Friday, January 28, 2011

Stoney Tangawizi – a love story

I will start out by saying that I’m completely biased, and that this entire post will be dedicated to the best sugary carbonated ginger beverage I have ever had in my life.

Sometimes things seem more amazing because of the experiences tied up with them. The joy of being a carefree kid can be associated with eating bowls of kraft macaroni and cheese, or thoughts of going to the state fair in the warm August air can bring to mind cheese churds and all manner of greasy delights. Then you go and revisit those foods, and realize that….they are… not that good actually.

Not so with Stoney Tangawizi.

In January of 2009 I traveled to Nairobi Kenya, and that’s where this love story began. A few days into the trip I went to dinner at a Wycliffe Associates missionary’s house, where I first was offered a bottle of Stoney. He actually offered the pop, and took a sip of his own, only to erupt into coughs brought on by said beverage. Seeing that I was a little skeptical, he insisted I must try it and exclaimed that it was “REALLY GOOD!”

That was the beginning of my love for Stoney Tangawizi (Also called Stoney Ginger Beer, and Stoney for short). The first sip hit that back of my throat like a little gingery fireball, and it took me about 3 gulps to realize that it was the best pop in the entire world. From then on during the trip, I drank Stoney every chance I got, every restaurant I would have the brown glass bottle proudly towering over my meal.

The majestic bottle
Drinking a Stoney is a unique experience and one that every person should experience in their lifetime, preferably as one is sitting in an outdoor restaurant in the city of Nairobi in the great country of Kenya, or outside the doors of a Nakumatt.

My last taste of Stoney from a glass bottle was in the Nairobi airport, I was slowly sipping the divine ginger liquid to make it last as long as possible. My flight started boarding and the bottle was still mostly full, in order to not waste a precious drop I chugged the rest of the bottle. So with a burning in my throat, tears in my eyes, and a runny nose I left the land of Stoney Tangawizi.

Since that time in Kenya, I have pined for the tasty liquid, and have only been able to see pictures of it. Last semester after many hours of sleuthing I found a place to buy the pop online from a small store in Canada which imports from South Africa. After a few seconds of deliberation I ordered the pack of 6 cans. (do not ask me how much I paid for them, love does not have a price tag)

After a few months I once again had a Stoney in my hand, only this time in an aluminium can. The precious cans have been opened on special occasions, and I once again have been able to enjoy the burning delight of Stoney Tangawizi. One day I hope to return to Eastern Africa, and I will drink all the Stoney to my heart's content. For now I will enjoy telling people how wonderful this beverage is, and try to decide when to open the last remaining can. Now you, my dear reader can dream of one day enjoying the divine taste of Stoney, a pop which no other sugary carbonated beverage can compare to.

Stoney and Banana Bread
At a restaurant in Nairobi
You cannot help but smile with a Stoney in your hand

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Year Of...

The semester has actually started, and this is the point in the year where I think (after only 2 blog posts) “Oooooh man….what can I really say for a whole year?” This is also the point when I say to myself, after reading over the syllabi for my classes, “How will I EVER survive this semester?”

My sister Elisabeth likes to ‘theme’ years. She looks ahead at the days in front of her and says: “This will be a year of _____” I often look at a year and say it will be a year of….lots-o-stuff. There’s lots-o-stuff I know that’s going to happen, and lots-o-stuff I don’t. So I was challenged by my sis to look at this year and decide what I want to focus on, which I decided will be a year of Purpose. (noun - the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc, verb - to set as an aim, intention, or goal for oneself)
Side note: I love definitions of words, as you can see by the title of my blog. I look up words in the dictionary all the time. It shows true flavor and depth, like when you try a food and there are different flavor notes that develop as you taste it? Well that's how word definitions are for me...and I think I just revealed how epic of a nerd I am, but I think you would have found out eventually anyway...

A year of purpose, what does that look like? In all honesty I'm not 100% sure, what I do know is that choices and possibilities are not the problem, it’s the decision making and the choosing. There are many things that I would love to do, but what I need is focus.

The thing that caused me to think along this wavelength to begin with was a sermon from Mark Driscoll here. View to specific section that impacted me, about 10 minutes and totally worth listening to, here. I don't want to be simply cause oriented, and find a purpose in just something. I already have a purpose and that is first and foremost to serve Jesus Christ, a cause comes later. (If you are reading this and you don't believe in Jesus and are perplexed as to why I would want to follow and serve some dude named Jesus, please ask me and I will tell you.) I think Matthew 22:37-39 outlines exactly that point: Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself."

#1. Love God. #2. Love people. I admit that I have gotten this mixed up before and have wanted to find a purpose when I already have one. So my year of purpose will be in #1 and #2, and in answering and acting on some questions: How can I love Jesus, and how can I love and serve people? How can I serve students at the University of Minnesota? What should I spend my time investing in, and who should I spend my time with? Where do I fit in? How can I use my skills, knowledge, and talents for the benefit of others?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Silence & Solitude

I spent Tuesday through Thursday of this week up at Pacem in Terris which is a wonderful Catholic hermitage retreat center run by great people, and my favorites are the sweet grandmotherly old ladies.

Pacem in Terris (meaning Peace on Earth) is made up of 16 hermitages, a main house, and walking trails that wind through the woods and prairie. The whole idea is that you become a hermit for whatever amount of time that you are there, entirely focusing on being alone with God.  When you get there the sweet old ladies greet you, give you an introduction to the hermitage experience if it is your first time there, and drive you out to the hermitage where you will stay.

The small hermitage is nestled in snow covered woods in the winter months

The Pacem in Terris diet
The view from the hermitage

After you receive your food basket, and an overview on your hermitage space, you are left alone. If you have never taken time to turn off your cellphone, leave your laptop behind, forget about your ipod, and done away with the modern conveniences of running water and electricity, Pacem in Terris is for you. It's a practice in just being, not completing, doing, creating, making. I am not skilled in the art of doing nothing, so this was a great experience for me. Time did not matter. I journaled, read my Bible, prayed, walked in the woods, and watched the birds play in the trees. In the evening I sat on the edge of the rocking chair, searching for the stars appearing in the night sky behind the tree branches. 

The time at Pacem was peaceful, and absolutely filled with quiet. It was also challenging to quiet my mind and stop the thoughts whirring through my brain at a million miles an hour.

The time in the hermitage was fine, as I am one more prone to silence and solitude. But I was trying to see the real purpose and point for sitting around alone for a whole day. Psalm 84 came into my mind the last morning I was in the hermitage, and I had no idea why because I didn't remember what it was about. But after I read it I realized...

There are days when I have so much planned, and I am so busy. I like doing. I love to travel, and explore new places too. If I had a thousand days to explore the world, I would absolutely love it! I honestly can say that I would probably pick a thousand days of exploring and doing stuff rather than being in the presence of God. That was the whole point of my time at Pacem in Terris, for me to realize that I need to yearn for God, and not all the other things that I want to do. I need to learn to just be. 

Psalms 84:1-2

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
   LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
   for the courts of the LORD;
   my heart and my flesh cry out
   for the living God. 

Psalms 84:10-12

 10 Better is one day in your courts
   than a thousand elsewhere;
   I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
   than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
   the LORD bestows favor and honor;
   no good thing does he withhold
   from those whose walk is blameless.
 12 LORD Almighty,
   blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A new venture

My goal is to write at least once a week, resulting in 52 blog entries at the end of the year, hopefully more.
I had been contemplating something new to do in this new year, and I wanted something more challenging, something that would stretch me. I often write in my journal and never share it, so this is a chance for me to have a new level of vulnerability with my writing.

I started this blog also because I am looking ahead to more than a year from now. I will be studying in Wellington, New Zealand (hopefully, because nothing is set in stone as of yet). I thought that writing in a blog for an entire year would get me entirely into the habit, so that when I study abroad, I would be able to efficiently and easily pass on my travel experiences to my friends and family. There’s nothing worse than a friend having an awesomely amazing time somewhere else in the world and not relating all the fun to you. Well there are many worse things than that, but as I am stuck here in Minneapolis for awhile, I always need a little escapism which is thankfully provided by my world traveling friends and their frequently updated blogs.

I hope to post inspiring things, interesting things, the small adventures of the day. Anything that strikes my fancy. I am just figuring this out as I go. And what is a blog post without a picture?

I wish I was back on Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu...