Tag Archives: travel

In the present

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithin a four day window, I started a new job, start my final undergraduate semester, will “finish” a chapter of my thesis, and will travel to North Carolina to attend a seminar having nothing to do with any of three previous activities.

I said I’d go to the conference because I was invited in October.  I remember the distinct thought, “It’s the first weekend of the semester.  What could I possibly be missing out on?”  I now have no less than three places I need to be this Saturday afternoon.

Knowing that this week would be uncharacteristically busy, I remember thinking that the drive back to campus in the evenings would be long.  Instead, I find myself wanting the road to be longer and wishing I could script the thoughts that come when I drive.  They’re always the most eloquent.

When I drive home, ideas come out in organized phrases that get strung together and rearranged like they would on paper, and in them is the reason otherwise absent in the momentous chaos and excitement that characterize this last week.  Slipping into mechanized motion (not zoning out, I promise), it’s so much easier to shut off the processor and just be.  And rest.  And pray.

Funny thing is, I don’t even know what that road is called or which way it goes.  It’s just the way home.  This is a slightly embarrassing fact, and I probably ought to look it up in case I need to give somebody directions sometime.  But it all sortof speaks to the point.

To that end, I will cope with the new phone that wouldn’t activate, the possibility of not being able to port my number, and the fact that the library closed at 5pm with all my books in it.  In doing so, I’ll funnel this week’s emotion and stress away from tense joints and toward my fingertips, step away from WordPress and back to Word, and finish draft one of chapter two, tonight. 


Onething (Part I)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe annoying, plastic event wristband cuts at my sensitive skin whenever I type, but it also means that the guys and I have arrived safely to the IHOP Onething conference in Kansas City.  I had heard a lot about Onething, and, out to make sure that my international friends don’t get to see more of my country than I do, we all came together.

Last night, I weaved in and out of aisles of books, taken by authors more than the titles themselves.  While I hadn’t read much of what was on sale, I was able to piece together what I knew of different writers to pick out the books’ common themes.  I think it is funny what some people deem most important, and also made note of the differences between the book table here and what I know to be on display at Urbana.

I feel a bit more a observer than a student of the conference.  Maybe it’s the product of having planned enough events like this (obviously much smaller, but similar nonetheless), an initial distrust from having been well-intentionally played too many times, or simply the product of an increasingly inquisitive mind that asks more questions than finds answers these days.

I’m really hoping it is the later.

It wasn’t so much a critique as it was an analysis, but during the evening teaching last night, I kept thinking about the expository method.  It certainly wasn’t anything different, content or style wise, than what I have heard a thousand times, but my mind dissected every word, transition, and development.  The lens of thesis research isn’t exactly detachable, so even though this trip was suppose to be just because I wanted to come, I found myself applying all the reading I’ve been doing on contextualization and teaching how-tos.

It’s like this.  A couple of weeks ago, I spent the better part of 15 hours working through what I thought was a complex, multi-part paradox.  I wasn’t even trying to solve it.  I was just trying to organize bits of incompatible knowledge and identify the area of disconnect.  At the end of that very long day and 15 pages or so of scratch writing, I had before me about 200 words.  The next morning, I cut those 200 words down to a single, simple sentence.


So when I read a good book, or in this case, listen to sermon, analysis swirls.  Out of an interest in the content, I think about the words, cutting and summarizing and seeking to understand the core of the message communicated.  Seems like that’s all I’ve done today.

Travel, Researching Rhythms & Rhetoric

Driving begets lazy packing.

Between Spain, school, and summer jobs, I have moved every four months (a total of five times) in the last two and a half years.  Life in two checked bags and a backpack is rough, but I’ve learned how to manage.  The prospect of coming home for Christmas in a car was an unusual privilege, which I monopolized by bringing an entire bag full of shoes and half the contents of my carrel.

The trip was 755 miles, 13 hours, and was only interrupted by a twenty minute stop for gas and food.  I avoided calling my parents before the trip in a thinly veiled attempt to avoid my father’s criticism.  While I appreciated driving through Akron and Youngstown without any traffic and tried to convince him that it made travel safer, he was sure that I was putting my life in danger by driving alone in the middle of the night.  I’m sure that there is some wisdom in his concern, but either way, I made it home without any trouble at 2am on Sunday night.

The recent change of scenery has played a major role in my mental switch from writing back to researching.  The accomplishment of having actually finished (mind you, not just start, but finished) four books in the last three days, is refreshing.  These books, being much less theoretical than much of what I’ve been spending my time on lately, have given me an informational/factual framework to apply the theoretical texts.

This application has resulted an an ever-growing frustration with writers who never seem to bridge theory and reality in their own works.

Women’s roles in the church is a sticky topic.  I get that.  Defined convictions and careful study have informed my strong opinions.  Furthermore, when asked or the time seems appropriate, I will happily share my thoughts and likely do so with obvious passion.  But there is a rhetorical flair to it that acknowledges the topic’s sensitivities and the role of utopian ideals in implementation practices and the processes of change.

What I find most offensive is not the writers who disagree with me.  Writers who make the same case as me, but disavow the healthy, reconciliatory potential of their viewpoint by failing to constructively articulate their position are the most offensive.

Acknowledging that we don’t all agree does not mean that all answers are right or that we should treat them as such.  However, one’s own limited knowledge, wisdom, and experience combined with the relative importance of a given issue within the context of a mission matters.  This ought to shape our rhetoric.

Embody conviction with humility.  Then, say what you mean, define your terms, and don’t apologize.

I thought deserts were hot (Morocco: Part III)

Saturday was full of all kinds of adventures, but the morning started early, quite mistakenly.  Turns out Morocco is in a different time zone.  We figured that out at about 5:30am.

The guy from the Sahara Expeditions tour came knocking on the door of our hostel at ten after seven and walked us to the 15 passenger vans we would be going out in.

I was quiet disappointed that we didn’t get to go around with the folks we had met in our hostel that morning, but because our expedition was only one day instead of two or three, we were in a different group.

As far as people that you spend the entire day with in a freezing bus with, we really could have lucked out better.

In our larger group of about a dozen folks, there was a smaller group of about five late-20 to early-30 year old guys that were really obnoxious.  They spoke loudly, and their conversation seemlessly flowed between German, Spanish, and English in a way that you just knew that they were changing languages so certain people wouldn’t be able to understand them.  

The trip started out with the long drive up the Atlas Mountains.  We stopped several times to take photos, but it was so foggy that we couldn’t see much.  That is until we reached the crest of the mountains, where small mounds of snow surrounded us.

I found the situation mildly comical and was convinced that our not knowing French or Arabic had caused a mix up.  Surely this cold trip wasn’t what we signed up for when we said we wanted to go to the Sahara.   Poor Veronica was really, really freezing.

Worse yet, was how many turns you have to make to drive up and down a mountain.  I spent a good portion of the morning with my eyes closed and my head pressed tightly against the seat in front of me, because it alleviated the motion sickness.  Some time later, I sat up and was delighted to discover that we were at last surrounded by earthen, orange dust.

And I must say, it looked nothing like the smooth mounds of sand I had imagined.  It was rocky and bumpy and not nearly as pretty as I’d thought it’d be.  Of course, part of that was just the part of the Sahara we were in.

Some time later, our van stopped in a small village on the side of a small mountain.  Veronica and I both bought the kinds of scarfs you wrap around and over your head to keep the sand from getting in your face.   As a result of that experience, I can now officially say that while I can’t tie a tie, I can indeed tie a turban.

We had a little bit of a nerve-wracking encounter with a merchant who tried to get us to walk into his empty restaurant a little bit away from the rest of the group, but Veronica and I backed out right away and it all worked out well.

The next stop was a rural village that has been the site of many films set in the dessert.  I’d provide you with a complete list, but the guy was speaking French, so all I can tell you is that Lawrence of Arabia was taped there, but so were many other movies.

By this point, some major culture shock was setting in, but after eating (albeit a terrible, terrible meal) with a couple in our group from France, I felt much better.

A few hours later, we finally made it back to Marrakesh, just in time to catch the credits to the film rolling in the market square as a part of the city’s 11th annual film festival.

It is difficult to describe the intensity of the chaos going on around us.  Motorcycles weaved between massive groups of people walking in every direction.  While crossing the street on the way to dinner, I was hit in the leg by a biker who didn’t see me.

We heard probably almost as much Spanish in Morocco as we did English.  In fact, we ordered our food in Spanish, because our waiter had a better grip on the language.

After a final glass of fresh orange juice and a short stroll in front of the shops, we headed back to the hostel to call it a night.  I spent my last hour at Marrakesh the next morning on the roof watching the sunrise over the city.

The trip was short, but it ended perfectly.


I just finalized my plans for my final European trip.  Next week, I’m going to Dublin!

Thoughtless can be good too (Paris, Part II)

Keep running, because the view around the corner would take your last breath away anyways.  Wind isn’t the only thing that ought not be metaphoric; distance is good too.

It clears the mind.

Nothing gets rid of pent up exhaustion like an open invitation to a new city.  The last week has been….not fun.  I just wish I could explore Spain and forget classes.

I’ve tried to look at it from a little outside perspective, but I am really at a loss as to the purpose of the educational system here.  And that eats at me.  It’s not that I’m not learning things, it’s just I don’t know why what I am learning has value.

When I consider all the philosophers I’ve yet to study, the history I can barely explain, the economists whose names I only know, the speeches I’ve never read, the 40 book queue on my Kindle that just starts to touch on these topics, and the knowledge that I can only teach myself the things I know I should know (meaning there is a lot I don’t know enough to know that I should know),  I can’t help but feel a final paper requiring me to contrast one book with Animal Farm, a book I read as a freshman in high school, is an assignment that’s not worth my time.

Combine that frustration with the need to learn things that I know has value, but really stink at memorizing, like nitty-gritty Spanish grammar rules and thousands of new words.

By the end of last week, I had about all I could healthily bare, which made waking up in Paris with no plan for the day and the freedom to do whatever I wanted all the more welcome.

It felt foreign, but not because I was in France.  I’m just not used to having that much freedom and mobility.  I had no responsibilities and the time and resources to do just about anything I wanted to with the day.

And trust me, I made it so worth the while.

I folded the free map I picked up at the airport, stuffed it in my coat pocket, and set out for a metro stop that seemed to be near important things.  When I got there, I just picked a direction started walking.

It felt a lot like those first couple days in Santiago, when I would just step outside the dorm, look around, and realize that all the pictures I’ve seen of places like this were real.  When you hear so much and about a place, but never see it, it just doesn’t feel real.  And that’s because it’s not.

No photo, video, or story can ever actually portray reality.  For that, you really have to be there.

So it was a morning of slowing strolling through new streets, admiring architecture and coincidentally finding the Paris Opera, the Tuileries Garden, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triomphe.


And that was all before lunch, which was awfully tasty.  I met Coralie, and while I haven’t actually the slightest idea what we ate (other than it was some kind of cheese and marmalade on toast), it was very French and delicious.

That afternoon, I set off to find Notre Dame, which took me awhile.  But it gave me a lot of time to contemplate all the assumptions I had made about France.  I must admit, I was never too fond of it, as a country.  I might not be a real scholar of French history, but I tend to side with Mr. Burke’s arguments when it comes to the French Revolution, I see nothing to admire in their government, I don’t follow the French political mindset, and I’d always heard the people were rude.

The first two are still completely true, the third mostly true, and, in my own experience, the last one’s not true at all.

From the guy who showed me where to run to catch the last train, to the guys who held the door open as I ran down the escalator to catch that train, figured out how to help me at the store despite not knowing a word of what I was saying (a situation made worse/slightly comical when I then immediately/instinctively began speaking to him in Spanish), to my friends’ hospitality, and to the people they introduced me to, people were always very kind.

Whenever people ask me where I come from, I usually just say Kentucky and Pennsylvania.  If they inquire about my family’s pre-American roots, I’ll boast my German and English history, but I don’t often say much about the French part.

I think I might mention that first now.

Love, luck, and a prayer (Paris, Part I)

How I struck old Murphy’s law from the books and got to Paris without ever getting lost.

From the UC3M campus in Getafe (south of Madrid), to getting to and from the airports, to quickly making my own adjustments to the metro directions Coralie gave me, recognizing the apartment I was to stop at from google maps street view, and knowing that when Coralie said 2nd floor, she really meant 3rd (Europeans and their zero floors,) I got to Paris without a single misstep.

This is really quite epic, because I can’t ever recall getting someplace on my own by myself without making a wrong turn…ever.

I was literally the very last person on the last train out of the airport in Paris on Wednesday night.  I only made it because some security officer saw me fumbling at the ticket machine and yelled at me to run (and where to run) and some blessed man held the train door open for me as I ran down the escalator.  The door closed behind me, and the train started moving.

When the train stopped one stopped running one stop short of where I was to transfer, I followed the mass of people until I found an information desk, and spoke with a man there who did not know English very well, but he managed to tell me where to go anyway.

I didn’t understand his directions, but his telling me which way to walk led me to map where I was able to figure out how to get where I needed to go on my own.

Having learned the DC, New York, Boston, and Madrid subway systems by myself, Paris’s wasn’t hard to figure out, but with my whole body nearly throbbing from exhaustion (a very full day of classes then 7 hours of travel), not having the slightest idea where I was at, and the realization that I understood absolutely nothing being said around me, I could have really freaked myself out.  But I didn’t.

I thought clearly, with a peace and calm I’m not used to composing in stressful situations (which are always exacerbated when I have to get through them alone).  This is completely new for me, but it felt so good.

When I finally arrived at my destination and Coralie opened the door (proving my hypothesis that though she was writing me in English, she would not convert European style floor naming 0,1,2 to an American 1,2,3), and I saw that I hadn’t knocked on some random person’s door in the middle of the night, I let out a sigh so deep that I physically leaned forward.

And with that breath, I closed the quiet prayer that started in Madrid and was felt so deep in my chest that there had been almost no words at all.  I was there, and it was awesome, but getting there, that was just the beginning…

at the Louvre

Moving right along

Extremadura last weekend…It was….err..good.

Honestly, it was mostly just a lot.  There is something that is just slightly overwhelming about going four different places in two days, especially when you don’t exactly have the background historical knowledge to immediately get the significance of each place upon arrival.

Ruins in Mèrida

After a while, the chronology of Spanish royalty starts get jumbled in my head like when I get to Garfield, Arthur, and Cleveland on sporcle´s US Presidents game.  Then there’s the inconvenience of having moved states (twice!) the year before we were to be taught ancient history, which has left awkwardly shaped holes in my knowledge somewhere between the book of Acts and the Reformation.

That said, I had a good laugh at the Ancient Roman Theatre in the city of  Mérida , which was founded by order of Caesar Augustus.  It became one of the most important cities in the Empire, and still has impressive remnants from its glory days.

at the Monastery in Yuste

I was able to actually connect the tour at the Monastery in Yuste with lectures in my history of Spain class and sitting outside in the the moonlight at the Plaza Mayor in Cáceres was definitely a highlight.  By the time we got to Trujillo, I was too tired to take much in.

I found the tour of the Gladiators stadium to be rather timely, given that I have a 13 page paper due for my gladiators class this week.  (SCORE: the class ends this week!)

I talked to the professor about the type of questions on the final after class today, and he short of had this subtle smirk.  I might not be an expert at all linguistic connotations in Spanish, but non-verbal cues are pretty much universal.  I don’t think I have anything to worry about on the upcoming test.

entrance to the Gladiators stadium in Mèrida


Anyone who can name the next line of the song the title of this post comes from gets an extra smile from me, because I was singing it while I was writing 🙂