Miniature Mission Field

I’ll finish the story of the meal this weekend. But I wanted to share a picture in the meantime. I took this last night of Asmita and her siblings while they sat on our futon and watched a movie on Molly’s computer. Nepali movies are interesting…I think the main male character is kind of creepy looking, and he seems to play with the girl’s hearts a lot. But that manipulation, as far as I can tell, is almost celebrated in the movie. Of course, amidst the high pitched whining (commonly mistaken for singing), I’m never entirely sure what’s going on in a Nepali movie; so my judgement could be completely wrong.

Either way, I would just like to say that despite sometimes complaining about the children who are perpetually in our house, I do love that they are comfortable to come in without knocking and just plop down after snagging an ice cube from the fridge. I was trying to describe this place to someone recently and the best I could do was to say it’s an oversized culturally mixed up village. In the middle of Denver, it’s like a tiny mission field.

Asmita (white) and the boys

Bansha Mo Toi Cha [making curry]

Last Wednesday was a long day. Actually, most of my life is full of long days lately. They aren’t bad, they are usually quite good. But they are long. Today I was up before seven and I don’t anticipate going to bed before 11. Sunday I was up at 645 and in bed around 1am. They are full of exciting adventures, random errands and convoluted schedules. Today I have been at Guitar Center, REI, Michael’s, the Apple Store, the Morris Foundation and the coffee shop. It’s only 340. But I digress. Today is full of adventures and errands from being a personal assistant.

Last Wednesday was full of adventures from living among the refugees.

After the car accident, while I was holding Genesa (the one who thinks my futon is a trampoline) a woman gestured to me to follow her. I had seen her once or twice, but I just didn’t know who she was. I figured she was Nepali from the way she was dressed and the fact that she was able to communicate with the four year old in my arms who can hardly speak any English. Later that night, I would shove Genesa out the door of my apartment yelling Hoodaina! and lock it behind her. But she was being cute for a change and so I didn’t mind holding her. I must have looked confused and Locksme must have noticed because she took my hand and translated in the parking lot where we stood amidst the wreckage of five cars. “She wants you to go with her,” Locksme said. Well, I’m not the kind to shy away and I’m so worried about cultural sensitivity that I didn’t argue with her, but asked Locksme to come along to help with speaking and followed the woman back into the inner courtyard.

She took me into her apartment, motioned for me to sit on a couch that faced a tv placed beside a rather tall full size bed that sat under a handful of family pictures printed from a home computer. There was a small table in the knook with a few chairs around it that matched tolerably well. The floor was dirty but we kicked off our sandals and took a sit while the woman chattered with Locksme and I played with Genesa. A few minutes into the conversation and eventual meal, Locksme informed me that the woman in the kitchen was Genesa’s mother. I almost gasped. How could she be a mother of a child so young? She has wrinkles and tough hands, her eyes are full of laughter and her lower jaw is missing teeth. She looks weathered and ancient, though strong and resilient. How much more was my surprise when this woman who I took to be a grandmother eventually nursed an infant that evening!

People wandered in and out of the house as I ate a pear, banana, rice and cupcake. Genesa was climbing all over the furniture, I understand now why she finds it so amusing to scramble our chairs and futon like she’s scrambling a class four fourteener on a midsummer’s day. I was bouncing the baby on my knees and chucking him under the chin till he giggled. Locksme, of course, was yelling in that raspy high pitched voice that she uses in her precocious, demanding way and Genesa’s mother responded in a tone just as loud, just as imposing. Except when she spoke to me, then her voice was softer and the finger didn’t waggle in my face, and she smiled more often while bobbing her head up and down.

I ate for a little while until Genesa’s mother wandered outside for some reason unbeknownst to me. At that point, I shoved the last of the food in my mouth (as I would do in Hispanic culture) and beat it to the door. Molly might be wondering where I was, and we had agreed to do dinner together that night (having finally made our schedules work)–I wanted to get home.

Genesa and Locksme followed. Soon after them came Asmita and Anjana. When they found out I was making dinner, Asmita gave me her wide eyed hopeful smile that says she wants something. Usually, it’s a ring or bracelet she’s found in my room. But this time, it was my kitchen. “We teach you to make Nepali food?” she said in that high pitched whine I’m coming to expect from Nepali women. I think that was when Ram sprinted in the door, probably followed by his little brother Sagr, whose shoes clip clop across the breezeway because they are three sizes too large. But when they were informed that our plan was to cook they soon disappeared.

So we made Nepali food. Delicious. It took forever because the girls kept having to run to their homes and bring ingredients. Things like bright orange curry powder scooped and tied into the center of a grocery bag. Or the chiles that they brought to chop into the tomatoes. We cooked for two adults and about five children in two small frying pans. There were so many little feet in my “two-butt-kitchen” we could hardly move. It was like the room itself was crawling and alive with activity (and not the kind of life that I come home to late at night when the roaches have ventured out into the dark). It was pretty fantastic to learn cooking from a 9 year old and be instructed in chopping by a 10 year old. And then it was great to sit on our floor (as we didn’t have enough chairs) and eat with all the children, while Baba came in and collapsed in that nasty orange yellow chair with his chin cupped in the palms of his hands while he contemplated the car insurance and damage done to his vehicle.

Genesa had been kicked out when she started hitting people with one of our dowel rods. She and Ankita whined from outside the windows but I wasn’t letting them back in. Is that bad? Sometimes, the little ones are such a hassle and they cause such arguments that it makes the most sense to throw them out onto the breezeway after a good tickle fest and not let them come back.

But Genesa had left her Maria Cookies on the table at my house. So, after we cleaned up, I grabbed Locksme again to help translate and we headed down to the first floor corner apartment. Just to return the cookies.

I’m an MK.

I should have known better.

I held out the cookies to Genesa’s mother as Locksme explained the situation. But suddenly, this was more than a cookie-return. I was invited inside. In fact, I was practically dragged inside as Genesa came bouncing over and the two men on the couch moved to make space, shoved the table aside and motioned for me to sit. “Come, coooome!” Locksme said, waving me in. And if you’ve ever heard her shouting, commanding voice, you would know I couldn’t have said no…

Nepali Bansha Mo Toi Cha

I think that’s what we were taught to say tonight over dinner. Nepali food is very good. This week has been full of adventures in our little community. I’d love to sit you down and tell you about all of them, but there just isn’t time for it all tonight since tomorrow I’m getting up to watch the sunrise.

I think the best one to start with began on Wednesday evening when Molly and I were both running late for our dinner together. We’ve been trying to combine our schedules to make this dinner happen and finally, Wednesday seemed to work. Of course, I was late coming home from research where the wireless is plentiful and the coffee flows quite expensively (aka: Solid Grounds). She rode her bike to work, got a flat and experienced something of a disaster when having her hair coloured. It’s not disastrous. It just seems that hte man didn’t understand the concept of going back to her natural, and thought “sun-kissed” while not in the plan, would be more to her liking.

So we arrived and had just started decompressing when the girls invaded the apartment shouting that five cars were broken! I thought they meant broken into, given the side of town we live in. I was disappointed by the thought, I’ve been banking on this being a “safe” -ish side of this part of town. And then, suddenly, I found myself being pulled outside towards the back end of the parking lot. Genesa was climbing all over me, so I finally picked her up (it’s the only means of controlling her) and came around the corner of the corridor leading outside to discover a five car accident in the parking lot.

Apparently a Somali man was teaching his wife to drive. Apparently he was teaching her to drive in a parking lot full of parked cars. Apparently he wasn’t clear on the gas versus the brakes.

They say she was startled and pushed the wrong pedal. They say she slammed into a car belonging to our friend. They say it was squeezed in snugly between two other cars.

That, of course, was before it was shoved into the tree. That was before the van driven by the Somali’s wife found itself halfway into that parking spot. That, of course, was before the car on the left smacked into another car when its bumper was wrench and twisted and shoved. That was before the crash and the screeching and the screaming and the shattering.

And then she was frightened, and she ran inside. And then the Somali tried to take credit for what had gone wrong. And then someone called him on it. And then we appeared in the middle of the crowd that soon grew to hold every single person in the apartment complex.

In America, we usually don’t allow people into the scene of the accident. We push the kids away, we call the police and we let insurance settle the matter. Not so in this apartment complex. I walked on bits of broken bumpers and shards of glass from tail lights and bulbs. I carried a four year old in my arms while a nine year old oo-ed and aahh-ed over the wreckage with me. Molls came out and translated (or helped) when the cops arrive.

This is sure to be a hot mess. The Somali hit a Bhutanese/Nepali and a Congolese. It’s a twisted mess of cultures and languages, not to mention insurance agencies. I talked with one man who doesn’t know how he’ll pay for anything to be fixed. Baba shook his head and cradled his chin in his hands while he sat in that nasty mustard yellow chair perched in the corner of our living room.

We came back inside, eventually, and perhaps that is where the real story begins.

But I’m getting up for the sunrise tomorrow. So you’ll have to tune in again later to hear about the three meals on Wednesday night and the debate about whether it was feathers or feet that I was fed….the jury is still out. (and honestly, they may never return)

provision

I have three jobs right now and may pick up another. Right now I hold such various positions as:

Research Assistant
Childcare Supervisor
Writer of a children’s novel

Yeah. God’s providing. It’s sort of uncomfortable. But it’s sort of the best thing ever. I told a friend recently that I have an expiration date coming up: December.* It’s when I run out of money (of what I have now, on hand). But God is providing so many different things…It’s crazy to watch. The only way I’m still afloat is the grace and provision of God. It’s terrifying. But it’s awesome becuase I am really learning to trust Him for everything. And I mean, everything.

Why O Soul are you downcast within me? Are you not worth more than the sparrows?

________________

*Of course, December is a perfect expiration date considering that the world ends in January 2012.

the Jesus Fish

I was cut off in traffic by someone recently who had “Jesus Christ” painted on his rear bumper. Ethan and I debated whether or not it was his general expletive when frustrated or if it was for people to be aware that he is a follower of the god-man named Jesus. Was that a “hey lady, just wanted you to see that I love Jesus and hear that you probably should too!” Or was it something more like “Hey! When you scream and curse that I’ve just cut you off, I want you to know I’m empathizing with you!” Honestly, I’m just not really sure.

Recently I was in a coffee shop visiting a friend at work and after an overwhelming day my friend and I decided to help him close down. He was sort of dismissive about our help with closing tasks. Those ladies upstairs, he said, they’ll be here until 920, and they wont move the tables back to where they go. So it’s not like I can be out of here any earlier than at least 930. I asked if it would help if I told them “we” were closing. He shook his head. It was a bad idea, he insisted, because they attend the church which owns the coffee shop and they might report back. But, I tried to protest, you aren’t supposed to have to be here that late. Especially not when you open tomorrow! I finally took matters in my own hands and wiped down tables in the back room at which point one of them said in a shrill voice to her friends “oh, do you think they’re like, trying to hint that they’re closing in like five minutes? Maybe?” Yeah. I’m sure Jesus was passive aggressive too, I thought when I shoved those tables back into order and rearranged the chairs. Mhm, he was like “oh, do you think that maybe the Pharisees are kind of like terrible people? But we wouldn’t want to say it to their face…even though I’m the Son of God and I have the authority and the right to say something. Wouldn’t want to say it directly. That might hurt their feelings. And I’m all about not hurting their feeeeeelings.”

At another coffee shop I recently watched a Christian owner lecture one of her employees for trying to give a homeless man a cup of coffee. I found this almost impossible to believe. I was once offered a job at this shop and the reason was because I seemed to “align” with their ideas that the purpose of a Christian coffee house is to provide a safe environment for people to connect and hopefully someday hear about God by building relationships with the baristas and owners. But you refuse a man a cup of coffee, though he has no home and it will only cost you ten 0r fifteen cents of profit? Yeah. Because Jesus is like the American Capitalist Dream that says the more you squeeze out of the man who is out of work the more you’ll be successful monetarily! And that’s what really matters! Yeah!

I”m not always sure what it means to be a Christian. But based on these people, I don’t want to be one. I don’t want to be the woman who stares blankly at me when I ask her what it means to submit to her husband. I don’t want to be the homeschool type who are afraid of their parents experiencing the world. And I don’t want to be the people who look at me with eyes wide as saucers when I tell them where I’m living. After all, I’m stubborn. But mostly I just don’t like people looking at me like I’m crazy.

Though, maybe…maybe I’m the one out of line. After all, it’s not like Jesus promised to protect us or to go into dark places with us. And it’s not like the blood of the saints hasn’t been the fodder and ground for the growth of the church. And it’s not like he calls us to go to hard spots and unsafe regions.

Naw. Let’s not be silly!

He just wants you to slap a Jesus fish on the back of your car so when you cut off the stranger in the next lane, at least he knows you did it with the best of intentions.