Monday, October 30, 2006

Hadessa Aspen Presti Flora
October 3, 1989-October 26, 2006

You were an amazing human being.
You are loved,
You will be forever missed.

Memorial Service:
October 31, 2006
Christ Community Church

Friday, October 20, 2006

Juvenile Delinquents...

I have just come back inside from yet again standing outside in the cold because some juvenile delinquent has yet again pulled the fire alarm. A friend and I treated ourselves to a movie tonight and upon returning to campus at 11:30pm we found the inhabitants of the dorms standing outside for what we found out was the second time tonight. We were finally let back in just after midnight. I had time only to walk into my room take off my shoes and drop my purse on my bed before the alarm started again. This time we stood outside for close to an hour. Mob mentality quickly brewed as one of the women living here started freaking out towards the security guard's who herded us into the 'car park'. So far the total fire alarms for the week is up to 11. Waking three times a night to a screaching obnoxious alarm to throw on a hoody, put on real pants and some shoes while feeling around for my glasses and keys, proceeding to trudge outside to the 45 degree night is not fun. After a trip to residential services office this morning for a polite complaint about the constant nightly wakings and to attempt to get out of my lease as early as possible, I was offered to move into the neighboring dorm building. The thought of moving all my stuff into another building was highly unappealing at 12:30pm. At 1am the idea of moving into another building that does not have the regular nightly awakenings is starting to sound better and better.

I am at a loss as to see why someone would continue this prank for so long. In my four years at Calvin I have only one memory of being woken from my bed in the wee hours of the night and that was because someone burnt pizza at 2am. Every time the annoyed firemen show up here to yet again search for what we all know is a nonexistent fire, I feel ashamed and embarrassed to be associated with this group of people that has among them an individual or group of people who can only be described politely as a juvenile delinquent.

Friday, October 13, 2006

An English all nighter....

Wednesday night started with going to the local pub with two friends to watch the Croatia vs England game. Croatia had never lost a qualifying game played at home and they still hold that record. The highlight of the game was the second goal scored against England. I mention this because it was scored by England's own goaly. He was passed the ball by an English defender and on his running approach, just as he went to kick the ball it jumped and he totally missed it. The ball then proceeded to go directly into an undefended goal. The pub went crazy. We loved it.

After the game, myself and three others headed back to Docklands campus around 9pm to begin our all night stay in the library. The idea was first concocted two nights before by my Swiss friend. He wanted to know what being at the library at three in the morning was like, see what kind of odd-balls come out and to get a lot of reading done. After a few stops at various take out resturants along the way we arrived at the library to eat, read and hang out into the wee hours. I got a lot of reading done and was suprisingly able to stay awake more or less all night. I took an emailing break at around 1:30 am and another at 3am, when some of us walked to the local Tesco which is open 24hrs. By the time we returned and I started reading again I found it increasingly difficult to concentrate. My fellow Chicagoan and I took the first bus heading back to East Ham at 5:15am. When we arrived in East Ham we discovered that the next bus that we needed, to take the final leg of our journey home, did not start running until 45 minutes later. We then walked the last 2.5 miles home. It was enjoyable except for the fact that I was carrying a bag weighing what felt like 30 lbs full with my computer and 3 inch text book. After finding out I had not yet visited the Barking cemetery, my companion decided then was the right time for me to experience it. Mind you it was completely dark out, 6 o'clock in the morning and had the accumulated creepiness of literally tens of hundreds of years. The church there was first founded in 622. Now that is a well established church.

By the time I got back to my room and got into bed it was 7am. I slept soundly until 1pm, at which point I got up, showered and made myself the most horrifying samwich ever. A few days ago I found the perfect size jar of mustard. It cant hold more than a couple tablespoons, which is perfect for the space I have and the frequency with which I would use it. The horror was experienced when I was chewing my wholewheat pitta and ham samwhich with mustard and I noticed it tasted as though I was ingesting chemicals. Could the ham be bad? After a smell and a taste test of ham alone I concluded it was not the ham. Is the pitta modly? No sign of mold. Well its not the mustard because mustard doesn't really go bad, I just opened this jar. OH, but indeed it was the mustard. It was English mustard- a bread onto itself. FYI do not under any circumstances use English Mustard unless you enjoy the taste of chemical experimentation gone wrong.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Church Snobbery...

This morning I went to a local Methodist Church I found while walking around Barking. The congregation was an interesting mix of what seemed to be African immigrants and elderly white British couples, with few falling outside of those two categories. I had remembered a few of the differences of English churches from my last tenure in England and English church going. It is customary not to rise to sing until a short introduction of the song has been played and right before one actually starts to sing. Individual prayer before and after the service can throw off a novice who is used to immediately fleeing the sanctuary. The Barking Methodist Church sang five or so songs from a traditional hymnal and all were sung very loudly and badly. Now I am no great singer, as all my friends remind me but it had to be really bad if I noticed it. But then again its worship not an audition, God loves our worship even when its bad singing. In between the worship songs various Bible passages were read, each reading ending with the phrase "may God help us to understand these verses". The message given by the pastor attempted and at times succeeded in bringing the verses read together into a coherent theme.

My favorite part of the service was right before the end when the 20 or so children were paraded up on stage. The young ones held up coloring book pages of Bible stories they had learned while three older girls talked of what they learned that morning. While this was taking place there was a small girl about four, who had me struggling to keep my laughter under control. While the congregation heard the dull explanation of what these children had learned this four year old was proceeding to kick the four or so boys around her. These were no playful, half-hearted attempts either. There was body weight put behind them, usually with a small running start and arms a flailing. Then she added punching to her act. She was never once stopped or even reprimanded. So as the congregation learned of what the kids thought of God, I watched the violent tantrums of a four year old.

My attendance and spiritual growth experienced at Christ Community Church and Mars Hill Bible Church has made me a Church snob. I have gone to two churches that are well grounded in the word, well funded, welcoming, suburban, internationally focused, largely white, and American. I am used to seeing a production when I attend a service. I have never gone to a church where everyone knew everyone or at least could recognize the regulars. I am used to following the contemporary worship songs on a large projected screen. Heartfelt prayer, a live worship band, historical context, Biblical analysis, and real life application are all standards in my church experience. How high then, do I hold my standards in a search for a new church and what should those standards be?

I connect more and find more meaning in the contemporary worship songs I have grown up singing. But then again its not about me. Do I then cross off contemporary music in my list of must haves? Big churches are not common outside the U.S. so I have already crossed off "mega church" from this mental list. What about denomination? I grew up non-denominational but did attend a Christian Reformed college. Do I search for either one of those or keep my search open to the general Protestant denominations with a few exclusions? Should I try something new like a more conservative church than I would normally go to? How much should I try to experience new things and do things differently and how much do I try to replicate what I know and am used to? Then there is the question of distance. How far do I go to attend church? Plus getting there in general is always an issue as a lot of the older churches don't have actual addresses which makes finding them quite the adventure. Seriously, I was looking up a church in Dagenham and there was no address listed anywhere on the website. Instead there were directions like 'take the District line to Dagenham, turn right outside the station, walk to Vauxhall car garage, turn right and follow foot path around apartments to the church'. With my 'sense of direction' I'd never get there in time for the service, if I ever got there at all.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Notes from a Graduate Student...

I feel like a legitimate graduate student now that I've had my first two classes of my masters program. Prior to this I felt like an imposter claiming to seek out higher education without having any evidence of it. On Monday nights you can find me in Current Issues and Research of International Law and Tuesday nights in Human Rights Law.

I was surprised to find I was not nervous, apprehensive or scared upon entering or during the classes. Even at Calvin I got a little nervous at the start of every semester upon entering a new class. Must mean I'm finally an adult or some kind of up and coming scholar....or perhaps not. I followed the lecturer, fountain pen in hand, as I scribbled down relevant information, silently affirming that I did indeed learned many things in all those political science classes I had spent the last four years taking. The real kicker is that all the stuff I learned was actually useful...unlike that algebra in high school I'm still waiting to use.

Today I started my day by setting an actual alarm the night before to insure I woke up before 1oam for once. A couple days ago I discovered the world of podcasts and downloaded a guided running session that (in theory) will get me running 5k in two months. Me running 5k will of course never actually happen due to the combination of cold weather, laziness and general dislike of extensive exercise. I am the only one of my family not to have been to the physical therapist and I owe it all to my devotion to doing nothing of extreme or semi extreme physical exurtion on a regular basis. It is a status that I would like to keep. But anyways, I went on a thirty minute mixed exertion of walking and running. The park right next to my campus was the perfect place for such morning workouts. As I walked, the park seemed to be waking up. The sun was just coming over the very tips of the tall trees making the dew on the grass sparkle. Dogs walked their owners and babies layed bundled under blankets as they were carted around in a stroller by what always seems to be a unhappy grandparent. All this beauty made me very much dislike the fact that I was sweating and out of breath.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

An English weekend...

Today I'm going to be lying low. Since waking up at 10:45am the day as shown to be a perfect example of English weather, slight drizzle turned to downpour turned to 10 minutes of beautiful sun before turning again to drizzle as the cycle continues. So instead of venturing out of my dorm room I will rehash my weekend while listening to the Best of Cream and drinking English Breakfast tea.

Friday night was spent with the usual friends I have grown to appreciate and amuse myself with. The group ranges from a core of three, two Americans and a Swiss, with the addition of two Germans. We are all different in many ways, language, nationality, interests and life experiences but all seem to get along well and always find an interesting topic to discuss, movie to watch or experience to share. Friday was spent hanging out at one of our three's house not arriving back in my own room until 4:30am. I was awoken at 10:30 that same morning to the invitation of a German to go to the local market for the rest of the morning. I have visited this market on several other occasions and was eager to return with others. The downtown area of our local corner of London fills itself Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with a montage of street vendors. Mobile phones, movies, CD's, shoes, Jamaican food, rugs, fruit and fresh flower stands are just a introduction to the multitude of stands filled with yelling sales men and persistent shoppers. We walked up and down the many stands more than once. I restricted my shopping to a huge and very heavy bag filled and in danger of overflowing with peaches I bought for only £2. I was tempted more than once to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers (I believe fresh flowers are one of the two main ingredients that can be bought to heal the soul, the other of course being chocolate). As we walked I noticed that the left side of my lower back ached with unusuall consistency and intensity. By the time we left the local market well after 1pm, I was more than ready to sit for the bus ride home and thankful that I did not have to carry my pounds of peaches much longer. After a quick shower I returned to my friends house to spend the afternoon with 'the boys'.

After a short walk around the Dockland campus along the waters edge we waited for the 366 bus that has never arrived on time, to take us to the local bowling alley. Since coming to England I have now bowled twice, before that I had not bowled since I was 12. I have learned that I suck at bowling but despite this have a lot of fun. After one game, of which I earned half of what everyone else did, we returned to the house of our friend for some pasta, garlic bread and two very bad movies. Upon returning back to my room at the very respectable hour of 1:30am I found many IM messages left by my mother inquiring where I was. After a thirty minute video chat I dropped into my bed not to rising again until 10:45 this morning.

Waking up to an English downpour I waited until the sun came out to go for a run in the local park. At the start of my run I realized that my backache was not just because I was carrying around a heavy bag of fruit but felt more like an intense strain of some sort probably from stretching I had done. Half way through my run it began to rain buckets. Not pour but actually I felt as though buckets of water were continually being dropped on me. So after a hot shower and tea I sit in the confines of my dorm room enjoying the lazy solitude while I can.

My first class starts tomorrow night. I am currently not nervous although I'm sure this will change once I take my seat in front of a internationally known human rights lawyer in a class filled with people ten years older than I with lifetimes of knowledge and experience.

OH, I'd also like to say Happy Birthday to my second Mom!!! I miss you and wish I could be there to celebrate with you!!!!