Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Car Shops and Sushi

I have two main stories to tell in this blog, one from home and one from Spokane. Last Wednesday (6/22), I drove home to participate in some wedding activities (Bridesmaid Tea, Rehearsal and Rehearsal dinner, and wedding) of a good friend from my home church, Cassie Shaw (now Cassie Plucknett). It was so good to be home and spend time with family and friends. I had a lovely couple hours with my grandpa at his farm on Thursday and enjoyed my graduation party on Sunday. Thanks to all the friends and family who were able to make it to my party. I am so grateful for your support in my life!
On Friday, my dad wanted me to take my car to a shop in north Portland for a tune-up. I invited my friend Ruth Benzar to join me. We were at the shop by 9 a.m. on Friday. I expected that we'd be done by noon, if not sooner. "What are you planning to do while you wait?" The shop owner asked us. "We'll probably take a walk," I answered. "It'd better be a long walk," he said. "We don't expect to be done until 2 or 3 p.m." I was shocked, as I'm sure Ruth was, too. We left the shop and sat outside a nearby Starbucks, trying to decide what to do. In a burst of inspiration, we decided to walk to the University of Portland, Ruth's school, though we really had no idea how long it would take. What did it matter? We had all day.
After setting off in the direction of UP, we happened upon New Seasons, an upscale grocery store with tons of organic, ethnic, and whole grain food. Not paradise, per se, but something very close! We wandered through the store for a good half hour before deciding to buy our lunch here. We bought two freshly-baked rolls, a big yellow heirloom tomato, hummus, and a pint of Oregon strawberries. The walk to UP seemed long, especially because we were hungry. And I really think it was a long walk, perhaps six miles round trip. Halfway to UP, we got a call from Stan.
"Okay, your car is ready to go, Miss Brink."
10:52 a.m.
"Umm...we're a couple miles from the shop. Can the car hang out there for a couple hours?"
After his "yes," I hung up the phone and told Ruth the news. We were properly outraged. The folly of people! But soon we were able to see our situation in a better light. We resolved to continue our walk to UP, where we enjoyed our lunch immensely. And, as usually happens, the walk back to the shop didn't seem nearly as long. We were pleasantly full and had yet much to discuss and talk through. We retrieved my car and set off, an adventure under our belt that we couldn't have anticipated. Who knew that Stan the maintenance man was also a prophet? We had indeed had a long walk!
That's a rather long story, but the second story is too fresh in my mind to not write about. If you're bored, save the next story for another day. :o)
Today was June's FIRED lunch at work. (See the previous post for an explanation.) The elected choice was Wasabi Bistro, a sushi place on Division and Hawthorne. I've had sushi once before and enjoyed it, so I was excited to try it a second time.
I ended up sitting by Bob Bowen, Bob Savage, and Jon Lewis, a VP, a long-time PI employee, and the president of PI, respectively. I ordered a Philadelphia roll, which is sushi with smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese. My plate came with eight tidy sushi rolls and a pair of chopsticks. Everyone else at the table picked up their chopsticks with confidence and began to eat. I had a choice before me. I could fake chopstick confidence or look like a total novice. I decided to look like what I was and admitted my ineptitude to the three men.
I was promptly shown three different ways to hold my chopsticks by Bob, Jon, and Robert Huggins. I rotated back and forth between the methods, not wanting to offend anyone. I was actually able to manuever pretty well. But I did not want to put the whole sushi roll in my mouth at once. I was sure it would be a disaster. However, these men would have nothing of it. All of them have traveled in Japan and China and assured me that slurping noodles, chipmunk cheeks, and the like are common sights. They wouldn't continue eating until I had downed my roll. I did. They applauded. As I thought about it later, I figured this was a pretty good way to develop humility, all things considered. :o)
The only other mishap during lunch was that I swallowed an ice cube by mistake. My face must have looked ghastly because I thought Jon was going to freak out. But there was no real cause for alarm. Fortunately, I felt better when Bob Savage admitted that when he had eaten wasabi (a VERY spicy paste) for the first time, he hadn't known it was hot and so ate the whole ball of it on his plate. He claimed that he went unconscious for a full minute and saw bright lights. In light of this, I'd swallow an ice cube any day. :o)
Other than that, I had a delightful lunch. It was so fun to get to know people better and feel comfortable with them. Thanks God! And thanks to you for reading both stories.
Wishing you a blessed Fourth of July weekend! May it be fun and restful!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Food, Work, and other stuff...

Here's a post that I wrote last week. I didn't post it because I had to hurry off without being able to proofread it. My best guess is that I wrote it on Saturday, June 18. :o) Hope you enjoy!
I've been running myself ragged these past few weeks by scheduling tons of activities with friends and transitioning to new work and living environments, but not giving myself enough time to process through all these things. I love to be with people, and I get energy from being around people. But I also know that there's a strong strain of introvert in me. I need time on my own. I need time to do my own thing, whether organizing my room, writing letters, journaling, reading, or cooking, etc. However, it's a need that's easy to ignore in order not to miss out on activities with friends or at church or with my co-workers. Does anyone else feel like this?
Work makes me tired, too. Megan and I have been doing much more concentrated Harvest of Hope training this week. There is so much to learn! Fortunately, Megan has been sensitive to how I learn best as she trains me. I just keep praying that God would allow my brain to act like a sponge in soaking up all Megan teaches. I want to do my job well, and Megan is a great resource. I would appreciate your prayers that I might take advantage of my time with Megan by asking good questions, taking good notes, and being unafraid to try things, make mistakes, and learn.
At Whitworth, there tends to be an atmosphere of near-immediate intimacy with friendships. This became a point of tension for me when I realized that true intimacy between friends takes time. With my co-workers at Partners, I have realized how little I know about my coworkers' lives. I was hard on myself at first--I'm not asking good enough questions, I'm not listening well enough, etc.--until I realized that my relationships with my co-workers will take time. As I look forward to the coming months at Partners, I want to be intentional about getting to know my co-workers, asking good questions, and listening well.
Once a month at Partners, whoever wants to can attend the FIRED lunch group, which stands for "Food is Really Ethnically Delicious." Essentially, FIRED is a group of people who go to an ethnic restaurant for lunch on the last Wednesday of the month. There's also FIRED Home Edition, which is when we go to a co-worker's house for an ethnic meal. This month, Amir, an IT guy at Partners, invited some folks over to his apartment for Egyptian food. Amir is Egyptian and his visiting mother, Violet, cooked a wonderful meal for ten of us. It was quite informal. We didn't sit at a table, but sat in chairs or on the floor of the spacious kitchen, played with Amir's two delightful children, Benjamin and Joy, and chatted about subjects from the recent upheaval in Egypt to one person's particular fear of the dentist. It was a good time to be together and learn more about each person. I am thankful for my co-workers; they show real support for one another. I submitted a prayer request for our weekly Prayers/Praises sheet and several people have asked me more about the situation and/or have prayed aloud for it when we meet together each morning.
I'm also learning that the Partners employees are rather like eager goats that are willing to eat anything and everything. One employee told me that I could clean out my fridge, bring it to work, and people would still eat it! That's good because I often have leftover food. I brought a loaf of banana bread on Wednesday from a stellar recipe (thanks Lorry!) and it was gone by lunch time. Also on Wednesday, we had a grilled lunch using the Partners' grill. I said I would join in the fun, but then panicked because I didn't think I had anything. However, I was able to put together a pita pizza with olive oil, Monterey Jack cheese, peppers, spinach, broccoli, and chicken. Yum! This has been a good eating week.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The First Week of Work

Sorry to be so long in writing this next post. I've had technical difficulties with my computer, but we're up and running again. Thank you to the Whitworth computer help desk!
I've just finished my first full week of work at Partners International. Last Friday, I walked into work and couldn't believe this office was actually going to be my reality for the next who knows how long. I almost felt like an impostor. But I've felt more comfortable this week, both with the people and with the work. My title is the Harvest of Hope (HOH) coordinator. The current HOH coordinator, Megan Huggins, is a Whitworth grad from 2005. She's having her first baby in mid-July, so she's training me until that time. There is so much to learn! But I'm looking forward to being there. God has been gracious to give me this job, which I would do well to remember when I'm about to pull my hair out over the rebellious folding machine.
I enjoy the people at work especially. We start each morning with prayer, for each other and for the partner ministries that Partners supports. I love that prayer is a focus at Partners. I remember this quote from Oswald Chambers: "Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work."
On Wednesday, several of us were sitting outside at a picnic table for lunch. I had a dress and dress shoes on, enjoying the warmth of the sun. Robert Huggins, Megan's husband and a co-member of the Communications/Marketing team, somehow knocked over his water bottle and soaked my left leg, filling my shoe with water. I was so shocked that I just sat there. Charlie, another member of the Com/Marketing team, and Megan said, "You didn't even react! And with water all over your leg!" I grinned and said, "Well, this gives me an excuse not to wear my shoes for the afternoon!" And I didn't. But is this the way they initiate a new member of the team? I suppose it could have been worse. :o)
Otherwise, I've been settling into routine for the summer, getting a Spokane library card, grocery shopping, and the like. My room has finally been painted, so I can start putting things up on the walls. I won't have several pieces of furniture until the end of July, but I'm making do. Maybe living simply will whet my appetite for camping...
I'm glad for the weekend, especially a weekend with no homework!!! I've found a spot in my backyard to plant some vegetables, and tomorrow, I'll go to Whitworth Presbyterian Church to see my good friend, Kari, be commissioned as the new Pastoral Care intern. Enjoy the weekend!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Seattle and my New House!

On Saturday, May 28, Kari and I hopped in my car and drove to Kari's home in Seattle. On the drive, we decided to christen my little periwinkle Geo Prism "Beatrice." I'm hoping it sticks. What do you think, Lorry? Is Beatrice a fitting name? Our purpose in going to Seattle was to attend my junior year roommate's wedding in Eatonville, WA, about 70 minutes southeast of the city. As a bonus, Kari and I got to spend time with Kari's family over the weekend, too.

After an enjoyable Saturday evening and Sunday morning with Kari's parents, Steve and Myrna, we headed to the Olsons' favorite Indian restaurant: Taste of India. The Olsons used to have lunch here every Sunday after church when Kari was in high school. Our meal was delicious, especially the fresh chai tea. I asked Steve what "tandoori" meant on the menu, and he thought it was a kind of Indian oven. Sure enough, we poked our head in the kitchen door after lunch and were eagerly invited inside by the chef to witness the oven in action. Apparently, a tandoor oven is a special clay oven that is used in Indian cooking. Food that is cooked in a tandoor is called Tandoori, e.g. tandoori chicken.

The oven was shaped like a huge clay flower vase with a narrow opening at the top. The chef pulled out a lump of naan dough and with quick, deft movements, pulled the dough into an oblong shape, dusted it with butter, cilantro, and garlic, and slapped it on the inside of the oven where it stuck and cooked in two minutes' time. We were amazed and delighted. What a treat to see naan cooking! With typical Indian generosity, the chef gave us the fresh naan with a side of tamarind paste. Delicious! If only I could have eaten it then, but I was SO full. I could barely eat any dinner or cake at the wedding because I was so ridicuously full of Indian food. But I'm definitely not complaining. Good food is a gift. :o)

The wedding was fun, though it was strange to see the first of my friends get married this summer. This begins a series of five weddings for the summer, three of which I'm in. Perhaps the best part of the wedding was seeing friends from Whitworth who have scattered across the west coast for the summer and beyond. I also enjoyed the apple favors from the bride's family orchard. It brought back good memories of the boxes of apples fresh from the orchard that we enjoyed as roommates. The picture above is from the wedding.

Straddling May and June, the past week has been busy and tiring and full of God's blessings. On Tuesday, I worked feverishly between rainstorms to mow the Edwards' expansive lawn, pack my things, and clean the house. On Wednesday, my housemates and I moved into our new house on Woodway Avenue, which is a rather poetic name to my ears. In the midst of the chaos of packing, I was particularly thankful for three people:

1) Brad Beal, a friend from Colbert Presbyterian Church, offered to help me move my things in his spacious van. His generosity made the move 100 times easier and way more fun. Moving ranks as one of my least favorite things to do, but Brad made it a breeze.

2) Lydia Garth, a dear friend, made me a delicious lunch, and we enjoyed it together on the Edwards' deck. In the haste and chaos of moving, a prepared meal was a welcome break.

3) Kari Olson was my faithful helper in cleaning up the Edwards' house, cleaning bathrooms, making beds, washing sheets, etc. and helped me move several things, including food and clothes. I have so much food. It's rather ridiculous, so I need to try and use things up over the next several weeks. However, I always say that and it never seems to happen. Oh well.

Today, my housemates and I have been enjoying our new house and the sun. We organized our kitchen (praise God!) and took a leisurely bike ride through our neighborhood. My housemate Katie and I discovered at least six garage sales, of which the highlight was buying chocolate chip cookies and lemonade from two elementary-age girls. We also discovered how expansive our neighborhood is and that we're close to Fred Meyer! Now if they'd just put in a Coldstone Ice Cream shop nearby...

A blessed and hopefully sunny weekend to you!