Lots to blog about, but here's the biggest item of late:

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I applied on a fellowship grant since I'll never be able to afford to pay my own way, especially not after a year on half my salary. And with the freaking exchange rates here in Africa, where most currencies are actually APPRECIATING against the USD. A gallon of gas costs about $12 here now, so you all can just quit your whining about prices there - I'm not going to be able to do any personal travel here because of that.

Not to mention food. I am now utterly convinced that Africa's going to be hit first and hardest and longest in the coming global food crises. You can't even get a basic lunch here for under $10US anymore. The first world's demand for cheap food and their collective power to secure it is going to starve millions (more) in Africa - mark my words. More on this soon.



I've been here since Monday night. I was supposed to fly in mid-day, but when I got to the airport in Joburg Monday morning, they informed me that there was no fuel in Zambia and as such no more passengers / luggage would be allowed on the plane as it had a weight-max due to the need to carry extra fuel. I'm pretty sure I just missed the cut-off too because there wasn't anyone standing around before me looking all pissed off, but about 20 people behind me were just that. I took it in stride, it just meant working in the airport lounge all day, and not flying til that night.

Its cold here, I think even cooler than Joburg was. Its great, I love it. I'm not looking forward to Ghana's humidity, but at least there I'll be surfing on the weekends.

Good to see old friends here (I think I blogged about running into Kristin on my first time in Zambia, just saw her today), and Kabifya has been taking good care of me, shuttling me around and whatnot. I think I'll probably rent a car for at least one of these weekends and shoot down to cross Botswana, Namibia, and perhaps even Angola off my list, which will mean I've covered most of southern Africa minus Swaziland and Malawi. There's not a terrible lot to do around Lusaka but that's fine as I'll be pretty busy with work most of the time anyway.

Flying in on Saturday to Joburg was clutch. The son of the people who run the guesthouse I stayed at in Pretoria was throwing a small braai with some friends and they welcomed me right in, it was a fun night talking over dinner and drinks, especially when we dabbled into US politics. Sunday I was up early for church, where I saw Phil and Carolien, who got engaged the night before, and the Webbs. I miss the worship at that church already. Then in the afternoon I headed to the southern suburbs of the city and found Jess Wentling - one of our high school kids in the youth group at my church in NYC - at the orphanage she's volunteering at for the summer. Quite the commitment/adventure for a kid in high school, I'm sure, but I'd expect nothing less of our urban super-achiever kids. Got her some cell minutes and set up with my internet card so she could get on email, and then I rushed back to Pretoria for lunch with Gerard's family. Spent the afternoon seeing the doc and getting blood tests and getting my malaria prescription, and then had pizza from my favorite place whilst walking Jess through how to set up the internet on her computer. Then it was Monday morning and I was bound to the airport to (unknowingly) spend my day there.

Oh and I'm pretty sure I left my camera at the guest house in Pretoria. At least I hope I did. So that's great.


Apparently people do actually check my blog from time to time, because a few of you, my precious internet stalkers, have recently gone so far as to point out my lack of bloggery lately.

Apparently being in the US is not conducive to my motivations to write.

Let's see. Its mid June now. What's new...

Dave and I are pretty much all settled in the new place. I was worn down into picking up a HD flat screen and watching the US Open in high def in my own living room was a whole new addiction. So anyway, all settled in means of course that...

Its time to go to Africa again. I leave on Friday. Here's a random string-of-consciousness list of the things I can remember at the moment that need to happen before I leave:

- Do my taxes. This one pretty much has to happen as I'll be in Africa well past my 90 day auto-extension for being out of the country on 4/15.
- Get my passport back from the Ghana consulate along with my visa for said country.
- Get a hotel in Joburg for Fri/Sat nights. This one is kind of important. Rental car too.
- Get malaria medication. This one I'm toying with not doing.
- Balance out all the finances since the move in.
- More address changes.
- My driver's license expires while I'm out of the country (on my 30th birthday, actually) but there's pretty much nothing I can do about that. I finally have to go back to renew it this time. Which means I need to...
- Change my return flight home from NYC to CA in August. Surfing with the bro's is pretty much shot so I'll probably be doing the trip on my own, unless I can find someone cool enough to go.
- Send support letters for my missions week with the youth group in Uganda.
- Book my Kili plans for the week before that. Figure out how I'm getting from Nairobi to Kili and then from there to Entebbe.
- Find a replacement power cord for the video camera.
- Back up the laptop.
- Find a sublettor for my room (please God please make this happen).
- Continue to juggle the work that now fully 3 senior partners are throwing at me like I'm some Business Development slot machine that they can pull the handle on and win every time. I don't mind doing a fair share of work but people are starting to get insane, and nobody will take no for an answer. I AM LEAVING FOR AFRICA.
- Somehow catch up on about a week's worth of planning for my project that I was supposed to have done before leaving, but didn't because of the last item.
- Get Netflix and the cell phone put on hold whilst I'm gone.
- Fill my prescription for the anti-inflammatories for my foot since I won't be able to rehab it in Africa. Somehow it needs to be fixed before climbing Kili. They've given me a really stylish flat-soled orthopedic shoe I have to wear for the next week or so.
- Get the super to come change the lights in our stupid-high ceiling and replace the gate in the backyard (the one going to the basketball court).
- Tell my bank I'll be leaving them if they try to get me with withdrawl charges this time in Africa.
- DO ALL MY EXPENSE RECEIPTS. I'm like a few months and few thousand dollars behind on these freaking things and I need to send them in. Maybe I'll do this one tonight before leaving the office. I'd feel really good to have that one done.
- Pay the gas bill.

As you can see, blogging, personal emails, or really any personal life at all doesn't really make the list right now. It hasn't been all work, however. We did have, in the last month or so:

- The youth group's Father's Day year-end picnic yesterday. There was much razzle dazzle and nobody sliced my face open with a hubcap, so that was nice. It also ended with the tradition throwing of water on people, but Erin started it this time with Gatorade, taking it up a notch.
- Jen's B-day party the night before. Crappy weather but fun hanging with folk.
- Dinner courtesy of Trisha, who won some silent auction, at Django, with her and Holly and various other friends.
- Taught the last two lessons of the year with youth group on Others First.
- Had our housewarming party, which was off the hook. George knows how to get people grooving.
- Finally took the free tango lessons in Chelsea Market.
- Hosted the Arndt's son-in-law when he got sent back from customs in Cape Town w/o getting to leave the airport b/c he didn't have enough pages in his passport. That same weekend was paintball for Libby's birthday and breaking into the HighLine with Aron.
- Lunch with Dave's dad to talk over my schooling options for next year. There's really nothing in the city that matches what I want to do. Its either Boston or LA which is kind of like deciding whether you'd rather have your hands cut off or your feet removed.
- Lots of 8 mile runs up the West Side Highway, my new favorite place to run. Hence the busted foot.
- Caught a show with Mo and Jason and Julie and Amanda and her new BF. Show was some guy Mo knows from college, he was pretty good, and it was good to see everyone.
- Was in Chicago for a week for training, I think I forgot to blog about that. Training was good, made some new friends. Took it a lot easier than we used to at training, for the most part.

I think that's about it. I leave for Lusaka, Zambia (via DC and Johannesburg) on Friday afternoon. Next blog most likely from there.


I'm a four and a half point Calvinist and that makes the fact that I've de-prioritized dating in my life an OK thing.

If you're not sure what Calvinism is, well, its a reformed Christian doctrine based on the original insights of a one John Calvin, during the reformation era in Europe. Here's Dave's fast and furious recap of the 5 tenets of Calvinism:

Total Depravity - man is completely dead in his sin, unable to do anything to save himself. Sin has effected all parts of me, the complete essence of my being - I am totally depraved. We all are.

Unconditional Election - God bases his choice of me to be saved on nothing that has anything to do with me. He elects some to be saved and does not elect others. I can't know why, and I can't do anything to affect his choice on that.

Limited Atonement - Jesus' death on the cross was sufficient for all mankind but not effacious for all mankind. He bore the sins of many. This is closely related to UE - I can't know why. It just is - some of us will go to heaven and some of us won't.

Irresistible Grace - When God elects me, I can't say no to the call. There is an internal call, a work of the Holy Spirit, that is at the same time irresitible to me, and yet leads me willingly and even freely to God (this is key to my initial statement above, as you'll see in a minute). I am both free and irreistibly bound.

Perseverance of the Saints - Once saved, always saved. I cannot lose my salvation. Or, more importantly, God can't screw up his election / redemption / salvation of me, or somehow do it insufficiently.

(These five points spell the delightful acronym TULIP, as you may have noticed.)

I'm a 4.5 Calvinist because I agree mostly with all of the above, and can defend it with scripture. I do, however, have a certain amount of humility that I apply broadly to my faith at large, a rather general acceptance that there are some things that I simply cannot know or understand fully in this life time. Some of these things may even be things that no one at all can fully achieve, but who am I to guess at what God may reveal to the minds greater than mine? The point is that I can't know everything, and so sometimes I apply that realization directly to my theology.

I think there's some balance of free will with the predestination. I believe this because I believe my relationship with God is as much a real relationship, perhaps even more real, than any human relationship here on earth. And one of the ncecessities of a relationship is that two independent parties come into it of their own will. I do believe that I was forknown to be elect and to choose God, but at the same time I believe that I had to be the one to be there and make that actual choice before it actually came to be. I realize that these fly in the face of each other, but I am OK with that and don't expect to resolve it in this lifetime.

This, oddly enough, is quite closely related to why I believe that not talking to a certain stranger I run into, not chasing a potential relationship with a close friend, not deciding to make a relationship with one of the fairer sex a priority in my life at this point - this is why I believe that this is an OK thing. I don't think there is anything that I can do or not do that can stop me from winding up in the right relationship at the right time with the right person. If its supposed to happen, its going to happen. I can't stop it. If the stranger is The One, we'll somehow cross paths again. If the friend is the one, the timing will work out at some point. And if there is no relationship out there in my future, that's going to work out just fine too.

It makes it OK to not care.

And yet at the same time it doesn't. I have to think about these things. I have to wrestle with them and make sure I do due diligence on my end. I can't take it lightly and I have to have both a massive amount of trust that God has my best in mind - and I can't screw up His plan, and concurrently a constant motivation to search these things out and not sit back lazily on my haunches waiting for him to drop someone into my life. Even if I've decided that now is not the time for that.

Right now is a time for more Africa. I'm going back for the summer, I'll be working - on my own this time - in Zambia and then Ghana through early August. That just is what it is.

It feels like an escape, after a fashion. I've been talking with Brian since he got back and he feels the same way. We don't know how to cope with such ridiculously comfortable, opulent lives when there's a continent full of people trying not to die on less than 2 dollars a day. People talk about how these people "live" on less than 2 dollars a day, but that's not a life. You don't live on that. You die slowly on that. They are trying to not die.

I'm going back to help, but this time will be shorter, and then I'll be back and I'll finally have to go back to "normal life" as I once knew it.

Problem is, it never will be again.

(Happy June everyone.)