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hopeful holds the tension/ dew jewels cling the sway/ clasped tight against the world/ not yet knowing it's ok/ the waiting deepens color/ trying to accept every sun ray/ gathering its truth song/ beauty at bay so long/ awaiting opening to day/

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Walkin'...walkin' down a "river"

Our lovely evening continued with a walk down Camden's little river and I got my first taste of homesickness. Camden has it's own set of locks and I realized how central the Ballard Locks in Seattle have been to my life. When I came to Seattle as an angst-ridden pre-senior (in high school) convinced I wanted to get as far as way from everything Colorado as possible, my dad and I visited the locks. I was mesmerized by them, and there was something healing about the rushing water, the flinging fish and the sighing boats. Then, 6 years later, I got to live by them - within walking distance - for two and a half years. Now, I'm in Europe, seeing their version - older, cuter, but locks nonetheless and I miss my home. It's not a comparison thing - they're BOTH good - it's a similar-ness thing.
Anyway, we continued our walk down Camden river - Carrie and I got a chance to catch up and chat, like we did in the "good old days" when we had our accountability meetings. She asked me about my spiritual senses of this place, of London, of Europe in general. I guess I have to say that Europe, to me, feels darker than the US, in a spiritual way. It's hard to describe, it just seems, I think, that the focus over here is elsewhere. Now, of course, I haven't been everywhere in Europe (and I wasn't a Christian and so wasn't paying attention to "that stuff" when I was all over Western Europe 6 years ago) but from what I remember, it was the same sort of feeling: the unknowing lostness, the blindness, the chase-after of other things...essentially idolatry. (Not that we don't do this in the US, it's just, to me, more blatant....)
This is all of us who walked down the river: (from left to right), me, Carrie, Marta (YWAM leader from Portugal but speaks in an English accent), Rebekah (from Edinburgh, Scotland, on Carrie's DTS), and Sara (from Minneapolis, on Carri's DTS). Carrie and I paused only for pictures, and continued talking about spiritual things (which was AMAZING. I LOVE this sort of thing!!) Carrie has said that she's felt a heaviness here in London, more so than in America. A friend of mine, when she got back from traveling the world a few months ago, said similar things: "In Africa, they're hungry for the Gospel. In Asia, they're interested in hearing about it. In America, they're angry at religion. In Europe, they're apathetic." What's great is that I used to be exactly like that - "Good, God can exist, but he can exist "over there" and I'll be "over here" and that's fine. We just won't bother each other." At least, if you're mad, it means you care, or you're paying attention. Apathy is really hard to work with. In Camden, though, it's different: we saw lots of Ouija boards, and I saw some tarot cards, and there is just more darkness, and a desperate sort of searching for something other than what any part of the world they know can offer.
It's ok, though, because God is still in this place. This is something I love about Europe - there is more freedom here, it seems, in some ways than in the country I'm from. This is a wax "seal" on a tree that says "God" on it - this was taken by Sara to mean that we SHOULD get on the strange Italian guy's little canoe who was convinced we were "going the wrong way"...but actually, there is this sort of thing all over the place in Europe. Not God, necessarily, but freedom. I was talking with Marta about some of the laws in Europe - especially in relation to driving (it really is a free-for-all beyond NYC in London when it comes to the roads...), and I was saying how "jay-walking" (which I had to explain to her since people dash across the street anywhere they please so much that there actually isn't a "rule" about cross walks, they're simply a "suggestion") is illegal in the US and I've known people to get tickets for it. She was horrified at this, and went off on how she's suspected that the US is more about control than freedom like it proports to be (she gave other examples, like how, if you declare a party on a voting ballot, you have to vote consistent with that party or something and our healthcare system...).
While I sort of disagree with that interpretation (I think it's less about control than it is about money, especially when it comes to healthcare - and it's not just the US), I LOVE hearing about what other people think about the US. I don't want to be ignorant of the world my country tries to police, and in which appears insensitive and apathetic to anything not of its own. I realize this can be an offensive position to take, but some of the stereotypes of Americans are not totally unfounded and I'm just glad that this all appears to be changing. A church elder and dear friend of mine told me right before I peaced out that since things could not have been worse for Americans overseas a few years ago, things can only have been getting better, especially since Obama became president (whatever you think of Obama, I've learned that the foreign opinion of him is generally VERY high, at least in the UK), so really, now could be a good time to go to Europe. I think, at least on the river walk in Camden, I agree...

Monday, June 29, 2009

'Merican: the OTHER English accent

Back from England today - yes, that's right. Not last night, this morning. But, more on that later. Here's my London trip back to front in a couple posts:

One of the airlines that hops you around Europe is EasyJet. It's decor looks like a blaringly orange misunderstanding between Barbie and one of the Disney Princesses. But, no matter. I WENT TO LONDON!!!
Carrie...apparently, was that excited, too! I flew into Gatwick, took a train to the Victoria Station at London (I wonder if it's an obligation for every UK city to have one of those - Belfast and Edinburgh have one, too!) and met Carrie at Buckingham Palace. Really, The Palace is a lot like the Mona Lisa - overly-romanticized into being this giant feat of artistic prowess or glamor or...something besides an execution-hall-esque dob of concrete. The shiny gold on the tips of everything was awesome, though.
Anyway, that's Carrie in one of those rock-you-right-to-sleep chairs they've got at Hyde Park. You've got to pay a pound fifty to sit there for a couple of hours, but really, it's totally worth it. We had dinner at Santo and then, she introduced me to Marta, a YWAM leader...and the girl who hosted me for my stay in London!
(Marta is this gorgeous Portugese (so she's got the gift of "FEED") and Bristish (so she sounds all proper and awesome while she executes that large helping of gift) 28 year old who lives on Notting Hill.)
So Carrie and I had a lovely but difficult evening together. It was SO good to see her again, but it reminded me of how much I miss her - living with her, meeting with her, talking about stuff with her. She's the only friend my age I've got. And actually, I don't feel like I've got her anymore: God's changed her life and her heart - I'm jealous, yes, and I'm also worried that she's now off to better things than hanging around little old, un-changed me.

Anyway, the next day, Carrie had to flit about readying for Argentina so Marta took me around London in the non-crazed-American-tourit kind of way (even though that, sadly, is what I've found the bit of London I saw to be primarly geared towards). After a day of walking around London and shopping a bit (earrings, of course, and presents for people back home), Marta, Carrie, me and two of her DTS friends (Rebekah from Edinburgh, Scotland, and Sarah, from Minneapolis) went to "The Diner". This restaurant, apparently, is a place of notoreity for the rather boy-crazy Sarah and the trying-to-be-unassuming-but-also-really-likes-boys Rebekah; I think that's why they wanted to go back. The Diner proportedly serves American Food...but it's more like 'Merican with a hint of Europe. That's Marta and Carrie trying to corral a bee that was threatening Rebekah's pancakes and Marta's pecan pie while the rest of us screamed like pig-tailed school girls. (As you can see, the salmon is not cooked and the pecan pie is too fluffy to be American, but it was fairly fantastic anyway).
It was a bizarre experience being one of the ones who "knew better" about the food - traveling round the world to Europe to go to an American food place was not exactly my cup of tea (I don't really like American food even if it's done right...), but it was better than expected - a cup of apple juice, you might say!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Flower Power

My goodness. I thought my sneezes were from jetlag or something -the inside of my face hasn't exploded this bad since those Colorado summers. I'm really really allergic to SOMETHING here, which is unfortunate, and also rather peculiar. I mean, these allergies started pretty much right away. I wonder if it's all of the profusion of life that is billowing all over this property-I-haven't-found-the-end-of-yet. There are whispery trees, flowing fields and flowers like a buffet everywhere. They are beautiful - even living in Seattle; now I know why they call this the Emerald Isle.
There are also two dogs, seven cats and a goldfish on this property, too. Archie is the big, galumphing sweetie of a black lab pictured stage left. Duke is an older hound-collie mix who can climb up and over rock walls. I've only seen four of the seven cats - one is a tiny dot of a calico, two are mangy tabbies and one is a Norris-like blob of a short-haired black cat. (Norris is my baby back home). I LOVE animals and I've had a cat long enough that I can be reasonably sure it's not my furry friends. It may be the pollen, it may be the jetlag, it may be the mold...either way, I'm really hoping and praying it's not going to be like this all summer...

Ok, London today!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Foreign Digs

This is the room I'm staying in. The daughter of the person I'm staying with used to live here, but she's in college at the University of British Columbia. I believe she - Christina - is about my age. Sally, the lady who has kindly opened her home to me for the next couple months, has two other boys (I thought there were three boys, but there are two others). Alex and Ian. I've met Alex - he and his friend Benji walked to the "wee" grocery store in downtown Saintfield (about the length of an eyelash) and I tagged along to see what I could see. I have yet to meet Ian (he won't be home until August I believe).

The house is shaped like a "zed" (Z) and still confuses me a bit, and my room is chilly at night. But, the bed is - if you can't tell- fluffy and girly, which is alright with me. It's better (in some ways) than staying at a foreign hotel where you've got to worry about the safety of your things and being alone.

I worry a lot about being alone. That is one thing I smack up against when I travel. As deeply as I enjoy traveling - woe to me if I don't/can't! - there is a panic that twirls about the inside of my rib cage and steals my breath when I think too much about being alone. I suppose that was one reason I called home tonight - well, that was the reason I called my pastor. The reason I called my grandmother was really to impress her with the instant communication two people can have from halfway around the world.

If you ask for a "restroom" here, you will be shown a bed. If you ask for a "bathroom," you will be shown a tub. If you ask for a toilet, you'll get the bowl. Here at this house resides a very special and somewhat confusing way to waste much more water than necessary...You must thrust the metal handle downward faster than you can (due to the resistance of the water in the tank) and then watch to make sure the deluge that pours forth from the hole that is definitely too small doesn't splash outside the bowl. Putting the lid down doesn't work if the water really wants to get out - it will simply shove the lid out of its way like Saturday night on a Sunday.

The house is on what has to be many acres of property - we took the dogs for a walk today and it was a good half hour before we left Sally's Fields. Gardens and bushes explode from all sides - and I've not finished exploring the grounds yet.

Tomorrow I will be going to London and will not be taking my computer (I'll be staying in a hostel and well...better safe than sorry). I might scrounge around for an internet cafe or something while I'm there. But, hey, I'll be in LONDON!!

Irish Food

Haven't been to grocery store yet. Stop. Slightly worried about finding Meganable* food here. Stop. Sally (lady - from NW originally - with whom am staying) informed of lack of tofu and hard-to-get humus. Stop. Lactose intolerance presents obstacle to savoring otherwise muchly savorable Irish cheeses. Stop.

Found note on kitchen counter inviting kitchen shopping. Stop. Rummaged up small (read: normal-sized) strawberries - sharper and less sweet than at home. Stop. Was warned by co-worker that Irish food would be blander than the States (but this also means, in some cases, healthier). Stop. Goat "cheese" - sharp and non-stomach-hurting. Stop. Will have to look into this upon return. Stop. Oat crackers - good only with the "cheese". Stop. Apple juice - almost as amazing as what has been juiced at home (read: MUCH better than America stores) - that came from a carton. Stop. All liquids come in cartons here apparently. Stop.

Am eating while writing this post. Stop.

*Meganable - anything compatible with, digestible by, or enjoyed by Megan.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One Flew Over: Part The Second

"While you were sleeping, we crossed the Atlantic." Funny, I think I've done that a lot, just never quite for real. Skipping the Pond was...well, I was asleep for a lot of it and couldn't see out the window for most of the rest (which is fine, really because I was able to get up whenever I needed...a lot).

Just in time for my body to remind me that I am indeed, yes, still lactose intolerant (and, of course, stroke of genius at 4am PST Sunday morning would have me pack the Lactaid on my checked bag) I noticed that they don't seem to be putting air sick bags in the Seat Pocket in Front of You anymore.

"Welcome to Dublin." Right. So, I'm in, like a WHOLE different country right now. Apparently, Dublin is really excited about you "sharing the adventure" since this, accompanied by less appropriate images, was splashed all along the jetway into Immigration.

My "adventure" began pretty much right away. I'm standing at Bag Claim Belt #8 when I realize that I left my Journal-Specifically-for-Scotland-at-the-end-of-this-trip and a book I'm borrowing from a friend on the plane. It takes me 20 minutes to figure out who to inform of this matter and another 20 standing in their line. (Bag Claim Belt #8 hasn't moved). I tell the guy-who-looks-young-enough-to-be-my-kid behind the desk and he writes down a bunch of numbers, and lyrical-Irish's back at me something about it all being ok. He tells me to wait, dons a bright yellow vest like he's Goin' In and disappears behind the wall plastered with different airlines' bumper stickers. Another man behind The Counter suggests I go get my bag and come back. Perfect timing: I drag my Stuff for the next Two and a Half Months off Bag Claim Belt #8 and come back just as Yellow Vest comes back to hand me my Almost Lost Items.

I wander around the airport and found a bus from Dublin to Belfast (14E*). I had looked at a map and thought that I'd be able to tell how far it was to Belfast. I think I was about half right. I got off at the first stop the bus made (which, in my defense WAS a long time AND a LOT of people got off here) and called Sally, the lady I'm staying with in Saintfield, County Down (outside of Belfast). Then, I call a friend's cell phone at wake him up at 1am to talk for a bit - I am SO people oriented it's amazing (this might be one reason I occassionally struggle with being overseas right now, much as I LOVE that I am). I'm still waiting to see how expensive that call was - especially since the conversion rate between pounds and US money is 2 to 1.

Anyway, I wait for about an hour before I decide to cal Sally again. Just as before, I had to use my card because all I had at the point were Euros and the UK is clinging fast to their Britishness so they do most everything a little differently (including not using Euros). Sally told me to call back in 5 minutes - she was driving. So, I wait maybe about 2 and a half since I'm really anxious, call back and get the international operator. I hang up, try again and get another international operator: my card is being declined. It's 1am in the US (and I don't have my bank's phone - or the right money - anyway) so I start to panic. Then I realize that all I really need to do is get the right kind of money and I'll be able to make the phone go again.

So, I walk over to the "Tickets and Enquiries" Desk, obtain information about currency exchange, gather all my stuff (jacket, Mr. Waffles, purse, Rhode Island-sized carry on backpack, Texas-sized black box suitcase, random plastic bag full of randomness) and waddle down the street - almost getting hit by a car because I'm looking the "wrong" way down streets I want to cross (yes, driving on the left side of the road really DOES make that much of a difference...), awkward right up to the counter and over-explain my situation to a mountain made out of woman behind the aging glass. She gives me pounds for my Euros, a print-out of exchange rates and shoos me away.

I stagger back to the bus stop, which I've now figured out is called "Newry" but am thinking - oh, maybe it's close enough that she'll come get me. (This is when I bump into the "I really need to be taken care of" crap that is pinning me under quite a heaping lack of Grow-Up). I put pence (a smaller denomination of pound) in the phone to make it go and it connects me just long enough to explain the money situation. It cuts out again and the coins I've got left go straight through the machine like butter. I decide it's time to play my Foreigner Card.

I go up to the "Coffee Shop" and explain that I have no idea how to make this phone work, these coins don't seem to do it and I've got these other ones - teenager behind counter takes "defective" coins out of my hand and gives me less but bigger coins in return, all the while allowing me to continue rambling in my less-wicked English. I feed the Bottomless Pit that is my lifeline at this point and Sally, on the other end, suggests that she'll ring me back. By now, a few locals are giving me the "Poor Lost Foreigner" look, but I'm actually ok. And I'l not self-conscious, either. If you need help, sometimes it's good for people to know that.

The pay phone rings and I finally figure out that I got off the bus an hour and a half too early, but my 14E ticket should still be good. I present it to the counter along with a look of Whiplash and the lady walks me out to the bus stop, assures me it will be ok to reuse and points at the bus wobbling toward us. "Get on this one, and don't get off until the driver makes you - the last stop is Belfast."

An hour half and a beautiful yet somewhat sad wind through the country of Northern Ireland later, I connect with Sally at the bus stop and get a tour of Belfast on the half-hour drive "home." Well, this is certainly one way to grow up, hey? It's also another way to find those Everlasting Arms.

*Side note: E - Euro, L - pound, p - pence, $ - normal money

One Flew Over and Out her Nest

(Written at the Philadelphia International Airport 6:30 pm 6/21/09)

On my flight across the country from the Green Like Whoa City to the City That Needs Brotherly Love yesterday, the entire flight crew was male. I hope I don’t sound sexist, but a place called progress inside me suddenly made more room. Not that it’s here nor there, but the enjoy-your-flight felt different. I noticed. And, I contemplated the life of a steward (on an airplane) for the 10 wonderful minutes I stood in line waiting for the lavatory.

At the Philadelphia Airport, I used my last US coins – after, of course, trying the Euro-dollars I have about 4 times (they look like US quarters!) – to call my dad and my “dad.” Despite the slightly misleading blue sticker that says “$1.00 for 5 long distance minutes” (as in, once your call starts, it takes your $1 even if you don’t use all 5 of those minutes), I enjoyed the brief conversation with my dad in Colorado. I left a message on my “dad’s” cell phone in Seattle.

I was also reminded of why I am slowly but surely withdrawing my participation in US culture…about 150 times in two hours. A digitized-tired woman’s voice perpetuated the all-the-best-for-me-all-the-time mentality every 6.2 minutes so as not to miss one set of ears: “Here at Philadelphia International Airport, you’ll find entertainment to make the wait for your flight fly by. With over 160 award-wining shops and restaurants, we’ve got something for everyone.” Actually, that would be false advertising again, since the only thing Philly IA has for me is a woman’s restroom (it is REALLY hard to eat anything even remotely healthy at airports…).

Per the flight over here (to Philly), I realized that, though this runs counter to my accumulation of stuff complex, one of those neck pillows really does make sudden tiredness on airplanes less embarrassing. So, on my hunt to subdue my addiction (the internet), I found, apparently, the last purple neck pillow at this place. Didn’t find the internet, though (so this is posted after the fact).

Before the internet quest, I talked with a girl who leaned over to me in the waiting area and asked if I was British. I think she wanted to make fun of how Americans said “Birmingham” or something, and I have to admit, I agree: we got screwed out of the cool accents. Of course, across the pond, I’ll be the one with the accent. Hee.

I’ve been to Pennsylvania three times, and the staggering humidity never ceases to smother me. I was in PA (that’s what the natives call it and I dated a PA native, apparently, long enough for the reference stick) around this time last year, and there is still just too much air down here. Living in Colorado has probably ruined me for life.

On a completely separate note, the friend-to-whom-I-attribute-my-conversion left her wedding ring in a bathroom somewhere after only a few months of wearing it. At the time she told me (about three years ago), I simply couldn’t understand that. I’d wanted a wedding ring real, real bad for my entire life and hers drives her crazy enough that she took it off every chance she got? But now…well, let’s just say I know what she means.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I leave my country in 4 hours on a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventure home.

Today, I think for reminders' sake, I was aware of "home" feelings for Seattle - ironically the first time I have felt such since moving here almost three years ago. The past week has been a spinny-crazy vortex of packing (some stuff had remained in boxes since the move to Washington State), the ridding of stuff I don't think I'd ever wanted at Good Will, pulling up roots I'd spent two and a half years laying (and admitting that the staggering blessing of Christy and Carrie is now, officially, over) and setting up a potential baby Christmas for myself back in September when, in my new place (yet to be found), I will unpack all the things that made the cut for "keep."

I had all my meals in my freshly packed, sterile-white, made-to-look-like-new-for-my-replacement room. Various friends and I spread newspaper on the don't-soil carpet, and ate tofu curry, or deli sprout/hummus English muffin sandwiches, or mixed-green salads with blueberries and Balsamic. I unloaded the rest of my food on a friend as a rather skimpy-sized thank you for all he made possible for me today.

I got my hair trimmed. He cleaned my room. My landlord came over for an inspection/discussion of the last-original-roommate-to-move-out caliber. My back tightened in unexpressable emotion. My friend prayed. I realized I'd packed my orthotics in a friend's storage unit. He rode his bike down to go get them. I dropped off my cat with another friend. He prayed some more. I divided up the important books/notebooks between carry on and suitcase. He ran to Safeway to make copies of all important documents. I laid on my bed and started to shake. He rubbed my back out, prayed and washed a vat of raspberries.
He's coming over in about 3 hours to move one last piece of furniture and take on the rest of my "random" stuff that I'd either forgotten to pack (for example, I forgot completely to bring my cat's prescription food to the house where he will be vacationing until September) or need to donate. He will give stuff to its respective people and then, while I'm gone, will take care of the few loose ends I have left here. I am so blessed.

Aside from the backache, I am numb to the adventure, but I'm sure when I'm sitting in the Philidelphia airport at 5pm tonight with no phone, about to board the plane for my second trip to Europe - the first to Ireland and the first by myself, I'll feel it. I'll have the last-minute freak out/I don't want to go because it doesn't feel safe feelings trying to strong-arm me out of having the time, probably, of my life. I'll think of all the people I miss here, all those reading this (I'll admit, I'll probably be tempted from time to time to censor myself, but the whole point of this summer is to discover the self God made in me, so I'll resist). What I won't be able to resist, though, is falling in love all over again with Europe.

All fears to my behind, I'm hyped to the power of rad. And, I leave for my summer adventure in less than three hours. Hopefully, I'll know more why I'm going when I'm there. That is also what 16 hours plane rides are for.

More from the other side!