Wednesday, December 8, 2010

love, LOST and the subway set-up

Love is only love insofar as it is actable, doable, in some way substantial.

It can't be only an idea.

My teacher told me in class yesterday that I was "acting an idea" in my scene. I had no clue what he meant in the moment and asked him to explain it 5 different ways. Still didn't get it. Because I've been taught (in my for-better-or-for-worse evangelical education) to act ideas. Take a concept of God and create a hypothetical scenario around it and decide how you might respond if that were every to happen (thus producing a artificial sense of general Christian "niceness" that that world rightly identifies as false) instead of responding to the reality of what is actually happening in the present moment (i.e. theorize about how God "speaks to me" instead of just having a real live conversation with him like i would with a friend at Starbucks).

Theorizing about Love and God and how to Love like God in “the real world” is about as practical to real life as lifting weights is to playing quarter-back. Sure, it helps, but it’s not the real game. The real game is only learned on the field. If perfect love casts out fear, then fear also casts out love. Love is only powerful insomuch as it tangibly destroys fear.

Enough of that.

I had my first New York City audition today. It was for a small part in a play I didn’t know or really care about but I still found myself losing feeling in my legs and hands as I rode the elevator up to the 8th floor auditioning room. Yes, part of me is still a small child in these situations. Another part of me is a somewhat experienced actor while another part of me keeps thinking I don’t belong here. And then there’s another part of me that doesn’t really care at all and just wants to go eat a cheeseburger.

Which I did immediately after my audition as a congratulations to myself for being so nervous.

I can’t make a habit out of this.

Christmas in New York as a poor, single, part-time-nanny/aspiring actress… is not all it’s crack up to be. Everyone is here (many have flown to be here) to be charmed by the ambiance… the lights, the music, the hustle and bustle and the Christmas tree stands on every corner. Sometimes I feel like the main character of one of those early 90’s chick-flicks where the girl lives alone in a big city and everyone around her is holding hands and snuggling and kissing and ice-skating and throwing their laughing children up in the air (and catching them) and drinking and eating things she can’t afford to drink and eat in beautiful, decked-out-for-the-holidays restaurants.


But I know that there’s not a scene coming where I jump on the subway tracks or run into someone’s dog who spills my coffee all over my dress and then drags me to the empire state building where I am proposed to by the love of my life over the radio.

That’s only in the movies ☺

However… the other day on the subway I was sitting across from a particularly handsome and well-dressed man, probably in his early thirties. I thought to myself: he looks like someone I might like. A couple came in, obviously tourists, and immediately started asking questions about subway cards, times square and ground zero. They couldn’t stop talking and kept offering up information about themselves (they were from Cincinnati, it was her first time in NYC and he had been here once before… but only for a Yankees game. They were here now because someone in their family (I forget who) was having surgery and someone else had to take care of someone else… clearly, I wasn’t listening too well). The handsome man was very polite and answered all their questions. I chimed in on a few answers. Then the questions turned on us. We found out that the handsome man had lived in NY his whole life and manages money. I told them I live here too. Finally, the man from Cincinnati (with a strangely thick southern accent) pointed at the handsome man and said:

“wait, are you single?”

He nodded “yes” and then he looked at me and asked the same question. I said yes.

“WE’LL WHY DON’T YOU TWO GET TOGETHER???” He almost yelled.

I started to laugh nervously and the handsome man shifted his feet. I made some stupid comment about being an actress and how no one wants to date an actress. The well-dressed man just laughed and asked me where I acted. But before I could tell him that I don't actually act anywhere the tourist interrupted:

"GREAT!!! We got em talking!!!"

And then he continued shouting excitedly about how cute our kids would be and how he would pay the money manager $20 to take me out … by now the entire subway car is dying laughing and I am turning progressively pinker.

“I’m sorry.” I said to the handsome man.

“Are these your parents?” he joked.

“Are they yours?” I wish I‘d said back. I just giggled like a girl instead, still bright pink in my cheeks.

And then we were at times square and the express train was across the way so I had to run and the tourists had to go the opposite direction as well as the handsome man in the nice clothes.

No, he didn't have time to get my number but I know, secretly, he wanted to.

Now, if my life was like a movie, I would meet this man in a coffee shop or on the subway tracks in a few weeks, on Christmas Eve, perhaps, right as a beautiful Christmas song was playing, and he would have been using all his money to hire a team (like Penny in LOST) to find me. He would start to cry and instantly propose with his great-grandmother’s ring he had been carrying in his pocket… in case he saw me again.

This, my friends, could happen.

Until then, I walk 40 blocks a day in the 30 degree weather and wait to go home for Christmas so I can get my hat and gloves that I didn’t think I would need in New York.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 33 in NYC

(alright, I haven’t really been here the WHOLE time)

It occurred to me today, while crossing the street, texing, that the phrase “who knows when you’ll die? You could get hit by a bus at any moment?” is not so absurd. It would be very easy for me, Maggie Ritchie, to just not look or get so engrossed just thinking about how I am going to get from point a to point b and simply survive today that I might just not survive because I have indeed been hit by a bus.

I need to work on this.

So I’m finally moved into my new apartment and feeling, sorta, settled in the upper-west-side of the largest city in the USA.

The trauma of moving has been explained to me, many times, by my mother. I never really believed her before. Now, I laugh just thinking about moving in/out any other place but Manhattan. Ha. You have it so easy, EVERYONE. The idea of hauling my relatively small amount of stuff, bag by bag, down the hall, into the elevator (lucky to have one), out of the elevator, out of the first set of doors, out to the street, waving down a taxi (again, lucky) explaining he’ll have to come around because it’s a one way street, all the while keeping an eye on my 7 bags/boxes because I am alone and might get robbed… and then doing the reverse process on the other side, door, elevator, hallway, door, hallway, room, bag by bag… makes everything else seem like a joke.

Oh, and did I mention it was raining?

(Snapshot: Maggie walking 7.5 blocks in the pouring, freezing rain, dragging 2 suitcases and wearing nothing but a strapless dress and uggs because everything else was packed up ☺ … because she didn’t want to pay for a cab ☺)

So that was Wednesday. I understand why people stay in their apartments for 49 years. No, not rent control. It’s the avoidance of the move.

I yelled at two taxi drivers in a span of 24 hours.


The first one was not so dramatic. I was taking a bus back from DC which was stuck in grid-lock traffic for over 40 minutes so I was running late. I had a 6pm meeting for a job opportunity and the bus pulled in at 6:20 (was schedule to arrive 5:45). I made a quick calculation between subway and cab and chose the subway, mostly because it’s cheaper. Bad choice. After lurching around at 1 mile per hour, stopping and starting, I got one stop on the subway and then realized I had got on going the WRONG WAY! Curses!!! So I run out, got on going the other way, and the train does the same thing. Starts, stops, pauses, groans… and then I start groaning and explaining my dismay to a gay couple next to me. They were extremely sweet and sympathetic. “It’s days like this that I hate New York” I said.

“You’ll get used to it” they said (everyone says that)

“I’m not sure that I want to” I say…

So we’re still moving like a snail and there are 4 stops to go, so I get off at 14th street and hail a cab. Thinking he might be able to save me.


Add to this, he’s eating a sandwich or something while he sits in traffic and I watch the meater rise with my blood pressure.

“I am so late!!!” I say “I could walk faster than this!”

“Do you want to walk? “ He answers, unfazed

“No…” and then I huff and puff for a few more minutes. And keep saying “This is ridiculous” under my breath while he continues to munch away at whatever he was eating.
Finally we’re close enough and I stopped dead still so I just say, “this is fine, I’m getting out.”

“And I hope you enjoyed your dinner” I heard it coming out of me in a voice I didn’t recognize… but did. (no bethel friends, not a demon. Just me. Just a very angry version of Maggie ☺)

I was horrified.

I am a terrible person, I thought

Leaving the meeting I was 50 minutes late to, I dropped my phone, somehow, and didn’t realize for a good 30 minutes. Came back to check and it was gone (later, I find out a maintenance man had picked it up and shoved it in a drawer INSIDE of a book.

Figure that one out.

I used a taxi-drivers phone to call a friend to call about my phone and I just wanted to scream again:

Really? REALLY?

(Sidenote: All in all , I spent $30 on taxi’s that evening, going nowhere. That’s 2 hours of baby-sitting which is SO not worth sitting in traffic with a man eating a sandwich…or whatever he was eating. )

The next day was the above-described moving process and I still didn’t have my phone, so I couldn’t call anyone to help.

So… I yelled at another taxi driver.

He was old and Chinese and really confused and sort of difficult and wouldn’t listen to what I was actually saying and kept saying “I dunt undastand” so finally I just said “look, I’m sorry you’re confused, I’m having a really bad day, can we please just go!?!”

To which he answered “Ya baad day is nat ma baad day! Why do you haf to be angry wef me?”

And then I started to cry. Here I am, a graduate of Bethel School of Supernatural ministry, here in NYC because I feel called to be here because I want to change something, and be a light… or whatever, and I can’t even be kind to the old Chinese taxi driver who is just trying to do his job.

I am a terrible person
. I thought again. And kept crying.

“Its humaan natur” said the cabbie. “Humaan natur”

The doorman at the new apartment was certainly confused to see me get out of the cab with tears streaming down my face, return to the cabbie to ask for forgiveness, hug him, and then struggle with my 7 bags to get under the awning and out of the rain.

I don’t know what to say about all this.

I know shame and discouragement are pretty useless, but I am still shocked.

I also refuse to turn it into one of those lessons about how evil we really are at the core. Because I am not evil. I’m really not. And neither are you. I’m actually quite amazing and kind and loving and thoughtful and a lot of other lovely things. I’m sure you are too. But then I also can yell at a cabbie over a pretty insignificant circumstance.

What’s that about?

“Maggie, where’s your peace?” I keep hearing Jason Vallotton in my head.
I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure, in that moment, it wasn’t in Jesus or feeling loved or knowing I am taken care of and always will be.


So when I say New York is kicking my a**, that’s what I mean. Never has it been more plain to me that I am utterly out of control and terrifyingly helpless to change most every circumstance I encounter. The need to control is still so strong, mostly because it hasn’t been challenged. And now it is being challenged.

And, God help me, it will lose ☺

I am so exposed.

Here’s to becoming stronger, and more our beautiful selves.

And to taxi drivers everywhere, God bless em.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

grocery carts and monologues

I had the most harrowing grocery shopping experience of my life this afternoon. I should know better than to go to one of the only 2 trader joe's in Manhattan on a saturday afternoon.

Next time, Maggie.

The store was set up in 3 very unorganized levels. From the time I walked in til the time I left I was confused. Almost all the food i went there specifically to buy were out of stock despite their efforts to constantly restock the shelves. There was a dairy floor, a frozen foods and breads floor and an escalator for my grocery cart.

Note to self, use a basket next time.

Every time I turned around I was bumping into someone or someone was slamming their cart into my ankles. The line was over 60 people long and meandered around the whole confusing mess of the store. My favorite part was when this old woman (like, in her 80's) who was waiting for samples got fed up with being crowded and shoved a full but abandoned cart out of her way, and crashed it right into my cart. I could hardly take it personally. If I was her age and I had been dealing with such nonsense for this long, I'd probably do the same.

When I lay down at bed at night, the automatic phrase that comes to my lips is: "Help, God." That's the only thing that comes. Prayers that used to feel so eloquent and robust now taste a bit false on my tongue. Has belief shrunk? No, I don't think so. But practical needs are so much more... well, practical. How will I eat tomorrow? "Help, God" How will this interview go? "Help God" How will I get up in front of 35 professional actors tomorrow and pretend that I deserve to be in this class? "Help, help, help, God."

It's not so much frightened as it is consistent and reliant. I cannot possibly control my life. This has always been true, but where the illusion existed before, the false foundation of "self-sufficiency" has been exposed and I find myself entirely at the mercy of love: His and those he puts in my path.

What could have been shaken was, so what cannot be will remain.

as Saint Joan said (according to GB Shaw): "Do not think that you can frighten me by telling me that I am alone. France is alone and God is alone and what is my loneliness before the loneliness of my country and my God. I see now that the loneliness of God IS His strength. Well, my loneliness shall be my strength too. It is better to be alone with God. His council will not fail me, nor His friendship, nor His love."

I told God the other day "I don't understand" and he said "i never asked you to understand, I asked you to trust."

There you go again, God. Not much I can say to that, but "yes" and "I love you"

...because i really do.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dr. Seuss, the subway and my purple robe

"Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don't matter,
and those who matter don't mind."

— Dr. Seuss

Call it a new season, call it a change of seasons, call it adventure or call it boredom … I always know when it’s time to write again. Perhaps it happens when I’m spending enough of my day alone that poetic (or banal) lines begin to dart through my subconscious like a stray cat… accompanied by the thought:

“you really should be writing this down”

So here I am writing it down.

You’ll have to forgive me. Since my last blog, which was, I believe, over 2 years ago, I can’t remember sitting down to just WRITE for a non-assignment related purpose.

I fear I am more than a bit rusty.

It’s Saturday night, 11:34 pm in the city that never sleeps. I’ve been sitting Indian style on my bed in my fluffy purple robe for the last hour, happy to be indoors, not regretting one bit my neglect of the late-night bar scene. Perhaps it’s an overdose of the non-specific human interaction or unproductive busyness (which is daily and inevitable), but when I come through the door of my temporary, 5th floor, upper-west-side apartment, I immediately take off my shoes, coat, jeans, sweater, purse, everything that smells like “out-there” and cozy up in my purple robe (possibly my favorite article of clothing on this planet), and sit Indian-style on my bed and begin click-clicking through facebook profiles and old emails.

I don’t recall behaving this way in the past.

Granted, I’ve only been here 6 days. Wait, has it been six? Maybe only 5. I arrived on Monday night with as many winter clothes as I could tote on the subway (the rest was shipped by my mother in a cardboard box). I was still recovering from an internal wound to my esophagus (I will spare you the details) which prevented me from eating food or drinking water without a great deal of pain. I made my way in the dusk to my temporary apartment, put away my few things, shed a few tears and brushed my teeth.

This is my new home.

How can that be?

It is a strange city, New York, when you’re not here as a temporary or tourist. I have always been mesmerized by the activity and drive of everyone in EVERY direction. But now that I know that I LIVE here, it just feels exhausting. “Where is home?”… I keep thinking. Where’s the place where you drive into the driveway, turn off the key and hear the ding-ding-ding when you open the door? You see the house lights on. Walk in the door (ground level) drop your bag, kick off your shoes and find your dad watching the 10 O’clock news.

None of that here. I’m lucky to see the lovely woman I live with twice a week in passing.

I’ve only been here 5 full days.

And in those 5 days, I’ve taken up the part-time job of a nanny while I look for something more “stable”.


Apparently I didn’t realize how attractive being 7th of 10 children with 18 nieces and nephews (and being raised without sugar on a farm) would make me to the young New York mother, who is also trying to resist the culture here and raise her children without white bread or television.

(Ok mom, so you were right after all. Apparently the world is beginning to catch on.)

So my life at the moment consists of picking up little girls from school and doing their hair into a perfect bun (on the bus) while we rush to ballet class, playing ambulance driver in the jungle gym and reading One Fish, Two Fish until my voice begins to crack… All of which are surprisingly decompressing activities compared to the flurry of the city. There’s something about being with children (and being paid to be present with them) in a city like this that is a type of salvation from all the serious thoughts about “what am I doing with my life”

But really... what AM I doing with my life?

There’s a lot of time in transit to think about such things. People watching is a given and deep and meandering thought about anything and everything is inevitable. As the subway todders you back and forth in the overpacked car, you bump between the business man’s elbow and the model’s $1200 purse and drone in and out of awareness. Staring off into space (which has always been an odd habit of mine), you start to think about every possible life you could have chosen. Wondering if I should have gone to school to be a Lawyer? Wondering what it would be like to live in one of those pent-houses on 5th ave? Wondering how it would feel to be a migrant worker and commute into Manhattan at 5am every day. You cannot avoid thinking about your life in a thousand different ways every time you board the train.

And the funny thing is, here I am around more people than I’ve ever met in my life and no one is even looking at each other! It’s like no one even SEES anyone! It’s the ultimate check-out... Every now and then I just want to scream:

“Hello everyone! Aren’t we all alive? Isn’t this real? Isn’t this life? WAKE UP!!!”

But that, of course, would never fly. So, like everyone else, I just watch nothing and think and check my day planner for the 7th time in the last hour. There has to be something I’m missing.

This is why it’s so relieving to don my purple robe at night and surf facebook.

Or write.


To be continued…


Saturday, July 19, 2008

a baby

my little sister had her first baby today.

it's one of those things that only happens once, ever, in a lifetime... and now it's gone. i missed it.

i will first see whatever-his-name-will-be when he's 6 weeks old and devoid of that new-newborn charm: the blank eyes that can't see 6 inches past his nose, the tounge that doesn't know it's part of his physiology yet, the grasping fingers, the pure unadulterated innocence... just moments from heaven.

it's occurring to me, as i sit here on this ugly blue couch, halfway around the world, that when you say "yes" to something, you also say "no" to everything else. and sometimes 'everything else' is more important, more substantial, more enjoyable, more life-giving (etc.) than the thing you CHOSE to do.

i could say here "BUT..." or "However..." or "Nonetheless,..."

but there's no "but" or "however" or "nonetheless" tonight. i just wanna go home and see my sister and her new little baby boy.

that's all.


Friday, July 11, 2008

15 Specific things I miss about home… in no particular order:

(this reflection was prompted by Rebecca Bea Blumhagen... bless her heart)

1. Summer night trips to dairy joy. Sitting on the back porch after closing on those cement, circular benches, eating a Reeses and Oreo “arctic swirl” with Alan and Murm and Kathy or Thomas, Anthony, Bunny, John, Noah, Brigit and, if we’re lucky, Molly Mom and Dad. Conversation pauses when the trains go by and dad goes to check on the penny he left on the track. Hopefully, the cops don’t see him.

2. Jonathan Roth driving by in “Old Merc” He asks if I want to go for a bike ride on the prairie path, or come see him play at Borders, or he comes in and stays for 5 hours, ending the evening with a few glasses of wine and some freshly written songs—and goodbye my love sung at the top of our lungs when he leaves.

3. The porch at (formerly) Elizabeth’s pool house. Candlelight. Oatmeal cookies and dad’s coffee, French pressed on the table. Crickets. Long conversation about marriage, Catholicism or the nature of God. Kids come in, shivering from the pool and sit on our laps in oversized towels.
(Why am I in Africa again?)

4. Sitting on the left end of the 6th row, center aisle, at Church of the Resurrection. Feeling free to stand, cry, talk, pray or fall asleep. I listen to the musicians. I glance over at John Fawcett, whose frail figure cannot help but lift itself to the heavenlies. I think of how much John taught me about humility and not-taking-oneself-too-seriously.

5. The way Kathy and I laugh at Mary when we’re all together in a bed and Mary pretends she wants to sleep in the middle but we both know she’ll slither out sometime in the middle of the night and sleep on the floor and then leave butt-crack-early in the morning before we’ve had the chance to bring her Starbucks.

6. Rain. Midwest rains, I’m convinced, smell sweeter and more like the earth than any other rains in the world. Sitting the wicker rocker on the porch at the farm house as the rain pours down is one of the more beautiful things in life. And when the electricity goes out, that’s even better.

7. The 11pm hour at the Ritchie household. Mom is at the table looking at magazines. I am baking cookies. Dad is falling asleep watching t-vo recordings of Chris Matthews. I have a friend or two over and we are sitting around the island counter in the middle of the kitchen, doubtlessly discussing the misfortunes of my high school acting career or the latest marriage that no one approves of.

8. Women’s prayer. Lying out on the carpet with 6 pairs of loving hands on my back, my neck, my little finger and the small part of my ankle. Words of insight, sentences of revelation, tears of love and longing. Everyone holding on… as if I might slip away… As I have.

9. Going to Chipotle and ordering the usual: burrito bowl with pepper, onions, extra chicken and light rice. Black beans, mild salsa, corn and cheese. (Sour cream and guac on the side). We order 6 soft-shell tortillas on the side and Kathy, Murm and I split the glorious Americanized-“Mexican” concoction . Oh, and I forgot about the coke with at least 3 lemons squeezed in.

9 (b) Oberwies chocolate malt, easy on the chocolate, with an extra cookie straw for dessert.

10. Late nights at crossroads. Age 11-13. Before I went to school. Playing basketball on the parking lot that doubles as a basketball court. We have a construction light rigged up with an extra long extension cord that winds through the meeting room window and bathes the court in light. I wear my Dennis Rodman jersey and pride myself in getting the most re-bounds. My hair is pulled back in a tight pony-tail. Everyone is soaked in sweat but no one wants to stop. We break at 11pm for frozen pizza and mountain dew. A car drives by on route 30 and revs his engine and screeches his tires or gives a friendly honk. Those nights seemed to go on forever… I must have thought they would.

11. Honey Rock camp through the years… Always a summer staple. As a child: camping trips, falling in love with Jesus, Zulu Warrior competitions, mountain bike masters… or grown up: Driving those long curvy roads at dangerous speeds. Christy Braaten. McGriddle Wednesdays. The smell of the lake. The sound of the lake, lapping against the doc. Camping trips. Smelling like smoke. Smelling like sweat. Showering after a trip. Kathy over the kitchen counter. Ben stock brining me icecream on my camping trip.

Emily: It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another...
Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? --
every, every minute?"

Stage Manager: No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some.

Emily: I’m ready to go back.

(From Our Town, by Thorntan Wilder)

12. High school days when Noah would come home having completed the day’s mischief and my sleepover club (which met on a daily basis) would hear the stories and giggle. Kellen Scott and Adam Baluch lived upstairs and we would go out for late-night mini-ice-cream-cones at McDonalds.

13. Frost lake days. Sitting on the old dark-wood porch (Can’t believe that thing is still standing and hasn’t sogged under so many years of Frosts sitting and telling stories) Grandma and Grandpa sit like a king and queen in the plastic lawn chairs as their progeny bustles around them. In the screen door, out the screen door, Oops, forgot my drink, in the screen door, out the screen door again. “Close it all the way! Don’t let the bugs in!” Sitting at the picnic table. Swatting flies. “Grown-up boat ride! Who’s coming?”. Quickly, the younger generation organizes our own speedboat ride and when we pass the “grown-ups” put-putting along in the old pontoon boat. We yell and wave and brace ourselves for the next bump.

14. Shanes Deli. Sam makes my high-maintenance sandwich with sprouts, pesto and honey mustard and I devour it along with Mrs. Vinnies Salt and Vinegar chips and a small Coke. Yum!

15. Being around people who know me. Who know my stories. Who were there for Mr. Mabie, Hamlet and Junior Miss… people who don’t need things to be explained. I’m tired of explaining. Oh, to be seen like everyone else on the streets. Not being pointed and laughed at when I try one of my few full sentences in Kinyarwandan. Not being asked for money. Not being proposed to. Not being treated like an object of wealth and opportunity. Being seen as everyone else. Or better yet, Being seen as Maggie.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

off to tanzania

I am currently eating a meal of my own words. It was only 2 months ago that I swore never, unless forced by gunpoint, to enter Nairobi airport again.

And yet, here I am.

A man just walked by wearing a cheesy tourist tee-shirt, spouting the phrase “It’s all Greek to me” with a bunch of basic Greek phrases, and their translation listed below. I was reminded of the period in my own life when I owned, and wore proudly (with many a laugh) a t-shirt that said “Hukt on foniqs rily werked fer mee”. And I had another good laugh, silently remembering my 12-year-old self, by myself, at the Nairobi airport.

This morning, I arrived 1 ½ hours early for my 8:35 flight. Only to find that it had, indeed, already departed. Apparently, you are supposed to reconfirm your flights by going to the local branch of the airline (a 2 hour process, at least) 48 hours before the flight… in case they decided to change the time. Now, I understand delays, but I don’t really get bumping UP a flight to an EARLIER time. And somehow, everyone but ME figured it out! Another one of those things that I will never quite understand about Africa…

The scene has changed. I have boarded the a tiny plane that is taking me to Kilimanjaro Airport, where I am meeting up with a cast of characters from NYC, affiliated with the Theatre Development Fund. For the next 3 weeks, I will be working along-side a professional (Broadway?) director to write and direct a play with a group of children from a school in Arusha, Tanzania. At this point, this is all the information I have, so please, hold your questions. More to be revealed, as always. Oh, and my dear friend, Rebecca Blumhagen, will be taking a short respite from her burgeoning career as a young actor to join us.
And THAT is a sure excitement.


I haven’t exactly been writing much about my life lately. Messages from people have gone from the more specific “How was your time at the Orphanage?” or “did you get your car battery fixed?” to the less specific “How is Africa?” or “Are you still IN Africa?” to, least specific and most desperate “Mags… are you still alive?”

Excuses (in order of influence): Laziness, business, writers block, laziness, recent addiction to arrested development, more recent addiction to Heroes, laziness.

For the 3 of you who care, and want specifics, here they are:

Upon returning from Ireland (family vacation) /France (Taize) /Belguim (the only thing I did in Belgium was drink a beer at a noisy youth hostel with a guy from India): I settled in to my current living arrangement and, after months of straddling the hips of skinny Rwandan moto-drivers (and more than a few scrapes with death), I finally 'broke-down' and got a car (ironic choice of words you say? not so ironic...). Well, I rented a car. From a friend of a friend. It’s what we would consider in the US a “beater”. But I love it. It has lots of character ☺

Driving around Rwanda is a totally different experience of Africa.

First of all, Kigali is an expansive matrix of non-parallel streets, with a few random one-way streets… without markers. The only way to tell you’re going the wrong way on a one-way street is by the hissing and clapping noises coming from the pedestrians by the side of the road. You may think they are minding their own business but the second you make the wrong turn, about 40 of them turn toward the middle of the intersection, flailing their arms and hissing… and you realize they have, indeed, been watching you the entire time, and you are, indeed, going the wrong way.

The only time i attempted to take my car out out of Kigali, i got a flat tire 50 miles out of town. there we (my friend Jenny and I) were, sitting on a curve in the road, with no help in sight... except for the "help" that came from behind the bushes the ditches ---people with nothing better to do with their time--- who did nothing but bang on my spare tire with a crowbar and steal my money.

we couldn't get the spare tire off. There was a key to one of the bolts that we couldn't find, no matter HOW many pairs of hands searched my glovebox... and stole my money.

finally, after 2 hours in the hot sun, we gave up. I sent the keys back with a Mutatu (the name for a closely packed taxi van) to Kigali. that's how it works in rwanda. everyone knows everyone. the owner arranged to meet up with the taxi driver and we took the only ride we could to Ruhengeri... which happened to be a tow-truck, already towing 6 men and lots of heavy machinery. there was only a bench seat, which was chivalrously given to Jenny and I while the rest of the men sat, or swung, from the machinery in the truck bed. we drove half the way to Ruhengeri, with hot air from the front engine blowing in our faces, then had to catch two different Mutatus to finish the journey. the whole thing took over 5 hours (it's normally a 1hr40min trip)

[I am, by the way, still typing--AND listening to my ipod--and the plane is about to take off. I am sitting across the aisle from a crew-member. Either he doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. Either way, I am going to do my civilian duty and close my computer because I don’t want to “interfere with the instruments.”]

Ok. I’m back. To Rwanda…

Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to write about Rwanda is that some of my experiences have bordered on the unbelievable. Certain things are hard to write about on the world-wide-web. Especially when security is involved. Less especially when you face the threat of being misunderstood. I might find a way/reason to write about this at a later date, for now, suffice to say: my circumstances are quite extraordinary and I’m being well taken care of.

Last week a group of potential investors visited Rwanda. The major perk of my job is that whenever someone even slightly “important” lands, I get to drop everything to join them on a tour of the country. Of course, it’s difficult to spend 5 minutes in places where you’ve spent 5 months, and feel as if an accurate representation is being given, but it doesn’t take much for people to get a vibe of what’s happening in this place, and to fall in love with it. It’s very exciting to watch.

It is difficult to have an “endless possibilities” personality in a country of endless possibilities. You may think this is a good match at first, but soon you become overwhelmed with the … well… endless possibilities. And you are rendered immobile, or indecisive, like a child in a candy store. This year has taught me more about myself than I ever cared to know. Under which circumstances I work well… and under which I fail miserably to organize my time and get anything done. How easy it is for me to ignore God. How much I really LOVE him... (like, instead of feeling like I should love him more and wondering why i don't and beating myself up for the disparity therein) it's a very exposing time.

When you're in college and frantically busy with assignments, rehearsals, coffee dates and house meetings, it's difficult to get a true sense of who you REALLY are. I don't mean this to sound all self-discovery-ish, nor do I claim to have "found myself", not nearly. but when you see yourself outside the high-performance landscape, you see how a lot of things you have done in the past because you wanted people's approval (consciously or subconsciously) sort of fade out when you're in a culture that's not performance-based. but it's also revealing to see what's left: what you still have appetite for. chances are you are now doing the things you're supposed to be doing... without all the busy clutter.

but i digress. i think we're about to land.

"thank you, maggie, for sharing your narcissistic thought patterns with the whole wide world."

you're welcome.