Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Article from Vogue, September 2011


Ten years after September 11, Lauren Manning remembers her harrowing near-death experience—and her battle to survive.

It’s 8:30 a.m. Normally I would be out the door by 8:00 a.m., but at the last minute I’d been held up by a call, and now I rush out of our apartment, annoyed to be running late but glad, after the turmoil of the previous night, to be on my way to the office.

Greg, my husband of barely a year, has just sprung on me the fact that he wants to leave finance and become a journalist. We had a wonderful life: I loved Greg; we had a beautiful ten-month-old baby and great jobs on Wall Street. I didn’t want to doubt his dreams, but I thought, Hold on; starting out as a reporter is a job for a 22-year-old, someone living on a shoestring who has no one to think about but himself. Our harsh exchange rang in my head. “You’re not the man I thought you were when I married you,” I had said. “I’m exactly the man you thought I was,” he’d replied.

Now, after a kiss for our son, Tyler, a quick hello to Joyce, his babysitter, and a barely grumbled good-bye to Greg, I am finally on my way. I walk up Perry Street to Washington Street, where I wait several minutes trying to hail a cab. Soon enough I am riding south, joining the morning crush of cars and trucks inching down West Street toward the World Trade Center.

I glance at my watch, and again I’m irritated by how late it is. Across the Hudson River, the Jersey City skyline is bright and sharp against the dazzling, pure blue sky. The river is a deep gray, its wind-driven swells crisscrossed by the wakes of morning water taxis. I grow impatient when we are caught at yet another red light, but before long we have arrived at the carport entrance to One World Trade Center.

I pay the driver and step out of the cab, thinking how warm it is for September. Heading for the revolving doors, I walk past the security barriers, which are barely camouflaged as large concrete planters. Through the glass, I see two women standing and talking inside. I smile at them as I push through the doors to enter the lobby, when I am jarred by an incredibly loud, piercing whistle. I hesitate for a moment, then attribute the noise to some nearby construction and continue on.

I head to the north side of the lobby, where twelve express elevators serve a sky lobby on the seventy-eighth floor. From there I’ll ride up to my hundred-and-fifth-floor office at the brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald, where, as a partner, I am about to relaunch our market-data business.

As I veer toward the elevators, I suddenly feel an incredible sense of otherworldliness. It’s an odd, tremendous, quaking feeling. Everything . . . moves. I hear a huge, whistling rush of air, an incredibly loud sound:shshooooooooooooo. And then, with an enormous, screeching exhalation, fire explodes from the elevator banks into the lobby and engulfs me. An immense weight pushes down on me, and I can barely breathe. I am whipped around. Looking to my right, where the two women were talking, I see people lying on the floor covered in flames. Like them, I am on fire.

As the first searing pain hits, I think, This can’t be happening to me. The fire embraces my body tighter than any suitor. It claws through my clothes, rifles over my shoulder blades, wraps around my legs, gripping my left arm and both my hands. I cover my face, but I can’t scream. I am in a vacuum, the air depleted of oxygen, and the shouting, the roar of the fire, the shattering sound of breaking glass—all that is very far away.

I lurch toward the doors in a desperate effort to get out. As I do, something hits me in the back of the head. For a moment, I am pushed against the glass; then I’m sucked backward again by a monstrous inhalation. I fight my way through the outer doors as the fire spreads farther down my arms, my back, my legs. And then, abruptly, I am spit out onto the sidewalk where I had been standing just seconds before.

I can see nothing but concrete and pavement, but I know there is a narrow strip of grass on the other side of West Street—my only chance to put out the flames that now envelop me like a shroud. My mind fills with thoughts of Tyler. I think to myself, I can’t leave him. I haven’t had him long enough. I can’t go out into the street in flames to die in a gutter.

I reach the grass. I drop down and begin to roll. A man comes charging over to me, ripping off his jacket and using it to help smother the flames. I tell him Greg’s cell-phone number and yell at him to call Greg. “Tell him to get the hell down here and help me!”

The flames have been extinguished, but the agony is only just beginning, the burns spreading, moving deeper and deeper, through layer after layer of dermis, fat, and muscle. I twist and turn, trying to escape, but the pain only intensifies.

The air is filled with noise, objects slamming into the ground, emergency sirens, the grinding thunder of bending steel and breaking glass. Far above, Tower One seems to sway against the blue sky, trailing a deep, black scar in its wake. It seems incongruous that a gash so high up could have created the fire that engulfed me so far below.

The roar of a plane draws my eye, and I look up just as its tail section vanishes into the south tower. Improbably, I find myself wondering how part of a plane could be hanging out of the building. But after it hits, I know that this was not just an accident. They have come back for us. The sheer walls of the World Trade Center seem to veer and sway. I feel myself losing hold, as if my fingers were being pried off a ledge one at a time. The impulse to let go is overwhelming, but, with the last full measure of my strength, I decide to live.

“Get me out of here, get me out of here!” I yell, pleading with my companion. “We have to move over! It looks like the building is going to fall!”

He helps me move a few feet down the bank. As we reach the new spot I sink forward onto the ground, and then I clearly see part of my body for the first time. At the ends of my arms, my wrists and hands are resting upon the bright-green blades of newly planted grass. They are perfectly formed, perfectly shaped, and every detail is sharp. Yet something is terribly wrong. Against the verdant background my hands are pure white, as if they had been dipped in wax.

At last, an ambulance stops on the northbound side of West Street, but the EMTs jump out and head toward the building, away from us. It’s up to me to make it over there, and so, with my companion’s help, I somehow cross that impossible distance. I am placed on a stretcher on the floor. The ambulance fills with the wounded until I am surrounded by torn trousers, soot-covered shoes, and bare, bloodied legs. The EMTs frantically step around me to help the others, but I am not being given any sort of attention. I can see that I’ve been pegged as a goner.

Opening my eyes, I turn my head and see Greg’s face. He gently smiles and says, “I love you.” Light streams in through the window behind him. I glance around. To my left, a thicket of plastic tubes runs from a metal trolley down to various parts of my body. Shifting my head a bit, I realize that something is sticking out of my neck. Nurses pour into the room, joined by a doctor or two. I don’t understand. Why are so many people coming to see me?

Greg says, “Lauren, you’ve been sedated for a long time. You were badly hurt, but you’re going to be OK.”

Of course I’ll be OK—why wouldn’t I be? The last thing I knew the ambulance had taken me to St. Vincent’s, where Greg raced to my side after a frantic hour of not knowing whether I was alive or dead. Swathed in bandages, I’d told him what had happened to me. I’d asked him, “Will I be OK?” “You’ll be fine,” he had said, his tone even. “How does my face look?” He’d replied, “It just looks like you’re really tan.”

I vaguely remembered pleading to be transferred to a burn unit. Now I learned that that same evening I’d been taken to the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and that, soon after I arrived, I’d been put into an induced coma. Burns covered more than 82 percent of my body, most terribly on my back and left arm. The recovery rate for victims of a fire is estimated to be 100 minus the percentage of the burn, which meant that I’d had, at best, an 18 percent chance of surviving.

Greg told me that I underwent the first of dozens of procedures that night. As he kept vigil beside my bed, I lay quiet, wrapped in white bandages, the only sounds the hiss of the oxygen supply and the rhythmic function of the ventilator. When he left for the evening, the nurses looked at him with a compassionate but serious expression; only later did he realize that they believed I had almost no hope of making it.

I discovered that during the nearly two months I’d been unconscious I’d had graft surgeries on my feet, my hands, my fingers, and extensively on my back, and that I’d survived repeated life-threatening crises. But as September turned to October, I’d continued to hang in there. In an effort to keep family and friends posted about my progress, Greg had begun sending out daily updates by e-mail, and soon his beautifully written notes were being disseminated across the country and around the world. The response was stunning. Bushels of get-well cards began to accumulate in my hospital room; I even received blessed water from the Kabbalah Centre and holy water from Lourdes.

On October 17, The New York Times published a front-page article about me called “A Fireball, a Prayer for Death, Then an Uphill Battle for Life.” Greg explained that he cooperated with it in large part because he wanted Tyler to have a record of my fight for life, a thought that moved me to tears.

It didn’t take me long to comprehend the severity of my injuries. Breathing, moving, getting an IV line or a tube changed, grinding through daily occupational and physical therapy—these, along with the twice-daily nursing-shift change and the frequent measurements of vital signs and organ function, were the rhythms of my new life. I had no choice but to adapt. Watching the plethora of monitors surrounding me, I felt as if I were gazing at a light show during a psychedelic-rock concert. I existed only in the immediacy of now.

A ventilator tube made it impossible for me to speak, and so I was given a placard to point to. On one side was a boxed alphabet that made it possible for me to spell out words. Next to that were the outlines of an androgynous body, to allow me to identify where I was feeling pain. It might have made more sense for me to indicate the part of my body that occasionally stopped hurting.

By early November I was fully alert but still unable to talk. Yet while I knew that my body and my life would never be the same, I was possessed by an almost unbearable happiness. I understood how incredibly lucky I was to have survived and felt almost absurdly grateful to be alive. More than ever, I wanted to live and, someday, to go back home and be with my family.

On November 11, my doctor announced that it was time to remove the breathing tube. When Greg walked into my room that evening, I whispered, “Hi, Greg.”

Startled, Greg stopped and looked at me. “Are you talking?”

“Yes,” I said, nodding.

“God, that’s wonderful.”

My voice sounded pretty rough at first. The nurses told me to take it easy, but I had so many questions. Above all, I wanted to know more about what had happened on 9/11. Greg, my parents (who had driven up from Georgia that first day and hardly left my side since), and my caregivers had been careful not to volunteer information. That way, I could take in the news at my own pace.

When I asked Greg to get some things out of my office for me, he said he would, but his manner was a bit awkward. Through conversations over the next several days, I began to understand the enormity of the attacks. Over and over when I asked about one of my colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald, where I had worked since 1993, Greg would tell me that he or she “didn’t make it.” Finally, I looked at him. “How many died?” I asked.

“Do you really want to know?”

“Yes, I do.”

Greg paused for a moment. “Almost 700,” he said. He told me that I was one of just a handful of people who had been seriously injured that day and survived. Hearing this, I experienced a profound and desperate sorrow.

Now I had a new mission: I wanted to survive and prevail on behalf of all those who had died. I felt an upwelling of motivation, the boxer’s refusal to go down easy. I would not surrender to the terrorists. I would not permit them to take one more moment from my life. People might see a horribly injured person lying in a hospital bed; but that image was synonymous with victim, and I rejected that destiny. I would never surrender or hide; I would stand tall in this world.

It had been 67 days since I had last seen my son. The risk of infection had simply been too high. At last my doctor said it was safe for Tyler to visit, and on November 17 he was brought to the hospital for the first time. We would not be able to touch each other yet, but at least we could finally be in the same room.

I was desperate to be with him, but I was also afraid. I looked nothing at all like the mother who had kissed him goodbye on the morning of September 11. Swaddled in white bandages and sterile coverings from head to toe, I wore a Cantor Fitzgerald baseball cap and a touch of perfume that I had sometimes worn in the past. I hoped that even if I proved virtually unrecognizable to Tyler, he still might remember that fragrance.

As I was brought out to see him, I felt overwhelmed with conflicting feelings of anticipation and worry, and then, coming down the hall from the opposite direction, there he was. He was pushing a musical toy; tied to its handlebars was a red, heart-shaped balloon inscribed I love you.

“Hi, hi,” I said, as Tyler approached, my eyes welling up. He was wearing blue jeans and a blue plaid flannel shirt with a corduroy collar; he looked so small in the wide hallway. The last time I had seen him, he had been a ten-and-a-half-month-old baby just beginning to stand in his crib. Three weeks past his first birthday, here he was, walking the length of the hallway toward me!

He arrived at my chair, stopped, and looked at me quizzically. “That’s Mommy,” Greg said.

Tyler seemed uncertain, but he didn’t turn away from me. I looked at him, rapt, fighting back tears of happiness. Seeing him made me more determined than ever to get my life back.

On December 12, 91 days after I’d been admitted, I left the burn center for Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, New York, to begin the next stage of my recovery. The challenges were immense. I could walk with little, if any, assistance, but I was unable to hold anything weighing more than a few ounces in my hand. Virtually every part of my body had been injured, and I knew I would need to work relentlessly. I thought again of Tyler; before too much longer, I promised myself, we would be together every day. And one fine morning, I would get down on the floor with him. We would roll, we would play, we would laugh and be silly just like any other mother and child.

The first challenge came without fanfare, after a nurse brought Greg and me to my room. I walked slowly over to the vanity, lifted my head, and faced a full image of myself for the first time since 9/11.

My eyes looked just as they always had: blue, intense, and unflinching. But the rest of my face had the look of a fighter who’d caught the wrong side of a punch. I felt a deep sadness for the poor woman in the mirror. Quiet tears ran down my face. I turned to Greg and said, “I wish my tears could wash away my scars.”

I decided that that injured person I saw in the mirror was not me but someone outside of me. I felt bad for that person—she had been so terribly hurt; she’d had to go through so much. But that was her, and I was me.

I quickly settled into a new routine. After the hour and a half it took to get me ready in the morning, I would head out of my room with a halting glide. My left foot barely flexed at all, so I pulled it after me in an awkward version of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. My therapy involved massage, exercise, and movement to make the scar tissue more pliable, and I threw myself into it with the single-mindedness I’d brought to my career. My doctor at Burke had been concerned that I might be receiving more therapy than I could tolerate, but I trusted myself to know my limits. Burn patients have twelve to fifteen months to regain the maximum amount of function before scar maturation, and those who haven’t pushed through the pain can find themselves immobilized.

I wanted to be able to do all the things I had done before. I wanted to type, dial a phone, drive a car, swing a golf club. I wanted to pick up and hold my son. It would take years for me to achieve something like a normal life again, and even then, it wasn’t obvious how far I could go. I’d been told that I would have function in my hands, but it wasn’t clear how much. But I would do whatever it took to achieve the best possible outcome. As Winston Churchill once said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

Although it was tough going, there were also distinct high points—Tyler’s weekly visits; the chance to reconnect with old friends; a party given by the wife of a fellow WTC survivor, Harry Waizer, to celebrate both our birthdays; a trip to Bloomingdale’s to buy makeup for the first time; a visit from Senator Hillary Clinton, whose ready, open smile and obvious intelligence and warmth immediately put me at ease; a gala dinner in Manhattan where I was honored by the Women’s Bond Club, which I was given special dispensation to attend.

At 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I left for work. At 11:45 a.m. on Friday, March 15, 2002—six months and four days later—I finally returned home.

My rehabilitation had kept at bay the extraordinary sadness I felt at the loss of hundreds of people who had been a part of my daily life. Now that it was time to leave, I realized how much I would miss my familiar routine.

Greg helped me into the car and buckled me in, and we rode down the long driveway without looking back. As we drove south along the Hudson River, I gazed out the window at all that was the same and all that had changed. When my feet touched the cobblestones of Perry Street, I knew that the insulated world I’d left behind was gone. Our arms entwined, Greg and I walked through the door of our building.

I was greeted first by Eduardo, our doorman. All smiles, he carefully hugged me and gave me a big “welcome home.” After riding the elevator to the third floor, I walked down our hallway as I had so many times before. Greg opened the door to our apartment, and the moment I stepped inside my eyes were flooded with light from the early-afternoon sun. Joyce, who had been the last person I’d seen when I left six months earlier, was the first person I saw as I now returned. We embraced as people do who have together carried the weight of something very heavy. And as we cried and held each other, we both knew that the little boy enjoying his nap down the hall had saved me, had been the true beacon guiding me home.

Since returning home, Manning has continued to inspire, speaking at the Cantor Fitzgerald 9/11 memorial service in September 2002, carrying the Olympic Torch for the 2004 Games, and receiving honors from the Anti-Defamation League and the Blanton-Peale Institute. With the help of a surrogate, Lauren and Greg welcomed son Jagger in 2009. @
Excerpted from Unmeasured Strength, by Lauren Manning, published August 30 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2011 Lauren Manning. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A few disappointing news items today:

  1. The chonga bagel is being discontinued by Starbucks. So sad! This has always been my go-to snack. I honestly don't like any other bagel since I've had the chonga (which, if you're interested, stands for CHeddar, ONion, and GArlic). And it is so affordable (just a $1.50). But alas... they are soon to be gone. Good news for my daniel fast... but bad news for my budget (post-fast).

  2. Secondly, and even more devestating, I just found out that the BBC is post-poning the second series of Sherlock. It was supposed to be released this fall, but it looks like we will have to wait until "early 2012." Sadness. It ended on an incredible cliff-hanger... but just when I thought I was weeks away from seeing the next season, I find out I have to wait even longer.

But Sherlock, you are worth it! Despite my frustration. I will wait and you will be awesome!

Seriously missing Oxford right now! This is a shot of Magdalen tower from the cloisters. Of all the incredible places I got to go, I'm pretty sure I miss Magdalen the most.

[from left to right: Amanda, Maia, myself, Kristina, Stephanie, Elizabeth, and Cathleen]

And then, there are my dear friends! I miss these girls so, so much. It is just amazing how fast a group can become close friends. What is sad though is just how far we are spread apart--from Seattle and Portland to Tennesee, Ohio, Kentucky, and Oklohama. Missing you all!

Monday, August 29, 2011

I was looking through my book list for the fall tonight and I looked at some of the synopses online. Well, it looks like the novels for English Honors are way more depressing than the Greek Tragedies =/
I am really trying, though, to get the Lord's perspective on these books. They are the farthest thing from favorite. I find most contemporary, post-modern novels hopeless, depraved, and painful. I understand that one of art's purpose's is to point out the darkness and to critique society--but these usually go too far.
Despite all of my feelings or my gut reactions to these novels, the Lord really challenged me today. He told me to sift for truth and beauty, to wait to judge until I had finished. He told me to find the root issues that cause people to feel hopeless, bitter, etc. I think this will not be easy, but I am hoping that He reveals something to me that will change my perspective--at least make me appreciate the author's frustrations if I cannot agree with them. I'm a bit nervous, but I know this is in His plan, even if I wouldn't have put it in mine...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"I don't smoke or drink, you know...because I think they're drugs. And yet I fancy all hobbies, like my camera and bicycle, are drugs too... Drugging myself with speed and sunshine and fatigue and fresh air. Pedaling the machine so fast that I turn into a machine myself. That's the matter with all of us. We're too busy to wake up." - G. K. Chesterton, Manalive

I read through 2/3 of Manalive this afternoon and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I thought I liked Chesterton before, but oh man, reading one of his novels--I'm loving it. One more fave quote:

"I am going to hold a pistol to the head of the Modern Man. But I shall not use it to kill him--only to bring him to life." ahh! So good.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Beauty is mysterious; it is a revelation of the Kingdom of God in our midst, and the Kingdom of God is both inspiring and unsettling, if only because it reminds me of how far short of its integrity and holiness I fall." - Jeffrey Overstreet

Thursday, August 25, 2011

So doesn't start back up for another 5 weeks, but its been on my mind lately. Partly because I'm not done registering =)
I'm registered for 3 classes so far: English Honors, The Novel, and Greek Tragedies. Side note: It's going to be a reading-heavy quarter with--no joke--20 required books (including 4 dense novels). But I am very excited. Those classes add up to a full load at 15 credits.
But... It just so happens that I'm about 3 credits to make up over the next 3 quarters. Soooo crazy that I'm entering my senior year, asking myself, "What do I want to take before I graduate?" I digress... I've been looking for an interesting class for 2 or 3 credits. I was registered for Greek Mythology. Interesting. In my minor. It would take care of all 3 credits.
On the downside, I had promised a dear friend of mine that we'd take that class together and, if I took this class, it would be my only class on Friday.
But today, I think I found a better option. It turns out that Intro to Music Theory is still open. Its a 2 credit course that only meets on monday and wednesday. So, I can fulfill my long-time dream of studying at least the basics of music and my fridays will be completely free! Happiness. Especially because some weekends I will be working saturday and sunday.
Looks like a win-win =)
"The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with you."
- II Corinthians 13.14

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ok... forgive me for going all nerd on you, but I love Apple.
The first computer we ever owned was a Macintosh green-screen from the 1980's. That's the computer on which I played oregon trail (the floppy disc version) as a child. But after, that, it was a long time till I had another apple product.
When I was 14, Mara Baker and I shared a room and she was a gloriously hard-core apple believer. She owned a macbook pro and it was not long before she had converted me. I wanted a mac. Shortly after that, one of my friends at school purchased one. That settled it.
When I was 17, my dad bought me a white macbook as a congratulations for a public speaking competition. My winning speech was centered around french footballer Zinedine Zidane, so to this day, I call my little Mac Zinedine. Well, 4 years and 2 hard drives later, I'm still loving on the same Macbook (and very much looking forward to my next one :).I've converted 3 people (who all used to be Ma
c haters!) to macs and I love it! I understand the argument that there are certain things you can't do on a mac if you're a programer, yeah yeah... but most of us aren't! So we can enjoy our glorious Apple products...

...all thanks to this guy:

Steve Jobs. The one. The only.

As many of you have probably heard, Steve Jobs resigned today.
He was such a pioneer, and he will be missed

A few years ago, I saw this clip--his introduction to the first Macintosh. The bow tie and double-breasted blazer are as far a cry from the black turtleneck as the bulky macintosh is from the slim iphone, but it is Steve Job's Apple nonetheless:

Steve Jobs resignation letter:
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come...
I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.
I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Thank you Steve Jobs!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Reminiscing about my last day in the UK. I got to spend the day in Sussex visiting Beachy Head and Brighton. The gorgeous white cliffs are known as the 7 sisters and are absolutely stunning!
Its a bit hard to tell, but the pic in the middle is of a vintage (we're talking 40's or 50's) fighter jet flew past. And just to the right of that is a quintessential English light house.
The top photo is my "Oreo Sandwich." From left to right is: Alice, myself, Selam, and Leila. Alice and Leila are from Burundi, but studying at Bible College in London for 2 years. Selam is from Ethiopia, but lives with the Whites in Horsham. I definitely miss them!
Well, I'm back. Back from England. Back from Family Camp. Back in my own bed. Back at work.
I've come back to a lot of changes. Both of my roommates moved out today. Elle is moving half-way across the country; Charlli is only moving to Kenmore, but they are both already missed. But its exciting because we are all entering new adventures. Education, jobs, plans, relationships--they're all new. Here comes the new year =)

Monday, August 15, 2011

The leaves of the tree...

While at Christ Church College, I came across a tree with this verse engraved around the base:
"On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruite every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations" - Revelation 22.2

This has become a very special verse to me over the years, but especially in college. As I've taken courses in the humanities, dealing with colonialism, racism, and oppression of all sorts, I've come to find so much hope in this verse. The truth is, we've royally messed things up. Our world is so broken. One of the saddest parts is that countries and people groups have committed horrible atrocities against one another: the African slave trade, the trail of tears, the holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, apartheid. Not only have people inflicted these tragic, inhuman acts on other people, we have found little or no healing. How do we as humans atone for the evil we have caused? In the words of Samwise Gamgee, "How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?" The fact is, it can't go back to the way it was. We live in a fallen world and our methods of healing will never be successful. Money doesn't fix it. Guilt-trips don't make it all better. We need healing that we could never create for ourselves.
That is what the leaves are for. We will never be able to reverse the clock. We cannot make up for the pain we have caused. Individuals may be able to nobly forgive one another, but when whole people-groups are persecuted or destroyed, there seems to be little hope. But the leaves of the tree of life have power to heal that hurt. Part of our place as Christians is to discover what that looks like and appropriate that healing.
There is one place that I have gained a significant burden for over the last 3 years where I want to see those leaves bring healing: the Belgian Congo. This swath of Africa covers several modern states, but originally was a colony owned and cruelly ruled by Leopold II of Belgium. If you are not familiar with the atrocities associated with Leopold's colonization of the Congo, you should read up on it here. I first learned a lot about colonization there and other parts of Africa in a history class my freshman year called "History of 20th Century Europe" and then later read Joseph Conrad's incredible novel, Heart of Darkness. The Lord has given me such a burden for this area.

Fast-forward to today. I am staying with a friend's parents, the Whites, in Horsham, UK. There are 3 other girls here as well, a Selam is from Ethiopia and Alice and Leila are from Burundi. The Whites spent nearly 20 years in Horsham and so we've been talking about it a lot. Today I found out that Burundi was part of the Belgian Congo. My heart just about sunk. Then Leila started explaining the problems they are still facing and asking what we thought would be good solutions.

[the Oreo from left to right: Alice, 24; myself, 21; Selam, 15; and Leila, 23]

Burundi is the small darker area in Africa. According to the CIA World Factbook, Burundi's GDP is $300--the United States is $47,200.
Wikipedia says, "Burundi is one of the world's poorest countries, owing in part to its landlocked geography, poor legal system, lack of economic freedom, lack of access to education, and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. Approximately 80% of Burundi's population lives in poverty."
Basically, these girls from Burundi have grown up in a country and culture completely opposite of the one I've grown up in.
Today blew me away. Nothing I've read, nothing I've studied could compare to actually talking to people living in this reality. Can I tell you how humbling it is to have someone ask you, "You're going to be the next leaders of the world, do you have ideas on how to make our country successful? Are you going to help us develop?"
The brunt of that question brought that verse flooding back to mind. After all the tragedies of colonization, after civil war--What can we do help countries like Burundi? How do we appropriate the healing from the leaves of the tree?

2 years ago, I bought a ring that is mother of pearl set in sterling silver in the shape of a leaf. I wear it every day. I love leaves and I love this ring. Today I saw a connection of what I love and the burdens I carry. Literature meets love meets life meets leaves... and I'm pondering what our generation's place is.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Practicals, theory, whatever. I'm still working this through and I'd love your comments.
packing yet again. i need my checked bag to be under 50 pounds and my carry on to be under 15 =/
I'm a bit crazy... saturday i left Oxford. i've been living out of my suitcase while staying in Horsham. i fly out tomorrow and will be in Seattle by 7.15 pst. the next morning, I repack my suitcase for our church's 5 day camping trip. so I'll be living out of my suitcase for nearly another week... but it is all good =)

please leave packing tips as a comment below, especially if you know how to pack fragile, old books into a tightly packed suitcase =)
Just a few favorites...
[Bath, Royal Crescent]

Missing this girl
[Bath, Upper Assembly Rooms]

[Bath, Palace Gardens]

[Bath, Palace Gardens]

Finally in love with tea =)
[Oxford, Vaults and Gardens Cafe]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Spiders in Oxford: 12-0
Spiders in Horsham: 1-0

Take that, Arachnids!! Muhahaha =)
Tonight I had a sunset walk through a beautiful part of Sussex. It was absolutely magical and I'm just kicking myself for not bringing my camera. We went up Denne Hill and from there had a gorgeous view of the North Downs and I got to see Box Hill. I actually got to see Box Hill!
[For those of you who didn't know, Jane Austen's Emma is set in Sussex and the main characters have a picnic on Box Hill =]
It was just fabulous! Tomorrow, we're off to Brighton and Beachy Head. The cliffs there are just like the "white cliffs of Dover." So stoked! Pictures to come (hopefully) tomorrow. Sweet dreams =)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

In Horsham

- went to my first cricket match yesterday
- picked vegetables right out of an English garden and helped prepare them for dinner
- had yorkshire pudding for a second time... absolutely love it
- its official, i like tea! (victory!!!)
- got up this morning amidst bells chiming at the 700 year old church just around the corner (i think i want bells on my wedding day!)
- had an incredible time with the Lord this morning... so much peace in this house
- went to an amazing church this morning
- learned how to play settlers of catan, finally
- tomorrow we're going to Brighton!!! I get to see the English seaside =)
packing, packing, packing...

i'm going to miss my beloved Oxford. I wish I could gather it into one lovely bundle and hug it :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Only 6 days till I fly home and 1 week till family camp =) I am struggling with all the mixed feelings of loving Oxford, but also being so ready to be home. This has been so incredible and I can't believe its ending. We wrap up and I say goodbye to everyone on friday ='( But, I cannot wait to go home! So I thought I'd share just a few things that I love about both.

Things I will miss:
  • being surrounded by old, beautiful things--the streets, the buildings, the books, etc
  • my kindred spirit, Kristina =')
  • british accents
  • the new building quad at Magdalen and my tree
  • Jane Austen discussions
  • Bus reader boards
  • Stephanie Downing, one of the funniest, most amazing people I know--please move to Bellevue =)
  • Magdalen's dining hall
  • going places connected to so many favorite authors
  • Radcliffe Camera! All of the Bodleian, but especially the Radcliffe
  • having a Bod card
  • nerding out all the time with good friends
  • English gardens
  • earl grey
  • culture that was made for me: plays, bookshops, the Ashmolean Museum
  • amazing Magdalen hot chocolate every morning for breakfast
  • pedantic breakfast conversations
Things I can't wait for:
  • my family
  • Ross and Ida
  • Mexican food
  • late night Starbucks
  • late night anything!
  • my own bed and shower
  • driving!!
  • Kirkland waterfront (especially now that Jaunita Beach has reopened)
  • talking to my parents whenever
  • family movie nights
  • being able to plug more than one thing in at a time
  • pay checks
  • redoing my room with Sarah
  • Wednesday farmer's market
  • family camp and friends =)
*please note that these lists are not nearly comprehensive, just a few on the top of my head

Monday, August 8, 2011

"I am not afraid of you," said he smilingly.

- Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
So I got my book list for fall quarter and, while there will be a lot of reading, I am very happy.
Most exciting are the books for my class on the novel:
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (I've been wanting to read this for a while)
- Hard Times by Charles Dickens (which I've read and loved)
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (also read)
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (another I've wanted to read)
So, at least in that class, it should be a quarter of loveliness!

Jane Eyre has been on my mind a lot lately. I watched An Education this weekend, which incorporates a lot from Jane Eyre. Then my good friend Stephanie shared this proposal story with me. They are both really good friends of Stephanie's and they have the cutest story. Warning, you may want tissues:

The Date


How we got engaged

The couple went to see the film Jane Eyre (based off of Charlote Bronte's novel of the same name) earlier in the year, and Leslie thought it would be a nice summer read. It had taken her forever, but dear Mike had heard her talk about best parts for hours on end, and listened to her quote the most amazing lines. Friday, July 29, Leslie finished reading it and felt incredibly accomplished

Saturday the 30th the couple worked out and then went their separate ways. A friend of theirs was in town, and so for the first time in a month Leslie was not expecting anything to happen. As far as she knew, she would be in her pajamas all day until the boys were hungry.

Leslie had mentioned earlier that she needed some milk and after texting Mike with, "I'm bored." after four hours of mindless facebooking, Mike said he would come pick her up. She proceeded to get ready, expecting nothing, and walked into her kitchen to see his car in the driveway. She lives in a renovated attic and has a stunning deck overlooking the backyard with wood steps. Leslie walked out on the deck, and noticed he wasn't getting out of the car.

She walked down the stairs and met him halfway (now, dear reader, imagine the sun shining on a summer's day at approximately 5:30 in the afternoon, simply beautiful) and he handed her a copy of Jane Eyre with the greeting, "this is for you!" Leslie gave him a hug (still both on the stairs) and noticed his heart beating abnormally. Then he said to open the front cover.

There he had written the line from when Mr. Rochester proposes to Jane in the novel, along with other snippets of the most romantic verses.

The inscription read:

"I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions...I ask you to pass through life at my side--to be my second self, and best earthly companion. My bride is here because my equal is here, and my likeness. Leslie, will you marry me?"

She said yes.

Ah! I just love it! Hope you have a beautiful day!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A new adaptation of The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio (Gatsby), Carey Mulligan (Daisy), and Isla Fisher (Myrtle Wilson)?? Yes, PLEASE!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

With 10 days left in Europe, I feel this Audrey-esque compunction to go get a pixy cut.

Don't worry! I'm not going to. I've been growing my hair out for such a long time and I'm always wishing it was longer... but, it just seems like I'm breaking a tradition or something:

Sabrina (1954) - Sabrina before Paris
Sabrina after Paris =)

Roman Holiday (1953) - Princess Anne when she arrives in Rome
Out on her "Roman Holiday" after her famous haircut =)

So I'm not going to chop off all my hair... but I feel like I should do something. Hmmm... :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

*thanks to Miss Julia for the lovely travel journal ;)
Spider kill count in my room is up to 11, but I just defeated another one--this time in the Bodleian! Not ok! Spiders are not will not be allowed to assail these precious, lovely books. Not under my watch.

[my current location: the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library]
So excited for Family Camp, I can hardly stand it!!! =)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

*So* blessed I got to see him perform this live. Breathtaking. This just kills me!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Today I literally tore my room apart to kill the 10th and scariest spider I have yet encountered in my room. I'm telling ya, man, Oxford is not for arachnophobics nor the faint of heart.
He scampered under the far bed, so I was obliged to move everything in my room to find him. When I eventually did, we were practically face to face--less than a foot away-- and he was charging towards me. I have done pretty well so far... but--I'm sorry--I screamed.
I guess I officially need to clean my room. Really, its not normally this bad... everything just got thrown into disarray because of the big black arachnid... yuck!
Well, after cleaning up from this little adventure, it is time to get ready for a better one. Today, a friend and I are going to Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill was born. The palace looks gorgeous and they have award winning gardens we can wander through. Its supposed to be hot and humid today in Oxford--a perfect day for a picnic at a palace =)