Moments

12 February 2009

It’s hard…life that is.

It’s hard going through transitions…making choices…paying bills…getting hurt…stepping on toes…losing people along the way…finding jobs…seeking meaning…staying consistent…remembering the things that really matter…not eating too much…exercising enough…finishing books…starting them for that matter…

Why is it that these things are so difficult? Is it that we really don’t care enough about them…that we just think that we care about them or that someone has convinced us that we care about them? I’m not sure exactly, but none of these things are easy. They take work.

But then I get caught up in the work. Am I simply going to work at everything, for the rest of my life, til the day I die. Am I always going to be tired? Will I ever get enough sleep? How come my weekends aren’t restful? Do I do too much? Do I have too many friends?

Then I get to the point where I don’t care. I get apathetic. I want to…and sometimes do…quit. Be done. Not try. But that never solves it.

But in that moment. The moment that takes place just after the apathy lifts itself off my shoulders and my lungs fill with the first fresh breath of crisp air…that moment is where I want to stay. The moment where I’m re-inspired. The moment where I post on my blog for the first time since October…the moment where I go to bed when I’m supposed to…the moment that gives me the ability to wake up renewed, regenerated…the moment where the first cup of coffee for the day tastes better than any cup before it…the moment where I smile for no reason…the moment where everything comes into focus…the moment where for the first time in so many months the sunrise means something so much more than the ability to see…where Mt. Ranier is so clear that you have to call someone to make sure they get out that day and see it.

Last weekend was that moment.

I’m more convinced than ever that it will last. But if it doesn’t, it’ll be back.

It always comes back.

My advice for you…don’t wait for the moment, make it.

Yours,

Josh


A Necessary Title Change

26 October 2008

As I go through these movements from country to country, job to job, I feel like small things in my life need to be just as flexible. The title of my blog fit where I was last year. Ethiopia. But that’s not where I am anymore. Not that I’ve forgotten where I was, but I am aware that I’m not in that place any longer and my life is made up of new things that it wasn’t made up of before.

My posts wil now be mere thoughts that pass through my head and the conversations that make me think, feel and act in new ways. Life is faster now that I’m back in the US. Sometimes too fast. And I don’t want to miss the things that are meaninful on a daily basis. So this new blog will be an attempt to remember all of those things.

Happy reading. I’ll be trying to write frequently now that I have an internet connection faster than dial-up.

Content,

Joshua


Transitions

26 October 2008

No…I’m not talking about the color-changing eyeglass lenses that older people wear so they don’t have to have sunglasses as well as their prescriptions. I’m talking about the last three months of my life. It’s been hard. And I don’t think I’ve been processing it enough. In an effor tto do this and share my random thoughts and feelings with the blogging community, I’m going to be transitioning in my blogging style, frequency, and content. This new phase of life will begin promptly Sunday morning, October 26, 2008.

If you still check this…thank you. If not…then you have no idea that this post exists…go on with your life…it’s not that big of a deal.

Beginning Again,

Joshua


Uhren & Schmuck

19 July 2008

Written 7/18/2008

Well…it’s been a long day here in Switzerland. We got in yesterday evening and spent a few hours in Zurich just seeing the city and enjoying it’s incredible cleanliness…something Addis isn’t known for! Last night we spent the night at a cozy home in Ruperswil where our friend Carolyn lives. Today we went back to Zurich to pick up three friends at the train station. It’s sort of a mini pre-reunion before going home. It’s been amazing thus far. We took a walk through a park by Lake Zurich and fell asleep in the grass. The girls left Nick and I to sleep while they went on a shopping spree. Then Nick and I thought it perfect to take a dip in the lake…cold, but satisfying. Especially since we were in broad daylight, in public…and in our underwear. So liberating!

That’s all for now…I’ve gotta run to enjoy a drink with my friends!

Prost!

Joshua


The Unhurried Colors of a Horizon

18 July 2008

Written 7/17/2008

I forgot about today. Then I started thinking.

Today we took it slow getting ready for the day. We had a wonderful breakfast of fresh fruit, baguettes, croissants and coffee. I took a hot shower and packed up our bags. Then it was off to the fromagerie and the boulangerie for cheese, salami, and bread for lunch. Then we took the metro to the train station, walked aboard car #8 bound for Zurich. We ate as we left the station and now are sitting aboard a fast train, zooming by small French villages as we go. The French countryside is a beautiful canvas of greens that seems to go on forever. The colors blur as they whiz by near the train tracks, but off in the distance, they slowly mosey their way across the horizon. For the last year, I have been living my life on the horizon line…slowly moving through life like the hills of the East of France. No rush. Just distance and time. Back in the “civilized” world for only two days, I feel the pull of the world on my body, heart and mind. The train zooming by, I’m sucked closer and closer until I feel like I’m eventually going to go under. I must keep my eyes on the horizon.

Pain. Lover. Feet. Sized. Staid. Raw. Ego. The boy across the aisle is beating his parents in scrabble. Good for him. I’m sure that’s all he’s thinking about right now. That game. Not the next game, or the next hundred games, or what he’s going to be when he grows up, or whether he has a job or not when he goes back home. As a boy, his eyes are on the horizon. Why would he try to pick out all the small details within the blur just feet away from the car when there is more than he could possibly see outside it? Why do I?

And I’m tired because of it. Even after three days.

Sorry for the rant. Just some thoughts.

Hope you all are well.

Yours,
Joshua

Currently listening to: Chris Thile, How to Grow a Woman from the Ground


Whirlwind

18 July 2008

Written 7/17/2008

I’m on a train to Switzerland right now and I realized I needed to write.

The last few days have been quite crazy. Leaving Ethiopia, flying into the western world, traveling, etc. I have been meaning to write a post titled, “Last Days”, but I’ve been hesitant to begin too much of my processing while attempting to take in and enjoy all I can in Europe. So…I have decided to hold off. It will be coming though, probably on my way home to the states. It’s just too much right now.

Instead, I will give you some detail about what’s been happening in my life since landing in the land of the Brits and where my time has brought me up to this point.

After leaving Ethiopia at 2:45am on Sunday, we were in flight to London, England. Nine hours, one fuel stop and a lot of emotion later, we landed in good ole London town. Sarah and Maren stayed at the airport while Bethany and I took 140kgs of luggage into the city to a friend of a friend’s house where they will stay until we return through London on our way back to the states. The trip there was about an hour and a half long, took two subway trains, one overground train, six flights of stairs up, two flights of stairs down, and produced a whole lot of sweat. But we made it safe and sound, only to be invited in for a beer and sandwiches from Rachel (new friend) and her parents, Neil and Linda. After toasted ham and cheese and two cold Carlsbergs, we were back on the train to Heathrow. We got back with about an hour and a half until takeoff, but it was no big deal because in the new terminal at Heathrow, they have a new baggage system and check-in process…it’s pretty sweet and saved us a lot of hassle. So we grabbed some food…ham and cheese panini for me…and headed to the gate where we would catch our flight to Paris. A smooth connection if you ask me…smooth as a Greek man’s chest!

Then it was off to Paris. A free gin and tonic, a twist of lime, two extra wraps to eat…compliments of Sandra the flight attendant…and we were on the ground and out the door to our airport hotel. Bedtime for the first time in two days.

Up early on Monday morning, we took the B Train into Paris and hopped out near the famous Luxembourg Gardens. A nice walk from our destination, we headed on our way. We got to the apartment owned by Bethany’s aunt and uncle at about 8:30am, just in time for croissants and jam for breakfast. After what could have been the best croissant I’ve ever eaten in my whole life, it was out to the streets to pick up some food and wine for our picnic in the park. It just happened to be Bastille Day…French equivalent of the 4th of July…so we were planning a picnic dinner to enjoy at the park underneath the Eiffel Tower while we watched fireworks over the Seine…I know…rough life. After getting what we need as far as food went and spent an hour dumbly looking through the vast wine selection, we headed back to the apartment to plan for the day. Monmartre  was first on the list. A hilltop community, it’s the highest point in Paris and is home to the Sacre-Coeur Cathedral. We took in the view of Paris from its tower and toured its massive interior. Part of me felt like I was intruding in such a beautiful place. This home of worship is now merely a tourist attraction. Afterward, we walked around the small square where Monet and other famous impressionists got their first start, then it was off to lunch. Bethany’s aunt and uncle offered to treat the four of us to our first meal outside Ethiopia, so we picked a small brasserie to eat at. Vegetable quiche, Beef Rumpsteak, Salad Vinaigrette, Apple Tarte…need I say more? Yes…I do need to say more. IT WAS THE BEST LUNCH EVER!!!!!!!!! Then we took the metro to the Luxembourg Gardens, to put our feet in the water and rest a bit. It would be a long night. Once home, we packed up our picnic dinner, two bottles of wine, and headed down the street to the Eiffel Tower. STOP! Two large men in S.W.A.T. uniforms asked us to show our bags.

“Vous avez les alcols?”
“Oui.”
“Non, non, non! Tournez vous.”

So we turned around, found a bench on the street and joined the 150 other Parisians in drinking our wine pre-entry. Then we headed in to get a spot on the grass. The park was packed, so we only got a tiny space, but it was enough to see the Tower. We were there by about 8pm, but the fireworks didn’t start until 10:30pm, so we sat and ate our bread, Camembert, Brie and fruit under the shade of a large tree, expectantly waiting. The voice of Christophe Maé…French version of Jason Mraz who was playing the concert in the park that evening…filled the air as we ate and laughed. I will pause to note that James Blunt was also there…better in concert than on cd. Bethany and I took a walk to the base of the Eiffel Tower, but got stopped by the mob of people surrounding us as we went. So we turned back and rejoined the family. As the fireworks began, Bethany’s uncle Steve pulled out two Romeo y Julieta cigars of which we enjoyed every puff all the more given our surroundings and company. As the fireworks came to a close, we walked home and hit the bed hard. We were incredibly tired from a long first day away from what has long been our home.

Over the next two days, we proceeded to take in the sights. I’ll list them along with my impressions.

Notre Dame- A massive cathedral, I was awed by both its size and its beauty. I was struck with an incredibly reverent feeling as we toured the inside and walked the courtyard. It’s better in real life than on the Disney movie.

Saint-Chapelle Cathedral- Filled with dazzling stained glass windows from floor to ceiling, the Bible is told from Genesis to Revelation in beautiful colors and light. Truly incredible to see.

Musée d’Orsée- My first Monet, my first Van Gogh, my first Renoir. So much better in person. I have no words that would do their work any justice.

Rodin Gardens- Lush and green, the gardens are filled with Rodin’s most fmous sculptures. My two favorites were “Le Penseur” (The Thinker) and “La Défense” (The Defense). Le Penseur thinks with every muscle in his body all the way down to his clenching toes and flexing calves. Showing the protection of God’s angels on his people, La Défense was a beautiful picture of Christ’s love.

Le Louvre- Big. Enormous. We clearly didn’t have enough time to see everything. But some of the highlights were of course the “Mona Lisa”, “The Wedding Feast at Cana”, “Venus de Milo”, and many more.

L’Orangerie- Not an orange market. Actually it’s an amazing museum. Small. It houses two rooms of some of the largest Monet works in the world. Potentially my favorite museum I visited.

Champs Elysée- A microcosm of the consumerism of the western world…but very cool to see.

Arc de Triomphe- Tall, amazing, Vive La France!!!

Last night, we had amazing French crêpes for dinner and dessert prepared by Bethany’s amazing Parisian aunt, Maryvonne. It was easy to sleep after a day of walking, an incredible dinner, a couple glasses of wine and good conversation. I went to bed with a feeling of serenity…much needed.

More later.
Joshua

The Unhurried Colors of a Horizon
Written 7/17/2008

Today we took it slow getting ready for the day. We had a wonderful breakfast of fresh fruit, baguettes, croissants and coffee. I took a hot shower and packed up our bags. Then it was off to the fromagerie and the boulangerie for cheese, salami, and bread for lunch. Then we took the metro to the train station, walked aboard car #8 bound for Zurich. We ate as we left the station and now are sitting aboard a fast train, zooming by small villages as we go. The French countryside is a beautiful canvas of greens that seems to go on forever. The colors blur as they whiz by near the train tracks, but off in the distance, they slowly mosey their way across the horizon. For the last year, I have been living my life on the horizon line…slowly moving through life like the hills of the East of France. No rush. Just distance and time. Back in the “civilized” world for only two days, I feel the pull of the world on my body, heart and mind. The train zooming by, I’m sucked closer and closer until I feel like I’m eventually going to go under. I must keep my eyes on the horizon.

Pain. Lover. Feet. Sized. Staid. Raw. Ego. The boy across the aisle is beating his parents in scrabble. Good for him. I’m sure that’s all he’s thinking about right now. That game. Not the next game, or the next hundred games, or what he’s going to be when he grows up, or whether he has a job or not when he goes back home. As a boy, his eyes are on the horizon. Why would he try to pick out all the small details within the blur just feet away from the car when there is more than he could possibly see outside it? Why do I?

And I’m tired because of it. Even after three days.

Sorry for the rant. Just some thoughts.

Hope you all are well.

Yours,
Joshua

Currently listening to: Chris Thile, How to Grow a Woman from the Ground


On the Bathroom Wall

8 July 2008

Written 7/6/2008

So this year has gone by and I think about the things that make me smile, cry, laugh, and weep, the things that inspire me, hinder me, hold me up when I just feel like falling, and some things that just don’t fall into any of those categories. And when I stop and take a moment during my busy Addis Ababa days, I think back to the place I spend quite a bit of time each day and experience all these emotions…the bathroom.

As one sits on the pot in our small home, your face is just inches away from a crapily tiled wall filled with clippings from random American magazines that make a person think. And with as much time as I spend in the bathroom on an average day, I have read these short blurbs and stories over and over again until the point of wrote memory. Here are just a few…

I CAN, with a flying pig taking away the ’T. True pigs can’t fly…but what if? As children in Ethiopia grow, they hear the opposite of what children in America hear throughout their child years. “You can be anything you want to be!” says the 3rd grade teacher in America. “Do what I tell you. Don’t do that. You can’t do that!” says the improperly trained Ethiopian 2nd grade lecturer. But this reminds me of what they can do. So have done my best to tell them.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit. Pursuit of what? Happiness? Joy? Christ? Food? A home? For most Ethiopians, the first two aren’t given. So it seems to me, that for them, Pursuit is how they live their lives. Pursuit of everything, even Life and Liberty. But before this, food, shelter, water, family. Life and Liberty don’t enter the mind until it is freed from the bounds of basic needs. But as my thoughts progress, I realize the confines within which my brain functions. I think of Life as the right to life, the right to be fed and be safe. Liberty is a nationalistic freedom. But in Ethiopia, perhaps they understand these more holistically. Life is embedded in everyday coming and going. Life is found in each breath, in each embrace, in each meal with a friend. Life is Christ, as Paul said. Nothing more, nothing less. And Liberty is the freedom within oneself, regardless of what governmental standard people find themselves in. I think I have a lot to learn.

Flavor Your World. Food in the US is bland. Throw a little berbere or mitmita on something and it’ll spice up the rest of your day.

Expect Everything. Donkeys and fresh fruit stands, ox herds and roundabouts, sheep poop and goat heads for sale, mothers giving away their babies to go to America and Apple iPhones, beggars and sellers on every corner, sun in the morning and monsoons in the afternoon, 30% yearly inflation and cemented wages, no electricity today and no water tomorrow, Italian lasagna for lunch and spicy Indian for dinner…Ethiopia has it all. And if I forget it, all I have to do is walk outside the gate.

Long Live Sunny. Thirteen months of sunshine. That’s Ethiopia’s slogan to attract visitors. The thing is, it’s true.

We’ve Grown Stronger. The phrase tells the story.

Loads of Hope. Third world doesn’t have it, but I see it. But it takes the hope of the fortunate to instill it in the ones who aren’t. That’s our job.

Who Will Get What They Deserve? I never really understood this one…but there are flames behind it…so I’m thinking hell. I guess it translates into the repercussions of mean practical jokes.

Naughty and Nice. In my interpretation, this defines the women I live with…and also perhaps my students.

Never Miss the Fun. Refer to “Expect Everything” and you’ll soon realize that I don’t have to worry about this one. It’s all around me all the time.

Why is Pregnant Christina Not Wearing Underwear? Breaking news apparently. Hmm…what are the things I don’t miss about America?

Wish for Anywhere. Today. I wish for a fireplace and a big comfy couch in Bothell, Washington.

Make the New Year’s Resolution Not to Go On a Diet. Easy enough…move to Africa. I lost 40 lbs that I didn’t think I needed to lose.

Best Dressed, Sexiest Alive, Most Eligible, Most Beautiful. I don’t pretend to understand this one.

Evil Knievel, 1938-2007
Robert Craig Knievel Jr. died in November after 69 years, which by all rights is more than twice as long as it should have taken him. The motorcycle stuntman was known for his astonishing leaps but even more for his crashes. With every boast, world record and broken bone, he became a bigger figure and graced more lunch boxes—particularly after his fall, on his rocket-boosted Skycycle, into Idaho’s Snake River Canyon. That wich did not kill Knievel—as he proved more literally than most—only made him, and his myth, stronger
. I’ll give you three guesses as to who put this up. It’s the girl who, during Freshman year, was voted biggest homestate fan…that state being Idaho. And that Skycycle thing, that was in her hometown of Twin Falls. If you didn’t know that already, you aren’t that close of friends with her. Thanks Bethany.

Then, there are a few poems that inspire me to get up, get out, and do something worthwhile. They are untitled and need no explanations, so here they are.

#1
“Change is inevitable”
What a ridiculously unfair statement.
Unfair to those who lost their lives,
or fortunes, or sanity for it.
Change doesn’t just happen.
And you’re not going to find it in the hall closet.
You’ve got to fly 230,000 miles into space in a steel tube for it.
You’ve got to scribble on a chalkboard for 50 years for it.
Sometimes, you’ve got to go to jail for it.
And even then, failure’s there, ready to pounce.
Change?
Inevitable?
Hardly.

#2
Behind every great idea,
every significant achievement,
every important accomplishment
is a full wastebasket.
Or a cluttered blackboard.
Or a doodled-up legal pad.
Is scribbling all it takes?
Are you just a cramped writing hand away
from changing the world?
Probably not.
But no one ever led a revolution of any kind
with his hands in his pockets.

#3
Thinking begets ideas.
Ideas beget change.
Change begets human rights.
And longer-lasting light bulbs.
And doughnut holes.
You don’t have to cure cancer to change the world.
And besides,
there’s more than one world that needs changing.
So change something.
Anything.
It’s all good.

So that’s what is on my mind each day as I hop out of the shower, do some other stuff, and jump into my day. It’s also the stuff that I’ve been thinking about more and more as the days wind down to my departure from this place. And I’m grateful that I have been able to process some of this stuff with all you faithful readers. Hope you all have a great day!

6 MORE DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!

Beginning to Process it All,
Joshua


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