Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jamaica Me Come Home...

Last semester, I was suckered into being the Homecoming Director for Jewell. In fact, I was told "you have no choice." Totally untrue and not a good way to convince me to do something, but I nonetheless took the job. Ironic, considering how I have little to no school spirit, I am not in a sorority and I find myself saying often to people overinvolved in the event "it's only Homecoming!" Anyway, from what I hear it's the most stressful thing you can do at Jewell, but I am doing fine. I am usually a pretty relaxed person, and I have found myself staying calm under the intense pressure of angry Greeks, bitter Independents and frazzled faculty members. However, when I look at the planner that depressingly holds the activities of my life in 7 small boxes a week, I feel slightly overwhelmed. On top of directing Homecoming, I am working at my coffee shop AND doing hours as an RA. Yet, I just have to take it day by day and the craziness of life seems to subside.

Bethanie and Bhadri (my sibs) are leaving for Costa Rica on Saturday. We had a coffee date via Skype this morning, and it made me ever more jealous that they get to go farm while I will be here in Liberty. I want to farm! When I get tired of life here in Missouri, I dream. I even do research to follow-up my dreams. I found a farm in Oregon that is run by a vegan couple who have treehouses for their interns' living quarters. I could move there, harvest food, cook dinners, read books in the evenings, climb mountains, surf in the summers, hike through canyons and the list goes on. Yet, I know that even if I did that, I wouldn't be completely satisfied. I would have another dream to chase. Always chasing, never catching- that's the fun of it! So for now, I will be alright with studying WWII, contributing to others' caffeine addictions, watching Flight of the Conchords, and embroidering pictures of animals for friends. Oh, and directing Homecoming.

When I ever get a little sad or annoyed with life, I just take a glance at this beauty...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Sisters of Carmel

I would like to admit something that I have never discussed prior to this entry. My blog is in an indiscernable Slavic language. I always click on "Utworz bloga" when I should click on "Zaloguj sie" for a new post. Why is it in a foreign language? I do not know. I have a love/hate relationship with it. In a way, it's annoying- but it's also a challenge. And you know I love challenges.

"I sometimes imagine that I long for the seclusion of a nunnery. But I know that I must seek You among people, out in the world." Etty Hillesum, my new hero

When I went to California this summer, I stayed at a Carmelite Monastery on the side of a cliff overlooking the city. It was set in a normal San Diego neighborhood, but once in the monastery, a whole new world appeared to me. The moment I walked into the quiet, dark and somewhat mysterious home of 14 Catholic sisters, I immediately became overwhelmed by the purity of it all. The women were genuine, their love clear and their hospitality inspirational. I got to spend some time with a darling nun named Sister Yvonne. We discussed my life, her life, the mission of the Carmelites, their struggles, my struggles, their need to find a place in the world, my need to find a place in the world, and our unified love for God.

It was special, yes, and I knew that at the time... but I look back on those few days with some of the most incredible and dedicated women I have ever met and my heart is tender. You know that feeling? It's relatively the same feeling I get when I think about my brothers and sisters in Africa (to a smaller extent)- but it's the feeling that there is something very sacred about that place, those people and that time. Sacred. Set apart. Holy. My heart aches to return.
And I'm not saying that I will become a nun- although let's be honest, it is possible- but I will say that I long to be a part of something like that. Something that is so community oriented, but not just community for community's sake- real, genuine desire to be a family with the common goal of Christ. The unified acceptance that our purpose is not our own. We are not made for the world or for our desires, but for something greater. Something more meaningful. Harder. Beyond ourselves.
Although I did have to dance around the fact that I was traveling with a boy, the nuns accepted me as the Protestant wanderer that I am. And Sister Yvonne... oh Sister Yvonne, she was genuinely interested in my life and the places God has taken me. We prayed together, and actually cried together- albeit most of the crying was from yours truly but they were tears of joy and relief- and something very beautiful developed in that monastery and in our conversations.

I do not know why I felt like writing a blog about the Carmelites of San Diego, but I do know that they now hold a special place in my heart. And I want to write a book about them or about my experience with them. Because they are wonderful. And beautiful. And inspirational. And sacred.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Coffeehouse Altercations


To me, that has always seemed like an out of date, Southern, ignorant perspective only seen in the movies or read in books. It has never really presented itself to me up close and personal... until last night. I know that racism exists, but to actually be in the midst of people who think that hate can be justified is bewildering. Absolutely inconceivable to me.

Where to begin? One of my co-workers who has been especially hard for me to get along with just so happens to be in 11th grade. I love high school boys; they are so charming. He has made comments that make me cringe on mulitiple occasions, and last night was my breaking point. He jokingly made a racist comment, not uncommon in the least for him. I could no longer roll my eyes and simply tell him that he was acting like an asshole. No, this was our time to hash it out. What proceeded was an hour and half conversation about why he feels like it is acceptable to say and ultimately, think a certain way. It was somewhat productive. He learned that he feels superior to minorities, and that society has trained him to believe that money makes a person more valuable. But when I would ask him what he believes and not what society believes, he had no clue.

This kid is an extremely intelligent, albeit extremely annoying, young boy. I told him that I expected him to be able to back up his comments. He couldn't. He repeated, "I can say it because it's the truth!" To me, that is not an argument. And he couldn't wrap his mind around the idea that simply saying something is true or right doesn't actually make it true or right, and that generalizations amount to nothing. And at one point I asked him what he valued, how he decided one person was superior than another. Was it money? Race? Affluence? Intelligence? And he admitted that he did not know what he valued. He wanted to know, but he had never thought about it.

It was frustrating. It was mind-blowing. But it was needed. He asked me all kinds of questions about why I believe the way I do. Why I don't care about money like he does, why I value certain things about others, etc. It was good. And I had the opportunity to give him my raw perspective on life. On my struggles with judging people who are rich, who are ungrateful, who wear mini-skirts and who pop their collars. We learned from each other.

Oswald Chambers said in today's devotional, "When we come into contact with things that create confusion... we find to our amazement that we have the power to stay wonderfully poised even in the center of it all." He was not speaking about racism, but I will take it as a sign that my words were not my own. I was a well full of questions, answers, comments that were surprisingly genuine and non-aggressive. I was astouned at the conversation because although it was intense, we were respectful of each other. God was bringing to mind things I have learned and experiences I've had that had relevance to the topic. It was strange how beautifully it all come out and how it all fit together to shed light on the heart of the topic.

And then all hell broke loose. Another co-worker came in. The high schooler and I were mid-conversation, learning from each other, beginning to get somewhere... and then she walked in. I expected an ally. I expected decent human kindness. And all I got was a whole new battle.

This girl asked what we were talking about and I said, "(insert boys name here) made another racist comment and we are talking about why he thinks its okay and I think its wrong." And she looked at me and said, "Hail Hitler." I laughed an uncomfortable laugh. She had to be joking, right? And then she said, "I think racism is okay." I wanted to cry- out of frustration, out of disappointment, out of loneliness, out of brokeness.

The one who I thought would be my ally became my toughest opponent. I let her explain to me and I tried to listen with respect. But it was lost on me. First of all, the reasons and arguments that these two co-workers proceeded to berade me with sounded very unintelligent to me. Maybe it's the fact that they haven't been to college and have never had to give a real argument. I told them that a professor would tear them apart if they ever wrote a paper with those kind of generalizations, opinions, statements and absolutely nothing to back them up. No evidence. Nothing. But secondly, here were two young people who are justifying their hatred and superiority toward other humans. It was utterly heart-breaking. I kept thinking not only about the people that they are expressing superiority over but about them. What is it like to live with a hatred toward your fellow humans? Real, honest hate.

I left work with a feeling of utter disgust. I called my dear friend Caitlin, a non-racist like m'self, and she let me rant and cuss and scream about the night. We talked a long time about racism. About how we were raised and how racism creeps into everyday life in America. And she eloquently stated that "hatred can never be healthy." Where there is hatred, there is no health. And that is the root of it all. Hatred can never and should never be justified.

I cannot get that conversation out of my mind- maybe because I need to think about it more. But I have literally had tears well up in my eyes as I replay certain aspects of that conversation. The hatred disgusts me. The lack of love and complete disregard for humanity makes me heart hurt. Racism is real. It is not so uncommon as I once thought. And it slapped me in the face.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Travel Etiquette... or lack thereof, lady

I can be socially awkward, yes, I know that about myself. I do not always follow social norms, and admittedly, I sometimes blatantly disregard them. But travel etiquette I have down. It is like second nature to me... or so I thought.

I have been to 13 airports since December: Kansas City, Chicago, Miami, Tulsa, DFW, Minneapolis, Amsterdam, Accra, Dallas-Love, Lubbock, San Francisco, Phoenix, Milwakee. That sounds pretentious. I hate flying... I mean, I sort of love it. But I would rather drive then fly. And driving I have done as well. I have covered well over half the country this year by highways and byways, canyons and flatlands, oceans and mountains, hippie towns and cow pastures. Traveling is something that I enjoy, and honestly, it is one of the few things that I can consider myself well-informed about.

One can only imagine my shock when I was snubbed on an airplane last night by a 40something, make-up wearing, spray on tan loving, tight pants flaunting, woman drinking her large soda. I flew Southwest, one of the gems of the airline industry, and I was one of that last passengers on the plane. I knew I would inevitably get a middle seat, but I do not really mind that because I'm young and old people need more leg room more than I do.

I scouted my middle seat options. Usually I like to sit between two people with amiable appearances or a couple of old people will suffice. I found two ladies and I politely said, "Excuse me? Is that seat taken?" To my utmost confusion, the soda drinking, soccer mom says, "Umm... bsha... hmmph... no. I guess not." I was appalled. Did she just pull the "sorry, seat's saved" move? So I thought, screw you! I'm sitting next to you to simply to spite you. She could have left it at that. She clearly proved her point, right? No, she had a trump move yet to play. I opened my Steinbeck novel, crossed my legs and tried not to disturb my sensitive neighbor. Not more than 30 seconds later she actually gets up and moves to the back of the plane. I looked around in an even more confused state, and said to the short haired older lady next to me who was quite indifferent to my troubles, "Whoa, I think the lady next to me left. But her drink is still here." Quick hand, huffy woman snabs her drink, gives me a dirty look and huffs off to her new seat. The backpacking hipster behind me who had observed the whole event said, "Whoa. That's weird. Hmm... what's her problem?" Finally, an ally!

Did I look dirty? Was I too hippie? I mean, I don't wear velour jogging suits like her, so obviously I'm not as stylish... but really, why does she care so much? Have we come to the point where sitting next to someone on a plane is an inconvenience? Is personal space so important that we need an extra 2 inches for our 50 minute flight to Kansas City?

Try sitting on the floor of a vehicle with (or ontop of...) 30 other people, several bags of rice and a couple live animals... then talk to me about personal space.

I think that more people need to ignore social norms and personal space. Then maybe we would get along more, care less about inconvenience and more about our relationships with other people. The world might just live in harmony if every once in a while we really talked to a stranger, raced a random biker down the sidewalk on our longboards (ahem, Bhadri) or let someone sit next to you on a plane. I could be wrong though.

Monday, September 1, 2008

For my family

Although today may seem like any other Labor Day, for me it is monumental. Not only did I begin my junior year of college, attend a BBQ, and buy some mums, but as I write, my mom and her new husband are embarking on their latest adventure. They are moving to Venezuela. Yes, South America. Life is always changing, but right now, it seems like everything that has had an kind of significance for me is shifting. Though it's difficult and strange, it's not a bad thing. My life is unusual, I understand that, and I also appreciate that. But it does seem to constantly test my patience and my trust in God. However, I am beginning to understand a little bit more of why my life is in a constant state of transformation. I need it. I am learning how to rid myself of all attachments. Things that seemed so important to me (my childhood house, my car, my stability) are being taken. Or I am being urged to give them up. Honestly, everything that I have relied on and most things that I associate with comfort and with home are no longer the same. It's terrifying, but at the same time, I know that my home and my real focus will be on something greater and oh so much more stable. All this has allowed me to see my life from a new perspective.
My mom will always be my mom. She does not need to live and teach in Tulsa to be my mom. My sister and I have lived in foreign countries. We've been transformed because of those experiences; why shouldn't my mom have that opportunity as well? And I love that she is so brave and adventurous. She doesn't understand where Bethanie and I got the nerve to travel and visit different cultures, but clearly she has something to do with that.

So to my mom and Joe, congratulations on your next adventure. I'm so proud of you!
And to my dear brother, Bhadri, you are not forgotten. Happy Birthday! Bethanie and Dad, thanks for being so wonderful and for taking care of me and my gallbladder. I will see you all soon enough. Let's go camping.
"Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." -Paul