Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

The Sparkles and The Glow February 26, 2012

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 8:53 pm

The day we got engaged, Todd and I had some time after our massage appointment to wander through Ferndale before dinner.  We stopped in a cute boutique selling mostly locally-made handicrafts.  I admired the jewelry, and we bought a baby card for some friends.  As I was checking out, the girl behind the counter said, “That’s a cool ring.”  Of course I had been admiring my diamonds all day, so I looked up about to say, “Thanks!  I just got engaged this morning!”  But I realized she was looking at my right hand, admiring my silver ring from Niger.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very cool ring, but I had new bling on my left hand!

Surely everyone could see that I had just gotten engaged!  Surely Todd and I were glowing with our new commitment!  My stackable engagement rings were so sparkly and so gorgeous, surely everyone could see that they had just been placed on my finger!  At the very least, surely someone noticed how often Todd or I looked at my hand then looked at each other with silly grins on our faces.

But the celebration was just ours and our family and friends.  What a weird, surreal, amazing day.  The day a girl gets engaged and the day she gets married are probably the most anticipated and played out in her mind.  Certainly I had hoped that one day a man would propose to me, but then I entered my late-20s and then early-30s and started convincing myself that it would never happen.  I saw other girls as glowing brides but never pictured myself as one.  My role was to get excited about others’ weddings, to carefully shop for lingerie and kitchen showers, and thoughtfully write cards of blessing.  And I did it with great joy because I love to see my friends get married.

Now I’m the glowing bride?  That blue-skied, bright, sunshiney Thursday in Detroit, I did feel like I was glowing.  A man I love more deeply than I thought I could love someone, who knows me so well that he knew just when and where and how to propose to me, wants to love me forever!  With sparkles on my fingers that are so “us”, we spent the rest of the day doing ToddandJen things:  taking pictures around Detroit, eating lunch at the restaurant where we ate the night we first met two and a half years ago, getting massages, going for a walk, celebrating with his family at his parents’ house, and finally going five-pin bowling in Canada.

I stare at my rings (a lot) and wonder (occasionally) how other people see them.  They’re just simple, pretty little rings – maybe not as cool to an outsider as the African one – but I stare because they represent so much.  There’s so much story behind them and so much story ahead of them.  Even though the initial euphoria of that Thursday in Detroit is wearing off, I still catch myself with a silly grin when I look at my hand.  Oh my gosh, I’m getting married!


Photo #88 December 7, 2011

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 4:54 am

One thing I wish I had done more of in Mozambique was visit Oasis’ other team projects.  I was able to visit a couple, including going with the Kids Clubs team one day to an orphanage for one of their weekly club meetings.  The club is only for children over age five, but there was a handful of younger kids who were hanging around trying to get in on the activities.  I ended up spending most of my afternoon with them.  It was a group of mostly boys, all about four-years-old.  They were all energy.  Even when they were trying hard to “be good” and follow directions like the older kids, they couldn’t sit still.  And while Mozambican adults don’t usually appreciate having their pictures taken, kids always hammed it up for the camera.


Photo #87 November 29, 2011

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 1:53 am

Hmmm, I’m not sure this is my favorite photo since it brings back somewhat painful memories, but it did also make me laugh remembering what I used to wake up early on research mornings to do.


That is a giant roll of bologna.  Bright pink and easy to slice through, although sometimes is makes you want to gag a little because there’s just so much of it.  On mornings that I ran workshops (for research) in schools, I would wake up early to walk down to the bakery on the corner with my plastic bags and exact change and buy however many rolls I needed for the day.  Then I’d return home to slice bologna, cut rolls, butter them, and make bologna sandwiches for the students.  I’d also mix up bottles of a Kool-Aid type drink.


The funnier part is that usually by the time the workshops were over, I was pretty hungry for a bologna sandwich and bright purple juice!


Photo #86 November 23, 2011

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 5:25 pm

Those are my colleagues.  And that’s us moving offices.  Yep, it was perfectly safe for them to be riding in the back of the truck like that.  That’s how it’s done in Moz. 🙂


Photo #86

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 12:04 am

This is one of my favorite Moz photos ever.  It captures so much of our home:  laundry drying on the balcony, the flowery satin curtains, our ridiculously uncomfortable wicker furniture, our camp chairs that were our only comfortable furniture until we bought our living room set two months before I left Mozambique, and the cool dishes I found at Pep.  The picture also captures a really peaceful, comfortable, happy evening:  lounging around with a good friend visiting from out of town, enjoying a glass of wine and the ever-classy, always delicious Nik Naks.


Photo #85 November 21, 2011

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 10:31 pm

I have written about golfing in Beira before.  (See here.)  I mentioned the danger of the golf-ball sized crab holes.  What I did not mention is that the crabs actually steal the balls.  I’m not kidding.  I thought the caddies were kidding when they would frantically run after lost balls, exclaiming we needed to find them before the crabs did.  I just thought if the balls were gone, it was because they rolled into the holes.  Until I saw a big red crab come out of its hole, grab a ball, and retreat into its hole with its treasure.


This photo makes me laugh because it shows everyone searching in the rough for lost balls.



Photo #84 November 18, 2011

Filed under: Culture,Pictures — Jen @ 9:17 pm

I’ve posted this picture before.  (See here.)  But I’m going to post it again because, well, I just really like it.  And also I should add that I did eventually start drinking coffee.


Because it was so cultural in Sweden, and because at the time I anticipated spending much more time in Sweden, I told myself I needed to learn how to drink coffee.  You know, when in Rome…  So one afternoon in Beira, my housemate and an out of town guest decided to brew a pot.  I piped up, “I’ll have some too.”  I filled my cup with one third coffee and two thirds milk with at least two heaping teaspoons of sugar.  It was actually bearable.  I started doing that every day, slowly weaning myself to half coffee, half milk, then two thirds coffee and one third milk.  Very quickly I learned to not just tolerate coffee but enjoy coffee.  And suddenly I entered an aspect of social life that I had always lived on the outskirts of.


I eventually parted ways from my original motivation for drinking coffee, and I have yet to return to Sweden.  I’ve also realized that when I’m not working – and, therefore, needing the caffeine early in the morning –  I actually prefer to drink tea.  However, I’m still thankful that when I need to or want to, I can say, “Yes, please,” when offered a cup of coffee.