my French isn’t as good as it should be, maybe we need to go back for a refresher course…

Four Jobs I’ve Had:

Counter clerk – Village Bakery – Bettendorf, IA – My high school job where I baked cookies, sold merchandise, cleaned the shop and washed more cooking trays that I could ever count! Sweet (literally) perks were all-you-can eat goodies and trading day old stuff for leftover Happy Joe’s Pizza (see below).

Laborer – DRI Railroad – Davenport, IA – “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad…” I did this for two summers and one winter break my first two years of college. While repairing railroad track, I learned to really appreciate getting an education — shoveling rock for 8 hours in sweltering heat will have that effect on a young man! I also learned that one actually can smoke 4 packs of cigarettes a day (Rod), use more curse words than not (forgot that guy’s name) and be a complete idiot except when behind the controls of a backhoe…most of the time (Rick)!

Chemistry Lab Assistant – Harding Univ. – Searcy, AR – Not much excitement here, it was just fun to mix chemicals and help students do their experiments.

Youth Minister – Holmes Rd. Church of Christ – Memphis, TN — I kind of fell into this job, but it was a great experience that taught me a ton about people, churches and ministry. All those kids we worked with are in or out of college now. Scary how time goes by!

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over:

Since we don’t have a Blockbuster nearby, we re-watch movies often. It is tough to narrow it down to four.

Hoosiers – I get goose bumps whenever I hear the theme music. After watching, I have to go shoot some hoops.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – A couple of days ago, I was telling a friend how I wish I could see them all over again, as if it were for the first time.

U2 – Rattle and Hum – The most movie-like of the U2 concert DVDs I own. I remember seeing it on the big screen when it was released. The last 30 min. is golden.

Any comedy with my teammate David Reeves – His laughter is highly contagious. Rat Race and Barbershop particularly stand out, but just about any funny movie will do the trick for us. (I’m actually afraid to watch Napoleon Dynamite with him for fear that one of us will end up with a hernia!)

Four Books I Could Read Over and Over:

The Gospel of John – My favorite book in the Good Book.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – So very poignant and still relevant. This book reminds me what really is important in Christianity.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Read it for the first time in 2000 and have read it thrice more since. Better than the movies (but it takes longer).

The Brothers K by David James Duncan – This book tackles religion, Vietnam, baseball and family in a beautifully woven, majestically written story. It is outright hilarious in parts and heartbreakingly tragic in others. (I’ll get your copy back to you someday Andy!)

Four TV Shows I Watch:

On tape (sent by our dear friends and family)…
Law & Order
Without A Trace
Everybody Loves Raymond

On DVD (we are year behind on these as we wait for the DVD release – no spoilers please!)

*Ed — The one show we really, really wish was out on DVD, but isn’t.

Four Places I’ve Been on Vacation:

Yosemite National Park – Tracey’s favorite place to go when she was growing up. We went here on our honeymoon.

San Diego, CAOur kids love the zoo & wild animal park, we love the beach and great weather. We also get our favorite Mexican food there. Would love to live there someday…if we could ever afford it!

Coconut Grove Beach Resort, Ghana – Another family favorite. We thought it was paradise the first time we went (it isn’t, but we were in culture shock then) and it hasn’t disappointed us in the many visits since.

Pendjari National Game Park, Benin – Our ‘home’ game park is only 4 hours away. I try to go at least twice a year. It’s the best game park in W. Africa. We seen elephants, lions, hippos, antelope and all kinds of exotic birds.

Three Websites I Visit Daily:
My Yahoo

Four Favorite Foods:

This is the killer category. I can’t tell you how many times we think about these foods…
By the way, Tracey is an awesome cook! I’m just listing my favorite specialty foods.

Happy Joe’s Pizza with Whitey’s Ice Cream for dessert — The best pizza and ice cream in the world and you can find it only in the Quad Cities! Each place was within 2 blocks of our house growing up.

Cozy Corner BBQ –- Memphis, TN – The best of the best Memphis BBQ. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Got to go for lunch or early dinner, though, the neighborhood is too rough for them to be open at night!

Nati’s Mexican Food San Diego, CA – A family favorite for generations (Tracey’s side). It’s 3 blocks from the Ocean Beach pier and less than a mile away from Grandma’s house. Owen had been there 5 times before he was even a month old (we lost count of the inutero visits)!

Les TrappeursCol de Tamie, France – Fantastic fondue and crème brule. You can also grill you own meat at the table (‘La Braserade’). We loved going here while were living in Albertville. Need to get back there someday…

Four Places I’d Like to Be Right Now:

Another tough category as it is something we think about often…

First/Second round site of the NCAA tournament – 6 games in two days, (plus all the others you watch on TV). The only thing make this sweeter is if I get cheer the Hawkeyes on to victory in person.

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains – I love the mountains and could use some cold weather.

Mare Bali, Pendjari Game Park – A relaxing, if not comfortable, place to sit and watch all kinds of animals come and get a drink of water – and, if you’re lucky, a meal!

Anywhere with Tracey
– Corny, but true!

Four Favorite Pets

Shama – The first dog I ever had, she was part beagle, part dauchund. She’d keep my feet warm at night during the winter.

Smoky – The first cat we ever had. He was a tom that came and went as he pleased. One time he brought home a live mouse which he released in the middle of my sister’s slumber party. I couldn’t have done a better job of scaring those girls myself. Who said the only good cat is a dead cat?

LaRoy – Our chameleon former known as Leroy (we changed her name when we found out that she was she, not a he). She changes colors all day and is great fun to watch eating dragonflies, grasshoppers and praying mantises. And she was free! I caught on the road outside our teammates’ house.

Hawkeye – Our first family dog. He’s a hyper German Shepherd who loves to jump and play fetch. He also has a pretty mean bark which scares off any unwanted visitors. (He’s got a great name too!)

People to Tag:
David Reeves
Matt Miller
Brett Emerson


Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

19 02 2006

Hawks On Top

14 02 2006

I’ve hesitated for long time to say anything about my Hawkeyes and their recent success on the hardwood because in recent years, good things haven’t lasted with the Iowa basketball team. To validate my feelings, the boys choked at Northwestern (ouch!) last Wednesday. I feel much better saying something now after a big win at Indiana. Now, they are a ½ game ahead of Ohio State with 5 games left to play. Still, I’d better say something while I can!

I’ve got to include a pic of the new all-time leading rebounder at Iowa, Greg Brunner, doing what he does best. “Bru” is, in my opinion, the epitome of Iowa hoops – slow, white dude who plays his guts out. He sports my old number too, which puts him in even more rare company!

Tonight, Michigan State visit Carver Hawkeye Arena. This is a huge game. Hopefully the Hawks have learned something from the 30 point thrashing the Spartans gave them earlier in the year and will actually the play the kind of defense that has made them among the nation’s top defensive teams. I’d love to see them win and go on to the Big Ten regular season title, but beggars (this is Iowa we are talking about here) can’t be choosers.

Honestly, a top 3 finish in the Big Ten regular season, good showing in the Big Ten tourney (semis or finals) and a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament would be fantastic. Still, after a number of years of just hoping to see Iowa mentioned as a possible bubble team, it’s just nice to see them down as “lock” to make the tournament. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the rest of the season brings.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the fact that my team is first in its conference and try not let may expectations get too high! They’d probably be disappointed.

Village Visit Journal 2001 – pt. 4

12 02 2006

The past couple of days, I’ve been out bonding with the elephants and lions in Pendjari Game Park with my teammates. More on that later, maybe… So many potential posts, so little time!

This is the last entry from my time out in the village. I had hoped to post this before leaving, but obviously did not. I was able to dig up a picture of the house where I stayed. It had been abandoned but my teammate Matt and I helped rebuild the place earlier in 2001 as a culture and language learning exercise. I’d love to hear your comments…

Day 4 – Thursday

Even though I was feeling bad, last night (Wed.) turned out to be quite okay. Around 3pm, I went up to the [chief’s] house and got to greet many sulum [millet beer] drinkers. Among them were some French speakers so I could communicate more. I eventually hooked up with the chief’s youngest son, Palaki, [who bears a striking resemblance to Wesley Snipes]. He helped me with [Kabiye] vocabulary and took me to the market.

It did rain, but evidently not long enough. The chief said that an ancestory was causing the rain not to fall, so he is going to sacrifice a chicken to it. I doubt I’ll get to witness it, but who knows? [I did not.]

Today I’m just laying around praying that my ride will come early. I don’t feel well. Hopefully, it is just the hard life of the village that is getting to me. I nice warm shower, soft bed, good night’s rest & talk with my wife will go a long ways toward making me feel better. (I should also add some time on the can too!)

The market was no big deal. I did get to practice my Kabiye more so that was good. I also had deal with some drunks – this is going to be a big challenge [in our minstry], but I know that God is more powerful. I’m sure to write more if my ride doesn’t show up until [the time which was] planned.

Day 4 cont.

What have I learned? Well…

  1. This life is very hard.
  2. I didn’t see the hope of life for these people – without Christ.
  3. People will listen when you speak to them in Kabiye.
  4. This life is hard – the curse of Adam.

Okay – I was just trying to be profound. It has been a good time, but maybe it could have been better. I worked alone & sat alone. It is hard to learn & practice [language] like that. Something to keep in mind next time. I probably should have walked around [the village] greeting people – oh well. In all, it was still a good time. Now, I’m ready to go home & see how my wife and kids are doing.

Village Visit Journal 2001 – pt. 2&3

6 02 2006


Day 2 – Tuesday

“He won the lottery, when he was born!” – from WMA (White, Male American) by Pearl Jam

I always thought that was the truth & it was reaffirmed this morning. I have about 10 blisters on my right and 4 are on one finger!

The sad thing is, I only worked for about 4 hours (including breaks) and only got a 4 ft. deep swath cut out of the weeds around the compound. I guess I did okay, but I’m not sure because there’s been no real feedback.

This afternoon – it is lazing around again, but I shouldn’t complain. Still, I may go & try to greet some people. Tomorrow is market day, so it should be a bit more exciting.

I still haven’t found a French [speaking] companion. That’s okay I guess. Maybe I’m not motivated enough to get out & meet someone. I really don’t feel like taking the initiative – so it is partly my fault.

I did think that I would be around more people. I worked alone today. Maybe tomorrow…

They made some of the rice & beans I brought. It was good, but I’m afraid I offended the ladies by choosing not to put palm nut oil on it. Oh well, they’ll probably just chalk it up to ignorance.

I’m feeling better about bringing the Gospel here. I know I can’t do anything alone & it is the Spirit that will do the heavy lifting. That has been encouraging. More later…

Day 3 – Wednesday

“Thunder that is a low rumble in to one man, is a loud BANG to another.” – silly made-up proverb

There is thunder in the distance but I think it is going to pass [over] here. It rained a tiny bit this morning, maybe it will rain more tonight.

Last night at the local drinking spot, I was told that I would not be left alone for “one minute” [during the day] and many told me they were going to come and work with me – this did not come to pass.

I finished off the part around the house that I missed (there may have been more, I wasn’t shown any though). Then I met the chief & weeded among some corn with him for awhile. He told me to sit down, but I refused. After awhile, though, I got very tired & kinda light-headed. So I went and sat down… That’s what I’ve been doing the rest of this day.

I did shower at the chief’s [house] & was almost exposed to the whole household. Fortunately, things worked out to where I wasn’t!

I wish I was going home today. My leg, back & neck are sore from working. My hands have blisters which are sore. Now, my throat I hurting too. I don’t know if that is work related too or just a bug. Anyways, I’m ready to go home.

Well, I get to check out the market tonight. Hopefully tomorrow will go by fast. We’ll see…


Village Visit Journal 2001 – pt. 1

2 02 2006

This isn’t the post on the giving seminar I promised in our e-newsletter. I’m still organizing my thoughts on that. In the meantime, I hope you find this interesting.

The other day I came across a little notebook I used in our first years here to write down new vocabulary words and phrases I learned while out in the villages. As I flipped through it, I came across some journal entries I had written down during a 4-day, 3-night stay in the village of N’Djei.

I didn’t write down the dates, but I think it was sometime in late May/early June 2001.

Anyways, I thought I’d share with you what I thought about life in the village at this time. Keep in mind, we’d been in Togo for less than a year and that my Kabiye speaking skills were very limited. (Which is why I did the extended village stay in the first place!)

Here’s the first day’s entry…

Day 1 – Monday

Lots & lots & lots of sitting around. And I thought life in Kara was slow! I didn’t get here until about 10:30 – too late to start working in a field, so I sat and watched the ladies cook. Lunch was fine.

Afterwards – I lazed around under the trees, shelled peanuts. Then, everyone – sauf moi [except me] – went to work in the fields. I don’t have a translator yet, so that may be part of the problem. Also, I think they don’t believe I can do the work. Maybe I can’t, but I’m not afraid to try.

Anyways, I got tired of sitting around with the kids, so I went & swept out the hut. It should be a good place to stay.

I am working tomorrow. Hopefully I can hook up with someone who will help me with language. I also reviewed some old language lessons. I need to study more…

The quiet has been good for my thinking/praying time. I will continue to pray, though, that my idle mind will not become the devil’s playground. I am especially praying for pure thoughts. – That’s it for now.