Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bursts of Song - The Bernese Oberland '08

video

What can I say? Sometimes the scenery is so beautiful, I can't help but burst into song. You would do the same...right?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Transportation and People Watching

When you’re approaching an intersection, or driving down the highway in Switzerland, and you see a big flash of light come from the approaching overpass, you know you’ve been caught. A few weeks later you will receive your ticket in the mail for 250 CHF, around $220. We know this from experience.

The day we moved into our current flat, we borrowed a University van and managed to get a 250 CHF ticket for running a yellow light. A few hours later, as Doug navigated down our narrow European street, an approaching car clipped our side mirror and sped off. That evening we found a parking ticket under the windshield wiper. This experience, coupled with gas at $8 per gallon, confirmed our decision to forgo owning a car and stick to public transportation.

The Zurich transport system is among the best in Europe. Buses, trams, boats, and mountain cars crisscross the city so you are never far from a stop. At 80 CHF per month for all of Zone 10 (Zurich city proper) it’s a bargain, and a superb venue for people watching.

Wait at a stop, climb aboard, and you will encounter a potpourri of city society. The well-attired woman in Prada sunglasses sits just a few rows ahead of the disoriented woman waving her finger and yelling at no one. Mothers wrestle on and off with their strollers. An old man hobbles to find a seat. A 10-year-old boy boards, unaccompanied, on his way perhaps to his piano lessons. You may even see what my 8-year-old neighbor, Florence, calls “Sheeky-Meeky Ladies” – young women strutting across the tracks wearing $50,000 of the latest styles.

Once I struck up a conversation with an Iranian man who told me of the dangers of the Republican Party. Once I lost my balance as the bus pulled away and bumped into a man who turned around and hit me. It didn’t hurt, but still…

One Saturday afternoon on our way to the mall, a French-speaking woman was playing with Abe. All was normal until she reached into her purse and produced a living box turtle. That’s right…she had a turtle in her purse. “Coo-coo, coo-coo!” she said, and kept trying to give it to us. “No, no!” I said, aghast. We got off the tram and walked away in stunned silence. “Did that woman just pull a turtle out of her purse?” Doug asked in disbelief. Still shocked, “Yes…yes, she did,” was all I could manage in reply.

I’ve been the weird one myself a time or two. Everyone is so reserved here, I’m sure more than one person has thought me missing a few marbles when I, in all my Southern eagerness, attempted to strike up a conversation. Once I decided to practice my German and said to my neighbor, “Er ist heiss,” meaning that Abe was hot. I later learned that “Er ist heiss” translates “He is horny.” And, sometimes, I find myself repeating the names of the stops out loud, working on my German pronunciation – the equivalent of a foreigner on the NYC subway mumbling “Brrroooaaadwwaaaaaay.”

So here we are…all of us with our own special brand of weirdness, everyone on their way somewhere, or just riding along wherever the bus will take them.

What a capacity God must have to love, to understand. I can hardly sit with some of these people for 20 minutes on my way to church, but He is with each one of them always, just as He is with me. How wonderfully generous, compassionate, patient, and laid-back He is to go with us wherever we go, and love us all the while.

“The Lord of hosts is with us…” Psalm 46:7a

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

3 Rooms and a View







When Doug and I got married, we moved into a beautiful duplex; two bedrooms, a large kitchen/dining room, and a nice-sized living room, all on a spacious half-acre plot of land and all for $800 per month. We filled our side of the two-car garage with all kinds of stuff: camping gear, spare mattresses, two extra coffee tables, old dorm room posters of Ireland.

Doug accepted a job at JMU in Harrisonburg, VA and the purging began. We made $400 in a yard sale, and moved into a significantly smaller apartment near the University. A few months later, we cleared even more space for the arrival of our little Abe. And four months after that, we packed our entire household into 8 suitcases and boarded a plane for Zurich, Switzerland.

Our first apartment in Zurich offered barely enough room for those 8 suitcases; only two rooms and a tiny kitchen for us and the baby. Even the fridge was small, about the size for a college dorm room. Two months in those cramped living conditions, and we felt we hit the open prairie when we moved into our current flat: three rooms, a functional kitchen, and one spectacular view.

From our windows, we see everything from Old Town Zurich in the south to the northern border with Germany. On a clear day, we can even eye the snowcapped Alps. We see the sun shine over the city and the rain fall on the rooftops. We gaze at the sunset and watch the city lights light up the valley like a Christmas tree.

We may have a kitchen table in the middle of our living room, and my dresser may be so close to the bed that I must stand to the side to open its drawers, but we look out to a big horizon, a spacious sky, and a big city into which we are called.

The story of our living space is the story of our journey: clear the clutter and enjoy the view.

Here I'll try to give you a glimpse of what I see from these 3 rooms: adventures abroad, revelations in parenting and living in a foreign land, thoughts about God, and whatever else may catch my eye.

80's Helmet Hair

Confession: Jewelry and makeup really aren't my thing. I have worn the same silver cross for 12 years, and the same three Cover Girl eye shadow colors since I was 16 years old. Shocking, I know. Before you report me to Oprah, read on.

My hair....now that's another story. Even as a starving artist in Nashville, I saved my pennies to go see Mark at one of the best salons in town. He knew just how to shape my tresses, and I felt fabulous every time I walked out the door.

Two years after leaving Nashville and my beloved Mark, I have had one bad haircut after another. One lady took a pair of shears and thinned my locks down to nothing. My mom thought my hair had fallen out. Last October I made it back to Mark for a rescue-style while I was in town. But 6 months later, and no Nashville trip in sight, I knew it was time to search out a good Swiss stylist.

A friend recommended a guy she called "one of the best." At $150 for just a cut – not including wash, blow-dry, or styling – he was sure to do the job well. She gave me a first-timer's coupon for 50% off, and I was on my way.

Everything started off wonderfully. He spoke English fluently. I explained exactly what I wanted. "And absolutely no bangs," I said. "Every time I get bangs I regret it." It was Doug's one request before I left the house. He likes my hair long.

We looked at pictures. Everything was set to go. He gathered up a big clump of hair on the front of my head and, shhhhpppp, sliced several inches off the top in one chop. My hair, not having been that short in decades, didn't know what to do. It pinged around on top of my head, refusing to lay down. I sat there shocked and humiliated, feeling all too reminiscent of my 6th grade picture day.

As time went on, I kept wishing he would fix it. I held out hope that, though this was NOTHING like we discussed, he somehow would make it right. But no.

I walked out with 80's helmet hair, complete with feathered edges. Just a little teasing and some aerosol hairspray, and I am Bill Champlin, lead singer of Chicago: "Look away, baby, look away. Don't look at me. I don't want you to see me this way."

So how am I coping? Well, I try to use a strait iron and bobby pins to hold down the madness. I tell myself it will probably grow out in a month or two. I fluff it up and sing 80's hits into my hairbrush to make Doug laugh. I've looked for some redeeming lesson in it all, and here it is:

It's just hair.

For so long I've attached my self-worth and self-confidence to my hair; good hair day = confidence, bad hair day = shame. And, of course, God doesn't want me to live this way.

So, while I still struggle to feel pretty, and Doug has agreed to say "you're beautiful, Audrey" thirty times this evening, I see that God is bringing me to a new level of freedom. He always sees me lovely. Styling my 80's helmet hair every day, I get good practice at believing this truth.

Woodhams Family Update - Post-hibernation

Born in Alabama, raised in Virginia, and grown in Tennessee, I am a Southern girl. I like country cooking, enjoy a slower pace, and love me some warm weather. Doug may be a Michigander, but he is even more a warm weather fan. On research trips, he soaks up the humidity in the hot jungles of Panama, and even calls sticky August in Nashville his favorite month of the year.

Winter began early in Switzerland. October brought the first snow, followed by steadily colder temperatures, which held at 20*F for 6 weeks solid through Christmas. Another 3 months and still not a bud in sight. The sun hid behind the clouds for days and weeks. We missed her so much that we threw parties whenever she made even a brief appearance.

Such harsh conditions drove the Woodhams family into hibernation. We stayed home, our pace slowed. Now that spring has finally sprung, we emerge with new life, and a fresh breeze at our backs.

Here’s the update:


In March, Doug received a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. It was the much-anticipated mother-load, fully funding all of his research for 3 years. This past semester he taught Disease Ecology, and welcomed a new phD student and a masters student to his lab. He begins his Conservation Biology class this week, and travels to Innsbruck, Austria to give a talk in early May. The June edition of BioScience will feature Doug’s first op/ed piece entitled “Converting the Religious: Putting Amphibian Conservation in Context,” exploring the common goals and values between science and faith. Lately, he has been out in the field in Switzerland, catching frogs and collecting samples at all hours of the day and night.

In February, I became the Creative Director for ICF International Church. International Christian Fellowship (ICF) is a Swiss church with an international service full of dancers, singers, painters, and artists of all kinds from all over the world. God gave me a heart and a vision for the artist community and it's already quite the adventure. Bolivian dancers, a street singer from Spain, a playwright from Germany, a karaoke singer from the Philippines, a singer-songwriter from Ghana...do you get the picture? My own creative juices are still flowing as well, writing, singing and leading worship for ministries in our church and in Zurich. But I like to keep it all part time, since my favorite workplace is still at home or in the park with Abe.

Abe is awesome and into everything. These past few weeks he has hit a growth spurt; he eats everything we put in front of him and very morning we feel certain he is bigger. He loves throwing himself into piles of pillows and covers on the bed, smiles all the time and still surprises us with how much fun he is to have around.




















We have enjoyed a steady stream of visitors, and we’re doing well in our efforts to see as much as we can of Europe. We marked our 3rd wedding anniversary in Paris (my, a lot has happened in 3 years!) and a trip to Italy is on the books for this summer.


We see God’s hand of provision and providence so much lately, and it’s a good thing, since we need Him so much. The challenges of life in another country are often overwhelming, and God is allowing us to be stretched more than ever. But though we are tested and refined, we have never been more thankful or happy.

We still miss you, our friends, our family, and Target. We’re beaming you lots of love over the oceans, and hope for a time soon when we can hug and catch up face to face.

For His glory…