Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Victory to compete

31 Dec.

Quick, why does Halloween = Christmas?

OCT 31 = DEC 25

You get some kind of award if you can post, in the comments, correctly the first time, why that is.


I'd recall the year in rapid, vapid outline form, but that doesn't seem to be a fun thing to do.

Suffice to say this year did not happen like I expected it to.

And that's fine. I am, overall, pretty happy with how it has turned out.

We just got back from visiting family in St. Louis. We had a good time. Now we've got shopping, hanging out with friends and family today, not much tomorrow, and then, I go back. I've been rather busy this Christmas, so I haven't really given going back a lot of thought, but when I do think of it, I'm excited. I think that's a good thing.

As for next year?

It's full of... stars.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Not-so-heroic way


I went up to take D out on a date yesterday. We had a truly great time. It's so great to be able to interact outside of the compound. It was wonderful to go walk at night... in December... In a straight line... without guards... say "Hi!" to some random person... off the compound, unconcerned. It was fun. If you haven't noticed over the past few days, I really like spending time with D.

Tomorrow, we are going to visit my uncle's family and grandpa. That will also be a fun time.

I was getting kind of tired whilst I drove back home last night, so I was listening to music (including my new Underoath CD) really loud and singing along really loud and really horribly. I would occasionally roll the window down and stick my hand out, that helped to.

So, I'm a hero in my own not-so-heroic way.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas





Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

Two thousand years.



Started in a rude stable, completed on a rude tree.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What will be said?

I've seen friends, watched movies, told people about my life, played games, refereed basketball, watched basketball and football, read.

I like Christmas break.

We go to McPherson in a few minutes, and I get to see more family! I'm excited.

And I get to see D on Saturday!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We are currently experiencing curling

Kansas, then.

I made it home Friday night around 8:00. My flight out of Chicago was delayed about 3 hours but we got out. Stopped by Grandma and Grandpa's on the way, which was great! Got home, talked with the folks some, did some unpacking, but then went to bed. Woke up Saturday around 4, got up, wrapped presents, goofed off until the basketball games at 8:30.

I had so much fun at the games yesterday. I refereed two of them, then watched the next three. I got to talk to so many people, got to watch the boys play (1-1 Jr. High, high school won! Yay, guys!) and just had a really good time. I am so glad I made my flights, because I would have been a very sad, sad camper if I would have missed the game. Coaching that team is the thing I miss the most from the U.S., and so it was great to get to see the games.

D made it home yesterday, too, after having hassles at the Delhi airport because she had a 'Stan visa (she had to get escorted to her seat on the plane by this Indian security woman.)

So, yes, it is 5:30 A.M. here and yes, I have been awake for an hour, and yes, this is day two awake before 5:00 A.M. Ahh, jetlag.

My older sister gets here today, my younger sister has been here for two weeks.

I get to go hang out with the Asteroid Wrangler and his wife after meeting today, and we're supposed to get to play our traditional game of Supreme Commander. Of course, neither of us have played since last summer (unless you've been getting in some practice games) so I expect it to be pretty rusty, but fun.

Alright, well, I'm about wrote out for now. Coming back to the states is always weird, but usually good. It reminds me of how blessed I am wherever I go.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Verbal Tics

Chicago, then.

I pleaded my way to the front of passport control and security (after transferring to another terminal), only to find out that my flight was delayed for two hours. So I'm sitting on the stairs, blog-updating and emailing my wonderful fam to make sure they know I'm delayed so they didn't sit at the airport forever waiting for me. I had an oreo McFlurry, it was great. I'm hoping that my flight doesn't get delayed too much more than it already has.

There are a ton of military personnel, most of them look like fresh boots, waiting around the airport here waiting to get out also.

I haven't heard from D, which I take as a good sign that she might be making it out a-ok.

I'm in the U.S. Seeing all these white people has been weird.

The inevitable

Frankfurt, then.

The whole transferring from one terminal to another requires going through security. Took me 45 minutes. Not the funnest.

My flight here appears to be on time, and I'm really hoping that pattern holds through.

This airport is odd because most of the signs are in English and German. Instead of the just English or (Dari|Arabic)/English combinations that I'm used to.

I got to see the nearly full moon and the stars over the Black Sea on my last flight. It was pretty. It still makes me want to go be a colonist. The final frontier and all that.

Ok, well, my flight is getting ready to board. I'm confident I'm going to get through (and D is going to get through after me on Saturday) and that we won't get to spend time together in Chicago.

It's time to board. It's time to go home, and look froward to someday soon going Home.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Live the fame

Dubai, then.

I have, in the last 45 minutes, had two donuts (double chocolate and chocolate frosted), a hamburger (from McDonalds - greasy and wondermous), and a chocolate dip cone from Dairy Queen.

This place always makes me vaguely go "Ugh." The consumerism, the crass nature of the commercialism, the large numbers of people... I dislike it, and I'm thinking of starting flying out of somewhere else next time (like with D in Delhi.)

Anyway, one flight down, three to go. I really want all these flights to work out smoothly.

What are our lives built on?

We only waste our lives if we build them on that which we would be fools if it wasn't real and we had no hope.

I'm in the Dubai airport, waiting for the gate to open so I can board. No real problems until here. I hung out with a friend during the flights and then here - we had a good time.

I get on the plane to Frankfurt, then to Chicago, then to Wichita. Please Ask that I don't get snowed in or out of Chicago, because I am going to be a sad camper if I don't get to go to the basketball games on Saturday!

Magnify the father, why bother with something lesser?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nothing lesser

As I get ready to leave here for another trek back to the United States, I think about what this is really accomplishing here. I always do this. I live in a third-world country. In a place where seven years after the U.S. arrival, the city doesn't have reliable power more than a couple hours a day. In a place where security frequently changes our plans. I work at helping educate the next generation, with the goal that maybe soon there will be some hope in this land. That never again will we hear people saying "Inshallah", which means, "Allah Willing", or basically that "Whatever happens happens," with no real plan or vision for the future. That someday, the violence and the killing would stop.

I'm the kind of guy who really likes to see immediate results. And guess what? In this country, in my job, I don't get to. So I really have to learn to just trust, and to take what comes my way from day to day.

So I take things like having to re-plan the dinner outing that my housemates and I were gonna have, and instead of getting upset that we didn't get to go to our first choice, be happy that we found another restaurant that was acceptable to security. I take things like not being able to take D out and instead of getting down, am happy that I even have the chance to take a girl like her out. I take two kindergarteners running up to me during dismissal carline yesterday and giving me a hug, "Bye, Mr. Newcomer!" as really sweet. I take everything under consideration, and see the simple joy that I get given as the substitute for the fulfillment of all my plans.

I head out for the States soon. While there, I get to see friends, family, D, I get to rest, I get to drive wherever I want by myself without signing out or texting the security manager. I get to have fellowship, friendship, renewal. I get to have a date with D. It's easy to forget the lessons of a place like this when I'm in a place like that, but I try to let it all wash over me.

I magnify. I'll not be a casualty.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The glide

The 'Stan, then.

I was going to take D out to eat last night, yes, a date. I had it semi-planned. I told her we were going one place, but then we were going to go somewhere else. (Icon!) It was going to be a really nice time, where we could just eat, talk, maybe forget for a little while we were in the 'Stan, then come back watch a movie or something.


About 3:30, the e-mail comes out. "Due to heightened security concerns, all travel into the city is restricted."

Enter Russ' anger at stupid people.

D was disappointed, too. I tried to get her to look on the bright side of it, that she gets to join an exclusive club of people whose first date got canceled because of security, but I don't think the line was delivered with particularly good timing on my part.

So, we had spaghetti in the dining hall, Wall's ice cream, snickers and oreo wafer cookies, and watched Batman Begins (which we both like) and Ratatoutile (or however you spell it). Low key and not as exciting as getting to go out on a real date, but still good. We talk and tell little stories during the movie, so it's an interactive experience.

Still... life in this town. Sigh. I told D that now she gets to join the club wherein both parties travel halfway around the world so she can have her first date.

Today is a short day, and then tomorrow I fly out. I refuse to acknowledge that it could snow, and I am confident that I'll get out on Thursday, that D will get out on Friday, that I'll make all my flights just fine and will get to see my boys play on Saturday against Manhattan, that D will make it back and we'll get to have our real date whilst in the States.

Anyone else have any tragic first date stories to share?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Human Space Pod

There has been so much that has gone on since I came back here in August, I'd be hard pressed to summarize all of it cohesively or coherently.

Plant the seeds, reclaim victory.

This semester has not gone how I thought it would; there's been a far greater learning curve here this semester than I anticipated. I've had to learn how to really live with people again, I've had to learn how to expect the inconstancy that I face, not just in this uncertain third-world life, but in the vagrant state of my emotions. I've had to grow professionally, and try to embrace wholesale job shift. I've had to gain new alibis for my allies.

So what has been so radically different this year?

Well, starting in October, I'm now living in a house with three other guys, and that is far different than living in my own apartment in my own building. Adjusting to others' schedules, idiosyncrasies, lives, it takes time to someone like me.

Also, having more guys around who I can comfortably and easily interact with takes adjustment.

My job continues to evolve, and I don't think I'm doing the best job responding to that. I need to get better at understanding and trouble shooting our network issues, but I suffer the same problem there that I suffer in many other areas of my life - It's just such a big problem, and I want to understand the course before I even start, and since I don't know where to start, what chunks to break this into, I don't start like I should, and consequently, get behind. I need to get a tutorial book or a something, because this trying to figure stuff out when I need to or the paradigm of just googling random terms and situations isn't working as well as I had hoped it would. Also, I've had to deal with a number of info-sec related issues that I am woefully out of my depth to understand or prepare for, and even if no one else knows, I feel highly inadequate to the task.

I am learning more and more what my abilities are, or maybe I mean what my skills are...? No, that doesn't sound right either. I guess I mean that I am learning what I can and can't do, in an abstract fashion. I'm learning that its doubtful that I'm ever going to get tot he point where I am the 'top dog' in a situation. Most of the time, I'm OK with that, except when something comes along that I just think to myself, "Boy, if I were in charge of that, we wouldn't have that problem." Which is probably true, but we'd have other problems. I'm also learning that some of my worst tendencies are magnified when I try to minimize them, because then others' non-minimization of them (if that makes sense) only heighten my desire to minimize them, and then my recrimination of self when I fail to minimize them adequately in relation to my desire.

Another area where I've really struggled to grow as I think I should this semester has been the area of relationships. I decided pretty early that I was coming back again next year, and I know that one of the things that drives me crazy about the life I've been led to lead is the transitory nature of it all. Meaning that I find myself unconsciously avoiding developing relationships further with people who are leaving at the end of this year. I need to do better at that, but I find myself failing time and time again.

And finally, I've really had to grow this year as a man because of D. We haven't exactly had the smoothest set of developments in our relationship, and I've been particularly guilty of becoming to convinced of my vision of the future, and how I see that fitting with our relationship, and trying to be in the future instead of the present. I know not yet where our relationship is destined, but I know that I'll continue to be glad that we decided to see, instead of just cutting it down before it ever had a chance to grow.

I know I'm growing and not always as I would like, but that as I surrender to that, it gets harder and easier, happier and sadder, less and more, and all these seemingly opposite pictures when I lose myself.

I am part of the army of the far from perfect. The time has come to tear down, rebuild, this world.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Not the patterns.

I am struck here at how it's the simple things that serve as reminders to me. Not the huge things.

It's video-taping a little girls' (ok, and some big girls, too) dance recital, and getting a little sad at the parts of my cousin/sister's lives I'm missing.

It's thinking about how my boys are playing today. (probably right now as I post this) And getting sad that I don't get to have that here.

It's D not feeling terrific but wanting to come hang out with me instead of just laying in her room all night.

It's how I was in hiding, but I've found Someone who I was wishing for all of my life.

It's how days when I just don't know how I'm going to make it through, I am give(n/s) the courage and encouragement to make it through.

It's that I've cried twice today, because I get to see who I am, and how good it is to know that this is not for me.

It's that I know I'll never make it through all on my own.

It's surrender.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

To walk


We've been having meetings, and I haven't posted. Not much really going on. It's getting colder, we've got one more week of school.

Almost all I did yesterday was play Transcendence.

On Wednesday night, we watched Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and the Nativity. D hadn't ever seen Rudolph before, and commented about how weird and disturbing it is through most of it. It really is. Herbie? Herbie's weird. The second movie is also perhaps my favorite Christmas movie. It's just really good.

I really can't think of anything to say.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The road

Oh, to be able to let go of all the drags me down in this world.
To rely on no one but the One who brought me here.
To fly away on wings of patience, faith and truth.
He came, however, came and showed me the way that I had to walk.
He talked, and I listened to the words spoken; where else could I go?
I may not always walk the best, may not always find the way I am to live my life.
But still, I know one above all others.

It gets colder here. We're having a strategic planning week. It's not gone the best for me so far, but I learn and grow anyway.

I am making a video for our staff Holiday party tomorrow night. I got some much needed help with music suggestions from D today while I was working on it, hopefully it turns out well.

I hope to grow. I hope to know.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The sound of rescued ones

I got to play football (soccer) with other teachers and the high school kids today. We adults won. It was fun. I'm going to eat Indian food and watch Galaxy Quest with D and some other friends tonight.

I know emotions don't last forever, but I'm pretty glad with the two reasons my emotions are high these days.

It's smokey, the air quality here is lousy, it's getting colder, the school semester is winding down. There are plenty of reasons to be down, but there are even better reasons to keep my head up, pressing on to know.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The giant of the mound

Ok, you know I follow sports. I have a passion for following certain players. The old Atlanta Big Three, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux have long been among my favorite baseball players. I like old-school, solid, hard working guys. That's why I was pulling for the Celtics in the last finals (Kevin Garnett is the most committed, hardest working modern NBA player, and had toiled with relatively little complaining during some horrible years with the Timberwolves), and why I wanted the Rays to win the series.

This article about Greg Maddux's recently announced retirement shows the kind of athletes that I think we should encourage kids to emulate. Guys like Garnett and Maddux who play, not because they want to make lots of money, bling, a name for themselves, but because they love the game. Maddux could have easily made a couple million pitching this next season. Instead, he walks away because he's done, he's ready to move on, he doesn't want to just milk the system for money. Garnett accepts a trade to the Celtics because he sees a chance to win, even though he knew he wouldn't be the focus of the system in Boston with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce around.

Compare this to Stephon Marbury, who I could almost sympathize with, but I have no patience with someone who refuses or declines to go into a game when his team needs him. Compare this with Plaxico Burress, or Larry Johnson. Compare this to O.J. Simpson. Compare this with the guy who I think is bound to be the best basketball player of this era, LeBron James, whose obvious goal is to be the greatest athlete in the world. LeBron's the only one on this list who I have any kind of respect for, mainly because of how he plays the game (fairly unselfishly).

Read this article about Kerry Collins. Guys like this are the reason that sports should still be played by young men, should still exist to build character. I mean, it's not to say that sports didn't take Collins down the wrong road to start off with, it almost certainly did. And sports didn't necessarily help Collins back on the right road. But a guy like this should be a kids' role model.

Not a Michael Vick or a Vince Young, no matter what their talents on the football field. A Greg Maddux or a Kerry Collins. Those are the guys that should be held up as real role models for kids.

Thanks, Greg Maddux, for showing the sports world how to be a real star.

The company

Today was...

We watched It's a Wonderful Life tonight. And I see more reason why it is.

I really need to be better about being judgmental about people, and be able to reach people where they need me to. I also need to work at being less annoyed with people who don't behave like I want them to.

Today was remarkable for how unremarkable it became. How... good it felt. I have really amazing friends here, and that makes life great. I also got to spend time with D today, and that made me glad. Brings up a whole list of reasons I'm glad, and reasons that I need to work to maintain that gladness.

Today was good.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Impulse control

I watched some football highlights this morning.

Then I went and played Frisbee. I left my guy to try to knock down a long pass, but as I got over there, it was clear I wouldn't get there in time to knock it away from the receiver. As the receiver jumped to get the disc, I thought, "I could totally light this guy up right now."

This is why I play Frisbee.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


We had a six day work week last week, now we get a 3 day weekend. The government decided to make Eid a 7 day holiday instead of 3. So we had to have an extra day of school so we can get our required accreditation days in. It was kind of an odd work day, but OK.

D and I watched the science teacher's kids last night. We watched Veggietales and then played Stratego. We had a good time. They've got a Christmas tree up in their house, it's decorated all nice, it made us feel kind of like we were home. A, the 3 year old, was a little chatty when we put her to bed, so then we closed the door to her room, and she started crying, including crying, "I should stop crying!" It was cute. Then we sat and talked for a while, which was nice.

We mentioned how neither of us are just counting down the days for when we go back to the states, or wherever they are going. A number of our other friends around here are eagerly awaiting going out, reminding everyone how long it is until they get to go home. D and I are looking forward to seeing family and friends at home, but we're not eagerly anticipating leaving. I'm not in a place where I just can't wait to leave. It makes us feel a little different from other people, but that's OK.

I got a neat Thanksgiving card from my Grandma yesterday! It was really neat, thanks Grandma! That was only the second piece of mail other than packages that I've gotten while I've been here, so I'm pretty pumped that I got it! D agrees that I get too intense about life sometimes, so I guess I'm probably going to need to work on taking it day by day a little better. There's still some things I've going to go hard after, though. What's the point of living if I'm just living for myself?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The King

My attitude makes all the difference in whether or not I look to the hills, or whether I look to the depths.

My attitude can infect all of those around me.

If you know what my favorite holiday song is, you also know that I don't like it sung like other people sing it. I sing it slow and deep, like a dirge. I can just imagine a family during the exile burying their patriarch, a faithful man who longed for their sundering from their homeland to end. But more than that, he knew his Wandering to be at an end, for he had met the King. And the song was sung at his funeral, a song of joy and surrender, a song of anticipation and hope, a song of acknowledgment that some was yet to come.

Come to ransom us.

Gears and spinning

Sigh. I'm really frustrated with people's reading comprehension of e-mail right now.

That is all.

I made somebody smile yesterday. It made me happy.