Dec 25, 2010

Of Christmas in Africa

It's simultaneously awesome and depressing to celebrate Christmas in a foreign (Muslim) country with no family, but two friends.

It's really great that I get to spend my first Christmas away from home with two great friends, but it's not so great that I'm away from home. It makes me feel like a little kid.

I handle most things about living overseas pretty well, I would say. The part I'm not very good at is trying to pretend that Christmas isn't happening, so that way, the pain of being away from those I love is less. It's much easier just to pretend that Christmas celebrations are skipping a year.

But Christmas doesn't work like that. It comes just the same, without packages, boxes, or bags. And even without family.

And though it really sucks to be so far away, it helps put it in perspective. Even though spending time with family, eating amazing foods, and singing Christmas songs together are amazing and good things to do, they aren't Christmas. I know, you're probably thinking, 'OK, this is where he launches into a diatribe about celebrating the "Reason for the Season," so I'm going to tune out and vomit a little bit at the overused cliche.' But you're wrong. I'm not going to talk about why it's important to remember Jesus' birth at Christmas time.

Sure, it's important to remember. But perhaps something more important to remember would be the cross. We can't look at the manger without remembering the cross.

While millions of people celebrate a day for family, good food, and presents, remember that those should just be pointers to the bloody and tear-stained cross where that little Baby was brutally slaughtered for us wretches.

And remembering that, helps me to know that even though Christmas is very, very different from what I'm used to, I'm celebrating it in, perhaps, a more authentic way than ever before. And while I'm away from family and friends, I'm not away from a deeper love. Which is more comforting than I had realized on this not-so-normal Christmas.

Dec 16, 2010

Senegal, Part I

So, I've decided that Senegal is maybe one of my favorite places that I've been so far. Kyle and I landed in Senegal last Friday. We spent the first few days in Dakar, which is one of the coolest cities ever. If you've been to Paris, picture the awesomeness of Paris combined with the awesomeness of Africa. It's like a sweet blend of the French and Senegalese cultures. Plus, it always smells great. The Senegalese burn incense in pots and so everywhere you go, you smell either the incense, cooking food, or the smell of the sea. Not too bad. Dakar is much more expensive than the rest of Senegal, so we couldn't stay there forever.

Next it was off to Steve's town of Joal-Fadiouth. Another great place to stay, Joal-Fadiouth is split into two towns: Joal, which is a peninsula off the mainland of Senegal, and Fadiouth, which is an island connected with Joal by a bridge. It reminds me of an African version of Venice, but much dirtier. One of the unique things about Fadiouth is that the island is made of shells. Another of the unique things is that it has a cemetery that holds both the Muslim and the Christian dead. Very rare in Africa, let alone the world.

One of the things I have not been so . . . enthusiastic about is the toilet situation. No running water in Joal means no flush toilet and no shower. No shower? Fine. Squatty potty? Okay. Squatty potty with no toilet paper and a cup of water instead? Not so cool. It's been a new experience for sure.

Today, we have come to Mbour to get Internet and to hang out at a beach resort all day. I'm currently sitting in a loft of the resort, with palm trees below; white, pink, and orange bougainvillea spreading, thatched roofs, and a splendid view of the sailboats on the ocean. Not too ugly.

Next stop planned is an overnight kayak trip through the mangroves where we'll camp out in tents and have good Senegalese food.

Dec 1, 2010

During Which the Author Befriends a Moth

This morning, a small moth was flying around my bathroom. It never once landed on me, but I'm sure it knew that I was there. The thing that impressed me most was the incredible gap between the intelligence and skills of the two living things in that room.

And that got me to thinking that this is a great picture of God compared to us (and still not even somewhat close!). I could no more ask that moth to build a computer that can map out the human genome than I could work and work to save myself and be holy on my own. Both of us are positively incapable of completing the tasks set before us.

This is great, yet humbling news.