Elastic Basket for my Peaches

I also have a website: www.lizhightower.com

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Car Drama

The last time I lived in Maui, I bought a 1993 Ford Explorer the first week I arrived. I had a guy (who may or may not have actually known about cars) give it a cursory once over. He thought it was pretty good and I liked the price, so I went for it. I had really good intentions in buying the car. I figured I could fit a lot of people in it so they wouldn't have to hitch. I had also created a basketball team and a volleyball team and figured we could use the Explorer as our team vehicle to travel to and from games. Despite all my good intentions, the Exploder broke down after only about two and a half months. It was the transmission and it was going to cost more than I could afford to spend. It sat in front of our house for months until one of my friends offered to take it off my hands. I left the country and only found out what happened to the car when I got back three months later. A few of my friends had been in it, driving across the island when the hood flew up. They crashed into a telephone pole and abandoned the car to hitch back home. They came back about a week later and the car was gone.

When I got back from Bangladesh, I had a notice from some towing company that they had my gray VW rabbit. I don't know how a green Ford Explorer turns into a gray VW rabbit but it was no longer my problem since I had passed the responsibility on to my friend. She called the tow yard and they told her they knew nothing of a gray VW rabbit or my green Ford Explorer.

At home I could never survive without a car but on Maui, it is definitely possible. I also have enough friends here with cars that if I am patient and flexible I can pretty much do what I need to do without hitchhiking. We also have town runs where they take a van into town so we can go to Wal-Mart, Borders,etc.

So, I can live without a car. But I want one! I want the freedom to go where I want when I want. But despite this deep longing, I am wary of rushing into a car after my previous car experience here on Maui. I have been habitually checking craigslist and local newspapers for cars. I don't have a lot of money to spend so my options are limited. Maui is also a lot different from Houston as far as buying a used car goes. I have seen ads that say things like "doesn't go in reverse," "Not running but a real cherry car," "blown head gasket," "windows don't roll down," etc. Also cars are worth more here. People try to sell Toyota trucks for premium prices even though they are 20+ years old.

I found a website online that gives you a reliability rating for used car of various makes, models and years. This gives me piece of mind knowing how a car is likely to hold up. This can't factor in human abuse but it helps. So, I found an add for a 1994 Nissan Sentra with 187,000 miles. At home I would never drive such a clunker, but I am in Maui and it only costs $800. I call the owner on the phone and it turns out he owns "Maui Cruisers." It's the cheapest rental car on the island because its cars look very local with peeling paint and random quirks. He sounded like quite the character on the phone and we arranged to meet the next day.

I got my friend, Kristy to drive me to see the car. It was in a seedy part of the island in what looked like a junkyard with about 10 Nissan Sentras parked there. The only two people we could see were some sketchy-looking local guys. We pulled up and asked the guys where Paul was. They gestured towards a car with its hood up and a stereo blaring Elvis. From underneath the car comes Paul, an older white guy or haole(non-native), he is filthy, covered in grease. He begins to tell us about his business and his cars but only after disappearing under the broken down car for a few more minutes while Kristy and I waited around awkwardly. When he was telling us about the cars, I noticed that he was missing the tip of his index finger, nail and all. This discovery definitely added to the weirdness of the experience.

He showed me the car from the ad and it became clear why no photo was posted. It had the typical Maui paint job- black with peeling white patches from too much time in the sun. This combined with its overall boxy exterior was pretty much a deal breaker before I got in. I may be a missionary, but I still have my self-respect. He showed us the engine, which he insisted he'd serviced regularly. He seemed to know what he was talking about but that didn't change the fact that the battery was held in by what looked like an old extension cord. He also told us that the odometer had stopped working so he thought the car had 200,000 miles or so. Why did he put the odometer reading on the ad if he knew it was wrong?

Kristy and I took it for a test drive mainly because it seemed weird not to. It was during the test drive that we found out that the spedometer doesn't work either. The car also made some strange noises and seemed to have a problem with its shocks. I wasn't going to pay $800 for something that felt like it could fall apart any minute. The seller was persuasive and a bit forceful so I was nervous about what to tell him. When we got back, I said it wasn't quite what I was looking for. He told me that was very diplomatic of me. I felt lucky to get out of there.

And so...I am still carless.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Getting into the Swing of Things

I have been in school for two weeks now. It's a lot of working but it's interesting and not too bad if you manage your time. I've been trying to balance work and play by going to parties. I think I have been to about four so far and I have a girls' night tomorrow, which I think should count as a party, right? We had a going away party for Rachel Cordy on Wednesday night. I got to see my friend, Sara Montiero for the fourth time in about six days. She too is part of the party circuit. I brought my wii fit and other wii paraphernalia from home. It is a bit heavy so I had to bring it to Kristy's in a rolling carry-on suitcase. I felt super dorky wheeling that thing through town. Luckily Kristy drove me back. We busted out the wii and it was good fun. It was pretty much my friend, Kristy and me with a bunch of boys. It was fun to watch them doing slalom skiing and the ski jump. They kept trying to one up each other.

This week in class, we've been discussing the state of the world and it is pretty intense and can feel really bleak at times. To make matters worse, last night we watched Schindler's List and talked about it. Everyone was so affected by it that after the movie, no one talked for about five minutes and we all just stared straight ahead in silence. Thankfully many people know about the atrocities of the Holocaust but today we talked about massacres in Cambodia, Russia, C hna and lots of other places that are less publicized. Our speaker showed us the images of some of the victims of the killing fields in Cambodia, which really made the awful statistics come to life. It was hard to hear all that but I am glad I did, so maybe I can help us to not be doomed to repeat it.

On a lighter note, I've done some decorating in my room to make it nicer. I put up pictures of my loved ones all over the wall by my bed. My fellow student, Maria calls it my yearbook on the wall and I think that's a pretty accurate description. I bought a lava lamp foolishly thinking it would give off enough light to read by. It does not. It makes my room looking very psychedelic, though. I also have purple Christmas lights around my bed adding to the psychedelic effect. It's not at all the way I would decorate at home but it's more like I live in a dilapidated dorm room, so it works here. This weekend I want to take a video of my house so all can see its condition. It will be a treat.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Washin' Feet

Today it really felt like I was starting school for real. We got our schedule of assignments and I have a lot to do. I already started reading some. I am trying to fight my natural tendency towards procrastination. We have several things due each week so I really can't wait until the end to do it all.

It's still a bit odd being back. A guy here bought my friend, Ashley's car when she left the island. I keep seeing it and it makes me miss her a lot. At every group function, I cling to the people I know. I am sure this will pass as I get to know more people but for now, it feels like the right thing to do.

Tonight we had Love Feast. This is a YWAM Maui tradition. When DTS students first arrive, they get a grand welcoming ceremony complete with traditional Hawaiian leis. At the ceremony, they are told that the next day they have to go on a minimalist camping trip of indeterminable length. And they are not allowed to bring toothbrushes, deodorant, change of clothes, etc. I watched their faces this time when they found out how little they could bring. Priceless! So, the students go on what we call "Exodus" and spend three days and two nights roughing it and bonding in ways they couldn't have done if they were still all clean and smelling nice.

Just when they can't bear their own stench any longer, we bus them up to a church where all the staff and us SBFM students are waiting clean and in Aloha attire aka nice clothes. We cheer them into a clean room set up for a banquet. The contrast is extreme. I remember how amazing and surreal it felt when I was in DTS, to come into this clean room with all these clean people when I was just filthy. It was pretty humbling.

Everyone has a big meal and enjoys being out of the wilderness. Then, there is a time where the DTS staff washes their students' feet. It is very powerful. When I first became a Christian, I thought foot washing was weird and gross. Why would anyone want to wash someone else's feet? I later understood the significance of Jesus washing the disciples' dirty, smelly sandal-wearing feet. He was showing that despite being God, He was there to serve His disciples. After my own Exodus, I remember how humbling it was to have someone clean my feet when they were at their dirtiest. It was very powerful.

This time our SBFM staff washed our feet. It was a great gesture but not quite as powerful since I had taken a shower about an hour before. My feet were washed by D, who is from Chna and serving with SBFM so that she will be able to replicate it on her base in Chna. She knew of my heart to go there so it was definitely meaningful to have her wash my feet and thank me for loving her country.

Being at love feast again after being away for a few years, brought back tons of memories. When I came back on staff, for every school, we each picked a DTS student whose feet we would wash after Exodus. Whenever possible, I chose the Asian girl students. With so many blond haired white girls in the schools, I figured the Asian girls would be easier to spot. I felt these foot washing times were also meaningful though not as much as when I was a leader in a DTS. I washed two girls' feet that time. One, E, was quite the fireball who'd begged to be allowed to go home several times during Exodus. As I washed her feet, she just broke down and sobbed. It was a very powerful moment. Unfortunately this memory is bittersweet because she ended up being sent home for discipline problems and a broken leg.

The other person whose feet I washed, K, also bawled like a baby during the process. She was quite the handful but completed her DTS and outreach with plenty of highs and lows. She was a girl who'd come from so much shame and chaos and I really grew to love her. She was also blessed with so many gifts. She constantly battled between right and wrong in her life. For most of DTS, the right and good side won. We were all so scared for her to go back home and our fears proved founded when she got pregnant the week she returned.

As I watched the foot washing this time, I was reminded of my two former students and was literally very close to tears. Then I saw another one of my students, Rachel, for whom DTS and SBFM were life altering experiences. She has grown into a really solid woman of God and a strong leader. In fact, she is currently a leader in this DTS. I saw her washing her students' feet and was almost moved to tears for another reason- pride.

The funny thing about YWAM is that for some people the experience here changes them positively for life, in ways they couldn't possibly imagine. God can use this time to mold them into the people He wants them to be, if they are willing. But for others, the experience feels significant at the time but doesn't stick in the end. It is truly heartbreaking for me to think of students like E and K but then I remember students like Rachel and I remember why we do this. And it is all worth it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aloha Maui

I've been back in Maui almost a week now and I am not quite sure how I feel. I definitely have mixed emotions. I am glad to be back but I was more established in Houston than I've ever been so uprooting this time was more difficult. I'd actually invested in where I was and in the people around me.

My fellow students seem nice but really young. My roommate, Ashley arrived today and complimented my Longhorn flag. Smart move, roomie! I think we should get along just fine. The other students have been busy hanging out with each other and traveling around the island. I am just not in the same phase as they are. I was actually on staff here and lived here for two years and this was before any of them were even involved with YWAM Maui. I have seen all the sights and I do enjoy them but I am in no real hurry to go out and see them. I also have friends on the island that I have known for years that I can hang out with. Luckily many of them have cars so I don't have to hitch.

Last night we had our opening ceremonies. It's so weird to be a student again. I did get to get leied, which is always fun. The DTS students are all super young and fresh faced. It brought back lots of memories from when I first came to this island. One of the students I took to Bangladesh will now be leading one of the teams this Fall. I am so proud of her! I spent opening night talking with her and the other people I've known for a while and eating all the yummy snacks. I have missed all the baked goods. I will have to be diligent in riding my bike as to not gain 20 lbs. Those snacks are way too good to pass up.

I'd forgotten how interesting the people in Maui are. I have seen quite a few hippies doing their thing. There were free tarot card readings offered at Borders and this old hippie lady literally ran to get in line. I have already seen two woman wearing bras as tops out in public. I've seen the tourists in their shiny Chrysler Sebring convertibles or Ford Mustang convertibles. I've seen the locals driving Maui cruisers. These are cars that look like they shouldn't run but miraculously do. Their paint jobs are marred by discolorations and rust and their seats are covered in faded Hawaiian prints. I've watched people surf and windsurf and I have seen large Hawaiian women selling coconuts and enormous jack fruit at the mall. And while I am glad to be back, it makes me miss all the people I met here who no longer live here. I am confronted by memories at every turn. I am thankful for this but I miss Amy Kirk, Sherry and Jono, Misti, Matt Laskey, Bethany, Josh and Ashley, Sarah Olthuis, Calla, Kera, Maria Daughtry. Heck, I even miss Wayne Bunting! There are others I miss but these are the ones I've been thinking of almost daily.

I have left enough people and situations to know that I am so lucky to have these incredible memories with these people. Many people don't have a single quality friend in their lives and I have been given them so lavishly. I'm truly thankful for all these people. I know I will make more friends while I am here, but it doesn't mean I don't miss the old ones.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Adventures in Selling My Car

I have been back in Maui for two days now. It's crazy to think about how much has happened in my life in the almost exactly six years since I stepped foot on this island for the first time.

Since then, I have lived in Maui for two years, taught elementary school for two years, endured my brother being at war for almost 20 months and counting. I've been to New Zealand, Thailand, Bangladesh, Singapore, China, Cuba and five trips to Canada. I've been in six weddings and been on countless dates with random dudes. I also tried my best to help my best friend through her bout with breast cancer and am so thankful that she is now okay. I now have a nephew and my parents have their dream home. It's been a wild ride and it's pretty crazy to look back on all that has happened.

On a lighter note, I thought it might be humorous to tell you of my adventures in selling my car. This was my first real car selling experience. My only real experience buying a car from a private party was in Maui. And that was a disaster. In Maui the standards are much lower. In fact, the term, "Maui Cruiser" refers to an often junky, quirky car that may look like it is going to fall apart but still runs.

One of my friends bought a car that due to some sort of malfunction needed an igloo cooler in the backseat at all times to prop up the driver's seat. Another friend had to run the heater at all times or the car would overheat. This was Hellish (literally) in tropical Maui.

In Texas, the standards were higher. I didn't realize that I wouldn't get my title until a few weeks after I paid off my car. This meant I ended up only having a week to sell my car. If I had it to do over again, I would have gotten an estimate from CarMax the week before I wanted to sell it. They give you a price they are willing to pay and you have a week to accept or reject their offer. Then you know how much you could sell it for.

I set a price and then basically lowered it every two days. I got some nibbles but no one was serious about buying it. On Saturday, I had two prospective buyers, a nice family with three little blond girls and a fairly recent Indian immigrant named, Raman. Yes, like the noodles. The wife of the family took the car for a test drive and was very interested. She said she loved it and then her husband told her she needed to play it cool to properly negotiate. It was pretty funny. He offered me about $300 less than I was asking, which was pretty fair considering the Blue Book value. The only problem was that because of Labor Day weekend, the banks were closed and he had no way to get that much cash. I told him that I had another interested party and that if he could come up with the cash, then I would go with him.

Later that night, Raman came by and took the car for a test drive. He drove like a grandma. I don't know if he was nervous or if he always drives like the elderly. He was interested in the car too. I explained to him my situation with the other people. I told him how much they offered and when they could get me the money. He asked if I was trying to get into a bidding war. Then he offered $700 less than what they had offered and said that he too would have to wait until Tuesday to get the money. Ummmm....Wake up Raman! Why would I take $700 less when you can't get me the money any sooner? I'm pretty sure he thought I was bluffing about the other people. He said he would talk to his wife about it and see if he could get the money earlier. Then he emailed me and said that the Blue Book Value he found was $500 or so less than what I knew it to be. I emailed him back with the proper specs to put in but he was still confused and called me. I walked him through it over the phone until he was able to get the same figures. Raman was definitely getting on my nerves!

I decided to end my dealings with Raman and put my money (literally) on the blond family. The risky part of all of this was that I was leaving early Tuesday morning and no one in my family really had the time to keep showing the car to other people. On Monday, I got an estimate from CarMax as a back-up in case the family backed out. They offered me about $1200 less so I figured it was worth the gamble with the family. I had a good feeling about them and they seemed legit, although it was a bit stressful taking a chance.

So, I left my sister-in-law, Shella to make the transaction. They were supposed to meet on Tuesday but the scheduling fell through. I was especially nervous because I had foolishly already written their name on my title so I would probably have to take it to the DMV to fix it if they didn't buy it. Hard to do from Maui. So I prayed. And on Wednesday they finally rendezvoused and a cashier's check was exchanged. I was so relieved!

Then I received an email yesterday from the buyers that said that the brake lights weren't working. I wasn't aware of this and I felt awful about it. I offered to pay to fix them. Then today they emailed me and said they got it fixed easily and I didn't need to worry about it. Whew! This made me feel a lot better. And finally I can say that I have sold my car. Yay!

You'd think this would dissuade me from buying a car here in Maui, but I have been looking. I don't think it makes sense financially right now and my last experience with a car here was terrible. ie: 3 months with my Explorer before it died. I think it will have to take some serious signs from the Lord before I dabble in Maui car ownership. I don't think I am ready for an always on heater or a cooler propped seat.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Elderly nudists and other tales from the retirement community

Today was a blog-worthy day. I felt a little like I was on a reality show. You know how they always do out of the ordinary things to spice up the show? ie: on Brooke Hogan's show she went out on a date with a girl as a dare and on Kathie Griffin's show she pretended to be interested in buying a multi-million dollar house but then low-balled it and almost got cussed out by a spicy Latina real estate agent. Stuff like that. Here were my reality show adventures.

I am currently trying to sell my car. I wasn't able to get my title until Monday so my window of opportunity is small. This morning I met up with a couple so they could test drive it. It felt a lot like a blind date. I waited at the gas station on Kirby and 59 where they'd arranged for us to meet. Little did any of us know that there are two Shell gas stations at Kirby and 59, just on opposite sides of the freeway. After we all waited about 15 minutes at different gas stations, we finally figured out the mistake and met up. The couple was super nice, Christian and knew about YWAM. Pretty random. They were looking for a car for their kids since the oldest one was turning 16. We had interesting conversations on the test drive and I really liked them. Unfortunately my car was not right for them. This felt like one of those dates I have been on where the guy is really nice and doing all the right things. We have good conversation and no awkward silences but in the end the spark was not there. Hopefully my next car sale/ blind date will go better.

The even more reality show type stunt occurred later in the day when I went to have dinner with my grandparents. They live in Houston and I have actually seen a lot of them lately since they stayed at my house for over a week looking after my post-operative mom. Well, my grandma looked after her. My grandpa just sat on the couch begging her to make fried chicken or give him ice cream. They really wanted me to come to their retirement community for dinner. They'd been asking me for a while and I kept putting them off because of my busy schedule. Time's running out so I finally consented. I had no idea what I was in store for.

The place they live in is pretty posh. It reminds me a lot of Del Boca Vista on Seinfeld except without the extreme Florida vibe or Jack Klampas and his astronaut pen. My grandparents have their own apartment with a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. The whole complex is made up of internal hallways that connect the rooms and the amenities. You could do pretty much anything without leaving the property, or for that matter going outside. They have a bank, mini-grocery store, library, weight room, beauty salon, dining room and you don't even have to go outside to get to the pool and hot tub because they are indoors.

I had been to their place before but just straight up to their apartment. I'd never met any of their friends or seen much of the facilities. It was quite interesting. My grandma met me in the lobby and took me up to the lounge area outside the dining room. We sat down with a group of their friends who were enjoying Happy Hour. That's right, they have Happy Hour! I was privy to the latest Eagle's Trace (name of the place) gossip. Apparently a new couple has moved in and they are nudists. No kidding! Their comments about these people were just priceless. The rumor mill has it that they've already been seen sans clothing and people are not happy. The primary story is that the man was seen lounging by the pool "as naked as the day he was born." Supposedly someone brought him a towel to cover up with but not before enough people saw him to get the rumors flying. They started talking about how no one should be nude in public in their 80's and that this particular couple was especially unattractive.

I also found out a little bit about my grandparents' group of friends from our socializing during cocktail hour. One of the was a court reporter during the Nazi doctor trials at Nuremberg. I'd read the book she wrote, which was both sad and fascinating. She told me that her book had even been published in Bangladesh. Random. One of the men used to be a commercial pilot but now runs the community's TV station. Apparently it plays music, movies and news from the community. I suggested they do a story on the nudists.

It was so interesting to see my grandparents interacting socially with their own kind. One of the ladies made sure to get extra maraschino cherries in her drink to give to my grandpa. Always a hit with the ladies! He does still have a lot of hair and some of it still black. Their friends were all pretty fun and lively. They talked about how there were some people they didn't like there. It felt a little like high school. My grandma held my hand (which she never does) as we walked around. She was so proud of me and introduced me to everyone who passed and told them I was a missionary. It made me feel really loved.

Dinner was pretty nice. We had a choice of fish, chicken or lamb. I didn't quite understand how it all worked so I tried to follow the lead of my fellow diners. They all seemed to be getting soup, salad, an entree and dessert so I followed suit. I wasn't quite sure how it all worked. My tablemates were all pretty opinionated about the food and apparently filling out the comment cards is quite common and the kitchen really takes their opinions into account. I thought the food was pretty good. At the end, they only gave a bill to my grandparents and it was $17. That was kind of a lot just for me. If I had known the prices, I wouldn't have ordered as much. I was just copying the old people. My grandpa gave me a hard time about it and his friends laughed as they already know he's a tightwad. I offered to pay but my grandma wouldn't let me. I think they have some meal credits saved up from being at my house so long anyway. It's kind of like in college when I would skip meals in the dining hall so I could use the credits to buy random stuff from the store at Jester dormitory. After the meal, everyone was going to go watch Steel Magnolias. I do love that movie but wasn't sure I wanted to stay that long.

I went back to my grandparents' apartment to try to help them with an electronics problem. I am pretty handy at that stuff, at least for a girl. They hadn't been able to get their DVD player to work and thought they had tried everything. My grandma was especially frustrated because she wants to be better with technology but the learning curve is pretty steep when you are in your eighties. I looked at their TV and saw that there was a TV/AV button. I pushed it and voila! The DVD player worked. Then my grandpa only half playfully called my grandma, "stupid." This didn't seem fair since he hadn't known how to fix the problem either. It was humorously easy to fix.

Then I tried to make sure my grandma understood how to use the internet. She has taken a class on it but doesn't really see the need to use it. I want to communicate with them more but they are hard of hearing and kind of awkward on the phone. They don't communicate the way I do, ie: email, facebook. My grandma did have an email account and I was able to send her an old update while I was at their place. Then she said she wanted help using the printer my aunt and uncle had gave them. Luckily the hardware had been installed and the printer had been plugged into the computer. All I had to do was turn it on and press print. Another amusingly simple technological task. It's funny how natural that stuff comes to those of us who grew up with it compared with those who didn't.

Then my grandpa says "What's the channel where you can buy stuff?" He was watching TV so at first I thought he meant the home shopping network or something. Then I realized he was gesturing towards the computer. He said, "A buddy of mine bought a movie projector on one of those." Basically he wanted to know which website to go to in order to buy stuff online. It sounded like he thought there was just one place to buy anything. I didn't want to make him feel dumb even though he'd kind of done that to my grandma. I told them there are a lot of websites but he could try google or craigslist. I don't anticipate them ordering anything anytime soon. I can't imagine how they would get through the check-out process with their credit card.

All in all, it was very fun and amusing. I will definitely try to visit them in their element more when I can. I hear they have wii tournaments. Old people playing wii; now that's something I can get in to.

I am happy my grandparents have a place like this to live and good friends to enrich their lives. Maybe I can convince some friends to move into a place like that with me when we get old. My friend, Jocelyn and I were talking about this recently and how we would own the place; racing in our Rascal scooters and hustling people at shuffleboard. Now that's the life!
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