Monday, December 12, 2016


Right this minute I'm in Frankfurt, on my way back to Colombia after almost 2 weeks in central Java. It has been an amazing trip, not least because of my "entourage" - three young people who accompanied me throughout. The purpose of this trip was to interview people about our youth exchange programs, I think I talked with close to 100 people, and ate mounds of amazing food. 

Soto, cooked before our eyes in a street-side cart diner

2/3 of my Entourage! in yellow, Stephannie my interpreter and handler; in white next to her, Anielle my PR rep and agent. Not pictured: Alan the driver! This is at the Soto food stand

One night we stayed with a pastor and his wife at what they call the “pond house” – our only homestay on this trip – and there were so. Many. Critters! What you might expect from a pond house… to get there we drove and drove and drove on little country lanes with rice paddies stretching out all around on all sides and views of spectacularly pointy mountains around every bend. Little villages with elaborate tiled mosques and fish markets. We got lost and had to ask directions several times. The roads were narrow and bumpy. When we found the house the pastor and wife were waiting on a covered verandah waiting with hot jasmine tea and fried tempeh snacks, wearing matching batik button-down shirts. Behind the house was a 7-hectare fish pond (yes, it was enormous). This was the only place I stayed on the trip where there was no A/C and no Internet, it was kind of refreshing… but also got really hot!

The pond behind the pond house!
 When we went to bed, I saw about a thousand mosquitos on the ceiling around the light but Stephannie said they weren’t mosquitos. I put on a ton of repellent anyway. Then an enormous flying cockroach buzzed around the room. Stephanie killed it and then found another and killed that one too. The next morning while interviewing the pastor I saw a centipede on the floor. But it was so nice sitting on the bed for the better part of the day with my puffy feet up, the floor fan slowly rotating, looking out over the pond while my clothes dried in the sun and I typed up interview notes.

The bathroom system here is different. Every bathroom has a tiled water tank in one corner, with a spigot and a plastic dipper (about 2 liters size). There may be a squat toilet, what Albanians call Turkish style, or a regular sit toilet, but there is always a hose with a spray nozzle for washing your butt. What I can’t figure is how you are supposed to dry your butt after washing? There is never any toilet paper. The proper thing is to bathe twice a day, morning and evening, using cold water dipped out of the tank. Despite the poshness of the hotels, in only two of them has there been truly hot water for showering. (You know how I love my hot showers…)

 I feel like my body odor has changed from all the spices in the food.

Fried frog legs! I also had them in the soup version which was delicious. Add enough garlic, lemongrass, and spices and anything tastes amazing!
After a dozen of these lunches I think I gained at least 10 lbs on this trip:

beautiful countryside. It also rained every day.

This Christmas tree was made entirely out of plastic water bottles and cups cut into flower shapes!
It was a really amazing opportunity to see this country and meet so many people. Sadly the only phrase in Bahasa Indonesian that I really learned was "Terima kasih," which means "thank you." But I sure got to say it a lot :-)

Thursday, October 06, 2016

and this one is not (but I'm with her)

I knit the shorter sock first, and then realized the leg should be longer. But to make it longer I'd have to undo the entire foot. So instead, I made the second sock the length I want and now I'm knitting a third sock to match the second. If I have enough yarn, I'll make a fourth sock to match the first. Otherwise... well, either I'll have a single sock for a one-footed size 9.5 (women's - size 40 in Latin America) or I'll have to rip it out.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

This post is political

I don't normally do this, but only an ogre turned to stone by the morning light could fail to feel something after Sunday's plebiscite vote to reject the peace accords. 

A few weeks ago, we went as a family to a musical event organized by our kids' school. The second part of the show was organized by the school's music teacher, Oscar, whom my kids adore. Terry and I were rapt - the collection of songs were an incisive, clever, and heartfelt commentary on Colombia, in that particular intersection of politics and culture that we both find so fascinating. It was so good. 

The video embedded below is a small sample, a song about militarization that ends with a vision of the hopes and dreams of all people for a decent life. 

On Sunday, I watched people going to Corferias (a large expo center across the street) to vote all day long, even running in at the last minute before polls closed at 4. I was shocked ten minutes later, watching a live feed of the vote counting, to see how narrowly the Yes vote was leading. Every ten minutes a new update showed the gap closing, until 5:00 in the afternoon when it became clear that the No vote had pulled ahead. Honestly, I was stunned, and my eyes were not dry.

It seems like this turn of events was completely unexpected, by everyone; even the opposition had no plan to put forward on Monday when the president asked for a meeting and sent his negotiators back to Havana.

Here is a sample of analysis that I've been reading (as of right now there is still no news on today's meetings between the president and opposition):

Ginny Bouvier, from the U.S. Institute for Peace: Why Did Colombia's Plebiscite for Peace Fail?

Something I'm still trying to get a bead on - how significant was the No vote from churches (Catholic and Protestant)? An article from BBC in Spanish: El Rol de las Iglesias Evangélicas en la Victoria del No.

From a peace church perspective, Michael Joseph gives a synopsis of the ins and outs of what happened and what lies ahead.

There are many more op-eds coming out these days, here's one from the New Yorker with a lot of "I was there" detail from the day of the signing.

This afternoon, university students are planning a silent march through the center of the city, evoking past marches in grief over the violence that has torn this country apart for so long.

(probably more like 7 million)
For now, trying to understand, and thinking about how to contribute my grain of sand within my small sphere of influence here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

quick update

So much is happening right now ~ My sister is here! First and probably last visit to us here in Colombia. It's been so nice to talk and talk, and she's teaching my kids finger knitting, and organizing all my books and yarn.

Presumably the peace accords between the Colombian government and the FARC will be signed tomorrow, ushering in a new era of nobody is quite sure what. There will be a plebiscite next week for the nation to affirm or not affirm the signed agreement, which has been made public in its entire 300+ pages. There are "Vote Sí por la Paz" signs all over the city, yet every "man-on-the-street" that I ask (mostly taxi drivers) are highly skeptical.

Six years ago this month we moved to Albania. I still miss it... though not as acutely as I did a few years ago.

So much more happening, not all of it bloggable... but mostly good things :-) The kids are doing well, headed into the last quarter of this school year and looking forward to Halloween!

Monday, September 05, 2016

Good things, September edition

One of my favorite things in life is working with intercultural young people. Or, in this case, young people in the process of becoming (more) intercultural. It is such a huge leap of faith for this crew of six (waiting for one more to get his visa and come from China) to have traveled so far outside of their comfort zone, and come to Colombia - from Mozambique, India, Indonesia, China, the United States, and South Africa. The past two weeks have been an intense but wonderful time working with them in their in-country orientation, learning about Colombian history, politics, and churches, as well as a host of topics specific to the work they will be doing here. I have been very pleased with their can-do attitudes, curiosity, and willingness to serve. Off they go today!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Finished Object?

 I just finished seaming the sleeves on this shrug, and it is clearly too small for me. I bought 3 balls of the yarn, following directions on the ball band (label), but ran out long before I finished the second sleeve. So I ripped it out and started over again, making the sleeves shorter. I had just enough to finish, but nothing left for the collar/trim. I think it looks ok, but it does feel tight. I had looked online for more of the same yarn but it's discontinued (I bought it maybe even before Valerie was born...)

Anyway, I think this one is going into the giveaway pile... know anyone with short arms??

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Good reads

There were some fantastic blog posts coming across my feed this past week:

Leanna writes about overcoming socially uncomfortable situations as a foreigner and newcomer to the rural community she now lives in; Lindsey writes about wrestling with differences in social norms and body shaming; Anna writes about climate change and the hospitality of farmers in the Colombian mountains.

I feel surrounded by fantastically thoughtful women writing!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Work/Life (updated with photo!)

This is a busy month for us. So instead of 2-3 posts a week I'm aiming for 2-3 posts this month...!

We just wrapped up a week-long learning tour and symposium with three visiting professors. The great thing about these events for me is I learn so much - taking them around places means I see things that I don't see every day, talk to people I don't interact with nearly enough, and hear things that add to my accumulating knowledge. I was humbled realizing how little I know even after four years here.

Our learning tour group visiting a school - photo credit Elaine Barge

For example, yesterday I walked with one international visitor all along the Septima, or 7th St. Since it was a holiday it was all closed to traffic (although even on normal days portions of it are strictly pedestrian). We found the flea market, which I had never been to before, even though I'd wanted to... in daily life I just don't make space for that kind of thing. Buskers, vendors, lots of people on bicycles - it was a fun day.

Doodle, for when I can't knit during meetings
Tomorrow we begin receiving our one-year volunteers from around the world. Due to an unusual confluence of events, this year we are expecting seven, from six different countries. Visas have been an usually major headache which makes me nervous about our own visa renewals next month (but that's another story). So we are gearing up for their in-country orientation, and resolving a thousand little details around their housing, language study, and so forth.

One thing that I have learned in these nearly-four years here is to trust my intuition. I don't always know why I feel a particular prompt, but I've found that listening to that still, small inner voice is so important. When I don't, I always regret it.

Friday, August 05, 2016


At our team retreat last month, we spent some time talking about self-care. It was interesting to me to think about how individualized our thinking about this is; it is my responsibility to know what I need and to talk steps to get those needs met. Which is fine, I'm not saying it isn't my responsibility. But it's also interesting to ask the question, what if we thought about self-care more collectively, more communally? To circle around the most vulnerable or the injured, to ask how are we doing and not just how am I doing?

But I've also been asking myself this question: what would be different in my life if I actually believed that it's okay for me to feel good, to be happy, to enjoy life? That I'm allowed to enjoy good things without feeling guilty or like I'm stealing from the cosmic company? And I realized that one of the corollaries of that belief would be taking better care of myself: sleep, exercise, eating well, hobbies.

I've been enjoying these Dreamscope photo filters so, so much. I also decided to take half-days once a week, Wednesdays (my supervisor has been urging me to do this for a long time). So far, it's been great.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My Aunt

I have been completely at a loss for words ~ my mother's oldest sister passed away on Tuesday (the 2 previous posts were written earlier and scheduled to go up automatically). So I am stealing my sister's words because they are so close to what I was thinking these days: 
Of all my aunts, she reminded me the most of mom, in looks and in her voice.  I always thought they talked alike, and her voice was always so warm and comforting to me as a child, like a second mom.  She was warm and nurturing and kind and generous and loving.  I always loved staying at her house and spending time with my cousins.  She and Tio Jerry had such a loving family.  I will always look up to both of them as role models of parents and people in general.  

My aunt gave herself to service for others; she had so much energy and dynamism. But what I kept thinking about these days was her voice. I can still hear it in my mind and in my heart. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Oh, Right, That.

So in the annals of significant family moments, one of our guinea pigs died. We had two: Leona (because Gabe wanted to name her Lion, but I feminized the name in Spanish since she was female) and Brown and White, a.k.a Blanquita.

The night we got back from home leave, Leona breathed her last. We found her lifeless in the morning and I quickly bundled her into a plastic bag and out with the morning garbage collection.

The kids asked a lot of questions but weren't too upset - I don't think they were very attached to her (I know I wasn't) - we never held them much, because I don't like when they mess outside of their cage.

But Blanquita has seemed very quiet and sad, so we have been holding her a LOT, and feeding her her favorite snack - pieces of sweet red pepper. It's nice cuddling a warm little furry creature in the morning and the evening.

We haven't decided whether or not to get another guinea pig to keep her company. I read that guinea pigs live to be about 5 years old. I don't know how old Leona was when we bought her but she was full-grown. She was on the obese side so I suspect some heart trouble. But we weren't around so I don't know if she had any signs of illness while we were gone. Blanquita was not full grown when we got her, two years ago, so she could live another 3 - and we'll only be in the country for one more. I don't know what we'll do with her then, probably give her away preferably to someone who lives in a rural area. But I'm hesitant to add another new pet to the mix considering that we'll have to part with it in 12 short months.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

another milestone!

Gabe lost his first tooth! It was loose for about a whole month before it finally fell out; the new tooth was already growing in behind it - my sister called it a "shark tooth"! 

He was very excited to leave it under the pillow of the Tooth Fairy or el Ratón Pérez (either one will do!)

One funny thing that happened, early during our home leave we were at a hardware store and he was wiggling it absent-mindedly. The woman at the cash register asked him if it was his first loose tooth, and when he said yes, she told us that when she had her first loose tooth her dad tied a string to the tooth, and the other end of the string to an arrow... and she shot it out of her own mouth herself, with her bow and arrow!

It's just so Rockingham County, it made me day. We actually tried it, too! We used Gabe's toy bow and arrow though and it didn't actually work - the string just slid off the tooth both times we tried. But it was fun to, um, give it a shot!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Juggernaut of Fun

Probably the best thing about home leave is hanging out with friends and family. (It is definitely not reading the newspaper, even though I do that as a civic duty.) One weekend we went to a Jantzi reunion in Akron, then camping with our Star Trek group. I totally forgot my camera (for the entire trip) but someone took this one for me:   

This was Bug's first camping trip ever, first time sleeping in a tent, and the first time for both kids eating s'mores! A couple highlights of this trip were looking at Saturn through a friend's big telescope, and the mountain swing (with a 5-point harness). Pretty awesome!

Another day we went swimming in a friend's pool the kids had SO much fun. It was raining, but not as cold as where we've gone in Bochica. We even ate ice cream sandwiches!

I got to see my sister! She was on the East Coast with her two girls, so she actually came to Harrisonburg and the cousins got to see each other and hang out at the park and the children's museum:

Playing with the green screen "invisibility cloak"

Fish tickling their toes in Black's Run

Just before leaving the country, we went to Pennsylvania for another Jantzi reunion:

Three generations of Jantzi males!
 That Saturday, my wonderful sister-in-law drove me five hours to Pulaski, NY, for my youngest cousin Max's wedding! It was absolutely fantastic to see nearly all the family there, I was sad to leave the party early but had to get back to PA to join up with Terry and the kids in order to fly out from DC the next day.

A friend of mine in college used to do something called "Jug Days" (short for "Juggernaut") where you try to pack every single fun thing you can think of into one marathon day of fun. I kind of felt like this home leave was like that. I haven't even mentioned the 14 lbs of blueberries Terry and the kids and I picked, or the knit night at a friend's house, or thrift store bargain hunting, or the library, or fireflies, the city pool, or running into friends at pretty much every turn. 

Nevertheless it's been good to be back in our own space, back in our routine, catching up with work that was hanging over my head the whole time we were away. I still have a few more pics to post if I can find them. We have a team retreat this weekend so it will probably be next week. Onward!

Can you see me and my sis in the background there? Not a dry eye in the whole room!

Friday, July 08, 2016

This Kid Turned 6!

 This was Gabe's first birthday celebrated in the place of his birth! We didn't have a big "do" like last year, but I think the hamburger cake was memorable. His first loose tooth is hanging on tight in his mouth, it has been 3 weeks now, but that's another landmark moment happening now.

He was asking me the other day about topiary, and when I said you can shape shrubbery like "anything" he said "what about God?" This kid.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


We're in week 2 of our home leave (or as someone wrote in an e-mail recently "jomlif"), enjoying the summer weather and freedom. It's been busy, too, we've picked over 20 lbs. of blueberries total so far, gone swimming at the city pool, shopped for birthday presents and new clothes, visited local parks and playgrounds, explored the children's museum and library, gone to church, played with the train table at Barnes & Noble, and more...! Terry and I are trying to stay on top of some work stuff as well and reconnecting with friends.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Much better

With the tassels, no?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Jet Plane

We're going on Home Leave really soon, Saturday in fact! I'm pretty excited - blueberry picking season! Farmer's Market! We'll still be working a bit but hoping for some fun times. Also lots to do this week before we go.

Gabriel has his first loose tooth, by the way!

And I'm still having fun playing with the Dreamscope app as stress relief:

Thursday, June 09, 2016

making things

So I recently finished this scarf, if by "finished" you mean the bare minimum without the final flourish of the tassels that are optional in the pattern. It's from One-Skein Wonders, which has a feature I really like - patterns are organized by yarn weight so it's easy to find something to knit with the yarn that you have. 

I've had one unanimous reaction to it so far: "Is it supposed to twist like that?"

Yes. Yes, it is:

pattern in book
(See the tassels?) Clearly, I used a totally different yarn than the pattern in the book. This is actually yarn from New Zealand that Dot brought me years and years ago, and I made myself a hoodie pullover with a kangaroo front pocket with most of it, and a sweater and a little poncho for Val (see photo below) but I had this one skein left.... Well even after making this scarf I had enough to make a baby hat so I made one, it's more like a hood, and will go to our accountant's daughter. So our accountant will get the scarf :-) I bet everyone will ask her if it's supposed to twist like that...

This yarn has gone a long way!
December 2008
October 2009

Monday, June 06, 2016


Happy June! This year is flying by, at least since things started to get busy at the end of April. We just got back from a week-long trip to Honduras (or, as the kids called it, Hot-duras) for work meetings with the whole family. Here are some photos of the backs of their heads:

With two of the Guatemala reps' daughters, at the finca where we stayed near Lago Yojoa
On our last day there, visiting a rural school where they were crowning the queen of the flowers.
There was a pool at this place, Finca Las Glorias, so the kids were happy, in and out of the water whenever we were on breaks from meetings. There were hammocks and horses too. One morning after a big rainstorm we found a big brown frog near the pool, and a broken egg-shell that looked as if it had been empty for a while. We saw caterpillars and squirrels, and birds unnumbered. One thing we did not see that I over-prepared for was hordes of mosquitos! I took three different kinds of mosquito repellent and applied it to the kids religiously, because of Zika, but although I got three bites the first night even Gabe who is mosquito crack only got maybe two bites the whole week. So that was a pleasant surprise actually.

I think though we were all happy to be back home in "Cold-lombia" (although the kids staunchly rejected that nickname). We spent the day yesterday doing massive loads of laundry and equally massive grocery shopping trips. Today (Monday) is a holiday so we are home for a relaxing day again although Terry went up to the office just for a bit.

In just two weeks we'll be in the US for our second home leave! I'm looking forward to seeing lots of friends and family and hitting up the secondhand stores for new clothes especially for Val. The kids are both growing so fast, I think Val will soon be out of a booster seat entirely. I'm looking forward to the farmer's market and the library, and sorting through more stuff to get rid of. This trip is timed for just a year before the end of our term so I also anticipate a lot of introspective musing as well, my true spiritual gift :-).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I'm slightly obsessive about checking my memories on facebook, using the new(ish) feature on the site that shows you everything you've ever posted in previous years on that particular calendar date. It's a bittersweet thing in a way, as I've relived the births of the kids, our move to Albania, events like Days of Prayer and Action in Colombia. Recently I was reminded that last year at this time I was graduating from my PhD program at Cornell. Of course there are a lot of things that never made it to facebook status, and even more that never made it into this blog. But I'm glad I blogged about that day.


p.s. Thankfully the kids are better since this weekend! Today they had a field trip to a farm outside the city, and are now vegging out so tired, happy from a terrific day.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Random Thoughts

This sick, whatever it is, is unrelenting. After 50+ hours of being fine, Gabe threw up last night - again - with explosive diarrhea. The kids had no school yesterday so I could have taken him to the doctor them, but he was fine then. Val seems to be ok though. Tomorrow is Saturday. I had thought to do something fun with them tomorrow but may spend the day instead collecting stool samples.


As we approach our last circle around the sun in this city, I'm starting to think about how to leave well. One thing I don't know how to do is leave our pets. The birds might be easier to give away, but the guinea pigs are a little dearer to Valerie's heart. We don't play with them very much but she worries about them when we travel. She still hasn't keyed into the idea that we will have to leave them here though. I imagine we might give them away to someone who lives in the country. Actually the directors of their school might be interested as they have a country home just outside the city where they spend every weekend, and where the kids go on field trips to plant corn and trees. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.


Yesterday I had a little time to play with this app called Dreamscope where you can modify your own photos in fun ways. Here's a few I made:

How to be artsy in 15 minutes or less...