2014/04/06

Explanation: Lack of Pictures

I left home a month ago (already!), and I have taken barely any pictures. It was nice to have other team-members around the first week to take pictures for me, but since then...I haven't taken pictures. So now I'd like to explain why that is.

(1) Primarily, I hate being a tourist. I don't want to walk around with my camera like a clueless tourist. Tourism is a pet peeve of mine...
(2) Actually carrying my camera (iPhone 3GS) around isn't practical. Working out in dusty fields, hauling concrete, etc. isn't a great environment for the device. And even when I'm around the main compound, I rarely feel like having my camera on my person. I'd rather enjoy the moment than record it.
(3) Whether recording moments for posterity or to share with friends, pictures (and even video) are woefully inadequate. You truly have to be here to believe it. This is a weak reason, because my photos could whet your appetite to make you want to come experience it here. But in my mind, it's a good enough reason.
(4) Usually, moments I think worth recording with photography are abnormal events: birthdays, vacations, etc. Even in the course of a month, what was once abnormal to me in Mexico has become normal. It's normal to ride in the back to the pickup and nudge cows out of the way with the truck, to make enchiladas and cut avocados, to walk down the road to buy Coke. The only reason I'd share things that used to be abnormal to me is to brag to you, so that doesn't seem worth it to me.
(5) When taking pictures of people and their homes, I'm wary of privacy. I live at a casa hogar, a children's shelter, so I want to be especially careful sharing online about the kids that have come from rough backgrounds. But even aside from that, if a foreigner barged in on your home and started snapping pictures because they thought your U.S. architecture was cool...you may rightly be creeped out.

So here are five reasons I haven't taken many pictures. Actually, let's just call them excuses. Here are my five excuses why I haven't shared many pictures with you. I really am sorry.

2014/03/23

Thoughts on Language

Hello again from Mexico! I've been here for two weeks now, and I have much to share. But I've found it very difficult to wrap it up in a package I can send you. I used to think "You had to be there" was just a throw-away phrase, but that's what it's come down to. I like words, how we use them, what they stand for. So it was a bit of a stretch for me to share pictures last week, but that's what I had to do to give you a window into where I am, and prove it's all real. If someone told me they had done all the stuff I've been doing, I'm not sure I would believe them. Part of the natural human instinct in enjoyment is to share, to prove to others that it's real, and language is one of the chief ways we share.

2014/03/16

Mexico: Week One

Much has happened in the past week. I can hardly believe it has been only a week. Last Thursday my parents dropped me off in Grand Rapids and I gallivanted all around the city. Saturday, I flew for the first time since I was 3, and stood on foreign soil for the first time (since good ol' Canadia doesn't really count...). The flights went well, and I really enjoyed the experience. Ever since then, I have done so many things, just for the experience. This past week, I have been with a team from Blythefield, but they left early Saturday morning.

The team on our tour of downtown Guadelajara
Last Sunday and this morning, we went to church in Guadelajara, and I picked up so much Spanish just by listening to the sermon. Between what I knew, what I could guess, and what I recignised, I could gather enough to know what he was talking about, but not what he was saying about it. Something about Abraham, and something being the same as something else, and such. As we drove between the big city and the village of Camichines, I read every sign I could see. The "Reductor de velocidad" sign made me chuckle; apparently speed bumps are velocity reducers. It is easier to learn words in context, instead of just memorising their meanings.

Orange juice

During the week, I helped make fresh jugo de naranja (orange juice), ate the best tortillas, and went out for tortas at a food stand in a neighbouring village twice. La comida es muy, muy bueno. So...I've drank a lot of coffee so far, because it is a cultural thing, not because I like it. I also took Communion with real wine for the first time (tasted like vinegar). Frothed chocolate milk with cinnamon and glass bottle Coke are also high on my list of favourite things to drink.

At the little snack shop down the street
Mexico time is very different from American time. In the US, we always want more, more. We hoard more stuff and demand we get more done in the time we have. Instead of doing, Mexicans focus on being. Earlier this week, five of us guys went to pick up a machine for the corn. We thought we'd just pick it up and bring it back, but we stood around for almost a half hour, sharing glasses of Pepsi and listening to stories being told in Spanish. We came to find out it only took two of us to drag the machine, so it wasn't a very efficient use of five guys. Yet in the inefficiency, there is efficiency. I really enjoy learning about the self-sustainability of crops and animals. Even the way they build down here amazes me.

Brick laying
I have often wished to extend the length of summer. Well, now I have my chance at 6 months of summer, including the allergies and sunburn. But I'm not complaining, since there is no snow in sight! I haven't seen any tarantulas yet, but I have seen many scorpions. Scorpions are like bees and wasps: you know they're there, but you don't live your life in fear of them. Most of those scorpions were hiding in the brick pile we moved up to the roof. Brick-throwing should be an Olympic sport. The bricks break pretty easily if you drop them, because they are made from porous volcanic rock.

Outside my bedroom door
Well, there is so much more to say about the mountains, the people, the tortillas, the language, the culture, converting to pesos and kilometers and litres, etc., but this wraps up week one. Week two will be a new challenge because the team I came with left yesterday. Now I'm trying to get comfortable in a house that's not my own. I have so many highlights from the past week like the mariachi dance at the restaurant and the key engraver, but I still find it hard to believe it's all real. I have met so many amazing people and had so many conversations I didn't believe were real.

2014/02/27

I'm Snow Tired of Winter

"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7 (ESVUK)

This idea and, "It could be worse..." have gotten me this far through the Northern Michigan winter. I like having a white Christmas, but after that, I'm done with snow. It has finally come down to a choice: hibernation or flying south for the duration of the winter. I was born in Michigan, so I'm as tough as the next guy. But that's exactly it! I'm a Michigander: I enjoy being outside. I haven't been able to be outside for many months. Therefore, I'm flying to Mexico next week.

I've talked here on this blog about Mexico, so you may be aware I'm going to help at an orphanage in Camichines, Mexico for the next few months. I'm flying down next Saturday with a group who is going for a week of building projects. 

Okay, yes, I'm bored and seeking adventure. But I'm looking for more than excitement. I'm looking forward to many opportunities to learn about things like people, agriculture, and travel. I'm excited to get out of my normal (winter, Michigan, high school), and step into a new unknown. I'm excited to make a move and do something

The Mexican weather is just a nice added bonus.


I'll try to keep y'all updated with words and hopefully occasionally pictures, but also go check out Postcards from Preppy Bohemia for updates from my friend Lex. (Don't worry, I'm going to lobby her to change the name to Postcards from Classy Camichines for the next few weeks.)

2014/02/23

Loud Ticking

In two weeks I will be on Mexican soil.

As my trip gets closer, it becomes both more real and less real. As details fall into place, I have seen God working. In just two weeks I will leave home and move to a foreign country for a few months. This is really going to happen: unless something drastic causes me to call off the plans, my flight is locked in; nothing is hindering me; this is gonna happen.

2014/02/12

The Valentines Day Post (or is it Valentine's Day?)

In honour of Valentine's Day, I'm reposting a blogpost I posted back when I posted posts on the blog at SnailPlumage.Wow, that's a mouthful. I wrote this just over a year ago, and although I've grown and changed, this had been a building block in my thinking and who I am.



Every guy needs to see a love story.

That’s a pretty silly thing for a teenage guy to say. Now, before you think I’m crazy, I should probably explain myself. I don’t mean every guy should watch those chick flicks their sisters love. Chick flicks are the girl’s version of the guy’s action movies. There’s a difference between a love story and a chick flick. Chick flicks are definitely about the female side of the story. True love stories are about both the man and the woman, and how God created them to work together. The beauty of the lady inspiring the strength of the man. That’s what’s so magical about love stories.

As a guy, I want to be seen as tough. Nothing can break me down, nothing can make me cry. Somehow, I take pride in not showing “weakness”, even though I’m not a real “manly man”. But my view of manhood has been drastically altered recently. I have, by chance, been introduced to a handful of love stories. I strangely love listening to music that tells a love story. My friend’s high school play this year was West Side Story, a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Then a dear friend gave me Pride and Prejudice and told me to read it. And, most recently, I went to see Les Mis√©rables with friends today.

First, the play my friend was in opened my eyes to this truth that I appreciate love stories. And that’s not a weak, sissy thing: that’s extremely manly. Now, I could start to figure out what my brainstorm meant. Once I realised that, I began to see everything else through a new lens. I’m not saying every love story is okay, some are mutated and promote evil instead of good. But I’m saying that a good, old-fashioned love story is often just what a teenage guy needs to see.

Pride and Prejudice is an interesting book. Not my most favorite book in the history of the world, but I’m definitely glad I read it. I am able to see the “inner workings of the female mind”, as my friend puts it. That’s scary, but fun for a guy. How do girls view me? How can I be like Darcy? And not like the sleazy Wickham?

Les Mis√©rables is an amazing movie! But aren’t there girly parts? You know, all that romantic stuff? Yes, but there are also many things a guy can learn from it. Not so much “learn”, but catch a glimpse of. The whole story is so rich with worldview: real longing, true brokenness, actual (not cheesy) redemption. But the most important thing I saw in Les Mis is what it means to be a man. Jean Valjean is such a man: not because he’s buff (which he is) or because he doesn’t show emotion (which he actually does), but because he cares about people. He uses his God-given strength as a man to help people, even in the midst of confusion. While he’s still trying to figure out his own life, he cares for the needs of others. My favorite scene in the movie was when he took Fantine to the hospital, even while Javert is chasing him.

When I saw that scene, I cried. Not a lot, of course, but I might have shed a tear or two. It reminded me of a song in the Easter Drama our church put on this past year, "Just Another Birthday". The lady was singing about different guys in her life who had hurt her, including her absent father and abusive ex-boyfriend. Every time I heard that song, I stopped and cried. I got the feeling of, “I want to protect her!” I wanted to go up to her ex-boyfriend and punch him. (And that was weird because at the time the actor was my sister’s boyfriend!) That’s what God created me to do--not punching people, but protecting. The girl’s character was fictitious, but I’m sure I can protect every girl I meet in real life. How can I protect my mom, my sister, my friends? I want to known as being a benevolent, caring person, like Valjean.

Speaking of songs, my favorite song from Les Mis is “I Dreamed a Dream.” When Fantine sings that, it breaks my heart. I love the picture of such a broken life, seeking redemption. But my favorite phrase from that song is the very first line. “There was a time when men were kind,/When their voices were soft/And their words inviting.” You see, Fantine had been used by many guys. Instead of using their strength to help her, they used that power to hurt her, for their own “benefit”. I don’t want to be like that. I want to care for the women God has placed in my life.

What’s so cool to see in a love story is that there are two sides. As I said earlier, beauty inspires strength. I love to see a picture of a true man who isn’t just a “gentleman” who holds doors for women, but a real man who actually steps up to protect women. Why does he do that? Because they are worth fighting for. Ladies are beautiful! I don’t mean anything bad or creepy by that, but I mean we can see God created y’all so beautiful, not only on the outside, but much more so on the inside. Seeing a character like that in a movie wakes us guys up to the realization that the young ladies in our own lives are beautiful and worthy of protection, too. When guys my age catch a glimpse of a person to fight for, instead of someone to use, they can finally see why God calls us boys to be men.

It’s crazy that God created man and woman. Separate, distinct, meant to work together. I want to step into that. I want to inspire others to step into that. That’s why I want to be a father someday: I desperately want to teach my sons manhood and tell my daughters they are beautiful. When my friend and I were discussing Les Mis, the word we came to at the same time to describe it was POWERFUL. If you’re a guy and you’re wondering if you should watch that one movie with your sister: if it’s a love story, baby just say yes!

2014/02/09

Mexico

I like to think that people read this blog. So this post is to keep all my followers happy while I finalise some piece I've written. Basically, I'm flying to Mexico in 27 days!

This spring, I have a really cool opportunity to fly to Mexico on a mission trip to help at an orphanage in Camichines, a small village outside of Guadalajara. Blythefield (my church in Grand Rapids) has had connections with the people there for years and has sent many people down there. I’ll be flying out of Grand Rapids on March 8 with a team from Blythefield and staying in Mexico after the group leaves. I’ll fly home in May.

While I’m down there, I will be doing whatever I can to assist with the self-sustaining orphanage: feeding and caring for animals, egg production, hauling water, assisiting in teaching Bible class, and caring for the general needs of the children. The team will be working on construction projects around the orphanage. In addition, I will help Chuy, the guy in charge, however I can.

I can’t step into an endeavor like this lightly. I need to have people who are praying for me as I prepare, travel, and debrief my trip. I ask that you pray for my heart as I prepare, for safety traveling, for wisdom in caring for the people there, and for safety for the children. I want Jesus Christ to be glorified through everything I do.