Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I'm going to India!

Finally, after two years of being interested in the YAV program, I know where I'm going to be living in September: Kerala, India.

I flew out of San Antonio on Thursday morning to arrive in Louisville, Kentucky around 3:00 PM. I found the other prospective YAVs waiting on me at the airport. A baggage cart hit my plane when we were pulling out of Houston (a connection I had to make) so we were a little late, but the 20 people waiting didn't seem to mind.

Everyone introduced themselves and I was still anxious because of not knowing anyone but by the end of the 15 min. van ride to Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary I just felt good about where I was. We were all welcomed enthusiastically and people continued to filter in from the airport.

Now, I had checked the invitation email to see how many people had received it (about 16) but it turns out about 35-40 people were at the placement event. This made a lot of us nervous. I especially shy away from competition and with a program like this you have enough worries already.

To sum up the weekend: it was amazing. The amount of people was perfect. I've never felt part of a community so quickly that truly supported each other in their joys and struggles. It was intense: a lot of discernment took place, but it was healthy. I wouldn't change anything.

I interviewed with Guatemala (as did 21 others) and India (11 others). Now, Guatemala was great but I'll stick to talking about India for the most part as that is where I was placed. I immediately liked the India site-coordinator.

Rev. Thomas John is a retired Psychology prof. and the only native missionary of the PCUSA and was born and raised in Kerala but educated partially in the States. He is such a gentle person and is just able to put you at ease. He is also very excited for us to be a part of his family and took pictures of us to show to his wife.

However, the interview was still pretty intense. I don't know how better to describe it. He asked meaningful questions to really get to know me and never tried to stump me but still, it was intense. I walked out feeling good, but not perfect about it.

In the end I put down India and Guatemala equally as preferences but after I couldn't stop thinking about India, I went back and explained that while I'd be happy at either, I really felt more excited about/called to India. The program is very education based and really encourages us to immerse ourselves as fully as possible.

I also love the other people who applied to to India. While only four of us were placed there, I would have been happy with any of them being there with me. One person in particular, Sudie (it's her real name) is a blast and we really get each others' senses of humor (as do the others) so I think we'll be able to really support each other on this journey.

Right now, I'm just thrilled. The day after I had to manage some doubts but the excitement has just grown. I know that there will be a lull as I get closer and I will probably start to panic that I won't do well, but in the end I know that God has a hand in this as this is something that a really feel called to do even if I don't understand it fully.

Well, I'm off to read more about India!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Doorway

I feel very alone in my journey. And I think I'm semi-OK with it. I don't feel like anyone really gets why or what I'm doing with the next year of my life. I'm not taking a year off. I'm not saving the heathens. People just don't know how to relate to the choice I've made in responding to the call I feel.

My Campus Minister and I just had a great conversation. She knew that I am leaving in the morning to spend four days in Louisville, Kentucky to discern my placement for my year as a YAV and asked if we could sit down after a meeting we were both a part of. We discussed my concerns and what I wanted to get out of the weekend.

I realized that more than anything I want to come away feeling at peace with my placement wherever it is. I also told her how alone I feel in all of this. A friend of mine recently flew to Indiana for a job interview that is also a year long placement but very different from what I'll be doing; she will work for her sorority and travel all around the States. 

When she left, another friend and I were extremely supportive and really encouraged her. However, with me neither of them know what to say or how to approach the situation. I just don't feel very supported or understood but I realize that it's not their fault; they simply don't know how to relate. 

My Campus Minister and I explored the idea that the isolation I'm feeling is a way for me to feel at home with the other YAVs and appreciate being able to relate to each other and everything we have in common. So, because of that I'm looking forward to this trip. 

I'm also concerned for how my friendships will hold up after I return from Guandia. Frankly, I know I will be changed, hopefully for the better, and will view the world in a much different way than I did before I left. Also, because it will be difficult for me to stay connected to people back home, the change may seem a little abrupt. I know that some of my relationships will grow because of it but some will inevitably be hurt by the changes we undergo. 

I'm just trying to stay open to it all. I feel like I'm walking into a blackened doorway with the unknown on the other side. But I feel like whatever I find will be amazing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Calvinists Taking Over YouTube

I need coffee badly right now. I'm sitting in The Reformation Era, a History/Religion course, trying not to fall asleep. We're even talking about Scottish Calvinists (Presbyterians)! What a failure. ;)

I stayed up too late last night with Hannah, probably boring her to tears. I think we spent about three hours on YouTube watching nonsense; mostly Leona Lewis live performances and music videos. While I had a good time, apparently it is catching up to me.

I only got six hours of sleep, which is about three less than normal for me. See, I take my sleep schedule pretty seriously and find myself a bit cranky when it has been disrupted. For example, I was not looking forward to giving a tour to some prospective students, which I normally enjoy, but it went OK.

The book I have been trying to read has been shelved as I believe it and I are not a good match. So, I've moved on to the next book in a series I started in junior high. I was relieved to see that it grabbed my attention from the get go. I am a little worried as it has bad reviews, but, alas, I am a dedicated fan and will finish the series.

Lastly, I'm ashamed that it looks as if I will be doing nothing spectacularly amazing for Earth Day. How's that for going green?

Well, here's a treat: Leona Lewis singing Bleeding Love, from Spirit, at the Brit Awards.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pandora's Box Rocks!

Ok, I have to give credit to my friend for introducing me to this, who was introduced to it by her boyfriend. Anyway, it's Pandora and apparently it's a big deal around the internet but if you didn't already know about it and you like music at all, you should look into it.

From Wikipedia,

Pandora is an automated music recommendation and Internet radio service created by the Music Genome Project. Users enter a song or artist that they enjoy, and the service responds by playing selections that are musically similar. Users provide feedback on the individual song choices — approval or disapproval — which Pandora takes into account for future selections.

So, basically you register and create different "stations" that will play music related to songs and/or artists that you select for that station. I love it because it introduces you to new music that you've never even heard of but will most likely like. And if you don't, you just tell it so. 

I'm addicted and already have five (diverse) stations that I rotate depending on my mood:

- Country
- Indescribable Funky Fun
- Piano Rock
- Pop (Relaxing)
- Rock

Also, you can share your stations with friends and listen to each others'. Basically, it rocks and it doesn't cost you anything!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Elitist Butts

I am no longer an employee of the H.E.Butt Grocery Company... apparently. My last day was supposed to be this Wednesday but when I got this weeks schedule I saw:


The only thing I'm disappointed about is when I last worked, last Wednesday, I didn't know it was my last day so I didn't say good bye to people; I just walked out. However, I'm glad that I'll have more time to devote to writing my finals before I leave on Thursday to go to my placement event. 

I did visit HEB today to shop and furthered my going green, which was pretty expensive this round. But I figure it's worth paying extra for organics and if I just spend less in other areas, as I've been doing, it will even out and I'll feel better about where my money is going.

Home went well; I successfully helped my mom set up her computer even though she doesn't quite get how to use it yet. I tried hard not be impatient and I did well for the most part seeing as I was rushed. I got to see my nephew, Josh, who got sick the next day so I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with my brother and his wife. But I'm looking forward to spending the summer at home with everyone, including Henry. And also with my parents new tv!

In other news, I'm really frustrated with a book I just started. You see, when two of my friends went home with me for spring break we stumbled upon a great $0.99 book sale at Hasting's where I got 8 books. I have already read the first one, Elements of Style, a quick-read, witty satire of NYC's elitist social society. It really made me think whereas the book that I've just started seems to be going nowhere! It's just a little disappointing because I'd like a good book right now!

And on that note, good night!


Meet Henry, my parents' dog child. He's 4 months old and a Jack RussellRat Terrier cross. He happens to be my favorite dog in the world and makes me want my own pretty bad. Oh, and I get to spend the summer with him!
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I woke up Friday morning after driving home the evening before to find that it was raining! As I've mentioned before, I love rain. And while I enjoyed the rain, I took this picture as the rain clouds swept away to reveal the sun and the grass was still wet. What a perfect, coffee-drinking, Henry-petting morning!
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Prius, Meet Kerala, Cousin of Gujarat

I met an Indian woman today at work; she spent her first 18 years of life in Gujarat, a state on the western coast, and the last 18 years here in the States. Most exciting was that she just returned from a visit to Kerala, a state on the southwestern coast I will live in if I am placed in India. I told her about YAV and she was so genuinely excited for me.

She explained that she would love for her daughter, who is in the 9th grade I hear, to live in India so that she would understand how to appreciate the "facilities" we have in the States. She even told me that she wouldn't lie, a year would be intense; I excitedly explained that I would be disappointed if it wasn't. 

In the end, it was great to visit with her and I was amazed at how supportive she was and she seemed to "get" why I wanted to go. I absolutely can not wait to know where I'll be adventuring at the end of August.

Also, while at work, I asked a woman how she liked her car, a pastel green Prius. Apparently it is amazing and as soon as I have a little money, I should buy one. I sincerely promised her I would. 

More on the India site:

I Need...

- a project
- to finish my Islamic Studies paper
- to enjoy my last weeks here
- to call my grandparents
- to take more pictures
- to spend less money
- to pray more
- more sleep
- less coffee
- support
- to run
- to pack for tomorrow
- to clean my room
- my coffee mug back
- to not worry about YAV
- to read the Bible
- to make the most of my time
- to relax
- love

- to accept that I have more of everything, material and immaterial, than I'll ever "need"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

(It's A) Good Morning, America!

What a great start to a day! I set my alarm to 5:00 AM because I needed to write a short paper this morning before class. I didn't actually get out of bed until 5:56 and was a little concerned because I was about as groggy as a frog hit on the head by a log. I thought, "OK, you're just going to have to get some coffee and wake up!" And I did!  I was completely done with my paper by 7:20 and had time to get ready for class, go to the computer lab, print out my paper, and made it to class 4 minutes early.

However, the most exciting thing, was that when I walked out of the door this morning I had to turn around and grab a coat because it was an amazing 47ºF outside. I love cold weather even though I live in the great Republic of Texas. I'm afraid that I may miss the rare cold I experience here when living in Guandia, but it'll be worth it! 

I also called my mom during my down time between writing and class. She was out walking with my friend's mom, who is her friend... obviously; now, this walking makes me really happy because I know she's happier when she exercises and it puts me more at ease about her health (she's previously had two heart attacks). I try not to be too critical though as I don't struggle with weight and I don't want to seem insensitive. However, I do tend to speak my mind.

Anyway, she told me that her computer came in which is exciting because she's needed one for quite some time. I think she'll be really happy with the one I ordered and I'm going to enjoy helping her set it up this weekend and teaching her all about Vista. Hopefully, we'll manage not to get too impatient with each other. Side-note: Vista is amazing. I've used it for almost a year and can't imagine going back to XP. Embrace change, people; it's not a bad thing.

And on that note, I'm going to go order her a printer.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Thanks for letting me know. Now, go plant a few trees to offset your carbon sasquatch-print.
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See You In Guandia!

I'm starting to get so very excited about the program I've applied to. For background, because many don't know, this is what the program is.

It is the Young Adult Volunteer Program through the PC(USA). It is a year-long program, running from August '08-August '09 with both National and International placements. The program focuses on being rather than doing and is a ministry of presence. I found out about the program my sophomore year and it was then that I began playing with the idea of becoming a volunteer (YAV). I began the application process in February and have now been invited to travel to Louisville, Kentucky for the International Placement Event from August 24-27.

I've signed up to interview with Guatemala and India after thinking about Hungary, Northern Ireland, Egypt, Peru, Kenya and others. Guatemala would be amazingly relevant as I would return in Spanish and you also live with a host family which is ideal for me as it is the extreme of cultural immersion. At the India site, you live at small colleges, orphanages, or elder homes, or a hybrid of all three, which are also very culturally immersive. I would be so happy with either and am trying not to lean too much one way or the other.

So, the placement event. I'm so excited! I think it will be a lot of fun and I'll meet the people that I'll be serving with which should be really cool. It will also help because lately I have felt that a lot of people don't really "get it." They don't really understand my reasons for going, which I understand; it's a pretty counter-cultural thing to give up a year of your life. But I don't feel like that's what I'll be doing at all. I really feel like I'll be gaining so much for giving very little. 

Well, I'm trying not to get too excited because there is a small chance that I won't get a placement, but I feel pretty good about the whole thing.

¿Por qué?

Tonight I deleted two blogs that I previously started and unsuccessfully maintained; one on MSN Spaces (10 posts total) and one on Myspace (1 post). Before deleting them, I saved them as drafts on this blog so that I will have a record of them. I still don't really know what I want to accomplish with this blog, but I have some ideas for motivation.

First, I have a horrible memory, so this will be helpful to look back on later in life. I anticipate that being even more helpful when I'm in Guatemala/India next year as I expect after a year of being back in the states it will all be a blur anyway. I want to be able to look back and tell my kids about my experiences and I believe this will be a helpful tool.

Also, I will use this blog while overseas to inform people of what I'm doing on a daily basis as I don't imagine I'll be making many phone calls. This way, people who care can stop by and see what I'm up too without me responding to a ton of separate emails. However, I really do hope people email me, because I'm going to want to keep up with their lives also.

Thirdly, I have found, when I'm able to keep up with it, blogging really helps me process my thoughts and experiences which will be particularly helpful when living overseas. I'm sure I'll have some crazy, uncomfortable, unnerving experiences that will need intense exploring to make a little sense of. I imagine that I'll keep a journal and mark certain selections as blog worthy so that I'm not subjecting everyone to all of my rambling thoughts. 

Also, I installed a program to monitor the traffic on my blog because I was curious to see who visits. The answer: absolutely no one. The reason: I won't tell anyone the address. However, I had at least imagined that some anonymous strangers had stumbled over it at this point. No, they haven't. I'm ok with this though. I have a pretty eclectic audience in my head that I'm still writing too and when I do decide to put the address out there, the blog will be well established and I should have found a good rhythm.

Until then, I'm enjoying talking to you, my lovely, imaginary audience. And thank you for not criticizing me.

"That's how it is."

When I first saw the following Corporate Confession in my morning bulletin, I laughed. I'm really going to say, "That's how it is" to God?!
Leader:  In our confession today, we are acknowledging what life is often like in an imperfect world. We are confessing those places where we, as the human family, are broken and need the light of God’s love and grace to break in and bring new life.  Our confession this morning is a responsive one.  I will make a statement, and then you will respond with “That’s how it is.”

Leader:  We find ourselves separated from our sisters and brothers.

Response:  That’s how it is.

Leader:  There are lines drawn between us that are racial, that are economic.  (Response)

Leader: We live cut off from many sources of strength and power, and often feel that we cannot act. (Response) 

Leader: So many things call to us, grab for our attention, that we find ourselves stretched to a fine, thin line.  (Response)

Leader: Our time is fragmented, our lives are fragmented.  We are broken.  (Response)

Leader: Yet, in the face of all this, we seek out the joy of the resurrection.  We ask again for new life given to us in Jesus Christ!  (Response)

Leader: O God, giver of grace and new life, that’s how it is with our lives.  We seek the power of your Spirit, that we may live in fuller union with you and with our sisters and brothers, and that we may gain courage to love and to act.  Through Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

However, as we read it, I realized that the words really spoke to me. What was most amazing was how each, "That's how it is," from the group reflected the previously spoken words. Some responses were sad and desperate, others were joyful and thankful. My favorite section was, "We live cut off from many sources of strength and power, and often feel that we cannot act. So many things call to us, grab for our attention, that we find ourselves stretched to a fine, thin line. Our time is fragmented, our lives are fragmented.  We are broken."

I constantly feel like there are some many issues in the world that I alone can't work to stop every one of them. But I also feel guilty for not trying. I know I'm not expected to, but I just wish I could do more. I felt touched when when we lamented as a group how we felt cut off from sources from power, but at the same time there are things that we can do to work for justice. Again, I don't really know what my call is in this area of my life, but I try to keep expanding my knowledge of issues around the world because I feel like they really are all interrelated.

Prayer. That's my call. To pray so that I may be reminded of my blessings and others' trials.

Friday, April 11, 2008


This is a devotional that I wrote for my university's Campus Ministry. I'm not putting it here because I think it's that amazing; more to keep a record of it...

Exodus 24:1-18 (New International Version)

Exodus 24:2, 4, 8-9:

"...but Moses alone is to approach the LORD; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him... Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said... Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, 'This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.' Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up."

When I first read this passage, it bothered me that God only allowed Moses to come up and worship him. But in the end, all the elders that were present were able to go up and worship God. It just took time and patience. So what did God accomplish by only allowing Moses to climb the mountain the first time? He gave him a message for others.

I was a part of a conversation last night where we talked about other people's, especially our peer's, roles in our relationship with God. This passage enforces the idea that God often speaks to us through others. Sometimes it is other children of God that ask us the difficult questions and help us to ponder what God is trying to communicate to us. What is important is how we respond. The first step is to listen, which, I will readily admit, is sometimes a personal struggle for me. Two years ago I was really searching for God's voice and will in a particular area in my life and looking back, I can see how many people He spoke through, to me. Whether it was, friends, pastors, family, co-workers, they all had a role.

Try to remember that God wants us to listen to each other to discern His voice. Also, be open to the fact that God could be using you to speak to others.

Prayer: Loving God, thank you for caring enough to play a role in each of our lives. Please help us to be open and patient with one another's voices and to seek your voice through them all. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

My Spirit's Sigh

I have a friend who, bless their heart, seems to be convinced that everyone wants to know everything about their life, day, hour, etc. This person does not hold back; they tell their stories with great detail and vigor just knowing their audience is enthralled. Honestly, this is one of this person's defining qualities and I really do like it about them. However, I am just not the same way. 

I rarely feel inclined to just give someone a run down of my day; not even my closest friends. I just don't think it's that interesting and I don't want people to be bored with me. What all of this made me realize today is that this blog is my substitute for rambling to "real" people. I can write a long post here and not feel like I'm pressuring anyone to feel like they care. People can stop by and when they realize just how boring I am they can exit their browsers. They won't feel guilty, because I won't know. It really is a win-win situation and I plan on exploiting it further!

Speaking of work, I had a really good time today at HEB. The word has gotten around that I've put in my two weeks notice and a lot of people have shared that they are sad that I'll be leaving,  etc. It really made me feel good and I realized that I do have a real talent with connecting with people in a short amount of time (I've only worked there since the end of Jan.). I will really miss some of these people too but at the same time, I'm really excited about moving on from Kerrville. I feel that I've really grown here and accomplished a lot, but feel like graduation has come at a healthy time for me. I'm about to close this chapter and am at peace about it.

Wow, I love life... and Leona Lewis' debut album, Spirit.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Papers With Malaria at Graduation

I finally wrote my paper that I had been putting off and it feels great. Oddly enough, yesterday it didn't. Even after turning it in I had that nagging feeling that I still had things to do and just wasn't feeling quite right. However, today, after making a to do list to better organize myself, I can say that I feel relaxed and relieved again. Today is going to be one of those busy, productive days that is strangely enjoyable; I can already feel it! Oh, how I love days like this.

I also ordered my mom a computer from Dell, which also needed to be done for quite some time. It made me sad because the price of hers was about half of what mine cost a few months ago and the one I just ordered would have suited me just fine. Granted, having a laptop is extremely nice and all that, but I didn't need one. It just reminded me that I really do need to analyze what I actually need compared to what I just want. I have been doing better, but as always, there is (extreme) room for improvement.

Idol Gives Back was on last night making it the second anniversary of the show that raised $76 million last year. The show was done really well and highlighted quite a few compelling, sincere stories from Africa and disadvantaged regions in the US, such as New Orleans. While a lot of the African charities focussed on AIDs, I was personally moved by the stories about malaria. Because malaria is so preventable, and for not much money, it seems absurd that, as Forest Whitaker said, a child dies every 30 seconds from the disease. The Prime Minister of Great Britain announced that his country would be purchasing $20,000,000 worth of misquotes nets for Africans. I am so impressed and would love it if America decided to at least match that. 

On a lighter note, I just went to the Senior Meeting where we discussed graduation, which is exactly one month away! I was nominated as the Student Speaker and lost by a landslide. I can honestly say I thought it was comical when someone said, "Who's that?" I'm also pretty relieved that I don't have to write anything. However, I will be a liturgist at Baccalaureate, which fits me much better and I am quite looking forward to it.

Since then I have made my way to class where I continue to enjoy my day!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Misinterpreting Deadlines

I'm dealing with a bit of stress today. Two of my conversations that I wrote about on Sunday have been dealt with and each went surprisingly well. However, another seemingly normal, unimportant conversation became distressing last night. You see, I had emailed someone for more information about one of the sites that I'm applying for using a certain light, slightly dramatic tone which was meant to be a little humorous but may not have come across as such. The reply I received seemed to take my email a little too seriously and came off a bit harsh. 

In actuality, the replier may just be playing off my special brand of humor very well. If not, I have a pretty significant case of misinterpretation via email. In their defense, upon rereading my original message, I can see that my humor was probably undetectable. I'm praying that the email I received in return was indeed meant to be humorous as well. The lesson here: humor may not always come across well over email to someone you have never met. 

On another note, the paper that I have been putting off for the last two weeks now has a concrete deadline a mere day away. This strangely eases stress because in my crazy head I know I will be done with it no matter what in a little over 24 hours and I am now forced to write it tonight. Strange how relaxing a deadline can actually be. Without a deadline, I successfully put of this paper for an absurd length of time. Also, I'm feeling more and more motivated to write the paper because of its political relevance.

In other words, I'll be thoroughly relieved when these two situations are behind me.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Do I have to?

So, I have to have a difficult conversation with someone later and I'm looking forward to it only because that means it will be taken care of. It's one of those I'm-letting-you-down-and-here's-why conversations. I wish I could just email them the bottom line, but alas, humans like explanations; so I will soon be explaining. After it's over I anticipate a healthy does of relief as this conversation, if handled effectively, will close one of the chapters in my life-book. 

There's another conversation that will inevitably occur soon that I'm not looking forward at all. It's more of a hey-John-why-didn't-you-follow-through-with-this conversation and my (pre-conceived) response will be concise and honest. While I don't really feel any guilt about this particular situation, after-all we are in the Easter season, I don't want to have to explain myself either. I signed up for something and due to a lack of communication from the other side, didn't realize what all I was getting myself into.

Oh, and there's a third conversation that is more of a I'm-letting-you-down-and-here's-why/hey-John-why-didn't-you-follow-through-with-this hybrid conversation. Specifically, it entails HEB receiving my two-weeks notice. I have legitimate reasons for quitting; namely, moving across the state before moving across the world, but I fear a negative response. Hopefully, I'll catch the right manager on the right day to minimize the pain. Although, I will be very relieved when that one can be checked off. 

And to round this out on a positive note, there is a conversation, or set of them, that I'm purely looking forward to and those are my upcoming interviews in Louisville, Kentucky at the placement event. I'm very excited to say that I am only minimally nervous and just have an all-around good feeling about the whole situation. 

So, conversations aren't always bad, some just require more care and planning than others.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hello, World.

Good morning! I'm sitting at my computer with my morning cup of coffee and enjoying the sounds of the birds, air units, and the breeze as I decided to open my windows. Opening my windows is one of those things that I always enjoy but seem to never remember. Back to my morning cup of coffee. It's different today! Instead of Coffeemate French Vanilla liquid creamer, I'm using half-and-half and sugar and here's the kicker: they're both organic (my coffee would be too, but too bad my roommate already filled the bean reservoir with something else).

The point of all of this is to let you know that I've decided to ease into "going green". See, I have a tendency to rush into things, devote all my energy, peak early, and quickly burn-out. I'm trying to avoid that here. My first step was to start buying organic food not only because of the lack of additives, but also because of the lack of damage done to the environment in their production. Here, I must vent for a moment; I'm very frustrated at not being able to find a good, user-friendly website that helps you to live a more environmentally lifestyle! So, if I find a good one, I'll post it here, and if you find a good one, you'd better do the same. ;)

So, I went to that wonderful place we call HEB (where I also happen to work) and made my way through the aisles grabbing some produce here, some cereal there. Now, I had heard how expensive organics were but I was quite happy with my bill as I didn't feel it was ridiculous by any means. Hopefully a less materialistic lifestyle (something I'm continually working on, but inevitably failing at) will help to offset the price of eating/living healthy. Oh, and I also bought reusable grocery bags to bring my groceries home in!

All in all I felt pretty productive as I finished my scheduled day at 1:00 PM and went to Starbucks then because my class was cancelled. It is then that I went on my Organic Extravaganza, but it is what happened afterward that is truly remarkable; I went to my room and worked on my big paper! I've been really bad about this one due to a lack of motivation for a poorly chosen topic (which has thankfully been changed) and general procrastination. Yet, I finished re-watching the movie that I'm writing over (Daughter of Keltoum, which is recommended viewing) and took no less than 12 pages of notes. I then found 22 articles over Algeria, the Berbers, women, water, and mountains that I now need to work through. The point is, I'm now really excited about this paper and am looking forward to working on it later tonight when I get off work.

And now I'm going to finish my morning internet rounds, drinking my coffee, and enjoying my view (which I realized yesterday is quite nice)...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Astronomical Reckoning

For a while I've wrestled with what to do with this awkward time block between college and volunteering. I toyed with the idea of being a counselor at three different camp/conference centers, keeping my job at HEB, staying in Kerrville (both on and off campus), transferring to an HEB at home, and working for a ranch in Junction.

What I've settled on is to go home for the summer and just be. I'll read and write, spend time with family, travel and say good-bye to friends, catch up on films I want to see, help my parents out with working cows when they need it, keep the house up to make it easier on them, run through woods in the morning, take plenty of pictures, eat healthier, cook, and relax. I won't be getting a job. I feel like 3 months isn't enough time to really commit myself to anything anyway and I've asked my parents to keep any tractor work to a minimum as I find it overwhelming depressing. I may even find somewhere to volunteer a few hours a week.

I don't really know what I want to accomplish. I feel like it will be a good transition from Schreiner to India/Guatemala (I will be volunteering in one of these countries for a year beginning in August). I'll be able to visit my friends a few times but also allow myself to be more comfortable away from them. I'll be able to spend time with my nephew, Josh, as well as my brother and sister-and-law. I'm just trying not to over-plan it by keeping my options open and as scheduleless as possible.

Also, because I had to miss a trip in February that the school payed for, we had to buy a refunded ticket from the university for $357. So, I'll need to find a way to spend that ticket before the end of August comes. Going off of an idea that my friend, Elaine, gave me, I think I may just fly up to New Hampshire for a few days and relax in the most rural bed & breakfast I'm able to find. I think that could be both fun and rewarding

So, now I'm really looking forward to the summer and what it has to offer. The only thing I really want to do is to just center myself.

Sleeping Pills, Turtles, and Mines

Last night we watched Turtles Can Fly in Islamic Studies. It was intense. The film was made by an Iranian director in Iraq and was the first film to be made there since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The film focuses on a small village on the Turkish-Iraqi border with a large population of orphaned and/or refugee Kurdish children. A wide variety of children were presented and some of their stories were truly heartbreaking. The film is fiction but feels like a documentary. I don't want to go into too many details in case anyone wants to see it, which I heartily recommend. Warning: don't sit down with popcorn and friends for this one expecting a light evening of entertainment. For example, after we finished our short discussion, one of my professors said, "Well, I'm glad you all enjoyed the film." I kind of laughed and said, "I don't know that enjoyed it the right word." I do appreciate how uncomfortable it made me and how much it gave me to think about.

What the film did most is make me feel hopeless. There are children all over the world hurt by war and the fact is whether we leave today or tomorrow from Iraq, these children's situations will be the same. They will still have lost arms and legs, will still be orphans, will still remember the rape that forced a child on them. The film crossed political lines for me. It makes the issues we argue over in American politics seem juvenile. Turtles Can Fly wasn't even anti-American; yet, I felt my fair share of American guilt. I remember the day of invasion and watching as that long caravan of American tanks went over portable bridges into Iraq feeling a sense of pride and purpose. What the hell was I thinking!?

Have we made life easier for children whose arms were blown of by mines America left from a past war? We haven't, and we can't. My other professor felt the director was trying to convey that when some things are done their effects are permanent. We see the war in Iraq as an event. For children living there it won't really ever end. They will still have the scars and miss their parents for the rest of their lives. What are we to do as privileged westerners?

As a Christian I find myself searching for the hope that Christ brings to situations like this one. To be honest, I haven't found it yet. But I'm still looking. On the way to class this morning I wondered, what, if anything, can I do to make a difference. I realized that I really do need to be more thankful for the totally undeserved life I have been given. Recently, I have been procrastinating writing a paper and feeling overwhelmed because "all" the things I need to do. Guess, what? My life's not difficult! It's a cake walk on sleeping pills. I feel like my call right now is to be more appreciative for everything that's been given to me and to use it more wisely. I know we all have a wider call to help unjust situations around the world but right now, I'm going to try to focus on what I can do here and now.

So, I went and watched the American Idol results. See what I mean, hopeless...