Family and Friends…

Well, we’re back in BC, which means that most of the people we spent time with this week in Texas, we probably won’t see again for another few years. In so many ways, this is exciting…because we’re at the age and stage of life where we and so many of our friends are beginning to spread our wings, move to the places that we’ve dreamed of and prayed about, and see what happens when we get there. It’s a little sad too, because we’ve been blessed with amazing friendships and relationships from our years in T.F.M.C. It seems like there is never quite enough time to spend with anyone, and it’s always hard to say goodbye. We’re exhausted, but so thankful for another week of sharing life together with those that we love. Thanks to all of our friends in T.F.M.C. for being such an encouragement to us, for challenging us to keep growing, for affirming us, and for your prayers. We love all of you so much!

It’s also a little bittersweet to realize that this weekend with my family is the last one we’ll have for a little while. Today, I was holding my 18-month old niece and realized that the next time she sees me, she probably won’t remember me. I snuggled my mom on the couch for a few minutes, soaking up her sweet and gentle presence, and remembering the hours I’ve spent on her lap. I relived another small piece of childhood with my sister while we made our family’s traditional “no-bake” oatmeal cookies. Together, we’re like the SWAT team of no-bake cookie making…a million batches made together have made us an efficient and well-oiled team and while we can make them by ourselves, it works better (and is WAY more fun) to do it together. Over the course of the weekend, I wished that my dad and my brother, sister-in-law, and nephews could be with us…but it was still such a good time. We love you family….thanks for a great weekend, and for all the ways that you love us and support us.

Now we’re off to go camping with Joel’s family somewhere on the coast of BC. We’re bringing lots of books with us, our stunt kites, and NO laptops. We’ll update you sometime next Sunday or Monday when we get back. :)

Airport Ramblings…

While I haven’t written in a while, I seem to have abundantly more spare time on my hands than I had planned for tonight. Due to a conspiracy between the weather and Continental Airlines, Joel and I are trapped at the George Bush “Intercontinental” Airport in Houston, TX until tomorrow morning’s first flight out to Vancouver. So, we’re camped out in front of the Presidents Club, which is the prime location from which to filch the “President’s Club Only” wireless internet signal. If you’re ever stuck in an airport with a laptop, just look around for the President’s Club and see if you can latch onto a smidgen of their signal. Especially if you have HOURS to kill, as we do tonight.

Our flight from Dallas to Houston was interesting…the most turbulent I’ve ever been on. I wondered for a bit if we were actually at Six Flags, in some airplane shaped amusement ride. No…it was a real airplane and we were seated in the very last seats, where we REALLY felt the bumps. The best part was when we hit this HUGE bump and my coffee splashed upwards hitting the ceiling of the aircraft and splattering everywhere. I wish I’d had it on video!!! Surprisingly little of it landed on me, which was a good thing considering the number of hours I’m going to be wearing these clothes.

Edited to add…we also just saw security arrest some lady. Not exactly sure what was going on, but she was definitely agitated. As they handcuffed her, she was yelling something about Chop-suey, Pakistanis, Japan, her boyfriend and a poodle. Should be an interesting night, to say the least!

Back in the FMC

After two red-eye flights and three hours of driving, we’re here. Where is here? A bumber sticker at the local flea market says, “…the town you can’t afford to leave.” It’s 110 American degrees, which I’m sure is something obscene in Celsius. They haven’t had rain in about five weeks. But the university campus is also covered in migrating butterflies; we walked through clouds of them today.

On the way into town we stopped at Dan and Brenda’s and had a great three hours or so catching up. It’s amazing how you can just pick up conversation with some people after a while and it’s like you were never apart. Them and our conversation reminded me of how incredibly blessed we are to have all kinds of people whom we love and respect on our side. Dan and Brenda live outside of town on some land in the country, and they’ve started building an African village compound… huts and all that, complete with goats and donkeys and I think soon some ducks.

Same with Kelly and Houston (re: the conversation, not the goats and huts). Houston and I have some shared history involving goats (and huts), African village-market-quality knives, and a rather messy “cultural learning experience.” But anyway we’re staying with Kelly and Houston until Friday, when we’ll head to Dallas to see Jessica’s mom and sister before heading back to Canada on Sunday.

One whole week to enjoy lots of friends in between some meetings – sounds pretty good to me!

The Night Security Monologues – Part II

The latest night security drama: I made art, social commentary, highlighted the difficulty of applying ancient Scriptures directly and literally to our contemporary 21st century issues, and most importantly, I made a friend. In some cultures, I would have made food instead. But this is Texas – they may eat catfish, but they do not eat bugs, not even battered and deep-fried, nor do they often eat their work buddies. As someone who is formally trained in cross-cultural sensitivity, I thought it best to apply my education and not eat my new friend. It scares me to think of all those people who don’t have such education, running around the world, eating their new friends. Misunderstood cultural faux pas can cause wars, you know.

Have you ever been in a park with birds or squirrels, and you want to feed them, and someones says, “Just be real still and quiet and they’ll come to you.” Well it was just like that – I was just sitting still reading some Stanley Grenz and my friend just came to me, sat right there on the keyboard.

Yet, it would be disingenuous of me to give the impression that this was an easy choice to make, not to eat my new work buddy. I have tried to artistically display my inner-deliberations through the photographic works of art embedded in this post. Even as I write this I’m tempted to scratch a bite – continual reminders of the dirty who-gets-to-bite-who societal double standards. Some nights on the job I unleash pitiless wrath on every insect that dares enter my personal space, which in this job encompasses the entire first floor of the building.

So I let him live. He camped out on the keyboard and chewed on his legs and one of his antennae (the one I messed with a bit) for hours while I ate cereal, read, and considered contemplating the metaphorical potential of an insect having a good time while oblivious to the giant can of insecticide casting its perceived yet uncomprehended presence over the evenings festivities … for we are like grasshoppers. Hmmm… food for thought.

The Night Security Monologues – Part I

I know I should have some really gripping title for this little series, but it’s after 5am and my mind is floating off somewhere between the fumes from the bug spray and the Chinese folk classical music (on very cool surround sound)in which I am still trying to find a groove… current song: “The Lawn Is Interspersed With Flower.” Perhaps the experience will provoke some flash of intuition regarding how ancient Chinese worldviews can inform our deliberations regarding troubling implications of the impending strides in technological human alteration on the mind-body problem. Then again, maybe it’s just chemicals and music. Either way, welcome to The Night Security Monologues – which is what happens when I’m done eating, practicing Chinese, and my mind is too fried to read or work on stuff that needs to get done.

Night security sounds like a cool job with guns, big flashlights, dark corners around buildings and guys in black masks to fight with. I hope you weren’t expecting that sort of thing. I sit in the lobby of a dorm full of highschool girls. My job, from 10pm-6am, is to make sure none of them leave and none of their boyfriends get in. Since they’ve already found out that I (a) am married, (b) won’t do their homework for them, (c) think 10pm is past their bedtime, and (d) like to mock their boyfriends, they pretty much leave me in peace. Which is good, because Chinese is tough and requires concentration (the language and the music).

Here is my latest adventure (as best I can remember):
3:12am – strange noise outside of front door of dorm, like someone throwing pebbles.
3:14 – decide to go investigate strange noise.
3:14 & 1/2 – find a really big, scary-looking bug that I have never seen before throwing itself repeatedly against the glass door (apparently he wanted in).
3:15 – get piece of cardboard to catch him with (it looked vicious, and since most insects in Texas bite, I wasn’t taking chances. I don’t know that he really bites, or if he’s actually a ‘he,’ but my ignorance regarding the former guaranteed my continued ignorance regarding the latter).
3:16 – go outside to catch bug. He runs, I chase him. Door locks with 1000 pound magnet. Bug tries to hide in puddle but I catch him and fiddle for my access card to get back in the dorm. My subconscious says, “Puddle? Where’d that come from?”
3:17am – get soaked with “non-potable water” from malicious rotating lawn sprinklers’ direct hit while locked outside dorm fiddling with access card.
3:17-22 – get inside and play with bug.

I let him go in the end… it had huge eyes, and it’s hard to kill things that can look at you unless you plan to eat them, but I only eat stuff like this when I’m overseas. …I think it’s a giant water bug, only mine had bigger talons.

Morris, our adopted kitten (aaawwwww…)

Yesterday as we were walking back to the dorm we heard some pitiful little squeaks coming from a drainage hole in the side of the building behind some bushes. We looked in and found a tiny pair of eyes staring back at us. We lured him out with some tuna… he was so hungry that he didn’t care to notice Jessica sneak up from behind and scoop him up, though he sure hissed at her lot (not very fierce). We took him back to our apartment for more tuna and some warm milk. (He was tiny, and really scrawny, but got real friendly after Jessica held him for a while. We named him Morris (after the dorm) and put him outside when we went to bed (with some more tuna). He woke us up with his meowing at 5am this morning. We can’t keep him in the dorm, and had decided to put him up on the internet with all the rest of the stuff we’re selling Jessica felt bad about putting a price on his head, but I didn’t think making $5 on a free cat was a bad deal… besides, we had to recoup the tuna expenses!).

But this afternoon the a/c repair guys from maintenance adopted him as their “shop cat” and he now lives in luxury (with real cat food even) at the Central Plant. We’d love to have a cat, but it’d be hard to sneak one over the Canadian border in August (nevermind importing a cat to China… and we’ve all heard what happens to those cats! =)

8 years of college but still learning the hard way

Today I (Joel) received a distinctly West Texas education. You’d think after 8 years in college I’d know how to answer this question:

“What should you do when it’s 40 degrees C outside, you’re driving your ’77 Nova at 45mph with the windows down because it’s short trip and the a/c takes a while to kick in, and you see (and smell) a large hairy carcass formerly belonging to a now-unindentifiable animal dead-centre in your lane 10 meters ahead? It has not yet been flattened. Should you:

a) swerve around it, like all the drivers behind you who know better

b) speed up and try to flatten it, just for kicks

c) try to straddle it, driving directly over it so that (in theory) your wheels pass by safely on either side, even though the suspension on your car gave out years ago and you already ride mere inches above the ground?”

I opted for “c”, and the results were… instantaneous. Even if my aim wasn’t off and I hadn’t nailed it with the driverside tire, we ride so low that it would probably have got hooked on the underside anyway. We had to smell that thing all the way to our small group meeting and back. People like my younger sisters already think our car is nasty – I’m afraid I can’t really argue with them anymore, at least until that stuff cooks off in the Texas heat.