Christmas Updates

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This won't be a long post, just enough to pass on the links for my Christmas card and December newsletter. Since moving my website and most internet activity to Apple's Mobile Me I have decided to provide links to newsletters and updates, rather than posting the images here. If that is a problem and you have issues with PDF files let me know and I will see what I can do to make your access to that information easier. I will continue to email newsletters and updates if I have you in my address book. If you're not already there contact me and I can add you.



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Musings, II

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This week has been wet, raining several days. The rain washes down the pollution though so the scenery from Mansourieh is quite nice.

I seem to be the death of things electronic. My washing machine seems to be on its last legs, my laptop suffered some software issues that caused a complete reformat/restore, and my cell phone died.

Banking and finances here aren't as easy as I'd imagine. Got my AmEx eaten by an ATM machine last week, my bank in the US is afraid of doing business in Lebanon (which means limited cash), and my two-month dispute with AmEx on a failed ATM transaction goes to round 2 (denied my first claim).

Watching a child succeed and be good at something is awesome, you see the potential in all children, even the difficult ones. Smiles from shy students are truly a blessing.

The rains last night closed many roads and made a trip from Tyre into a 3.5 hour journey.

Church was great this morning, music was perfect.

Been listening to Ryan Delmore non-stop for the past two weeks.

Watched "Up" last night, probably one of the most touching movies I have seen in a long time.

Slacking on my Christmas newsletter, but have most of the photos ready for it.

Feel like writing, but am afraid that if I start I won't stop.

Should study Arabic this evening.

Ready to see what 2010 brings, for Lebanon and for my future.

Making tea and waiting for lunch to start.

Letting go and trusting more.


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musings

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This week, actually, this semester has gone by quite rapidly. I can't believe we're already in December, just weeks away from Christmas and the beginning of 2010. We've had several residents sick, the absences are missed as the ones not here are quite personable..you know they are here when they are here. Hopefully all will be back, and healthy, very soon.

Weather continues to change, but it seems that we're on the edge of the winter rains. The sky pulled a trick on me yesterday as it was ominously dark, which usually indicates a decent storm, but it blew over and the clouds just helped usher in dusk a bit more quickly.

I continue to have cell phone issues, during some break time today I intend to walk down to a cellular store and see what I can find for a replacement phone. There are several features that I want but I am not wanting to blow too much $$ on the process, and smart phones tend to be a bit on the pricey side of things here. My Nokia E51, which I got a little over a year ago, seems to be bricked for good this time. I have not modified it or done anything except use it as it should be used...the OS is buggy and there seems to be a glitch with Bluetooth and syncing that causes the phone to get all kooky and such. I knew I was running on borrowed time with the phone but I was in denial. I think that I will likely get a cheaper phone to use here in Lebanon and see if I can get my Nokia fixed. The second time this happened I got it fixed for around $10, but it doesn't seem to be a permanent fix. I can keep this one for international travel and when I visit the US for fund-raising and visiting family and friends. Although I don't use the phone terribly often I like to have it and while I was out last night w/o it I felt vulnerable.

Christmas lights and decorations are going up around Beirut. As I can I'll take some photos. The lights and patterns are truly amazing.

Last night I went bowling with some friends, we took the three older boys from the program with us as well. The bowling alley doesn't require you to use bowling shoes so most everyone there was bowling in their street or dress shoes. Never in my life had I seen a person attempt to bowl in high heels, there is a first for everything I suppose. On the lane to the immediate left of us (and scattered among the rest as well) were young women, nicely dressed, all wearing high heels. When their turn to bowl came up they took the ball and heaved it into the air, almost a cross between bowling and shot put. Often the bowl would bounce one or twice before settling down in a slow roll. The scary thing is that many of these women were quite adept at this, indicating perhaps much experience using this technique. Occasionally a ball would make a strike, never saw the precision though to get a spare. I am not sure if this testifies to the female [Lebanese] strength, determination, or just vanity. Oh well, made the night so much more enjoyable.

Off to work, thanks for reading. Stay tuned for my Christmas newsletter and greetings.


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International Calling, Gizmo5/Google

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In the midst of trying out my new heater, washing clothes and linens, and just being domestic this morning (dishes too) I thought I'd take a break and share the news of how wonderful Gizmo5 is. Now, before you get too excited, and I haven't even started yet, Gizmo5 has just been bought by Google and is not allowing new users to sign up, sorry. The good news is that there is speculation of tighter integration with Google Voice and other services, so the waiting may be well worth it. As I live in Lebanon the Google Voice issue isn't too exciting for me as I can't sign into that service, it is only open to people living in the US.

I first got informed about Gizmo5 back around 2005, when it was known as the Gizmo Project. Being on dial up internet it wasn't too helpful and I didn't know anyone who used of heard of Gizmo so I let the account sit dormant for a while. Recently when I was wanting to make calls to my parents and friends in the US I tried to add money to my Skype account, but they rejected my purchase as the credit card had an American address associated with it (fearing fraudulent use of my credit card they said). Direct calls to America are expensive, even more so on my mobile phone, so I waited. I remembered Gizmo and looked it up. I was interested to see that it had been renamed to Gizmo5 and then purchased by Google. Deciding to give logging in a shot I hoped to get the desktop client and see if the rates to America were decent. My account was still active and the going rate to the US was 1 cent a minute...yes, I can talk to friends and family in the US for 1 penny a minute...one dollar allows me to talk for over an hour! I added $10 to the account but had to wait a day or two for the purchase to go through, so if you're looking for speedily adding money to the account you are hereby on notice. On Thanksgiving I called my parents and some friends from Lynchburg. Call quality was decent from Lebanon to the US, I am on a DSL line and the outgoing data didn't seem too crazy, they appear to have an efficient compression scheme set up. Costs to Lebanon are 11 cents and 22 cents per minute, so I may use that for some of my in country calls if I need to as it is still cheaper than using my cell phone.

The purchase of Gizmo5 by Google will be interesting and we'll need to wait to see how this changes things. Some people have expressed concerns of privacy, some have expressed concerns that the integration of Google Voice with Gizmo5 may impact international usage. Gizmo5 can be used internationally without any problem at the moment, Google Voice can only be used in the US. I personally hope this doesn't change anything internationally as I'd rather use this than Skype for my outgoing calls, especially since Skype is so paranoid about my credit card usage.

This will most definitely impact my phone usage and if you're living in the US you may just hear from me a bit more. Over the next few weeks I will try to add Gizmo to my cell phone, Gizmo5 is SIP-based (a communications standard), and my phone can accept SIP accounts. If this works I won't be tied to my computer to make calls, though I will need to be in reach of a good wifi signal. I can't speak on the Windows or Linux interface of Gizmo5 but I can report the OS X version is quite easily used and intuitive.

When more info is released on the Gizmo/Google convergence and as I get more experience using it I'll pass along updates.


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Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving, for those of you in America, traveling abroad, or residing in a new country. Blessings and Peace to you all.


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brief...

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It rained today: yay!
No hot water this morning: Brrrr!
Hot water this evening: Yay!
Oppositional kids: Grrrrr!
Lacking fingerless gloves:  :(
Cold in apartment:  :(
Old Bay seasoning on french fries: Yum!
About to go to bed, relaxed and warm: :)

That is my week so far, keepin' it real from Lebanon. Will post something proper here soon and its about time for a newsletter update so stay tuned.



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Another week goes by...

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We just completed prayer week here, if you participated from wherever you might be I'd like to thank you for your thoughts and prayers. The work with the children would not be possible without your faithfulness and generosity.

The weather recently has finally started to cool down quite a bit, the next weekend the kids are on break I will need to get some winter clothing and bedding, perhaps a space heater too. When the days haven't produced rain the skies have been an incredible shade of blue and the past several mornings have provided an amazing view of Beirut and the sea.

This week we're gearing up for Lebanese Independance Day, I am preparing for a friend from my home church to visit as well. The following week we'll be off a few days for Eid al Adha so I'll have several days off the next couple of weeks to get those winter items. I've already purchased some wool socks from the Columbia store in Beirut. The kids have been great, even though I've only been here a short time I can see the growth and changes they are making. It didn't strike me until recently that youth is really a fleeting time of our lives.

Took several children climbing today and will be cooking tacos with the older boys tomorrow, can't wait to see if they can handle my spicy chili sauce! No real news to report, other than things are going well. Thanks again and keep coming back for more updates.




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Prayer Week

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Monday (today) kicks off prayer week for us at Dar el Awlad. Attached (or rather, linked) here is a copy of our prayer journal if you choose to following along with us during this time. Thanks for your prayers, support, and help as we work with the children and families that call Lebanon home.



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Illness Free Weekend?

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I had a close call earlier this week, Tuesday evening to be exact. From what I can gather the culprit may have been the coleslaw I had with lunch in the mall, but I can't be confident that it was. All I recall is that later that evening as I was in trying to sleep my stomach started to talk. It said that something bad was trapped inside and it needed to get out. I ignored the voice, but it was persistent and didn't relent. Eventually my stomach rebelled and I had to listen to the voice, which was now a loud, productive rumble...yes, I threw up. First time I threw up in Lebanon since 2004, quite a milestone. The following day I was much better, but sore. The initial fear was I'd be sick for another weekend off, as I was around 3 weeks ago.

The kids are almost all gone now, it is quiet and seems empty. Going out to see a movie tonight, have a church-packed weekend ahead. Will also likely get some climbing rope and quickdraws while I am out and about too. Prayer week starts Monday. Check back later this weekend for a copy of the prayer journal for the days ahead.

By the way, this was posted on Saturday morning, so far so good, and the movie was great :)


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Maintenance

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On this cool, rainy, and wonderfully Autumn day I've been working on a few side projects, mostly involving the website (who needs to clean house or fold clothes? Not me!). I've properly formatted two articles to fit the overall theme of my website. I am still contemplating a few navigational changes but I am happy with the results for the time being. 

Here they are:
1) Leaves
2) Teachers

I've also been tweaking a few settings on domain name settings and routing, most of which I am pleased with. It seems that the more I use MobileMe the more I will likely stick with it. I am also using it for personal Mac related stuff and the ease and convenience of having everything in one location seems to balance the cost. The cost isn't much more than using another web hosting provider so it seems to be the direction I am leaning towards.

Unless something changes over the next day or two this is the last post for the week.

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A year, plus 1998

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Back in the day I used to write and journal quite a bit. Here is something I churned out back in 1998, while in college.

I just realized it, it has been 1 year since I went to MTI. Colorado was great!

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Cheap drugs and other thoughts

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Still sick but doing much better. Haven't been able to go climbing due to illness and busy work schedule, the kids are complaining as expected. The cold I had at the end of last week seems to have found a warm and cozy spot to hang out in my lungs and sinuses so that leave me with a lot of drainage, headaches, and difficulty in breathing at times. I started taking an antibiotic to make sure that whatever I have now doesn't develop further. $20 USD and no prescription for Augmentin, not a bad deal.

Work this week has been crazy as I am knee deep in the family and personal conflicts and issues of several children. That is what I am here for, no complaint, but it does add a lot more work to my schedule. While I don't enjoy seeing the children struggle I do see growth and hope and receive much satisfaction that I have the privilege to witness healing occurring.


Another brief post, have to read and study and see if I can get some sleep since I slept all afternoon. In closing here is a photo of one of the new residents that I mentioned in my previous newsletter. His first home visit was good and he only cried for a couple of days upon returning. I had to cancel my time with him earlier this week as I was sick, which didn't sit well with him as he was looking forward to our ijtamai'a (meeting). I set up some time Saturday and he was quite content to draw and dance.


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Felling a bit better...

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Went out today, intended to study Arabic...check, intended to relax...check, intended to go climbing...fail!

I still am a bit under the weather but I am feeling much better. There is hope that the "heat wave" we've recently had will come undone this week and we'll get some cooling rains and appropriate Autumn weather. The heat is driving my congested nose crazy and making it even more difficult to breath. A brief walk up from the green grocer left me breathless so I called off my personal plans to climb today, if I couldn't make it up a hill without wheezing I don't think that I would have been too successful in a self-belayed climbing attempt.


My post for the photo-a-day project I am doing was taken from behind Abraj (a shopping center). There are some excellent examples of graffiti here in Beirut and when I get a chance I plan on taking some time to photograph it. Some of it is of course political in nature and some is a good take on social commentary. Bart Simpson mooning the highway? Juvenile fun ;)


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Another week, another weak update...

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Sick. Again. It sucks. I can't complain too much, the last time I had some sort of virus/stomach issue it really wiped me out. This time I am congested, the trashcans full of kleenex around the apartment can serve as a witness to that, and have a sore throat. I had looked forward to going to Souk el-Tayeb today and climbing but all I could get the energy for was a trip to Borj Hammoud and cooking. The trip to Saifi (where the souk is) takes two buses and can last around an hour of traffic if bad, so my fall-back plan was Borj Hammoud, where I just wandered around and enjoyed the afternoon. When I returned home I made some pasta with a chicken stock base, to which I added some béchamel sauce. Thick, hearty, and didn't take a lot to fill me up. I am feeling better after taking panadol and a decongestant, though the drainage and sniffling is causing a bit of an upset stomach.

Worked on the website some today and cleaned a good chunk of it up before Mobileme went down. There are benefits to using Apple and Mobileme as a hosting platform but I am not sold on the cost yet. The month trial lasts until mid-November so I have some time to play around with it and see if it is worth keeping. Amazon.com has a good discount on the service so I might consider it if everything remains stable and I can determine a long term value. I don't think I have the patience or the will to deal with true web hosting and domain issues. As I said in the previous posting this blog's address is now http://b2b.mallaidh.org, though it can still be accessed via the older blogspot url. My current website can be found at either http://mallaidh.org or http://www.mallaidh.org, though there seem to be some minor issues with how the domain is forward at the moment. The second address (with www) seems to be the most reliable method for now.

I think this will be it for now, getting tired and need to do a few more things before I head to bed.




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learning, learning, learning

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So, I've decided to start my own website, to tie all my current postings, musings, and errata all to one central place. I will still be using this site as my blog and reflections on Lebanon/Kids Alive, but there is a new address. Don't worry about updating your address books unless you obsess over stuff like that, the old address at blogspot.com still works. The new address, http://b2b.mallaidh.org, is the direct site for this blog now. Once I get domain and hosting issues resolved I will be starting proper work on developing the site. While the goal is a unified "home" for my videos, photos, postings, and other things I find interesting I am also looking at it as a way for me to gain back my network and computer skills that I've let get flabby over the past few years. For the time being you can see a placeholder page and some of the work I have begun at http://web.me.com/mallaidh/Mallaidh.org/Welcome.html. After the current domain issues get resolved the url will be http://mallaidh.org, so keep that in mind if the above link changes at some point, I also don't think I plan to keep the Apple (Mobileme) hosting, but it is free for the time being and allows me to test things out.

Note: As of 11 pm Beirut time I got http://www.mallaidh.org to work. Will need to wait and see if other variations will work. I am not too impressed with Mobileme and think I will switch sometime soon, but that doesn't really affect the website or end product (just more "work" for me). There are other alternatives that are cheaper and more flexible that I want to explore, Mobileme just allows me to experiment for free now and practice with domain names, redirects, and such.

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Ruminations

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The Virginia State Fair should be ending this weekend, but I don't know as I haven't checked the dates. It is the first year they've held it at the new complex, the first year I've been abroad while it was going on. I can't disguise the fact that I miss fall in the US. The leaves, the crisp bite to the air, puffy white clouds against a bright blue sky, and all the trappings of Autumn...cooking, fairs, shorter days, and so on. Autumn in Lebanon is welcome, the days are cooler and I don't miss the sun peeking through my curtains at 5:30 in the morning, and the clouds and sky are still the same.

On Saturday I was outside observing the children playing and one in particular stood out. "John"* would run full speed and jump off the driveway, landing in the arms of an older student standing and the next level down. It was entertaining for everyone involved. Some of the other smaller students also got into the running and jumping, but never with the abandonment and enthusiasm as John. There was absolutely no fear in this little mind, he would run and jump, fully expecting someone to be there to catch him. Occasionally he would start to jump and someone had to hurry to catch him because they didn't know he was on the run once again. His jumps varied, some were of the sort that you'd expect at a pool...a run, hop, and then jump; others were a full-blown sprint and a leap into the arms of whomever was ready to catch him. The trust this young resident was admirable, causes one to think.




I've been inspired by a friend (thanks Zehra) from the US to start taking photos, well a series of photos. I will start taking photos on Monday, October 5th and posting them to my Picasa page. Each day for a year I will take a photo, it may be of me, the residents, Beirut, the campus, whatever...but I will take a photo a day as a journal and something to help share what I see and encounter on a daily basis. Each week I will post my photos to Picasa and attach a link from here and my twitter account.

Off to bed. I've made every excuse to avoid studying and now I have to take a shower and get off the climbing grime and sweat from this afternoon. Up early and prepare for the week and Arabic lessons. Until we meet again, ciao.

* John is not his real name...for the privacy of the children I will not refer to them by name and may alter small details. I know this stands in contrast to posting photos, but bear with me on this "contradiction".


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Polanski the Perv

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Ok, I am following the Polanski arrest thing relatively closely because I want to see how the whole thing plays out. Essentially you have a guy that is being excused by his peers because 1) the crime that was committed was over 30 years ago, 2) he is a talent that keeps the $$ machine lubricated in Hollywood, 3) they've probably done just the same (if not worse) and why would they want him to be punished if it involves they become accountable for the twisted deeds they've done (I am thinking Woody Allen BTW).

Here is an article (http://townhall.com/columnists/GuyBenson/2009/10/01/explaining_the_polanski_controversy_to_a_thirteen-year-old?page=full) that comments on the situation quite effectively. Please join with me in prayer that Polanski get the justice that is due and that he is held accountable for not only his original crime but skipping out as well.

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October '09 Update

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Here is my current update from Lebanon for the month of October. As always I am providing it as a PDF for download as well as posting on this site. Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge each page to something that is a bit easier to read.





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Roman Polanski Soapbox....Lynch the fool.

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Ok, the title is a bit harsh and the subject is a slight departure from my normal mumblings but I am a bit irked about this issue, please pardon me. Today's article on CNN.COM really miffed me and I had to respond.

I don't understand the uproar about Polanski's arrest and think Hollywood's nutjob quota has increased! The man is a child molester and plead guilty to the crime. He committed his crime on American soil, was tried, plead guilt, and while waiting for sentencing when he fled back to Europe. Everyone in the magic fairy land of Hollywood seems to think that he should be given a free ride...why? I can only assume it is because of how much time has passed, but 32 years doesn't mean the crime should not have consequences and the perp be held accountable. Perhaps it is from some sense of brotherhood, I don't know.

Hollywood "professionals" have their pants all knotted up and "Demand" his release, France can't believe that he was arrested just before a program meant to honor him was to take place. Where are your priorities people!? Even the now adult child he abused back in the 70's is saying she wants it dropped. While my heart goes out for what she and her family had to endure it really isn't up to her and my personal opinion is that if she would be quiet about what is going on people probably won't be
focusing too much on her. While the infraction took place against her the issue isn't solely about the victim, its about justice and a man mocking the appropriate response to raping a child.

I applaud the government for actually being persistent and doing the right thing for once. We'll see how it turns out. For the time being I'd like to see Hollywood shut up and act responsibly instead of condoning and praising a man who is/was a sexual predator. They did the same for MJ, guess Hollywood ia more screwed up than I could every imagine.


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Coming Soon...

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Stay tuned for my October newsletter, which I will be sending out via email and posting here by the end of this week.


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Office Space

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Here are some shots of my new office space and the learning center (where my "office" will be). It is a work in progress, but it is coming along quickly. The small room is my office, where I will meet with the children on a regular basis for individual counseling and work.




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2009/2010: The New Year Begins !!!

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I was going to wait until Friday or Saturday, but I had some time to kill, so I thought I'd go ahead and post a short note this evening. Anyway, I am am excited that school resumes Friday so I probably would have been unable to wait…go figure.

The residents are returning and the campus is once again echoing with the sounds of laughter, playing, running, doors slamming, shouting, and at times, crying (Hey, we have around 40 boys here! There is bound to be some conflict at times!). We are welcoming three new residents this season and saying goodbye to a few as well. Unit assignments have changed, some have been promoted to the teen/independent living house, some have just been moved around for other reasons. Change can be difficult as attachments and bonds with house mothers are stretched and broken when residents are reassigned. Change can be difficult when you leave your mother or father and Dar el Awlad becomes your new home.

The residents aren't the only ones experiencing change. House mothers have to say goodbye to those that move on and welcome the new ones. Teachers must adapt to new classrooms and students. New students must learn how to navigate and negotiate a new school (or school for the first time). Residential staff deals with all the stress and change from the bottom up, so everyone is affected in some way.

Thank you so much for your prayers. I look forward to this upcoming year and seeing the results of your current and future prayers. My schedule appears to be rather full now as I am finally starting to meet individually with all students, not just those with special needs or issues. I am also finishing up the final touches to my office space, photos will follow. I'll likely still "telecommute" from my computer, which will remain in my flat, but I now have a small space in the resource center that I can call my own and use for individual or small group time with the residents.

Above:
I'll post some pictures soon of the new year and all the hustle and bustle that accompanies it. Until then here is a photo of one of our guys getting a quick haircut so he will be ready for his first day of school. The little guy in the background is ok…he's one of our sillier residents and just playing around. When I snapped this image I had no idea he was on the ground, rolling around like that :)



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2009/2010: The New Year Begins !!!

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I was going to wait until Friday or Saturday, but I had some time to kill, so I thought I'd go ahead and post a short note this evening. Anyway, I am am excited that school resumes Friday so I probably would have been unable to wait…go figure.

The residents are returning and the campus is once again echoing with the sounds of laughter, playing, running, doors slamming, shouting, and at times, crying (Hey, we have around 40 boys here! There is bound to be some conflict at times!). We are welcoming three new residents this season and saying goodbye to a few as well. Unit assignments have changed, some have been promoted to the teen/independent living house, some have just been moved around for other reasons. Change can be difficult as attachments and bonds with house mothers are stretched and broken when residents are reassigned. Change can be difficult when you leave your mother or father and Dar el Awlad becomes your new home.

The residents aren't the only ones experiencing change. House mothers have to say goodbye to those that move on and welcome the new ones. Teachers must adapt to new classrooms and students. New students must learn how to navigate and negotiate a new school (or school for the first time). Residential staff deals with all the stress and change from the bottom up, so everyone is affected in some way.

Thank you so much for your prayers. I look forward to this upcoming year and seeing the results of your current and future prayers. My schedule appears to be rather full now as I am finally starting to meet individually with all students, not just those with special needs or issues. I am also finishing up the final touches to my office space, photos will follow. I'll likely still "telecommute" from my computer, which will remain in my flat, but I now have a small space in the resource center that I can call my own and use for individual or small group time with the residents.

I'll post some pictures soon of the new year and all the hustle and bustle that accompanies it. Until then here is a photo of one of our guys getting a quick haircut so he will be ready for his first day of school. The little guy in the background is ok…he's one of our sillier residents and just playing around. When I snapped this image I had no idea he was on the ground, rolling around like that :)



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Reaching for the Sky

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I can't really remember how many times I've been to the boulder field now. The place is becoming so familiar now that it seems as if I have been going there forever. There are several things I'd like to see change: people cleaning up after themselves (shotgun shells...don't leave them behind!), no thorn bushes and other sharp (and stingy) plants, pine resin on the rocks, and easier access. Since I cannot change any of those and it is likely that there will never be change in any of those areas I am just going to have to cope and accept the undesirable along with the desire to climb.


Climbing at Putt Putt has been great for exercise, practice, and working on projects for the kids, but I needed more. Before coming to Lebanon most of my outdoor climbing experience was limited to scrambling over boulders while hiking and some rather stupid bouldering attempts in Maine (note, it isn't a good idea to free climb the basalt cliffs, especially when they are covered with wet and slimy seaweed). At the end of 2008 I joined a climbing gym in Lynchburg, after taking three skills classes and just spending a ton of time climbing I not only learned a lot about the sport but also about myself. I've learned I am afraid of commitment, that although the hold looks as if it is in reach it I just can't let go of what is safe and secure. I've learned that given a pair of climbing shoes and and the opportunity I will try to climb almost anything. I've learned that the skills I gained in the gym transfer quite well to the great outdoors. I've learned that I am not too much of a risk-taker, though I have my moments. I've learned that I still take pride in my scratches, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and sweat...makes me feel like I've accomplished something. I've also learned that I have improved in my climbing and there is still infinite room for additional growth.

The first attempt at bouldering in Lebanon ended quite poorly, with me becoming dehydrated and stuck in bed for over a day. That first experience was not unlike my first attempt at kayaking with my own boat: 2nd degree sunburn, repetitive stress injury, and dehydration. The results of pushing myself while not being prepared weren't all that attractive and comfortable, I didn't intentionally go out and try to get injured, but they didn't stop me from doing something that I enjoyed. As a result of such a "disastrous" first attempt I learned about my body and what I needed to do differently next time.

There are three main climbing areas at the boulder field. The relative flat field that is first encountered has several challenging slabs and large boulders. The next area is split into two parts and really should involved ropes. At the top of the cliff (looming over the boulder field) a top rope could be placed and there would be some amazing routes for the casual sport climber. Some of the cliff can be climbed fairly easily without ropes, which you need to do if you want to get to the best boulders. The third area is sort of an upper boulder "field", requiring some scrambling and free climbing up the cliff, in fact some of the cracks that allow easy access to the upper boulders are fun in their own way. The rock in this section offers some interesting and technical bouldering problems. The biggest risk I've noticed so far is that some of the rock is loose and crumbles when any substantial weight is placed on. Thankfully the loose rock is easily identified and quite sporadic. Overall the rock in Beit Mary tends to be quite sharp and hard on the fingers. This past Friday when I climbed I developed several cuts and small puncture wounds on my hands, even bleeding once from my fingernails. I am looking forward to getting a crash pad so that tougher problems can be developed and beaten.


Friday was the last time we (myself and two co-workers) went climbing. The rains have started and I am unsure when we'll hit the rock again. It doesn't rain every day from September to April, but it does rain a lot. Hopefully there will be a few days of good climbing weather.



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A Subtle Change of Perspective

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While walking through Souk El Tayeb today with some friends from work it felt like nature was preparing its bounty for the coming season. Fresh hot peppers drying on string, gourds and pumpkins on display, pomegranates being juiced, and tons of fresh bread being sold all made me feel that I was at a county fair somewhere in the US.

Autumn is here in Lebanon, at least it is starting to feel like it. Cooler night temperatures (yay, no fans!), light winds, clouds rolling in from over the mountains during the day, a slight change in the smell of the air, and a sense of expectation, that something good and needed is about to happen. All this describes the coming of Autumn here in Lebanon.

While it feels more like Autumn here in Mansourieh it definitely didn't feel that way down in Beirut. The day temperatures up in the foothills of Eastern Beirut are significantly cooler than the flat and humid floodplain that is Beirut proper. But…the sun, the clouds, and the blue sky still point to the coming of Fall and the end of Summer, preparing the land for much needed rain. With Autumn will come rain and cooler temperatures, which means that produce will change and we'll be eating differently here. What we'll be eating I am not exactly sure. I think the avocados will be ripening soon and kiwi should start being available as well. No matter what comes to the produce stands and markets I am sure that I'll enjoy it, and find something new to sample (note: stay away from unripened dates, just as bad as unripened persimmons, like alum disguised as a fruit!).

If you couldn't get the tone from the post so far I really enjoy Autumn, it is probably my favorite season in general. It will be interesting to see the differences of this season in Lebanon but from what I've witnessed over the last week I think it will be something I enjoy greatly. I've been in Lebanon for every season now, but getting the opportunity to see the changes take place and experience how life adapts is absolutely amazing.

The kids come back soon, we've lost and gained a few over the course of the Summer, but they are coming back! As the staff return from vacations and get ready for "work" there is a developing sense of urgency. Classrooms to prepare, offices to clean, curriculum to fine-tune, and paperwork to finish are just some of tasks we're involved with at the moment. I finally have some office space, which I will start to organize and decorate here soon. I've been getting supplies for sand trays and play therapy recently, so I feel that I am almost ready for the children to come back. At the beginning of the Summer I worked out a rota for meeting each child individually and I need to start working on some group exercises and programming. My arrival in April was strange as I came only a month or two before the children left for the Summer, but it gave me time to watch and learn the children's ways. As they return for this upcoming academic year I have some strategies and goals in mind that I developed from my initial contacts in the Spring.


Well, it has been a long day and I need to get some rest. Just thought I'd share a little news about what is going on currently at the maytam (orphanage). As time allows I think I am going to try to publish a post at least once a week. I will still send out emails and post prayer updates here but this is also a place that I can share about life (and food) here in Lebanon.

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Month Five, what am I still doing here?

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Here I am, beginning my fifth month in Lebanon. Summer is starting to fade away, the days are still full of sunshine and heat but there is a strong sense that Fall is just around the corner and the sun sets earlier each evening. As a result of my earlier travels I've now been in Lebanon for all four seasons but it is exciting now to see how each season changes and makes the transition to the next. The children will be returning soon and life at the maytam (orphanage) will become hectic once again.

The last few weeks I've been climbing a lot on the wall at Putt Putt, staying in shape, working on my skills, and developing some problems and routes that I want the children to try later this year. While climbing I've met two brothers from Iraq, working at the Iraqi television station that rents space from Putt Putt. This morning on the way to church I met a young lady from Qatar. During the last several days I regained contact with an acquaintance from the States that has family here. We have teams that visit us from all over Lebanon and the world, reaching out to the children we serve. The children we teach, care for, and love come from all parts of the region. While we are working and serving locally we are actually involved in something much larger and global in nature.

Twice I've been asked a similar question, once while vacationing and the other while climbing the wall. "Why Lebanon, why not..." (fill in the blank). I cannot argue that there are needy families and children throughout the world. For 10 years I worked with at-risk children and families in the US. Turn on the TV, flip through a newspaper, or check the news online and you will see the devastation that we inflict on each other, on ourselves. I cannot really give an adequate answer to those that ask me, "Why Lebanon?" The best way I can respond, as I remarked in my support letter, is the children. My answer is often followed up with a second question, "but there are needy children all over that need help, why Lebanon?" My answer is that God has placed me here, for this season in my life I am here. God gave me a heart for Lebanon, directed me here, and has allowed me to serve here. When that time is up I know something else will come along. For now, and I don't know if it is for months, years, or decades, I am here in Lebanon.












Lebanon is a country full of contrasts. There is a refugee camp and slum next to the sports arena, brand new high rises are being built next to bullet-riddled ruins. One neighborhood has clean cobblestone streets, the next one over has trash and litter overflowing the rubbish bins and into the street and sidewalk. Muslim suburbs, Christian suburbs. There are two woman walking side by side, one wearing hijab and modest clothing while her friend is wearing a miniskirt and top that leaves nothing to the imagination. The clean and dirty, the poor and wealthy, the Lebanese and the immigrant, the loud and the silent, and the new and the old. I could take up an entire post just describing all the contrasts that exist in this country, all the contrasts that make Lebanon uniquely Lebanon. I've been blessed to have a climbing wall next door to my work and boulder fields that allow hiking and bouldering. There are bookstores, coffee shops, farmers' markets, and street vendors (food) that make this place feel more like home each passing day. The contrast for me is that everything that makes me feel like home generally is not accessible to the families and children I work with. As a co-worker mentioned the other day, it is as if we live two lives. I think I am ok with the contrasts, with the way we have to live here. For all the comforts we have there are days when the electricity doesn't seem to cooperate very well, there are days when the hot water isn't even luke-warm, and there are days when it takes hours on a bus just to travel less than 8 miles. Even though I don't meet the families I work with in all their pains and inconveniences I still am able to know to a degree on what life is like without. Life in Lebanon is both fragile and tenacious. Peace is relative and you never know when the next war or conflict will break out, when the life that has become comfortable will crumble apart and have to be rebuilt. It is tenacious in that even when everything seems bleak the people here are always looking for ways to rebuild and move forward; never giving up, even in the face of war or unrest.

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking of my future, the future of my work here, and of Lebanon. I think that my conclusion is that I am learning to hold onto life and all that it entails loosely. In the big picture I am nothing, but my actions can cause a positive or negative impact in the lives that I encounter. Though I am nothing my deeds will last longer and carry more weight than my life ever will. I am working on being a better steward of the resources that God has blessed me with, especially of time. Arabic, which has plagued me for the past month or two, is becoming more alive to me now, though I still find it easier to read and write than speak. Above all things, I want to live more humbly rather than with pride and arrogance.

While Lebanon might not be a village in central Africa, the slums of India, or a favella in Brazil, there are urgent needs here. The overall attitude of the country seems to be one of striving for more money, more cars, more "bling", and there are large numbers of people here that don't have clean places to live, fresh water, consistent housing, or even an education . Although I think that I could rough it for a while in the bush of the Congo or favellas of Rio de Janeiro I feel that my personality and attitude is designed more for the Levant. Even if I am not sure how I got here God surely does.

"You have your Lebanon and its dilemma. I have my Lebanon and its beauty...You have your Lebanon and its people. I have my Lebanon and its people...You have your Lebanon and I have my Lebanon."
- جبران خليل جبران | K
halil (Kahlil) Gibran

...and in all things we are in God's hands, working, living, and existing through His delight, mercy, grace, and affection.



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Newsletter Update, Summer 2009

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It is finally out! I had to brave crazy traffic today as I made my way to Ras Beirut for some errands and a stop at Costa Coffee. I needed to get away from campus and nothing breaks writer's block like a field trip. Below is a copy of my current newsletter, "hot off the press", in JPG form. I am also attaching a link for the original PDF if you want to print it.




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Open Source Counseling :)

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Today I made a contribution to the Bento template exchange with my contact/counseling notes database design. It hasn't made the listings yet but when it does I'll post a link. Until then you can click here to download it (.zip format). Perhaps you might find this useful if you use the Bento software and don't want to create something like this from scratch. Below is a sample screen shot (w/o real data) on what it looks like.









There weren't a lot of resources out there for database creation for what I do and since I already used Bento for fundraising, prayer support, and other work related tasks I thought that it would be perfect for managing a case load. I hope to tweak it a bit in the future but for the moment it meets my needs. As with anything that is created with Bento it can be easily edited and customized to your specific needs. This template is tailored to my program here in Lebanon but the concept and idea should work anywhere, specific items such as some of the drop down menus and reports would need to be personalized to meet the requirements of another location.

:: EDIT ::
As of August 28, 2009 my submission has made the Bento listings. You can access it by going to http://solutions.filemaker.com/database-templates/detail.jsp?serial=2550335

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Prayer Updates and Misc. Info

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Hey folks...

  • I am still working on my newsletter, I've had some minor setbacks in working on stuff like that as I've been sick for the past few days. After consulting with some doctor friends in the US it appears that I am dealing with a mild case of dysentery. If you have been getting my email prayer requests there have been a few changes in my symptoms over the last day or so. I am now on an antibiotic and making sure I remain (never had an issue though) hydrated.

  • Please pray for one of our students, "H", his sister was killed this week during a family dispute. As of the writing of this post he is unaware of her death. We'll be addressing it with him on Friday.

  • We are currently "losing" one of our house mothers, which isn't really a bad thing. She got married earlier this year and will be leaving us to start a family of her own. While she will be missed we are quite happy for Elizabeth and the journey she and her husband will be making together. We are in the midst of a search to find a new house mother to supervise Elizabeth's unit, a search that hasn't been too successful so far. The children return for the school year at the end of September so we have about a month left to bring a new house mother on board. Please pray that the right woman would be found for this position.

  • I also have a new email address that you might get an occasional email from. It is primarily used for professional correspondences but I might at times (and accidentally) use it to send out updates or other items of information. It be from me (kahlilpfaff) "at" kidsalive.org.


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Climbing Gear So Far

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So, today was day two of testing out some of the new climbing gear (more below) and figuring out some problems for the kids.

While I was on vacation about $300 of the support I needed for climbing gear came in, so I took some time on Saturday and visited the climbing outfitter in Borj Hammoud. I got 3 harnesses, carbabiners, and the Gri Gri...the bulk of what I budgeted for. I still need to get 1 more harness, and one more locking carabiner to make up the minimum equipment. There are some smaller items I'll get as $$ allows, the rope and crash pad are still on the list too.

Saturday I took one of my older residents and tried out the GriGri and new harnesses by letting him climb. After he finished I solo climbed the two routes, self belaying with the GriGri. Today I returned to the wall and climbed the two routes twice, self belaying both times. The 5th time I climbed today was a learning lesson...don't self belay with only an ATC. I was only about 2 meters off the ground when I realized I didn't have control of the rope and my hand was slipping, requiring me to move or get my rope secured (on the 3rd, more difficult route). I tried to pull up the slack (easier on the GriGri) but the ATC's positioning and amount of free rope made this difficult. As my finger slipped off the hold I pushed off so I could clear the wall and land on my feet (hopefully). Not a bad fall but a good reminder that the ATC is a good belay and rappel device, it shouldn't just be used alone...next solo climb will involve the GriGri. I am also learning more knots and safety techniques that will help as I set problems and challenges for the students (the kids have it easy, they're anchored by me...but in order to set the climb up for them I have to be off the ground without a partner at times).

There are three routes on the wall that Putt Putt allows us to use, two of which have ropes on them currently. In all fairness the routes are probably rated 5.7 and 5.6, unsure of the third yet but it looks like it could be a 5.8 or possibly 5.9. After I send the third group of students up the wall I am going to get some tape and flag some new "routes" for them to use, hopefully making the climb more challenging. I may set up some dynos for the kids to try and plan on doing some exercises with blindfolds. If I can get a rope set up on the harder route I think that will provide some challenge for them as well...there are tons of smaller holds and the start is a bit difficult.


Well, I am off to finish the first episode of season 6 of No Reservations and spend some time on the roof later this evening.

*Editorial Comment*
I took a calculated risk using the ATC as described above, as a self belay device...something it clearly isn't. When bouldering in the gym in Virginia I would take falls occasionally from 12-15 feet off the ground...onto the ground with no rope. If the ATC experiment didn't work for me and I fell I was well within my comfort zone and skills-set to take the fall. Had I a real need to go higher than 4-5 meters with the ATC I would have used a backup system of a prusik loop or autoblock...or better yet, have a partner belay me. Don't try this at home and do as I say, not as I do ;)


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Zzzzzzzzz

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Just got back from a brief vacation to Africa to visit some dear friends. Will be updating the blog soon with prayer requests and some more photos. Climbing day #3 for the children is around the corner and the third camp for the summer begins next week when a team from the UK arrives.

As far as current prayer requests please pray for Lebanon. If you've paid any attention to the news lately it is getting a little "warm" here now, rhetoric from Israel and Hizbollah being the concern at the moment. So far there is nothing to be concerned about but the climate can change quickly in this part of the world and prayer never hurts.



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Update to Previous Post

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The table at the bottom breaks down the needs for the climbing supplies I am raising support for, as described in the previous post. It is my hope that I can start purchasing items in August. Although it would be ideal to purchase everything at once I would like to start by purchasing the harnesses, Gris Gris, and carabiners first. The crash pad is likely to be my last purchase, only after getting all the essential gear will I consider purchasing the pad (used for bouldering and working with the smaller children on the stone walls we have here on campus).

One item I don't have listed in the spreadsheet is "The Self Coached Climber", written by the owner of Rise Up Climbing in Lynchburg. I didn't purchase a copy of that book before I left for Beirut and I am now regretting it. If anyone is interested in snagging a copy for me and sending it this way let me know, I would greatly appreciate it (and I think the kids would too once I start working with them on more technical matters and they see themselves improving).

The goal of working with the children on climbing is to help them build confidence, develop teamwork skills, add another physical activity to their "repertoire", and as we move from the climbing wall to the great outdoors help them develop an appreciation for nature and God's creation. There are many activities that can be done in groups that assist the children in working together and building trust and community with one another, doing something like this when you're 20-30 feet off the ground adds an entirely new (and exciting) dimension to learning.

If you are interested in supporting this project financially (it is cheaper to purchase the items here rather than shipping them) click here and let me know. Since the equipment will belong to Dar el-Awlad (Kids Alive International) any financial assistance could be counted as a tax deduction. Thanks for your consideration, I look forward to posting pictures and sharing the success of the children as they reach new heights :)
Item Quantity Cost per Item
(USD)
Total Cost
Total Amount Needed
Gris Gris
1
100
$100
$816.25
Climbing Harness
3
67
$201

Climbing Harness (XS)
1
40
$40

Locking Carabiner
2
20
$40

Regular Carabiner
2
9
$18

Quick Draw
1
27
$27

Sling
1
9.5
$9.5

Rope (per meter)
45
3.25
$146.25

Crash Pad
1
235
$235



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Rising above the challenges set before us...

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This will likely be the only post for July as I am off and traveling next week, will see you all in August...most likely with some amazing photos and stories to share.

Rising Above...
This past Tuesday I had the first chance to take some of the children rock climbing at a local amusement center (Putt Putt), which has a 25'-30' wall they have started to let us use. My previous climbing experience in Lebanon didn't end up so positive (lack of water+heat=dehydration) so I really had my hopes up for this time with the kids. First of all, it felt really good putting on the harness and clipping all the 'biners and belay equipment to it. In addition to the "feel good" moment of "dressing up" for climbing I was about to share this interest of mine with a bunch of children that had never experienced something like this. My overall goal is to use climbing to teach some teamwork skills and build confidence, but the children need to be exposed a little to the climbing wall and know that they are safe with what they're doing. I am starting with the residential students first but hope to expand this to include the school children in the fall.

I took six of the residential students and with the help of two co-workers had them harnessed up and ready to climb. There were mixed levels of success with how high up the wall the students made it but I am extremely proud of the fact they all attempted it and didn't give up when it got difficult. I will take another group on Monday for a couple of hours and see how they do, but if the willingness and success of the first six are any sign then I am quite confident they next few groups I do will excel.

Needs and Prayer for Climbing...
Before I travel next week I hope to draft a letter to some climbing gyms and fellow climbers, asking for support. Please pray that these letters and contacts will provide some much needed equipment for this project. If you are interested in being a sponsor for this project (more information to be posted here soon) please contact me. Unless you live in Lebanon I am going to have to request that the support be financial in nature, getting the equipment shipped here to Lebanon will be expensive and I do have a local outfitter I can get everything from. Putt Putt has generously allowed us to use their wall and have acccess to their equipment, but there may be times when we climb at other sites (away from Mansourieh and formal climbing walls).

Specific Needs and Items:
  • Belay device (Gris-Gris) x 1
  • small/one size fits all harnesses x 4
  • locking carabiners x 4
  • quick draw x 1
  • sling/sling material
  • rope (about 75-80 meters) and storage bag
  • bouldering crash pad (to work with older residents away from the campus and Putt Putt)
The estimated cost for this project is around $700-$800 USD (as of 7/17/09). I will be visiting the outdoor store this weekend to get estimates and see if I can get them to discount the equipment for us.

I will purchase the items as I get the financial resources to do so and if the money is sent via Kids Alive it may also be able to be counted as a charitable contribution and eligible for a tax deduction.


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Adventure, X2

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This really isn't a normal posting, but it does show a slice of my life from this summer. If this is how my summer starts I am wondering how it will end ;)

"Nasty Bits"

The summer break has barely started and I've been on several adventures already. For those of you who know my television viewing habits you know that I absolutely love watching Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations". His humor (he can be a bit rough around the edges, be warned), travel habits, insight into cultures, and openness to new experiences are things that I can relate to and understand...ok, I really need to stress that his sense of humor isn't palatable to all audiences.

I had my first "Bourdain" experience on Monday, when I was out and about in Dora, a suburb of Beirut. There is a small restaurant there called Jabbour, which I discovered about a week ago after church. Last week I learned that they served lamb brains, tongue, and liver. This week I learned there was much more, in addition to the before mentioned items there was also pancreas, birds (more on this item), various raw meats (meant to be eaten uncooked), and possibly lamb testicle. So to end my day of errands I wandered to Jabbour's and had a sandwich of grilled birds. What kind of bird? I really don't know but they seemed about sparrow-sized to me and looked like tiny chickens waiting to be put on a rotisserie. The chef took a skewer of three birds and grilled them over an open flame before squeezing lemon juice on them and wrapping them in pita bread. When eating something like this you have to take into consideration that you eat it ALL as the bones are too small to be picked out. I was proud of myself for two reasons, 1) that I did such a thing and tried something we never have in America and 2) I was able to eat about 2 1/2 of the birds before calling it quits. While the flavor was good, a little gamey and you could taste the lemon juice as well, I found it difficult to stomach the crunch of the bones as I ate my lunch. The texture of the crunch impacted me so much that as I slept last night I could still feel and hear the bones cracking in my mouth. Will I eat this dish again? It is highly unlikely, while food textures normally don't bother me too much I found this experience to be a bit extreme. There is very little information on roasted songbirds in Lebanon but I did find an article on Wikipedia that describes something similar in Cyprus. Even if the taste and texture worked for me I wouldn't take this dish again out of personal convictions. I will go back* in the future as I am open to trying some of the other tidbits, sans sheep brains (health reasons) and roasted songbirds.

* Note, I am not planning on spending the rest of my time in Lebanon finding places to eat sheep offal so for all of you planning on praying for me to come to my senses this is only something I plan on doing once or twice while I am here ;)

"Nasty Bites"

My second adventure was today. Just before my Arabic lesson began I saw a co-worker and her son outside, making a little commotion. As I investigated (aka, I was nosey) I discovered they were trying to catch a snake. From my background in biology, museum and pet store work, and nature/wildlife I am quite comfortable and knowledgeable of snakes in the US. Here in Lebanon I have to admit a lot of ignorance and can only (up until today) identify three species of snake. I had been trying to reach a friend of mine who is a professor at AUB, and a reptile specialist, for a couple of weeks now. I managed to get him today and he told me to come on down and he'd have a look at what we caught.

Into a bag the snake went and both of us were soon riding public transportation to the American University. At this point I didn't know if the snake we had captured was venomous so the bus ride was a bit stressful as I didn't want to hurt the animal but also wanted to make sure that if something did happen I was wasn't responsible for letting a venomous snake loose onto a crowded bus (we arrived safely by the way). The snake in question was mostly harmless, being a Montpellier Snake, which is native to Lebanon and quite a bit of Europe. The specimen we caught today was only about 18" long, but as an adult they can get to about 6-8 feet in length. They are a rear-fanged snake, which means their fangs are set in the back of the mouth and require chewing and effort for them to get the venom (reportedly not too toxic, causes mild discomfort and swelling) into prey. For them to envenomate a person a finger would likely have to be shoved back into the snake's mouth, a general bite wouldn't cause much (if any) concern.

I brought the snake back to Dar el-Awlad, after speaking with the professor on safety, and let it go this afternoon in a quiet place on campus that people don't go to very often. As it slithered away I got to hear it hiss, a sound that seems to be coming from a snake 3-4 times larger than 18 inches! So, how much did I learn today? I learned that we have three vipers in Lebanon, two of which are scattered around the country and one that is isolated in the higher elevations of the mountains in the southern part of the country. I also learned that there are about 12 other snakes here in Lebanon, 2-3 which appear to be rear-fanged (including the Montpellier Snake I caught today). So, the majority of the snakes in Lebanon are SAFE and the ones that are dangerous LOOK like a dangerous snake. I hope to get pictures here soon so I can work with the children and staff here on which ones to avoid or get help if one needs to be relocated somewhere else. Above all I want to make sure the children have a healthy respect for snakes and don't resort to killing them just because they see one on campus, but I also need to ensure the safety of everyone that lives here.

Struggles:
I've had some issues with my computer screen, so I took it to a Mac store here in Beirut and they are able to repair it but it will take about 3 weeks to get the part. Thankfully I have AppleCare and there is minimal cost ($50 for shipping). I'll get a call when the part is in and can keep using my laptop until they need it for the repair.

My cell phone just died on my today. I took it to a local store to see if they could fix it. I am hoping they are able to as I don't want to have to spend the money on getting a replacement phone...I just got this one before I came to Lebanon. If the phone can't be fixed I still have a warranty on it via American Express, but I will have to ship the phone back to America...the shipping costs and being w/o a phone until it is resolved is more than getting a new one. For the time being the cell phone store is letting me borrow one of theirs until mine comes back from the shop. The main inconvenience is that I lost all of my phone numbers and contacts, I didn't have them stored on my SIM card and my last back up is over a month old. The nice thing about having a SIM card is that my number is still the same so calls and SMS to me will still reach me as I can move the SIM card to a new phone as needed.

Praise:
In my travels these past couple of days I was able to see parts of Beirut I hadn't seen much of before, which is something you get when you take public transportation here. While I don't really find it too entertaining to be on a hot bus with my shirt stuck to my skin because of sweat I am thankful that I am seeing more of Beirut and learning my way around. When I eventually do get a vehicle I think I will be able to look back at this time with thanks. If I were to have arrived here back in April and started to drive immediately I don't think that helped me learn what I have learned so far.

Well, I am off to bed. Will send out an email update here in a couple of weeks. As always thanks for your prayers and support.

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Rural Lebanon Perspectives

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On June 14th a missionary group from the US came to Lebanon. The fact that a missions team came to Lebanon is not all that remarkable, we have many different ministries serving in this country and summer is prime time for teams to leave American and come here. What is special about this particular team is that it was sent via Crescent Project, the ministry that introduced me to Lebanon back in 2004. It was quite good to see familiar faces and have the opportunity to serve again with this amazing ministry, especially now that I am more familiar with Beirut.

Sunday, June 21st was more or less a day of rest. Church in the morning and then moving the team to their second “home” here in Lebanon, on the Metn mountain. During the afternoon people slept, ate, rested, and played games, a welcome break from the hectic week that had just experienced. During this time I took a moment to go out to a camp that is adjacent to where the team is staying, so that I could watch the sunset. The view was spectacular and the environment was quite different than what you’d experience in Beirut. Instead of cars honking you heard the occasional dog bark and birds calling. The line of haze and pollution that forms part of the Beirut skyline wasn’t noticeable and you could see a wonderfully blue sky with well defined clouds. The smell of flowers and earth was present while the scent of burnt benzine, oil, and brakes was absent.

Back in 2005 when I was on the roof of ABTS and looking out over Beirut I was reminded of Matthew 5, where Jesus was speaking about salt and light. That was my inspiration for returning to Lebanon so many times. On the evening of June 21st I was reminded of my roof-top experience; as the sun slowly moved westward and the sky darkened the stars began to peek out from the clouds and the lights from the houses in the valley and on the mountainside started to flicker on. Once the sun had set the hill across the valley from me was lit, each speck of light representing a person, family, or business. Different day, different location and environment, but still the same message as before. No matter where we are in the world (or in Lebanon) we are called to be salt and light, letting the presence of Christ be reflected from our lives, a living testimony of God’s grace and presence (2 Cor. 3:16-18; 1 Pet. 2:9; John 3:21).

I don't at all think that I have lost focus since I have been here, the view from Mansourieh at night and working with the children daily are constant reminders of my calling to serve here in Lebanon. The perspective (a refocusing of sorts) that seeing Lebanon from a different mountain provided was a blessing and allowed me to return back to the campus refreshed...great fellowship and ministry with friends as well as being still, something that only the mountains far away from Beirut provide...a break from the frenzy pace of life in urban Lebanon.

Below are some photos taken from Tuesday's sunset in a beach in Jbail (Byblos).


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Two Days in the Life

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Day (night) 1:
Sunset from Metn, looking towards Beirut in the West.







Day 2:
Sports Day at Dar el-Awlad.


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It is amazing...

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1) Hearing a child read

2) How something as simple as a cabinet in the kitchen can make this apartment feel so complete

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Post Election Post

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Yes...I shamelessly borrowed that logo from the Daily Star, but it does lead to their election site for 2009. Things seemed to go well over the weekend and the only disturbance I noticed was some celebratory fireworks and gunfire in the hills nearby. Thanks for your prayers but please keep praying. The overall balance of power is about the same as it was pre-election and as always the political climate here can change quickly.

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Welcome to June, Summer is...

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Here, at least in spirit. It's been quite warm the past week and we've started to break out and use the fans to help keep cool. Just a bit of news, some photos, and a couple of prayer requests for this update.

News:
  • The banquet on May 30th went very well and the boys did amazing in song, serving, and just being all around awesome.
  • School ends very soon for the boys, the 25th is the last day of school and then most of our guys will go home for a while, returning later in the summer for camps.
  • Elections in Lebanon, June 7th (see below for more information).
  • Counseling/Supervision: I have access to a counselor from the UK who is committing to coming to Lebanon once a month/every two months to offer supervision and consulting services to those of us here in the trenches. This is a much needed service and I feel blessed that this opportunity has been presented.

Elections:
Elections for Parliament here in Lebanon are scheduled for June 7th (this Sunday). So far the country has experienced peace and stability leading up to this day, which is quite important on how the balance of power here tips. I am going to skip my commentary on the process for the time being as politics in Lebanon is quite complicated and not being from here I don't fully get the nuances and understand the history leading up to the current political climate. All I am going to do is ask for prayer that this process goes well and that June 7th is a day that the appropriate people get elected, whatever their party or affiliation may be. Here are some links that may shed some light onto how politics operate in Lebanon and how they are similar/different from the U.S. and other countries. Note, I am in no way endorsing a particular candidate or party, the links are for information only:

Prayer Items and Other Things...
I just got a radio for my apartment, so I feel connected to the world a little better and don't have to rely on my computer for my entertainment and music needs as much. I am a little disappointed that there isn't a Christian radio station here in Beirut, oh well. I refuse to get a TV, at least at this point, so the radio is my link to the world...at least outside of Mansourieh ;) Finances also seem to be going well. I have worked with my bank back in Virginia and gotten most of the issues taken care of, though I did open another account at another institution as a backup. If you've never experienced living in another country and culture, finding out you cannot access your bank account trust me, you don't want to.



Adjustment seems to still be going well, the difference between my previous job and this position still causes me to scratch my head sometimes (often) but I am making it. Over the election weekend I hope to catch up and complete my self-assigned task of entering profiles and notes on all the residents. A lot of my time here since I've arrived has involved observing the residents and getting to know them. Occasionally there are moments when it feels I am not doing a lot (yet I still come away tired!), at least as much as I'd like to. I have to remember though that the relationships I am developing now will help me in the summer and fall when the students and residents return. I have started some assessment and counseling of a few children, which is good, but developing an effective way of managing my time between the residents is still lacking somewhat. As in any setting like this when you do something for or with one child there are 10 more begging for the same type of attention. Working with teens and older children made this almost a non-issue, but here, where most of the residents are under the age of 12 this is a constant battle I have yet to develop a winning strategy for. I will send more specific prayer requests in an email update, but as you read through this posting pray as you see fit.

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