Monday, December 21, 2009


I went to a wedding in Kentucky this weekend. On the drive down there, I stopped at a place called Moo-licious—it was some sort of farm with lots of interactive things to do and see revolving around cows and cheese. Well, apparently it was closed for the holidays, but we still went in and got ice cream even though it was about 20 degrees outside. Two hours later in my car the remaining ice cream still had not melted. And my car was really warm so it was not because it was cold. I have no idea what it was I actually consumed. I guess it is the South, maybe it was shortening? Who knows? When Rebecca and I arrived back in Chicago we stopped at a grocery store on the south side, relatively near our apartment. It was a huge store, and lots of people were in there. We were the only white people and I barely noticed because it is just part of my life now. However, everyone was staring at us (could have been because I was wearing pajama pants), seemingly shocked that we were at that grocery store with them in that area of town. Like we didn’t belong, and everyone knew that except for us. The extreme segregation in Chicago is something I have not experienced in any other city I have lived in. And I really have no idea how to handle it. It seems to just be the way of life; people of various ethnicities know where they are supposed to live and they stick to it for the most part. That does not sit well with me at all, but I feel powerless to change it. Something I have really seen living here is how entrenched and institutionalized problems can be. So much so that they become normal life and not problems because people don’t know life another way. That is how it is with all sin in general, you desensitize yourself to awareness of wrong; the hope of change and “what could be” is buried under the normalcy of wrong behavior over time.

One of the other Fellows (Sean) just got back from the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne. He was telling me about a session Jim Wallis spoke at involving the verse about the poor always being with us. Apparently, Jim interpreted this to mean we should always be intentional about the poor being close to us. They should be in our hearts and minds, and this should make us active in advocacy and working for justice on their behalf. An interesting interpretation.

Needless to say, this all is a lot for me to chew on this holiday season. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Hopefully I will see some of you while I am in California for the holiday

Love from the windy city,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The following are two poems that have really moved me the last few weeks. They are by a German man named Rilke in his work "Book of Hours: Love Poems to God."

I'm too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I'm too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing --
just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones --
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

You, darkness, of whom I am born --

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the dark embraces everything;
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations -- just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.

I believe in the night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Winter is upon us here in Chicago. It is currently snowing and sticking on the ground. Funny looking trucks are roaming around dumping bright green salt on the roads, and driving into the inner-city to work is a bit more precarious this morning with the pot holes filling with icy wet slush. At least it’s not super icy yet. And new snow makes everything look cleaner. I am sure that is not going to last though.

I am getting used to my life here as the “other.” This is an interesting concept I have talked with some of my co-workers about quite a bit. It seems that no matter what ethnicity or group is the majority in a given situation, there is always this idea of the “other.” A person who looks different, acts different, speaks different that may or may not be a part of your daily life, but is existing somewhere near you. They represent a story your own story and life have never been a part of, and you don’t quite know what to do about it when your paths cross and you have to interact. Everyone feels uncomfortable, but there comes a point where you hear a joke of a story from “other,” or see “other” do something that you resonate with. This leads to conflict or cooperation. And you both decide whether a relationship is formed.

We attended a community organizing meeting at work last week. It was the second one we attended, the first happened our third day of work here. The first time I knew no one, felt acutely aware and kind of uncomfortable as one of the only white faces, didn’t really know what the food was, and didn’t fully understand the issues the community was discussing. A lot has changed. We walked in this time, knew and greeted at least half the people, happily ate the food and engaged with the issues being discussed. I walked out feeling really proud of this. It is the kind of success that cannot be measured on paper, but feels like a significant deal nonetheless.

Also at work on Thursday we received a shipment of about 200 black hoodies from an organization I had never heard of. They gave them to us for free and I didn’t see what the big deal was. Well, turn them over and they have Obama’s face in rhinestones with the word “VICTORY” in enormous letters across the back. We were giving them away and staff members were laughing and wearing them proudly. So if you see some bling-ed out jackets when you are walking around the neighborhood, they were probably from us here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I went to a luncheon yesterday hosted by the Niagara Foundation (a fantastic group of Turkish Muslims) downtown. The President of Elmhurst College spoke about the importance of interfaith in higher education. He wondered out loud why interfaith cooperation, and sometimes just religion in general, is remaining marginal in academic enterprise and discourse when it has taken on such a conspicuous role in society. I thought that was really interesting. So many times people of any sort of faith are written of as irrelevant by academia. President Alan Ray was arguing that religion is a public phenomenon and that fact needs to be accepted as the new reality in America. He said that all faiths, including secularism, are living realities influenced by living people and concrete communities; and they should thus be incorporated into the conversation more than they currently are. Basically he was arguing that marginalizing religion in fact hinders liberal learning, and then he discussed the steps his university has taken to embrace different faiths and ensure his students can openly discuss issues of religious diversity. Not an opinion I hear often from leaders in higher education. And the crowd loved what he had to say. Also not something I expected. Most of us in the audience were all interfaith leaders from diverse backgrounds, but still. In the large scheme of things, interfaith is not a very popular idea in a lot of the circles I run in. I was glad to be there, and he mentioned Eboo Patel a lot (the Executive Director at Interfaith Youth Core) as an inspiration.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for a lot of different things than I have been in previous years. I am thankful that what I am doing is difficult for me, and I feel uncomfortable on a daily basis wrestling with issues of faith and diversity and global engagement. I am thankful that in the last year I have learned so much about other faiths, and grown to respect and admire many people who follow other various traditions. I am thankful I work with a fantastic Muslim organization, and that my roommate is the coolest Jewish girl (just one of the coolest girls in general) I have ever met. I am thankful that I live in a diverse community, and get to talk/think about tough issues of racial/ethnic/socioeconomic reconciliation with people who are actually living it out every day. I am thankful for people who are optimistic that we can end deaths from malaria, and that there are thirty of us in this program (along with the hundreds of other people in other organizations) that are working tirelessly to make it happen.

And I am thankful that I finally got a good coat, because it is supposed to snow tomorrow. The first time of the season.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This is a song I have been listening to quite a bit the past few days. It's by Jonathan Foreman, the lead singer of the Christian band Switchfoot. It's off of his solo album. When you read the lyrics it sounds pretty intense, but it is actually really slow and not really that angry sounding. I think it is really beautiful. It is obviously written specifically at his frustration over Christianity, but I think it could apply to hypocrisy in any faith. It has been a good reminder to me to make sure my actions match up to what I say I am doing.

"I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show
Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I stomp on my ears when you're singing 'em
I hate all your show

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show

Your eyes are closed when you're praying
You sing right along with the band
You shine up your shoes for services
There's blood on your hands
You turned your back on the homeless
And the ones that don't fit in your plan
Quit playing religion games
There's blood on your hands

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show
I hate all your show

Let's argue this out
If your sins are blood red
Let's argue this out
You'll be one of the clouds
Let's argue this out
Quit fooling around
Give love to the ones who can't love at all
Give hope to the ones who got no hope at all
Stand up for the ones who can't stand at all, all
I hate all your show

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show
I hate all your show"

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Another week gone by. Time is moving really fast. I think as I get older I see that happening more and more. I don’t like that it gets dark at 4:30 now. We try to leave as quickly as possible once work ends because being in this neighborhood after dark is not the best idea. I saw some people getting arrested on the drive in a few days ago. There are such interesting power dynamics here with the cops. It is pretty much always a white cop arresting a younger looking black male. I heard the other day from a co-worker that a house in this area five years ago went for $120,000 and is now not selling for $40,000. Things are tough all around for the people in this neighborhood. I have had several appointments at doctor’s offices for various things the past few weeks, and something I am learning is that if you are poor or seeking services in a poor area, you wait a long time for things and people are not nice to you. Going to a public health clinic for any reason means I am inconveniencing the people who work there, and I can expect to wait an hour after my scheduled appointment time before I am seen by a professional for services. They get through me, and anyone else there, as fast as they can. We are numbers, not people. Which means we don’t warrant kindness. It is so different from middle-class white America. And I am uncomfortable and frustrated with how drastic the difference is.

At work we share an office with a great woman named Veronica who does lots of job training and computer classes here so there are always people coming in and out to talk to her. Its sad how common the story of “I’m living on food stamps as a single mother and don’t have any income” is. There is this one guy named Patrick that comes in often to help out. I think he used to be homeless, and his teeth are black on one side because he was struck by lightning. Veronica calls him St. Patrick because of how kind he has been in the face of massive difficulties. He has a crush on Rebecca and I and sometimes buys us sweets from the gas station. He also frequently tells us we are cuter than a basketful of puppies. We don’t know who we will meet when we go in for work every day!

We are hosting a blood drive on November 23 with the University of Chicago interfaith Club. I am pretty excited about it. Every two seconds a person in the USA needs blood, and we are going to have educational stuff about malaria as a blood borne illness and what people can do about that. I think it is a creative connection between the local and the global and people can tangibly help our neighborhood by giving blood. I would lead the way and give blood myself, but having had malaria means I can’t which is kind of a bummer. We are hoping quite a few people show up.

Perfect weather this weekend in Chicago. I am afraid I am too used to fall and have still not bought any winter clothes. I am going to hate myself the first time it snows, but until then I am not buying a coat!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

local to global

Belated Happy Halloween! I was a butterfly. My whole small group here were insects. There were a lot of Halloween festivities, and everyone in Chicago seemed to be out and dressed up.

Some of my time during the day here that I love is when I get to do online research and gain inspiration from malaria news and other cool things people have done to raise awareness. I found this great website yesterday ( and I wish I would have known about it before Halloween so I had time to plan a cool party like that. I also found a great article written by Rick Reilly a few years ago that is fantastic and worth a read. It was quite inspiring to us. (

Rebecca and I had the chance this weekend to attend an interfaith Baha’I music devotional service. It was a fantastic time to connect with some of our Baha’I friends and have an awesome jam session (I got the maracas) while people read various scriptures of inspiration from their various holy books. Rebecca sang a Jewish prayer (Shalom Rav), and I read some from Psalm 36. We have connected with some of our co-workers at the Muslim organization over excitement about the new Twilight movie, and it looks like we might be going to see it together at midnight. An interfaith Twilight party! Rebecca and I are also working hard to set up a HUGE event in Chicago in the spring for World Malaria Day. There are so many steps that go into planning a monster event, and we are working on getting permission from various government officials. I’ll give you more details once we know if it will actually go through.

I think Chicago decided it was November and there is definitely a distinct chill in the air these days. I bought Payless snowboots in preparation. Five months from now it will be warm again! I am slowly becoming a South Sider here. I am excellent at parallel parking, I don’t always pull all the way over for sirens anymore (since it is so common and no one else does either) and I have eaten all you can eat sushi to the point where I thought my entire body was going to turn into a sushi roll. Basically, life continues, and I am adjusting to being a Chicago-an. The biggest challenge we are currently facing is that of connecting the global issue of malaria to the local level where faith communities actually see the importance of eradication to the point that they get involved. If you have any advice, shoot me an email. My website is

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Altering Environments

A lot has happened since my last post. For one, I am now a proud twitter-er (is that a word?) with eight followers. Follow me – amyjmcnair – if you so desire. The Interfaith Youth Core’s (IFYC) Sixth Annual Conference was the last three days at Northwestern. The theme was “Leadership in a religiously diverse world.” Amazing speakers included Eboo Patel Exec director of IFYC, Joshua Dubois (Director of White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships), Saleemah Abdul Ghafur from the UN Special Envoy for Malaria Office, Rabbi David Saperstein, and Reverend Jim Wallis, among many others. There was a lot of really excellent things said, and being in a room with 500 other interfaith leaders from around the globe was inspiring in and of itself. Eboo talked quite a bit about how interfaith leaders have vision and positive knowledge of other religions, but they also alter environments. I think that is really important to remember this year. We have a chance to play on a level previous generations did not and the scene is set perfectly for malaria deaths to end. He quoted a Seamus Heaney poem that says; “Every once in a while, hope and history rhyme.” I thought that was so so so powerful. That time is now in my opinion, and we are a part of that. It is cool to be riding on the edge of this global movement and have people like Joshua Dubois saying interfaith is important and we can’t let religious difference get in the way of finding solutions to domestic and global problems. Some may call this idealistic, but I think it is optimism, and the world needs more optimists that act. I was also very proud of Christianity when Skye Jethani, editor of Leadership Journal for Christianity Today, spoke. He knocked it out of the park when he discussed how Christians have worked so hard to be relevant that they have become a joke. He talked about following Jesus, and how its not going to get you what you think it is that you want because God is not some kind of divine butler. Basically the conference was great, made lots of awesome new friends, and had a blast with the other FAFs that came.

Part of our time yesterday was spent doing a service project. My group went to the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project. Most of you know the AIDS community owns a huge portion of my heart, and I was very involved in Seattle so I was excited to go. After walking in and having a how do I say this… vivid/intense/descriptive/graphic/educational lesson on how to use female condoms we were privileged to be able to hear from two women currently living with AIDS. One woman, Helena, has lived a life that many religious people would condemn for a lot of reasons. I was blown away by her grace and openness in sharing her story. She talked about how the biggest thing she has learned is to forgive others (individuals and faith communities) for how they have treated her. I thought that was so powerful. I think the Christian church has a lot of apologizing they could do to the AIDS community that they have not done, and she, not even a Christian, was actively forgiving them for pain they have caused her.

Needless to say, I am learning so much and working hard. I wish I could articulate all I am seeing and learning, but most of it I can't even put into words.

Also, I have a heavy heart this morning because there was a shooting yesterday six blocks from my work and two people died. We didn’t know either of them, but it is still really sad. Please pray for the gang leaders involved. Violence does not help this community, or any other, to move forward.

Monday, October 19, 2009

rubber hits the road

Reality set in a lot this week for Rebecca and I. Training was a whirlwind and moving here and getting settled was overwhelming and busy. Then last week we sort of paused and realized how difficult this job is, and how much we have to accomplish in a short period of time. This is not to say that i am not still very excited; I am just realizing the hundreds of steps involved on a daily basis towards making this kind of action happen (never ending meetings, brainstorming, phone calls and emails). And this job is definitely about long term gratification, not short term success. So slogging away every day here does not have a lot of rewards now in the moment, but five years from now if interfaith partnerships are sustainable here and deaths from malaria have decreased, I will get the gratification I am looking for. And it is so cool to know the other Fellows are with us in this all over the world. Technology is so cool for that. Our websites are currently being launched and we had a conference call/website training over skype this week with a bunch of the Fellows where we all logged in to something and were watching the same computer screen while a guy was training us. It was cool. I am glad I live now and not 100 years ago.

We worked our first event this week: a community health fair. In typical non-profit style, 10 expected volunteers didn't show up so several of us were running around like crazy people until a half hour after the event started. It was freezing cold, but that meant the ice for the drinks didnt melt; and it didnt start raining until literally the second we stopped serving food. The event itself didn't fully fit in to our now incredibly defined strategy, but we had committed to it day one of work and we thought it would be a good way to meet the community. We ended up being the only white people we saw the whole day (as usual), but apparently locals around here assume if you are white you are from Minnesota. We got asked multiple times where in Minnesota or Wisconsin we are visiting from. People were pretty surprised when we said we live in the area and work for IMAN. I like surprising people like that.

At a church small group this week I was reflecting on a passage in the Bible from Ephesians that talks about God having prepared good works in advance for us to do. I was thinking hard about this and I am wondering, what if the good works God prepared are other people? There are people who are hurting and suffering unnecessarily around the world and God didn't necessarily cause that, but what if the people are the works? I am not talking about viewing them as projects, but I think I often have sat back and waited for what looked like a good work for me to do that I wanted to do. What if it was simply loving my neighbor? Serving food when it is cold at a health fair? Fighting for malaria eradication in Africa? Getting different religious groups to work together on global poverty issues? Those things were all right in front of me this week, and I think doing them is the right thing.

Food for thought for me at least.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

sirens and liquor stores

Starting to get into the groove of things here. We have a great strategy and have made some good contacts. Eight months is not a lot of time for all the things we want to do here, so we really hit the ground running. We are focusing on mobilizing different university campuses to partner with us to work on the Millenium Development Goals (specifically malaria as you all know), and some encouraging things have happened so far to point us in the right direction.

And I am trying to acclimate myself to the surroundings of the inner city as quickly as possible. At work, I hear sirens all the time. The area is so so bad and there are always cop sirens and ambulances making noise. The ghetto area here where my office is is in the middle of a food desert--this means there are no grocery stores/places to get fresh food. People's only choices are liquor stores or fast food. We literally drive under a certain bridge, and the roads immediately suck, the liquor stores emerge, and we become the only white faces. It is that drastic of a change that quickly. We (my work partner and I) participated in a community forum this week about muslim run liquor stores. The Muslim community discussed why muslim immigrants are in a predominantly African American area running liquor stores and selling alcohol. Muslims typically don't drink or sell/handle alcohol. It was a great discussion and challenging to think about why liquor stores are not a problem in white or rich neighborhoods (the people wouldn't stand for them) but here this type of behavior is accepted or put up with because people seem to think things cannot change. In a lot of ways I feel like I was an ostrich with my head in the sand on a lot of the issues that have emerged in the last week in what is now my neighborhood, and I am trying hard to keep up. All day yesterday I was learning about gangs. Everything here means something. Wearing a hat to the right or left, rolling a pant leg, wearing specific colors, you will literally get beat up if you walk down the street wearing the wrong thing. Being nieve is not an option. Everyone understands, and deals with it. We handed out flyers at some of the local high schools about our upcoming health fair and I felt punched in the stomach by how bad the schools were. I am used to this type of thing in my travels abroad, but not here. Its like the kids are expected to fail. How anyone here becomes anything other than a statistic is absolutely mind boggling to me. And yet people do, and it is amazing. I work with so many incredible people with incredible life stories I am only beginning to hear, and it is a privilege to learn from them.

I am going to a corn maze tonight with the 20-somethings group at my new church. There is frost predicted and I think its supposed to be about 31 degrees. It is my first attempt to dress warmly for a cold Illinois night. I will give it a valiant effort (basically that means wearing everything I own). I am going to measure success by whether or not I can still feel my appendages at the end of the night. Tomorrow is the Chicago marathon. 45,000 runners. I am excited to wander around and witness it as a new Chicagoan and feel very out of shape compared to everyone else. Especially because yesterday I learned about pretzel rolls (if you don't know what they are google them) and I ate two this morning at two different bakeries. When you come visit me in Chicago we will get them. They are awesome.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I have been here for a little more then a week. Chicago is a really cool city. The drivers are super assertive which I love (and is a nice change from Seattle) and the people are very friendly overall. The pizza is awesome, and there are thunderstorms. Really loud ones that kind of freak me out while simultaneously being super awesome. I started work on Thursday and it is pretty overwhelming. Being a minority is something I have experienced in my life in several different contexts, but I feel like I have much more awareness even after the past five days of how difficult constantly being the minority is; particularly when it is both ethnic and religious.

I am working in the inner-city with a great Muslim organization. The first days at a new job are always hard and overwhelming, and I am trying to think about how I can be an asset to the organization and do my job effectively in an environment where I dont feel like I have much to offer currently and I think my main job should be listening to everyone else. I just don't know what life is like as an African American Muslim in inner city Chicago. I think I will learn a lot, and fast. I am so grateful for how patient people are being with me, and I am excited to meet more people, and get involved with different faith communities here. Our work on the ground with malaria awareness will be a challenge in this context, but Rebecca (my work partner) and I are creative and I am sure we will do well. We are helping at a health fair in a few weeks, and planning a blood drive that will include malaria education later in the fall.

In other news, I decided with Rebecca to take a spontaneous trip to Wisconsin yesterday. I had never been there before. We visited a Jelly Belly factory and got a free tour that included free samples (including 7-up flavored jelly beans) and tasted some famous wisconsin cheese from a local market on the side of the road on the way back. I found a great donut place here (those of you who know me well know how important that is) that has awesome apple fritters. And my yellow car sticks out like a sore thumb everywhere I go. I have now been pulled over twice by different friendly Chicago cops simply to ask if I was lost because of my California license plates. I appreciate the gesture, but I keep thinking I am getting a ticket. Its not good for my nerves. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

roadtrip to a new life

I roadtripped 2160 miles in three days last week with my dad. It was awesome. We basically followed Route 66 from beginning to end on accident. It was also kind of a donut tour because I am obsessed with donuts and we wanted to find the best in every state. My favorite response was from a guy in New Mexico we met at Big Lots. The conversation went like this:

Dad: "Hey, do you know any good donut places around here?"
Random Guy: "Donuts? This is Albuquerque!"

OK then. I am still not quite sure what this means, other than there are apparently no donuts in Albuquerque. How sad is that? New Mexico was awesome other than that. I can see why Georgia O'Keefe spent so much time there painting landscapes. Absolutely breathtaking.

Now I am here sitting on the rather cold green and brown and black linoleum floor of my room in my new apartment, trying to build up desire to unpack and waiting for someone from comcast to come and fix my tv. There was insane thunder and lightning outside last night, I was very thankful for a roof and a warm bed. I had earl grey and honey gelato at a local neighborhood shop yesterday, and saw the gas lights that line the street outside my apartment. A cop stopped me to ask me if I was lost while I was driving in my yellow car with California plates. I guess I dont fit in! I appreciated the gesture all the same. I am trying to get involved at a church, and after going to another "first time at {insert name here} church" yesterday I have decided I am tired of being the person that keeps moving around and having to recreate a new community in new places all the time. It is exhausting. I think that will be my life for a while though, and I am so excited to be here so hopefully the feeling will pass fast.

Work starts on Thursday, and I am pretty intimidated by the massiveness of the task in front of Rebecca (my work partner) and I. I really want to do this well, and the burden of potential is lying heavy on my shoulders. I can't imagine doing anything else though, so I guess that means I am in the right place.

The Comcast guy has come and gone and my tv is fixed. i gave him a cinnamon roll I had in the fridge. He said this is his eighth stop of the day, and I am the first person to offer him food and water and he had not had anything to eat all day. He was super happy. Moral of the story: if a comcast guy comes to your house, maybe ask him if he wants a sandwich.

Monday, September 21, 2009


This has been quite the week. I said goodbye to all the fellows last Monday and headed back to California. On Tuesday evening I did a presentation at my church (Thanks you to all who came! I really appreciate it) and have been spending the last several days trying to not think about the next eight months or saying the word malaria, and failing miserably. I can't not think about all that is to come because it is so important and I am so passionate about it. Oh well.

Eid was yesterday. That is the official end of Ramadan and fasting for Muslims. My mom decided to fast with me the final four days while I was with her here, and I thought that was a really cool display of understanding. What a crazy journey the last 30 days of fasting has been! Thinking about all the weird food we ate during Ramadan in Tanzania, then our deep dish pizza morning 4 am suhoor breakfast in Chicago with all the fellows, such wonderful memories. I was sitting at a Muslim Eid service yesterday thinking about how much my perspective on what community is has changed in the past month. I felt so welcomed being there, and it was very powerful to have the shared experience of Ramadan to talk about. I was thinking about how the "me" of two months ago probably would have been super uncomfortable and confused about what was happening and not know what to think; and now I feel like I understand a little bit of their story and respect the Muslim faith so much.

I hope I continue to learn and change and grow as much in the next eight months as I have in the past two. I have a feeling the best is yet to come. I mean, I am living in Chicago with the coolest roommate in the best apartment ever working at an awesome organization. How could things not be epic?

Stay tuned. Again.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Sorry for the lack of posting. I hate reading someone's blog and have them have a long hiatus of time. In my defense, I literally have had zero time to do anything since arriving in Chicago. We have been having eleven hour training days, and with fasting on top of that I usually just crash at the hotel every night when i get back. I dont know how much more I can cram into my brain right now. I wonder if there is a limit to new things you can learn and think about in a given period of time. I think I surpassed that about three weeks ago! But I absolutely would not have it any other way.

The last two days have been spent doing presentations in front of all the fellows and staff in our pairs for the year. What an incredible group of people I get the privilege to work with. I am continually in awe of everyone's oratory skills, and the importance of our message. Yesterday one guy quoted a Canadian olympian who said; "The hardest moment of being a gold medalist is not the moment I crossed the finish line or started training, it is the moment I realized I could be a gold medalist." I feel a burden very similar to that right now. The reality is malaria has a huge negative impact on the world and a lot of people die. It doesn't have to be this way. And it can be drastically altered in the next ten years. And faith communities play an integral role in that. It is incredibly exciting but also horribly intimidating to know that in a lot of ways we as fellows are on the forefront of that fight and that my work this year can have a significant impact in saving lives.


In other news, Mr. Blair is awesome. We got to hang out with him the other night and he listened to a lot of our stories about our relationships across faith lines with each other, as well as what we learned in Africa. A close friend of his said he could tell that he was really inspired by the things we have been learning. So cool. He said that even though he feels he has made many mistakes, he thinks that he has maintained a sense of optimism in the face of difficulty and that is what he charges us to maintain both in the work ahead both this year and throughout our lives.

More to come. In the next few days, I promise.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Habari from Zanzibar!

After a somewhat bumpy ferry ride on which they played Home Alone on the televisions, we made it here. This beautiful island is where I am for the next (and final) three days of my trip in Africa. They successfully eradicated malaria here on Zanzibar a few years ago, and we are learning about how that happened. This place is about 98% Muslim, so it is cool walking the streets during Ramadan. A lot of restaurants say "No service during Ramadan" or "only open after sunset." It is cool to be participating with this island in their holy month, and to not have to smell the awesome seafood cooking in the restaurants until after sunset when I am allowed to eat it too!

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the trip. I got to take my whole team back to the place I lived when I was here in 2007. This meant an incredible reunion for me with several of my friends i have been keeping in touch with the past two years. One girl in particular saw me, and started running to give me a hug. She has had a baby girl since I was here who I also got to meet. I had no idea anyone else would even remember me, but some stuff I drew (maps of the US etc) was hanging in the office, and they showed me pictures of me in a slideshow. It was so wonderful to see everything again. And I surprised my host mother by quickly stopping by her house. She dropped everything she was holding and said "Amy?!" It was awesome. They also had just hired a slave girl when i was there before and she was terrified of me and spoke no english. She is now a beautiful 18 year old who greeted me in english! We also visited a local dispensary and my good friend Don told me he has had malaria 7 times. In the last year. I told him next time I come back and ask him how many times he has been sick, I want his answer to be zero. He laughed and said he wished that could be true. It was a wonderful day overall.

We also recently visited the town of Bagamoyo, where an innovative malaria vaccine trial program is underway. What struck me the most was the people who are in charge of the program. Most were female muslim scientists. I loved that. And really respected that that was happening.

I have learned a lot here in my time in africa about malaria and its drastic affects on communities, and I am excited to take that info back with me to the States. Next post will be from Chicago!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


We went to a rural dispensary yesterday. The line outside the door was huge for basic services and medications, but Charles, the only staff member there, stopped serving the people (much to my guilt) to give us a quick tour and answer our questions. He had on the wall in his office lists for the last three years of the top ten most common sicknesses people visiting the dispensary are suffering from. Regardless of age or gender, the number one illness on every list was malaria. So frustrating. These people will be so much more free once it is gone. I asked Charles if they had any health education classes and he ushered us to the backdoor where there were about 35 mothers crowded around with their children listening to a woman holding a small baby boy named Moses who had diarrhea. The session was about the basics of diarrhea and what you do to help your children when they get it. It was fantastic to see so many people there. And they were thrilled beyond words to greet us and hear Tim, the member of our team who is best at swahili make some small talk with them. As we were leaving I saw a little boy in a Superman shirt running around with his dad waiting their turn for service. He was so cute, and the image seemed to transcend being in Africa and made me think of any little kid with his dad anywhere in the world hanging out.

We got to attend TTCIH (Tanzania Training Center for International Health--the place we are staying) graduation. It was about four hours long and completely in swahili, but it was a cool moment to witness all these eager young health care workers excited to go out all over Tanzania and do good work helping people. This place is the cream of the crop as far as teaching goes, and I am excited for what those graduates will do for their country. One of them who is going into obstetrics told me his favorite thing about being a doctor is having a woman come in to the hospital as one person and go out as two. I thought that was awesome.

We gave small presentations today to some of the main doctors that have helped us with training the last two weeks. As we stood up there in partners and shared, the lead doctor expressed how powerful it is that we are Muslims and Christians and other religions doing this together. I feel like since being here I have already forgotten how unusual this group is. They are all my friends now and of course we dont see eye to eye on theology and God, but it absolutely has not stopped us from being friends and wanting to tackle poverty and malaria together. A good reminder that this job is so important, and our working together is not the norm.


Sunday, August 23, 2009


We visited a leprosarium on Saturday. It was called Nazareth. Leprosy still exists in the world, but thankfully the cases are decreasing every year. I was prepared to feel very overwhelmed, but it seemed to be a place filled with hope. We were greeted upon entering by a very friendly man with no toes or fingers who showed us a new contraption that has just been invented that helps him to eat on his own. basically it is a velcro strap that ties around what is left of his hand, and then things like a toothbrush or comb or spoon can be attached to it. So cool. He modeled brushing his teeth for us very proudly. The rather abrasive and intense man who ran the leprosarium, Enoch, showed us all around and I met a bunch of people. What struck me the most was how welcoming the residents were to us. Many are staying there for the rest of their lives, and they happily showed us their beds and few possessions. I was also very impacted by the people who were working there. many had leprosy themselves (like the cook) but were serving the others and cleaning wounds. What a fantastic example of dignity. Just because someone is deemed "unfit" or "unusable" by society does not mean they cannot serve others. I saw that in action at Nazareth. And I think that plays out in lots of different situations of prejudice or misunderstanding, not just leprosy. It was a Catholic place, and I felt overall that they really caught the vision of being the hands and feet of Jesus on earth. The people who live there are people. Not hideous or forgotten creatures unworthy of anything. They had a garden overflowing with veggies, and a caring staff. Everything obviously wasnt perfect, and they are very poor, but it was a really cool place nontheless.

We went on a long hike today in the Udzungwa Mountains. We went to the top of a waterfall and looked out over sugarcane plantations and small villages. My partner and I talked to our guide a bit about malaria, and he thought that if you just drink enough water once you are sick, it will go away. I told him if he sees his friends doing this, he should tell them to go the hospital. A lot of people around here simply don't know that. Education is such a key part of ending deaths from malaria. And we had a session on anemia in class on Friday. Turns out getting rid of malaria will also cause a sharp decrease in anemia patients in the hospitals, freeing the doctors to admit more sick people.

I love being here again. I feel like I am kind of holding my breath and I am not really aware of it, and when I get to Tanzania suddenly there is this large exhale. It is really wonderful.

Time for bed. 4 am Ramadan breakfasts come early.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


We learned all about the entomological side of things this week. That means we looked at a whole bunch of dead and living mosquitoes and learned all about what this facility is doing in research. It was so bazaar. I would walk up to a cage of mosquitoes, breathe, and they would all flock to the side of the cage closest to the heat from my breath. Gross. And weird that something so small can cause so much pain and death for so many. But Tanzania just received over 100 million US dollars from WHO to help get bed nets to everyone, so that is awesome news. One of WHO's directors visited this research facility run by the same people at a different location a few weeks ago and was very impressed. She says she looks forward to coming back in 2015 and celebrating the end of malaria deaths in Tanzania. Me too!

We went on rounds (kind of) with medical students on Wednesday in the hospital. I spoke with a lot of different people with all sorts of different ailments from burns to malaria to fractures. All ages. There was a painting on the wall of starving children with big red X's through them, followed by a picture of a smiling fat baby and instructions on how to get food for your kids. Probably not something I would see in the US! It is culturally normal for people to just hold hands here, but it was still kind of odd for me to be walking around this busy hospital with my male med student translator holding my hand. A typical day here is usually classes taught by the hospital doctors and researchers, and visiting the hospital wards or going and talking to kids at a nearby school.

Yesterday we went to the local mosque and spoke with the Imam and some of his assistants. They were very kind to us. He told us how he knew the mosque would be happy to help with health care needs for the community, like distributing bed nets, and they would be willing to work with the local catholic church, but they had never been asked by anyone to do so. There is so much potential there for effective change and inter-religious collaboration. It is exciting. And we took a super awesome/incredibly akward group picture afterwards that included the men and women separated by a huge amount of space and the assistant Imam staring straight at the ground. You will have to see it at some point. It kind of makes you uncomfortable just looking at it. We laughed for a long time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We visited the maternal health/baby area of the hospital this morning. We walked in and there were probably 50-75 mothers with their children waiting in line for services such as immunizations and check ups. The babies were so beautiful. I talked to a woman and her ten month old son named Godlisten. I asked her a lot of questions through the translating doctor about malaria and the affect it had on her family. She said this was the third time she has been to the hospital with Godlisten having malaria. Her other child has had it six times. They have a bed net, but the kids still get malaria. She said the prospect of having to not worry about malaria would make her feel better. She has no husband. The most intense part of the interview was when I asked her what she finds joy in. She said nothing. She said her life is difficult and there is no joy. I looked at the beautiful baby boy in her arms, and doubted her words. And I thought about the fact that his name was Godlisten. Did she know what the name meant? Was it a cry to God, begging him to listen to her in her pain, or could it have been a reminder that God does listen and hear her? Does He? She probably doesnt think so. It was very sad. We filmed the interview so I now forever have her answer as a reminder for why I am trying so hard to do what I do. And why I will never give up and throw in the towel. People need to find hope.

After talking to this woman, we spoke with an older lady who was a nurse working with pregnant women in the ward. She loved talking about her work, and has been at this place for 18 years. She happily told us about how she got sick and was treated so well by nurses years ago, she knew that she wanted to provide those same services to others. She loves what she does and says she is most happy when she helps women to have healthy babies.

Two women from the same community, but very different stories and attitudes.

This is a place of contrasts.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I made a baby cry yesterday. We were walking through the village of Ifakara and I was greeting people and talking as much as I could in swahili. I must have gotten over confident because I went up to a woman with a beautiful baby girl and greeted the mom then bent down and said hello to the girl. She took one look at me and started screaming in what I am assuming was terror. Poor thing. White skin would be a lot to handle for the first time, and even worse when the white skin is mlefu (tall). I laughed and apologized to the mother who was also laughing.

We went on a canoeing trip yesterday on the Kilombero river. I was hoping to see a hippo, but apparently they didnt feel like finding us. I was ready to offer one of my toes to them as a sacrifice, I guess they are actually really mean and eat people. I thought the lost toe would be a compelling story later on. I feel like I am kind of experiencing African tourism for the first time, even though I have been here before. I dont quite know how to handle it. It is just so far removed from the reality of an average Tanzanian's daily life and I find that hard to reconcile. And being with a large group of westerners is also very difficult.

We went to the local catholic church today. There were a lot of people there and the music was awesome. I wish I understood swahili so I could follow along. We were seated on the stage for the entire service. This has happened to me before and I know they do it to honor us as guests, but I also think it makes it easier for everyone to look at us. It would be much more rude if they had to crane their necks backward to stare at us sitting behind them dont you think? I think it is funny. We met with a lot of the teenagers after the service and they asked us some questions. One of the guys asked what we were going to do as foreigners to help them with AIDS. How do you even begin to answer a question like that? Especially when you have been in the community for four days? We are going back on Thursday and I hope to talk to him one on one. We are trying to emphasize that we are here to learn from them and see what they are already doing so we can come alongside as much as possible. This is so opposite to traditional norms of western aid, and I think it will take a lot of foreigners coming in with the same idea before people here really believe it. For so long we as westerners have said that we were listening to them, when in reality we just came in and did what we wanted without actually consulting any of the local people. I had a great discussion today with some of the other fellows about the ethical constraints of international aid. Fascinating stuff. And really frustrating. I am trying my best to simply listen to the locals, because we want to work through an asset based approach in an area that has traditional been viewed in a deficit based way. It takes a total shift in thinking.

In other news, I am leading a Christian reflection time tomorrow for all the fellows. I think I am going to talk about Joshua and the verses about being courageous. I think courage in our work is something we all need and it can transcend religious differences.

Also apparently a bunch of chickens are being killed on Tuesday and I have invited myself to the festivities. I think I will have some good video footage afterwards, in spite of potentially never wanting to eat chicken again.

And I have decided to practice ramadan. It is something I have been thinking/praying about for months and the two muslim fellows here support me participating with them. So starting August 20, I will not be eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. I am excited for what I will learn through the experience.

Friday, August 14, 2009


We made it!
After a rather harrowing and bumpy ten hour drive from Dar es Salaam in a four wheeler yesterday, my rear end has officially recovered and I am currently lounging under a mosquito net in my room while the sun sets. Not bad at all. We are in Ifakara at the ttcih (tanzania training center for international health). It is really impressive. They want to be respected internationally, so they have wireless internet and awesome classrooms and buildings. Definitely like nothing I have seen in Africa before. This place doubles as a malaria research facility and they are doing very innovative cutting edge research on eradication. We heard from the director today and the stuff they are working on is fascinating. They are running trials right now on some sort of fungus that mosquitoes are attracted to. The mosquitoes (or Umbu in Swahili) touch it and die within 48 hours or something. Basically a green version of DDT.

Learned a lot today about primary health care and what that looks like in reality on the ground in a rural community. We had lectures from several of the doctors and researchers on site. I am convinced more then ever (well, actually I was pretty convinced before) of the necessity of community health workers. Especially because hospitals simply arent around in as many areas as people need them. We took a long walk through the hospital today and hung out in the women's malaria ward for a while. I attempted to remember my swahili from last time, and basically failed. Made a friend with a masai baby named Paul who looked malnourished and had malaria. His mom was there too and could not have been a day over 17. It was so difficult because there are ten of us westerners, and I hate being labeled as the token rich foreigners who walk into a ward to basically look at the sick people. We were all hired for this job for our creativity, brains, and entrepreneurial skills and we all hated the implications that we were treating the Tanzanians as projects. So we are developing a system which we are going to pitch to some of the leaders tomorrow in which we can potentially break into three smaller groups and take a translator with us to visit the different wards on different days. Much less overwhelming for the sick, and much more humanizing. And it will be much easier to talk to people. They have a large HIV/AIDS ward and I am praying that I can just stay there all day one day. Or at least a few hours. Most of you probably know HIV/AIDS is a huge passion of mine, and that was my sole purpose in coming to Tanzania the first time. I basically just want to spend as much time in the hospital with the sick as possible.

In many ways we are creating this program as we go, and need to ensure the learning we need to have to be effective when we go back to our home countries happens while here. This is hard because I really want to learn about everything the doctors tell us, but I also have to be simultaneously formulating questions about hands on programs with malaria, and how faith communities are involved/could potentially be more involved. I am foreseeing this to often include steering the discussion away from things I find incredibly interesting into slightly murkier waters where the questions dont really have answers.

What an exciting time to be involved in this fight! The questions dont have answers because the answers dont fully exist. Yet. That is why we are here. To help figure out the answers to questions about why people continue to die from malaria. And then change it. It costs 100 shillings (about 8 cents) for the anti-malaria drugs, and $2 for a bed net. Faith communities are perfectly positioned to help.

Our work is so important. Lives are on the line. If that is not incentive for me to throw my whole brain into this, I dont know what is.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I leave for TZ at 3 am tomorrow. Couldnt be happier about it. Our time there looks like it is going to be unreal. A lot of it will be spent learning from African health experts about different endemic diseases, then visiting clinics and hospitals where the actual work is being done. On my previous trips to Africa, I have mainly spent my time trying to fit in and experiencing life exactly as the locals do. I think this trip will be different because it is solely focused on our learning about disease and malaria so we can partner with african communities in the long term to create sustainable change. As I think about the difference that will mean for me in experiencing Tanzania, I think the best I can do to give the people dignity is to bring my best mind and talent to focus on what I will learn, and swallow the fact I will not be experiencing life the way tanzanians for the most part do. Since I cant have the close live-with experience I had before, I am planning on throwing myself totally into what the doctors and experts teach me and grappling to retain as much as possible. To be as effective as possible to make as much change and save as many lives in the long term as possible. I think that is my best bet to deal with being driven around in an air conditioned van.

London has been absolutely fantastic. I have learned so many new things, and had a lot of fun in the meantime. Today during a media training session we were broken up into groups and we all had to create our own movies. I am very proud of my group's, it was called "The Chase" and involved a harrowing scene on the tube where we got yelled at by a security guard. The other fellows are brilliant and incredible leaders from their perspective communities, but they are also a lot of fun and it is nice to have time to be silly in between the very important work of inter-religious dialogue and learning about malaria.

One of the leaders said a very interesting thing the other day; "Sub-Saharan Africa is currently enslaved to endemic disease. So working to fix the broken healthcare systems and get people proper treatment is a modern day form of fighting slavery. I LOVED that.

More to come from the gloryland. aka Tanzania.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

video worth watching

All the fellows recently watched this together when the Muslim fellows did their presentation on Islam. The song is by a Muslim American country singer. Definitely worth four minutes of your time.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Overwhelmed. That is how I felt yesterday at the hindu temple. It was like nothing I have ever experienced, and I didnt feel like I had any idea what was going on. I was trying to understand, but it was very foreign. It made me realize how the language I use to describe my own faith is probably very confusing to people who did not grow up in the same tradition. This has not been a problem when I have surrounded myself by others similar to me, but that is absolutely not the case now or for the next year. I need to work on that because I did not really like that feeling yesterday.

Today was fantastic. I just got back from seeing Romeo and Juliet at the globe theater. Loved it, but I was still mourning Juliet's death when they got got up and burst into song for the finale dance. it was strange to see her dancing around after she had just killed herself. And my butt fell asleep after about two minutes on those benches. A fun experience to say the least.

Also today we had presentations from the buddhist, sikh, unitarian and muslim Fellows. It was a very rich time for me to try and cram all this information I have always wanted to know about those religions into my brain. I really think this training is priceless just for the relationships I am forming with this diverse group of people and the way they are expanding my worldview. I love it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

bye malaria

The training continues and just keeps getting better. Today was the completion of an intensive two day leadership training course which involved a prisoners dilemma activity we were filmed participating in. We got to watch the tape today and see ourselves and discuss different aspects of communication and leadership. Really enlightening. The rest of the day was spent on training in working with media and developing e-campaigns, as well as presentations from me and my fellow Christians on the basics of our religion, followed by a great presentation by the Jewish fellows about Judaism.

Last night we had a grand time at a reception at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation HQ. Did you know the building it is in was the original American embassy and John Adams lived there? The political scientist in me thought that was very cool. They have given us flipcams with which to film videos. I have been doing this and would post them here, but I have not filmed anything I think you all would find particularly interesting. But stay tuned. Tomorrow we are visiting a hindu temple and I am thrilled to learn about hinduism because I know very little at the moment.

I feel like I have my feet planted a bit more the last 24 hours. I am getting into the swing of things, and have some of the basics down. Everyone is really so fantastic and interesting and brilliant. I have trouble deciding who to talk to during breaks because I want to speak with everyone. And it is such an honor to be considered one of them. All these incredible people are pouring a lot of their time, talents, and energy into making us really fantastic, and I am really starting to believe we will make a lot of positive impact in our respective communities. Poor malaria. I dont think it will be around much longer. And it will not be missed.

And I got a Mcdonalds Mcflurry tonight. Tasted very different from the American version, but Subway here smells the same. I think that is weird.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

lemon juicer

I feel like my brain is a lemon in a lemon juicer right now. Seriously, so much has been crammed into the last three days I kind of feel nothing because there was so much.

And pretty much most of it is new. I have experience with the more action side of this (Millenium Devleopment goals, malaria, social justice, etc). But the multifaith dialogue I am stunningly ignorant. We have now been to a mosque for juma prayer, an orthodox jewish synagogue for shabbat, and a roman catholic parrish for sunday morning services. And we spoke with the leaders of each of those places after, asking lots of questions.

So much to learn.

It is humbling to think I thought I knew more then I did. I pretty much feel like I am starting from zero on a lot of the basics of these other faiths, as well as how to actively try and engage with these different groups to think about working together on malaria eradication. Our goal is to try and strengthen these people to become better and stronger in the religion they are already a part of, while working together with other faiths on pressing international issues since service is something high on the priority list for all different religions.

If that was not articulate that is because this is only day 3. Cut me some slack. This program is incredible and I am so thrilled to be able to learn all of this. And I know a lot of people dont believe the stuff I saw today can actually exist. A room full of 30 young people, aged 20-25 from hindu, sikh, muslim, buddhist, unitarian, catholic, christian and jewish backgrounds dialoguing about how we can all work together to change the world. And we all get along. And we genuinely like each other.

Now that is a future I am excited to be a part of.

More to come, but I need to let my brain rest a bit.

Friday, July 31, 2009

it begins

So day one is drawing to a close right now. It was quite the day. Met everyone, travelled on the tube to our training site, and spent all day feeling pretty ignorant. Everything so far has been great, I am just very aware of how little I know. I mean seriously, how did I not know/interact with many muslims/buddhists/anyone else it feels like before this? I realize what I know about what they actually believe is miniscule. We got to go to london central mosque today for jumma (Spelled wrong for sure) prayer which happens every friday and is mandatory for men. There were 11,000 muslims there to pray today. I thought I would feel weird or threatened or confused but I felt enchanted. The whole thing was really cool. I felt connected to everyone. They are passionately trying to connect with the God they love, and their prayers are a physical (literally--so much body movement) manifestation of that. I really loved it. now I am in this weird spot where I am ashamed of my ignorance of islam and other people in general, but at the same time balancing this newly insatiable curiosity to learn. I have never really had muslim friends before, or felt safe asking them pretty much any question I ever wanted to know about islam and have them be excited to talk to me about it and not think my (very basic) questions were dumb.

Met specifically at one point with the group that is going to Tanzania and they are SO AWESOME. There are nine of us. From all different backgrounds. Being here is such a stimulating experience already and I really think every day is going to feel like today. There is a sharp learning curve for me in particular in this process (most of the others have extensive interfaith experience) and it is cool to be able to live in that and ask questions.

And London is pretty sweet to. We are going to the globe theater later to see Romeo and Juliet, and pretty much every day going to some sort of intense faith event. Tomorrow is an orthodox jewish synagogue. and I got wicked lost yesterday coming on the tube from the airport. The accents are great though, and the people are friendly. And did I mention costs are covered and this is the coolest thing ever? Seriously you guys, this is the best. I want to be a sponge the next seven weeks.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


How in the world do you pack in one suitcase for a trip to three different continents that is going to last two months? I have no idea. I think I am doing it wrong. Oh well. And why am I blogging right now instead of packing when I leave in an hour and a half? I dont know that either.

I cant believe this day is finally here. I go from feeling like I am going to be sick to wishing I could just teleport to London so it would already be starting. What a long journey this has already been to get here. I cant wait to see what I learn in the next two months! London here I come....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

employer satisfaction

I was very satisfied by my experience at KFC the other night when a party I was helping out at ran out of food, and I wanted to let the manager know so I called the number on the back of the receipt. The conversation went something like this

automated voice: Thank you for calling. What time, day, and store did you visit
me: detailed answer
AV: at the end of this survey you will be told if you qualify to win $1000. pause
me: (Pause). Thanks?
AV: Press one if your latest KFC experience exceeded your expectations. Press 2 if your trip met expectations. Press 3 if it did not meet your expectations.
me: 1
AV: Thank you for taking this survey. You did not qualify for the $1000. Please feel free to try again in six weeks. Click.

So much for speaking to a representative.

I watched Revolutionary Road a couple nights ago. It freaked me out. Kate Winslet is not living the life she wants to live, and she feels helpless to do anything about it so she just shuts off from everything. It is terrifying because it seemed to be so easy to become her. She did not make a bunch of heinous mistakes to get where she was, she just kind of passively did what was expected of her and never really pursued what she actually wanted. Terrifying, but kind of typical of a lot of people I know. Why is it so easy to settle for mediocre? And to forget that at one time every fiber of your being ached to have purpose and be something more?


Sunday, July 5, 2009


The in-between time after college is odd. I am house-sitting for my parents right now. Day 10 of 33 days by myself. I am currently cooking 99 cent pasta for myself for dinner. The box said to bring the contents to a "hearty" boil. What the heck does that mean? Somewhere between dancing to Destinys Child's Bug-a-Boo in my kitchen and throwing a stick for the dog, I realized I forgot to stir the pasta constantly. I came back to look at it and it was rather "heartily" boiling over the sides of the stove. Seriously, who has the time to stir this pasta constantly for the required 18 minutes? And what pasta needs 18 minutes to cook? There was a reason it was on sale apparently. Being poor is hard. Not that this is any kind of suffering at all compared to the majority of the world, I understand that, but this is just goofy.

I checked the whole graduating from college thing off my list. I got really good at being in college the final two quarters I was there. I wish I had four months of May-the last full month I had of school-to really soak everything up for the last time. but I cant. it is over. And I am sitting in the place that used to be home that now is just a painful and necessary in-between before my next adventure. And no one is here with me. I am anxious to follow God into this next thing, but there is this strange, tentacle like part of me that is clinging to the past. Seattle is not a part of my life for at least the next year. My head has accepted that, but my heart has not. It kind of hurts a little bit. I don't know how to process graduating, my mind cant really do it. I dont know if anyone actually does. Most people run frantically into a job or a marriage or whatever, then let their eyes grow misty ten years down the road when they think about how awesome college was, and how their current life just is not as cool.

I will not let that be my story. College was epic for me, and the best thing ever for the last four years. But it is over now and my life is just beginning. And every year is going to be better. because I will be living the way I was created to live. I can promise that.

The pasta is done. And it looks pretty lumpy because I did not stir it. I will have to add salt.

Monday, June 8, 2009

before and after

3 words I felt going into college:




3 words I feel leaving college:




What a journey. I highly recommend college if you have yet to try it. It worked wonders for me.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


I am so excited to be a part of this movement toward inter-faith reconciliation! Such a privilege. This is a fantastic article that discusses this.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Excerpt below I took from a NY Times op-ed about the genocide happening in Sudan. The author quoted Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor and author of "Night" to bring his point home.

“It is so much easier to look away from victims,” said Mr. Wiesel, in a speech at the White House in 1999. “It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes." Indifference to the suffering of others “is what makes the human being inhuman,” he [Elie Wiesel] said, adding: “The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.”

God let this not be my attitude. And make us all aware if we find this in ourselves.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I went to spokane this weekend for a WONDERFUL conference with the Krista Foundation. I was lucky enough to be selected as a colleague, and it was such a good weekend. Everyone there has committed to a year of service that they have already come back from, are in the middle of, or are about to embark upon. It just feels like everyone speaks the same language as me there. I didnt have to explain why I loved the things I love, and everyone just seemed to intrinsically understand. I felt like I could breathe with them. Kindred spirits. I know I will be friends with a lot of them for years and years to come. There is comfort in that.

18 days until graduation. I cant believe it. So much to do between now and then. So many goodbyes and "I dont know when I will see you next's".

As I reflect back on these last four years I am certain of two things:
1. God does not make mistakes
2. He is absolutely and completely creative in his faithfulness to me.

I have been so blessed by the remarkable journey I have been on. I had no idea coming to school I would become who i am now, I didn't know I would become interested in AIDS and have my heart broken over and over in Africa...than go back for more because one trip just didn't seem to be enough. I didn't know I was passionate about politics and that I would live in DC working for my dream organization for a quarter. I would have laughed if you told me in high school about the people I would be connected with, and the deepness of the friendships I have formed. And I had no clue I would end college having taken the LSAT and ready to move to Chicago to work under an incredible organization for a year. What a trip.

I feel so satisfied with what I have done. I am SO EXCITED for what is next. I am going to prove that college is not the best years of your life. My college experience has been INCREDIBLE, but now the real work starts and I get to do all the things I have been waiting for.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I stole this from my friend Natalie's facebook page. I couldn't help it. It is really good. I totally feel this right now.
From Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery

“My future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone, but now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend.”

Saturday, May 2, 2009


In the newest edition of Time's 100 Most influential People, Tom Hanks made the list. And Meg Ryan wrote the info about him. One part stuck out to me.

Meg Ryan was at a dinner party and she said they were talking about art. What is art? Someone said art is whatever it is that makes you feel less alone. I love that. Meg went on to say that, to her, Tom is art because she always feels less alone when he is around.

I feel like I see art in so any more things with that definition. Really cool.

Monday, April 27, 2009


I had a surprise party last night. It was amazing. Everyone was dressed up and speaking in accents and there were donuts. All my favorite things in one room. i could have died...first from shock, then from happiness. I have decided that at some point in everyone's life, they need to walk in a room and be surprised to see they have a bunch of their friends there applauding them for no reason and telling them they are cool. It might eliminate a lot of the problems we have as a lonely society. It worked wonders for my mood yesterday.

And what do you do when someone hurts you and you try really hard to not like them and be super angry for an extended period of time, but you just cant? Why is it that we are so willing to give people second chances? It would be nice to just retreat with the pride I have left and lick my wounds in a corner, but it is harder then that for me to let go. I guess if something really drastic and terrible happens then you know they relationship is over, but what about those weird in between relationships? There should be a book on that. But I probably wouldnt read it anyways so I guess it wouldnt matter.

Happiness to me right now is:
-kenyan poker
-Toms shoes
-eating donuts in the sun
-listening to David Archuleta on repeat and being embarrassed that I might be able to relate to what he is saying
-being surprised by people I love
-trying to live in the right now knowing that what I have coming next is REALLY DARN COOL

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


One of my friends from life before college committed suicide last week. Needless to say, my spring break was different then usual. It hit me really hard. I am sad and angry at him for being selfish, and hurting for his family. His suicide note mentioned how he believed the God of the Bible to be fictitious, and that he did not have any relationships with anyone. Kind of a slap in the face to his family and friends. I hurt for him, it must have been terrible feeling that alone. At what point does family calling you saying they love you and wanting to be with you become insufficient? Depression is hard to understand.

I wish there was more to say. Sometimes there just isnt.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

" The word gospel literally means 'good news.' Jesus declared that he had come to 'preach good news to the poor.' But what good news, what gospel did the church have for Richard and his brothers? What 'good news' have God's people brought to the world's 3 billion poor? What 'gospel' has Africa's 12 million AIDS orphans seen? And here's a question for you: What gospel have most of us embraced in the 21st century?

A gospel with a hole in it."

-Richard Stearns

Thursday, March 5, 2009


From the book "Fame and the Founding Fathers: Essays by Douglass Adair"

"...the desire for fame is thus a dynamic element in the historical process; it rejects the static complacent urge in the human heart to merely be and invites the strenuous effort to become -- to become a person and force in history larger then the ordinary. The love of fame encourages a man to make history, to leave the mark of his deeds and his ideals on the world; it incites a man to refuse to be the victim of events and to become an "event -making" personality -- a being never to be forgotten by those later generations that will be born into a world his actions helped to shape."

Monday, February 23, 2009


I have been reading The Prince and learning about it in class for the past six weeks. Machiavelli was a very interesting guy. He was so intense. To him, the only true religion is power, and the two greatest mistakes you can make as a leader are to avoid war or to hesitate to break your word. He sees it as weakness to not do so because the people you are helping will never help you in return. Why should you do anything for them? The ability to do the utmost you can to control your circumstances is real freedom. So basically: don't trust anyone, don't get close enough to anyone to have them do anything to you, and do everything bad to them first so you will move ahead. Then you will feel complete.

In my opinion, his kingdom will ultimately implode of its own incoherence because cooperation and collaboration can be just as real as conflict. But I like him. He is original. And I can see where he is coming from, but I want to trust people more then that.

I guess that makes me a sucker. I'm ok with that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


"First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win."


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I was listening this week to a guy talking about a city. It was a has-been city from ancient times, and the by the time the story took place, it wasn't that great of a place to be anymore. It wasn't the indestructible fortress of power it had once been, and it was kind of wasting away from the inside out. What the guy said who was telling the story was that this city was living of the fumes of its glory from the past.


I think we do that. People of faith do that. I do that. We have a crazy time of growth, then we sit back and think that we logged enough energy and learning to last for a while. Most of me thinks that is fine, I earned a break after lots of hard work right? Yea, maybe, but this other part of me wonders what would happen if I stopped being lazy, and actually asked to see if there was more? More to learn? More to see and do and experience and cry and laugh over? What if there was? I will get there eventually, but right now I am too busy living in the fumes of my past glory to notice.

That would be sad.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I have been thinking about different definitions of courage lately.
Cowardice represses fear but is ultimately mastered by it while courage is a resolution to go forward despite difficult obstacles.
Courage is voluntarily making yourself vulnerable to things greater than yourself.
Courage is a subversive virtue
Courage is acknowledging fear but living through it

I like courage. I wish I had more. I think it is one of those things where you probably never feel like you have enough and in that scary moment, you decide whether or not to create some more in yourself. At church today the pastor was saying the particular church we were talking about in Revelation had compromised on so many things, but God still remembered their names, and that they were set apart for holiness as his beloved people. There is a lot of courage in messing up like that church did and still living in confidence that, no matter how much you mess up, you are called to be something greater than you are currently being. they are given a white stone which signified in that time healing, transformation, hope, and a new name. New names like Beloved. Holy. Brave. Replacing names like Marginalized. Forgotten. Broken. I like that. I think I need newer, bigger names for God. Or for myself, in the way He views me.

The hymn this morning said "Teach me the patience in unanswered prayer." There is courage in saying a line like that too. Its asking God to be silent, to say no to your requests, so you can learn to wait. Sounds pretty tedious. I hear Mother Teresa struggled a lot with feeling like God was silent. But she knew what she was supposed to do, and she did it. She acted. Over and over she helped so many different people.

And there was silence.

And she was still faithful.


Friday, January 9, 2009


"Evil cannot exist on its own. It can only manipulate the good."

I have not decided if I agree or disagree yet. Also, my prof today said "Law is in the interest of the powerful." I don't think I like that. Or I think the powerful deliberately ignore the law, because it's not in their interest. What about all the corruption I saw the last couple months? Law was on the side of evil it seemed, but is it in the interest of the powerful to have law? I guess it depends on what kind. Because when people force people to enforce their own laws, the powerful are usually exposed for their corruption. A person in power that is given to the pursuit of honor and character would be a rare find. And a problem. Because they would disrupt the status quo of rulers corrupted by power and greed. According to Aristotle, people pursuing virtue are dangerous but necessary. I like that. I kind of want to be dangerous but necessary for my pursuit of virtue and honor and character.

"At one time I was so immersed in problems of church and society that my whole life had become a sort of drawn-out, wearisome discussion. Jesus had been pushed into the background; he had himself become just another problem...[Now] Jesus has stepped out in front again and asked me, 'And you, who do you say that I am?' It has become clearer to me than ever that my personal relationship with Jesus is the heart of my existence."
Henri Nouwen

That is my prayer today. Jesus, be at the heart of my existence.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


My 12 year old cousin asked me recently if I felt like/considered myself a grown up. Without hesitation, I answered yes. Weird realization to come to. I asked my brother what he thought, and he kind of rolled his eyes and told me I have been grown up for years. I feel like that is true. But what does that mean, and what am I supposed to do next? I remember being ten and wishing I could go to Disneyworld, and soon, because I had this sinking feeling that I wouldn't want to go for that much longer. And its true. I grew up and I don't really want to go there anymore. So my childhood is gone. And I am a grown up now.

I don't fit here right anymore. Most of me wants to be here desperately, to just go back to the way things were, but I feel like I am denying the part of me that is most intrinsic to who I am becoming. This is not hard. I am not hurting over evil in the world here. i am comfortable. I can see myself easily having this life. And I would be happy. But I don't like it. A few months ago this guy Sean, in his wisdom, told me to "open up your flipping hands and take what you are given." I want to be on the front lines. And I most likely will be. Soon enough. But this is where I am now. And I can learn from being here, even if I am yearning for something else. I will go there. But not yet.