Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tips for wasting an entire day.

I am really good at lots of things, but over the years, I've become proficient at wasting an entire day.

Not all the time... just the times I really need a change of pace... or more accurately, no pace at all.  You may not realize this, but wasting a day is a great way to unwind after a month of full calendar weekdays and weekends.  Matter of fact, I find it very therapeutic and re-energizing.  I highly recommend it!

If you too would like to become an expert at wasting an entire day, then I have some really effective methods and easy tips for you.

  1. Do NOT take a shower immediately after waking. Bad idea! It makes you too alert and focused.  You'll NEVER pull off a wasted day if you start out clean! 
  2. Do NOT get dressed.  Staying in your pajamas all day is genius!  If you get the notion to leave the house, it will create a hurdle to overcome. Hurdles aid procrastination.  Procrastination is your friend, friend. 
  3. Do NOT make the bed. Nothing says productive like a tidy bedroom. Leave it a wreck for real wasted day insurance.
  4. Make a large pot of coffee.  Surely, you want to have a second and third cup when it's fresh.  Who wants to waste good java? Stay home and enjoy! It will be noon before that third cup gets cold.  And cold coffee are the base for great afternoon cold coffee treats and without going out to Starbucks. See wasn't that helpful? 
  5. Check email and Facebook posts early and often.  That will take up hours of time and you won't know the day is over until the sun starts going down.
  6. Turn on the TV as you prepare breakfast and don't turn it off.  Keep the channel on the Today Show. When Hoda and Kathy Lee say goodbye, find a movie.  After lunch, find a cooking show. Be sure to find a great History channel series of interest mid afternoon to distract you until dinner time. 
  7. Make a list of places you need to go, but try to eliminate leaving the house by purchasing stuff on Amazon or online websites.  Be sure to compare prices on several search sites, that wastes tons of time. Besides, your time can't be as valuable as a 10% savings!  
  8. If you are feeling tempted to be productive, call a customer service department to address an account issue. They will waste your time FOR you! All you have to do is survive the mind numbing music the play while you are on hold. 
  9. Start watching a TV series on DVD or Netflix.  If it's a good series, you know you can never watch just one episode.... or one season! 
  10. For REAL crafty and professional day wasters, do this.  One hour before dinner, prep the meal, then get going double-time. Run make the bed. Throw a load of laundry in the washer. Take a lightening quick shower. Stash the jammies in the hamper and throw on jeans and a t-shirt. Check on dinner. Set the table.  Finish dinner prep and it's as if the day didn't disappear after all. 
OR  you CAN choose to be productive.  

In that case, get out of bed and right into the shower.  The rest just follows naturally.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

DO NOT THROW STONES...from the trivial to the real

This morning, I awoke a tad disappointed over last night's Duke - Carolina game.  Last night and this morning, I enjoyed a little tongue-in-cheek trash talking about "Dook" all in good sport.  I also continued my resolve to defend the honor and value of a future NBA work horse Tyler Zeller who last night, horror of horrors, unintentionally made two points for Duke while defending the goal. This morning, I had intended to use the above photo "DO NOT THROW STONES" to make my point for Tyler, but God intervened changing my focus from the trivial to the real!

Let me explain.

God did not skip a beat to put me and my little trauma drama in its place. As I began drafting this post, I heard the blip of an incoming email. There, by God's grace, I found two emails.

One from a new OneHope friend here in the US consoling me over last night's loss and letting me know he would be visiting Duke tomorrow. (Traitor, I thought.) I immediately clicked out a pithy reply with just the right amount of trash talk and hit SEND.

The second email was from John Yip of Ubabalo & Hope Through Sports in South Africa updating me on his travels and the work that continues.  He included a link to a report on his recent meeting in the Sudan.

I WAS going to save the link to read later.

Seriously, I had a "DO NOT THROW STONES" post to finish, but God intervened compelling me to click on the link and read John's report.  In reading, I realized I am here safe and sound fretting over trivial matters , but the real work for God and His world continues. Suddenly, it hit me.  I was indignant others are "throwing stones" at Tyler Zeller, but in the REAL world... in Sudan... it's not trivial stones flying, but deadly machetes and people are dying!

John's post put everything into perspective.

Please follow this link Ubabalo work in Sudan to see how God continues to use Ubabalo Whole Life Sports coaching movement to share God's hope where hope is absent by raising up Godly fathers to the fatherless for perpetrating and those suffering the atrocities in Sudan.

(Please, go now! I'll wait while you read the link then return to this post.)

DO NOT THROW STONES is a huge part of the Gospel message and movement  Jesus started and the whole world needs. Maybe, if through the loving power of God, the Father, we can teach the young of this world to drop the stones and taunting words of trivial rivalries, we can extinguish the deep seeded hatred that fuels senseless killings and other atrocities in Sudan and the rest of this world.

Yah, it was an Epiphany! Did you,too, make that connection?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Long distance international travel tips from a newbie

If  you are a seasoned traveler, I expect you will read and mutter "duh!" as you go thinking I'm surprised she made it back!

HOWEVER, if you too are a newbie to long distance international travel, I offer my tips to save you some frustration AND hopefully help you look seasoned and savvy!  Rest assured, I'm sure I could come up with one hundred more tips..... but what's the fun in that? I'd rather let you enjoy the discovery and thrill of coping with the unknown and unfamiliar like I did!

 - Compression stockings are THE healthy and safe way to fly! Go to a pharmacy with a trained specialist to fit you and help you pick out exactly what you need. I wore them the entire trip and remembered to do exercises in my seat to relieve numbness and soreness. I was able to sit for 30 hours without leg fatigue or swelling.
-Water does NOT swirl down the drain the other direction in the Southern hemisphere. That's a cruel urban legend designed to make newbies sound naive. I think its like telling a first time flyer to look out for wind sheer while taxing down the runway. Not that I've done that...oh, no not I!
-Be prepared for flight delays and itinerary changes, then roll with it.  I ended up going through London instead of Frankfurt due to a weather delay for my Raleigh to Chicago leg. My final flight from Chicago to Raleigh was delayed two hours due to a laundry list of complications. I'd rather be delayed than fly without a pilot or into rough weather, so I entertained myself in London Heathrow and met an interesting fellow from Raleigh while hanging out at O'Hare.
-Make the most of long layovers and explore. Here's my only regret - I could have gone through customs in London, jumped on the Metro and experienced a day in London. Since I was alone I hesitated thinking I didn't know London, might get lost, didn't know where to go and so on.  Looking back, I can't believe I opted for safe instead of adventure. What's the worst that could have happened? Lost? Mugged? Missed my flight? Seriously, I'm a very cautious, brave and resourceful adult.  Plus, it's the risks that make the journey memorable.
-A Southern accent is a door opener. Never underestimate the charm of a Southern Accent. I realize an American accent is easy to detect, but when I opened my mouth and smiled like we southerners naturally do, people were intrigued and wanted to hear more. The only exception was a fellow at a Heathrow cafe. He was very busy, so waiting for me to finish a sentence must have felt like an eternity.
-Try new foods you can't get at home. Who wants a Subway sandwich, ice cream or Pinot Grigio when there's Hake and grilled calamari, frozen granadilla pops and West Cape Chenin Blanc? Many thanks go to our South African in Texas, Gary, for giving us a list of foods to try. Many thanks go to God for inspiring someone to invent Greek Lamb Crisps (chips)! Don't knock it, until you've tasted them. YUM!
-Pack light. One checked bag and a backpack is all I took for a two week trip. I returned with only 1 clean top in my suitcase but truly could have taken less pairs of shoes. The backpack was convenient and easy on the back and shoulders.
- Ladies, you don't need more than 4 pairs of shoes. Tom's shoes pack light and are very comfortable walking shoes. They also are easy on and off going through security. One pair of Tom's, lightweight athletic shoes, flip-flops and a pair of leather sandals for dressing up was all I needed. (I took and extra pair of Toms & wore them once.)
-Leave expensive jewelry at home. I even left my wedding set at home. The only people who will notice your gold and jewels are thieves. Stick with inexpensive costume jewelry - a few versatile pieces is all you need. I DID take my Bulova watch, but only because it wasn't expensive.
- Buy your electrical converter at your destination airport. The nice, but clueless, Genius at the Apple store sold me a $39 international travel kit assuring me, the kit contained a converter that would work in South Africa. WRONG! South Africa has a very different 3 prong outlet. Don't believe anyone who tells you different.  Matter of fact, next time I will only listen to those who've actually BEEN to South Africa.  Now, I know what to look for, I might see if I can find one here in the states just for fun, but my advice is buy a converter in South Africa.  And regardless of what the Apple store people tell you, it doesn't HAVE to be an special Apple-made converter. Your iPhone, iPad and Mac will recharge just fine on a regular SA converter.  Being an honest woman, I won't be returning the Apple travel kit because I was able to use a few of the converters in UK and Germany.
-Turn off your cellphone roaming and data service when you leave the country...unless you are willing to pay a big bill when you return. My iPhone was great for pictures and worked great when there was Wi-Fi available.  Check with your carrier before you leave to see if you can use your phone in that country. Next time I will take a simple Trak Phone, old flip phone or buy a disposable one when I arrive.  Then, I can buy a SIMM card, switch it out and prepay for airtime/text. You can't change out the SIMM card in US iPhones. I only know because I tried that.
-Take pictures & video tape, but remain in the moment. I am sure many will totally disagree with me on this, but I think being in the moment is so much more important that recording it. My hubby gave me a camera and asked me to take lots of pictures.  I tried and I DID take a few photos, but I was careful not to distance myself from the experience South Africa by always being behind the lens of a camera. In my mind it is like choosing to watch an action movie on a 6" TV screen instead of on a movie theatre's big screen. It totally diminishes the experience.
-Limit time answering emails,checking Facebook and Twitter. I checked in twice a day and sometimes not at all.  People don't expect a reply as quickly as when you are in the states and will totally understand if there's a few day's delay or no reply until you return.
-Blog as you go. Looking back, I wish I had taken 10 minutes per day to blog, even if I couldn't post right away. This is more of a felt desire than a real regret because writing lessons was my real focus.  Write was the LAST thing I wanted to do after a full day of writing!  If this trip hadn't been a writing assignment, I'm sure I would have blogged each day.   I realize recording my experiences when fresh can be much more accurate in capturing reactions and feelings.  Emotional memories of the moment do tend to change and fade over time.
-Take little gifts for your hosts - Hindsight is crystal clear on this one. Now, I realize the little things I take for granted are the prized gifts to take.  Luzianne Iced Tea bags and Starbucks Coffee are very desirable. Who woulda thunk it? Next trip to South Africa, I'm making room for coffee and tea. Note: they don't want Hazelnut or Vanilla coffee either. They're not flavored coffee fans.  Too bad Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches & sweet tea don't travel well.  I would have been THE most popular person in CapeTown.

So there you are.  "Ding!"  You are now safe to move about the globe.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Feeling like Iocals and liking it.

There is so much more to tell you about the work, but I felt it most helpful to share my heart first. Please bear with me.

I have been on a few other trips outside the US and I'd describe those experiences as total tourism.  I stayed in a condo or hotel room with other travelers, visited sites and enjoyed activities highlighted in the travel guides.  I rarely if ever interacted with local people.  If anyone at the resort was a local, their job did not include engaging in conversation with the guests.  Matter of fact in most resorts the work staffers were college kids from other countries. I do remember some conversations with local residents in the marketplace but that usually involved bartering for merchandise - not exactly UN worthy exchanges.

I accepted but always wondered if my tourist experience was only skimming the surface - sterile and superficial nothing more. Don't get me wrong! I enjoyed ALL those trips. They were high points in my life's journey.  I simply had a hunch there was more... a potentially richer experience out there I was missing.

Yes, I longed for more, but had no idea how to make it happen until I stepped foot in South Africa with Gloria Lee.  So what was different about this trip?

First off, Gloria is a world traveler and I'm not. Having her travel confidence to rely on, I never felt uncomfortable, uncertain or lost. Gloria exuded a relaxed approach to everything new or challenging. I tagged along and learned. I drove on the other side of the road, badly the first few days, but she never freaked even when it was warranted!

Second, the nature of the trip to South Africa was not touring. Other than two days of down time to explore, we were there to write. We woke each morning, showered dressed and headed out, not to serve our desire to be entertained, but to contribute to a worthwhile project with a Godly purpose.  Yes, we enjoyed the scenery along the way, but that was all secondary to the project at hand.... just like at home.

We spent the first week as part of a collaborative team representative of several countries, but hosted by South Africans.  You don't brainstorm and grapple over details and concepts for four days without getting to know the character and gifts of others around the table.

Lunch breaks together allowed us time to relax and enjoy playful conversations over delicious meals.  Sharing about our lives and countries was at the top of the table conversation topic list.  The self-deprecating laughter over words mispronounced was jovial. (You try to duplicate the clicks of an African tribal language!) Sharing about our favorite comfort foods, some the rest of the group wouldn't eat on a dare, was playful and created bonds of friendship and acceptance.

We stayed in a B&B in a residential area.  The hosts and the staff treated us like visiting friends, not like hotel guests. Our accommodations were not plush, but they were so safe, comfortable, clean and livable, we felt at home right away. The sounds of children playing simply added to the homey feel.

We were invited into the homes of our South African friends. No upgrade tourist excursion can match visiting the living room of a resident.  With babies, toddlers and preschoolers playing on the floor, the Australian, American, Chinese, Malaysian and South Africans gathered there got to celebrate the seventh night of the Chinese New Year by communally tossing a salad with chopsticks. The goal was to see how high we could toss it without making a royal mess. Find THAT listed in the travel guides!  Yes, we Non-Asians were totally spastic, but our Asian friends didn't seem to mind, NOR laugh at us.

Experiencing a South African Braai "barbeque" is one of the events the hotels probably try to pull off, but it couldn't be as special as our braai in a South African's home. They might call it a "Braai" but this one felt just like a cookout in Raleigh, NC.  Everyone brought meats and sausages. The host made side dishes and desserts restaurants couldn't duplicate nor match. Our hosts put us at ease right away, so much so we were quickly sharing political views of the US.  (I can't tell you how settling it was to hear what others think of our economic situation, our president and our legislature and find we are all in agreement. It's a global mess all countries must address!)

View from our Stellenbosch, "Office",The Postcard Cafe
The second week, we "went to the office" each day to write in a temporary office space. OK, our temporary office was a cafe at a local wine farm (in US we say winery) with most amazing view of the mountains, free internet and delicious food for our working lunches, but we were focused on getting work done and we did!  That's not exactly a tourist experience. Working is what locals do and in our minds, we WERE locals and cafe regulars.  Each day we packed up at 4pm and headed for our home - the B&B.

It was those times Gloria and I realized we were feeling like locals and liking it!

Now I've discovered this richer, deeper experience I realize it comes at a cost I never considered. On our last and only full day of sight-seeing there's no wonder we experienced a touch of depression.  Gloria was unusually quiet. I had to fight back real tears as we said grace over our last meal in South Africa. The thought of leaving hurt that bad! I don't know about Gloria, but I know I left a part of my heart with my new friends in South Africa. It makes me sad to think I may never return to retrieve it.

Go Ahead - Google it!