Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
I went down last weekend to visit dear Sandra Plett, who has been living in Mexico, as a MBMSI missionary for the last year and a half. We had a blast. Here are some pics to tell the story (there are more on my facebook, for those of you who have access).
I was thrilled all week to see orange trees in full, um, bloom (is that what you say with fruit?).
I also got to hang out a bit with the TREK girls (Laura, Nikki, and Angie) who have been in Guadalajara for a month, and have 6 more to go. It was great to get to know Laura and Angie, and to re-connect with Nikki who lived in dorms when I was an RD, and who is actually in GDL for her internship with CBC.
On Monday, Sandra and I headed downtown to see the sights. We wandered through the largest market I have ever seen in my life. It was about four stories, and definitely at least a couple of city blocks big, maybe more. One story was just food stands, like tacos and juices. And a large part was "leather goods" - cowboys hats, boots, saddles, belts...I guess GDL is a cowboy's dream. Another large part that had just been set up was for Christmas. I swear that every strand of lights they could find was lit up and blinking in some way. It was incredible...and a bit overwhelming. I forgot to take a picture.
Outside of the largest museum downtown, we found some fun "chairs" that a certain Mexican artist has created. They were a lot of fun.
Everywhere we went, it was Christmas! Decorations started popping up all over the place during the week. The funny thing was that those ugly tinsel ones that are up on our lamposts were also on the lamposts there as well. Guess someone's got a universal deal on those babies.
While I'm not the greatest history buff, I really appreciate it, I think largely in part because North America is so "new" in comparison. I remember in Peru, just loving the Incan remains and being fascinated with imagining what life was like for them - why did they worship the way they did? How did they build these mammoth buildings that still exist today and our carpentry is destroyed in 50 years? It fascinates me.
So...everywhere I go in Latin America, I'm always impressed with these huge Catholic churches that were built hundreds of years ago, brick by brick, often as a demonstration of the European powers that came in and enslaved all the nationals, built over their graveyards. So ornate, so detailed, I can't imagine how long they took to build, and the controversy that surrounds them.
Monday, touring downtown, Sandra also led me into an old government building because she said there was some neat art in there. Well, we entered, and as we turned a corner to go up a level, I gasped. This is what was before us, covering the ceiling to the stairwell:
The artist is a popular one, known for depicting his ideas - philosophies, politics, religion, and controversy. And it is beautiful and horrid all in one. He uses such brilliant colour, and depicts some horrible events - and gets his point across. I was impressed.
Tuesday was my birthday - which was fun to share in Mexico with Sandra and Jen. It was a relaxing day, sitting by the pool, and heading out for dinner that night. Here we are...Wednesday we headed to another part of the city called Tlaquepaque - all say that with me now (I'll tell you how to later if you can't) - which is best described as an artesan area. I loved every minute of it. Beautiful old homes converted into art galleries and very very fun stores. Oh, and big Catholic churches (of course!).
Here's some of the artwork outside on the street in Tlaquepaque:
Here's an entrance to one of the galleries:
And here's a very nice man I met. He played me a few songs.
Thursday Sandra brought me to Tonala, another area of the city, which on Thursdays and Saturdays practically converts to one giant marketplace. It was a fun adventurous day, looking for Christmas gifts and wandering throughout the stalls.
Friday, Sandra and I had decided to head back downtown to see about going to a few of the museums (which had been closed on Monday). My favorite museum (also the largest) had another area of "ceiling paintings" by the same artist from Monday's adventure. I didn't get great pictures of it - it's like the Sistine Chapel - you just need to be there. But here's an example of his work:
Overall, it was just a great trip. Relaxing and adventurous. I love travelling to a place when you know someone who lives there. You get to see some of the things and meet a few of the people that you wouldn't necessarily meet as a regular tourist. (Thanks Sandra!)
And now, I am home. It is snowing like crazy outside, and I am waiting for my luggage to arrive one of these days. They say it is coming today, but I am doubtful. Turns out that in Guadalajara yesterday morning, my bags were tagged as "voluntary separation" - which means I supposedly volunteered that my bags could travel separately from me. Funny...no one talked to me about that. Neither in English, ni en espanol. So...maybe my bags told the airline clerk that they wanted to go their own way...
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Sandra came and picked me up from the airport this morning - after I had about 2 hours sleep last night - and it really all felt surreal. One, I'm in Mexico. Two, I'm hanging out with Sandra after more than a year of seeing each other. And three, every time I take a plane to another country, I'm amazed that we have managed to hurl large tin cans into space, full of people, and make it half way across the world in a night.
I just awoke from a three hour nap - trying to recuperate from the lack of sleep last night. Let the adventures begin!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Our good friends, Kevin and Christa Brand, along with baby Wyatt, moved up to Quesnel in August - so this long weekend was a great opportunity to venture up north and see how our friends are faring in the cold. (Please note: all of us lower-mainland "city slickers" found it cold...Kevin made sure we knew we were wimps.)
Here's some pictures to share the stories...
We spent a lot of time playing board games. It was fun...and what else are you expected to do when it's freezing outside. (Okay, well it wasn't freezing...)
Here's Christa with Wyatt - it was awesome to see them in a big house, and to see how Wyatt is growing and changing. He's very impressed with the jolly jumper, even if he doesn't look SO happy in this picture!
And of course, you can't go up north without the boys (sorry...men) acting the part. Here is Kevin shooting at pop cans from his dining room.
The girls had a blast as well. Though we did more lady-like things...like building fires and cooking hotdogs. You know, typical tasks that we're taught as young girls.
Here's Kevin with his war-wound. He was now also subjected to fire-duty and cooking hot dogs.
And then...the piece de resistance - Girls Night in Quesnel. Laura, Marcy, Elise, and I took Christa out and away from the house for a bit. We had such a fun night on the town. First stop...the bowling alley. Second stop, Mr. Mike's, which I didn't know had changed since it's buffet days. Anyone remember going to Mr. Mike's for buffet? So we had drinks and dessert. Here's Laura demonstrating how huge the bowling alley is. I'm sitting at the "scoreboard seat" - and can fit all 8 lanes, the entire alley, into one picture. Did I mention it was 5 pin? I won't recount scores...
Overall I have to say that I give Quesnel a gold star. I mean, the girls working at the bowling alley were nice and even polite - when do you ever find someone working at a bowling alley that appears to love their life? And the fellow Quesnel-ians even jokingly jumped in for some of our pictures. Can't say any of us are packing our bags to head up north...but I definitely had a great weekend! (and am excited that the Brands are coming down south for Christmas!)
Monday, November 05, 2007
I have to admit that Thursday, I was exhausted...and the weekend hadn't even started. I'm sitting here, Monday, and glad to say that all went well - and I had some interesting moments: fun, challenging, out-of-the-ordinary, and thought-provoking.
Friday night I went with "Team 2" to an Ethiopian Restaurant. It was a good time. Here is a pic to show you the food...
Here's half of the group enjoying their Ethiopian experience.
I love Vancouver for this. You can try anything, experience a variety of cultures and food, all within walking distance.
Another big event Friday night for our group was the filming of a movie at the Ivanhoe where we were staying. Of course this got everyone excited...especially as they were told that Steven Seagal would be at the Ivanhoe that night. This was a short-lived excitement...especially when they were further told that actually Steven Seagal wrote the movie. He wouldn't even be there. And...the movie was going straight to DVD. But still...we got a first-hand experience of being on a movie set. Even partially in one, as a couple of our rooms faced the cameras.
As the movie was set in Memphis, we had a variety of cop cars, fire trucks and ambulances all "from" Memphis...
Here we are Friday night like the good "country folk" we are, watching a stunt man jump from the fourth floor onto this giant orange blow-up mattress thing. It's like the "blob" you would have at summer camp, but deflates as the guy jumps onto it...and then takes 20 minutes to blow up again in order to do the take again. We watched one good jump, and gave up on the rest.
I'd have to say the funniest part was that a number of the crew were sitting in the lobby of the hostel waiting to go outside for their parts. I walked into the lobby and realized that 12 very handsome African-American men were dressed in "bomb squad" and SWAT team uniforms. However, I couldn't come up with any excuses to stay and chat...
On a more serious note, I had a very reflective weekend personally. I struggle between the call for us as Christians to love the poor, the widowed and the orphaned, and my own human nature, and the human nature of others. I realize that mankind is broken...and I've seen it over and over again. I think I've been tainted and hurt, as we all have at one point or another, by other people. And we've done the same to others at one point as well, I'm sure.
Friday night I was alone for a couple of hours and decided to walk to Starbucks (one block from the Ivanhoe). Wouldn't you know that in that time, I met a man who obviously had been hurt at one point in his life himself. He told me how he'd just got out of jail, and how he'd been thrown out of Starbucks for...well...let's say "involving" himself with one a girl in the back room. As he says this to me, he's starting to get closer and closer. A big man, maybe 6 feet, and just big. I start to make plans in my mind. The first thing I did was instinctual - an elbow to the gut to show him I didn't want him near me. And it worked. He got the point, and bid me a good night. And I took many deep breaths, looked around outside before I left the Starbucks, and jetted it back to the Ivanhoe.
How do you love people in this life, but also take care of yourself?
The second scenario took place Saturday afternoon. I'll give you the short version. Again, I was by myself (rule #1 of UMA - not supposed to be by yourself...but I'm staff, right?). I was waiting for a team outside of a building - not realizing that they were already inside. As I waited, a street kid was walking along towards me. I'll admit I took a deep breath, and thought "here we go".
Let me clarify that my history of working in "poor" areas has always involved me being picked out of crowds by street people to talk to. This girl was one of those who picked me out of a few people. She walked straight past me, then double-backed and stared me in the eyes. She came real close and started asking me to validate her. "I'm being civil with you, right?", she stared in my eyes. She place a hand lightly on my chest - "We're just two people, connecting right now, right?" "Yes", I kept saying. Where this was going, I was pretty sure I knew, but also was curious.
She asked me to buy her coffee. I agreed to it...and then she starting asking for more. Cash, clothes, a place to stay, time for a conversation. I told her that at that point, all I could offer was to buy her coffee and a meal. I checked in with one of my team leaders who was inside the building, and then told him I'd be right back. While I talked with him she was muttering to herself, swearing at herself, for pushing herself on me, from the broken sentences that I could understand. She herself was struggling...obviously not drugged, not high, but struggling with a mental illness, that allowed me to hear the two sides of her heart. She was using me, and I knew that. But she also regretted it at the same time, somewhere deep inside of her.
She and I walked across the street to a food court. We walked in the doors and I asked her what she felt like. "Do you want pizza?" "Yeah, pizza would be okay," she said. " What kind do you want?" I asked. "Shut up!" She yelled. Then she went and picked out her pizza. "Do you want a drink?" I asked. "Yeah, that would be great. Thanks so much," she lovingly replied. I went to pay, while she whispered in my ear, "Ask for more money". I told her that we couldn't do that, and that I needed to return to my group. She asked if she could get in touch with me. I told her I didn't live in Vancouver. "But you come here often, right?" "No, not really" I replied. "Oh". She looked defeated. "Okay, well...thank you so much for everything." She came in for a big hug.
We stood there, a lingering embrace in the middle of the food court. Me with my clean new clothes, her with her garbage bag of belongings. And I left her there, in the food court, with her pizza in hand...feeling like I was fleeing.
I left that experience feeling awful. I am called to meet with all people; to connect, to interact, to love openly. But, I have walls, stereotypes, hesitations. I struggle with that. I spent much time this weekend thinking about that fact. What am I missing? Where do I need to grow and change? I also recognize that my specific calling is not the downtown Eastside of Vancouver. My specific calling right now, is discipleship, and part of that is in bringing students to the downtown Eastside, an effort to open their eyes, and have them struggle with the same questions I'm still struggling with, 8 years after my first trip there. But still, the greater calling that we all share, is to take care of each other, to love each other, despite what we've done, but more for who we are.
I don't have answers, but I am thankful for the moments that make me realize where I lack.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Obviously the household is a little less...well...rested.
And Charlee is slowly getting used to Bodhi... Slowly...
I celebrated Bodhi's birth by going to the Canucks vs. Detroit game. I think he understood...after all, this will be his future hero:
This is my favorite part of each Canucks' game...the little boy that gets to skate onto the ice with the pros and stand for the anthem...
Alicia - who is a GREAT friend for bringing me...and for just being my friend in general... - and I needed a good pic of the two of us at the game. This is the 18th try...and honestly the best we could do. I think I look a little scared. Maybe I was....?
In the midst of all this excitement, the Hoovers were up from Costa Rica. Which now makes me miss Costa Rica. Carmelinda and I had fun together...
Well, life is exciting! Who knew so much could happen in one weekend!
UMA #2 starts tomorrow...back to Vancouver until Sunday...I'll hopefully have some good stories for you all after the weekend!
Monday, October 22, 2007
1. Only watch if you enjoy Beatles music
2. Only watch if you can handle a little "artistic nudity"
3. Only watch if you enjoy artsy drug trips...not from experience, but as portrayed on film. Ahem.
4. Only watch if you want Beatles songs stuck in your head for the rest of your life. Or at least so much so that you buy the soundtrack the next day...
5. Only watch if you can handle 14 year old teenagers in the theatre giggling, throwing popcorn, and running up and down the aisles as you watch (and realize that you were once them...and maybe on certain days still are)
And lastly, only tell me if you watched it, if you enjoyed it. I don't want to lose your friendship. (And remember, I put limitations out there).
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I don't have tons to share right now, but felt like I owe you all something. I know what it's like to check blogs and think "update already!" (ahem, Jeremy Thompson and Laura Hooper, not to name names or anything). And I know people have better things to do than write in blogs - it's probably better to live what you're writing about than to write about what you're living.
I feel like I'm in my groove right now. I love my job, which after last year, is refreshing to say. I love my church, which after the last few years of feeling "unsettled" is also refreshing. I now am part of a great "life group" that meets Thursday nights...wonderful people. I really look forward to Thursday night. And I am also teaching Sunday School. Now maybe that's the one part that isn't "groovin" so well right now...but at the same time, it's my challenge and a passion to not give up (I teach ten 8-11 year olds...8 of which are boys...rowdy boys...who all like to talk at once, about anything, the entire 40 minutes that we are together).
I also love that I only work four days a week, and get to play with a fantastic one-year-old on my Friday off. And when I come home for work the other four days, she meets me with kisses...and giggles.
I love her parents - my housemates - who remind me what true relationship and love looks like...and have included me as part of their family. Carleigh told me yesterday that now that I talk about their daughter as much as they do, I am officially a family member.
It's a fun season...and I am very thankful for it.
Tomorrow I head home with my dear cousin for the weekend - a Thanksgiving visit (two weeks post-Thanksgiving) in an effort to avoid Thanksgiving traffic on the ferry. I'm excited to be home for a bit and remember what autumn on the Island looks like.
In two weeks I get to lead another 40 students into Vancouver on UMA #2 - time is flying! I just finished marking post-trip papers, and now the next batch of pre-trip papers are coming to my desk.
And...in just about four weeks, I head to Mexico to visit the lovely Sandra Plett , and to turn 26.
Anyone else groovin?
Monday, October 01, 2007
The students spent each day differently, depending on which team they were on and what their schedule consisted of; some cleaned for Gloria at Living Waters, some worked with Dodson Rooms or MCC "More than a Roof Housing", cleaning and hanging out with the tenants, and others walked the streets around East Hastings, chatting it up with people who were busy shooting heroin or smoking crack at the same time.
I love it.
I love UMA because it changes our students' perspectives. It makes them question what they have always believed. It causes them to freak out a little, or get really angry - it makes them feel emotions about things that they may have never thought about before: poverty, addiction, sex trade, the upcoming Olympics and the plans of shipping the homeless elsewhere in order to keep up appearances, safety injection sites, methadone clinics, the response that we have as Christians, the responsibilities that we have as Christians. And ultimately, it breaks down those walls of fear that separates us from each other.
I also struggle with UMA because we "drop in" on the downtown east side, and then drop out again just three days later. But, until we can send students to be there full-time, I hope and pray that our presence there is a blessing, never a hindrance or curse to those that are there full-time.
May the lessons that are learnt this weekend motivate our students to action. They can no longer claim ignorance about the fact of poverty and pain that exists just outside our doors. And they can no longer claim that Canada is "pure" or free of these things.
Did you know that the V6A postal code - downtown east Vancouver - has the same percentage of HIV/AIDS infected people as Botswana? That V6A postal code has the highest percentage of HIV/AIDS infection in all of North America. It is one hour from my door to theirs. If that doesn't motivate me to be a part of positive change, I don't know what else will.
And so...one down, three to go. One quarter of the first year students now get it. Now know what is going on downtown. Now I get to share it with the rest. Another 50 are coming with me again November 1-4. That's one month away. But for today, I rest, and share some pictures with you.
This is Emily. She is a senior student at CBC and agreed to come along this weekend as my "assistant"...and she was a God-send. I appreciated all her help - there was no way I could have had it all go as smoothly as it did without her. Thanks Emily!
Emily and I had our own fun "urban adventures" - not being "City Girls" ourselves, we had some interesting excursions, and learnt to see the city in a new way. Part of our daily routine included heading to Safeway to pick up "extras" - jam, cheese slices, water - anything that we ran short on throughout the weekend. So our first big adventure involved our trip to Safeway. When we arrived, we saw this sign:
It peeked our curiosity. We don't even know how to pronounce it...is it a "Moo-vator" or a "Mauve-ator"? For those of you who are not city slickers, you would appreciate our curiosity and excitement when we learnt that it is this:
An escalator without stairs! Who knew? (Evidently, as I shared this with students throughout the weekend, quite a few people know this.)
Then, Emily and I, after figuring out how to use the water dispenser to fill the giant water jugs, were being laughed at by our friendly Safeway cashier, whose name (I kid you not) was Igor. So we took a sheepish picture of Igor:
Upon returning to the Ivanhoe Hotel (or hostel, really) where we housed our team for the weekend, Emily and I had some time to go wander a bit. We found ourselves in Chinatown, one of my all-time favorite places in Vancouver.
I was born in the Year of the Rooster. Guess there could be worse.
Then we came across the most beautiful park, in the middle of Chinatown, Dr. Sun Yat Sen Park. We turned a corner and found this path, which made me feel like I was in the middle of some storybook:
And then we turned another corner, and realized that it was even better:
One of the highlights of this trip for me was on this same day. Emily and I were walking to Chinatown, and first passed through a section of Main St., right near the Ivanhoe, and realized that they were demolishing, from inside out, a building on the street.
Wondering what it had been, as I was very familiar with the various buildings on this strip, I stepped back and looked at the sign, and was in shock. I had walked past this very building every UMA trip for the last 7 years, and every time, asked God to bring it down. And now, here I was standing in front of this "Adult" movie theater...a place that I had despised for what it produced, and represented, and allowed within its walls...a place of shame and perversion...now just a hollow shell of a building. And I marvelled. And then realized that I shouldn't have been so surprised. God heard me...and I'm sure the many others that uttered the same prayer under their breath as they walked past it. Now, I have yet to see what it will become.
Overall, it was a great weekend. I'm looking forward (wearily) to the next three. And hoping that the rat that ate a hole in my bag won't be there when I return.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Okay, so that's rather hideous - and embarassing that I'm reacting this way.
In real life...I've heard so many stories lately from friends about situations and relationships in their lives, or in the lives of their friends or family, that are so heavy and rich with sadness. Do you know the types of stories I mean? Stories of brokenness.
Interestingly enough, while it has attacked my heart and made me pensive, I am also rather light in it all. I would not presume that this has anything to do with me, but rather that my Creator is granting me this. I think that to be heavy with the brokenness I see in life right now would not allow me the opportunities to speak life into people and to lift them to the Father as trustingly. I thank God that He picks up the dingy, shattered, shameful, rusty pieces. Because if we had to do it on our own? The result would be gangrene.
"Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something that needs our love." - Rainer Maria Rilke
Friday, September 07, 2007
And of course, her friends came to join - including London, who's very mature now that she's a big girl. (Our parties have changed since college....)
Last week, I was hanging out at Misty's house having dinner with her and her sister, chatting about life, when all of a sudden the rain stopped, and the sun came out...and we had the coolest view. Funny as we'd been talking about some major life stuff, and actually feeling a little discouraged, and the double rainbow came out - in fact we even saw three at one point - and decided that it was a reminder of Who is in control...
And this is today - just so you remember what I look like. And I got my hair cut...and I think it looks pretty hot. So...I'm mostly just fishing for compliments. Anyone?
Ok...now for the best part. Gary and Carleigh had a photo shoot done a couple weeks ago (they are the couple that I live with...and they are great...and I am enamoured with their baby girl...we're best buds). Anyways, here are some of the best shots...
That's about it for now...first "Urban Mission Adventure" is just around the corner - but I know it's all gonna work out just fine..I love my job!