Stereotypically Basic Riots

Facebook geniusly stole TimeHop’s idea of doing flashbacks to what you were up to on this date since you created a FB. With most of the photos and statuses, I’ve thought, “Good lord. Deleting that… Ew… Can’t believe I dated that guy… What was I wearing?… MY BANGS…” etc. We’ve all been there. Don’t you judge.

But this one… 423657_815026159448_2139105754_n

It seems so dumb. Like, stereotypical BASIC. White girl holding a Starbucks cup. Wearing a Fossil purse (not mine tho…). I mean, leggings weren’t pants back then, so that’s out of the picture, and no, I’m not wearing Uggs. And we won’t mention the time that I actually was memed taking a pic of my first frappuccino in America post-Africa and it went viral…

But I just want to share the story behind THIS picture that so many people (even myself) would label as basic. [Extra lols: my instagram photo three days ago is a selfie holding a starbucks cup… ha… okay, maybe I am a little basic…]

This picture was taken January 28, 2012. I was living in Dakar, Senegal (West Africa) with 7 of my new best friends working with a campus ministry at Université Chiehk Anta Diop. We all moved there together in September of 2011 to spend the next 10 months launching a spiritual movement. We spent four months learning two languages (Wolof and French), building friendships with our students, getting Senegalese dresses made, loving each other (sometimes trying to love each other. Sorry Aaron.), loving the Lord and loving life.

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In the background though, there was quite the potential political disaster brewing. Abdoulaye Wade was serving as president during his second term. Sometime in the summer of 2011, he decided that because the term lengths for president were decided during his second term that his first term didn’t count(I know, idk either how there was even a second term when how did the first even end??). Basically, he wanted to create a loophole in the system and become president a third time. You know, ’cause democracy…

The public didn’t receive his idea well. I mean, who would? So.. riots began. Buildings burned down. Riots in the street. Tear gas. Rubber bullets. And a few people died.

After that, things calmed down long enough for us to get the okay to head to Senegal in September. So we began our year, diving into a place that was hard, but so incredibly lovable in some ways.

Even though things had calmed down “enough”, we were still wisely prepped for the “what ifs” of a government coup. We created a “go bag” that was to be kept packed in our apartment in case of an emergency. We had to keep enough cash in it in case the airport’s system wasn’t working and we couldn’t use a debit/credit card to buy a flight out of Senegal along with clothes, toiletries, contacts, anything valuable we didn’t want to leave.

As months went by, we began to experience this political tension in tangible ways. Riots in front of our campus over tuition and President Wade that included blocking streets and burning car tires and massive tree stumps. Students throwing bricks at police. The police would come to squelch the riots with tear gas. We got used to what tear gas sounded like and smelled like from a distance. (And two times up close… both complete accidents! Language barriers, man.)

The week before this picture was taken was so anxiety ridden. It was the week that the, shoot I forget who, parliament? Congress? Prime Minister? SOME GROUP was deciding if Wade had the right to re-run for president. Everyone had been talking about people planning riots and the potential of the government shutting down cell phone towers if they said they were kosher with him being president. People assumed the riots were going to get bad, so they wanted to block communications.

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Pacifique, my Congolese twin.

 

That week was a long, hard week. We already had plans to leave the night of the decision to head out to Spain for a conference, and were going to be gone for two weeks. But we weren’t sure if we were going to be allowed back into the country. What was going to happen? Would Senegal still be at peace? We didn’t know. And so we acted as if we weren’t going to be able to come back. We acted more boldly sharing with friends clearly, unashamedly the gospel over and over again.We said temporary goodbyes hoping that it would be only two weeks, knowing it could be longer.

The night of the decision was tense. Aaron, my team leader, made sure that we had all of our bags by the door and ready to go as soon as the announcement was made. We had to be dressed and ready the whole day. So we just waited, and waited to see what the answer was.

And then, we heard. “Wade is able to run again…” I hear Aaron yell from upstairs, “Get your bags! We have to go! NOW!” And within two minutes, we all raced down the stairs, got into two taxis, told the driver to avoid the route that we knew people had planned to protest at (which of course he took that route…) and made it to the airport.

When we arrived and made it into the airport we had like 7 hours until our flight. We all kind of sat there a little shell shocked, a little excited for Europe, concerned for Senegal, questioning what our futures looked like and just awkward.

As soon as we landed in Spain, we were all so heart-shaped-emoji-eyes at the idea of American food in the airport. And then we remembered: STARBUCKS. It’s kind of crap coffee. But it’s so American. And comfortable. And I needed familiar. So I dove in. This was my first cup, but I’m pretty sure I had like two more that day. And so much Burger King, which I haven’t eaten in America since I was 15. Senegal has no chain restaurants, so American food there is about as American as take-out Chinese is actually Chinese.

After we arrived at the conference and checked into our hotel rooms, I turned on CNN. And headlining, “Mass Political Riots in Senegal…” Okay. Cool. Pretty sure I need to let the family know that I’m in Spain and not Senegal, and that I’m okay. I think I may have called home at that time, or sent a text. I can’t remember.

 

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Aljazeera Photo

 

The rest of our conference went well. Some of us were provided with counselors at the conference to help us debrief. Looking back, I wish that had been mandatory for our team, but I’m sure that’s all kinds of illegal-to make your employees go to counseling. Yeah, nevermind…

How did I cope? PORK. I ate so much pork every morning at the hotel buffet. I literally one morning had breakfast with a guy from the Paris team, Slovenia and some other friends and had 2 eggs, a handful of bacon and 4 sausage links… I’m not even ashamed. Senegal is a Muslim country, so no pork eaters allowed. Just kidding. It’s just frowned upon and you can’t find it anywhere. So basically, no pork eating allowed.

The week following the conference we were told it was okay for us to head back to Senegal on our original tickets, but to keep our stateside directors updated.

We came back to a country that was very aware their political system was broken and could not be their source of hope. And we listened. It was a very tumultuous time for a lot of people, but I do believe that God used that political turmoil for His good. A few scattered riots occurred after we arrived, a few even not about the election but rode off the momentum of those… Things seemed to return back to normal until the elections.

And no, Wade did not win the elections that April. He was actually beat by a landslide by a guy who many Senegalese Millennials claimed was in the illuminati with Rihanna, Jay Z and Beyonce. But I guess we’ll never know that one…

Thanks for listening to my story. It’s easy to judge a book by it’s cover, so I just wanted to share: things are always more complicated and more simple than they seem. Like this picture.

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SkyBridge Blog: 7 Tips to Prepare for Purposeful Living Overseas

I always get so excited when I get published on other places, well you know, other than my own blog. 

I HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED!!

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I figured all you beautiful 62 followers needed the link to be able to read this post I wrote for an online community of expats and ex-expats. Check it out HERE. Let me know what you think. 

XOXO

Mary Lou

Woman Crush Wednesday #WCW

I was talking to a dear friend yesterday about how life is just hard sometimes. There are trials beyond measure, and those of course are promised to come. There are sin issues, which let’s be honest, we all have that leave our souls unsettled. But in the midst of that, those who have faith in Christ and have Him as their Lord, there are rays of His goodness and faithfulness. Some of those rays shine most brightly into my life through the body of Christ.

I am amazed at the Lord’s provision with Godly community in my life. Looking back from Daytona Beach Summer Project to now, the Lord has blessed me with some pretty great roommates who seek to daily love and glorify the Lord and walk through life well with other believers. So, this begins my Woman Crush Wednesday posts. I wish I was as diligent as Kristin and could keep up with the #WIWW posts, but due to my lack of motivation to be presentable for the job I don’t have, you’re stuck with my WCW blog. 😉

Today is a double whammy: LB and Elaina.

{Bless their hearts…}

Elaina, LB and I all met each other for the first time in the Windy City at our weeklong STINT briefing. Shannon, LB, Katie, and Elaina were all put in the same room and I was put in with another African team {of course that would happen to the girl with  the Little Sister Syndrome}.  So, I moved my bags into their room and we pushed the two full-sized beds together. I slept in the crack every night that week, thus commencing the development of the roommates M+E+LB style.

Y’all. We arrived in Senegal in October 2012 and moved all of our things into a small two bedroom apartment. Not wanting anyone to have to room alone {Little Sister Syndrome again}, we brought in all of our mattresses to one room and made the other room our closet. This was how large our bedroom was:

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Why yes, our beds did always look this nice. Just kidding.

And that’s how we slept the whole year, minus a week. Our beds weren’t originally positioned that way. We discovered on a day that the temperatures were well over 95 degrees F (35 Degrees C) that our air conditioning unit in the bedroom worked. There were tears of joy from the new teammates as we had all sweat through our clothes that day. We repositioned our beds so that we could all be hit in the face with frigid, and potentially dusty, air that escaped from the air conditioner that would only blow out air set at 18 Degrees C (we later learned that 18 degrees C meant 64 Degrees F and $120 in electricity bills just from using it three times). I cried later at the lost hope of not being able to use the AC due to the outrageous price.

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Some of my favorite roommate memories include getting matching jammies {they fidn’t dit}, hoarding chocolate chip cookies {they weren’t mine to share!}, watching She’s The Man {“My favorite’s Gouda!”}, being on Team Serer for the Survivor Challenge, giggling until the wee hours of the night, making music videos, making wall decor out of printer paper, and eating cheese grits in bed.

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Go team Serer!
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They brought me breakfast in bed. 🙂

While we did have a great time as a triumphant trio, I did learn so much from each of them individually.

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My all time favorite memory has to be from our team’s briefing in Chicago. It was our commissioning ceremony night, so naturally we were all dressed up. We all got to have a banquet where the Vice President of Cru came and spoke, commissioned us, and we all worshiped together. Now, before all that goodness we had a banquet dinner. The man who put my plate in front of me tipped it a little too far to the right and sauce went all over my dress. I looked at Elaina and we just laughed about it. She took her water and napkin and helped me get as much of Bessie off my dress as possible. Not even two minutes later, Elaina begins cutting her steak and all of the sudden, with angst of returning to parts of Bessie I’m sure, Elaina’s steak flies off her plate and straight into my lap. The most hilarious thing: I don’t think she realized what happened until I hysterically grabbed her arm and pointed to my lap. Oh my gosh, so funny.

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When Elaina isn’t flinging meat at people’s dresses, she has a serious side too. This past year I learned a lot about how to thrive in my relationship with Christ despite hard circumstances. We had many a pep talks this year that were to the tune of, “Mary, He hasn’t quit on you. You’re quitting on Him.” Ha, I’m not joking. Sometimes the conversations were that straightforward. But can I tell you something? That was absolutely God’s provision in my life. I need a good, hard kick in the rear sometimes. It might have been straightforward, but I know her heart was always communicating out of love. The truth hurts sometimes, if it’s fluffed up or not. I am thankful for friends who call me out of apathy, complacency, defeat and hopelessness because it shows although those places are “comfortable” they aren’t what God has called us to. I am thankful for friends who show me that passionate lives marked by zeal and adoration for Christ and His kingdom may be rare in the world but shouldn’t be rare within the body of Christ.

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And then there’s Laura Beth, LB or ElBee. 🙂 Two of my favorite memories with LB was when we went to Goree Island and of course her engagement to Tyler Staton. We walked by this beautiful turquoise blue door that we wrongfully assumed led to nowhere. I said, “LB, get in front of the door. I want to take your picture. That’d be such a great contrast with the background.” {Taking her picture is easy because she’s so beautiful.} She asked if I wanted my picture taken. I said sure, got into position, and leaned slightly against the door that led to nowhere. Boy were we wrong about that door! It was somebody’s front door. And as I begin to lean against it, on the other side a man is trying to leave his house. He opens the door and in falls a toubab, straight into his arms. Haha, manna from heaven! I apologized over and over again in French and in Wolof to make sure all my bases were covered, but the shame was there and not leaving.

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ImageMy second favorite memory with LB was getting to be a part of her engagement and taking her engagement pictures. So much fun! I love taking pictures and I forget to so often, but I was honored to be a part of their photo shoot! Again, both of them are beautiful people, so there wasn’t one bad photo.

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He put a ring on it.

I think by being a bystander to Tyler and LB’s relationship for a year taught me a lot about relationships. I’ve been able to see them work through conflict, choose to be faithful to Christ in purity, and believe the best in each other. I love how much fun they have with each other. I remember LB watching videos they took before coming on STINT. I would sit on the couch watching them with her and just love the way they interacted. I asked her what her favorite thing about their relationship was and how it was different than other relationships she had been in. She responded with, “There is freedom to be ourselves and we just think it’s funny!” Such a  grace-filled and confident answer. Some of my favorite things about LB: consistency in the word. Stable personality. Her deep laugh. Her ability to quote anything, isn’t it? 😉

I’ve loved the Lord’s provision in my life through these two women! I’ve learned a lot through you two. 🙂 Excited for where the Lord will take you and how He will use you! Excited to have front row seats!

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Jackie Chan Is My Husband…

It all started at a Thieb. shack.

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This restaurant is a team favorite. We eat here at least twice a week and we’ve dubbed it “Princess Michelle’s from the region Point E.” That’s not really the name of the restaurant, but nonetheless all of the Toubabs in Dakar now know it as Michelle’s. Thieb (also known as Thiebou Diene) is Senegal’s national dish and it is SUPERB! Michelle is owner and chef maîtresse. She’s one of my favorites.

Anyways, Shannon and I were meeting with a student named Beegaye one day at Michelle’s. She only speaks French, so we had some language difficulties. She was giving Shannon a hard time for not knowing French or Wolof, so I decided to one up her (cause let’s just be honest, that’s what Jesus would do). I started throwing out all the Mandarin phrases I knew. “Nihau!… Boo yow ni ga danchi.” Whitney told me that means, “Hello, your stuff is too expensive.” Who knows what that really means… and that’s also where my Mandarin ends.

“Ah, bon! Tu parle le chinois!” Yes Beegaye, I know Chinese. Now quit giving my friend a hard time about French! We then continue our conversation about how I learned Mandarin. “Where did you learn Chinese?!” I responded with, “My friend Jackie taught me. He’s really talented at karate. His name is Jackie Chan.”

At this point, I really couldn’t keep a straight face. She didn’t really understand my French, but luckily the man next to her translated into Wolof for us. After we get done with our conversation, our handy-dandy translator looks at me and says in English, “You’re hilarious. I lived in America for 17 years and have seen Jackie Chan movies.” HAHA! He caught me! I ended up telling her the truth that I didn’t really know Chinese I was just trying to make a point about hassling people about language. She thought it was funny, but not nearly as funny as I thought it was.

Later that day, I went somewhere in a taxi and had not satisfied my desire to talk about Jackie Chan with Senegalese people. My taxi driver began talking to me in Wolof [the nation’s first language]. He was amazed that a Toubab [foreigner, mostly applied to white people] spoke Wolof. Here’s how our conversation went:

Naanga def?-him [How are you?]

Maangi fi.-me [I am here. [I know it doesn’t make sense to me either]]

Yow, degg na Olof?-him [You, you know Wolof?]

Man? Degg na tutti rekk.- me. [Me? I only know a little.]

Ah, bahkna! Hammga jekker?-him [do you have a husband?]

Waaw waaw. Hamga jekker.-me [Of course I have a husband]

Sama jekker, Jackie Chan laa tudd.-me [My husband, his name is Jackie Chan]. At this point I start cracking up.

Deguma dara.- him [I don’t understand]

Jackie Chan, tu connais l’acteur Chinois.– [Jackie Chan, you know, the Chinese actor.]

Deguma Jackie.-him [I don’t know who Jackie Chan is].

I then had to explain in my broken Wolof that’s seriously on life-support that I didn’t really have a husband. I was just joking with him. And then I accidentally told him that I was a “say-say,” which in this context has two meanings. It could mean “a jokester” or, well let’s put this kindly, someone who plays the field for their own personal gain. ugh… #facepalm. That’s what I get. “No, I don’t really have one husband. I play the field.” 

And that’s the story of one: how I found out that no one in Senegal knows who Jackie Chan is and two: I should probably quit trying to pull people’s legs because jokes like that don’t translate here.

Because what else could make Jackie Chan look cooler than a Tiger? I think he could take him...
Because what else could make Jackie Chan look cooler than a Tiger? I think he could take him…