19 May 2007

leaving and returning

in the morning of 10 may i left amsterdam and after a long day met my parents at the airport. much to my delight, i spent Mother's Day with my whole family (but most importantly my two nieces).

and after a fairly restful week, it's time to return to productivity. i opened my dutch books on monday - and hope to get at least an hour of dutch in every day (which has been pretty successful). i pulled out the books for my thesis but have done only limited glancing at them. and the german book is still a couple of days away from being opened again (i think the hope is that the weight of lugging it around will prompt me to open it - which is a somewhat problematic incentive since it's a fairly light book and i don't carry my books around that often).

but the productivity has been partially stalled by my need to process. I have to find new patterns and new means for doing the ordinary parts of my life. whether it be checking my e-mail, working on my thesis, travelling, finding time to be alone, getting enough exercise, and keeping in touch with others. it's been made more difficult by my continued need to process leaving the community (even for a few months) and returning to spend time with people i care about for whom i'm slightly nervous about their reactions to what i've learned and how i've grown this past year.

I’m still me, but I feel like this year has helped me discover more and more who that is. i realize that i've been a bit nervous that people would really still like me now that they see more of me. and whether i would be greeted as a well-loved old friend or as a someone you sound happy to see but have nothing really to say to. but i've been generally greeted as an old friend and the conversations feel like they could continue for a few more hours. and i'm invited again and again to share me with others.

and as i share who i am, i wish i could share the community with everyone here. i talk about it as much as i can. when someone asked me today what my favourite part of Amsterdam was, i was quick to say it was the Christian community in which i lived. but even as i talk about it, i realize i wish i was there (sharing in the Pelgrimage this weekend). even as much as i'm not missing the exhaustion coming from trying to function in a foreign language and having people invade my space (and as much as i love being here in North America), i miss parts of life there. i wish i could talk over how things here are with my mentor, to puzzle through academics and politics and normal life issues with people, to join in prayer together (and end with the Lord's prayer in Dutch), and to get to have the opportunity constantly to share meals and/or coffee with one another. most of all, i wish that i could bring the community to some of the people here that i see struggling - that they could come and live with us and have a second chance.

but even as i wish that, i am deeply thankful for the bit that i do get to share about what i learned this past year. mostly from the community (and also from academics, although i do talk about that less - it seems a bit dull and more obvious to me - i mean who's really interested in the fact that i've learned a tremendous amount more about methodology this past year - and that this will be exceptionally helpful for my dissertation?)

and even as i've been nervous about leaving and returning, i've received a lot of affirmation lately. whether it be talking about what's next and knowing that there are people around me who are trying to help open up doors for me to teach. to see from by my parents at the airport that they really missed me. to be greeted and questioned by so many people at my church. to be welcomed back by people at the Seminary - and to have good conversation upon good conversation. and to be told that i have been missed. and for all of that, i am deeply thankful - and see it as an encouragement to continue working hard to serve God and get back to productivity :)

trying to be car-free

As returning back to Ontario has reminded me of my general dislike of driving, a dislike that is furthered by my desire to be as environmentally friendly as I can be, the following from Craig Wilson struck me. although i'd like to switch walking for biking, it feels a lot like he's talking about me - or at least the me i'd like to be to the North Americans in my life...

"I walk to work.

When I tell people this, a few are jealous, but most look at me as if I'm some sort of throwback to another era. I suppose some even think there’s something un-American about it.

Still, I walk to work. And I walk home. Thirty minutes each way. This summer marks my fifteenth year as a car-free American. . . .

“Don’t you hate walking across the bridge in the winter?” they’ll ask. I do not. I’m from upstate New York. Winter in Washington, as anyone from upstate New York will tell you, is a joke. Unfortunately, no one who lives here is laughing. It’s a town where people carry umbrellas when it snows. Need I say more?

This time of year is another story. July and August. My shirt sticks to my back before I walk a block. The tar sticks to my shoes. I hate the smell of it all. . . .

And this time of year, I see tourists, maps in hands, their feet sore from a day of sight-seeing, trying to fend off their tired and unhappy children.

Sometimes, if they look pathetically lost or confused, I’ll stop and ask if I can help. It’s my one-man crusade to dispel the myth that all urban dwellers are mass murderers. This startles them, of course. Some clutch their children closer when I approach.

But after I’ve told them how to get to the Lincoln Memorial, or where the Kennedys lived before they went to the White House, or where there’s a good place to eat with the kids, they begin to relax.

But I never tell them I’m walking home from work, from another state no less, and that I don’t own a car.

No need to scare them further.”

excerpt from "Walking to Work" Craig Wilson, It's the Little Things (New York: Random House, 2002), 108-110.

i figure my desire to live car-free is fairly crazy. one can do it in Amsterdam, and maybe in a big city in Canada, but not so much in small town North America (like my parents’ place in the country). but I’m crazy enough to try – although I need to get a decent bike over here and find a car-sharing place for it to become a life reality. but i hope i can - and i hope that living car-free and other environmentally friendly desires will come up here again, since i'm discovering more and more that this is something that really matters to me.

07 May 2007

i'm an aunt again !!!

a week before mother's day my little sister had a baby girl (Kirsten Catherine)!!

so much to my delight, i am now twice an aunt :) and am hoping to enjoy the pleasure of my nieces' company for a good part of this summer.

pictures will hopefully be posted whenever my sister remembers to send the rest of us pictures (or when she or my mother read this and think it about time to send something :))

02 May 2007

waiting/ processing

i haven’t written much lately. it’s as if i’m waiting for something – except i’m not sure exactly what. perhaps it is processing everything that’s been going on:
- spending 2 weeks with old friends and although we’ve grown separately, striving to let this make our friendship stronger.
- my Calvin Sem thesis not getting approved.
- sorting out how to work on and eventually finish my thesis here at the Vrije Universiteit.
- getting ready to say good-bye to Amsterdam for awhile.
- realizing that i’ve distanced myself a bit from the community here and being disappointed with that.
- struggling with Dutch – and feeling like i can’t quite fully participate.
- welcoming old friends again today (Deb and Kristin – who i’d gone to New York with less summer).

having written all that, i guess it’s not surprising that i don’t have much to say. nor is it surprising that i’m not all that interested in having crazy new adventures to add to the pile of things to process (on Monday, i had a relatively quiet Queen’s Day (Koningen Dag) here. i stayed home most of the time - watching the orange-coloured hordes passing by from the porch amidst the not so melodious sound of the house music booming out from the cafe across the street – and choosing to stay away from the several hundred thousands who wandered through the flea market less than a km west of my house).

i haven’t really processed any the things above – and as all of it is bouncing around in my head, an attempt to let it out would probably resemble a splatter more than anything else. i think thursday would be an example of the splatter.

i managed to help Dave and Crystle to the airport on time (although we did miss the earlier train). and i managed to function relatively well during class – reading and translating Hebrew in a proficient enough manner. and (i think) i had a good chat with Br Luc. it’s only ‘think’ because i really don’t think my brain was all that present for most of the day. the following is proof of my absent-mindedness:
- i got lost biking to school (my attempt to bike around the construction became a rather long detour with me having to consult a map several times).
- i forgot my lunch.
- i stood in front of the (new) photocopier for ten minutes trying to figure out how it worked (it was lacking the instructions like the old one had). someone eventually showed me what to do. the irony is that the buttons you had to press on the machine are actually in English.
- having actually got the machine to print, my copy card ended up being unusable – and got stuck in the machine. they had to call in someone from the bottom floor to remove it for me.
- i fell of my bike on the way home. at a light, i was stopping and putting my foot down on the curb – and missed the curb – the subsequent loss of balance knocked me off my bike unto the curb. as usual, there were half a dozen other bikes around me with a perfect view. never mind the cars and pedestrians.
- also on the way home, the string from my coat got caught in my bike’s back wheel. i did manage to pull it out before i had an accident – but it took me ten minutes – and i only managed not to be late for supper because the cooks were late.
- i had to put something in someone’s mailbox before leaving the house. i almost forgot several times but managed to pick it up before leaving. but at school i had no idea if i’d actually put it in the mailbox. i didn’t still have it – and i remembered looking at the mailboxes (cause i’d noticed somebody hadn’t picked up their mail for awhile) but distinctly did not remember putting it in the right box. turns out i’d put it in my own box. fortunately, the person returned something to me and found what she needed in my box.

i finally had several cups of coffee (to send my brain some caffeine to help it function) and still went to bed early. and i couldn’t help thinking that if absent-minded-ness indicates (academic) intelligence, then i must be brilliant.

or maybe my brain was just busy processing :) hopefully i can learn to do so while also being slightly more present in every day life. . .