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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reflections on Attachment, Part I

I was both astounded and fascinated by Dr. Johnson’s presentation on the opening night of the Attachment Conference at EMU. Astounded at the scientifically-sound arguments she was making for this relatively new “Emotionally Focused Therapy”, and fascinated by all its implications. By starting out with describing and showing us a video of the Argentinian Tango, an improvised dance, Dr. Johnson prepared her audience for a talk on resonance, emotional bonding versus isolation, the cuddle hormone, sex, and love.

The primary need of all human beings is the desire to hold on to another, to “reach out and connect, to feel with and for others.” This can be seen from the earliest stages of a person’s life, as the “still-face experiment” so vividly portrayed. Not only is this “attaching” a primary need, but an indispensable one, for when a person is insecurely unattached, his body slowly shuts down and literally becomes ill. Johnson gave us the statistics: those who feel emotionally starved are three times more likely to suffer from strokes, heart attacks and become clinically depressed, among other mental and physical problems.

“Emotional isolation is the worst enemy of man,” she says. One feels panic when he’s not experiencing secure bonding, and anguish when rejected. Interestingly enough, both these “feelings” are coded in the same part of the brain that codes for physical pain! In other words, emotional isolation or starvation is more than just feelings – this lack of secure attachment transcends to the very core of our beings, sapping our bodies of energy and causing intense physical and mental anguish.

And try as we might, we cannot - and should not - escape this innate need for secure bonding – it’s wired in, a part of who we are -- “the only thing we get choose is how we deal with it.” We can choose to allow ourselves to communicate, to open up and become vulnerable, to forgive and ask for forgiveness, to come close and to receive; or we can choose to live independently of others, to be distant, uncaring, and unresponsive – but clearly, the latter route is neither fulfilling, pleasant, or healthy.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Monday, June 21, 2010

Some Random Musings

Friday, June 11
First Week’s Lessons:
• So apparently Africa CAN get cold. I wonder why I never really thought of that when I was packing?
• Fleas like to bite. End of story.
• Avocado can go really well in mango-papaya smoothie. All it needs is a touch of fresh lime and a dab of red sticky sweetener.
• Coffee beans. They’re everywhere.
• Red mud does come out of clothes if you scrub hard enough.
• Staple food: a soggy, fermented, ultra-sour dough pancake: Injera – and we all love it! Just not every day.
• Bathroom rule #1: DO NOT throw your toilet paper in the toilet. It gets placed nicely in the bin next to the toilet.
• To greet: simple! Just shake hands and bump shoulders while saying 25 greeting phrases back and forth in rapid succession to make sure that the other person is really doing “fine”.
• Your water heater breaking down makes you reaaaally appreciate the hot water you once had.
• One little ball can eliminate all distinctions: once you’re playing futbol, no one is white or black, male or female, tall or short – everyone’s just having a good time.
• Ethiopians love to please people. Relationships are more important to them than anything else.
• Although hanging out with your fellow missionary buddies is great, becoming friends with the locals is awesome.
• When it comes to internet access and public transportation, just don’t get your hopes up.
• Apparently Africans don’t like to open the car windows when traveling because they are afraid they’ll catch a cold. Never mind the smell and stuffy air inside. Better keep warm. All the time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rusty Skills and Little Friends

Tuesday, June 15
9:00 pm

There’s nothing better than coming back home to Gimbie and taking a nice, coold shower to wash away the filth after another long day of clinic visitations. And sure, it was a long day, but rewarding, nevertheless. The best thing that happened today was our bus breaking down.
Galon and I were on our way to Nekempte to meet with a government official about one of our clinics in town. On our way to Nekempte, our bus got a flat tire or something, because we stop in the middle of the road, with everyone filing out and crowding around the back tire to stare as two young self-appointed “mechanics” take the wheel apart and become all-absorbed in trying to investigate the problem.
In the meantime, Galon and I decide to have some fun with the local kids across the street, so we ask them to bring out their ball and we start playing soccer. So, while waiting for our bus to get fixed (which it never did, by the way – we just ended up getting a ride with another vehicle – ALL of us. In other words, all the bus passengers now had to fit in a 12-passenger van. I am not exaggerating when I say that we must have been more than doubling its carrying capacity!), we played soccer for almost two hours with a bunch of little boys and a small plastic ball. After the sun was getting a bit too hot for us to be running around constantly, we settled under some shade and played a few other games with the kids until we continued on with our journey. That was my favorite part of the day – but let me tell you about YESTERDAY!
Yesterday was just a blast overall. I absolutely loved assisting Dr. Tsagai all morning and afternoon and putting my dental assisting skills from three years ago to some good use. It was great. From now on, I plan on taking every free moment from the office to assist him, because he does need help. Dr. Tsagai has been used to working all by himself most of the time since he hasn’t had anyone to assist him lately, but no dentist can be fully efficient or effective on his own, no matter how good he is. So anyway, after a full day of standing on my feet for the extractions, fillings, and root canals, and sitting in the office working on clinic inventories, I was ready for some vigorous outdoor exercise.
The girls were busy cooking up pasta when I got back home, so I decided I would go on a little jog by myself. Plus, i have been longing to get out and do a bit of “exploring the world” outside of our little Gimbie Hospital Compound. Come to find out, my exploration landed me into some unexpected fun!
I was hiking (literally) up this hill when a couple little boys in their typical tattered shirts caught my attention: it wasn’t their shirts or their presence that caught my attention – it was their BALL. I immediately stopped and almost out of instinct, asked them for the ball and started playing around with it. My dribbling and juggling encouraged them to actually come out and start playing a little game of keep-away with me.
I had started out playing with three or four little kids, but in a few minutes I had about a dozen other little munchkins popping up out of nowhere and joining in on the fun. And what fun we had! Let me tell you, I must have had the biggest smile on my face the entire time I was with them because my mouth was hurting after words. I truly had a blast.
On a side note, the two balls we played with were NOT your typical soccer balls. At first glance I thought the balls must have been made out of rolled up socks, because that’s what it felt like playing with them. But then one of them started falling apart a little and I saw that they were actually cloth material filled up with plastic bags! Incredible!
As it turns out, no skill one possesses ever becomes TOO rusty to be put to some use here in the mission field. Whether medical, dental, or sports-related, it WILL prove useful in one way or another. Plus, if those skills find you ways to make yourself trusty little friends, you’ll find your day WILL be brighter by the end of it all.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Day of Waiting

Less than a week has gone by since I first arrived here at Gimbie, but
I already have a sense of belonging. I had this feeling from my very
first day here at the hospital. There is no doubt in my mind that this
is the work I meant to do and the life I meant to live. Although
hardships definitely exist and the comforts of life are far from the
likeness of the ones at home, I am very happy here. I have a lot to
look forward to, from accomplishing the tasks and fulfilling the
responsibilities that I came for, to learning more about the Ethiopian
culture, and developing a deeper knowledge of God and the work that He
gave us to do in third world countries. Much awaits me in these couple
of months. I can’t wait to discover it all!

Monday, June 7

Guliso Town, Gas Station
4:00 pm

From the moment I woke up this morning I have been occupied

with…waiting. First, I wait for my Johannes, my translator and
companion, to arrive at the hospital’s entrance like we had arranged
in order to visit the clinics today. I am still a bit hungry and
sleepy from waking up early to meet with him and catch the morning
bus. But no worries – he does arrive, at last, and with all good
intentions, is pretty oblivious of his tardiness.
We walk into town, where I am met by many stares and yells of
“farangi” (foreigner). We jump into a minibus which takes us to Inango
where the first clinic is located. Once I finish “touring” the small,
two-bed clinic and get the staff signatures that I need for the ADRA
reports, we walk to a nearby shop…and wait. In the meantime, the
clinic’s head nurse and lab technician join us and order their
breakfast – tea and white bread.
The rain is really coming down now in buckets. After making small talk
with the men, they resume to talking Aramefa amongst themselves, so I
am left once again to sit, and wait. A bus finally comes by and we
signal it to stop. The doors open and I look inside. All I see is
people – packed in like sardines. But that is totally fine with me,
because I’d rather be a stacked sardine headed somewhere than a cold
and wet sardine waiting endlessly by the side of the road.
We’re off again. But of course, not without stares and jokes and
laughs all around me – AT me, but in a language I cannot understand. I
guess during times like these I am glad I don’t know the language. All
I am obliged to do is smile and then resume to stare out the window.
Our next stop is at Dalati Clinic – an even smaller clinic, in an
even smaller village. The head nurse and lab technician here are very
nice. They aren’t shy to inform me, however, that they are in dire
need. The building needs some repair, as its windows are broken and
the wall paint is peeling off. The clinic is also in need of chairs,
(as it only has one, and it’s broken), beds (also only has one), a
stretcher, and repairs to the sign, fence, and outhouse.
I leave with the promise that I will do my best to meet their
requests and obtain the much-needed funds from the relief agency to
complete these projects. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last
time that I find myself making such promises.
By now it’s midmorning and my stomach is already beginning to growl.
We hide from the ride under a shelter by the road and wait yet again.
After I doze off half a dozen times, we happen to get picked up by an
NGO pickup truck. Its passenger, a doctor, recognizes Johannes and
tells the driver to stop. I am so happy for the ride! I am able to
have a very interesting conversation with my new doctor friend as
well, as he tells me about his project of alleviating HIV rates in
Ethiopia’s rural villages by supplying the infected persons with
antiviral medications.
Our third and final stop is at Guliso Clinic. Here I see patients in
the waiting room for the first time today. Apparently, since the
country is in rainy season, and the people have already harvested and
sold their crops, they don’t have enough money left over to carry them
through this part of the year. In other words, even if the people are
ill, most will not come to the clinics because they cannot afford the
$2-7 of the visit and medications. Still, some do come since the
clinics have a charity fund for those that really can’t afford the
At Guliso I also see the small water pump that has recently been
installed as part of the ADRA grant. I wash off some of the mud and
dirt that has been accumulating on my feet and sandals, knowing that
this little source of running water is of no doubt very beneficial for
the clinic.
After taking some pictures of the place and saying goodbye to the
head nurse, we head up the dirt road into town to get something to
eat. On the way, I am again met by dozens of little kids yelling
“farangi” and moms, dads, uncles, aunts, and grandparents coming out
of their huts to see the strange white foreigner. Some follow us while
repeating the one or two English words they happen to know. At times
these sorts of experiences are a bit unnerving and I find myself
wishing that I could blend in a little more with my surroundings.
We finally arrive at a little restaurant for lunch and get our fill
of injera and shiro. While we’re eating, I see another farangi
stopping in for lunch. My curiosity gets the best of me and I find
myself almost staring at the white German lady that speaks Aramefa. I
hadn’t seen a white person all day and now I laugh at myself as I
realize that I have become almost just like the Ethiopians – curious
and a bit inquisitive at the peculiar sight of a tall, pale-skinned
and brown-haired lady. [Later on I will have sat down with Ms. Crystal
for tea, and will have listened to her telling me about an interesting
disease of the foot, podoconosiosis, which affects 5% of the
population - more than HIV does. She will have shown me pictures of
terribly disfigured feet and toes and explain that the treatment is
quite simple – “hygiene and shoes.” Apparently the infection comes as
a result of people walking barefoot in dirt contaminated with volcanic
minerals. I’m always wearing shoes from now on!]
Anyway, now it is 5:00 and I have been waiting here at a “gas
station” by the side of the road since lunch. I am told that we most
likely may have to spend the night here in town since there has been
absolutely no vehicle going back in our direction since early morning.
I did obtain some vigorous training on waiting during my six months in
Guyana, but this is definitely beyond the ultra laid-back ways of the
Caribbean. At least there you may be able to do something about the
situation – swim, catch a boat, a taxi in town, or something. But
here…there’s not much one can do. I did suggest to Johannes walking
back to Gimbie but all I got was a smile; “It will take us three
days,” he says. So I smile back. I smile, for that’s all I can do.
Smile. And wait.

{Epilogue: Anca and Johannes were able to arrive back home safely that

evening. One of those infamous “sardine-packed” buses stopped by the
gas station at 7:30 and picked up what seemed like hundreds of
passengers, including Anca and her companion. After two hours of
squished, smelly, loud and boisterous bus riding, Anca felt much
relieved to open the door to her room and crash on her bed. The
waiting was over.}

On Flight to Ethiopia

Thursday, June 3, 2010
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Three things never cease to intrigue me: accents, twins, and beauty
perceptions. I will skip explaining the first two, but the third
cannot go unmentioned. I have seen and observed many different people
in these past three days of traveling, but my greatest fascination
rests on two striking individuals that crossed my path yesterday.
The time had finally come for us passengers to board the plane which
would us to Addis Ababa the following morning. While waiting in line,
I couldn’t help but overhear a big argument taking place at the
departure gate. I looked over and was a little surprised at who it was
that was arguing. I thought it couldn’t be, but here she was – the
young, pretty, well-dressed airline cashier whom I had seen before at
the check-in counter. Now she was yelling at a poor passenger who had
misunderstood the weight allowance of his carry-ons. After that little
issue was taken care of, and we were now making our way inside the
plane, Ms. Pretty and Rude kept coming in and out of the line, making
it apparent to all of us how stressed, annoyed, and upset she was
feeling while directing one passenger after another to do this or
that. I had initially looked at her and thought she was a beautiful
lady. My perception of her beauty immediately changed when I heard her
angry words and saw her rude gestures. What a shame.
My next surprise awaited me a couple minutes later when I entered the
airplane and spotted my seat from a distance. “Oh great,” I thought,
“I don’t want to sit there!.” Not only was my seat in the middle of
the row again, but I had to sit next to a man that gave me unusual
feelings of repulsion. You see, this man’s face was a bit…disfigured.
He looked scary and mean. Nevertheless, that’s whom I was destined to
sit next to for the following eight hours so I decided to make the
best of the situation.
I made my way to my seat, sat down, and tried my best to be nice and
polite, even though I did not feel like making any sort of
conversation. I was exhausted from spending the previous day walking
all over London, airports, trains, and buses with a heavy backpack and
with very little sleep from my previous overnight flight. After some
time, however, we struck a conversation. When I briefly told him where
I was headed and what I would be doing, he asked me if I was a
Christian. Then, this “ugly” gentleman proceeded to tell me the most
beautiful story of his conversion.
His disfigured face and skin was a result of his ex-girlfriend
pouring boiling hot oil over his body while he was sleeping one night.
My heart sunk at the thought that somebody could do such a terrible
thing. I felt anger and sudden pity because of the atrocities that
this man had gone through. My feelings, however, were greatly
contrasted by his – I saw no bitterness or resentment in him. He spoke
kindly and even was excusing his ex-girlfriend’s actions, dismissing
them by saying that it was the Devil who made her do it. Soon I found
myself spell-bound by the incredible testimony of Cosmen. He proceeded
to tell me that while he was on life-support for ten days following
“the accident”, he had a vision. He was taken up to heaven by two
angels, where he met Jesus and God the Father, who didn’t allow Cosmen
to see His face. He saw a throne room where there were many chairs,
but some were empty. He described to me in detail the streets of gold
and his encounter with God.
He explained that before the accident he didn’t believe in God.
During the vision, though, he knew he had been running away from the
very One that loved him. Then, when God “sent him back to earth” in
the vision, and told him to tell others about his experience and
dream, he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to leave his Lord’s presence.
But he had to come back and tell the world. When he woke up, he was in
the hospital room when they were about to take him off life-support
and let him die. But he didn’t die. He lives and to this day he
testifies of the wonderful love and mercy of God to anyone that’s
willing to listen. He gets lots of invitations to speak in churches
and share his story.
Cosmen is one of the most humble, peaceful, and sincere Christians I
have ever met. His experience is genuine and although he admits that
he doesn’t know everything, he continues to grow and study the Bible
in order to know God better.
My tiredness wore off for a while after this, and we were soon engaged
in a little Bible study! I tried to answer his questions about the
Mark of the Beast and Revelation 13. We touched on Hebrews and how to
increase our faith. We shared Bible verses that have encouraged us to
share our faith with other people. I showed him the couple of books I
had with me that had tremendously helped me in my walk with God and he
was so interested that he promise me when he gets back home he will
buy the Great Controversy, Desire of Ages, and Studying Together by
Mark Finley. After a few hours of talking and sharing, my repulsion
toward this man had turned to deep admiration and even attraction
towards his character.
So this is when I realized that our perceptions of beautiful people
can be so terribly skewed sometimes. One lady had it on the outside,
but when she opened her mouth her inward ugly scars resurfaced. As for
Cosmen, his outward ugly scars was what had made him beautiful on the
inside. Lord, may I never be quick to judge a person’s worth and
beauty by what my eyes first behold. Help me to be beautiful on the
inside. Because after all, that’s what really counts!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yet Another Try

So let's give blogger another go-around. Maybe i will keep up with posting, if i have some reassurance that somebody - anybody, will read and be blessed.
In short, since coming back home from Guyana, i have been keeping busy with family duties, seeing friends, getting back involved in my church, taking summer classes, assisting and shadowing an ENT doctor, and most recently, going canvassing.
This summer i took the plunge, and decided that if i could go door-to-door in a group, what would stop me from going alone? After all, i am not completely alone. The attitude definitely has to be there, to not allow anything to get you discouraged; but you take the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and have your feet shod with the gospel of peace, and you're set! The Lord has been truly blessing my humble efforts.
You see, i have been learning that the missionary field does not exist solely still is wanting in my very own "backyard."