Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Conscience Laundering and the Mission-Trip-Industrial Complex

How unclassy of me to forget to remove Evelyn's diapers before folks arrived.
Yesterday I gave my readers a thinking exercise; some of you have already submitted your responses, but I’m going to give others another day or so to chime in before I share my thoughts.

Today, I want to talk about the buzz that was all over my newsfeed this morning: Peter Buffett’s New York Time’s Op-Ed “The Charitable-Industrial Complex (along with response pieces like this one by Diane Ravitch) If you haven’t at least read the Buffett piece, please pause for a moment and do so.

Back from reading?  Ok, so what Buffett is arguing is nothing that hasn’t been said before; it’s getting media attention because he is saying it. At the heart of his piece is the issue of ‘conscience laundering.”
As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.
But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.
This phenomenon of conscience laundering is just one of my frustrations with the Mission-Trip-Industrial Complex. Mission trips create the illusion of extreme do-gooding (despite often being harmful) while allowing team members to return home to their old routines washed of their guilty consciences for at least another year.  Think I’m just some lone voice in the wilderness saying there's a problem with how we do mission trips?  Think again. 

Please hear me out, though.  I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with taking trips to see how others in this world live.  I don’t even think there is anything wrong with taking such a trip with folks from your church. Such trips can be exciting and eye-opening. I do object, however, when trips are lifted-up as being more than they really are (educational adventures) and when they damage the mental health and economy of those on the receiving end. Every time I hear someone say, “I feel like I received more than I gave on my trip!” I have to bite my tongue to keep from responding, “Yes, you did. Now what are you going to do about it?” 

So here’s my advice for those considering signing up for a mission trip:

Stop and really reflect on your motivations.  If you want to go because you’ve got an itch to learn firsthand about the world and meet people with very different life experiences, then by all means go, buy lots of souvenirs, spend loads of money at locally owned small businesses, and send me photos of your fantastic adventures. If, however, your agenda is to rescue/teach/evangelize/serve others, please stay home. Consider, instead, becoming a long-term volunteer at a do-gooding organization that works in your own town. If you find this advice baffling, keep following my blog and I'll try to unpack it one step at a time.

My very first short-term mission trip: Zaire 1995.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Missiology 101, Session #1: Feeding the Children

Yesterday I wrote about why I've been silent on issues that really matter to me and gave you a glimpse of some of what I’ve been doing lately. So many of you shared the post with your friends that my readership numbers skyrocketed overnight. So, I’ve decided to take a deep breath and take a stab at offering some coaching on mission programs via this blog. Let’s start with some low hanging fruit, shall we?

Actually, hold that thought for a moment. When I visit my parents, at some point during the visit my mother will inevitably point out ways in which I’ve let my appearance slide and then drag me into the bathroom with tweezers, scissors and cosmetic chemicals in hand. She knows that with a few easy adjustments I can go from homely to chic, so she feels it’s her duty as a mother to intervene. She’s made me promise that when her eyesight starts to fail that I’ll do the same for her. I share this because when I start talking about mission programs, I don’t want to critique strawmen. I want to use real examples, which means that some of you might think you know where I got my example and then word spreads that Taylor’s been badmouthing “X” project or congregation and people get mad and it all spirals down from there. 

So here’s my request if we move forward with this conversation and you suspect I’m talking about you or your congregation. Please think of me as that daughter/mother/sister who just really wants to give you a makeover. I don’t hate you or think you’re ugly. I wouldn’t bother pointing out the issues if I didn’t care and didn’t think improvement was possible. And, I wouldn't use your project as an example if others didn't have the same blindspot. So please don't pull your funding from an FPM-greenlighted project in Congo just because you think I'm writing about you. Pretty please? 

With all that said, let’s begin with our first example. This year I attended a worship service at a healthy mid-to-large sized Methodist congregation in the USA. They are involved in some terrific ministries in both their town and around the world. Good people; fantastic leadership team. I couldn’t help but notice, though, the flyers on their doors about an upcoming mission trip. They were going to a country that receives many honeymooners, eco-tourists, and mission teams. The advertisement promised that team members would have an opportunity to feed local children.

Your assignment: Critique this mission trip (or, at least, the way in which it was publicized)

Yes, I could tell you what ran through my mind when I read the flyer and why my knee jerk reaction was to face-palm, but you are a smart person; I want you to figure this out. If your mind doesn’t immediately start whirling, then give it time. When you have some ideas, share them with me.  You can put them in the blog’s comments section, write them on my Facebook link or send me a private message.We can even start a missiology discussion group if you'd like.

If you have no idea what was unhealthy about the flyer, then begin with some thought exercises. Imagine if a group of foreigners came to your town on a similar mission trip. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a parent or caretaker. Any emotions bubbling up? Have you ever fed a child that was not your own? What was your relationship with the child and/or the child's guardian? What kind of relationship exists between the mission team members and the primary caretakers of the children they are going to feed?

Bonus question: Any thoughts on ways in which a church group going to this country could be helpful? (Let's leave the discussion on the problems of offering help that’s not requested for later)    

I look forward to reading your submissions.  

Feeding my little Ood

Monday, July 29, 2013

What I Haven't Told You and Why

Some of you may be surprised to read that most of the people with whom I regularly interact here in Djibouti know almost nothing (if anything at all) about what I do professionally. For that matter, unless you’ve had extensive conversations with me in the past year, you probably don’t know all that much about what I’m doing either. Even though it's not hard to get me talking about Congo, I rarely write about it—especially not about the issues that are most on my mind. There’s so much to say, and it’s hard to know where to begin.  Even more than that, there is the problem of finding words that convey the message.

Have you ever had the experience of opening up to someone and sharing something important you’ve realized/grappled with only to have the manner of their response tell you that they clearly didn’t get what you were trying to communicate? Has the frustration ever been made worse when they are convinced they already know what you’re saying and proceed to offer an example that does not match at all? If so, you've felt some of what I go through.

My experiences and work in Congo don’t fit neatly into dominant mental models, but that hasn’t stopped folks from trying to shoehorn them into one. Partly this is human nature; it is easier to file things into categories we already know. Partly, though, is that if a bunch of folks really heard what I had to say about mainstream Western mission models (secular and religious), a lot of changes would happen. Uninvited change, of course, is threatening and scary. No one enjoys having the effectiveness of one’s paradigm challenged. By just beginning to publicly point out problems in the way United Methodists in the USA relate to their colleagues in Africa, my father has made himself persona non grata in certain denominational circles and a legend in others. This is one of the reasons why he’s been writing a book and why the book writing process has taken so long. He can’t simply come straight out and write what he wants to say; that would offend too many people, and thus not lead to the desired results. He’s got to tell interesting stories that gently lead the reader into connecting the dots on their own. Self-initiated change is exciting.

The long-standing family joke is that I’ll write my book on missiology just as soon as Dad completes his. Well, it’s looking like that day is coming, so I’ve begun exploratory conservations with the faculty of the missiology department down at the University of South Africa about me entering their doctorate program. If I’m really going to write an academic book, might as well get a doctorate out of it. This way I’d have a dream team supporting my research and writing process. Of course, I’m guessing I’d curse my decision many times while in process (performance anxiety stress-outs), but I suspect that if I never do find the courage to say all the things I’ve been bottling up, I’ll be forever haunted by ‘what-if.’ What if I put my yearning for a world with healthy missiologies above my ego—my anxieties over what people would think, my reluctance to be a lightning rod (I’ve been one before, and it’s not fun), and my fear of my words being twisted and misunderstood?       

While most of you haven’t been obsessing over the root problems with Western mission models since you were a teenager, I suspect there is some issue of which you have an above-average knowledge. For some of you, it's the public school system; for others it is the prison system or gender discrimination or fair labor or city planning or arts appreciation or food supply chains or management styles or health care or even product design. No matter what your soapbox issue is, you can probably relate to your words falling onto deaf ears and even receiving hostile reactions when you point out what seem to you to be common-sense solutions. So can you get now why I’ve gone a bit underground in recent years in my efforts to encourage individuals and groups to re-examine the way they approach their mission initiatives and trips? 

So all of this was one big preface to say that I’m involved in some incredibly fruitful initiatives in Congo in my role as president of Friendly Planet Missiology (FPM). Some of our upcoming projects we’re keeping quiet for strategic reasons. Mostly I haven’t talked about what I do because, well, I’ve found it’s easier (both emotionally and functionally) to get things done when I fly below the radar. The downside of such an approach is that it doesn’t inspire many folks to make financial contributions to our programs, and it doesn’t help FPM’s secondary mission of being an educational resource to folks state-side. Pray for me as this introvert (yes, really I am) seeks balance in my online sharing.     

 Did you know that....  ?

FPM partnered with local doctors and officials to build the Mulongo region's only accredited nursing school. These students staff the local hospital and numerous village health clinics
FPM provides scholarships to female nursing students and is raising funds for the construction of a midwife training center, a medical reference library, and a dormitory for women nursing students whose homes are far away
Among next year's nursing scholarship recipients is the vice-commander (although widely considered to be the brains of the militia) of Lord Vende's Mai Mai army. One of these days I'll need to tell you the story of how FPM's Country Director Rev. Mulongo became her pastor. When Bishop Ntambo heard that "The Shooter" had applied to the nursing school, his eyes grew wide with shock and he said he would relay the good news to President Kabila as soon as possible.     
FPM operates a boat that is used for supply transport (Doctors Without Borders has borrowed it for immunization campaigns), evacuations (used to help leaders trapped during Mai Mai invasions), and more
FPM gave a matching business loan to a co-op of district pastors who had pooled half their salaries for one year to purchase a corn/cassava mill
The UMC's North Central Jurisdiction Volunteers in Mission program is in talks with FPM for a young adult road/boat adventure to Mulongo and beyond. American team members would be expected to provide financing for the cement and roofing sheets for the women's foyer (vocational training center) in Mulongo.  The women of Mulongo have already molded and baked thousands of bricks for the foyer's construction.  
There are well-organized and active troops of scouts deep in Congo. They serve as an unarmed peace-seeking militia for youth in the community.  When FPM teams or church dignitaries come to town, the scouts take the lead in crowd-control, hospitality logistics, and technical support (like setting up the electrical lines and speaker system in the temporary conference tent).  FPM has matched Indiana's scouting leaders with scout leaders in North Katanga to hold a special Jamboree in Tenke, DR Congo next summer.  
While FPM was initially launched by me and my father, FPM's Country Director Rev. Mulongo (left) and the team of volunteers he has assembled are the real brains and brawn behind the organization's work in DRC.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Third Culture Kid and Doctor Who (or How Chez Denyer stays sane)

This is the DW Experience
I know many of you are waiting for me to write about my recent site visit to Mulongo, DR Congo, but those stories are still decompressing in my mind. So, in the meantime, I want to talk about something near and dear to me that has baffled many of my readers. “What’s up with Taylor’s (and her parents’) passion for Doctor Who?”

While sure I had a childhood crush on Wesley Crusher and love Joss Whedon’s work --Buffy and I grew up together--, I am far from having the credits to call myself a true sci-fi nerd. Doctor Who, however, resonates with me on a profound level, and it resonates in a way that I suspect only a global nomad could fully understand. This is why I find it interesting that I haven’t found many Whovians in the Foreign Service (and, yes, I have spent hours contemplating why this would be).

For those who don’t know, Doctor Who is a BBC program that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It features an alien called “The Doctor” who travels through time and space in a ship disguised as an old British police phone box called the TARDIS. The Doctor has a soft spot for Earth and takes earthling companions on adventures. Each adventure, of course, involves encountering an unexpected danger and saving the day through quick thinking. The show is loved for its great writing (humor, wit, heart), and it doesn’t chase ratings with gratuitous gore or sexualized images. Part of the secret to its longevity is that not only can each episode take place anytime and anywhere, the cast and writers are constantly changing. Companions come and go, and The Doctor, when facing a potentially deadly injury, can simply regenerate (i.e. swap out leading actors). DW’s fan base is so large and dedicated that a good argument can be made that it is a religion. I’ve even been tossing around the idea for awhile with clergy pals that we should collaborate and write a Gospel According to DW. 

There are endless things to love about the show, but for me the most important thing is that it is a stabilizing force in my surreal life. It helps me put problems into perspective and lets me re-frame that unsettling feeling that I'm falling down a never-ending rabbit hole into telling myself that I'm simply taking another adventure through the time vortex.

The Doctor’s companions jump from one reality to the next in the TARDIS. One day they are home just chilling in their flat in London; the next they are on another planet in the middle of a war zone or rewriting history. They sometimes struggle to wrap their heads around the fact that their lives don’t make sense, that they are living in multiple realities, and that each time they return ‘home’ they are no longer the person who left. There are the endless goodbyes, the strain of always being ‘the other,’ and the questioning of meaning, importance, ethics and identity. And this is just talking about those who started traveling as youth/adults.

But what about a person (and I’ll try not to give spoilers) conceived in the time vortex? Such a person can’t truly call any time or place home. Could such a person ever belong anywhere, or would the spaces between places always feel more comfortable? My daughter Evelyn will be able to relate to such a person. She was conceived in Zambia, born in the USA, baptized in Congo and learned to walk in Djibouti. She’s not even two yet, and she has more stamps in her passports than most folks get in a lifetime. For her, concepts such as ‘re-entry shock’ will be meaningless. Re-entry to where? The USA will probably just be another place she occasionally visits but not sure she could adapt to American mental paradigms enough to be happy living there long-term (and frankly, I'm not sure I could either). There are lots of books, studies and articles about people like Evelyn. The fashionable label is “Third Culture Kid” (TCK), although I won't bother rehashing that literature here.

For this post, I just wanted to explain that DW provides me with useful Freirean codes  with which to process my experiences. It keeps me sane by making my life seem normal. And, it's lots of fun to watch.

My husband isn't a full Whovian (yet), but he has started watching the seasons that my in-laws recorded and mailed to us.

Trying to drive the TARDIS

Tell me, Face of Boe, Am I alone in my craziness?

Evelyn meets a Dalek

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bid List and Spousal Support

My Foreign Service Officer husband, Stuart Denyer
On August 1st the U.S. Foreign Service’s summer 2014 bid list is scheduled to be released. We are halfway through our second assignment.  If you know how the Foreign Service works, then I’ve just told you everything you need to know about my husband’s current state of mind. If you don’t, well, let me try to explain a few things.

The U.S. Foreign Service is like a giant game of musical chairs.  Every few years every officer has to vacate her/his job and find another one. It doesn’t matter if you loved the job and were fantastic at it, once the music starts it is time to move. The first two rounds the powers-that-be cut you some slack and help you find your next post. After that, the game gets a lot tougher.

On a pre-announced date you are able to download a long list of upcoming job vacancies. It is up to you to figure which of those jobs are realistic options (do you have the required skills and experience or time to get trained?), research which jobs you’d actually want to have (it helps to have googling skills and contacts with the inside scoop on office dynamics), and apply to your favorites (yes, this means resume overhauls, cover letters, wooing e-mails, interviews, etc).  You’ve got to act fast because your peers are doing the same thing, and woe to the slowpoke.

That brings up another oddity of the Foreign Service.  While in most professions one’s peers are also in some sense one’s competition, the FS takes this to another level.  Networking is everything. You need a positive corridor reputation and friends advocating for you in order to get selected for your preferred posts. But, this is an up-or-out institution, and sometimes you and your friends will be competing for the same job. Did I mention that in the Foreign Service the bulk of your social life activities tend to include colleagues (and their spouses and kids)?  There can be pressure-cooker moments—some of which are the stuff of Foreign Service legend.

So, since I have your attention, may I take this moment to tell all of my readers who are in the Foreign Service that my husband, Stuart Denyer, is incredibly awesome? 

Stuart Denyer is a romanticized version of an old-school diplomat. He’s dapper and chivalrous, never snaps out in anger, knows his stuff, always has your back, earns the love and respect of local staff, learns quickly, never lets others take the fall for his mistakes (and will discreetly help you with your problems), plays the piano at parties and even stays late to help clean-up. Don’t interpret his mild manner and humility as a sign of weakness. His impressive collection of State Department awards does his bragging for him.

Stuart is smart, hardworking and loyal. The only thing wicked about him is his sense of humor. As one who has been his wife for 6 years and his ballroom dancing partner since 1997, I can assure you he’s in a class of his own.      

So I guess what I’m really trying to say can be summed up in song by Fred Rogers:

Did I mention he's also a professional organist?

and a doting father

Monday, July 22, 2013

Malaria, Fasting, Field of Dreams, and Standing in Solidarity

These women were returning from doing laundry at the river. Dad noticed the task had taken them all day. I noticed their loads included uniforms from the choir that had welcomed us at the airstrip.
So I Skyped with my parents last night and found out that Dad is down with malaria again. He’s sweating it out on the living room couch in Plainfield, Indiana and stubbornly not seeking professional medical attention because he says local doctors would overreact (translation: he doesn’t want the medical bills). He hadn’t been taking any anti-malaria meds on our recent trip to DR Congo, but I’d made sure that Mom had some extra pills, so we at least talked him into taking a couple Mefloquine tablets yesterday.

I mention this because, while my father and I agree on many things, there are ways in which we differ. I, for example, take my anti-malaria pills because I’m no good to the team if I’m sick, and I’ve got a young daughter who needs her mommy. Dad, on the other hand, takes the solidarity approach. If the Congolese members of our team don’t have the luxury of taking anti-malaria meds, then neither will he. Dad’s primary mode of transportation in Congo is bicycle; I tend to ride in/on machines with engines while there. Some of our methodological differences are philosophical, but mostly they are related to age and gender (a young mother is more at risk than a crazy grandpa).

The question of how to live in solidarity with our colleagues in Congo is complex. Back in 2005 when I was living in Kamina, there was one day that hit me hard. I had spent the afternoon with two Congolese friends, and they were escorting me back to my house so I could have the dinner the bishop’s cook had prepared for me. They knew I had promised to play with the kids at the orphanage after my meal, so they said they would just wait outside for me. “You must be famished too,” I said. “Why don’t you go home and eat with your family?” They gave each other the do-we-tell-her? look and replied that there was no point walking home because the food money for the month had already finished and the household was fasting until the next payday.

They explained to me the system commonly practiced by families in the community: when food supplies run short, you divide the household into two and teams eat one meal every other day. The ones who have eaten more recently are in charge of doing the labor-intensive work for those who are hungrier. Food is consumed before bedtime so one gets a better night’s sleep and still has energy for morning chores.

As you can imagine, this put me off my appetite, and I felt too guilty to eat the abundant meals being made for me. After a couple days, my energy levels dropped, and the cook started panicking. “You must eat more! If you become thin and sickly the bishop will blame me and I’ll lose my job!” he pleaded. He was right. My solidarity fast was helping no one and stressing out those tasked with keeping me safe and healthy. As the bishop has pointed out numerous times over the years, while sickness, accidents and death are a regular occurrence in Congo, when it happens to an American volunteer it makes international headlines and creates huge problems for the hosts who failed to protect their guests.

This mother (stripes) gave birth by candlelight with the help of this graduate of FPM's El Dorado Nursing School (left) who had received a scholarship from this donor (top right)

I don’t think there is an easy answer on how to live in solidarity with others. I could fast with my Djiboutian neighbors during Ramadan and some might appreciate the gesture, but I still wouldn’t really know what it’s like to enter into a long religious fast when there’s labor-intensive work to do and no air-conditioning. I could start wearing a hoodie when I’m state-side, but I’m still never going to know the experience of people suspecting me of being a criminal just because I’m not wearing my Sunday best. Even if I gave away everything I owned and made a vow of poverty, I wouldn't know the fear, anxiety and depression that accompany involuntary poverty.

All this to say that while attempting to live in solidarity with others is good, we must not romanticize our actions. I am now a member of the North Katanga Conference, and I have pledged to do my utmost to stand in solidarity with my colleagues. And while in some ways we are now in the same boat, I still have advantages that shelter me from the risks and difficulties they face (I have health insurance through my husband's job, for example).

We can pray and strive for the leveling of the playing field, but those of us born into privilege should never forget that God’s primary concern is for the less fortunate, and that means that as much as we may yearn to unite all of God's people and have the Beatitudes be about us too, sometimes the Gospel isn't talking to us.  Sometimes we aren’t invited.

(My father raised me on Field of Dreams. Just because God calls you to do something big doesn't mean it's all about you.) 

Note: In this post I leave several key things unsaid hoping that the reader will connect the dots.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


If you aren’t one of my active Facebook friends and especially if you aren’t FB friends with at least one of my immediate family members, you may have missed the announcement that earlier this month I became an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Now some of you may be thinking “Wait—weren’t you already a pastor?” Well, yes, but before I was a pastor in the way that an adjunct professor is a professor. Now I’m a full member of the North Katanga Conference (DR Congo), so this is a bit of a big deal.

Others of you know the backstory of this long journey—some of you much more than most. Just like many professors and pastors, I’ve fantasized about the day when I would be free to speak openly about the rings of fire I jumped through. Now that the day has arrived, I am torn between leaving the past behind me and sharing my experience as a case study for those in similar situations (or for academics critiquing the current ordination process). You see, while my story got its happy ending, I lament that I failed to blaze a smooth path for kindred spirits whose callings don’t fit into the dominant ministry paradigms. That said, to all those who advocated in board meetings and hallways for an affirmation of international itinerancy and to those who were heartbroken and angry when a battle was lost, I want to assure you that there’s no need to cry for me. I was commissioned in the state of my birth with extended family and childhood friends in attendance and ordained in my adopted home in a grand celebration organized by a leadership team that embraces my ministry and my globally nomadic marriage.  How lucky am I! 

Now that the anticipated day has arrived, I am starting to explore what life on the other side of ordination looks like. In case you are curious, I’m seriously considering applying to a doctorate in missiology program down in South Africa and eventually writing curriculum on missiology. This coming year, however, I’ll be busy helping my husband bid on his next assignment, attending my brother’s wedding, coordinating FPM, launching an FPM-owned business (with the end-goal of staff salaries being paid by its profits), assisting the Church in Djibouti, and preparing to move to another yet-to-be-determined country.

So, for the moment, I think I’ll simply celebrate this victory and leave my sermon about losing an incredible opportunity if we don't overhaul the system soon for another day.

Much Love,


Why yes, Wesley Seminary classmates, that is Rev. Gertrude beside me.  She's on faculty at Africa University now.

Bishop Ntambo spoke about the over 20 years he's known me before asking me the historic questions--in Swahili.  

Yes, I did successfully answer all the questions in Swahili.

Wonderful to have my husband, daughter, and parents there.

My favorite person that day-- the chair of NK's ordination committee!
Gaston (the NK pilot) and Jeanne were able to come; Gaston has just returned to town after flying the new Cessna Caravan all the way from the USA to Lubumbashi.

So excited that Rev. Bondo could attend.  (FYI Plainfield UMC: You sponsored his studies at Africa University, and now he is on faculty there!)

Link to ordination day photo album

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Khamsin! (or, Why my house is filthy and I'm covering my entire head in public)

Exhibit A: This front porch was swept and mopped Tuesday evening. This is how it looked Wednesday morning.

So I just got back home to Djibouti after about two months of traveling.  I've got lots of travel stories, but more about that later.  Right now I want to tell you about my first July in Djibouti.  I'd heard all sorts of horror stories about the heat of Djiboutian summers, so I'd braced myself for the worst.  Stepping off the plane this weekend I thought "Well, it is hot, but it's not that hot what with this strong breeze."  Thus began my introduction to what many around here refer to as the khamsin winds.

What is the khamsin like?  Well, imagine standing in front of a giant industrial fan... only then imagine that the fan isn't blowing just air; it's blowing hot dirt and sand at you.  Yeah, that's Khamsin.  According to Wikipedia, the name comes "from the Arabic word for "fifty"... these dry, dust-filled windstorms often blow sporadically over fifty days, hence the name." The amount of dirt the winds blow into the house is incredible.  Any effort to dust or sweep it all away is a lost cause.  And trying to accomplish anything outdoors (like, say, shopping at the produce market) is miserable;  the sharp winds sting exposed skin, make the eyes scream and coat the hair in filth in a matter of seconds. 

It now makes perfect sense to me why women from this region of the world would decide to wear a long dark robe to cover all their skin and their nice dress and then wrap a scarf around their heads (and why they would assume that anyone who didn't do likewise was showing off her body----kind of like those undergrads who go out in miniskirts on freezing January nights in DC)  This isn't about modesty, folks; it's about weather-appropriate clothing over vanity. It's got me thinking that perhaps some of those passages in ancient religious texts about women covering their hair in public would be like me thinking "Dang Girl, put a coat on!" 

Just something to consider...

Exhibit B: Since I didn't want to wash my hair again and my daughter just broke my new sunglasses, wrapping a scarf around my entire head (I could see through the thin fabric) was logical thing to do when taking the dog out for his walk today.