Friday, March 13, 2009

Lollypops and India

India is a wonderful place full of amazingly beautiful people, nature, and historic sites. It is also challenging and exhausting. There is deep poverty, chaotic traffic, and crowded streets. It is overwhelming to all the senses; sight, smell, and touch in good yet paradoxical ways. We stayed with a family while we were there for two nights who welcomed us with an unbounded hospitality and kindness. While in India we ate food that awoke our taste buds, we saw temples that were thousands of years old, and we met the friendliest people in our journey thus far. We were also exhausted by the end of our stay. The kids were off of their typically schedule, their diets were changing, and they spent a lot of time in cars and busses since it takes at least 30-45 minutes to go anywhere in Chennai due to the traffic. So when we got back to our cabin the kids were in desperate need of a nap. Lily went down with no problem and Melanie left Abi to sleep in her new favorite spot, behind the curtain. Abi will often fall asleep after we leave the room and we trust she will behave herself. After about 90 minutes I needed to go back down in my room and I walked in and discovered Abi on the ground and all around her were strewn the wrappers and discarded sticks from no less than 12 lollypops! My mouth dropped and I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, cry, or wake her up…so I just took some pictures. I later found out that Melanie told her she could have one lollypop, but she decided to get into the stash of dum dums and just keep going. After she woke up I asked her if she ate them, she of course responded “no”. When asked again she said she ate four because she is turning four! That left eight to be accounted for. I figured at a conservative two minutes per lollypop, she would have been eating dum dums for nearly 30 minutes after Melanie had left and then collapsed in a sugar induced coma. We have put the candy a bit higher in the closet now and I’m just hoping she doesn’t find something else to devour while we are out of the room. This is just one of the funny moments our kids bless us with, I’m just praying for no permanent dental damage.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jones Family Update

Can you believe we are officially halfway through our journey? I thought we should take a break and let you know how we’re doing aboard MV Explorer:


Abi has made a lot of friends on the ship. She definitely thinks she is second in command to the captain, and on a regular basis she walks up to random people and asks if they want to see her room. She is constantly at play with her “big friends” (college students) in the evenings. Abi always has “things” with her every where she goes now. She packs a big purse around full of things that she has collected around the ship. She is quite protective of it. We go swimming every afternoon that the pool is full, and spend the morning doing school and projects.

Abi is becoming a good traveler – what is frightening is that she has no inhibitions in the port cities. Every taxi driver is her best friend, and she leads the way down streets and through stores. Developmentally, Abi is becoming quite in touch with her feelings. The other day she told me she was “upset, angry, and frustrated”. It gives us such an insight into the things that are important in her day to day life. She is also getting taller and more coordinated. She looks more like a four year old than a three year old I hate to say. She played Peter Pan with a friend today, and I was nostalgic about the idea of a NeverNever Land. My favorite moments are when she gently takes care of Lily when she is crying. She really has a compassionate little heart.


Lily has changed significantly – she hardly looks like a baby now! She sports six teeth, has started feeding herself, has mastered crawling, and says a few words like “mama”, “dada”, “up”, and “uh oh”. Lily definitely enjoys the attention on the ship. Most meals she looks over the seat at all the people in line and waves at everyone while “talking” to them. In country, it varies. In India she was followed by a paparazzi like crowd of local school children, grandmas, daddies, and mommies all eager to pinch her cheeks and thighs and pose in pictures with her. She found it a little overwhelming, but was a good sport overall. Her favorite toys are the TV remote, the laptop, and anything that Abi is working on. Clearly, we need to invest in some things that hold her attention a little better.

Watching her pick up eating has been hilarious. We have been feeding her for 11 months because she absolutely refused to put her hands anywhere near her mouth. She would hold onto food all day long, but unless we were shoving it in her mouth it was just a toy. The look of surprise on her face when she put together the hand to mouth connection was so amusing. She just looked so shocked, and then she was instantly devouring food.

Her newest trick is getting out of bed. A few nights ago I heard giggling on our baby monitor at 10 o’clock at night. I went in the room and both girls were sitting across from each other just belly-laughing. I scolded Abi, assuming she pulled Lily out of bed for entertainment purposes. She later told her dad that Lily had been crawling all over the bed and dresser, pulling things into her bed, and that she crawled off the bed and was playing in the floor. Abi had pulled a chair in front of the bed to keep her in, but Lily was determined to be awake to try out her new crawling skills. We haven’t had a repeat of that night, but she does purposefully scoot off the bed. She throws all her toys on the floor, says “uh oh”, and then scoots off after them. I have a feeling that our parenting world is about to change once again.


I brought 96 Dr. Peppers with me. I thought they would last until Japan if I stuck to 1 a day. They are all gone as of South Africa. The withdrawals were rough, because I am not a huge water fan, and I’m caring for the endless energy duo all day. My solution has been to start training for a triathlon. This is working out really well. I run every day during nap time, and get really thirsty for water. I actually crave it all day long, and now when I drink soda it doesn’t feel that great. Weird how quickly it happened, but now I spend all day waiting for my workout time instead of rationing my DP intake. Someone with a PhD in psychology could probably explain all of this. Basically, I have learned I just need an addiction through this process. So far, running is a reasonable substitute for liquid sugar and caffeine. We’ll see what happens when I get home and Safeway “enables” me by running a 4 for $12 special on DP bricks. I’ve always hated running, but having an “event” to look forward to makes it kind of fun! There is a triathlon in Portland on August 23rd. If we are still there in August, I will be there! If not, I’ll have to find another one to enter wherever we wind up. It will be a good incentive to get familiar with the workout options in whatever place we wind up at.

I have a few students that I am enjoying quite a bit. There is a girl from Stillwater, OK and another one from Snyder, TX. They are both sweet and fun to talk to – I even sacrificed two Dr. Pepper’s when we shared stories and pictures from our Namibia port. We also have a “family” of three girls that we get together with for dinner and conversation. I like getting to know all of the students. There are some really creative and ambitious students on our voyage. I am down the hall from two mothers that are my source of sanity. I won’t lie: being around my children all day, not the easiest thing I have ever done. It has been a complete blessing to have some people to swap stories with. One day, after a few public meltdowns, K & H knocked on my door and said “We’re stealing you!” and took me out for wine and girl time right before bedtime. It was saving grace. Just having some time to talk through the day allowed me to see the humor and appreciate how quickly this sweet time will pass in my life.


Luke is famous on the ship. I get to eavesdrop on students talking about how good he is frequently, which makes me smile. He delivers the announcements every day, and also does the Pre-Port before we arrive in each country. Students turn out en masse to hear him talk about traffic safety and avoiding pick pocketers. He really does have a gift for talking to the students, and the presentations are relevant, humorous, and engaging. He has made a special point to encourage students to give of themselves in port, whether that be time, conversation, song, a special talent, or just a smile. As a result, we frequently have students approaching us to share stories of the meaningful ways they connected with the local culture of a port. I love that!

Luke has been working a lot as he tries to apply for jobs. Applying for a job at a university is challenging enough as is, but waiting for our internet sometimes adds a new layer to the frustration. The unique thing about this voyage is that he is often able to connect with a student from the university or the city he has applied to. Sometimes students are able to share about the “culture” of their university and the community that surrounds it. I don’t think there is another place where you could get that kind of student insight as you apply for positions. Luke is also talking to lots of professionals from different universities that are on this voyage and asking about their careers and lives. The ship has been a good place to reflect on what exactly he wants from his career. The feeling of being “in limbo” seems to be something that has followed us throughout our marriage, so it doesn’t really feel too stressful to be job hunting.

Well, the computer is dying so I’m going to post this now! Look forward to seeing friends and family soon!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Back in South Africa

Back in 2000 I had the opportunity to work in a South African Township as a part of Youth With a Mission. Our outreach team of 10 was working at a new South Korean church plant called Green Village located in Philippe Township teaching English, helping with church, and facilitating a debate group where older students could practice their English. There were two students I remember most from that debate group, Luzuko and Bulelani. They were extremely sharp, motivated and determined. I always remember Bulelani because he told us it was his birthday and we made him a big cake and threw him a party. He was so emotional at the time and appreciative because people just didn’t get birthday parties there. The two months we spent in the township flew by but the relationships we formed with the people there were meaningful and we were sad to say goodbye. It was that experience that caused me to start looking for a way to change careers and pursue working with college students so for me it was extremely transformative in many ways; spiritually, emotionally, and vocationally.

I have always hoped to go back someday. In 2004 I was back in Cape Town with a study abroad program for 5 days and despite my best efforts was not able to get back in touch with the church or make my way to Philippe. Since then I have joined the ranks of facebook and about a year or so ago both of those guys found me and we have exchanged notes a few times. Well...I am currently working on the same study abroad program, Semester At Sea, and I just left Cape Town. My last two days there I had a chance to meet up with Luzuko and Bulelani for a few hours and talk. What an amazing experience to be reconnected! I met with Luzuko the day before we left and Bulelani the last day we were in port. I was explaining what I had been up to since being in SA and that the YWAM was a brief chapter in my life that was very meaningful and life changing for me. Both of them expressed how that brief chapter in my life and those that were on the outreach touched and improved so many lives there. Many of the kids we worked with have gotten out of the township, or been able to find work, or done well in school. Luzuko and Bulelani passed their high school exams with good marks but did not have the money to start university. They got involved with a program called SAEP and started a debate team among other things. This debate team won local and regional competitions and gained some amount of notoriety. They both did a little university but then had to drop out to help support their families…mothers, brothers, kids, etc. Luzuko has a two-year old girl now and Bulelani is expecting a girl in about 6 months. Luzuko works for ADT (security company) and goes around to township high schools to train students on basic computer skills. Bulelani works for an NGO called Love Life which educates younger students on HIV/AIDS prevention. They are still bright and ambitious but life is hard there.

Things in South Africa have gotten much worse since we were there in 2000. Crime rates are some of the highest in the world, HIV/AIDS is a big problem, and the unemployment rate is around 46% but is higher in the townships. Life in the township is still very hard, no running water, disease, poverty, etc. They are both going to try and go back to school and are both interested in trying to work or study internationally. It was encouraging for me to hear that my time in South Africa had made a lasting difference and that God is working there and in people’s lives much longer after we are gone. It was nice to see them face to face and know that I impacted someone’s life positively in a lasting way. At the same time it struck me that the investment in those lives and relationships didn’t end when I left back in 2000. They are still there living, working, surviving and I know that I can continue to play a role in helping them however I am able.

For whatever reason I was born in the United States and have unlimited access to resources that these two guys only dream of. What will I do with that privilege, how can I continue to help them and forge a relationship that has endured eight years and thousands of miles? I told Bulelani that if he gets to the stage where he is accepted to a school and needs help I would do what I could to assist him. Sounds like Luzuko may be doing a little better financially. Hard to tell really.

Melanie and I are looking for opportunities to get them some international experience/education…I’m going to look into exchange programs at the university I work at. If you read this and are struck to help them in some way let me know.

On a final humorous note…Bulelani said that for all these years he has been wanting to some day confess that it was not actually his birthday that day in 2000. He just said it was so we would make a big deal about it. I thought that was pretty funny and we both started laughing about it. He said he was really appreciative and that no one ever has a birth day party so I was glad we still did it. God is good and has a sense of humor.