Friday, November 23, 2007

Still kind of amazed.

Thanksgiving week started as we picked up Shannon from the DSM airport. She had a great time during her brief stint with the state department in Belgium. On Wednesday, we successfully connected with our Russian friends Anton and Natalia at the DSM airport for an icy trip to KC. They had thoroughly enjoyed a sun-soaked trip to Disneyworld.
NON-traditional foods accented our traditional American Thanksgiving feast. Guests from India, Alston and Rosalyn, provided Palak Paneer (cooked spinach with chunks of tofu). Natalia cooked up some Russian Borsch (even though we couldn't find fresh beets!) and spread Ekra (orange salmon eggs or caviar) on buttered bread.
My brother's wife decided to call my nephew Brady using Skype. He was sitting shirtless and shortless beside Lake Malawi in Mozambique.
I love this smaller world. I'm still kind of amazed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Ungrateful Monkey

I wrote and read the following "children's story" for our Middle School students. They were a bit shocked by the ending.

The Ungrateful Monkey

Once upon a time there was a little monkey who lived in the jungle. The little monkey was so sad; he had only a few tattered clothes and there was very little to eat. All the other little monkeys could play, but this poor little monkey had a hurt leg. He couldn’t run or climb like all of the other little monkeys. All of the other little monkeys went to school but this little monkey had to stay home to find enough food to keep from getting too hungry.

One day as the little monkey was hunting for food, a giraffe came along. The giraffe said, “Say, little monkey, why are you so sad?” The little monkey cried and told the giraffe that he was so, so hungry.

“Well, said the giraffe, haven’t you noticed that the best fruit is at the top of the trees?”

“I can’t reach the tops of the trees,” said the little monkey, “I’m too short and my leg is hurt so I cannot climb.”

“Here, said the giraffe, “I’ll lift you high so that you can reach the tops of the trees.” So every day the giraffe came along and lifted the little monkey to the tops of the trees so that he wouldn’t be so hungry.

Some time later the little monkey was crying because he couldn’t play with the other children. He tried, but his leg had never healed and it hurt so bad. Along came a parrot and the parrot said, “Say little monkey, why are you so sad?”

The little monkey tearfully replied, “I hurt my leg and I cannot play with the other little monkeys and I can’t reach food without the giraffe.”

“Well, said the Parrot, “Us parrots get hurt all of the time and I know what will heal your leg.” So the parrot joined with all of his parrot friends and they gathered from all of the healing plants of the jungle. They mixed them up and bound them onto his leg.

The parrot said to the little monkey, “You keep this on your leg and it will heal very quickly.”

So in just a few days the little monkey was running and playing with all the other little monkeys. The little monkey no longer needed the giraffe.

Some time later the little monkey was crying because the other little monkeys had made fun of his tattered clothes. A beautiful Peacock came along and said, “Say little monkey, why are you so sad?”

The little monkey cried and told him he only had tattered clothes.

“Well”, said the peacock, “I will clothe you with the best of peacock feathers.”

So the little monkey was transformed. All the other little monkeys admired him for his feathery clothes.

The little monkey proudly strutted about in his beautiful new clothes; he ate everything he wanted and the little monkey could run faster than all the other little monkeys because of his strong legs.

One day the little monkey walked proudly past another little monkey who was crying. The little monkey said to the other little monkey, “Why are you so sad?”

The other little monkey sobbed, “I can’t reach the best fruit at the top of the trees and I’m hungry!”

The little monkey said to the other little monkey,” I have plenty of food to eat and I’m the strongest climber and the fastest runner. If you worked hard like me and if you had stronger and faster legs and if you dressed as beautifully as me then you would have plenty to eat.”

Then the little monkey walked off and left the other little monkey.

Monday, November 5, 2007

aaah, Giordano's

We landed in Orlando and, while Sue was picking up the rental car, I was browsing the tourist rack. Somehow, while flipping through a coupon book, a subliminal thought was planted firmly in my cerebral cortex, “Must have Giordano’s pizza. Must have Giordano’s pizza.”

So while dining on the best of seafood all week long in Florida, I was privately lusting for Giordano’s pizza. I even double checked our hotel room’s Daytona Beach Yellow Pages listing under ‘PIZZA’. No listing for Giordano’s in Daytona. I re-checked online through but to no avail. I even quizzed the locals in hopes that some enterprising, pizza-savvy investor had somehow quickly constructed a Giordano’s restaurant in Daytona and it didn’t show up on the radar of the ubiquitous Yellow Pages and online directories. Conclusion: No Giordano’s in Daytona. The closest culinary heaven was in Orlando; 70 miles away.

So, as the week wore on, being the good Christian that I am, I graciously deferred to Jonathan, Jessica and others in their selection of sub-par, non-Giordano’s eateries. As you can imagine, the anticipation was quietly building for our return to my pizza Mecca, Orlando.

Finally, as with all addictive behaviors, I was leading my traveling companions to think that Giordano’s wasn’t really that important to me. And, at week’s end, on the ride back to Orlando’s airport I maneuvered myself to ride shotgun with the job of navigator. I now had FULL control over our itinerary back to the Orlando airport. No one would know that I was directing us to Southwest Orlando (the closest Giordano’s) while the airport was located in far East Orlando. Timing was going to be tight, however. We only had about 45 minutes to rush in, eat, and get on the way to meet our flight. “Okay,” I told myself, “if the Giordano’s management is on the ball, we should have enough time.” I reluctantly resigned myself to the fact that I may not have the necessary time to Savor the pizza.

We found the exit and moved through the 3rd stop light, which had just, for some reason, blacked out. We spotted the Glorious Giordano’s Pizza sign. I was calm on the outside, but giddy on the inside as Sue snagged a parking spot uber close to the restaurant’s front door. We passed a couple just finishing their meal on the front patio. They looked so happy. We walked inside looking for quick service. In a Sherlock Holmsian kind of way, I noticed very few patrons and a full grouping of staff. Quick service should be no problem. However, with my heightened sense of awareness, I also observed that no lights were on in the restaurant. Just at that moment, my world came crashing in as the hostess apologetically announced, “We’re sorry, but the power just went out in the area and we will not be able to serve you.”

With the agility of cloud in the night sky (my family loves to use meaningless metaphors) my mind snapped into action. Now, in problem-solving mode, I asked the hostess, “Surely the gas ovens still work?” My desperation was now exposed as the hostess reassured me that, as soon as the power came back on, we could be served. She gently asked if we would like to be seated. Realizing that waiting was out of the question, my mind shifted into high gear, ultra fast computing mode. My CPU was presenting me with multiple options in a simultaneous blur. I was rapid-fire-sequencing huge amounts of raw data, and alternately assessing the probabilities of each proposed solution. Running from the lowest probability solution to the highest my mind captured the stark reality of our plight. We could:

Option 1: Quickly call the airline and book a later flight.

Option 2: Take our chances and wait for the power to return (Sue nixed this option as too risky)

Option 3: Beg for leftover pizza from other patrons.

We resorted to Option 3. Begging for pizza was not below me. And actually we didn’t really beg. We just stood outside discussing our situation loudly enough for the couple on the patio to hear us. This wonderfully angelic couple offered us their still-in-the-pan lukewarm pizza. We responded with the obligatory, “I’m sorry, we couldn’t take your pizza. Certainly you would want to take it home with you?” They then replied with the culturally-sensitive insistent comeback, “No, really, we ordered too much and we won’t take it to our hotel.” I think that’s what I heard as I was darting back into the restaurant to get a carry out box.

After thanking the couple profusely for the 3 pieces of who-cares-what-was-in-it pizza, we forced 5 bucks into their hands to prove we weren’t beggars. Being the good Christian I am, I didn’t want to overtly disappoint the others by mentioning the fact there were only 3 pieces of pizza but there were 4 of us. As we returned to our car, I may have carefully reminded Sue that she should watch her calories. I thought this ploy might cause her to restrict herself to eating only one piece of the spoils.

Still in a time crunch, we anxiously looked for a quick food restaurant with its light on. You see, the pizza remains were Mine. But, being the good Christian I am, we wanted to find some food for the others. In a low-brow kind of way, we smuggled my prize into Chile’s restaurant under my coat, ordered drinks and some chow for the others. And, being the good Christian I am, I offered to pray quickly before the other food arrived so that some of us could go ahead and eat while some warmth was left in the leftover pizza.

So, with eager trembling hands, I gnawed my way to ecstasy. Engorged on one and a half pieces of that thick crusted delight, and being the good Christian I am, I offered a leftover bite for Jonathan and Jessica to share.

Now, in hindsight, and under the unhindered conviction of God’s Holy Spirit, I feel that I owe a Giordano’s pizza to Jonathan and Jessica. As I told Sue, we need to mail order a shipment of Giordano’s pizza and invite Jonathan and Jessica over for dinner. We will fellowship over pizza and assuage my conscience (and my appetite), being the good Christian I am.