Pura Vida

It took one month. If you blink one time it’s over and you’ll be sitting in an airport enjoying the eternal wait before your flight. It took one month and I’m seeing flashes of home. Once again I find myself considering major life decisions like what I’m going to do when I grow up and whether or not I’m going to finally go back to school. In one short month I am once again preparing myself for the dreaded return flight home, albeit this time, changed.

The only thing more cliche than returning to one’s country changed is to have never left, having remained the same. In one month Costa Rica filled me with a refreshment of joy, friendship, and of course Spanish. Suddenly, as I look down the tunnel at my dreaded nowhere hometown, it seems different. Perhaps the change in me and my perspectives has in fact changed everything around me. I am reminded of the power of perception as I consider how frequently I had rebuked the isolated excess that is the American Nightmare. How many times had I identified my “home town” as the hindrance in my life rather than the task at hand?

My former pastor, as well as one of my personal heroes once told me the importance of speaking Spanish in the area I live in. I quickly accepted it as true but failed to act on it. In one month I have become functional (a term I would love to quickly replace with fluent in the near future) in Spanish and the adventure of Home is becoming exposed, perhaps for the first time. Quick are we as Christians to embrace the warm feeling of international ministry to the poor. People like Brangelina and Bono have created a sexy example of reaching out to the world and Chripsters (Christian Hipsters) ran with it, myself included. The idea of speaking a foreign language and the radical culture shock became so attractive abroad that I forgot to genuinely apply it at Home.

Sometimes it takes going away in order to look back and truly see home for what it is. Home and Away are no longer locations, but rather perspectives. I live in the melting pot. An absurd majority of impoverished people in my community are Spanish speakers. Rather than adapt and be useful, I had become a dusty clock, quietly and persistently waiting for the next hour. I will return anew. I will not return to the passive impatience in which I once found security. My prayer is that I, as well as those like me, recover that swagger that can be found so freely abroad and bring it to our door steps.

Published in: on 20/10/2011 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Safety is a Prison

It has been far too long since my last entries and for my apathetic approach to my writing, I apologize. I have endured a barrage of monotony in this predictable life. The fierce winds of social expectation have cut me to the core. The debt I paid took more than my financial resources. As water sustains and nourishes us, it also squelches a roaring fire. In my case, the nourishment that we all need and pursue placed me into a circular prison like a hamster without purpose or ambition. That time spent paying debts; that time spent impatiently waiting, is coming to an end.

Without a home, everywhere becomes nothing more than somewhere. My home is my epicenter. It is what sustains me in my times of need and yet it is a lethal medicine that I have abused for too long. The road is fire and it is my love. It burns away my bonds and wraps it’s arms around me. Free again I traverse into the new, searching for a frontier. The lush country of Costa Rica has called out to me and I have answered back favorably.

Published in: on 07/09/2011 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Quote

Where one must travel is half as important as how one must travel, but above all else, one must travel.

Published in: on 06/10/2010 at 11:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Will of the Wind

Fiercest of winds ever blowing, relentless barrage in pursuit,

Your chaos a hurricane behind, the scars of suffering lie still.

In the painful unknowing, paralyzed by your howl,

Back bent by the lashing of your merciless will.

By the authority of the wind I shall ever traverse,

Each step in numb submission, along a path paved in past.

The tyranny of your righteous breath, all knowing in judgement,

Filling my sails once again, the wind forever pushing me forward.

Published in: on 11/09/2010 at 3:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Excerpt from Untitled South Africa Book

Weighted down by the full mass of monotony I sat, emotionally hunched over and exhausted. I had to escape. I had to find certainty of the fact that I was not destined to endure this forever. There was a longing deep within my core, yearning for the epic. There was something summoning me. Something or someone was assuring me that what I was about to do, though I be discouraged and criticized, was the right choice. I had a growing faith that an opportunity was coming and, if I took it, I was surely in store for the amazing.

This was my way out. My escape took shape before my eyes in the form of a soccer tournament. A soccer tournament that, despite occurring every four years, was the first of it’s kind. This was history in the making.

This would be my adventure. It would be the catalyst that would set me free. And I, not entirely ignorant to the gravity of it all, was prepared. I had foreseen some small scale model of the purpose this tournament would serve in my life. I had already considered long ago, if only briefly, making an escape to the wild host nation of this tournament. I knew there would be so much against me, the unknown and unexpected culprits would seek to crush my ambitions. I needed to take action quickly and without uncertainty.

In order to solidify my place in this destiny I had to move in silky spontaneity. Finding encouragement in those supporting me. It would be with the twitch of a trigger finger that the decision was made. I had less than one year to save up and prepare for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Published in: on 24/08/2010 at 4:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Faith Beyond Walls

Anything is possible in preparation. Mountains can be moved when there are no mountains in sight. Any river can be crossed when surrounded by dry land. The church can reach the entire world, every nation, until we step foot into Babylon on Sunday afternoon.

What is it that shatters that confidence we find in safety. Once danger introduces fear, we see details and become filled with doubt. The imagination we find inspiration in within those walls is diluted and dissipated out there. Out there, we can lose sight of who we are, lose sight of what we can do. The mountain-top experience loses something in it’s descent. Something is forever left in the temples and shrines.

The church is not our place of sustenance. The Holy Spirit can not be imprisoned like a lion, within the walls of the church. Pastors and elders aren’t strong enough to cage the wild beast. He seeks to explode beyond the walls of great cities and beyond the borders of great nations. My God does not become weakened beyond the proximity of familiarity. The spirit we find as our watering well is yearning to be a flood, dammed by the insignificant. The world is waiting impatiently for someone to unleash a flood. It waits for something to tear down the walls of the church.

We have sought to reside in the safe place. We took the easy route to avoid the harsh reality of Nineveh. At some point we have to stop relying on people to walk through our front doors, and leave the church. The exodus from safety is inevitable. May our faith guide us beyond walls and shelter and into the terrifying unknown.

Published in: on 16/08/2010 at 11:45 am  Comments (1)  
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A Thousand Words

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. What does a picture really say? Admittingly biased by the fact that I love writing, alas, I must yet express that that has got to be one of the most ignorant cliches I have ever had the misfortune of knowing.

What can a picture really tell you? What unique life experience can be even mildly recreated by a still image? A memory is not confined to an 8×5 piece of paper. A story is not crippled to the extent that it cannot be properly told without the crutches that are physical images.

In this visually driven society, there are times when images and video can benefit a story. However I think we have lost the patience and raw curiosity to hear a story for what it is. Story telling was once the only form of education, history, tradition and entertainment. There’s no implication that we should degress to lesser forms of communication but with the loss of imagination, with the loss of that creative spark that can so easily flame a story to life, we are enslaved to our creation.

When someone asks me, “So what was a great experience that you had while traveling?”, I yearn to sit them down and start from the beginning, detailing it through to the end. Americans don’t have time for that. If they did they would have found something else to spend it on by now. We, as a society, have done a pathetic job at story telling. A picture is not worth a thousand words. I don’t think a picture is worth the one word needed to identify itself.

I have not grasped the raw feeling and life that flowed so vibrantly in many of my accounts of travel. I plan to change that. I plan to fan the flame that is the art of story telling. I will tell a story of my life with words; words worth a thousand pictures. I will commit to bringing my listeners, and readers, to the places I have been. I will guide them down each crowded street, carry them to the last rough rock at the top of each mountain. Walk with them along the patient sand which guards us from the relentless sea. Shading our eyes from the piercing sun, I will point to where I once stood, long ago, looking out across the blue rippling glass.

Our words are worth more than a thousand pictures. We must begin to thoughtfully and carefully share them once again.

Published in: on 31/07/2010 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Very Worst of Wives

I am married to a most terrible wife. Her hatred towards me is a poison that I can but offer back in returning. And like the worst of wives, she sneers with jealous discontent when I come home. It’s always, “Where have you been? What have you been doing?” She can’t wrap her primitive mind around my ambitions. She can’t accept me for who I am or what I strive to be. I am conscious of the fact that she never will.

This spouse of mine, this perennial expression that embodies my home, is an unfaithful wife. She summons me home with false promises of content. She bribes me with chrome plated offers of success and growth. Thus, when I come home and embrace her in my arms, suddenly happy to see her, she turns her back to me, snickering as my shoulders slump. Alas this is my lot. She is my wife and I have vowed to love her.

I believe that a good husband can improve the very worst of wives. May she spit in my face each time I lower my guard, she is my wife and I am her husband. I will endure what must be endured and change what must be changed. I will not abandon her.

Should the call of the wild be carried, through the wind, to my ears, as it so often does, I will recognize it. I will remember the natural beauty, the radical experiences that words come miles shy of expressing. I will recollect the joy, the freedom to laugh and cry and exist beyond the framework of mortal expectations. I will never forget what’s out there. I couldn’t if I tried. But, she is my wife, as awful as she may be, and I am her husband.

I am full of hope now. The love gained from afar is my offering to her. She will reject it of course but it will ever be freely given to her. Full of love I have returned and beneath the falling hail that is the rage of my wife, I shall ever call her home. She is my wife, and I am her husband. This is home.

Published in: Uncategorized on 21/07/2010 at 10:15 am  Comments (2)  

This Is Africa (The Ugly, well not really)

The ugly… Where to begin? Well for starters let’s point out that I’m completely out of money and living in JHB International Airport for the remaining days till I can catch my flight home…

Whew, OK now that that’s out there, I would like to use this closing post to touch on some of the hilarious, awkward, slightly disturbing aspects of South Africa. Whether it’s a sign that says, “Baboons are dangerous animals. Lock your doors.” or the indemnity form we signed in order to enter a sketchy game park, sometimes all you can do is sigh and say, “This Is Africa…”

At one point (well let’s be fair, several points) in our trip we encountered directional challenges. On several occasions we were forced to just shake our heads and express “T.I.A.” aloud to ease frustrations. We asked a gas station clerk for directions to a park and he stated, “you just take N1 to Rustenburg (a distant city at this point) and turn right…” Really? Just turn right….? Needless to say we were lost for hours. This is Africa…

One another occasion we were driving through a desolate area down an empty road and came across a lone man standing under a strange sign. This African CalTrans equivalent was dancing wildly (you know those annoying sign twirlers that have taken over busy intersections? Just like that…) under a sign that showed a screaming face with print exclaiming, “Please don’t kill me!” How’s that for an African “Don’t Speed.”

On one decently traveled road we had to stop and wait for nearly a half hour for a herd of cattle that decided to cut us off and cross the bridge first, leaving us screaming at them out our windows and inevitably relenting, “This Is Africa”

Near the end of our journey we did some shopping in downtown Johannesburg (not exactly the scenic area). We all erupted in laughter when we pass a couple and hear a loud gasp followed by, “A white guy!” Nick later decided to get corn rows from a street braider in order to blend in… most definitely a failed endeavor.

Another fine recollection is of several hot dog vendors getting friendly before a soccer match. The guys were ordering up and chatting it up and the girls working the booth stated they wanted to move the USA. We did the standard, “Well we want to move here!” maneuver which quickly lead to a blunt request to marry them… We suddenly realized we were late for a soccer match.

I have poured out sweat, blood and money throughout this wild land. I have laughed harder than any other 2 month segment of my entire life. Whether it was laughing about a busted tire at night in a sketchy neighborhood or waiting on the street for a building to potentially blow up, this place has seared incredible stories into my brain. This land has embraced us at times and at other times rejected us. This land has been horrifying, hilarious, loving, warm, icy cold, volatile, ugly but mostly beautiful. This land feels like home now. This country cannot be compared to any other. It is it’s own category and anomaly. This is Africa.

Published in: on 18/07/2010 at 5:40 am  Comments (2)  
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The Bad

I feel like I’ve done a decent job of offering a small taste of South Africa’s beauty. That being said, I think I owe authenticity a chance to take the stand in it’s most ruthless form. From the start of this trip I have been faced with unthinkable beauty, untamed and untampered with, but I have also faced some of the most atrocious encounters I ever cared to fathom. It is not in my interest to criticize or expose unfairly, I simply feel like my reports have been slightly unbalanced.

Upon arriving in Secunda, I experienced a wealth of the Afrikaans culture. Along with their rich superficial hospitality, I met political ignorance immeasurable pride. This ignorant American took great comfort to hear, after brought up in small talk, that THESE whites were not the least bit racist. Not even ten minutes later we delved into the world of racial hatred and not even a disclaimer was offered to compensate the contradiction. One local, albeit kind enough to us, informed us that, “You have to get out of town, you won’t see any lions or elephants here. These are the only animals you’ll find here.” The last sentence was partnered with a proud finger pointing at some black construction workers nearby.

With nearly every corner of the country reached, it’s safe to assume plenty of time was spent in the back seat of a car, staring out the window. Although I firmly believe that the faster we move the lest we experience and subsequentially, the less we learn, however, I can boast some interesting encounters from the passenger seat (see previous post…). Here are a c0uple interesting sights: Several posters exclaiming “DISCOUNT! Half off abortions for students!”, infants being used by beggars in order to strike drivers’ emotions, people (about 9 and counting) walking up and saying “give me that soccer ball” as we walked by with one in our hands.

We met a homeless man in McDonald’s (yes McDonald’s, we couldn’t resist….) who said we were the first visitors he’d ever met (all this after the largest international sporting event that didn’t manage to make an appearance in the ghetto). He said, “nobody treats me this nice, I would very much like to visit America one day.” I was appauled that 4 twenty-something year olds from the USA were nicer than most people he’d known.

Another man mentioned at one point that he loved how our country didn’t categorize or classify people by their color, a rash statement that I shamefully did not correct.

I’ve been shook down for soccer balls and cash. I’ve been told to my face, “you need to leave our country”. I have been insulted and accused for choosing not to give a drunk man money.

There have been awful eye opening experiences of the filth of mankind. The dirty stench of what mankind is capable of still lingers around me. It’s a stench that, while fully realized in Africa, reminded me of home.

Published in: on 17/07/2010 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment