Saturday, November 13, 2010

Changes Come

As the seasons change, the New DeLews have found themselves in a time of transition. This Autumn has zoomed by us, especially after the marathon (which was one of the best/funnest experiences of my life). And although no one would call the New DeLews particularly handy in the home project arena, we've spent the past month trying to make our lovely rented apartment feel like a home (pictures to come... eventually). We've been having a grand ol' time nuzzling into our lives here, making ourselves pretty comfortable and pretty settled- essentially preparing to hibernate for winter.

Occasionally I have looked at other jobs. Usually this didn’t mean anything because we have this nasty thing called the economic downturn. So really I was browsing what might be out there if this dream called ‘a good job market’ ever comes true. So one month ago, I applied to a couple of jobs. Within a week, (to my complete surprise) I had 2 interviews scheduled and I was thinking through those awful ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ questions. After a couple more interviews, I accepted a position at my college alma mater as the Associate Director of Reunion Class Giving.

The words from the Over the Rhine song have been playing in my head- "Changes Come, turn my world around..." And I feel like that’s what is happening. Our worlds are being turned around and we are feeling stretched and excited. A couple of rites of passages are occurring right now (not in order of importance):

1. buying my first business suit (Mark is SO happy)

2. deciding to leave my current position for the unknown of a different job.

3. writing and submitting my first letter of resignation

4. initiating the first major lifestyle change for the New DeLews

I think that number four has been the scariest. Both Mark and I have an abnormal love of city living. Because we both currently work downtown, we love commuting together, having a 25 minute commute, getting home at 5pm sharp and having the entire evening to run together, make dinner, entertain. And yet, with this new position, I will be doing the reverse commute via train- to the suburbs- probably taking an average of 1 hour each way. Although the idea of drastically changing our lifestyle like this is particularly daunting, we are confident that this is the beginning of a new season in our lives. Yes, we will both put more of ourselves into our jobs and we’ll have to be more intentional about our time together and with others, but changes come. And we believe God is in these changes, and so we are thankful.

As the song says- “Changes Come, Leave my burden down." So as the changes in front of us are SO exciting and a little daunting, we rest in the reality that this is where God is leading us now. We have learned over and over again, He is faithful and He will sustain us. So we’re excited for the journey ahead.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


After spending a long week in DC not for vacation, the New DeLews are back in Chicago and eagerly preparing for the much anticipated event of the fall- The Chicago Marathon!! This Sunday, 10/10/10 I will be running my first ever marathon (26.2 looooong miles) alongside 45,000 runners and over 1 million cheering fans. Needless to say, this is super exciting. There’s a lot of mental psyching up and planning that goes into this event, so I’m going to run over my little checklist:

The Last Supper (Saturday PM): Carbload! Homemade lasagna, bread, salad, and most importantly- NO WINE.

The Last Breakfast (Sunday AM): 2 scrambled eggs with a bit o’ cheese in a whole wheat pita. And most importantly- Coffee. Got to get things moving- in every possible way.

Music Playlist: Start off with all three volumes of the Glee Soundtrack (should last me about 2 hours), then depending on my mood, either go Gospel music or angry white boy music

Outfit: a bright blue running shirt with my name on it, black shorts, running shoes, red anti-sweat headband

Gear: running belt with tons o’ nutritional goos, cell phone, ipod shuffle, and plenty o’ anti-chafing lube (I’m not going to say any more about that one. But did you ever expect to see the word ‘lube’ on the New DeLews’ blog?)

Pacing: I’m running the marathon with my partner in crime, Ashley. Our goal pace is 9:30 minutes per mile, which would allow us to finish the race in a mere 4 hours and 9 minutes. Although the race officially starts at 7:30am, we most likely won’t cross the start line for quite a while. But if we cross the start line at 7:50am, we will be finished by 12:00pm sharp!! Here’s to hoping!

Meeting up: The Other DeLew will be trekking around the city with my lovely Mama George, finding strategic places to cheer! The Main DeLews will join in the cheering, along with a couple other friends. Every time I think about seeing friends and family on the sideline, I get a little choked up. I’ve been so blessed by people’s support over the past few months.

Post-Marathon Crash: Stumble back to the Medill and order out tons o’ food. And celebrate with fam and friends. Perhaps with wine.

Shout-out: And I must thank the lovely Other DeLew. Mark has been amazing- waking up early to run before work, biking alongside me on the long runs, caring for me when I got heat exhaustion, and constantly encouraging me to train hard and well. I could not have done this without him.

We’ll see how this Sunday goes. 10/10/10- bring it on!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Urban Pizza Incident

It’s a beautiful weather day here in Chicago. As everyone knows, we get about two of those days per year, so I had to make the most of it. One of the things that contributes to the New DeLews' ‘uber-urban persona’ is the fact that we both work downtown, and we love that! Unfortunately our offices are on opposite sides of downtown, so we can’t meet up for lunch very easily. But in the past we’ve tried creative ways to meet up. One time I walked to his office (poor decision, as it was about a 30 minute walk), I’ve taken the bus to his office, he's taken a taxi to mine, we've both taken buses to meet up in the middle, etc… All that to say, when there’s a will, there’s a way, but it’s always a little rushed and stressful.

Well today I decided to try yet another creative method to see the Other DeLew. The Chicago Water Taxi! The mucky green Chicago River flows through downtown, and there’s a water taxi with a couple of strategic stops for $2! I took a perfect 5 minute walk to the river, hopped onto the boat, and 10 minutes later I was at Mark’s office! It was so refreshing.

Mark enjoyed some Chicago-style deep dish pizza for lunch today (for a work function), and he graciously offered to give me his leftovers. I’ll be eating dinner solo tonight because Mark is a big business man and has a big business dinner. I had asked him to bring me the pizza when I met up with him today. “Mark, please put the pizza in a bag so I can bring it home after work.” I believe those were my exact words on the phone. And dear Mark came downstairs with the bag of pizza in his hand. We took a walk, got some coffee and relished every moment together. And then I gave Mark a quick kiss and hopped on a bus back to work, bag of pizza in hand.

As I sat down on the bus, I casually looked into the bag of pizza for the first time. And here is what I discovered….

Ahh, the Other DeLew. He did exactly what I requested. Exactly. Love it. Love him. I cherish these moments. Hilarious and just plain wonderful.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

That Naive Girl

This New DeLew has never been known as a fashion guru. Back in the olden days, pre-marriage, when I was a 'Young George', I was morally against 'cliche fashion' (as I would call it), because I strongly believed it communicated materialism and consumerism. At the end of freshman year of college, I donated over half my wardrobe because I decided to take a stand against materialism's hold on my life. And although that decision resulted in wearing the same black long-sleeve shirt every day of my college career, I truly believed that this was one of the ways I can be subversive in society. That is, until I needed to dress up for some event and I realized that I didn't have anything fancy. And let's be real here- my definition of fancy was (and kind of still is) 'anything that isn't cotton'. And in the end, I would bow to the god of materialism by raiding my roommate's closets. But anyway, I reflect on that time of my life with a sense of endearment. Part of me says 'what a naive girl', but the other part of me says 'where has that girl gone?'

This past weekend we were in Madison, Wisconsin for a wedding, and we had the chance to spend some time putt-putting around the little city. On Sunday morning we were sitting in an independent coffeeshop surrounded by college students who were working on papers amidst their facebook stalkings. The student next to me was wearing a 'Free Palestine' t-shirt while his girlfriend was using political theory to bash one of Sarah Palin's speeches. And for whatever reason, it brought me back. I was reminded of the numerous thought-provoking discussions that I had in coffeeshops that totally rocked my entire understanding of reality. I remembered that feeling of challenge and uncertainty that I experienced when I was discovering a new way to perceive the world, this society, and my life in the midst of it all. I remember those late nights that we would spend dreaming of ways to be subversive against mainstream society, to fight the system of injustice, and to be communities of peace. These are the visions that make my heart beat. They are conversations that feel raw, that make me feel more alive.

And I asked myself, when was the last time my understanding of reality was rocked? How often do I question the powers that be and seek ways to be subversive? Not just for the sake of being subversive, but because I believe in an alternative vision for this world- a world where people choose love over hate, community over self, and humility over pride. Have I just become another cog in the machine of society?

I refuse to believe that these thought-processes are only for certain stages of life. Yes college students may have the luxury of time to theorize about life and society, but now ideally, I may have the resources and ability to put some of those theories into practice. It may take a different form now, as I can't wear a black long sleeve shirt to work everyday. But that doesn't mean I should just fall into the routine of materialism and consume everything I can. It just might require a bit more nuance now. And however counter-intuitive it might seem, we must continue to live in the midst of complexity and be comfortable with challenge. Now is our time, whatever stage of life we are in, to challenge what we consider 'normal' and be open to alternative visions for how we ought to live in this world- however subversive they might be. It's not naive, it just might be the way we were meant to live.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Did someone say berries?

Let's play a word association game, shall we? When I say Scarecrow, you think Harvest. When I say Glass of Wine, you say Heaven. When I say Midwest, you say The No-Man's Land between California and New York City.... juuuuuuust kidding......... and lastly, when I say Fall is Around the Corner, you say Berry Pie. Right?
Although I'd like to think that I made a berry pie because my psyche is so attuned to the changing of seasons, in actuality I was sitting on the couch and realized that frozen berries could be used for something besides smoothies. And let me say, this epiphany has changed the New DeLews' lives forever. My sister (who is an incredible composer, gourmet cook, and mother of two with another on the way) has a 'healthy' recipe for an Amazing Berry Pie. Now to my dismay, I probably wouldn't consider this pie as healthy as, let's say, kale. But hands-down, I agree that it is Amazing. Ah-maze-ing. If you happen to be anywhere near The No-Man's Land between Calfornia and New York City within the next four months, you will most likely smell this berry pie as it bakes in my oven. We can't get enough of it.

Amazing Berry Pie
A couple notes: I tweaked the recipe a bit, because I don't do the top crust. I don't have the patience or a big enough food processor. So instead I make a sugary, cinnamony, oat-y topping that is amazing. Makes it more like a pie-cobbler fusion.

Preheat oven to 350

1.5 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter (chilled)
1/4 c water

Process ingredients in a food processor until it becomes a big blob. Either roll out or pat out in the pie pan. (I don't own a rolling pin)

5-6 c fresh or frozen berries (I used rasps and boysens, but definitely toss in blacks and huckles!)
1/2 c flour
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbs butter
1/2 c oats (any kind)

Combine sugar and cinnamon, then cut the butter into the mixture. Sprinkle 1/3 of mixture on the pie crust in the pan. Combine flour and berries. Pour berries into the pie pan. Add the oats into the remaining sugar, cinnamon, butter mixture. Pour on top of berries so that it's well-covered. Bake pie until brown and bubbly, (took my pie about 1 hour and 15 minutes). Let sit for 1-2 hours before serving. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Collage of Summer

The New DeLews are not a picture-taking couple. We like the idea of it, and sometimes we even bring our camera, but all too frequently the camera gets swallowed up by the deep mysterious creature known as my purse. (Why must my purse be so big?) But every once in awhile we (actually, the Other DeLew) manages to take a couple of pictures. In order to make up for all the lame posts that have been pictureless, I've decided to share a couple of our summer events through the medium of rather amateur photos. As summer is sadly coming to a close, here's a brief overview of some (not all, by any means!) of our summer happenings in Chicago.

Let's talk about my brief, yet passionate obsession with kale. Oh yes, my grand idea of making 'kale chips' was supposedly going to solve any desire to eat normal potato chips. These are the types of things I do when Mark is on business trips. Although he tried to feign excitement for the kale after returning from the airport, when he really just wanted a piece of meat, let's just say, I haven't made the kale chips since.

Family visits! We had a wonderful time when my parents visited from California, my sister's family (including 2 babies!), and multiple visits from out-of-towners and overnight guests. The Medill has acted like an inn, and we love it! As Mark and I continue to learn how to be hospitable, we have realized that often we work better as a couple when we are hosting people in our home. So people, when you come over for dinner, you're helping the New DeLews be the couple we're meant to be! Thank you for sharing your lives with us!

Mark has continued to improve on his dishwashing business at the Medill. When we moved, we made the switch from having the dish rack on the counter, to placing it in the sink. And this has really developed Mark's incredible jenga-like stacking skills. It's an art.

Grilling and Lemon Drops. Because of the horror known as Chicago humidity and a lack of central AC, we have increased our use of the outdoor grill, and also perfected our recipe for lemon drop martinis. Sitting outside with friends, grilled burgers or grilled pizza and lemon drops? Now that's what I call summer! We have had wonderful conversations with our landlord and friends, sitting over citronella candles and good food.

Time together. Although it has been a busy summer for the New DeLews, we have enjoyed the bike rides, el rides, frozen yogurt, lake outings, and so many wonderful evenings wandering the city streets. We are deeply thankful to live in the city of Chicago, (particularly during the summer months), and we are thankful for the people in our lives. It's the people that bring beauty into our daily lives. So summer, you have done well this year.

Monday, August 30, 2010


I have had a ton of people ask me (with horror on their faces), 'Why are you training for the marathon?!!' And people, you are right to ask this question for a multitude of reasons. 1. I have never been much of a runner. One time I told a new soccer coach that I was normally a halfback, and he laughed at me. I was even diagnosed with 'exercise-induced asthma' at one time. But in reality, I should have just been diagnosed with 'being out of shape'. 2. A marathon is 26.2 miles. Yes. That's a lot. 3. Training for the marathon is a huge time commitment and lifestyle. It isn't a decision that should be taken lightly. I have a history of making spur of the moment decisions, so it's absolutely right to ask me if I'm really committed to this type of thing.

And let me say, although registering for the marathon itself was kind of a spur of the moment decision, I had been mulling over the idea of marathon running for awhile. And although I thought that all this training would absolutely kill me, the truth is, training for the marathon has been very freeing. First of all, I have a set schedule that tells me exactly how many miles to run every other day. On the days that I don't run, I get to rest. And they actually feel like rest days- I don't ever feel guilty about not running those days. Now that I'm running so much, I don't really have to think much about caloric intake (victory!!), and it just feels so good to really feel healthy. I wouldn't quite say that I get a runner's high, because honestly, I think that's an oxymoron. But I do experience a sense of confidence and accomplishment when I feel really good while running 8 miles. And even though I'm cursing the world during mile 14, when I've successfully run 15 miles, I am ecstatic and relieved.

But there is a deeper reason for why I have continued to train for the marathon. I'm learning a new type of perseverance. I kind of feel like I'm sounding like those locker room sports posters that have an acronym for perseverance- p=power, e=excellence, r=respect, etc.... But anyway, never before have I practiced such a a gradual, yet extreme form of physical perseverance. I have always understood perseverance in an emotional or spiritual sense. There are key moments in my life, like tragic deaths, difficult cross-cultural situations, or times of deep loneliness, that have developed emotional and spiritual perseverance within me. And I believe those times have built my character and given me a type of fortitude that you can't muster up. Those times are an intricate part of who I am. But running has opened my eyes to what it means to physically and mentally persevere. I am forcing my body to go beyond its comfort zone, to do things that I never dreamed possible, and I am forcing my mind to push through it all. And it is really encouraging to remember how I could barely run three outdoor miles last February. I never thought I'd be here now!

Now I am not going to say that I am able to run because "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13), because honestly, I'm don't think my ability to train for the marathon is the right interpretation of that verse. But I can say that I sense God in the midst of perseverance. I mean, we have a God of perseverance. A God that only expects perseverance from us because He constantly perseveres for us. As I force myself to persevere through the craziness of marathon training, which in the grand scheme of things is not that monumental, I reflect on something absolutely monumental- God's perseverance for us, as He seeks after the brokenhearted, pours out love on even the proud, and draws the world to Himself. This thing called perseverance- it's beautiful.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On the Trash

11:30pm Friday. After a fun evening with friends at a super hipster bar, I packed and tried to remember all the things I needed to do before flying out at 6am. Mark had already flown to CA because he had a business trip out there, so I was in charge of closing up the Medill before our 8 days in California. So of course, I did the dishes, straightened up the apartment and made sure all the windows were closed and locked. There were only 2 more things I needed to do: 1. water the flowers in our cute window box and 2. take out the kitchen trash. 'Hmm, both of those things require going outside, so I'll wait until the morning to do that....'

worthless decision.

4:40am Saturday. I was rushing around with wet hair, with the greatest intention to take out that damn trash. But before I could do that, I got a phone call from the taxi company: 'Your cab is here. If you do not come outside in 2 minutes, the cab will leave.' So of course, I dropped what I was doing, grabbed my bag and ran outside to catch my taxi, leaving the trash and flowers in the dust.

5pm Saturday. I confessed to Mark about my utter fail. Mark scowled and said "Baaaaaaabe..." (disapprovingly).

6pm Sunday (a week later). We walked up to the apartment- dead flowers. I've never seen flowers so dead in my whole life. Fail. We walked into our apartment, and surprisingly there was not a putrid odor as I had expected! So Mark opened the lid to the trash can, and I immediately thought, 'hmm, I don't remember putting all that flax seed in the trash can.' Mark angrily carried the maggot-filled trash can outside as apologies flowed from my mouth. Needless to say, I cleaned the living hell out of that trash can with a power hose and lysol, majorly ashamed at my complete fail. It was probably the grossest moment in our marriage to date.

But, we are planning to buy more flowers and we have the cleanest trash can ever. And although the whole situation was admittedly my fault, Mark kindly (and silently) worked alongside me to clean up my mess. He could have tried to teach me a lesson by making me clean it up all by myself, but he didn't. I'm thankful for his gracious partnership. And I need to learn how to be a gracious partner in return.

But next time, I promise to take out the damn trash.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blood Minerals in the Congo?

One of the issues currently in the news that is directly related to my previous post on China in Africa is the influence of the mineral trade on the conflict in the Congo (DRC). This is one of the most tragic wars in the past decade, with millions of deaths, rapes, and mutilations. Moreover, it is one of the most complex and horrific, involving land rights, invasions/subversions from Rwanda and Uganda, the leaders of the Rwandan genocide, mini-states, warlords, ethnic conflict, rape, and minerals. Yet this conflict does not define the Congo. As the blogger Texas In Africa regularly explains, there are (surprise!) real people living there who are rebuilding their country. And the mineral trade, which China helps to drive (along with myriad Western companies), is a actually piece of that process, providing thousands with a small but important revenue stream. While various armed groups derive revenue from minerals, there are other sources of revenue to which they can turn if the legislation actually works. The greatest problem in Eastern Congo is the lack of government...the central government simply does not have the capacity and/or will to impose order upon that part of the country. (The blog Texas In Africa is so interesting because it explores the consequences of this lack of governmental control.)

So the law that the US Congress passed the other day that aims to prohibit the trade of conflict minerals will likely not achieve its desired outcome of reducing the conflict. Despite the focus of the Enough Project and other advocates like Nick Kristof on the mineral trade as the economic driver of the war, Texas In Africa insists that these efforts are misguided and give a simplistic view of the conflict:
The argument that cutting off the mineral trade will make any of this possible defies reality. As does the idea that soldiers will stop raping, looting, and burning down villages if one of their sources of revenue is cut.

Just about every local leader in the east will tell you that the mineral trade is not the cause of violence and that ending the trade is very unlikely to end most violence, especially given the absence of functioning political and security institutions. Ending violence is of course a huge priority for the Congolese, but this is the wrong way to go about it. The legislation is unlikely to do harm (until it causes some of the 1 million people who depend on the trade for their livelihood to become unemployed), so it's mostly just been a waste of time and energy. But why the advocates won't listen to the people they purport to help is beyond me. that's too bad. The ultimate measurers for the success of a development program or in any country is always the local people who are supposed to be benefiting. Unfortunately, US foreign policy is not usually characterized as perceptive to local opinion. What's this bill all about then? Is it just a way to make American consumers feel better about themselves? Hmm...As an American who cares deeply about issues of peace and justice around the world, I will try to listen to the voices of those around the world--especially those of the marginalized and oppressed--and try to influence the foreign policy of my country accordingly.

Update: Texas In Africa is writing about this issue all week, so go to her blog for more/better analysis!

Is China actually helping Africa?

Deborah Brautigam’s The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa provides a revealing and comprehensive view of China’s “aid” program in Africa. I label China’s aid program with trepidation because China’s activities in many African nations don’t correspond with Western expectations of an “aid program”. This misunderstanding may be the source for much Western criticism of the “rogue donor.” Accused of exploitation of African workers, environmental degradation, and an insatiable desire for African natural resources among other things, China has come to be viewed as a new imperialist over Africa in some circles.

But as Ms. Brautigam explains, persuasively interweaving anecdotes with economic data, China is blazing a different path in Africa, viewing African countries not simply as bottomless holes in which to dump aid, but as new markets to invest in, profit from, and even partner with. She cites longstanding Chinese aid projects in African countries and numerous joint-ventures between quasi-government-owned Chinese companies and African companies to support her case. Admittedly, the data is limited due to the unavailability of official Chinese aid figures, but she succeeds in debunking the popular myth of China’s new aid program dwarfing those of traditional Western donors. Reports of gargantuan cash transfers to dictatorial and corrupt African regimes are largely overstated.

Rather, the author illustrates China’s different approach to aid. Instead of the vague goals such as the broad and immeasurable Millennium Development Goals decided on by UN experts, Chinese grants are tied to specific proposals submitted by African governments. In contrast to the largely unmet promises of Western donors to double or triple aid to Africa, China has indeed met its goal of increasing the billions it donates in the form of grants or concessional loans. Rather than irresponsible lending to profligate or corrupt African governments (followed by self-congratulation when these impossible loans are forgiven), Chinese loans are structured to ensure long-term repayment, often in unconventional ways.

One of China’s most interesting differences from the West comes in its view of “sunset industries,” which refers to sectors that have become too expensive to maintain in China due to rising labor costs. Instead of trying desperately to keep factories that have become too expensive to remain in China, the government encourages these industries to “go global” and find more economical locales for production. This results in foreign direct investment in African countries, bringing jobs, infrastructure, and technical knowledge. (Too often this also results in the violation of labor and environmental standards in offshore locations…but these violations are not unique to Chinese companies, and we are hypocritical to cast blame only upon them). Going global also pushes Chinese manufacturing towards more high-tech and high-value production, which translates into better wages and skills for its own workforce. Remember, China is also a developing nation. In America, labor unions view outsourcing as unfair, but they also fight to raise wages even though the value of the products may remain stable. Thus the struggle of US automakers. Perhaps the US and its companies could learn how to better equip its workforce for occupational transitions once an industry is no longer viable in the US and encourage the development of more high-tech and green jobs.

Brautigam successfully illuminates the parallels between what happened during China’s own spectacular development and what Chinese actors are trying to accomplish in Africa. After more capitalist-friendly leaders wrested control of the government from Mao, China began to implement reforms which spurred economic growth. This included allowing Japanese and Western firms to invest in China and help it develop its natural resources. For decades, China was an exporter of minerals and gas, and its government successfully utilized this natural wealth to promote development and increase the wealth of millions.

It is widely thought that the Communist Party now justifies its autocratic control over its people by making them richer. I would never encourage any government to suppress its people by denying free speech, freedom of religion, and elections, and I believe that increasing a person’s freedom is an integral part of “development.” In my opinion, today’s China has many problems, including high rates of pollution, growing inequality, corruption and of course human rights violations perpetrated by those in power. Many African countries share these characteristics with China, and I fear that some are choosing to emulate the Chinese model of autocratic capitalism. I am not denying that China’s involvement in Africa can contribute to the corruption, pollution, and oppression that has already been occurring within the continent. But less-widely known are the stories of successful partnership between Chinese and African companies, innovative ways to use natural resources to ensure benefit to the source country, and the benefits of viewing Africans as economic partners instead of aid recipients. The skeptics accuse China of exploitation, and it is true that Chinese companies desire to reap profit from their African investments (so do Western companies). But it is important to recognize the jobs that investment and infrastructure development can bring to African countries. The US can lead the way in adopting some of the more creative measures that aid can be used to encourage business. Further, it’s essential to gain a nuanced view of the moderating influence that China is starting to have on autocratic African governments. The US can continue to engage with China to ensure that it continues this trend.

Is the increase of Chinese activity in Africa ultimately a positive trend? As Brautigam explains, China’s purpose in engaging in Africa is ultimately for China’s benefit (isn’t that how any country is expected to act?), but increasingly, this is accomplished through initiatives that benefit both Chinese and African actors. More often, it is the response of the African government that determines if interaction with China actually benefits actual Africans. But, if any country knows how to quickly increase the economic standing of millions of poor people, it is China.

UPDATE: Deborah Brautigam maintains a blog that reports on the latest happenings between China and Africa:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guest Post: Andre's Reflections on Palestine and Israel

Hi everyone- we are honored to have our first guest post! Our friend Andre read my first two posts about Israel and Palestine and had a few thoughts of his own (and I finally got around to posting it). He has studied this issue intensively, and so we really value his perspective. Thanks Andre!
It is an excellent point that by reading Hamas solely through the lens of terrorism, the American public tends to falsely see Hamas as it sees “terrorists” in general—a poorly defined group of violent, reactionary, fundamentalists that act based on timeless religious extremism rather than political motivation grounded in relatively recent events. While this perspective is misleading to say the least, Hamas does have a thoroughly Islamist ideology that has gone way beyond Palestinian nationalism. So to me Hamas bears no resemblance to the French Resistance or any other group motivated solely by human rights. Fundamentalist religious ideology almost by definition makes compromise and negotiation especially difficult, since a religious fundamentalist connection to the land tends to preclude giving up any part of it. So there is no mention of any sort of two state solution from Hamas beyond a long term ceasefire (and we’ve seen how ceasefires work out—if there is no reconciliation and closure, then there will always be some excuse to reignite conflict). This is in contrast to Fatah and most other elements of the PLO, since even the most dogmatic secular nationalists can talk about real compromise without sounding too hypocritical. That’s why Israel funded Hamas in the late 1980s and created the monster that it faces today, so that it could undermine realistic movement towards a two-state compromise. Hamas’ Islamism in this way is an ironic reflection of the ideology of right wing Israelis who will not even consider giving up an inch of the land originally encompassed in the British Mandate. On both sides it is important to keep in mind that religious rhetoric in a political conflict is inextricably tied up with political goals, i.e. to a great extent Hamas’ Islamist rhetoric is an effect as well as a cause of its power aspirations, and same with right wing, fundamentalist Israelis.

I think you’re also right that identity is the linchpin currently holding together and perpetuating the many elements of the conflict. Palestinian and Israeli identities both developed largely in opposition to each other, so as long as they both exist as such the conflict remains intractable. But what fuels the reproduction of polemic identities isn’t unchanging, pre-existing belief —it is personal experience of trauma and loss. If a youth has been displaced and continually harassed by the IDF and seen family members killed, political action they take is based on this, rather than some pre-existing a priori belief in a political or religious ideal. Like they say, all politics is personal. So I hope that if Israelis can finally muster up the political will to rein in their government and military and gradually loosen up their choke hold, there will be gradually less trauma to drive oppositional identities and reconciliation can occur. But obviously that is a big if.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

All up in your business

The other day, my parents asked the New DeLews what we liked about living in the city. We said that we love public transportation and the fact that you can't help but be nominally involved in everyone's business. Whether it's someone asking for money on the El, talking on their cell phone about the most recent vampire movie, or listening to an insanely loud heavy metal song on their ipod, you notice (and sometimes, if we're honest, you judge). But all that to say, I love the raw-ness of it. There's a certain part of it that seems real to me- the city makes thousands of different worlds collide, and at times it can be a huge nuisance because I really don't want to overhear about what your friend's girlfriend said to her cousin's ex-boyfriend. But I'm forced to hear it and recognize this daily world-collision.

Well the day after we talked to my parents about this, the four of us found ourselves on a ridiculously crowded bus where everyone was all up in everyone's grill, and most people were desperately trying to avoid how uncomfortable it was. And of course, at the front of a bus, two babies were screaming at the tops of their lungs and hitting at each other while the tired mom casually swatted away their punches of fury. Most of the people on the bus judged, but everyone was inconvenienced. After about 15 minutes of straight child-screaming, an older man from the back of the bus yelled to the tired mom, 'Hey I've got a belt if you'd like to use it!" The entire bus chuckled. Everyone was thinking the same thing.

Well today, I experienced what I would call a 'She actually just said that!?!' moment. On my morning commute I boarded a very crowded bus that only had a few open seats in the back. So I walked to the back of the bus and noticed that one lady (let's call her Bag Lady) had strategically placed her purse on the seat next to her. And when I walked up to her, she again, strategically, did not acknowledge my presence. Now I realize that this may be appropriate on airplanes, but not on Chicago transportation. You move your damn bag so that a person can have a seat. But all that to say, I just moved to a seat right behind that lady. Unbeknownst to me another woman (let's call her 'Crazy Bold Lady') had noticed the entire 'not moving the bag' incident. Out of the blue, Crazy Bold Lady absolutely exploded and started verbally assaulting the Bag Lady. And the conversation went like this:

Crazy Bold Lady: You know, you should really move your stupid bags so that a human can sit down. It is absolutely rude to just place your bags on a seat in such a busy bus. Who do you think you are!?
Bag Lady: (visibly flustered) Well I didn't notice!!
Crazy Bold Lady: Well you need to stop being so selfish and start noticing people around you!! Why do you think your bags deserve to have a seat more than these people. It's real nice of you to allow everyone to stand so that you don't have to place your bags on your precious lap!
Bag Lady: All right! I said I didn't notice!! Have a NICE TUESDAY!!! (as she angrily puts her bags on her lap and pretends to start reading)
Crazy Bold Lady: Well there ya go, NOW you're actually being courteous! For ONCE!

And an awkward silence rested upon the entire bus. But you know what we were all thinking? I can't believe the Crazy Bold Lady actually said that!! I've thought all of those things, and when I'm really ridiculous, envisioned myself actually saying them. But this lady actually said it! Wowza. And although I was mildly amused by the whole situation, and oddly impressed by Crazy Bold Lady's sudden verbal vomit, I felt bad for the Bag Lady. Yes, she was not being very courteous, but she probably wasn't being malicious with her bag. But regardless, she became the victim of the Crazy Bold Lady's wrath. It was actually a really sad encounter to witness. She was so quick to judge the Bag Lady, without having any real understanding of what's going on. And yet it's so easy to do that, especially when your world is completely colliding with someone else's on the bus. But if I'm going to be a person defined by grace, I know that I must relinquish my desire to judge and be willing to imagine someone's life outside of my brief, annoying encounter. It's absolutely unnatural to me, but I've got to try.

Family Central

It is family central at the Medill. Within a series of 10 days, we've got four families popping in and out of the Medill in Chicago. (Now quick forewarning- because we never take pictures when we should, only the picture of Mark and Trinity is from the past two weeks. The other pictures are random within the past year. But at least there are pics!)

First, the lovely Majorins family of four enjoyed our Guest Room (that we set up with a pack n' play and toddler bed). They trekked from foggy Oakland and landed in steamy Chicago, exhausted and ready for a good Midwest meal. As we prepared dinner, two year old Trinity wandered through our house saying "What's that?", "Let's go upstairs!", and "Why is that door stuck?". It was really fun to watch Trinity explore her new surroundings and try to make sense of it all. Finally we sat down for grilled bbq pork chops, roasted rosemary potatos, corn bread salad, and chocolate stout cake with a Bailey's ganache, and enjoyed a great night of conversation with lovely Sarah and Phil. Ahh, it was great!

Then we had the Main DeLews over for dinner (slight clarification- although we're the New DeLews, we can't really call Mark's parents the Old DeLews because they are quite spry and not old at all. So for this purpose, they will be called the Main DeLews). They made the lovely train ride from Wheaton to Chicago, enduring through the 93 degree heat/humidity, and graciously suffered through the lack of A/C at the Medill. But with a meal of almond-crusted grilled salmon with caramelized onions, garlic potato salad, mediterranean salad, and ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce, I think we all ended up ok. So thanks for coming, Main DeLews!

For the past 5 days, Papa and Mama George have been visiting the New DeLews, doing apartment projects and eating a lot of good food. A few of our feasts included- Mediterranean Chicken Salad, pan-seared tilapia with arugula pesto, lemon parmesan risotto, grilled turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, homemade fresh tuna salad, blueberry muffins, and oh so many other things. We also went out to Ciao pizzeria- a new pizza place in Logan Square. In fact, we loved it so much, that we went twice! It was so fun to have my parents in town, experiencing our Chicago life a bit and also interacting as two couples. It's a cool shift in the parent-child relationship. Some of our activities included- playing pick up stix, Chicago Architecture boat tour, watching a foreign film, tango dancing in the park, shopping, and experiencing the craziness that is July 4th in Chicago. Oh man, it felt like we were in a war zone with all the illegal fireworks going off in our neighborhood.

And tonight, the lovely Carpenters are coming over for dinner! They've been doing a midwest tour, and we are so excited to see them because they have played a really important role in our lives as the New DeLews. Now we may be recycling one of the meals mentioned above, but hey, it was so good, why not?

Being with our family members and other close friends reminds us that the New DeLews are not alone in this world. We are who we are because of our communities. And I am so thankful for who God has placed in our lives. The past few weeks have reminded me of that over and over again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Reflections on Israel and Palestine, Part 3: Ending the cycle of victimization

If it seems like I direct the bulk of my criticism at Israeli policies and not Hamas or other Palestinian actors, it is because I hold the liberal democracy to a higher standard. I have great respect for the democracy that Israel has been able to carve out in the Middle East. I just wish that it was a democracy that benefited Palestinian Arabs as well as Israeli Jews. Of course, I stand against the violence perpetrated by both Hamas and the Israeli Army--but this post is mainly about Israel, as the US is most likely to be able to influence our strongest ally in the Middle East. The US gives Israel’s military over $2 billion every year (

I feel like I should have a say in how Israel uses my money.

And last, this episode is emblematic of the cycle of victimization. Jews across the world have suffered tremendously throughout the centuries at the hands of Christians, Muslims, Romans, Turks, Europeans, Arabs, and others. It is tragic, although probably inevitable given this history, that the country with a stated desire to retain its “Jewish character” has victimized others in the name of national security. Some victims, in this case, have become oppressors.

Although Israel labels any attacks by Palestinians as terrorism (and some rightly so), these attacks are really part of an ongoing conflict between two identities that have deeply hurt each other—and continue to hurt each other. This conflict has been so pervasive and enduring that some people don’t know any other way of life except through the prism of war. Moreover, millions of people have been personally affected by the violence. It is not an abstract war occurring some miles away. Rather, families have been devastated and wounds have been opened which would take decades to heal—if healing is desired.

But I believe that there is hope for more just policies, the cessation of violence, and ultimately in reconciliation. Understanding this conflict as a longstanding post-modern conflict based upon ethno-centric identities rather than “good vs. bad” will help in defusing it. Then, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders must craft policies that reflect this reality and honestly push towards a peace agreement. Both sides must give up long-held desires.

But simultaneously, the Palestinian and Israeli people must begin to try to forgive each other. It is my hope that giving air to multiple perspectives on the conflict in the Middle East will in some small way help bring about the recognition of humanity in the other and lead to treating the other with dignity. I am a realist with regard to the tremendous obstacles facing the Middle East peace process; however, I refuse to let cynicism dispel hope for reconciliation among the nations.


I think I'll leave this topic alone for now. I'd love to hear your thoughts! I certainly don't claim to know everything, and would love to hear any constructive criticism or other thoughts. Thanks!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lessons Learned

The past few weeks have been kinda crazy for the New DeLews. So instead of writing a long post about our craziness, I've decided to explain a couple of the 'lessons learned'. Because let's be honest, we're always learning lessons, right?

Routine: Although I hate to admit it because it might mean I have a bit of Type A-ness in me, I actually like routine. And I've finally determined what 'Routine' means to me. Essentially I'm in a routine if: 1) I've made bread and granola, 2) there's some type of leftovers to eat for lunch, and 3) the living room is neat (note that I didn't say clean, I said neat). So all I really need is about 3 hours of cooking and 'neatening' in order to feel relatively stable. Maybe I'm not so complicated after all....

Trips: A solo weekend trip to California for less than 43 hours is wonderful, so invigorating, but too short. Every time I go to CA, it's harder to come back. Although I love living in Chicago and I'm so thankful for our life here, for some reason without fail I find myself in tears at the airport bar while waiting for my return flight to Chicago. It's bizarre, I know. Poor Other DeLew.

Volleyball: Playing beach volleyball on Monday evenings, after not touching a volleyball for 6 years, will lead to bruised arms and bruised egos. I swear, I used to be good!

Running: The New DeLews' wise plan to run 6 miles on Saturday at the hottest point of the day (89 degrees) turned out to be not-so-wise. We made it, but definitely hated life.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Rican Day in Chicago means tons of people dangerously hanging out of cars while waving abnormally large Puerto Rican flags and honking horns. Just be aware.

Soba Noodles: If you have too many soba noodles in one pot of boiling water, just place them in a larger pot. Do not ignore this issue by cooking them for longer and allowing a layer of noodles to burn onto the bottom of said small pot. Especially not when you have friends over for dinner, like last night.

Blood Orange: Vodka + tonic + splash of Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda= one of the most refreshing drinks ever! It's the New DeLews' new thang for the summer. Thanks, Parris, for the recommendation!

Blue Sheets: Washing blue bedsheets will cause your entire load of laundry to turn a nice shade of pale blue. Unfortunately the Other DeLew doesn't like to wear blue undershirts though. Fail.

And that's our life right now. Learning about ourselves, our city, and random life-things. Although it can seem silly to make note of these little things, the truth is that these things reminds me to be thankful in the midst of mundane life moments. And practicing thankfulness helps us be more aware of God's grace in our midst.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reflections on Israel and Palestine, Part 2: Trying to understand the "terrorists" in Gaza

Let’s try to apply a Just War Theory framework to the Hamas perspective of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Hamas operates in an occupation context that makes it closer to the French Resistance than to Al-Qaeda (in fact, Hamas views Al-Qaeda as a threat, not an ally). From Hamas’ perspective, the whole of Palestine (including the area known as Israel) is under Israeli occupation (not to mention the West Bank—actually under occupation by the Israeli Army, and Gaza—virtually besieged). To Hamas, Israel’s war against the Palestinians, which began with a massive 1947 land grab known as the Nakba (or “catastrophe”), justifies unconventional attacks against the invaders. And because the perpetrators of this invasion evicted Palestinian civilians, and include Israeli civilians, the conflict resembles something like total war. Recall that total wars occur when entire nations are in danger of being attacked, as in WWII. Civilian attacks are expected, such as the Nazi rocketing of London or Allied bombing of Dresden. (just to be clear, I don’t believe in the “Hamas” or “Israeli” perspective of this conflict, and I would never condone displacement or attacks against civilians).

But the conflict in the Middle East is something even more engrossing than total war—in this conflict, there is very little to distinguish civilians from soldiers. Not only do soldiers strike against civilians, as in the Gaza war of 2009 or a Hamas militant strike against an Israeli settlement, but also civilians participate in the conflict, such as Israeli evictions of Palestinian villages or Hamas storing weapons in schools or hospitals. And, more subtly perhaps, a civilian can become a soldier at any time to attack the enemy and then blend back into the populace. These conflicts entail identity warfare; where one group of people, often defined by ethnicity or religion, wants to destroy or displace another group of people. Moreover, their very identity is predicated upon opposition to the enemy’s identity. These wars are called post-modern conflicts, and they have sadly become more common throughout the world (Bosnia, Sudan).

Because Israel frames this conflict as a fight against terrorists, and thereby fails to recognize the deeper causes and consequences of identity politics, it will also fail to win real peace. Instead, Israel is under a “siege mentality” that portrays even legitimate Palestinian opposition as “terrorist.” With this wartime mindset, national security is the groundwork for all policy, and problems are solved through military means.

Thus, Israel decided to deploy commandoes to stop the flotilla rather than more diplomatic means. More importantly, Israel justifies the economic blockade of Gaza as a matter of national security to stop the flow of arms to militants. But as already explained, this policy has not succeeded in diminishing Hamas’ power. The reliance upon the military to solve political problems has not yielded positive outcomes for Israel. The war against Hezbollah in 2008, against Hamas in 2009, and the Flotilla raid of last week have not created any progress towards a permanent solution. Moreover, the events of the last 3 years have actually hardened the opinion of the Arab street, erstwhile Muslim allies such as Turkey, and some Europeans against Israel. Israel must alter its policy if it wants to ensure the long-term safety of its people alongside the Palestinians.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Extreme Reactions and Summer Activities

We interrupt this series of Israel and Palestine posts for a not-so-deep and probably not-so-thoughtful post about bikes and summer. Actually, I have much to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the unfortunate truth is that I'm not quite as balanced (or informed) as the Other DeLew is. I'm really thankful for the way Mark thinks through complicated issues, because he challenges me to not jump to simplistic conclusions. Now clarification- that's something I'm working on, it doesn't come real naturally to me. For example, the New DeLews have obviously been talking about Israel and Palestine a lot recently, and typically the conversation goes something like this:

Me: I can't believe Israel is being such a bully! I'm totally Pro-Palestine

Mark: Em, it's not as simple as you think it is. Let's look at the entire history of.....

Me: So you're Pro-Israel?

Mark: No, you need to look at both sides of the issue, and the proposed solutions are so complicated....

Me: So your Pro-Palestine like me! Two have become one!

Mark: Ugh! Em!!

Actually, I'm not that ridiculous, but unfortunately my initial reaction to current events tends to be a bit extreme. But give me a bit more information (and some time to cool off), and I'll start to really think through the issues. Regardless of who is in power, however, I'm really concerned about all of the Palestinians and Israelis that are being affected by this unnecessary violence and unrest. And I do pray for reconciliation. And justice. And peace. I'm looking forward to hear more of Mark's thoughts.

Onto the not-so-thoughtful topics, Friday was very exciting because the New DeLews biked to work for the first time this season. I finally got my wonderful clunker bike fixed, which was absolutely necessary since some punk-ass kids stole my front tire. And the brakes didn't work. And the handles were on upside down? I don't know why, but it's fixed now. We had another Craigslist success and got a used bike for Mark. My bike- bright green. Mark's bike- bright orange. We look like a bunch of skittles riding around the city. Anyway, summer has arrived and the time for biking to work, marathon training, beach volleyball, and ultimate frisbee has commenced (oh so sportsy!). And of course, we're also looking forward to the other non-sportsy activities- free symphony concerts, summerdance, drinks on patios, beergardens. Gotta love summer in the city.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Reflections on Israel and Palestine, Part 1

The incident between Israeli commandoes and the flotilla of aid ships this week caught most of the world by surprise. The details of what actually occurred are still murky, so it is unclear if the commandoes acted out of self-defense, or reacted disproportionately to the activists on the ships. So far, it looks like Israel completely botched this operation...they sure aren't making any friends right now. We can debate the legality of the Israeli landing on the ships, but Israel will say that the seaborne interception was a necessary part of their blockade of Gaza (although many people, including me, would disagree). We can also debate the legality of the blockade itself, and there are strong arguments on both sides. Israel portrays its policy of blockade as defensive, purposed to keep the current trickle of arms into Gaza from becoming a flood. While the isolation of Gaza seems like a defensive necessity to many Israelis and may or may not be legal (international law is such a gray area), in effect it has ghettoized the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there. Morally, this is indefensible. There should be another way.

From my perspective, as a 20-something middle-class American, I cannot influence any of these policies directly. I can’t change Israeli public opinion to be more compassionate towards the imprisoned Gazans, and I can’t convince Hamas to officially recognize Israel. I’m primarily concerned with the US foreign policy towards Israel and Palestine that my elected officials have created. So let's take a second to briefly review some events that have led up to this point:

In 2006, there was a relatively free (especially compared to most of the states in the Middle East) internationally monitored election in Palestine. Fatah, the incumbent party, lost and Hamas won. Reasons given for Fatah’s defeat, despite being the favorite of the West, include the lack of progress towards Palestinian independence after decades of occupation, a perception of incompetence and corruption, and being the favorite of the West. The US and most of the Western world refused to recognize Hamas as the elected government of Palestine due to their militancy and refusal to recognize Israel. The Bush Administration’s strategy was to isolate Hamas in its Gaza stronghold so that it would fail to govern properly. Meanwhile, the West Bank, which was governed by Hamas leadership for only a short while after the election, was supposed to prosper and develop, thereby delegitimizing Hamas. The ensuing contrast between a poor, isolated, Hamas-governed Gaza Strip and a developing West Bank, now governed by technocrats, was theoretically going to convince people to overthrow Hamas and re-join the Western-approved Palestine—or, at least convince Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce its dedication to Israel's destruction.

While this strategy, of which the Israeli blockade of Gaza is a key component, has succeeded in impoverishing Gazans, it has failed miserably at its primary goal of wooing Hamas or its supporters. This strategy failed because it pretends the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza do not exist. Ultimately, an event like this week’s botched interception-at-sea was bound to happen under the strain of blockading so many people.

Unfortunately, President Obama, despite promising an outreach to the Muslim world in an inspiring speech last year, has failed to change the US stance on one of most important issues to the Muslim world. The US policy of non-negotiation with Hamas makes about as much sense as Hamas refusing to recognize Israel. Although Hamas has perpetrated horrible terrorist acts (and this should not be taken lightly), it makes no sense to ignore them. Designating a democratically elected government as a mere terrorist organization completely misses the complexity of the situation. Of course, I believe that Hamas should never attack Israeli civilians or employ suicide bombers. This is so wrong and hateful. But I also believe that Israel should stop displacing Palestinian civilians from their homes--a cruelty that kills the soul of a people bonded to the land. So often the American view of Israel/Palestine is one-sided. We need to understand the context in which Hamas exists.

(to be continued...)