Thursday, July 29, 2010

My first mission trip experience!

I have been so exhausted this week! I'm usually an insomniac, but I'm lucky to make it past 9pm on most nights this week.

Not only was Dubai my first trip abroad, but it was also my first mission trip!

We got to Dubai late on Friday night. Saturday we were able to fit in some touristy stuff (more on that tomorrow) before getting ready to set up for the conference on Sunday.

Sunday morning we were able to worship as a team together before everyone started arriving. A few of the missionary families were already there and they got to share with our team a little bit about the folks who would be joining us in a few short hours. We got to learn more about the dangerous environments they serve in, the hardships they have faced over the last few years, and more about what their lives are like.

After that our campus worship leader lead us in two of my most favorite songs. I could feel God in that room. We were stuck in the basement of this hotel in a city thousands of miles from home, in a country very different and much less free than my own. I was overcome with emotion as I sang the words to the songs. Tears were streaming down my face and I dared not look around or sniffle because you know how I feel about crying in public. It was bad enough that the guitar player and worship leader could see me! (I later confessed this to one of the other girls on the trip and she was like "me too!")

After that we got a great teaching from one of our elders on one of my favorite topics about losing your life for Christ. Luke 17:33- "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." I memorized a verse similar to that earlier this year. It basically means if you are willing to lose your life for Christ and give up your wants and needs to follow Him, you will find Him and the life only He can give you!

Anyway, he told the story of Lot's wife. If you do not know the story, basically Lot lived in a town called Sodom. God was going to destroy the town because of all the evil things the people were doing there. Two angels came and told Lot to take his family and flee the city immediately because God was going to destroy it. Lot's daughters were both engaged to be married, so you know a wedding was in the works. Imagine being told a week before the wedding to pack up in the middle of the night and flee the city you have planned your daughter's weddings in because it is about to be destroyed. The angels warned Lot's family to not look back. On the way out of the city, Lot's wife looked back at the city burning and was turned into a pillar of salt. This story is meant to reinforce how important it is to follow God's call and not cling to your comfy life. Follow God and don't look back. It was a good message to hear right before meeting all these people who had done just that with their lives.
My 2nd suitcase was donated
so they could carry back
supplies with them

We spent the rest of the day unpacking supplies we had brought over and setting up our rooms. Let me tell you, turning a bland hotel room into a classroom for preschoolers is not easy. The hotel staff was great though. They took out furniture and brought additional tables and chairs as we requested them. We did the best we could and luckily it worked out pretty well throughout the week!

The medical team set up their supplies and went shopping for anything they couldn't bring over. The music team and teachers set up the conference room to get ready for a week of worship and teaching. We put gift bags in each of the missionaries rooms and after we were finished hung out in the lobby so we could welcome them when they arrived. It was a busy afternoon!

Every day we had preschool with the kids. We had them for about 4 hours every morning and some of the nights so the parents could have teaching time, worship time, and game night or date night. We taught them songs, did a lesson, played games, did crafts, snacks, etc. One day we even took them to the pool! Everyday I could not get the songs out of my head. They each had hand motions that went with them and the kids were supposed to perform them for their parents at the end of the week, so we sang them about 50 times a day. "God loves you and me" and "My God is so big, so strong and so mighty" were on constant repeat in my head and still are stuck in there almost a week later!

Kids are exhausting! I have a new found respect for parents because kids really wear you out! They constantly have to be doing something, have short attention spans, and so much energy! They were all so sweet and cute though. I was with the 3-4 year olds. We had 2 girls and 3 boys. The boys could get a little rowdy and the girls seemed to be a calming influence on the class. This just re-enforced my want to have 2 little girls someday. I loved them all though. They each had their own little personalities and cuteness factors. Oh I miss them already!

The lesson time was the hardest part. We had to bring the 2 year olds in for it and there was always someone crying, all of them were squirming and itching to get up, siblings were catching up with each other like they hadn't seen each other in years, half the kids weren't paying attention and no one seemed to know what was going on. It was so hard! I don't know how teachers do it!

They did so good with their song during skit night on Friday though! Pure cuteness on display for everyone!

The parents were so appreciative of the childcare offered- especially date night since most of them hadn't had a kid free night in a year!

Most nights we also got to hang out and have more conversations about their work over dinner, cab rides, or late night card games. I loved getting to know all of them and hearing what their lives are like. Before this trip I would have never considered giving up everything here and moving overseas to be a missionary, but now I would. They aren't those people who blindly pass out Bibles or just do good works and not give any glory to God. They have regular jobs over there (most of them in some kind of "helping" capacity) and they just live their lives in an Christian way and build relationships that naturally lead to sharing the Gospel with people who have never heard it. They aren't those "Crazy Christians" I had in my head when I thought of "Evangelists" and the like.

The last two days were sad. I didn't want it to end. The last night we had skits and songs from the kids and students. The high schoolers did this one skit at the end that had me in tears again. I found a similar one on the Internet and theirs was about the same, but for some reason so much better:


Saturday I tried to soak up all the time I could with the preschoolers during class so I would never forget them. I gave them all big hugs and told them I would miss them so so much!

It was like living in an alternate universe last week. I miss my team already. I miss the kids. I wish I could have had more time with the missionaries to hear all their stories. My first mission trip was a success and it definitely won't be my last.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

International Traveler- Dubai!

Dubai was amazing!  I am so fascinated by the UAE now.  The people were so pretty and mysterious and the culture and sights and sounds were so interesting.  My first trip abroad has left me wanting more!

The long flight wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting.  We had about an hour or so hop over to Washington DC and then it was about 14 hours or so to Dubai from there. I was able to fall asleep for about 3-4 hours with the help of my Ambien.  I also watched 2 movies, so it really didn't seem like much downtime.

I was even in the middle seat in the middle row!  There were 2 seats, an aisle, 5 seats, another aisle and then 2 more seats.  The plane was huge and packed!  I was in the very middle seat of that middle row so I had to ask 2 people to move every time I got up.  (I only got up once because of this!)  I was freaking out about being trapped in the middle at first but it really wasn't that bad.  I think it was because everyone on my row was a part of my team and not strangers.

Airplane food sucks though.  I didn't really like anything we got, but I ate some of it anyway because I was starving.  We were served a meal when we first got on the plane (pasta) and one a few hours before we landed (I can't remember what that one was but it sucked too.)

First off Dubai was hot.  Really hot.  It felt like walking in to an oven every time you opened a door to go outside.  And it was NOT a dry heat.  It was VERY humid.  My sunglasses and camera lens practically stayed foggy when we were outside.

I didn't exchange any money when we got there.  Instead I just pulled some out of the ATM with my debit card.  I had called both my banks to let them know I was going to be over there so they wouldn't freeze my account.  They charge about a 3% international fee every time you use your card, but I still think it was better than exchanging money.  Their money is called Dirhams (kind of pronounced like Durham- a city right beside Raleigh which I thought was ironic).  One thing I loved was that you mostly used paper.  There was no tax and everything was rounded up.  Sometimes you would get change (called Phils) but not often.  The exchange rate was about 3.67 Dirhams to every dollar.  The cost for things was about the same as the US for the most part, except some stores you could find things really cheap.  Designer stores seemed to be cheaper than US prices.

Dubai was so different but really similar to the US at the same time.  There are so many different cultures there.  Almost everyone we talked to wasn't from there originally.  Most were from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Yemen, Lebanon, or India.  But we did not talk to anyone in the traditional Arab dress (white robes/headdress for the men, all black for the women).  They don't talk, smile, or even really look at you.  But they look so elegant and mysterious!  I was fascinated by them!

There were some Europeans and Japanese/Chinese vacation, but we didn't see any other Americans really.  We definitely stood out.  One night when we all went out to dinner, the whole restaurant staff took a picture with us because we were the most Americans they had ever seen.

Oh and I am not sure who it is, but some people group over there does not believe in deodorant.  I would catch whiffs of the worst body odor ever at random times.  Also the Russian men in speedos at our hotel were pretty gross.  And in every public bathroom there were these spray faucets beside the toilets and drains in the floor and most of the time the floor was wet.  I don't know if they were taking showers in there or what but it was pretty gross.

Overall though the city was really clean and modern, but everything was concrete high rise buildings and roads.  No green.  A few patches of sand for parking lots here and there.  Everything was really opulent and you could tell A LOT of money was put in to that city!

For transportation we took the hotel shuttle bus a few times.  They packed us in there.  They even had these pop down seats that folded down in the middle of the aisle and every single seat was filled.  We also took a lot of taxis.  The taxis scared the crap out of me.  They drive really fast and kind of crazy, but you start to get used to it.  The roads have like no traffic lights.  There were a few, but mostly every intersection was just a round-about you had to merge on to.  We also took the metro a few times.  It was the nicest, cleanest metro I had ever seen!

We stayed at a resort right on the Persian Gulf in the next city over (Sharjah) which was really pretty but the water was so hot, I did not swim in it.  It was like the temperature of a jacuzzi and not refreshing at all.  I mostly stayed in the pool if we were outside (the water was cooled).  It was too hot and humid to be outside though. You would be sweating within 5 minutes even at nighttime.


Internet in our hotel sucked.  Think back to dial up speed about 15 years ago.  We each paid $50 per room for Wifi that hardly ever worked.  I think I was able to send about 5 emails last week in total and they were all really short!  I'm not sure if this was just something with our hotel or all over Dubai.


The most interesting part of the UAE was the people though.  They were so beautiful and mysterious.  The men all looked like kings with their robes and headdresses and the women looked like mysterious queens hiding beneath their black robes called abayas. ( Although someone said they looked like dementors.)  Some would show just their eyes and have the most beautiful eye make-up on.  Some would show their whole face.  Some would cover their entire face and even wear their glasses on the outside of their scarf and black gloves so you could not see any part of them.  Some had plain robes.  Some had beautiful bling on their robes.  Most of them had really nice shoes and designer bags and sunglasses.  I said that would the perfect outfit for me because I love splurging on handbags but not so much on clothes!

I often wondered when I saw one man with more than one woman.  Were those all his wives, or were those daughters?  Also sometimes you would see an Asian woman walking behind a couple with the kids, and someone said they were basically like the family's slave.

I wondered what these people were like in their homes.  What did the women wear?  Did they laugh and talk?  What did their home look like?  Did the men wear their headdress even at home?

You can also tell they are concerned with status.  The men wore really nice sunglasses and I already told you about the women.  They also drive really fancy cars.  We saw a lot of luxury cars there.  Someone also told me their license plates show status.  Regular people have 5 numbers and the fewer numbers you have, the closer in relation to the Sheik you are.


I seriously can not expressed how fascinated I am by this place!  I ordered a book yesterday to learn more about the mysterious rich city:


I also brought back a little bit of their culture with me in the many headscarves I bought. Here is my roommate from the trip modeling one of hers at one of the many stores we went to at the Blue Souk:


And my henna:

This has spurred more random conversations with strangers than I ever thought!  It is already starting to fade after just a week, but they said it could last up to 2-3 weeks!
A lady came to the hotel and did it for us one day.  She did the whole thing freehand!  It is this paste stuff she squeezes out of a tube kind of like a cake icing bag with a pointy tip on the end.  You leave the paste on until it dries and starts to flake off (I left mine on for about an hour or 2 because supposedly the longer you leave it on, the longer it lasts.)  Then it is bright orange in color and darkens to a brown color.  The color and how long it lasts depends on your skin.  I noticed a lot of the women in abayas had henna on their hands there.  One even told my roommate in a mall to put Vaseline on hers (the one and only time one of them talked to any of us!).

The security on the way back in to the States was tight!  They scan your bags before you even get to the gate to check them.  Then they check your passport and ask you questions about your trip and your bags before they let you check in.  Then they check your passport again and stamp it before you can go to the gate.  Then at the gate they checked our passports again, pulled me into a room and patted my down completely- I mean everywhere!  Opened up all my carry on items and went through all my stuff by hand and then finally let me on the plane.  Then when we got to DC we had to go through customs which took forever!  They check your passport then you have to get your bags and re-check them and then go through the scanner for your carry on.  It was much different than flying just in the US.

The food on our flight sucked again.  We had a vegetarian rice dish when we got on and then a breakfast that consisted of runny eggs, soggy potato wedges, and jalapeno poppers (for breakfast!?)  Our flight landed in the US a little after 6 am and luckily I was able to get Starbucks after we made it through customs and security before the short flight back to Raleigh.

I was glad to get home and Cam & Bailey were so excited to see me!  I missed them so much!  I managed to stay up all day Sunday until about 8:30pm.  But I have been exhausted ever since then and have fallen asleep early every night!

I know this was long, but I have so much more to tell you!  I want to tell you about how I saw God working on this trip and about all my kids in our preschool class!  They were so cute!  I also want to tell you about all the touristy things we did there!  So stay tuned for more later this week!

Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm back!

Sorry I have been MIA the last few days. I was in Dubai! It was amazing! Look for some great posts this week. But for now I have to play email catch up and get used to being back at work!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hate scares the crap out of me

I am stressed. So stressed. There is so much to do both at home and at work.

And in the back of my mind I am scared. I am scared because I am leaving my little bubble of a world to travel abroad soon. I keep having nightmares that I am going to get kidnapped and sold into sex slavery like in the movie Taken. I keep having dreams that I will get arrested for some little misunderstanding and spend the next 5 years in a foreign jail.  I keep having visions of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and ending up being killed in a terrorist attack.

Today I learned that a family in our church lost a son in the bombing in Uganda. Their son was over there working with an organization that works with war affected children and child soldiers. Then yesterday their other son was injured in a plane crash on his way to be with the family.

This story freaked me out. Bombing, plane crash? And all of it hitting so close to home right now.

I read an ABC news story about the bombing and one of the commanders of the organization suspected of the bombing told the AP "Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allah's anger be upon those who are against us."

Hate sucks. It makes people crazy and dangerous and evil. War sucks. But what can you do? Usually the answer is forgiveness, but what if the USA just told Bin Laden “Oh we forgive you,” and left it at that? For some reason I don't think that would work.  But seriously the evil and hate I see in this world sometimes scares the crap out of me. It comes in all forms and all types and many disguises. It hurts so many people.  And a lot of the time that hurt can lead to more and more hate.

I don’t have any solutions for all the hate, wars, and evil in the world, but I do know that it scares the crap out me.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This is how I know I'm getting old

I got my hair cut on Friday.  I got bangs!  When I got home I was admiring my new do in the mirror when I spotted something that did not belong.  I got rid of it and then I saw another one.  And another one.  All in all I plucked SIX grey hairs out of my head.  I'm pretty sure I got them all, but I do not like this trend.  Grey hair!? at 30?!  Granted it was only 6 little strands, but still!  Grey hair means you are old.


Another way that I can tell I am getting old is that I wear flats.  I NEVER wore flats until about a year or 2 ago.  I am very short and flats just didn't do it for me.  I liked the height and pizazz that heels gave me.  Now I hate wearing heels.  They hurt my freaking feet.  80% of the time now you can find me wearing these:


My comfy rainbows rarely leave my feet and they are starting to show it.  I need a new pair!

Another way I can tell I am getting old is that my boobs aren't where they used to be.  They almost needed no support back in the day and now you can definitely tell when I am not wearing a bra.  A few years ago I read something about the pencil test.  If you place a pencil under your boob and it falls out then your boobs were perky.  Mine passed that test not too long ago, but when I tried it again recently they both failed miserably.

In exactly one month I will turn 30!  I will no longer be a twenty-something.  I'm sad.  I really enjoyed my twenties.  I had A LOT of fun.  Learned a lot.  Grew up a lot.  I'm sad to be leaving this decade behind.  I also feel like I failed a little.  I didn't get married in my twenties like I thought I would.  I didn't have a baby in my twenties like I thought I would.  And I am getting a little nervous that I may have run out of time to have the life I dreamed of with a huge family, the loving husband, and the big house with two cars.

But I guess this gives me a lot to look forward to in my thirties.  Hopefully I will fall in love and have some babies.  But if not, I know God has something just as good in store for me.  I'm really trying to enter this next decade with optimism, but in all honesty, I wish I could drag my twenties out just a little longer.

In a way I am....if you look at The List you will realize there is no way I can mark everything off in the next month.  The "travel abroad" and "Mission trip" and "Find a job I love" ones took up a lot more time and energy than I thought.  I also think I was a little overly-ambitious trying to do all of these things in just 2 years. So I am taking my whole 30th year to say goodbye to my twenties and finish the list.  Even if there are all these signs that I am officially getting old!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vampire Love

 I finally got to see Eclipse this weekend.  LOVE it!  I think it was by far the best of the series thus far.  I CAN NOT wait to see the next movie because that was by far my favorite book, and I am quite interested to see how they are going to do some of those scenes on the big screen!


I used to be somewhat of a Team Jacob fan but after the proposal scene in Eclipse from Edward, there is no way Jacob's abs can beat that!  I need to find me an Edward!!!!  Although Jacob would not be a bad consolation prize.  I would quite enjoy living with a clan of werewolf boys running around with their hot bodies and their shirts off.  Although the "jorts" kind of deter from their sexiness!




I also borrowed season one of True Blood from a friend. Oh my goodness!! That show is dirty and weird but in a completely fantastic way! I started watching them last night and could not stop!

So yeah I'm feeling the love for the vampires this week!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bookworm

Go check out my full reviews of the books I just finished on my bookshelf blog:


This one is about what it looks like to have "crazy love" for God- what the life of a "lukewarm" person looks like vs. someone who is truly "head over heels".


This is a great summertime chick lit book!

Meanwhile, I just started reading:


Because sometimes you just want an ooey-gooey Nicholas Sparks love story that you know is going to make you cry!

I'm trying to plan what I am going to take with me on my trip.  There will be lots of reading time on the plane!  I think I have settled on these so far:


and


I have so many things on my wish list too.  I heard The Hunger Games series is really good and also heard great things about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.  Have you read either of these?  I want something that will enthrall me and keep me up late at night like the Twilight series!
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