This morning, I had the opportunity to reflect upon my community of family and friends. Thanks be to God, I am blessed with more than my share.

However, I was not reflecting upon the abundance, but the proximity of how far we live from each other.

My family, aside from my daughter, lives in Florida, Texas, New York, and New Hampshire, not exactly around the corner from Delaware.

My close friends from high school and college all live in the northeast, southeast or California. Again, not exactly a quick trip by car. The train does open up a few possibilities.

The friends that I made when younger are in Florida, Tennessee, California.

I have never experienced growing up and older with the people that I met in kindergarten. I do not know what it is like to run into one of them on the street and see what they were up to yesterday. My conversations would start with asking what they did the past year.

Sure, emails and blogs and pictures allow us to keep in touch, however, it is not the same thing as touching.

In Sudan, the connection between family and friends was present in everything going on. And, families are large. Lots of cousins, aunts and uncles.

Of course, touching is a little difficult in a society that thinks an awful lot about sex and touching or looking, while trying not to think about sex, touching or looking.

The passing of the Peace in church is a little challenging to the Westerner who loves to hug.

So, what are my options?

Join the ranks of women over fifty that bear children? Not.

Give up my house and become a dorm mother? Not.

Search eharmony for someone with time and money to support a lifestyle of travel?

Now, that has opportunity written all over it.


Perspective Alert

I have not been posting for about three weeks. I kept wondering what was drawing me away from posting, I mean, beside the obvious.

More time involved in work, home, church, family. But, it was more than that, actually.

I kept wondering what the heck I would write about, and why would anyone back in the states care what I was writing, especially with the election activity.

It was while I was returning home this evening that I thought about changing my perspective and audience. Excitement was returning.

And, voila! In my email inbox was further proof. Here is what I received.

One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live.

They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, 'How was the trip?'' It was great, Dad.'

'Did you see how poor people live?' the father asked. 'Oh yeah,' said the son.

'So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?' asked the father

The son answered:

'I saw that we have one dog and they had four.

We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.

We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.

Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.

We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.

We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.

We buy our food, but they grow theirs.

We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.'
The boy's father was speechless.

Then his son added, 'Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.'

My hope is that those that will now receive this post, will continue the journey with me, virtually, if not personally.


The Cold Within

Yesterday morning I attended the 12th Annual Prayer Breakfast at SsAM (The Episcopal Church of Sts. Andrew and Matthew). The speaker was Beatrice "Bebe" Ross Coker a poet, playwright and civil rights activist who came to Delaware during the 1960's to work for the Delaware Division of Social Services.

The theme of the morning's breakfast was Moving to Christ through your gifts.

Ms. Coker spoke about her passion for taking care of and being responsible for children everywhere. Here are several of her remarks, some of which are attributable to her mother who recently died at the age of 102:

If everyone were using their gifts to be Christ's body on earth, why is the world is such a state?

Don't let your talents and skills take you where your character can't keep you.

Speak truth to power because real power is truth.

She spoke about finding your passion and praying/discerning how to use it. To those around me, I am sure that I looked like one of the bobble head's that you find on car dashboards or rear windows. Head nodding up and down with the movement of the car.

That was me, nodding up and down in agreement.

I was passionate about her passion.

However, the poem re-printed below, by James Patrick Kinney, brought tears to my eyes, goosebumps on my arms, and sadness to my heart and soul.

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In black and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story's told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back
For on the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.

The next man looking cross the way
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn't bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third man sat in tattered clothes;
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store.
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy poor.

The black man's face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

And the last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in death's still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn't die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.



Well, it has been almost three weeks that I have been home. Certain things are coming together, others not.

The weather difference. The two-story house. The cats, no dog. Long work days.

Different church. Different language.

I had promised myself that I would incorporate the good behaviors that I had learned in Sudan.

It is harder than I expected.

Since I have been back, I had to have Miss Kitty put to sleep. Her kidneys had stopped functioning.

Rough re-entry.

And, I have the answer about my shoulder injury. Torn tendons around my rotator cuff. Surgery is scheduled for Oct. 15. Ouch. Pain at night disturbs sleep.

Rough re-entry.

Today, I played in the front gardens. Weeding, clipping back bushes, dead heading black-eyed susans. I filled four garbage cans with leaves, branches, etc. It felt really good to dig in the dirt and grass. Muddy hands and feet.

Yesterday, I traveled to NYC to meet with individuals in the mission department of the Episcopal Church. More about that to follow later.

The pace in the states is so much faster than I remembered, even overwhelming.

Here, I have to drive. The area I live and work in is so much larger than in Sudan. Phone calls rather than email. No pacing of response time.

Here, I worry about those I left behind in Sudan and those I live with in the states.

However, I know that each day it will get better.



Judi's Big Adventure

The last Tuesday prior to leaving Sudan was the day of my last big adventure, and here is the catalyst.

That day, I asked Tito to take me driving down Street 41. I wanted to take pictures of all the entrance gates that I viewed each day on my way home. Twenty minutes tops and I would buy him lunch.

Food. Works every time.

So off we go, camera, wallet, phone. Tito driving and me snapping away. My plan is to make up 2009 Calendars featuring these architectural designs. I will sell them as fundraisers to support All Saints Cathedral in Khartoum.

As you can see, I managed to capture the side view mirror and Tito's profile.

Cropping is a learned skill.

So, we are casually moving down the street when we get to the point where the picture at the top was taken.

I had been passing these cobalt blue gates/fence with the wonderful flower gardens for four months. Everything yelled at me to "Take my Picture".

So, I did. Snap and then walked down the street to where Tito was waiting for me in the car. This was the last picture and I asked what he wanted to eat and where. But, instead of answering my question he says "Uh, Oh."


"We are in trouble." "Why?"

"I think it is the camera." "What?" "Why?"

Then, this gentleman appears at my window, another at Tito's window and motions him to back up into the side street and park.

"Why?" No answer.

"Why?" No answer for me, one for Tito. This happened twice, till the answer hit me over the head.

Me man, you woman. You woman do not exist.

Ok. I have to admit, I was not afraid, nor intimidated. Maybe I should have been, but I was annoyed. Who are these guys?

Well, it appears that they work at the Saudi Arabian Embassy, located conveniently to my right.

(Disclaimer: Please do not try this at home.)

The discussion centers around me showing them the last picture that I took. I show them the picture of the garden.

Not that picture, the last picture. This is the last picture. Where is the picture of the embassy.

No picture of the embassy.

Well, by now I am annoyed. So, I deliberately yet casually mention that I am an American citizen and extract my passport from my purse, mentioning that I thought our two countries had good relations. In fact, so good, that our president holds hands with one of your princes.

Yep, I was that annoyed.

Well, that worked so well, that we proceeded to add two additional passengers to the car. One Saudi Embassy employee and a gentleman dressed in fatigues carrying an AK47.

Ok, now throw in bewildered and anxious to annoyed.

As the car moves along and I ask where we are going, I get no comments. Just a lot of conversation in Arabic that only Tito understands. Time to call in the troops.

I retrieve the "business card" that I received when I checked in with the US Embassy when I arrived in Khartoum.

I placed the phone call, letting them know what was going on and receiving some information about what to expect. Detainment, possibly for a couple of hours, possible removal of the entire disk or confiscation of my camera.

Yikes, all this for taking a picture of blue gates. This is so far out of my reality.

At the end of the day, the Saudi embassy employee is disappointed. The one-star general has been verbally chastised. The two star general is another thing.

This two-star general began his conversation with me by wondering who I am voting for in the upcoming election. The twilight zone continues.

That question is followed with ones regarding America's role in slavery, America's attacks on innocent nations, and a statement about the most used words in Americas language. Words, that not only do I not use on a day to day basis, but words that I cannot print here.


Obviously, I should keep my mouth shut. Equally as obvious, my family and friends know that I did not.

To the question about slavery, I deferred to him since he was in uniform and carrying a gun.

To the question about attacking innocent nations, I deferred to him since he was in uniform and still carrying a gun.

To the statment about American language, that I did not defer. After disagreeing with him, I asked him if his confrontational attitude was just for me, an American woman, or was he always like this. He actually smiled and said that it was his personality.

He smiled. The twilight zone continues.

When I mentioned that it did not seem fair that his impression about America would be affecting his decision about my leaving, he told me that he was not part of the discussion, he merely wanted to have a conversation with me.

He than asked me my age. My age.

What the heck.

So I told him. And, he told me that I was still young.

Then, he asked me if I wanted to have coffee with him.


I told him that it would only be possible if he were out of uniform and not carrying a weapon. (My mother always taught me to be polite.)

He told me to return another day when he was off duty. I told him that when I left this building, I would not return here. He smiled and exited the room.

Next up the three star general. Now we are cooking.

In Arabic, which Tito translates later, he tells the one star general that there is no reason why this "woman" is being detained. Let her go. Give her back her camera.


Of course, I am slightly reprimanded about not checking about photography rules and am admonished not to take any more pictures until I leave.

I promise him of course. Scouts honor.

However, I do have more pictures from the last two days in Khartoum.