22 October 2015

What I'm Reading, Watching and Listening To

After staring at my computer for literally three hours trying to put together a blog post, I decided to default to some media that I've been consuming lately and that I can highly recommend.  (I had so many photos in this post, but internet in Tanzania has been so slow of late that I had to take them all out in order to post.)

What I'm Reading:

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

We didn't name our daughter after Gretchen Rubin, but her three books (The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and Better Than Before) have really influenced how I organize a lot of things in my life.  I've blogged about her earlier books here and here and here and here and here.

I've been inching my way through this book for longer than it usually takes me to read a dozen books--6 months--because I quickly get distracted thinking of ways to apply her many excellent tips on forming and breaking habits.  As recently as May I wanted a Coca-Cola every single day. Then I had a moment when one day I didn't want a Coke, and, taking advantage of strategies from Gretchen's book, I turned that into a string of days and totally broke my addiction to soda.  I haven't finished it yet, but I am not giving up on it yet, and I'll probably start over again as soon as I finish.

Let's Be Clear About What Real Christian Persecution Looks Like by Jesse Carey

RELEVANT Magazine is a Christian culture magazine which has been doing some really good reporting on the state of conflict in many areas of the world that aren't getting much press.  Their editor has been to Lebanon and seen the refugee crisis first hand in one of the toughest spots in the world.  They have written a number of articles exposing what ISIS is doing and encouraging the Western church to step up and support refugees coming from the Middle East.  This article, which came out today, summarizes the persecution that the Church is facing around the world and challenges American Christians to reconsider what we consider persecution.

What I'm Watching:

Tinga Tinga Tales: Seasons One and Two

The short answer is that I'm not watching much these days besides Dora the Explorer and Paw Patrol, but I have been dishing out a few episodes of Tinga Tinga Tales to my kids.  They love the show, which has really creative graphics, familiar (to them) language and accents, and clever story lines.  Warning: this show is not strictly Creationist in its viewpoint; it is based on African fables about how animals developed different unique characteristics.

Romantic Comedies Starring Brits

A friend of mine dropped a whole bunch of illegally ripped movies in my lap (this is Africa...we don't have access to Hulu, so we pass around bootleg movies).  One of the movies that I loved so much that I've watched it over and over again.  "About Time" is a lovely 2013 British movie starring some British guy I'd never seen before, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy, who is just great. 

Plot Summary: A young man inherits the ability to travel in time in his own life and learns how to build the best life he possibly can.  It's just so touching.  I highly recommend it.  

Then I was on airplanes for roughly 900 hours last month and I watched the recent movie "Man Up" starring the wonderful Simon Pegg.  He's the only reason I watched the movie, but I'm ever so glad I did. 

Plot summary: A woman accidentally shows up for a stranger's blind date and decides to steal the date.  Hi-jinks ensue.  There's a whole thing about people crying on airplanes, and I certainly did during this movie.  I enjoyed it so much, making me that woman who is not only awake watching movies while everyone else sleeps (because how often do I get to just sit and watch hours and hours of movies?) but also laughs out loud.

What I'm Listening To:


I have logged over 320 hours of listening to podcasts since I download the Stitcher podcast app a little more than a year ago. I love having the background voices while I do housework or process data or draw pictures of the birthing process.  The podcasts I listen to are all over the map, but here's a list of the top podcasts I never miss, even the embarrassing ones:

Pop Culture Happy Hour - Keeps me up on entertainment and culture in America
Slate's Political Gabfest - Fascinating analysis of both headline and obscure political news (left-leaning, I admit, but less hate-filled than most of the right-leaning ones I've tried), occasional language, 
The RELEVANT Podcast - I used to listen to this back in 2007-2009, but dropped off when my internet got achingly slow when I first moved to Africa.  I started listening again because my friend Joy is a frequent contributor.
Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! - Some of my best Saturday mornings in America were when I had to be in the car on a Saturday morning and got to listen to WWDTM.  Now I don't have to be in the car.
This American Life - Although this is sinking down my list of favorite things to listen to, it has been a staple for years.
Jordan, Jesse GO! - This is a new addition to my list, and definitely a "listen through headphones only" podcast of really random, funny, NSFW conversation.  I regularly laugh out loud.
My Brother, My Brother and Me - Similar to Jordan, Jesse GO!, it's a very quirky advice show hosted by three brothers.  Lots of language and certainly NSFW, but I laugh a lot when I listen to it.
Slate's Whistlestop - This podcast is in-depth political historical analysis from a man who has been a political journalist for decades.  I highly recommend it to any fellow political nerds.
Radiolab - Similar to This American Life, but more edgy
Mystery Show - Hosted by a This American Life contributor, Starlee Kine, she solves mysteries that cannot be resolved on the internet.  It's on a hiatus right now, but it's unique and thoroughly interesting.

This is only about a third of the podcasts I regularly listen to, and I'm always open to suggestions!

The Woodlands: Parallels Vol. I

I do not listen to much music, but The Woodlands are friends from back in my Portland days, and they make beautiful music.  You can buy their latest album for literally any amount of money. (I paid $10 and it is well worth it.)  It's beautiful, interesting acoustic music with lovely vocal harmonies.  It provides really nice background for creative or thoughtful work, like blog writing, although other weeks are a lot more both creative and thoughtful than this one.  Still, it's done, isn't it?  And it's still Thursday!

16 October 2015

When Babies Don't Cry

Last week we had visitors from Village Life Outreach Project in Cincinnati, Ohio--an organization which was instrumental in helping Mama Maisha get started.  Every October they bring a team of medical professionals and students to do mobile clinics in villages around Shirati.

One of the nurses, Tina, who has 37 years of experience in obsterics, offered to do a training for Traditional Birth Attendants about the principles and skills of the Helping Babies Breathe curriculum.  Last Saturday we went out to Nyambogo village with Tina, a pediatrics nurse named Megan and a pediatrics resident named Sara.  They taught twelve TBAs how to help a baby breathe immediately after birth using only some blankets and a bulb syringe.

These TBAs are, on average, over 60 years of age and uneducated, so it is always inspiring to see them shamelessly put themselves out there to learn new skills and techniques and tools in order to help the mothers and babies they serve.  Several of the women really struggled to learn the technique of using a bulb syringe on a plastic baby, but they committed themselves to mastering this new skill.  They told us they appreciate this training because it is so much more effective than having a mother who has just exhausted herself delivering a baby then suck the mucus out of the baby's mouth and nose.

We are excited to track down enough bulb syringes for all of these TBAs and get this same training for the rest of the 28 women we have been training to improve the available delivery services for pregnant women in rural Tanzania!

08 October 2015

I'm Going to Visit Refugees!

I'm going to be a bit vague on here, because it's a public forum and all, but I want you all to hear the story of how I got a chance to put some actions to my words.

As regular readers of my blog and Facebook are well aware, I have been talking a lot about the refugee crises that are occurring due to conflicts in the Middle East, especially conflicts caused by the Islamic State.  One aspect in particular which has concerned me is the enslavement of Yazidi and Christian women and girls by Islamic State fighters.  Girls as young as nine-years-old have been sold off as sex slaves or forced to convert to Islam and "married" off.  Many girls and young women have committed or attempted suicide to escape.  Additionally, even those who escaped are suffering depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from what they have seen, such as hundreds of men killed for refusing to convert to Islam when the Islamic State invaded the Yazidi region of northern Iraq.

While I was in the States, I had a meeting with an old friend who is now the Global and Local Mission Pastor of a church in Oregon.  I knew that they had connections to a ministry in northern Iraq, but he shared a lot more detail about the family who is working there and how they are serving refugees, especially Yazidis.  He mentioned that he had visited five times in the past year, taking teams from their church.  I asked about future trips, and he mentioned one coming up in November and one next March.  I asked about prenatal care and where women deliver babies and who assists them, but he didn't really know the answer.  (I expect it is a tradition of untrained midwives similar to the one that developed in East African villages.)

I talked to Fred about the opportunity to travel, and he was very supportive of me joining one of these teams, especially the one in November which would be easier on our schedule as a family than next March.  I couldn't imagine raising all the money within 5-6 weeks, though, so we made it a matter of prayer.  Then the pastor emailed me that he would cover all my expenses on the ground if I could get myself to Iraq by November 1st!  I looked up airfare, and it was about $750, which seemed very reasonable to raise that money within a few weeks.

This opportunity came up just as I was wrapping up my trip to America, so I was a bit slow to get the word out.  This week I put the fundraiser up on Facebook, and within a few hours had the amount I needed for airfare...so I thought.  When I went to check the prices, they had skyrocketed.  Several hours of research on excruciatingly slow internet led me to a ticket for $1,120, so I had to go back to fundraising again.  I put the bad news on Facebook and went to bed sad and wondering if I had been wrong about this opportunity.  When I woke up, over $1,500 had been donated!

Some of those who donated have been my friends since I was three years old.  One was a complete stranger.  Many give regularly to support our work, and at least one couple lives overseas on financial support themselves.  I really thank God for such a supportive and kind community of friends.

Now for some FAQ:

Q: Is it really safe?
It is as safe as where we live now.  The Islamic State is blocked from the area where we will be by geological features that my pastor friend compared to "the Grand Canyon."  Of course one can never be assured of absolute safety anywhere in the world (even a community college classroom), but I'm assured that this area is very safe.

Q: Aren't you afraid?
I really try not to live in fear (except of mice...can't seem to kick that fear).  In the worst case scenario, should something awful happen, I am confident that I will be in the center of God's will for me.  I believe that God can use my life or my death, whether it's violent and unexpected or quietly after a long life, to further the Kingdom of Heaven.  I would hate to leave my children and husband, but better that than to live in fear, not following where Jesus is leading.

Q: What will you do there?
I don't know 100% of what I'll be doing, but my hope is meet women and hear their stories.  I would like to be able to hear about their birth culture and what challenges they face in pregnancy and delivery of babies in a refugee camp in a war zone.  I would also like to encourage and bless the missionaries who are living there in any way I can, including sharing the 10 lbs. of chocolate chips that we were blessed with.

Q: How will you spend the extra money that was donated?
I plan to travel to the city of Mwanza in a few days and purchase some of the materials that we use in hygienic birth kits for expectant mothers and those who are delivering babies.  I don't know if I will have an opportunity to distribute those things directly or hand them off to a local health official or to the missionaries, but I want to have them with me, just in case.  Anything else left over I'll take in cash for unexpected expenses or to help meet needs on the ground.

Q: Will you be blogging?
YES.  I don't know what the internet situation will be like, so I don't know for certain if I'll be updating the blog while I'm there, but I will certainly be taking heaps of notes and some photos and journaling so that I can share the experience with all of you.  (Gosh, people, hold me to the photo thing.  You all know how awful I about taking pictures!)

Q:  How can we pray?
I covet your prayers for my preparations, both physical and spiritual, during a very busy next three weeks.  Please pray that I will be full of wisdom, peace, hope and love to share with those I encounter, as well as patience for the processes.  Most of all, please pray for the people in these camps and who are suffering from displacement, insecurity, and physical or emotional harm or threat.