пятница, апреля 28, 2006

Guess what?

I'm "published" again. Right after some students met Heysoos for the first time, ironcally. Or incidently. Brady could tell me.

It's day #3 of my spring break--Jon, Noah and Brian are due back tomorow afternoon and Andrea and Peg will be back this weekend as well. Classes will start on Tuesday again.

Am beginning the Steps-o-Freedom with my guys as well this last month. Spiritually, I got beat down Wednesday night, but God's got me back on my feet again. Alana still loves me, even. Life is good, even if SWAT isn't the greatest movie. Enjoyable, but not great.

What's great is three weeks into the season my fantasy baseball team is not in last place!

среда, апреля 26, 2006

Sweet Steppe

The smell was the first thing I noticed. There's nothing quite like the smell of sagebrush on the windswept steppe. Of course, the wind is sweeping plastic bags and coke bottles around piles of broken vodka bottles and ash. But that's beside the point.

The point is I played baseball on the steppe yesterday and it was awesome. I pitch softball (ok, so it wasn't really baseball) after softball the Kazakhstani highschoolers for three hours. I loved most every second of it.

They really got into it with the help of Ben and Joeseph, two MKs here. Even Amy had a good time picking flowers, flopping on hte pile of sumkas and throwing dirt at people.

I love baseball. But when it's on the edge of Karaganda with an Orthodox church and towering apartment blocks on one side and the vast open steppe on the other... it's something else. On top of it all, the air polution here does make for some beautiful sunsets... darkness being the only reason we stopped. Just like when I was a kid, really. Except for the windswept steppe part.

понедельник, апреля 24, 2006

East of Eden, West of NJ

There is a tendency I’ve noticed in myself to idealize my childhood. I think most people do this if they enjoyed their childhood. Maybe that is part of why I’m writing this now. Rural and small-town life is understood to be under attack by those who live there. If you didn’t know that, you’re not from there. In order to protect rural and small-town life, therefore, we create ideal farm and small-town stereotypes in order to prove we’re significant, valuable and important.

Hell, we’re neigh indispensable. Now that I think about it, we’re pretty damn superior to those suburbians and poor inner city bums in every way. We’re the backbone (or heart or whatever) of America. We’re patriotic. We’re not materialistic. We’re against corporate greed and the eroding of decent values. We’re pro-family, pro-guns, pro-fertilizer and pro-freedom. We grow berries and know how to make pie. When the God comes to judge the earth, the cities will get it Sodom and Gomorrah style while we country folk watch the fireworks from our front porch rocking chair.

Total crap, of course.

The idea that rural life is superior is an echo of Eden. This is why I love cowboys. But we got kicked out of the garden a long time ago. As for Cowboy hats… they are a result of the fall, like it or not. We can’t go back. We do a disservice to God’s creation when we talk about it like a Norman Rockwell or (gag me) a Thomas Kincaid painting. If I’m honest, I know my hometown Leavenworth will burn too, one day. I know the vast majority of the world will take the broad way to the wide gate and not even look for the narrow way that leads to life.

However, having lived in a city of one sort or another for the last six years, the city ain’t all that great either. Rednecks and hicks are the pictures urban folk use to scare their children into believing the city is where it’s at. This is just as wrong as idealizing rural life into cheesy paintings.

There is a reason kids leave small towns. It’s BORING! Of course, teenagers think any place they are is boring. This is because teenagers are extremely stupid in this way. I know. I used to be one. This doesn’t mean the city is better than the country, though.

Let me get back on track. City-folk think they’re better than rural folk because we know our story ends in a city, even if they don’t know it. Creation starts in a garden and ends in a city. We’re here to create, build, order, subdue and rule. Cities are fun. There’s a lot going on—the arts are alive (at least on the West Coast) in the city. Culture is created in both urban and rural areas, true. But guess which culture predominates when 6 billion minus 2500 people don’t live in Leavenworth.

You don’t see kids in the suburbs beating the hell out of a tractor then driving it real slow on the shoulder of the road wearing a straw hat for a little country flavor. It’s the country kids who dress like gangstas and sluts. You know what comedy is? It’s when you see a pimped out hatchback blasting Eminem as it cruises downtown Leavenworth. The town is 14 streets long, people. It’s dressed up as an alpine Bavarian village. There weren’t even any stoplights when I was a kid. This is not the ‘hood. Plus, you know the kid riding shotgun is not a thug, but works the drive-through window at Dairy Queen and got cut from C-squad football. It’s hard to do anything but laugh. It’s about then I usually realize they’re not joking and I become very sad.

This is all to say, city—get over yourself. Seattle especially. Most indie rock stays indie for a reason. It sucks. Not everyone identifies with “culturally relevant” church stuff. Worship bands that look like rock bands don’t appeal to folks who think music died with all the crooners. And just because they’ll all be dead in 20 years doesn’t make them less important. City, you’re not the New Jerusalem yet. Jesus ain’t here yet and y’all are posing hard.

Country, you’re not off the hook either. Quit lying about how great rural life is. You’re only making more Microsoft yuppies want to move over here and raise property values so much a regular guy can’t afford a house anymore. We’re not in the garden anymore. Admit it. Chumstick isn’t the Garden of Eden, no matter how nice the Enchantments are. I just wish people would stop lying about each other trying to make themselves look good, that’s all.

Once the good ol’ boys stop trashing the cube-monkeys we’ll be able to see things a little more clearly. First of all, the good things about rural life look backwards while the good things about the city look forward. It’s not the inevitable march of progress. If anything, we’ve managed to make things worse. What was Cain’s big sin? Lamech? We’re worse, trust me. No, it’s God’s design that things work this way. We have a cultural mandate given in Genesis to fill the earth and subdue it. We have a long ways to go. This means change is inevitable. Either we’re busy with what God has us doing or he’s busy prodding us back to work and that means change. The question, (and the nominal point to all of this) is what are you going to do about it? Retreat to the hills and pretend you’re in Eden? (It didn’t work for Lot and his daughters. Ick.)

Engage the culture people, engage.

воскресенье, апреля 23, 2006


Risen indeed!

East was a busy day. It actually started last night. Well, let me back up to Friday. Friday was Terrible Friday (what we call Good Friday, only it’s not actually on the same day due to different methods of calculating the date of Easter.). This is the day we normally have our team meeting and BS. We finished the Jesus film and I gave the students an oppritunity to respond. Many came back with us (Hil, Brian, Alana and I) to ask questions and just talk. Some students are asking for prayer and one confirmed her love for Jesus. Another entered the family anew! Hippa-hoo-rah, if I do say so myself.

Saturday night a bunch of us headed down to church for the 11pm (Easter) service. Well, we skipped going inside for the actual liturgy and waited outside the packed house for the procession around the church showing up a little past 11:30. There were multiple cameras inside and one outside covering the service and the whole thing was projected onto an outside wall of the church so we could see what was going on. Pretty sweet. Anyway, out come the priests with the incense and banners and we’re on our way.

Once everyone is out the doors are shut and we start our way around the building. I can smell the incense at times even though (because, maybe?) it’s windy. Many have candles. I see a student of mine with his (presumably) mother and sister. He’s startled and asks, “Why are you here?” I answer, “The same as you.” The crowd separates us as Alana’s less than 100% ankle pulls me one direction and his mother pulls another.

Once we get back in front the priest knocks on the door. It’s midnight. The doors are thrown open, the choir goes nuts and there’s a frenzy of “Christos vaskres!”, crossing, “Voistinu vaskres!” in response and bowing. I am told the service continued on into the morning, but we didn’t stay for too much longer.

I went back to church the normal time this morning, to see if the liturgy was still on for Easter. No dice—but everything was wide open. The front doors, the side chapels and the doors/curtain behind the altar (which only open during certain times during the liturgy, I think) were all open. I was able to take my time and venerate the hard to get to icons and just enjoy church without the crowd. There’s a really cool one of St. George and the Dragon that I like, and a series that shows the life of Jesus. Plus, there’s a dead guy up front in a fancy box that I was finally to go up and see. I want to find out more about him. Like, what’s his name?

Anyway, since there was no liturgy I hiked back across Stepnoy to catch the 10am service at Living Vine (the little protestant church plant a lot of us attend). It was interesting and quite a switch from the O-dox way of doing things. Scott did the preaching so I was able to understand the sermon, which is always nice.

Then I remembered I had told Alana I’d meet her at the O-dox church. Okay, take a break, go to the bathroom or get something to drink. It keeps going.

Alana, Andrea and Hillary had been invited by a student to visit church and have Easter dinner afterwards. Since I usually go to the O-dox service in the morning we were just going to meet there and touch base for the coming week. So, I hoof it back across Stepnoy (I’m going on 5k by this time) and it’s not even noon yet.

Right outside Living Vine I’m engaged in conversation by a vagrant. He’s got a bad limp that’s giving him some trouble with some random stairs in the extremely anti-disabled people sidewalk. So I help him out and he asks me if I’m going to the magazine down the way. Keeping it simple, I say no. Then he starts telling my how he doesn’t need (or want) to drink or smoke. I agree, nodding in understanding. He asks for money. I literally have nothing on me. It’s not for smokes or vodka he promises. I just need food. It’s Easter! Christ is risen! I only need something to eat. Having nothing to give and not thinking to invite him to my flat (a 20 minute walk with his limp, plus he’d make me even more likely to miss Alana at church) I start to walk away and mumble some lame apology.

Then he gave me a cake.
If you need money for food… why not keep the cake?

Anyway, I make it back to the O-dox church and catch Alana and everyone without any problems. Rima and Ira are there too, but before I can say anything to anyone, Rima invites me along for Easter dinner too. I know it looks like I’m a freeloader, but I had no intentions of horning in on them. Still, I got to look extra holy to all the people accepting donations on the way in and out of the church since I passed them all at least four times. We also got extra blessed (wet) with Rima and Ira as we set our cakes (and cookies) and eggs on the table outside church and the priest (with the choir) sprinkled water all over everything. He particularly enjoyed dousing one woman who hadn’t covered her head.

Then it was off to Easter dinner with Rima and Ira. We enjoyed borsch, a variety of salads and plov, plus lots of pasha (I’ve forgotten already—those cakes people make here for Easter) and cookies and tea. We enjoyed a Russian tour of the Holy Land on film and, as Joel will be pleased to learn, a number of music videos from around the world. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Skipped the karaoke and dancing this year though. I’m sure Joel danced enough for both Unus and I.

I also fit in a few hours of ultimate Frisbee on the windiest day of all time AND a little American football. Good thing I only have on day of class (tomorrow) this week. I had to play three hours of LOTR on the X-box just to unwind tonight.

Crank Handel’s Messiah while you can—that’s Easter music if I’ve ever heard it.

пятница, апреля 21, 2006

Fame and Fortune

Check it out. I'm a "published" author. It's not anything particularly original (or proofread), but I am writing a bit these days. Someday I hope to get paid for it. That'll be the day. I'll put up a few rough drafts here this weekend, I promise.

Speaking of promises, I'm a flake. Due to some technical difficulties, my bad memory and my tendency to tell people what they want to hear when I don't understand the question... yeah.

The nest 48 hours in sentence fragments. Rain last night. Good for the dust and my cough. Jon's birthday bash is today. 2nd half of the Jesus film tonight. Guess who's calling them out afterwards? Pray! Sports tomorow.

воскресенье, апреля 16, 2006

Palm Sunday

He is risen! Well, not yet. Today was palm Sunday big-O style. Church was packed this morning.

I love the walk from my apartment. It's dirty and trash is everwhere, but it's pretty dry now so when it gets windy the trash blows around instead of lying stuck in the mud. Much more beautiful. I even saw leaves today on some of the dogwoods. Church is straight south from my apartment along the main drag. It's pretty flat so you can see the sun on the cupolas the whole time. Usually it's a lonely walk in the cold. Today I was one in a trail of hundreds flocking to church in the beautiful sun.

People selling pussy-willow branches lined the path up to church. (Instead of palms, I guess) The line to buy candles was out the door when I arrived and both the side chapels had their doors open to relive the congestion. It was the most reverent mosh-pit I've ever been in. I couldn't lift my arms to cross myself, let alone bow. It took me about 30 minutes to work my way from the door to where I saw Brian standing.

The service was in full-swing when I got there at 9:30 (a good 45 minutes late) and lasted until 11:30. The liturgy is long when 100 people take communion in a single file line. The highlight was hanging out while Joel went up to venerate the cross and get sprinkled. The priest really seemed to enjoy flicking water on people and their pussy-willow branches (on the left shoulder!) as they filed by. Water for the branches, the face, kiss the cross and go. Flick, flick, kiss.

I really have enjoyed this year as I've audited Othodoxy. Learned a lot. It's changed my assumptions of what "church" is and why I go. I've had to give up things like being fed, serving and participation that I held as essential before. Makes you think.

четверг, апреля 13, 2006

The Adventures of Sicky and Gimpy

I've had a cough of one sort or another for almost (over?) a week now. Time is a weird idea... This morning Joel made the point that it's difficult to define without using itself to define itself...

So with me feeling less than 100% and Alana on her second week with a bum ankle (not to mention the rest of the sickly team)... it's been a little bit of a down week.

Even so, Joel is visiting, wich is always fun.

воскресенье, апреля 09, 2006

So ESI needs teachers. Especially dudes. Since I'm leaving the field for a time and my stories will become boring withing months of returning to the US... it's time for some of y'all to have a great experience like I have. Am. Whatever the right tense is. All the cool people are doing it.

суббота, апреля 08, 2006

It's snowing... on sports day. Maybe they'll let us use the gym. If anyone shows up. Gosh this is depressing.

пятница, апреля 07, 2006

Reading List

Time overseas has meant some quality time reading.

Currently I'm reading:
OVERLORD, by Max Hastings - a great narrative of the D-Day operations
The Silmarillion, (umpteenth time) by JRR Tolkien - sweet!
Grimm's Fairy Tales, by the Grimm brothers, I guess - pretty bizzare in places. Disney definatley cleaned these up for the kiddos...
Peace Child, by Don Richardson (who I imagine looks like Horace Hardison, for some reason) - yet another book about missionaries in PNG
Pilgrim's Progress by John (not Paul) Bunyan - I was 10 when g g-pa Boyd gave it to me the first time... I understand more now

Recently Read:
The Great Game by some guy - sweet spy and explorer stories of when Russian and Britan were competing for Central Asia
Through Painted Deserts by Don Miller - a good travel story. wanted to go on a road trip again
Fever Pitch by John Cussak, I mean, uh, Hornby, Jack Hornby - great for any sports fan. Jeff should read this, being an Arsenal fan.
The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien -still, su-weet!

четверг, апреля 06, 2006

I like legs.

So you know those ex-pensioners scattered all over the former Soviet Union without arms and legs? No? Well, for one thing, they're everywhere. I see them everyday. Maybe they're good at positioning themselves in the path of Americans, but then again, they seem to be everywhere. Some have signs that say, "I lost my leg in Chechnya/Afghanistan, please help". Some have prosthetic limbs they remove while begging to up the sympathy factor.

His hands are tatooed, maybe prison, maybe the army. His hair is greasy and wiry, touched with grey. He smells strong. It's easy to ignore him and to avoid his eye--his is sitting on the ground, beneath my gaze. It is harder to ignore the space where his leg used to be.

The money sticks to my hand. What am I afraid of?

понедельник, апреля 03, 2006

Spring? Kind of...

It's mostly spring here... I guess. It's muddy and windy anyway. It still drops below freezing at night, but not for long because the ice is usually gone before noon.

Gosh, it's been a long time since I posted. News? Hmm...

Well, Alana twisted her ankle pretty well Saturday morning playing basketball with some students, Jon and I. I was actually on the other end of the court (four teams, two half-court games), so don't get any ideas. Luckily, Jim and Keith were there with their car and were able to take her home. She'll be off her feet for a few more days at least.

Other than that, I really enjoyed our first sports morning with our students. Basketball has never been my sport (Last time I played? ESI training, summer 2004: got rocked by Krista). However, since my head is a good 10 - 14 inches closer to the hoop than my students, I'm a rebounding machine. Or not. You know how glasses magically pull the ball towards your face? Brady knows. I guess that's why Alana wears contacts. It was a lot of fun--even though no one on my team could dribble, we could pass the ball pretty ok, which is just as good when no one can play defence or hit a shot outside of, well, a layup.

Anyway, Jon and I hope to keep the Saturday sports thing going--especially if we can use the field out back of the school. I look forward to flashing a little "baseball" leather.

Speaking of baseball--go M's! I hate you, but you're my team. Reasons to watch the M's this season: King Felix, that guy at SS (vacuum cleaner!) and Beltre cannot possible suck as much as he did last year. Or could he? Soriano should be fun to watch if he's back up to speed. Also, Willie F-ing Blumquist should be on the bench and there is no Matt Thorton. All in all, better than last year and by no means the worst M's team to take the field in the last 10 years.