From August 15 - December 15, 2010, I will be working as an architecture intern with Engineering Ministries International in Colorado Springs, CO. I will be helping to design a girls orphanage in Sudan, so I have the great opportunity to travel to Juba, Sudan for a couple weeks to work on the project there too! I'm so excited for this big adventure that God has me on for these next few months and I've created this blog to share that excitement with you! Thanks so much for visiting, your encouragement and support is always appreciated!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Last Day at eMi...'s bittersweet!!

The past few weeks have just flown by with a lot of holidays, socializing, and of course, project work! Due to the schedule of project trip dates, many projects in the Colorado office don't come to completion and printing by the end of the intern term and the next semester interns help to finish up the redlining and printing. However, it's still the goal of most project leaders to get their projects to as close to completion as possible by the time we leave the office. Thus, I've been busy getting as many of our drawings as possible into CAD, and am happy to say that I accomplished that goal as of today. I've been working on the civil drawings for the project, these drawings take me a lot longer to do than the elevations and plans because I'm not a civil engineer and often have to stop and ask questions. And, when my boss is in Egypt, well, occasionally the turn around time for answers is a bit longer than usual! There are plenty of people at the office here who have been answering my questions, too. It's a big happy family willing to help each other here at eMi, so a lot of projects are on track to finish up soon!

I had my exit interview on Monday and Friday morning at worship all the interns gave short testimonies of their time here at eMi. Both of these events, as well as spending time packing and talking to the other interns has given me a lot of opportunities to reflect on how I've grown spiritually and professionally during my time with eMi. My professional growth has been obvious, in my opinion. This was the perfect internship for me. Not only did I get applicable architecture experience, this job also gave me a confirmed motivation to continue studying architecture. Unlike where I was at a year ago at this time, now I know why I want to pursue architecture: so I can continue to serve with eMi in some way and with other organizations that help people through design. I was also given a lot of responsibility as an intern; I got to focus on one project and be an integral part of the design team--an experience that not many architecture interns right out of college get!

I've grown in a lot of other ways with eMi, too. Mainly, I felt valued as a person and not just used as an intern. I know that there are plenty of companies that treat their interns well, but working for a group that emphasizes mentoring and individual growth in their internship program is unique. When I shared how I've grown spiritually at this internship, I shared about how I've come to have a bigger view of God and come to rest in His perfect plans. It still blows my mind that even a month before I came out to eMi I couldn't have even come close to orchestrating these last four months to play out as well as God has. He really does have my best interest in mind! It's evident even looking at our group of interns; most of us agree we probably wouldn't be as close had we been classmates at the same school--we're just too different in a lot of ways. But, this unique setting has given us the opportunity to work and play together and become close friends. Another thing I've loved about my time here is how God has shown me how small this huge world is. I've gotten to meet brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world and it's so fun to leave here knowing that God provides that "family" wherever I go. This time with eMi has been truly life changing, and I can't wait to tell others about it when I get back to Minnesota! In fact, I've already recruited (without trying) Minnesotans for internships/project trips---my friend from school, Paul Evans, will be an intern in Colorado in the Spring!

This past weekend the interns finished off our time in Colorado with a ski trip to Breckenridge/Frisco/Keystone area. The group included 11 Colorado interns/staff, the 2 Canada interns, and 9 friends-of-interns from around the country! We stayed in a huge place and everyone skied together on Sunday. It was a great end to these amazing four months. My friends from home, Phil & Ivana, came to join us for the weekend and it made me so excited to come home and see friends and family. Skiing was definitely not easy for me since the last time I skied was in Minnesota four years ago, but I ended up having a great time.

Alright, I have to cut this post off and post it already! There will be more to come! With some pictures!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas decorations up!

we decorated for Christmas at eMi!!!!


I can't believe it's been so long since I last wrote, but at the same time it feels like only yesterday I returned to the Colorado! Forgive my absence, I have no good excuses for not updating.

my roomie and I baked a pie as soon as I got back!
Not too much has been going on since being back except re-adjusting back to life in America. Part of getting back to the daily grind has included working on my grad school applications full speed ahead. I hope to get them pretty much wrapped up by the time our post-internship ski trip comes along on December 10th. I've learned quickly, though, that if there's anything I learned in architecture school it's how to work well under pressure (and so trying to finish my applications a month before they are due reminds me of when I was an overachiever in high school!).

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of presenting about my trip to the rest of the eMi Colorado Springs office during our weekly Friday worship time. Usually a project leader does most of the presenting and interns get a little time-slot in the presentation to talk about how the trip impacted them. But, as was announced last week, I am the first intern to have the entire 30 minutes to myself, seeing as my project leader is in the Middle East office. So, it was up to me to represent our Sudan team well, and also to give the Colorado Springs office a glimpse into life in the Middle East office. It was challenging not only because of the pressure of having all eyes on me, but also because my time in Egypt was difficult and I didn't want to get up there and be a Negative Nancy about MENA. Overall, I think the presentation went great and I felt like I had a good balance between high points and low points of the trip, and it was really rewarding to get to share the whole experience with my co-workers.

Elevations that I've been working on for the Girls' Dormitory building
Work has been going well. I've really enjoyed getting the buildings we designed in Sudan into CAD and seeing some of the drawings get to the point of printing. We hope to get the project done in the next couple of weeks for review, so I will be busily compiling all of the information into one report to be printed and sent out!

It's that bittersweet point in the internship where there are only a few weeks left and I am torn between focusing on investing in the people here, but also preparing to go home. I can't wait to return to Minnesota; being here has really shown me how blessed I am back home and what a wonderful community of people surround me there. However, as I reflect on the past few months with eMi, I am astounded by what a life-changing few months they were! It's funny to think about how upon graduation last spring, God had this awesome experience planned for me and I was completely unaware of how excellent it would be. I've gotten so much clarity on why I want to pursue architecture now (upon graduating I didn't even know if architecture was what I wanted to do in grad school), and so much hope and excitement for the opportunities that await me! And the people I've met are invaluable; I have such a great network of architecture and engineering friends around the globe now who enjoy the same kind of work that I do!

Prayer requests:

-Please pray for a stress-free and efficient finish to this term; it has the potential to be busy with work, grad applications and socializing and thus, stressful :/

-Please pray for the admissions committees of the schools I'm applying for : University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Virginia, and University of Texas- Austin; it never hurts to pray for them, right?! Mainly I am praying that where and if I get in, that those places would be places God wants me to be for this next step in life

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back in the USA...

...after a weekend in England!
Ginnie, myself, & Val in Frinton-on-Sea (on the English Channel!)
 I spent this past weekend in Colchester, England, with the eMi UK interns and it was a wonderful pit-stop on my way back to the US!
Levanham church
The two interns there, Valerie & Ginnie, and I had a bunch of fun touring around the romantic English countryside with its beautiful autumn colors and delicious tea and scones. It was so great to have fellowship with other interns again! I didn't realize how much I missed that during my month away. I went into work with them on Monday and got to experience the eMi UK office. Its small, but very warm and welcoming, and really there's never a dull moment there. England is just such a charming place--a stark contrast from Cairo--and I immediately felt like I could have stayed there for a long time. It was a great weekend for me to relax and reflect on my time in Africa, and think about the next couple of months in Colorado and beyond!

 Being back is great. I loved travelling and the adventure I was blessed to be on this last month, but there really is no place like home. Actually, I'm not home yet, being in Colorado Springs for the next couple of months still, but it's home for now! It's been wonderful to be back at the office, with my intern friends and coworkers. And the weather here is also wonderful. I never realized how much of a cold-weather person I am until I lived in Africa for a month!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Before I leave Cairo

It's my last day in Cairo and I had the day off of work to pack and get some last minute shopping in with Beth. I was nervous that I would have WAY too much stuff to bring back to the states but thankfully, I've left things I brought in every country I've been to so far so my bag is actually a little lighter now than when I arrived! So, between now and the church event I'm going to tonight, I figured I would get another update about Cairo posted since I've had a second week here to process my experience even more.

Last week, my first week here, turned out to be a really challenging week. Halfway through the week I was hit with travel fatigue and tired every day no matter how much sleep I got. To add to that, it was HOT here. I remember one day it was 40 degrees Celsius here when it was 40 degrees Fahrenheit in Minneapolis. I was not raised to be used to 100-degree F weather in the middle of October! Along with that, I was experiencing culture shock more than I have in my past travels and in a different way. Just about everything made me want to cry---that's definitely a sign of culture shock (combined with tiredness and heat)! I was surprised that I was experiencing culture shock here in Cairo rather than in Sudan, but reflecting on it more it made sense. I was prepared to be in a completely different world in Sudan, and I was ready to be surrounding by things that were unfamiliar to me. Then I arrived in Cairo and finally I was in a city again, and one that looked like others that I've been to (in Athens or Belgrade, for example). But that was the kicker--because it looked familiar I expected to understand it and be more comfortable here, but that wasn't the case. Cairo is unlike any city I've ever been to; it's the Middle East. Social interactions are entirely different here, especially as a woman. Most people don't speak English, not even taxi drivers. And it's obvious I'm a foreigner so I always feel watched, but not in a good way (this may also come back to the fact that I am a woman). Needless to say, all those things added together hit me hard and at one point I really just wanted to leave Cairo.

Woody, Sara & I out to eat with Egyptian friends

Thankfully, the weekend came and brought some distractions and more rest. My friend and former classmate, Woody, is working in Cyprus this year and he came down to Cairo for the weekend for some sight-seeing.We met up with Sara and tooled around downtown Cairo for a bit. We went to the Egyptian museum, a boat ride on the Nile, and got some excellent fatta (fet-ta) and mulukhiyah (mull-a-hee-ah) with some Egyptian friends. On Saturday, we did Race for the Cure at the Pyramids with my friends here in Cairo. THAT was quite the experience!! The run was short, but right around the pyramids and sphinx--definitely something I'll never forget! Not to mention the fact that there were 12,000 people there, most running off-road (aka in the desert) while giant tour buses drove UP the road. In the states, an event like this would shut down the road that was being run on, as well as half a city block around the entire area surrounding the event. Not in Egypt! It was a typical tour day at the Pyramids so the race "shared the road" with the streams of tour buses and taxis. At the end was a giant party by the sphinx. Arabic music and dancing and eating, and  A LOT of pink hijabs!! I rode a camel while I was there, too. The weekend ended up being great, and my friends and the getting out really helped me get out of the culture shock slump from the week before.

The craziness that was Race for the Cure @ the Pyramids
Now, this past week has been great. I'm much more used to the cat-calls and staring that I get every time I leave the apartment, so it doesn't bug me as much. I've learned a little more Arabic and recognize where I am more in Heliopolis, so I feel more comfortable getting around. I've been getting a lot done for the ministry we worked with in Sudan. I've been putting together a brochure about our project for the ministry to take back to the states. When I get back to the states, I'll pretty much be doing ACAD non-stop. Getting all the drawings ready for the final report, which we hope to have done by the end of my internship in December Insha'Allah (God Willing, in Arabic). I'll also be busy working on grad school applications in my free time. I'm trying not to let the thought of how much work I have to do on those get me more anxious and stressed here than I already am!

Another thing that has really been a great stress release here is Zumba. My friend, Jessy, is an instructor here at a really great womens' gym. Zumba is an aerobics class that uses dance moves to keep you moving and your energy up, making aerobics fun! Since I love to dance, I LOVE this. I've been to a couple zumba classes in the states, but they vary from instructor to instructor. Jessy, originally from Costa Rica, is an amazing dancer so the moves are fun but I definitely get a work out too. The women that go get really into it and it's pretty fun seeing them let loose in the class, and then clean up, cover up, and leave the gym very conservative and reserved. The gym has really welcoming, comfortable atmosphere where women can feel free to let loose, hang out, and shoot the breeze like the men do at street cafes all the time. It was good for me to spend time here because it helped me see that women in Egypt do have the freedom to be who they want to be and be less reserved, it just happens in private more than in public. The private realm is the woman's realm, the public is the man's. What a different culture this is.
Also, the other day Beth and I went on a run early in the morning right by my apartment. Running outside in Cairo only happens in the morning, in only a few places in the city (parks only) and mostly by men. But, occasionally a few women will go out--at like 6 or 6:30. So, I've only gotten to run once here, and it was still VERY hot.

Unfortunately, my computer has a virus I think. I was warned this might happen while I was in Africa, so I was prepared. Mainly, things are being uninstalled from my computer--like my device installer and my wireless/network adapter. SO, if I got on a wireless network early in my trip (like this one) I can still get on, but now my computer doesn't recognize any new networks--in fact, the "view wireless networks" option in my control panel has completely disappeared. And, I can't upload pictures from my camera anymore. It just doesn't give me an option to upload them anymore.  :/

Sphinx & Pyramids, Giza, Egypt

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A bit about Cairo now

I've been in Cairo a week now, and I think I am finally ready to update about this crazy & confusing city. I avoided posting any first impressions of the city right away because a) I wanted to get my Sudan updates up (which still aren't all up... ) and b) this is the Middle East--- a place I could easily apply Western stereotypes and call them "first impressions", which I didn't want to do.

So, like I said, I've been here one week. Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week were spent exploring some parts of the city--mainly Heliopolis (the area I'm staying in), and some places in downtown Cairo. My friend, Sara, took a couple weeks off from her job in Tanzania to come up and visit Cairo while I'm here, so we did a few of the weekend things together! It was great to have a friend my age around to spend time with. She is staying in a different part of Cairo, and I haven't seen her much this week since I've been working. Nonetheless, it was fun to explore some of Cairo with her.

Heliopolis, where I'm staying, is a suburb outside of Cairo. It started as an area where British councilmen built their villas in the '50s and was quite the luxurious place back in the day. It still is considered a very nice area of town, but it's developed so that it looks much more like the rest of Cairo, and newer neighborhoods like New Cairo have all the villas now. The streets are lined with concrete-block high-rises with storefronts along the street. The great thing about Heliopolis' high-rises, though, is that when you stop and really look at them, they all have their own unique detailing that gives them their own character. As a designer, these are the things I notice the most in cities and Heliopolis gives me endless opportunities to enjoy these details.

I've been riding the bus to work everyday and that's been a whole new experience as well. A bus fare is 1.50 l.e., which is about $0.25 per ride--pretty good deal. The first difference about buses here is that people get on and off wherever--as long as you can flag down the bus in a noticeable way, it will slow down enough for you to jump on (and I mean literally, run and jump). The bus usually slows down enough to let women on  nicely but most of the time my second foot has just entered the bus when the vehicle starts moving again. The door stays open so people can jump out when the bus slows down at an intersection. I've seen many men ride halfway out the door of the bus when they're only on it for a quick jaunt. When a lot of people enter at once, they find their spots and then pass the money for the ticket forward. The driver proceeds to divvy up change, get the tickets, and maneuver his large bus through the hectic Cairo traffic all at the same time. Today was the first time I experienced a ticket check. Two men jumped on the bus with paper in their hands and stood right in the doorway. The bus continued to let people on and off (these men clearly in the way) while the men looked at each person's ticket and ripped it. Then a few stops later, they got off.

A roundabout in Cairo. 
The bus description reminds me to talk about the traffic in Cairo. A mere description in words really won't do it justice, so I might have to secret-spylike take a video of it sometime and post it. Basically, there aren't any controlled intersections, so you just honk your horn when you are coming to an intersection. Whether you slow down as well or just barrel through it is up to you, but you run the risk of the other people coming the other way choosing the same option of you and causing a collision if you barrel through. usually, a chunk of traffic one way will go until someone leading the pack the other way gets enough guts to interrupt that flow and starts driving. Round-abouts have zero organization (not that they've ever seemed organized to me, but that's because I'm not European). Most vehicles are small here, and that means there is very little visibility past a row of parked cars along the street. This requires most drivers to pull out into traffic to get a good look at when they can merge, and ultimately one merges whenever they want to hoping the car coming will slow down. Crossing the street as a pedestrian is basically the same. So, the only real danger to me here is being hit by a car. Not mugging or rape or kidnapping, but just a simple love-tap from a car.

This is a pretty good video I was shown when I got here about Egypt, and it's definitely true!

Europe vs. Egypt

Thursday, October 14, 2010

(backlog of Sudan entries, continued)

October 3, 2010

Time flies. Its hard to believe its our third day in Juba already! So far it hasn’t been too uncomfortable or difficult, but I’m sure that might change by day 10. We were all super tired on Friday when we arrived, so we slept well on our traditional Sudanese string beds that night. We started off at 9am on Saturday and I even enjoyed a shower in the morning! It was cold… but it was a shower! We actually have a shower in our bathroom and I guess the ministry is ordering water in our tank to be refilled daily so as to provide us with water for a shower everyday. The water is from the Nile—pumped straight from the river to a truck to our water tank—so it’s not the cleanest stuff in the world, but with a lot of soap it will do the job. And in this humidity, a little cold water every morning is GREAT. 

We had our opening meeting under the one large tree on site and did team intros and why we’re there and expectations. It was nice and cool under the tree, but the day was getting hotter by the hour. I really like this team—we’ve worked really well together so far, and I think we will continue to the rest of the week. Around 12:30 we went to the restaurant at the hotel next door for lunch and had a feast! (compared to our meager supper the night before). Chicken, beef, rice, bread, French fries, coffee… nothing super African, but it was definitely a lot of good food to give us energy for the day. It was a very LONG meal, about 3 hours long. We headed off to the girls orphanage site after lunch. The site is about 15 minutes across town from the boys site, and in a very nice neighborhood, apparently. You can tell an upscale neighborhood because of a few western-looking houses scattered amongst tukels and mud huts—the traditional housing here for most people.
Tukels. This is what most areas of Juba look like

Traveling through Juba, I’m so confused! People live in these traditional tukels—typically round, thatched roof huts—and it looks like they don’t have running water or electricity directly in their tukel. But as we went to church today and as we’ve been around town, the majority of people dress to the nines. I’m going to be very honest here and clearly show that I am used to a western lifestyle, but it’s just hard for me to think about getting dressed up nicely (like for work or something) in a waterless, electricity-less tukel everyday. (a house with dirt floors)  Now, I’m not knocking the tukel. They can actually be quite beautiful structures and are definitely economical here. But it’s just a way of life that I’m not familiar with, so it’s been very cool to see how people live similarly to us in very different environments.  It also makes me realize all the things I think I “need” in order to be clean and presentable everyday, when really those are mostly luxuries.

The people have been very friendly here. Always waving and greeting us. I don’t feel threatened or unwelcomed by strangers. We have stayed mostly on the orphanage sites and not ventured too far into the markets or town, so that might change if do that. I don’t think we’ll end up going to the markets here… they are mass chaos and we don’t have ready access to transportation to get to and from them without dragging along Dr. James, who has a job to do at the orphanage.

One of the first cooky experiences was money exchanging. Dr. James (our makeshift chauffer) told us that the best exchange rate is from the boys on the street that do money exchange. These are basically guys with handfuls of money that mob your car when you pull over. So, Dr. James handled the money and exchanging, while we watched the craziness that was yelling in Sudanese Arabic and the bartering for exchange rates. One dollar exchanges for around 2.80 Sudanese pounds, and we got an exchange very close to that with the boys on the street. The bank was exchanging for 2.4.

The "office"
Today we started with the master plan of the girls site. Coming into this I though we were just doing dorm buildings, but after having a programming meeting with Philip, the ministry director, turns out he has a LOT of plans and dreams for the site! So we are designing the master plan as if all these plans unfold as hoped, though they buildings will probably come in in phases. I worked on panoramas of the site and starting to get some rough layouts of some of the guest/staff housing done in CAD. It looks like I'll be doing CAD most of the week, with some hand-rendering closer to presentation time. The civil engineers/surveyors on the team will be heading out to the site the next couple days to get that done. I'm actually kind of glad that I will be hanging out at the boys site because it's much cooler in the "office" than it is out in the fields and sun of the girls site. But hopefully later on in the week Stu & I will be able to get out too!
Panorama of the girls' site