Thursday, December 1, 2011

I just finished reading a blog written by a young woman who lives and works in East Africa, interviewing and processing refugees in the refugee camps (she's the front end of refugee resettlement, and I'm the back end of refugee resettlement). I really enjoyed reading her blog and hearing the foreign and fun tidbits about her life overseas. I remember my days living overseas. I wrote in my blog almost every day. It was an adventure. It was hard. I have no illusions about what it's like to live overseas, and I don't often long to do it again, even after reading that blog. I do think that I'd like to live overseas again someday, but I don't know under what circumstances I would be willing to do it.

Plus, who needs to live abroad when your job makes you feel like you live abroad sometimes? Today I visited with a refugee client of our that was resettled in July. Sure the home was "American-like" in its construction, but they all sat on the floor, and they had one bedroom with a stripped bed, and another room where they all actually sleep (on the floor). So I see plenty of foreign things here. And there's plenty of awkward moments where you can't communicate well, or you don't know if the other person speaks English or not, so you just say a few works and hope they respond.

The job has been continuously improving the past month. I did not blog during the many months of nightmarish existence that work put upon me, and parts of me is glad I did not document it. Yes, I do like to write about stuff in my life so I can remember it better years down the line, but I just don't think that was the case July to early October.

Thanksgiving was nice around here. I had a few low key, relaxing days, bopping around town with Kurt and friends, and hanging around my apartment. The stomach flu interrupted those lovely days of bopping around. Early Saturday morning. I was awoken at about 3am that morning feeling sick, and went back and forth between toilet, bathroom floor, and bed, until it culminated into me retching at 5:30. Heavens, I hate doing that. Kurt says I have a phobia. I slowly felt better after that, and was back on my feet and eating fast food on Sunday.

I look forward to going to Michigan for the weekend before Christmas. I look forward to Kurt starting his job. I look forward to things now. It's nice.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

wine & cheese under the blankets

I know it's small, but I am very proud of myself for waking up early every morning this week. I'm enjoying the unhurried time I now have to get ready for work. Although, some mornings when I go to the gym, I run short on time, but it's okay.

This week at work was more of an improvement. We are currently closing out the last cases, and hope that more will be coming soon. We have arrival dates for about 21 people, and flight numbers into Omaha for 5, but our VOLAGs still seem very unsure about whether or not to send us new cases. Supposedly, they're going to tell us on Monday, then we will have 6 working days to set up 2 apartments and prepare for 11 people. Yikes. I got pretty frustrated in the staff meeting yesterday (we all did), because they are keeping us in this nasty state of limbo. If the VOLAGs decide to cancel the travel for those 21 people, I don't want to be the one to call them and tell them their dads, moms and brothers aren't coming to Omaha anymore. I don't want to be the one to call them and say they've been transferred to Georgia or Tennessee or something. What a nightmare.

I'm looking forward to tonight because I am hosting a "wine & cheese under the blankets" party. This means we will build a giant blanket fort and drink wine and eat cheese inside it. I think it will be a good, old-fashioned time. I'm glad that everyone is coming to me this time!

Monday, November 14, 2011

the joslyn and the weekend

I actually woke up early every day last week, except Friday. On Friday, my alarm simply did not go off. I woke up on my own at 7:41, which isn't too late for a Friday.

Saturday was pretty fun. Kurt, Tyne and I went to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha. There was no admission fee, and we enjoyed wandering around looking at art. We decided to have an abstract expressionist art party. After that, I had a meeting for work with the leaders of the Karen community to try to repair some of the damage from the past few months. That went well. Then me and my friends went to this mexican restaurant in Midtown Crossings (can't remember the name). They made guacamole at your table, and all the food was incredibly fresh and delicious. Saturday night, Kurt and I played some games with Tom and Tyne. It was a very nice day.

Sunday was pretty relaxing. We went to church at First Plymouth, then got some groceries from the Asian store, the Arabic store, and Super Saver. We made crab rangoons and stir fry for lunch. We did the cross-work puzzle. I was half-asleep for part of it, but I was still discovering answers while half-asleep. I eventually did sleep for an hour, and after that I ran 3 miles. We watched a lot of TV. Like I said, a relaxing day. Next week Sunday, I think we're going to go to the Mennonite church in town. We're curious.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Another long gap between posts....

Things have improved significantly at work. Looking back, it has been one of the toughest things I have have had to go through. Mostly because I was treated so poorly and disrespected, and the stress piled up on me so that I could not function properly outside of work. I'm so glad that is done.

I like going to work again, and since that stress is over, my whole life feels a lot lighter. I'm back to how I used to be and it's a relief. Things feel significantly different at work, and I'm finding that I am looking for changes in other parts of my life, as well. I have always kinda liked change. My thing this week has been waking up early. I' typically have been leaving for work at 8am, which means I wake up at 7:30 or 7:45am. This week I've been up at or before 7am. I've been up twice in the 6am hour! It's insane! I try to leave for work a little earlier, too. I decided that I wanted to try to make myself a morning person. It's a small change that sounds like a fun thing to try. I have enjoyed booting up my computer in the morning and playing music while I get ready. I've done some stretching. One day I ran 3 miles at the gym. Actually, most mornings I'd like to go to the gym, the prepare myself for the half-marathon training I will start in February (for the Lincoln Half-Marathon in early May).

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Today I finished cultural orientation for about 30 Bhutanese people who have come in the past few weeks. I had never done it before, but was placed in a situation where I had to do it. I pretty much knew what was to be done, and the trickiest part of the whole thing was making sure the people got to the office! The logistics of getting that many people without cars to one location is a nightmare. I had some wonderful volunteers that helped out.

I really enjoyed doing cultural orientation. It was fun watching my coworkers interpret for me. It was interesting that if I focused, I could pretty much tell what they were saying based on tone of voice and hand motions. One of my coworkers tended to directly translate everything I said. Another one tended to elaborate on every word I said. It was fun to work together with them to make sure the refugees got as much information as we could cram into their heads.

I really liked teaching the Bhutanese about American culture; about how we don't have caste systems based on our name and families, but we have something similar to that. Our caste system is based on money. You are of the highest American caste if you make a lot of money, and the lowest caste if you don't make much. It was fun to talk to them about how they can rise up and improve their status in life, like President Obama who started his life on food stamps. I tried to give them encouragement, saying that if they work hard and have patience, they will make a wonderful life of opportunity for their children. I tried to encourage them so they would know that immigrants are the reason this great country exists. They are already American, even if they don't know it yet. I loved that part of my job today, having the opportunity to teach these things about my country. I'm proud of my country, even though it seems to be a huge mess of anger and bitterness and intolerance these days. I must believe that it's a better place for the sake of the refugees. I must cling to this fact about my country: that we accept people who want to be free and want to work hard and be proud of who they are and where they come from.

It was nice to have happy times at work. Yes, my brain is fried and I just want to curl up in a ball and watch TV. And yes, the morning was stressful and painful, but the afternoon was awesome and rewarding and fun.

Friday, August 5, 2011

a reason for the silence

This time there's a reason for the silence. Work has been a nightmare. My boss and 3 coworkers were fired, on top of many people quitting. I won't go into details here, but the changes break my heart.

I added a "widget" on the side of my blog with info about my training for the half-marathon. I just registered for it today. The registration is the final commitment. I paid my $60 to run, now I have to run it. Having been looking at my training today, I've noticed that I've been running faster, which is a very cool feeling. I hope to keep it up. I remember when I was in rowing and I blogged on Xanga. I wrote about the details of my training all the time. For the half-marathon, I'm not quite as deep into the training as I was with rowing, but I am using a heart-rate monitor a lot, and I can tell the training schedule I am now reflects the pattern of some of my rowing training.

Kurt and I have been together for a year now. It's quite a milestone, but I kind of forgot about it in the whirlwind mess that is my job. My boyfriend posted a song on my Facebook page by Flogging Molly to honor our year "thing" as he so eloquently put it. I'm amused with the low-maintenanceness of our relationship. We do hope go out of town some weekend to celebrate the year we've been together, but it will be a challenge, seeing as this month is a very unstable month for both of us. He's finishing his Americorps contract and my job is just FUBAR. I am a big fan of us, and I'm glad we've held it together for a year. I hope there are many more to come.

Monday, July 11, 2011

little brother

One week ago, I was flying back to Omaha from Chattanooga, TN where I attended my little brothers wedding. Now, he's well over 6 feet tall, so he's not quite little, but he's 2 1/2 years younger than me. It was a weekend to remember. My parents rented a huge house (7 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 3 living rooms) and we stayed there with most of the out of town family and a few of my brother's friends who were in the wedding. It was like a big Michigan reunion and it was awesome. I got to spend a LOT of time with my family, which I enjoyed and I no longer take for granted now that I live far away. We slept in rooms near each other, shared bathrooms, ate our meals together, and shared rides everywhere we went. When we weren't busy with wedding stuff, we had time to relax and enjoy each other's company. When I visit Michigan, I don't always get to do that to this extent.

The wedding stuff sure kept us busy, though. The events were all formal or semi-formal, and they were all just a little bit different than how we do it in the north. I wore a lot of makeup and did my hair in fancy ways every day. For the wedding, I got my first pedicure and got my hair and makeup professionally done. At first, it was fun to dress up, but I got sick of it by the end of the trip. I am not one of those women that enjoys a ton of pampering. I believe they call that low maintenance.

There was the rehearsal dinner, which was attended by about 80 people. I don't know if our experience was normal, but we spent about an hour or so sharing memories and saying how much we love and appreciate the bride and groom. It was so much fun because both Peter's side and Connor's side got to share memories of their loved one. There was much laughter, many tears, and boatloads of love in that room.

It was strange and wonderful to see Peter so happy. He was actually serious, which is rare for him. He was serious about how much he loved Connor, and serious about his appreciation to his friends and family. He was genuine and heart-felt. I don't even remember the last time I saw my brother like that. There were a lot of moments when I felt proud to see how much he has grown up. I was proud to see him in a healthy, loving relationship with his woman. I am thrilled to welcome a new family member into the Overbeek clan. I look forward to Connor being my sister for a very long time. It's strange to see her with my last name, but again, strange and wonderful.

And then Kara announced that she is pregnant! There's going to be a baby in the family! The first grand-child! I will be an aunt! I will hold a baby in my arms that shares my blood! I'm pretty excited for that.

This weekend overflowed with joy and happiness. Those times are rare and precious.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I've had this thought come into my head several times the past few days, and I would like to write it down.

I am a very lucky person. Some people prefer the word "blessed". To me, they mean about the same things. I was born in America to upper middle class parents. I attended private schools and got an excellent education. I got my bachelors degree and my masters degree. I have a lot of work experience. I have lived in a different country and traveled to a bunch of other countries around the world. I have good, good friends. My parents are still married and my family is strong. I am healthy, both mentally and physically. Very few of my friends and family have passed away. I live in a comfortable apartment with cable and internet. I have delicious strawberries in my fridge and cold water from my tap. A wonderful man loves me. I have more joyful memories than painful memories.

These days, work has been very difficult, for a variety of reasons. And I sometimes narrowly make it with my bills. Nevertheless, I am awed, amazed, humbled, and thankful for my luck, and I hope that I make the very best of the great things I have been given.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Considering how voraciously I consumed music for the past, like, 8 years, I am surprised at how little I listen to these days. It makes me kind of sad to know that I'm missing a lot of great music that would probably turn into lifetime favorites, but I don't make the time for it like I used to. Sometimes I feel disappointed in myself, and sometimes I just feel lazy. I'm turning into one of those people that says, "Yeah, I used to be really into listening to music, but I just don't do that anymore."

I need to find a way to listen to music that keeps me updated on the good stuff. I recently cancelled my Rhapsody account, which I've had for years. I'm primarily doing it to save a few extra bucks per month, but I definitely don't use it like I used to. I hope to start listening to Pandora and WYCE more. I have completely stopped listening to WYCE, which makes me sad, too, because it's so easy to listen to. I still have the icon on my favorites bar, so I will hopefully be clicking on that more often. That is where I discovered all my good music before. Not having Rhapsody will limit my ability to listen to a particular album to death, but I think I will find a way if I find an artist I really like. I am definitely in a new phase of my life, which is clear in just my musical habits.

On an unrelated topic, I've had ants crawling out of my computer the past few days. I can't figure out why. I don't see ants anywhere around my apartment, just in my computer. It's very strange...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

thoughts on my 10k

So I ran my first 10k on Saturday. I had been working out during March and April at the gym pretty regularly for a weight loss competition thing, and so I was in decent shape to start training for a 10k in early May. I used an 8 week training plan, and started on the 3rd week. I followed the training plan almost perfectly, only missing 2 days of workouts, one of them on my trip to Michigan. I was still pretty nervous the night before the race, though. My goal was to run 11-12 minute miles, and under no circumstance, to finish after the 1 hour and 15 minute mark.

The race went far better than I expected. It was really nice to run it with a friend, and we seemed to keep pace with each other easily. When the race started, everyone was passing us, but I was adamant that I didn’t want to start off too fast. The first big hill was long, but I just slowed my pace down and steadily ran up it. I felt great up that first hill, which was a shock to me. It was at this point that we started passing people. The subsequent 3 hills went well, too. Once we got into Mahoney Park, though (the end of mile 4 and into mile 5), I started to feel tired. There was a gentle upward slope that I struggled over, but we kept the pace steady and continued to pass people.

The last half mile was a straight shot down a residential street to the finish line. Tyne and I really picked up the pace at this point. There was this girl in a pink shirt that we caught up to and Tyne said, “We’ve got to beat her.” And so we raced her for the last .3 miles or so. We sprinted to the finish line, which was very difficult, but I wanted to burn out any energy I had left. The time said 1 hour, 12 minutes. I was breathing hard at the end of the race, but not once did I wheeze, not even during the race, which is a victory for this asthmatic. I vaguely remember someone handed me a slap bracelet, and this one big guy who seemed very concerned for my well being. 

Immediately afterward, I was NOT hungry at all, but I forced myself to eat a little. We stood around and chatted for a while, congratulating ourselves and discussing the run. I felt the what they call "the runners high" and I was also excited because it went so much better than I expected!  I realized my training went well, and that if I train, I can run any race.

I’ve been thinking about it since then, and I really want to do a half-marathon now. Training isn’t always a ton of fun, but I enjoyed working toward a goal. I enjoyed the energy of all the people in the race. I enjoyed the feeling of crossing the finish line and feeling successful and realizing I had met my goal. I enjoy running because it’s something I can do by myself, or with others. If it's something I continue to do, I can challenge myself to beat more people, and challenge myself to improve my own race times.

I really did enjoy the race a lot and might be on my way to a certified running addiction. :0)

Friday, May 13, 2011

tough day

Today was a tough day. At work we were audited by the national agencies of which we are affiliates, as I mentioned in the previous entry. It was very frustrating because their final feedback was not too positive, though we have worked reallyreally hard the past few months to make a lot of improvements. I know I came in at a turning point in the organization, and I've seen a lot of important and positive change in my short 9 months. The review was discouraging, and a bit unfair from our perspective. There was one particular part of my job I worked to improve a lot in the past few months (it was something that was completely ignored until I took charge of it), and it was lambasted in the final review today. It was insulting and frustrating to hear that all that work and care and improvement and vigilance was not appreciated, and was, in fact, worthy of criticizing. Like I said, we felt it was unfair. I hope we can improve our program after this, but help each other realize our strengths and growth, which we felt were ignored.

Anyway, the week has been tough. I'm glad its over and I believe a bottle of wine and some Sigur Ros is appropriate.

the travel bug?

Written yesterday, but Blogger wasn't working when I tried to post it...

This week at work we are being audited by our volags. It’s 3 days of them inspecting our operations and making sure we are doing a good job. They are reviewing files, interviewing clients, talking to our CEO and CFO, talking to a board member, doing site visits to refugee employers, interviewing us, and more. One of the women from one of the volags reviewing us had spent 7 years living and working in Nairobi, helping to process refugees (I learned about this during an "employee appreciation lunch" catered from Qdoba that day). She started out as a caseworker, which is typical. Caseworkers interview refugee families to understand their story and start them on the process of being resettled into a third country. The caseworkers often travel for weeks outside of Nairobi, Kenya, where they're based, to other countries to meet with refugees. She said it is extremely hard and emotionally difficult work, because you have to remain distant and cannot help them. You cannot ask personal questions to your interpreters. You have to keep everything at arms length. But sometimes the refugee family is starving to death right before you, and they ask for food or help, but you cannot give it to them. You have to listen to their stories of horror and trauma. She said it’s also extremely rewarding and the people who do it are extremely compassionate. She worked her way up to a pretty high position in the agency in Nairobi, but last December decided to come back to the USA.

I was very impressed and intrigued by her story and by her work. Part of me wanted to apply for a job as a caseworker immediately. Then, as we continued to talk, part of me didn’t. When she talked about her new job in the USA, she talked about how wonderful it was to be able to connect with the people she had processed back in Africa and connect with interpreters now. She really liked to be able to see the refugees' progress, instead of one snapshot during an extremely painful and difficult time in their life. I like that about my job a lot. I like having a friendly relationship with my coworkers, both American and foreign-born. Part of me is afraid of case work overseas and never wants to do it, though at the same time I'm drawn to the stories and, of course, the adventure that living overseas is. Would I be able to handle the burden of the stories? Would I be able to handle the pain they brought to me and not help them? Even though I know it’s a vital part of the process? What emotionally draining work. It’s so much easier and fun on the USA end. Everyone’s excited, and culture shock, though painful and difficult for its own reasons, passes, and you adjust to the new place. I like the fun part. I don’t know. I do want to make long trips overseas somewhere, preferably as a job and not just vacationing or volunteering. But I don’t want to go for a year or longer, unless I have the support of my family. I don’t know what type of job that would be and if it exists around here. I guess there’s just still so much to learn…

Thursday, April 28, 2011


So tonight I went to a small, rural Nebraska town to speak to a group of Anglo, Lutheran women. I ate lots of delicious Anglo, Lutheran women salads, main ingredients for the salads being mayo and pasta. The women at my table discussed how Obama released his birth certificate today, and it was clear that they were skeptical and didn't like him one bit. I did my best to point out the facts and may have been mildly successful, but I know there wouldn't be any significant changing the minds.

One woman had the most hideous hair, straight out of the 80s; bad perm, big bangs and all. She kept talking about her teenage son, Jose. Apparently, he just had a birthday that he invited half the town to, and he really likes deviled eggs. She made 2 dozen for his party.

They were very friendly and maybe a little awkward, because almost no one asked me any questions about myself or my job. I felt like a foreigner. While sitting there, I thought to myself, "I'd probably be more at home in a refugee camp than I am here." Though I used the same tactics there as I use in cross-cultural settings, mainly keeping a close eye on how every one else behaves so I know I should also behave; patiently waiting until someone does what I would like to do, so I can do it like they do, as not to stick out or offend. They were VERY attentive during my presentation, though, and their initial feedback indicated they found it very interesting and learned a lot, which I always like to hear.

Either way, I got to thinking about stereotypes. I wonder if they were looking at me and thinking, "Oh, it's one of those city types. I bet she goes to the gym and listens to NPR and indie bands with funny names and buys those funny light bulbs for her house." And they would be pretty much spot on in their assessment, except I don't always buy those funny lightbulbs because they have mercury in them and I don't know how to properly dispose of them.

It's easy for us to think we're special and unique and get stuck in our little rut with our narrow perspective that what we think is correct. It's easy for us to think we can answer the questions of the world, because we can probably best answer the big questions of our own little narrow world. I felt that when I stepped into their little world and stepped out of mine. I forgot how easy it can be to stereotyped myself. I forgot how easily I can fall into a category. Yes, to some extent I am special and unique, and to some extent, I'm not. To some extent, I fall into a particular category where the TV stations and Facebook know how to target advertising to me and I buy what they expect me to (Arcade Fire tickets, pants from New York & Company, Taco Bell's $5 meals, membership to Snap Fitness) (except I typically watch shows out of my demographic...Law & Order is totally targeted to people who need Lipitor, Viagra, and Depends, Family Guy is targeted to people who play violent video games, use Old Spice, and eat fast food). Anyway, I think it's good to remember sometimes that we do fall into a category and that it's okay. It's also important to remember that we are more than the category we fall into.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Arcade Fire

Yesterday was Kurt's birthday and we went to see Arcade Fire in Kansas City, MO. I had been wanting to see Arcade Fire for years. I'm not joking! Years! They made Neon Bible, then they just kinda stopped touring. So I was excited. I took off work for the afternoon and we made the 3 1/2 hour drive down to KC, found the Starlight Theatre with no problems, and stood in line for a little over 45 minutes until the doors opened. We were early enough that there weren't too many people in front of us. We were bound to get a good seat, which we did. It was quite a large outdoor venue, which we were concerned about because of weather, but it was a beautiful, sunny day with temps in the low 60s. We people-watched until the opener, The National, went on. I kinda like them, but I was pretty bored with their show. The guy's voice is mellow and quiet and hard to understand, and that certainly includes live music. He just seemed unenthusiastic. Also, he had this strange story about how earlier that day he had shot his foot was some gun. He limped all over the stage. It was odd. During that performance, I ate a discolored brat with ketchup and Kurt at a hotdog with ketchup and mustard.

At about 8:45pm, Arcade Fire came on. They started with Month of May. Once they got going, I let go and enjoyed myself. I like to be able to jump around and dance my ass off and sing at the top of my lungs at shows like this, so I did just that for the whole show. It makes me feel like I'm experiencing the music far more than just listening on headphones or in the car. It was extremely enjoyable, and I wish I could have such a wonderful, fun, joyful experience with music more often. I will see Arcade Fire in concert as often as I possibly can for the rest of my life. Part of me wants to try to make it to Chicago to see them there.

The last song they played during the encore was Mountains Beyond Mountains, which is tied for second place for my favorite song on The Suburbs. By this time, we were in the aisle and dancing around with a bunch of other people and it smelled strongly of weed (seeing it was 4/20). Since it's one of my favorite tracks, I enjoyed  myself as much as humanly possible. Then, as soon as they left the stage (at about 10:15pm), Kurt and I bolted for the door. We had a 3 1/2 hour drive back to Omaha, and we wanted to try to beat the parking lot traffic as much as possible. We literally ran through the grass field to my car. It totally paid off, because we were out of there instantly. No waiting. No traffic. We were pretty thrilled. We got back to my place a little after 2am.

I'm glad I have a job that is flexible. I went in at 10:15am this morning, so I got a fair amount of sleep. I would have had a rough day if I had to go in at a normal time, that's for sure. When I got into work, someone wished me a happy birthday. Someone had looked online and saw that it was Renae's birthday this weekend, except it was a different Renae at LFS. They had planned a small get together around lunch and bought a card for me and everything! The whole thing was called off when I informed them that it wasn't my birthday until next month.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, which is a paid holiday for LFS. I like that. The only plans I have is bringing my car to the shop to have them check/fix my rear brakes. Whoopie.

Here's a link for a review for the show.

Here's a YouTube link for Mountains Beyond Mountains. (From their August performance at Madison Square Garden)

Friday, April 15, 2011

How do you explain...

This morning I was at UNO for Global Youth Service Day (which really has nothing to do with actual service, oddly). I was there to give information about refugees. It got off to a really slow start, but then all of a sudden there were waves and waves of students coming by and I was talking and talking and talking about refugees over and over and over again. I rode the energy until it slowed down, then I crashed, and I was in a bad mood. For whatever reason, it just drained me.

The kids were pretty cute. They asked a lot of funny questions, one was, "Are the refugees like the people in Avatar?" There were some good questions about Mexican immigrants, too. When I explained about how the Burmese military doesn't like the Karen people and is trying to kill them, I got a lot of questions to the effect of "Why does the Burmese military hate the Karen people?" And I was at a complete loss of what to say. I made a few comments about how the Karen were different, and Burma government was afraid of them because of that, and that we should all try not to hate each other, but it felt a little flat to me. Why do people hate each other? I don't know.

I worked until 2:15, and then I bolted. That was about the soonest I could get out of there. I was very exhausted, especially since I logged 12.25 hours yesterday working. Yes, I love my job. Yes, what I did today I consider extremely important and rewarding, but it wore me out. Since I got out of work, though, I've had lots of time to relax and I feel much better and I'm looking forward to the weekend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Today was so busy! It has been slow around the office for a while due to the Department of Homeland Security. They created an additional security check for refugees to go through, which threw a wrench into the whole process. Refugee resettlement was halted around the entire country for about a month. It was comparable to how things shut down after 9/11. No arrivals = less work for me, since my job is very much tied to people coming. Thankfully, we are getting arrival notices again, and we'll probably get a 'bulge' of arrivals later this fiscal year sometime, so I have that to look forward to.

It has been slow, and today was my first really busy day in a while. It ended pleasantly, bringing a mom and her 2 year old boy to meet a Burmese (not Karen) family with some young children. It was really fun to see the kids interact, like it always is. I also was given a Thai energy drink. I might save it for tomorrow when I'm in a long seminar about housing for immigrants with the feds. I think this refugee family/volunteer match will go particularly well. I'm excited to see how it progresses. It's a young couple with young daughters. They know enough English to communicate a little, and they don't seem to shy. That goes a long way.

I'm going to read a bit before I go to bed. I just finished The Alchemist, which I enjoyed. Now I'm reading Condeleeza Rice's autobiography, Extraordinary, Ordinary People.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sometimes I forget I have this

But I'm diving right back in....

I'm going to 2 really great concerts in the next few months: Mumford & Sons and Arcade Fire. I've been wanting to see Arcade Fire for years and years and years. Kurt and I are going as a sort of birthday celebration, because the concert happens to be on his birthday, April 20. It's in Kansas City, where I have never been. It shall be quite the adventure. I took off the afternoon and a few hours the morning after, because that's going to be one bitch of a ride home late at night.

Also, I do believe that I am teething. I think my 7th wisdom tooth is coming in in the way back, bottom, right side of my mouth. It's pretty miserable because it has been sore for over a week. Also, now there is this flap of skin back there that is very uncomfortable. I chew almost entirely on the left side of my mouth.

Work is going well. We have about 19 people who have/will come in this month. It's a low number, and I'm nervous as to when the next deluge will be in arrivals. I have been feeling quite inspired about my work as of late, though. I have been reading some great books, which has helped me stay motivated.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

precious moments

Today was one of those no-time-for-lunch days. I was on the run nonstop from 8:30am until 6pm. I have on adorable memory from today, though. I had just gone to Family Dollar to pick up 3 carts of items for a family arriving tomorrow. I was going to drop them off at the apartment where my coworker was setting up for them. The plan was that his Karenni volunteer would help me unload the car and then I would head back to the office to meet a volunteer for training. After I pulled up and after I hopped out to wait to see which duplex I was going into, a little Bhutanese girl appeared out of nowhere, hopped in the drivers seat of my car and pretended she was driving. She pushed all the buttons, flipped all the switches, and put on my sunglasses, grinning all the way. Then the Karenni guy came out and I flagged him down. He is probably the biggest, burliest Karenni guy in the world. He's close to six feet tall with salt and pepper hair and a lazy eye. He speaks maybe a handful of English words. While opening the back door, the little Bhutanese girl squirreled her way in and grabbed a blanket and waited to see where to go with it. The three of us unloaded my car in two trips. It was one of those simple, honest moments where the world crashes together and it seems that different people working together can do anything.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

good to be human...

Today was one of those days that makes me glad I'm human.

I was in the office for about an hour and a half before I had to leave to help arrange things for a family coming on Friday. I rushed back to the office at 10:45 to print directions to a speaking engagement at an insurance company, scheduled to start at 11:30pm. Kumar was coming with me. I followed the map right to a dead end. Luckily, Thein Soe called me right then from the office. I had him put my password into the computer and look up the phone number for the woman I was in contact with at the company. I called her and got directions to the place. Kumar was following me as I recklessly drove all over trying to find the building. We made it about 10 minutes late, but the presentation went well. I spoke about the refugee process and refugees from Burma, and Kumar talked about why refugees are coming from Bhutan. He was amazing! He had an outline prepared, covering all the most important details of Bhutanese history to help the audience understand the truth of the situation that caused 108,000 people to end up in refugee camps in Nepal. The 12 or so people in attendance were gasping and on the verge of tears as he told them about seeing his cousin be hanged, his uncle tossed into the river, and a classmate raped to death, her body returned to the school. Afterward, the reaction was uplifting. Everyone had been so attentive, respectful, asking questions about how they could help, and how they could improve their services for the refugees. One woman gushed about how amazed she was at Kumar's calmness after he had seen such horrible things. She gushed about how amazing refugees were. She spouted great, self- and culturally- aware thoughts that made me proud to do what I do for part of my job: teach people about refugees. All these medical administrators were remarkably kind, caring and compassionate. I love to see this kind of reaction from people. It shows that they have big hearts. These are the types of reaction that I see from people whose perspective has been broadened. It's a gift. And oh yeah, they bought us Jimmy Johns.

On top of that, it was a beautiful day. 70 degrees and sunny. I sat outside and read my book while the guy worked on my muffler. It was fast service, but I wish it had been cheaper.

I got home, checked my work email, and then went for a 2.75 mile jog through Waverly in the sunshine (pretty good for me) while listening to Adele's newest album.

Then Kurt came over. We went to Lovegrove's (the local grocery store) and bought food to make steak fajitas. It was a messy endeavor, but it was very, very tasty. Once all the pots and plates were cleaned up, it was 8pm and we watched King of the Hill and an episode of Seinfeld.

The day was satisfying on many levels. I got work done at the office, witnessed people's hearts grow bigger for a just cause, get my car fixed, exercised, cooked a healthy meal, and relaxed with a loved one. It's good to be human some days.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jon Stewart dream

Last night I had a dream that I was at the church I grew up in, and was soon going to meet my family out at the mini van in the parking lot to go home, and they had my cell phone/purse. But as I left the building, I got lost. Really lost. Not like I was scared, it was more that I was wandering. I wandered into a variety of situations. One was that I was in the Red Cross and they were bringing in and treating wounded soldiers. From what fighting? I have no idea. Also, while I was there, I started to give blood, but realized I had just done it not that long ago, and that I might do myself some harm if I did it again so soon. So I just up and left the place, with the needle and tube still in my arm. As I was walking out, I discarded them into a nearby shrub, again unfazed and unconcerned about being lost with no ID or phone. Then I wandered into some busy area that resembled a cross between a subway station and a doctors office. I was just sitting there zoned out and Jon Stewart came to talk to me. He was super friendly and we hit it off! We were just chit-chatting, cracking jokes like old pals. He had to go in and do his show soon, but he let me have this book that also functioned as a cell phone. I think it was a very new technology. He said I could use it to call someone to come find me, but that he needed it back. He also gave me some other papers, but I didn't know why or what they were for. So he left, and I was sitting there in the subway station/doctors office trying to figure out how to use the book/cell phone. There were all these blanks that I assumed the numbers needed to go into in order to call someone, but I couldn't get the right digits in the right blanks to make the call to my mom. It was so confusing and I sat there for a long while, casually trying to figure it out, totally unconcerned that I was still lost. I was enjoying the ride. Eventually, I gave up on the thing, but I couldn't find Jon Stewart to give him his stuff back. I was concerned about that, since we were buddies now. This was pretty much the end of the dream. I woke up and thought of Jon Stewart as though he were an old friend all morning.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

games galore

It seems as though the game-playing hobby has been spreading in these parts, and I blame me and Kurt. I bought Bananagrams and Pandemic at Barnes & Noble with a gift card I had been hanging on to for quite some time. Then, Kurt bought the Battlestar Galactica board game. We have been playing them all feverishly for a few weeks, it seems. We even played Bananagrams at IHOP and Logan's this past weekend. I really like this game-playing business.

But what I was stewing about all the way home was my extreme annoyance with the government. I have only one thing to say to all those politicians: GROW UP. What happened to maturity and cooperation and compromise? A group of kindergartners could do a better job of it. They'd probably whine less and get more done. I was thinking, though...let them cut everything out of the budget, if that's what they want. I won't be shocked when the sh*t hits the fan here at home.

On a lighter, less "I-want-to-rip-my-hair-out" note, I ate a Runza and am going to a UNL women's basketball game tonight with Kurt. I feel like a Nebraskan...sorta. Kurt's mom is selling ice cream at the game for her work, and she got two tickets! I'm very much looking forward to it, and I should probably go now.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Today was a fun day. I played about 15 games of Banagrams. We played at IHOP with Matt & Marissa, we played at Lonestar with Matt and Spanky, and we played when we got back to my place. We also played a bunch of games last night with Tom, Tyne and Matt. I'm glad I got it.

It has been a fun weekend, seeing lots of friends, which is the opposite of last weekend, where Kurt and I holed up in my apartment cuz everyone was busy. We did eat out an awful lot, though.

I am currently listening to the Tron Soundtrack, by Daft Punk. Very cool.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Today me and Kurt gave blood. The initial idea was to do it on Valentine's Day, because I don't really care about the day. But they closed early on Monday, so we couldn't make it. And Kurt brought me Korean food and ice cream and wine and cheese and chocolate. The food was nice, but I still don't care about Valentine's Day. Kurt said that when he was picking up the wine, he saw a bunch of burly guys in wife beaters looking bewildered in the card isle at Super Saver. I thought that was funny. But we finally gave blood today, and I did a good job because I have never been this not light-headed afterward.

I helped some guys from the Bhutanese Community in Nebraska start their 501(c)3 application today. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The Karen Society hired and paid a lawyer to do it. Though, I hear the IRS are sticklers, and we might get a bunch of stuff back that indicates we did a poor job. Either way, it was actually fun for me (nonprofit nerd that I am). I liked helping the Bhutanese guys do it. I mean, the two guys who came are two of the most acculturated, best English speaking Bhutanese around, but going through that IRS application is a difficult thing to do even if English is your native language. Reading through it, I was glad for my masters degree. It was fun to help people who are going to help people.

Me and Kurt have been making these shakes lately. Vanilla ice cream, chocolate pudding powder, and peanut butter cups. We made them twice this past weekend, I think I put on a few pounds because of it, but oh are they heavenly.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I don't know what it is, but I've all of a sudden become very interested in having a clean apartment. Not just neat, but clean. As in, I'm about to mop my kitchen floor on my hands and knees because I don't have a mop yet, and I just dusted every surface in my apartment that could be dusted. I don't quite know where this is coming from, though I expect it's somewhat related to seeing how dirty the Herrick house in GR was when I moved out of it in August, having lived there for 3 years. Either way, I'm pretty sure there's no harm in it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I have a funny story from work today.

Today I decided that when the refugees come for intake (usually the day after they arrive in the US, to do all the boring paperwork and find out all we can about them), I would see if I could get a time slot in which to sit down and explain a few things about housing to them. For example, when rent is due, where to send their rent (I think I'm going to start giving each family a half sheet of paper with all this info), which utilities they pay, what phone number to call for repairs, when they need to start paying rent, etc. So today, in the first intake I tried this out on, one guy asked me a bunch of questions about his apartment. Since I had personally checked over his apartment, I knew that most of the reports of broken things could be attributed to refugees newly arrived not quite understanding their American apartment, so I ended up driving them home after intake and checking out the problems. The sink, indeed, was clogging up, but the stove was fine. Then, there was the perennial issue of the smell of food permeating the entire apartment, which seems to bother a fair amount of refugees from every country refugees have come from. I just explained to him that American apartments have to have thick walls and enclosed spaces so that we can keep the heat in during the winter. We don't have open space to the outside (which he was worried about because he didn't have). Then he point blank asked me for another bed because when his wife is menstruating, they can't sleep in the same bed. He also wanted another bed for when they had guests in the future. He was very adamant that it was their culture that men did not share a bed with their wife when the woman was menstruating. His wife was even chiming in with "4 days!" He clarified, saying "Four days out of every month, I must sleep on the floor?" I basically told him yes, because LFS buys 1 bed for married people, and we can't buy any more. I told him that when he gets a job and some money, he can buy himself another bed.

I don't usually have client interactions like this, mostly because most of our refugee's English is non existent, or not good. But this Bhutanese family spoke English well (the two young, married adults), and I guess my new idea of having a talk with the refugees during intake might turn into a little more client interaction.

It was snowing pretty hard on my way home from work. This week I've already logged 27 hours (11 yesterday), so since we're still on the 37.5 work week, that means I get to work 10 1/2 hours between Thursday and Friday (with a 2 1/2 hour cushion, if something comes up). Sounds good to me. I love the flexibility of my job.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Good Life

Last night me and Kurt met Spanky at IHOP for dinner and a game of Phase 10. He is hilarious. He regaled us of a tale of when he was, like, 13 years old, got a phone in his room, and decided to make a prank call to 1-800-BEER000 and it was a guy named Bob. And how he and his friends called Bob on and off over a 10 year period. It was a hilarious story and my stomach hurt at the end of the night from the laughter.

It was a very fun time played games and eating yummy IHOP food.

Today I met with a guy who will probably be a volunteer for us. He used to be a commercial airline pilot, but now he's going to school to be an airplane technician. He has been in Omaha for 1 week and he's already on board to volunteer. He seems like an interesting person. People are interesting. I like meeting people.