Saturday, February 26, 2011

Deux cent soixante dix sept jours dans Sceaux (277 Days in Sceaux)

It has been a very long time since I last blogged here, or anywhere, for that matter. A lot has happened, but it mostly involves going hither and yonder, plus, there is that work gig I have going on...

Today is a rainy day, the skies are gray, although the buds on the trees in the shrubbery indicate that spring is not far away.

Even the French people here have complained about the dreariness of the winter, this winter in particular. There have been very few days we could see the blue of the sky. The humidity has been a high, such that even temperatures
above freezing feel very cold to the body. I've grown accustomed to the mass doses of sunshine you get throughout the year on the Third Coast, along the Texas coast.

In the first weekend of December, I took a trip to Morocco. I took Friday through Monday off at work, a four-day weekend, to explore this exotic land. Even though, I knew my exploration was only beginning, I did not expect to be captivated by this country in North Africa. I was going here, to Morocco that is, to visit a land where my dad had served in the Navy in the period from 1950 to 1953, during the Korean War. The base to which he was assigned was Port Lyautey. Port Lyautey lies north of the capital of Morocco, Rabat. Port Lyautey was a French base that was also shared with the Americans during World War II.

My dad always spoke fondly of his experience at Port Lyautey, and his 35mm slides showed not only pictures of his travels throughout the Mediterranean, but also of life near Port Lyautey. One of the pictures I remember most is that of the beach near his base. It turns out that this is Medhiya Beach. It is a beautiful beach, no rocks, no debris, very flat, almost no camber (ideal for runners), and it has long stretches of solitude. I captured the most beautiful sunset photo I've ever taken there at Medhiya Beach, the same beach that gave my dad and his Navy buddies hours of recreation away from life in the military.

When I travel to new places, I like to explore it on foot. Much as the Australians go "walkabout", I enjoy hiking through a new environment. My hiking might take me through the heart of the city, or along back roads and trails, perhaps even along the river, and railroad tracks. Certainly, such was the case in my visit to Morocco. I went through the heart of town to the coast, the very rugged coast of Rabat. I visited a 14th century Moroccan Castle, and a hike along the railroad track on a footpath. Morocco enchanted me, and I've decided to make it my project. My project of exploration while I'm here. It is a two-hour flight in Paris to Morocco, all the signage in Morocco is in both Arabic and French. It's easy for Americans to get around, and are well accepted in Morocco. Did you know that the United States and Morocco share the longest standing international treaty in American history? The Sultan of Morocco was our ally against the Barbary Coast pirates in the late 1700s. I was treated very well there, at every turn, and felt very safe, though that is not always the criteria for me. I look forward to exploring this wonderful country, and visiting places like Marrakesh, the Atlas Mountains, Tangiers, and of course, Casablanca.

After my return my trip to Morocco, my running picked up in earnest. I did not know it at the time, but I was about to set a personal record for the most miles from in a single month. By December 31, 2010 and I ran almost 84 miles a month. Including two 9 1/2 mile runs from Parc de Sceaux to the very heart of Paris. These runs represent the longest distance I've ever run at one time.

I returned home to Houston on December 18 and got to enjoy two weeks with the family. Christmas was great fun, as Brady had a little boy's dream Christmas of trains. I confess that it felt a little strange being reinserted into the family surroundings and Houston itself. It is great to see family, it was great to see friends, but there was a little bit of me that felt like an outsider, mainly because life had adjusted for everyone, adjusted to be in without me, and I could feel that. Oddly enough, upon my return to France, it did not seem as foreign as it had in the past, either. I guess I have adjusted to it a little, though I'm still so obviously an alien among very different people. Human dynamics...

My return to France was a short-lived, as I left for Liberia four days after my arrival in France. GoodNews International was conducting its third mission trip to Liberia.

I was to land ahead of the team, and conduct training for the Liberian Christians. My friend Casey Smith and I had conducted an evangelism clinic following the 2010 mission, and now I was covering some advanced topics for the Liberian leadership team. The goal of the advanced training is to give them deeper insight into the workings of the Lord in the evangelism process. As was the case in 2010, so it was in 2011, the training was well received with graciousn
ess, enthusiasm, and great effort by all. Upon the arrival of the American team, we went with our Liberian brothers and sisters into different parts of the country to share the gospel. There were over 40 Liberians involved with us six Americans, and we were blessed to see the Lord move mightily as 1670 people they professions of faith in Christ.

When I returned to France after this trip, it was like a whirlwind at work. There were meetings and deadlines, and deadlines and meetings. Before I knew it, I was off to Oslo, Norway for a week of meetings concerning technology developments. It was cold. I have not been this cold since my days in Wyoming, some 27 years earlier. I do not think Norway will be on my list of countries to explore.

I was only able to settle back into France for a couple of weeks before business took me to India. There, we conducted a series of presentations on new technology to the oil and gas professionals of India. We visited and held conferences in Mumbai and in Delhi. Even though we were gone for a full seven days, the trip seemed much faster than that. Next week, my travels continue, to Scotland and then back to Norway, and then to Japan later in the month.

Last night, I did something I have been wanting to do since I got here: enjoy the music scene of Paris. I went with a friend from work, whose wife was out of town, to a nice dinner and concert music club Le Petit Journal, in the Montparnasse area of Paris. There is no smoking in such places now, so it made for a great evening of blues. Gateon and His Blues Boys (which included a woman on upright bass) played the full gambit of blues, including The Sky is Crying, at my request. They followed that up with Stevie Ray Vaughan's Pride and Joy; my night was made.

My French language skills are slowly improving, and it is something I have promised myself to be more diligent in its study, and its practice. I'm going to be here for another 16 to 28 months, so need to take advantage of this time to learn a language that will be useful in many areas of the world, many interesting places in the world, while I have the opportunity. Thank you again for coming along with me on this journey.

a bientot,