1 Week In!!

I’ve been trying to jot down a few thoughts and recap some highlights from my first week. It has only been a week but somehow it feels like 3 weeks.

I haven’t taken my jackets off at any point of the day until I am in my room at night (where there is heat). Even then, I usually lay in bed with all my clothes on for 20 minutes trying to shake the perpetual cold that has set in over the day as I wait for my room to warm up, as the breaker for the heater is only flipped on at night. The temp outside is actually mild and pleasant but the building retains the damp and cold night air, making the 5 hallways and offices very cold and only in the mid 50s. If I spent more time outside, I might actually warm up!

The reality is that I feel very fortunate to have heat due to the high cost and the scarcity of electricity. We have several different electricity providers and our own generator. Heat is very expensive. I am incredible grateful for my heat.

I have only had a few hot meals since I have arrived. And by that I mean 3. I have been surviving on yogurt, canned tuna and protein bars (alas, I have only 3 left). I probably ate enough canned tuna in 1 week to give me mercury poisoning. Not to mention that the tuna here is probably suspect and may contain dolphins. There are no regulations here like there are in the USA. I don’t have a lot of facilities available to me to cook and s the area lacks the restaurants and little shwarma shops that seem so readily available everywhere else in the city. Not that I need to eat shwarma every day. I am sitting down most of the day, unlike my prior 3 months were I was walking a good deal every single day.

I figure I am just paying penance for my overindulgence in bacon and other luxuries over the holidays knowing full well that very soon all of those things would be incredible scarce.

I am staying in one of the hostel rooms at the church. It has 3 bunk beds and a shower. It is quite spacious. Enough for me to jump rope and do burpees in the morning since I haven’t had time to explore and find a gym. I have hot water in the morning, but not at night so I have quickly adjusted my schedule to that. The bathrooms are at the opposite end of the long cold hall. I equate it to the old days when people had to bundle up and run outside to the outhouse in the middle of the night. This is not the most lovely of experiences.

Among my projects for the week will be to begin looking for other housing that may be a close bus ride or walk to the church.

I jumped into work head first the morning after my arrival and I haven’t slowed down for anything nor taken a day off yet. I must find balance at some point, but it is always so much fun in the beginning that it is hard for me to draw the line.

While I am still listening, observing and adjusting, my day doesn’t feel too much different from work either on property at a hotel or in the office. There is plenty going on here between church, school, refugee outreach, other NGOs calling for meetings, reporters, other business matters, staff meetings, reports, events etc. There is so very much that I have observed needs to be done and I have been making my mental lists and otherwise of all that need to be done and I know it will have to be just one bite at a time.

I got to write wedding vows and script for the Pastor to officiate a Nigerian wedding ceremony in English. He usually officiates in Arabic. He had an English script that was no doubt transcribed from Arabic and I just had to revise and modify. I was drunk with the power of such responsibility. Mwahaha!! I resisted the urge to put in any lines from “The Princess Bride.” But put in a Bible verse about “he who finds a wife finds a good thing and is blessed by God.” The women at the ceremony on Saturday (which was most of the congregation) cheered when this was read. Success! The couple (A Nigerian pastor and his pride) seemed absolutely wonderful and I consider it a great privilege and honor to have been able to crash a wedding in my first week!

One of my first projects is planning on of our largest events of the year – the Kingdom Fiesta, a 3 day celebration featuring 20 international churches singing and dancing in their cultural language, dance and dress. Can you imagine what an amazing event this is going to be? I have quickly learned that these people don’t use email or their calendar. No one uses a calendar or schedule in Lebanon and it is even worse for the African countries, is what I am told. Oh my….

Event planning is not something that I have done a lot of before. I am grateful for the Pastor and those who have been a part of the folklore celebration for 10 years and could advise on creating rules of conduct based on past surprises such as “no sexual content” and “no bare butts or nudity.” After all, this is still church! We want to honor their dance and traditions but in a tasteful way that won’t disrespect the other cultures represented.

Wow! I promised myself to make shorter and more frequent posts and this is not that short. I will end it now and promise you that there will be more to come! I have so much more that I want to say!!