Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pocahontas is Hungary

Disney songs. Overused. Oversung. Over it.

Except Pocahontas. She will forever be my heroine. Not only because I am positive that somewhere in my ancestry we are related, but also because she is a princess who can swan dive off of waterfalls, cradle bear cubs, talk to racoons and single-handedly unite two waring groups out of her very own love for one blond haired, egotistical soldier. But most importantly, she sings songs of wisdom that have inspired me since 1995. I used to sing the ballad "Just Around the Riverbend" with gusto, assuming that some day I would face the same problems that she had. Such as, "Should I marry Kocoum? Is all my dreaming at an end... ooooooor should I still wait for you, Dream Giver?"

Fastfoward to 2009. I am twenty-two years old. I do not listen to the Pocahontas soundtrack on a regular basis; however, I do have it on my iTunes. And when I'm in need of some inspiration, I readily whip out some Native American folklore. Pocahontas sings to me. She tells me that anything is possible, that we shouldn't always follow traditions or expectations. She reminds me that to be safe we lose the chance of ever knowing what's around the riverbend.

What does this have to do with my current situation in Amsterdam? Honestly, not a whole lot. But if I can be so bold as to attempt to connect it, you really never know what's just around the riverbend. As Mother Willow so eloquently expresses in her solo, Listen with your heart. You will understand. And so we follow our hearts. To Hungary.

We have been given the amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity to work with an organization in Budapest, Hungary. And so we booked cheap flights and will cross the continent into the former Soviet bloc country that is still reeling from the devastation of a post-cold war culture and economy. It is a journey that may not immediately change our lives and we might not appreciate the significance of it this weekend... but it's big. 60% of the women trafficked into Amsterdam are from Hungary. It's a new phenomenon and no one has been able to figure out why so many Hungarians, over other Eastern European women, are ending up in the city. And so we pioneer. We pack our tiny bags and head to a country full of mystery.

Was the a roundabout way to inform you of the latest turn in our research? Yes. But was it interesting? Maybe. Embarassingly honest? Absolutely.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Korean Night

The aroma of soy sauce and excitement filled the air. Busy hands prepared a feast. Hearts thumped for joy. The nervous anticipation of the greatest night YWAM-Amsterdam has ever witnessed was evident in the demeanor of every individual that had signed up to participate. No one knew what to expect. No one could imagine just how incredible, and unfortunately for you, indescribable the night would turn out to be. We pitied those who signed up too late, and even more, those who had never even heard of tonight. Because tonight was…

Korean Night.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Korean Night. You think you know, but you have no idea…

First, I believe it is appropriate to give you some information to enhance this experience. I am living on a hall of Korean men. They are kind and polite and relatively quiet, save for the one Korean who sings Jason Mraz’s “Geek in Pink” at the top of his lungs on a semi-regular basis. On one of my first mornings as I was getting dressed, I noticed a large shadow appear on my window. Thankfully my curtains were closed but the window was, unfortunately, slightly open. My room is adjacent to the roof which can double as a pseudo-balcony when the mood strikes. And my dear neighbor, a Korean man aged approximately 20 years, had climbed onto the roof and began knocking on my window. I was taken aback. What is this Korean man doing on the roof trying to get into my room? As some of you know may know, I am not the best in situations that may lead to embarrassment of one or more parties, so I casually moved my hand toward the window, attempting to remain out of sight by flattening myself against the wall, and closed the window shut. I thought that this would be the end of our rooftop relationship, but the next day as I was taking a nap, he began knocking again, this time with more force. I pulled the blanket over my head and pretended not to be in the room. I promised after that day, if he knocked on my window again, I would answer it. I would attempt to not be awkward and I would say to him that either A) he has the wrong window or B) do you need to come inside? But he never came back, and so the mystery remains unsolved.

Other than those chance encounters, we say “Hello” and “Good morning!” as we walk past each others’ rooms. We chat about the internet and edit their English notes for them. Clearly, Floor 2 has bonded despite the language barrier, and thus, Calley, LT and I enthusiastically awaited Korean Night 2009.

As we entered the normally bland and undecorated dining room, we were astounded by the transformation that had taken place in honor of our Asian friends. Korean flags with something like origami birds and trees adorned the cloth laden tables in the dining room. Red and white balloons lined the entryway. Sushi, translucent noodles, rice balls filled with spice, and sautéed vegetables painted the blank canvases of our plastic plates. Music heavy with whistles and chimes serenaded our intimate dining experience. Those in charge, and those who got into the Asian sensation spirit, wore Korean flags as capes. The whole dining room was a tribute, an effigy, to the great country.

Immediately following dinner was the real program complete with traditional dancing, a band concert, some type of dance/fighting, and games eerily reminiscent of reality shows made famous by their neighbor to the south, Japan. One game even required all participants to wear aprons, kick a pompon three times in a row, throw a wooden stick into a bucket and then run and jump onto a mattress while blowing out four candles. A relay of relays.

At the end, they all sang a song in Korean and told us that they loved us.

It was and will forever be: Korean Night.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Red Light District: A Glimpse

The Red Light District of Amsterdam. We walked down the main roads and narrow alleys, suppressing emotions of anger and deep disgust. Women, all trapped beyond their glass windows. Their bodies clad in next to nothing. Their faces caked in make-up to hide their tired eyes and beaten cheeks. Parents casually strolled hand in hand with their children, glancing at the women with little interest. Teenagers stopped to gawk. A young girl fixed her mascara in the reflection of an occupied window, seeing only herself and no one inside. Men briskly walked out of the rooms after paying 50 Euros for a body. For pleasure. For an insatiable and unattainable satisfaction.

Those women are laughed at by insensitive and oblivious tourists. Those women are perused and shopped like shoes and purses and light, summer dresses.

So what would I say to that woman in the window? I would tell her that although she may never meet them, she has advocates. Although she may never feel it, she is not alone. Although it may never be manifested in her liberation, there is hope. There is life beyond those windows. There is something more than either of us knows. We are both searching together. We are both looking for worth, value, meaning and, ultimately, love. She is not alone in her suffering. Look around! The whole world is crying out for liberation and redemption. We are all needy and broken. And so I will walk with her. Because I am her.

So join us in the abolition of men, women and children around the world who need you to be aware.

Educate yourself:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cup-a-Soup: Euro Style

I am in Amsterdam; my favorite city in the world. It is just as striking and invigorating as I found it was the last time I was here, which just so happens to be a long five years ago. Back in 2004, I came to this city in search of greater understanding and knowledge. It was a trip all-together life changing for little, impressionable, 17-year old Molly. It was integral in my life, pushing me to take risks like leaving home at the age of 18 to live in Africa, and daring me to question beliefs and form my own ideology and thoughts on life. Amsterdam captured me. I fell in love with Amsterdam, fast and hard. For the past five years I have longed to return.
And somehow, someway, I am back. My emotions cannot be contained, my heart desires to delve into the culture and I can't wait to get lost among the canals and winding narrow alleyways. I would choose to be no other place in the world for the month of July 2009. Two of my closest friends and I will be living our dreams, together in Amsterdam.

Onto much more important news...

Cup-a-soup. To you, that image probably conjures up memories of broke college dinners or elementary school lunches. For me, it is glory in a little paper packet. Five years ago, at the age of 17, I sat in my one person room in this same building overlooking a lucious courtyard in a bustling city. I sat on my bed and ate soup. And not just any soup, Cup-A-Soup. Flavor: Kerrie (Curry). I sat on my bed with a mug full of that delicious liquid on the most life changing day of my life (exaggeration? I think not). It became my comfort food for the trip and when I returned, to my utmost horror, I found that Cup-a-Soup America did not in fact supply their customers with my all-time favorite flavor packet. So what's a girl to do when her preservative filled soup box is noticeably absent from the shelves of her local grocery store? Why email Cup-a-Soup, of course! Thus, I emailed those buggers and told them my concern. I knew that they had Kerrie, but where was it? Where could I find it? Could they mail it to me? Their response was kind and thoughtful but disappointing nonetheless. Kerrie is produced only in Europe because the demand is too low in the States. And no, they appreciated my enthusiasm for their product but they could not mail it to me.

And then yesterday we were shopping at Alber Hein- the grocery store- and to my surprise, atop the shelf next to the typical- and let's be honest, boring- soups like broccoli cheddar and chicken noodle sat one lone row of Kerrie. I am back. And it feels oh so nice.

Confession: It is quite likely that Kerrie Cup-a-Soup will taste slightly less incredible this time as my taste has improved and my love for real curry has only increased. That being said, I will update you immediately upon the finishing of my first mug of Kerrie Cup-a-Soup 2009.