by T.S. Eliot
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
"Descending Theology: The Resurrection"
From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in--black ice and blood ink--
till the hung flesh was empty. Lonely in that void
even for pain, he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse's core, the stone fist of his heart
began to bang on the stiff chest's door,
and breath spilled back into that battered shape. Now
it's your limbs he longs to flow into--
from the sunflower center in your chest
outward--as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times."
Monday, June 15, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Don´t even listen, simply wait.
Don´t even wait.
Be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you.
To be unmasked, it has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
It has been a gift to travel once again, meet new people, see the beauty of the world, suck the marrow out of life. We leave in the morning for San Jose where we will spend one more night with lovely Eduardo and fly out Tuesday afternoon. I will come up with a clever, or not-so-clever conclusion when I am nestled in Chicago watching the Cubs with Britta and old friends. Oh, and check out her blog for a bird´s eye view of her entire journey (including the 10 days I was letting anti-yellow fever settle in my system): www.morethanmountains.blogspot.com
She has some pretty hilarious anecdotes of other characters we´ve met along the way.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
But not before we had to cross the border. Oh goodness, no airport annoyance I´ve ever had could compare to this chaos. Exit one country with people screaming, lines curving, stamps stamping, cross an ambiguous divide where the security guy winked and flirted into the grand entrance of Central America´s second poorest country. This is where the headache began and the crowds started to feel like a mantra of every Nicaraguan trying to sell toothbrushes, throat lozenges, soda, chips, candy, whatever on the local, 90´s soft rock-playing buses--piercing, consistent, stop it I´m not buying. But we did, in fact, get through, and not throw up our hands and surrender ourselves back into Costa Rica...and immediately we were satisfied with the enormity of Volcán Concepción, one of the two volcanoes that makes its home on the small island of Ometeppe (meaning ´two hills´).
At the end of our ferry ride, a German by the name of Lennart whose profile resembled more of a Coldplay Chris Martin, and whose German obsession with being clean, organized, wearing tight tanktops and go-crazy-island shirts while he´s away from Berlin, made him hilarious. He must have seen the forlorn look we had not knowing where the heck we were going, and whisked us off with him in a taxi to the opposite side of the island in a farm hippy commune compost toilet ecological gem of a place on earth in Santa Cruz. For the next two days we refused to intentionally sweat under such a sun so we neglected the hike up either volcano. Instead, we drank smoothies, homemade chocolate liquor from the hippie compost commune, and swam in Lake Nicaragua (home to the only fresh water sharks in the world, you trivia nuts).
Our first day we met Caroline and Sebastian...they had the same beach bum plans (and vacationed from El Salvador with only their passport, surfboard, money and the bathing suit on their body), so we ate a meal for 3 hours, baywatched ourselves in the water and ate more food together. They may get the prize for the ¨whoa, you´re how old and you´ve done how many things already??¨ Both at the ripe age of 21, they just met up a couple weeks ago in El Salvador. From Quebec, Caroline took her bike down to Mexico where she rode for hundreds of miles down the coast staying in homes, beaches, restaurants floors, learning Spanish and feeling adventurous. Britta and I kept wondering what her parents thought about this...After several months there, she met up Sebastian in ES to learn how to surf (they had met on couchsurfing.com which is something that gives hope to all mankind). Sebastian was born in Norway to a native mother and Mississippian father, and spent his high school years and now college semesters (the ones he attends) in North Carolina...Boone, that is, at App State. With long curly locks, skin that has been darkened 30 times over by the surfing sun, and a smile that looks like bleached tile and sparkles like the stars under the Alabama-Quaker-founded Monteverde sky, he is right up there with Hannah from London as most adorable creature on the planet. After he graduated from high school he spent 2 months on the Appalachian Trail by himself and another 4 months in a station wagon going to every national park...he has covered 49 of the 50 states (no Alaska yet)...at 21...21. These two kids (because I feel that graduating in 2012 means you´re young) were a blast.
And so the 3 days on the island were spent per usual: meet cool folk, frolic, exercise only to a destination of laziness, and marvel at the hand of God. Since the island is primarily farmland, and the water is free from saltiness, all animals walk the sandy beaches along with the few tourists.
And it is here in Granada where we bought the remainder of our gifts, have typed willingly on the free, fast internet at our fabulous hostel, met my sole other Rebecca, from Berlin as well (I will detail her later, for sure), danced and laughed with two good-looking Argentinian men (both now live in Costa Rica...one a painter, the other the cook at our favorite cafe in Costa Rica from Monteverde...no kidding, Britta went to the cafe 3 times, myself once), and are about to leave for a day at the local volcano´s lagoon...these folks are crazy about their volcanoes.
Missy and Brian are from Colorado. We met them our first night in the Hostel owned by Edit, the Hungarian. They were immediately the most friendly couple I have ever met. We ate two breakfasts with them, chatted about good film, the art of packing, Brian took photos of all three of us learning to surf, etc. Brian is a counselor and Missy is thinking of going into nursing...we immediately wanted Brian to be our counselor, and for a film crew to run around Truman Showing their lives. Two gems right there.
Hannah here, also known as Ms. Julie Andrews, is one of the more adorable people in this world (along with Hayley Kaimakliotis hailing from London herself, Mandy Spears, Sheena Mugavin, and that little girl from Little Miss Sunshine...just want to put em in your pocket cute). Traveling by herself without a speck of Spanish or Portuguese, she went through Brazil for 2 months, all over Costa Rica, on her way to Mexico, and then the West Coast of the US herself. With all the lone travelers we´ve met, there is the common thread of personality: outgoing, trusting, adventurous, flexible, and friendly as all get out. With her sharp British accent and fireball confidence she toured the Western Hemisphere with ease and an iron...for hair and clothes...seriously.
And the trend continues as I ziplined through Monteverde and we crossed quite the thick, shady border of Nicaragua to the Isle de Ometepe, and now in Granada. I have couches to sleep on in Quebec, North Carolina, Berlin, and London. Good people all around.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Britta, surfboard & a Jaco sunset.
We arrived in Esterillo Este for the evening after our long week on the farm. It was a kind of paradise with hardly any folk, fruit drinks galore, hammocks next to the beach, sand-dollared walks, and a pool to boot. So our need for bank cash money that forced us down the road to tourist/surfer heaven Jaco, did not thrill our souls. We may have only stayed the night but it being Semana Santa (Holy Week) kept the buses non-existent for a couple days.
By the end of our second night we had surfed and made good friends. With the adrenaline that comes with riding waves at sunset for the first time and getting chummy with three swell Brits, a Costa Rican surfer, and the sweetest couple from Colorado, we eagerly stayed here longer.
More stories and photos of our pals in a wee bit.
Marcos and Britta with the chair
our treehouse home away from home
workin the field
cashews with its bosom buddy, the marañan fruit
the finished product
our afternoon sanctuary
where we read books
When I was in grade school we had different kinds of fundraisers every year. They tended to focus on wrapping paper and magazines, and if you sold so many of either you would get prizes--cool to cooler. One year, maybe 5th grade, I won a tent. I am from the urbanization of Memphis, TN, and so to get the more bang for my free buck, I pitched the tent in my parents´dining room. They were good sports, and for the next several weeks, I would sleep in my prized tent with my tooth brush and toothpaste kept conveniently in the inside pocket where you store clever things. In years to come I would move the tents or just a sleeping bag under stars, near mountains, snuggled up to rivers, but it was that younger longing that took me there-thank goodness for People magazine.
Rivaling the star-bulleted ceiling of a July Many Glacier Valley was our home for the week we lived at the farm. Our cabaña was on the jungle floor of Mastetal built by our friend, Marcos, some years ago with the built-in surround sound of the rainforest to put you to sleep. Minus our first night´s encounter with the poisonous snake on our trip down to the cabaña, it could not have been a more perfect place to spend our nights. I will build one for my future niños (and myself) one of these days.
When we signed up to volunteer with Siempre Verde we had no idea that it would be so gloriously remote or so little actual farmwork. Their rainy season begins in just a few weeks, so we only did one day of real planting, clearing, shoveling, etc because hand watering all that stuff is something else. But we sure felt like farmers for that morning adding cantaloupes, cilantro, bean trees and radish seedlings to the earth. The rest of the working week we made a rocking chair. You know, professionals with amazing equipment may do one in a morning, but with Marcos, Britta, myself, a handsaw, sander and hammer, it took three. It rocks, that is all that matters in the end. Marcos, at the ripe age of 25, has already taken his entrepeneural mind to great heights by starting a Spanish Immersion school on his parents land (to see the cutest farmer dad of all time, look above), built the cabañas to hold students and eventually volunteers. He hopes to make the farm a fully sustainable land eventually, but first he hopes to continue to get used to marriage. He just married Sarah, a 19-year-old Californian who came to volunteer on the chocolate farm down the street and ended up becoming full-time partner to Marcos. They are in the middle of building a house, and furniture to go with (hence the rocking chair). She is quite the mature 19 year old who is becoming quite the Tica housewife.
A few of our small joys in such a short experience was collecting the marañan fruit with cashews attached on our way back from the river lazy afternoons, having Marcos roast and set them on fire, and then using a hammer and fingernails to break and peel the shell until a delicious cashew emerged to our satisfaction. Pineapple work breaks were pretty delicious as well.
Honestly, the only thing that really urged us to escape was our poor legs that got eaten alive by ants. Maybe there was another culprit as well, but those damn ants, we caught them in the act. So we said goodbye to Marcos, Sarah, his adorable father and the secluded riverside and jungle home for la playa.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
We waved goodbye to Chelsea as she scooted off to the airport, and boarded several buses to Mastatal, our home in the middle of the jungle and mountains for the next week. Our first night we came across a poisonous snake on our way to the cabanas...our tree house in the middle of trees and every piece of tropical animal known to man. We have spent our days making rocking chairs...rough rocking chairs, eating pineapple, guava from trees, roasting cashews, napping in hammocks, and spending afternoons down by the river by ourselves. Yes, I may have surpassed the sunburn for the moment and have not seen to many hippy souvenirs, but heck, I am in Costa Rica.
Considering our location, internet is iffy to say the least. I will write more in detail when I get to the beach, and hopefully have some photos to share.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
In my almost one-month stay in Colombia, I have come to recognize quite a few stand-out qualities. For one, Colombians love poodles. Now, there are plenty of other kind of dogs roaming the streets, keeping you up at night with their constant screeching, but poodles outnumber the majority (and the yuppy ones still wear sweaters). There are an abnormal amount of adults who wear braces. Seriously, you would think it's a fashion statement the way they sport the metal...including an actress on one of the country's beloved soap operas. The current hair styles of modern teens and cooler twenty-thirty somethings is a male fauxhawk or a rather unattractive rat-tail-like concoction, and a female 80s rocker mullet. Chips are a far more acceptable food item for a meal, and it is common to have 2 cups of coffee and 2 cups of hot chocolate everyday. My salt and sugar levels have been rather unhealthy this past month. Of course, these trite observations are accompanied by the facts that Colombia is spectacularly beautiful. The land I saw by bus and truck is so similar to that of Nepal, but even more luscious due to its more consistent rainfall.
Colombia is a fine place to get an extra ten days on earth. Even though Jorge, Ginny, and Matilde were all incredibly ill for the past two weeks, we still managed to have fantastic movie nights. Jorge would hook up the projector and we would enjoy films like Australia (I mainly just enjoyed Hugh), Gosford Park, and Son of the Bride (an Argentinian film that was the best thing I've seen in ages). The weather was rather gloomy and disagreeable in Bogota, but time spent watching those movies with G & J or The Cosby Show with Suzie and Jonny were comforting moments of community and laughter.
I was able to help G & J with more technical aspects of their ministry such as updates on their website, a newsletter, and their expansive list of contacts. Thrown in the week was a day with Suzie when she took me downtown to the local markets. You don't see many tourists flocking toward these small vendors selling everything from toilet seats to the most beautiful jewelry on earth. But before I was to leave for Costa Rica, I wanted to seize the opportunity to explore a little more of Colombia....Villa de Leyva, specifically. We were going to all go as one big family, but the Enciso illness kept them at bay, and so with some extra convincing to Jorge, I made the decision to head off to the small town outside of Bogota by myself. And so it was that I awoke at the crack of dawn Thursday morning (too many crack of dawns lately) and caught my 10-passenger van to VdL.
It is considered to be one of the finest colonial villages of Colombia, and when it was named a National Monument in the 1950s it made sure that the architecture would remain unspoiled. I worked at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park, Montana, a few summers ago, and it is known (except to those yuppies with sweater-wearing poodles) as a historical hotel because its architecture resembles the time period in which it was built (finished in 1914). Think of an entire town that is maintained this way. It is entirely romantic; its large cobbled-stones hold many secrets of generations that have come and gone, and changes in footwear in the past 500 years. It is pristine not only for its architectural preservation, but also for the nature that surrounds the small pueblo: mountains to the north, desert to the south and east, a mixture to the west. So I wandered that first day. Wandered. Sat on benches, drank coffee, read, prayed, thought, wandered even more, and shared some Henri Nouwen lovin'. For me, it was perfect. And the surprise arrival of Jonny and Suzie around 10pm just capitalized my emotions of joy. They are moving to the States in just a couple weeks, and thought it was the perfect time to enjoy one last Villa de Leyva adventure.
After a late dinner and a parting for the evening, we awoke on Friday to brilliant blue skies and big billowing clouds. The three of us met in the plaza, I climbed into the Bronco beast they had borrowed from G & J, and we scurried off to La Periquera, where waterfalls are the wanted attraction. We hiked to the first and largest fall trying to find a reasonable place to cross the river for more hiking, but the recent amount of rainfall and the fact that a girl died last week trying to cross kept our more dangerous instincts at bay. We spent a few lazy hours laying in the sun next to the noisy pounding of the Periquera. This would be the trend of our day: spend lazy hours in good conversation, under calm weather, enjoying the tranquility of our moment. From waterfall, to cafe, to a pool of natural springs, we made it last til the sun was starting to go to bed. That was our cue to buy some food for dinner and head out to our campsite. I haven't camped since last August, so you can understand my giddiness to do so in Colombia. We pitched our tent, started a fire, sang to Jonny's guitar, and ended an already emphatic day with a starry sky.
We returned to Bogota this morning as I re-packed for a supposed departure early in the morning. In my mind, I'm not in Costa Rica until I have a good sunburn and hippy paraphernalia. The weather here was the most splendid it has been since my first few days, so we made an afternoon visit to the park where Ginny, Matilde, Junior, Juan and I enjoyed the sun, threw a frisbee and football, and I out-raced JR and Juan (except for the time they both cheated). Later in the evening we went over to the church where we joined a good group in cheering on Colombia's national team. They beat Bolivia 2-0, and I enjoyed my momentary surge of Colombian patriotism. It was only appropriate that eight of the neighborhood boys were playing street soccer in front of the house when we returned. So Laura and I joined in for a good bit--quite the way to say ciao to Colombia.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
what the first one says.
There are loads of kids in Ginny and Jorge's neighborhood. They ooze out the windows and doors to play futbol, ride bikes, play in the park...to be kids. Bogota is basically one giant grid that conveniently keeps each level of class in their own corners--similar to any urban city, just more logistical. Here in their neck of the woods, it is known as a Estrato 3 (the higher you get, the wealthier), being our equivalent of lower middle class/working class. The neighborhood's steadily becoming more commercial with salons, supermarkets, countless bakeries, and a long street of knickknack stores that look like all the unsold items from yard sales exploded within. Their house in nestled in one of those corners with a park next door that provides a quieter hum than the overall noisiness and busyness of the streets.
It is there where the children hover: the park, outside this door...waiting. Waiting for a chance to play American football, an open door to get help with their homework or maybe a glass of hot chocolate, but most of all they wait for their birthdays. In just the first year of living in this particular location on earth, Ginny and Jorge have made all sorts of effort to begin traditions, discipline, and consistency with these kids who lack one or all of the three. And so it is that they have made it a point to focus a load of attention and celebration for each child's birthday. Like most children, each one counts down from day 75 until it's their time to eat cake and party, so the day is much-anticipated in general, but even more so when they know that a family that is not their own blood family will make food, play music, and bring out the ping-pong table just for them on their special day.
And so it was Esteban's day out of the year to bare his shy grin, open his eager eyes just a bit wider, and blow out candles only after making the wish of a 12-year-old living in his shoes on these streets in Bogota. For hours last Saturday evening, the kids used sidewalk chalk, puzzles, cards, boardgames, and, of course, ping-pong, for their constant entertainment, and everyone was given a piece of the cake made by Ginny, Matilde (see photo above), Junior, and decorator extraordinaire, Lorena. Long after sunset, with several pieces remaining, Jorge walked up to the man and woman picking up the recycling with horse and buggy to give them some chocolate cake covered with icing and sprinkles. Love means including all: the overlooked, the brat, the time-consuming. Saturday night was putting action to a theory. The theory that Christ did, in fact, desire the children to come to him, and that he loved the least of these, those, them.
This is why I came. Not for any specific effect or project, but to see two people who I respect and consider kindred walk in love. To live where you work and work where you live is, unfortunately, a rare thing these days. It takes courage and sacrifice to disregard absolute privacy and to exist for others. A heart yielded toward compassion is the foundation of this house, in this Estrato, bordering these childrens' lives.
I am thankful for the gift of comradery and union of friendship that the past few weeks have been for me.
that's who I is.
me with the birthday boy.