Thursday, April 26, 2012

April Photo Challenge, Day 22: the last thing I bought

The last thing I bought was a cup of tea and a blueberry muffin at Costa Coffee in Heathrow Airport.  But I didn't take a picture of that.  The last thing I bought before that was groceries, which is the main thing I buy.

The most recent thing I bought for myself, though, was this Ethiopian shawl that I hope to wear at the weddings this summer.

April Photo Challenge, Day 22: a bottle

Yesterday I flew from Oxford to Ohio.  The trip started with racing to meet a bus at 2 a.m., getting to the right terminal at Heathrow, and then dozing off in Paris, not realizing boarding for my flight had begun.  Thankfully I made it to the final destination with no mishaps!  But I didn't take any pictures yesterday, either.

Here's a picture of a Coke bottle....the kind made with sugar and served in a bottle is the best!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April Photo Challenge, Day 20: something I drew

Ha!  Ha!  I can't draw.  I mean you might be able to recognize what's depicted in the drawing....and then again maybe you wouldn't.  I certainly don't win Pictionary!!!

So I cheated and drew with Photoshop.  This is a picture I took today of a flower in a park.  Then I used a filter in Photoshop to make it look like a drawing.

April Photo Challenge, Day19: orange

Yesterday's photo challenge was orange.  I've noticed that orange is a color you don't see much of.  (Yes, I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition.)  I don't wear orange because I think my skin looks kind of orange/yellowish anyway.  But here I am wearing the one orange thing I have in my wardrobe.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April photo challenge, Day 18: hair or Going "No 'Poo"

OK, I know going "no 'poo" sounds disgusting.  If you've never heard of it, it means you don't use shampoo.

My sister first told me about it in November and I thought it sounded really weird.  I'm quite fussy about my hair.  I don't spend a lot of time on it, preferring a wash and air dry style.  But I can't stand having greasy hair and I wash my hair every day.

But I was intrigued so I did some reading on no 'poo.  I discovered that, first of all, shampoos are made of chemicals and they send your hair on a wild cycle of over-compensation.  The shampoo works so well to de-grease your hair, that your head stimulates even more oil to bring a natural balance of oil back to your head. Your head starts saying, "Oh no!  You're too dry!  Produce more oil!" So it becomes a vicious cycle.  Not to mention that the use of chemicals on your body probably isn't really a good thing.

I also discovered that for some people no 'poo means they only clean their hair with water.  I wasn't sure I'd be willing to go that extreme.  

Others, however, wash their hair with about 1 tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in 8 ounces of water.  You pour that on your head and massage it in, then let it stay in your hair for a bit.  Rinse it out and you will feel how squeaky clean your hair is.  Most websites recommend a follow-up rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar.

I also read that it usually takes your hair at least a month to adjust to not being controlled by shampoo, gel, mousse, hair spray, or whatever else you put in your hair (I did all those, but not all on the same day).  So you can expect to look bad for about a month.  Pony tails are great during this time and I live in an area where scarves are culturally appropriate and scarves cover a lot on bad hair days!

My hair this morning, while still wet.  I've also discovered I have a cowlick on my forehead!  Which is nice because I've been wearing my bangs down, but it keeps them from lying directly on my forehead.
So, I decided to try it.  I've been no 'poo now since the beginning of February.  My routine is to use the baking soda rinse followed by vinegar twice a week.  The other days I just rinse with vinegar or don't wash my hair at all.  So, Monday, I do baking soda and vinegar; Tuesday, no wash; Wednesday, rinse with vinegar; Thursday, baking soda and vinegar; Friday, rinse with vinegar; Saturday, no wash; Sunday, no wash (I wear a scarf to church so why wash?! :) ).

I did change this around a bit when I was going to the pool two to three times a week.  I did not wash my hair those days until after swimming and then I used the baking soda followed by vinegar method to make sure I had all the chlorine out.  I didn't want my hair getting that green cast!

All the web sites recommend apple cider vinegar, but I can't get apple cider vinegar in Niger so I use plain white vinegar and that seems to work well.  We have pretty soft water which is also an advantage.

The result?  I have a lot more curl and I don't need to use any styling products to keep my hair in place.  Once in a while it gets a greasy or waxy feel, but the baking soda wash seems to get rid of that.  I don't think it looks greasy at all, though.

Since being in England I haven't been quite as happy with the results. For one thing, maybe it was just the stores I went to, but I couldn't find apple cider vinegar or plain white vinegar, so I bought malt vinegar.  I'm not sure the difference in all these vinegars, but I have a feeling malt vinegar isn't the best to wash your hair with.  I've discovered that if I use more of the Malt vinegar it seems to make it better.  I also think that the water is harder here than I'm used to, so my hair is probably going through an adjustment again.  Also, it takes my hair a really long time to dry here in England and I wish I had a hair dryer to see if that makes a difference.

I also got my hair cut shorter recently, so you know how it goes with a new hair cut.  It seems to take awhile for it to do what it's supposed to do.  I'm finding I can't really skip washing my hair as much because it looks really flat on one side from sleeping on it.  When it was a bit longer I could put it up in a ponytail.

So, that's my no 'poo experiment and I don't think I'll be going back to shampoo.  Plus which, it saves a lot of money to buy soda and vinegar instead of pricey, imported shampoos.  I guess soda and vinegar are imported, too, but they aren't nearly as expensive as shampoo.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April Photo Challenge, Day 17: something you don't like

I know British cuisine gets slammed a lot, but before I start this post I have to say that every meal I've had that's been prepared by a Brit has been excellent.  So this has only to do with my personal preferences.
I'm not a fan of peas, but I'll eat frozen peas.  Tinned peas, I really don't like that much.  But mushy peas?? You've got to be kidding.  That's taking a barely tolerable vegetable and makes it into something disgusting.

Americans have come up with ways of ruining vegetables too.  Creamed corn??  Really?!  That's as disgusting as mushy peas.

Speaking of food, a Korean church from London came to OCMS, where John is studying, and had a cook-out for us today. That was good food!


Friday, April 20, 2012

April Photo Challenge, day 15: Flower

Spring in England is absolutely beautiful.  Finding a flower to photograph should be pretty easy, but one can't go tramping through people's private gardens, can they?
I often walk past this flower shop with it's display of purple, pink, yellow, and white flowers. It seems to me that Brits really like buying cut flowers to have at home.  Every day when I'm out I'll see people heading home or to a friend's house with a bunch of flowers in hand. I really like that and I think it's a good way to add color to a dark, dreary day.  I think in the US we tend to do flowers for special occasions, but it seems to be more of an every day occurrence here.  But, maybe I'm wrong and a lot of people have a lot of special occasions!

I also got a picture of this flowering tree growing along a city street.  I don't think it's cherry, but I'm not sure what it is.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April Photo Challenge, day 14: Sunset

I guess I could go out and try to get a sunset photo.  But I'm going to change the challenge and call it a stormy sky photo.  It has rained a lot the past three days.  But this afternoon I managed to go out for a walk without getting wet.  

Just as I was arriving back home, I saw that the sky was dark over in the direction of the Port Meadow. The sky was beautiful because the sun was in the opposite direction, so it was shining on the dark sky and the green trees, making them a sharper, more brilliant color than they normally appear.

I couldn't help but wonder if there could be a spiritual lesson from the cows chewing their cud in the meadow while a storm approaches.  I thought of two lessons and you can take your pick!

1.  The cows are content and calm even though the storm is coming.  They just carry on, chewing their cud, doing what they're supposed to do.  "Stay calm and carry on" is their motto.  So we should be like the cows.  Storms may be all around us, but we should just stay calm and continue meditating on God's Word....chewing our cud so to speak.

2.  The cows are content and calm even though the storm is coming.  And we're like the cows, totally unaware that disaster is about to strike, that doors may be closing in certain parts of the world, that we are in the end times.  Like the cows, we just placidly sit around, chewing our cud, doing nothing.  As Keith Green sang in Asleep in the Light, "You close your eyes and pretend the job's done.  ....How can you be so dead when you've been so well fed?  Jesus rose from the grave and you can't even get out of bed."  Ouch....pretty convicting words!
And on a much lighter, but somewhat related note....what is fly tipping and why am I forbidden to do it? Is it related to cow tipping? Somehow I think I'm losing something in the translation!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April Photo Challenge, day 13: how I feel

Even though I'm an introvert, I'm not a very introspective introvert.  In other words, I'm fairly quiet, and definitely not the life of the party.  I enjoy people and I'm not afraid of people, but being with people a lot exhausts me.  I need to be alone to re-energize.  But, even though it's a common trait amongst introverts, I'm not really introspective.  I don't spend a lot of time looking inward, getting in touch with my feelings and so on.  I have a pretty steady and placid temperament and most of the time I'm ok.

I do have bad days and certain things do get me in a bad mood.  Unkindness, especially if it seems intentional, gets me down.  Cold and dark on a constant basis gets me down.  Sometimes I feel lonely and sometimes I wonder if what I'm doing really matters.

While in Niger, I think we're all aware that we're under stress, but I don't realize just how much stress until I get to a place where I'm not so hot I can't think straight, where the internet works at lightning speed, when the lights come on at a flip of the switch, and where I don't have as many responsibilities.  Then I realize, wow, I was stressed!

So, do you think today's rain and cold got me down? Nope!  It was a refreshing break after seven months and counting of almost no rain.  It was a welcome sight after seven months of either sun or dust.  Would constant rain get me down?  You bet, especially if it's cold.

But, that's why we have tea and bourbon biscuits!  Seriously, though, if all I had to get me through hard times was tea and cookies, I'd be in a sorry mess.  Thankfully I have the Lord, who is a personal friend who really cares!  "I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD." (Psalm 40:1-3)

April Photo Challenge, day 12: something I found

The nice thing about living in Oxford is that there are so many places to walk.  We don't have a vehicle, either, so we HAVE to walk.

Our flat is right next to the canal and there is a path along the canal that is perfect for walking.  So on my walk today, along the canal, I kept my eyes open for something to find.

Kids seem to find things everywhere.  I looked and looked, but I didn't find anything!  But I did find Spring!

*I found green, green grass, even though they say there is a drought here.

*I found flowers in bloom....mostly yellow ones like dandelions, forsythia, and daffodils.  

*I found swans and ducks, swimming in pairs, up and down the canal.

*I found children with rosy cheeks, on their way home from school.

*I found that the sun can be shining one minute and then suddenly it's raining with no warning and in a few minutes the sun is out again.

*I found a toilet beside the canal.  What???  It's hooked up, too. It hasn't just been dumped there.

*And I can't resist throwing in a picture of this bright cheerful shop. The name intrigues me..."Frog Orange Party"...and they chose pink, not orange for their paint color.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Take Me Home Terrible Road

I know it seems kind of random to write about Niger when I'm in England, but I've never had a chance to write about our experience traveling back to Niamey from Maradi. So, if you'll excuse the we go on a road trip in Niger!

We left Maradi around 7 a.m., knowing we had about a 12 hour trip ahead of us.  Thankfully, we knew the worst part of the road was the first part.  Once we got through the first three hours, it would be smooth sailing from there on out!

The road between Galmi and Maradi is pretty much destroyed.  Some parts of it you can't even tell that it was ever paved.  Other parts are still paved, but full of potholes  (the disappear to China kind!).  At other places it's just easier to go off the road and drive beside it.

We were making good progress when we heard a strange noise.....there were three others traveling with us.  We stopped the car to look and we had a flat tire.  So, John decided it would be a good idea to pull the car off the "road" a bit more.  Major problem....the car wouldn't start up again.

He opened the hood to discover that the battery was caked up with acid and couldn't make a connection. I "just happened" to have baking soda with me which we mixed with some of our drinking water in a bowl we also "just happened to have and John used J's toothbrush to clean the connections. Often that does the trick, but, nope, the car still wouldn't start.

Meanwhile, the temperature was rising, the wind was blowing, and there wasn't a speck of shade anywhere.  You'd be surprised, walking far enough we did find a place to hide behind for our "rest area".

So we called our Security Officer and told him what was up.  He said he'd send somebody out with jumper cables, but they couldn't come right away.

So, in the mean-time, we pushed the car off the "road" a bit more and got the tire changed.  Not long after that our friend called and said help was on the way.  But not even five minutes after that, a van carrying friends from orientation, showed up. 

So we decided to push the car and see if we could start it that way.  It worked!  We called our friend back and told him to not bother sending the jumper cables. And we were back on our way, bouncing and thudding over the potholes.

Once we got to Galmi, friends fixed a delicious meal for us.  John took the car into the town to get the tire fixed, but none of the little tire repair shops were open.  It was Friday afternoon and everybody had gone to the mosque.

So after our break there, which was a little longer than we intended, we were back on the road.  A couple villages down the road we saw another tire repair place open, so we stopped.  John got out and they pulled a screw out of the tire and patched it.  But then they saw a slit in the tire which they said they couldn't fix.  Most tires here use tubes but since our car was brought in from Switzerland with five nearly new tires, we have tubeless tires.  He said he could put a tube in it, but we'd already spent half an hour there and it would take at least another half hour.  We decided to go on.

Thankfully, every time we stopped our car started.  We did leave it on while at the tire repair shop, though, and I think everybody but John had a little nap in the air conditioning!  I know I did.
Onions, onions everywhere.

We pressed on, driving as fast as we could, knowing darkness would descend before we got home.  We called a missionary family and asked if we could stop at their house to use the bathroom.  They graciously said we could, but before we got there we encountered a car with smoking coming out from under it.  We stopped to help, though there wasn't much to do.  We did get their phone number and gave it to our missionary friend to give to his mechanic.  Hopefully the mechanic was able to go out and rescue them.

The last two hours of the trip were in the dark and it really was stressful.  It's hard to describe....the roads don't have much of a white line along the side so when a car comes towards you, you lose sight of that line.  Then many of the cars don't turn their brights down, so you are blinded.  Broken down trucks are parked right in the road and it's hard to see them until the last minute.  Then there are the speed bumps.  I cannot tell you how many towns had speed bumps and how many towns did not give you any warning that there was going to be a speed bump!

Cows looking for shade
Once we arrived in Niamey, we needed to deliver our passengers to their homes, so there was quite a bit of driving in Niamey....with pedestrians, bicycles, and animals added to the general confusion of driving down streets whose street lights don't work!  Our neighbor had made supper for us, but I was too tired to even eat.  I had driven all the way from Galmi to Niamey because John was having problems with his glasses.

All we could do at the end of that day was go to bed praising God for taking care of us and protecting us.  Monday morning saw John out buying a new battery for the car!

April Photo Challenge, day 11: stairs

Today I went into an old church in Oxford.  I think this one was called St. Margaret's.  I looked for the name but I didn't have anything to write on and of course I forgot it by the time I got home!

Both John and Charles Wesley preached from the original pulpit at this church. This pulpit was replaced to the present one some time in the 1800's.  So, it's not the exact pulpit they preached on, but it's in the exact spot and in the same church. 
These steps are also in that church. 

April Photo Challenge, day 10: where I had breakfast

In the kitchen, of course! 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April Photo Challenge, day 9: Cold

It is currently 102 in Niger and 48 in Oxford, so yes, we're a little cold!  It's a bit of a shock to our systems!!  We've gone for long walks the past two days and it really hasn't been too bad out in the sunshine.

Today we walked out to an old church I had discovered last time we were here....St Margaret of Antioch, Binsey. John and I looked around and sat there in the quiet for awhile.  It was very chilly in the church and I can't imagine what it was like in the old days in the winter to come there to worship. There is neither heating nor electricity in the church to this very day.

A memorial stone on the floor from 1670

A collection of candlesticks for use during services

A unique headstone in the cemetery
The present church has a Norman foundation and was rebuilt some time around the 13th century.  The church is famous because it was a medieval pilgrimage site.  The well on the property was reputed to have healing powers.  In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland the treacle well to which he refers is the well at this little church.

Here's one lady that won't feel cold with her coat of fur!

Walking across the meadow I snapped this picture of a couple keeping warm during their romantic walk.  I love her skirts and boots!

Friday, April 13, 2012

April Photo Challenge, day 8: a younger me

This picture was taken of me when I was about 10 years old.  It's one of my favorite pictures ever taken of me.  The lighting looks very professional.

And I wish my hair was still that blonde. It is now brown and quite curly and totally different than it was then.