Visas Are Hard.

Like really hard. This is the third one I’ve applied for, and nothing about this process has been charming.

It’s definitely partly my fault. It’s definitely not all my fault. But that’s ok and also not important.

From what I hear, bureaucracy drives everyone crazy, not least those who actually work in it.

So, the answer to that extremely valid “when are you leaving” question has become: tbd.

My application recently got passed on to the next level of processing, and I haven’t heard anything from them at all since that happened. IJM says not to worry if I don’t hear anything for 6 weeks from last week, as this is definitely less than unheard-of. After that they’ll start asking questions, and at 8 weeks they’ll reassign me to a different location. And this isn’t as personal a problem as it sounds. Only 2 people on my 6 person team have actually gotten a visa.

Only 1/3 of these people can legally enter the subcontinent!
Only 1/3 of these people can legally enter the subcontinent!

So until I hear from someone about something, I’m just playing a waiting game. Honestly, it is nice to have more time with my family than I’d thought (I was supposed to leave October 1 and start work on the 9th). I also imagine that I would be freaking out right now if I were really leaving tomorrow, but this delay has just increased the anticipation.

I’m about ready to stowaway on a plane sans passport, so you can be sure I’ll be gleefully publishing any news I get as soon as I get some.

 

 

Oh and  also, just a note as to why I’m saying “South Asia” instead of using the name of the *cough* subcontinent as I do in actual conversation: Basically, IJM has asked us not to. They don’t mind people knowing where we are, but do not want records of our work in this area readily available to the general public. This is to protect our team, our clients, and the entire process of systemic transformation that we’re undertaking. So feel free to ask me about the specific place/city by text (YES you can text me just like normal), snapchat, whatsapp, skype or any number of the more or less defunct communication tools that we have available today! But plz don’t post it publicly on my Facebook or anything like that. Thanks!

instead of watching the year’s best commercials I get to sit at an airport!

Things to do when waiting at an airport:

1. Read a book. Because educate yourself.

2. Selfie.

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So you can show everyone how glamorous world travel really is. In case they forget or anything.

Bonus points if you use an iPad camera, since it produces the worst quality pictures of the three photo taking devices currently in your carry-on.
It’s only appropriate.

3. Eat your last American food. (or just drink lots and lots of Diet Dr. Pepper, because it apparently hasn’t caught on in many uncivilized countries.)

4. Take pictures of other people.

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Make sure you use that iPad again so everyone around you will chuckle with you and/or judge. Proceed with full knowledge that the latter is more likely.

5. Make friends with a Canadian or an Australian because they’re just the friendliest.

And then, after waiting for 4 hours- after 2 delays- pray they don’t cancel the flight.

And then when they do, laugh. Because really it’s all you can do.

WAIT WHAT, YOU’RE GOING TO PARIS?

I’ve made everyone a cheat sheet.

“Shelbi, why are you still here? Leave for Paris already.”

Well Europe doesn’t do everything like America. Shocking I know. They do their collegiate level education largely on a trimester system, so I don’t start until February 2. But since I am from Merica, I have to take an American length semester. So classes will end May 31, at which time my family is coming to play in Europe for 2 weeks! Yay!

“What are you doing over there?”

I’ll be taking 12 whole hours of language and culture classes at the University of Paris. And it’s all in French…

We’ll see how that goes. I think I’ll be very grateful for a pass/fail semester.

“Do you know anyone?”

NOT YET!

“Did you know that French people are super rude?”

I am convinced this stereotype does not hold true for an entire nation.

Largely because I’ve lived in Texas long enough to know that we do not, in fact, all ride horses.

“Will you have a blog?”

Apparently?

Honestly, I wasn’t really planning on it, but then I decided to see if I could still log into my old Africa one. And well obviously the answer was yes. But well I won’t promise consistent updates after departure…

“I really need to let you know that it’s not fun here without you/get your oatmeal butterscotch cookie recipe, how do I contact you?”

Facebook, Viber, iMessage, Skype, however! But it is 8 hours ahead for me so there’s that.

“Why would you assault us with all this useless information?”

Sorry guys, Dallas is just quite boring when it’s this empty…

Composing a Goodbye…

is never really a good idea. I mean good luck with that, but it just doesn’t work. Come up with the most fail safe way to leave with maximum meaning and minimal stress, and things will not go as planned. Inevitably, someone will intrude, you’re all simply too tired/hungry/distracted by food to get properly emotional, or, you know, YOUR CAR REFUSES TO START.

I realized this as I sat at a gas station, with an unresponsive expedition xl, an hour into my drive back to Dallas. I was ready to leave College Station, and I’d said goodbye to everyone for what I’d thought was the last time. I’d begun thinking about a sappy blog and planning all of the”goodbye to this place/people that I love so much” statements, but nope. There had even been a grieving process involved in leaving College Station- consisting entirely of belting semi meaningful songs in the privacy of the black monster truck I was driving.

And now I had no choice but to go back.

Because my mom’s car hated me. According to my new oil pipeline engineer friends, there was definitely probably almost certainly a problem with my fuel pump/vapor something. Don’t get me wrong, they were incredibly helpful, but there was nothing any of us could do.

And so I had to be rescued from the truckers’ lounge of the Shell station by some wonderful friends (shoutout to Courtney Welch and Zac Wiltz for being the greatest). And in the meantime I got to live out my long time dream of being a gypsy by playing guitar at the nearly empty gas station. This also gave me time to reflect on/laugh at that one quote about the best laid plans of mice and men.

“The best laid plans of mice and men/ often go awry” *

Funny when I consider my last semester. Since planning consumed most of it. If I’ve seen you at all over this past semester, I imagine I might have mentioned the fact that I’m studying in Paris this semester. Don’t get me wrong, I tried my best to balance enjoying the semester and planning for the next one, but there was still a ton of time devoted to getting ready to leave the country. Planning has taken over even more of my time over the break. I’ve spent my exhaustingly long limbo period either working or preparing, making sure every little detail of my time abroad is taken care of. And this was the moment I was to put the beginning of my plans into motion. I was finally leaving the familiar for the unknown, and well… it wasn’t happening.

So I had to laugh when God slipped me this little reminder of His power and my lack thereof. For all the work I’d done to ensure that my future worked the way I wanted it to, there was absolutely nothing I could do to make my car move again.

And even though I was greeted with many a loving “wait you left yesterday, get out of my house,” I was definitely glad to spend one more day in a town whose only magic comes from the people in it.

My conclusion from the adventure is simple. It definitely won’t hurt me to remember that “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9).

But I love surprises. So bring on the unexpected. I think I’m as ready as one can ever be.

And dear College Station friends, you no longer have to worry that I’ll show up at your house before you’ve even finished grieving my absence, because I am finally gone for good.

Au Revoir, mes amis!

*or originally “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley”

It’s from Robert Burn’s 1785 poem To a Mouse– never fear, I’m an English major.

To Africa

Hello world!

I love writing, and this seems to be the way all the cool kids are doing it right now.

But what really motivated this was my trip to Africa! Which- God willing to all of this- is happening from June 2 to July 11 this summer. I’ll be going to Togo to work with native missionaries, which is definitely the way it should be done.  I’ll be teaching English and speaking to unreached people groups.

Really I’m not at all sure how that connects solidly to having a blog, but it has made me think about  lot of things. I love the way people think so uniquely, and so I wanted to share my thoughts and hopefully hear different ones in response!

So here’s my quick first post about nothing really.

Advice, Comments, & Thoughts always welcome. Thanks for stopping by!