Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What I'm Going to Say

Do you think babies/kids can sense things? Are more attuned than the average person? J has been out of whack all day today and I’ve been complaining and appeasing and disciplining and hugging and she is just- an emotional mess.


It’s 8:10 pm and I’ve just sat down and my heart is racing and I honest to goodness have small tremors in my hands and my stomach is twisted up into knots and I’m already crying. And, duh, I’m always the last to know, but I’ve been at a 10 all day- just busy, frantic, making myself crazy trying to fill my time and I finally figured it out- I’m avoiding. My poor girl had a bad day because I am an emotional mess.


I keep trying to picture what it’s going to be- to stand across this young man who has become like my own. Some strange mix of brother, son, friend and certainly family. What will I say? What can I possibly say?


Nothing I can say will make it okay that he’s been locked up.
There’s no certainty about his future, so I can’t make any promises.
I know that if I say I’m sorry he will say that it’s okay. And then I’ll say no, it’s not. We’ve done that song and dance a time or two before.


I know that we didn’t realize how much he’d knit himself into the fabric of our lives until he was gone, absent, snatched up.
We hadn’t realized that we often see him several times a week. That he is the person most often and most regularly invited into our daily life and our family time.
We hadn’t reflected often enough about how beautiful and heart-warming it is in this place so far from our other extended family to watch someone else spoil and love and dote on our daughter with as much love for her as we have.
We hadn’t noticed that slowly over the last year and a half all pretense had faded- we just got to be ourselves and he got to be himself- however ugly or beautiful we all were in that moment.


We just hadn’t realized. And now there are things that we do and say and routines in place that all came to be because of him and I’m so sad. Sad about all the memories we’re not going to get to make.Sad about all the things he’s going to miss out on here. Immensely sad about all the things he’s going to miss out on in his own life. Immensely sad about the realities he is currently facing.

Am I to dream up the beauty of freedom and justice- hugs and laughter and our families dining together, sharing old stories? I can spin a story we can all hold on to for hope.

But, is it right to?


Do I say, oh so very tentatively, that prospects are grim- the wait will be long and hard, and we may discover we've waited away the better years of your life in vain?



I just don’t know what I’m going to say.


In search of strength,

Alissa

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Things We're Missing Out on Here

Or, the thing we have missed out on all along. 

Several days ago contracts got sent out at Mark's work- we need to decide if we're staying or leaving. Well, we know we are staying- but we haven't decided if we will sign on for another two years, or just one (and then play it by ear). 

And- there's lots to be said about all of that (and rest assured I've probably said it all to Mark about 5,000 times). There are hundreds of ways that living here is such a blessing, I honestly think that if we were to make a pros/ cons list that the pros would far outweigh the cons. But today, I had this memory of this experience we had in Burma a few Christmas' ago (another pro- getting to travel!) and it reminds me of something we are missing here.

 I'd never done any multi-day hikes, so we signed up for a trek from Kalaw (a small wonderful village) down to Inle Lake. It was a three day, two night endeavor, and it is hands down my favorite thing we've ever done. Our whole holiday in Burma was perfect, and the trek was just icing on the cake.

Travelling in Burma (at least 4 years ago) required more planning than travel elsewhere in this region. I'd poured over guidebooks and blogs and it all said pretty much the same thing- tourism is relatively new, so book in advance as it's not uncommon to show up in a town and find every hotel fully booked. There was (is?) also really specific rules about money- what kinds of bills that were accepted (US dollars), what condition the bills were in (pristine- we're talking no folds or creases) and certain dates of currency were deemed unusable. I'm not going to lie, planning the trip was kind of intense and definitely brought out my worst anxiety-ridden, anal planning side. 

But- I guess this is the beginning of when you could say I started to chill out about travel, because I'd read somewhere that the best trekking company couldn't be booked ahead of time, and it was best to just walk into "such and such" restaurant and ask for "such and such" person and try to get in on the next trek. I was incredibly tickled when it turned out to be just as easy as that. We found ourselves (freezing cold) at the local restaurant signing up for a trek to leave the next day. We made some friends while we sat and chatted and we all agreed to sign on for the same trek. 
The next morning when we left there were 6 of us tourists (us, the two guys we'd met the day before, and an older married Israeli couple). Our guide was named Zaw and he had the biggest smile, whitest teeth, lightest laugh, biggest skip in his step of anyone you ever met. His joy and delight and wonder still cause me to pause. 

He literally laughed and sang and ran and jumped and talked and joked us over the hills and through the villages for hours upon hours. I instantly adored him. 

Often while we walked he would point things out to us- what crop/plant/flower was growing. He chatted about Burmese culture and politics, he talked of his family and ambitions. 

He stopped at one point to show us a spider's web. We sat and stared at it for minutes. I honestly have never done that before. He gingerly took the spider from the web and asked us to pull the webbing from it. He quizzed us, wanting to know if we knew how long the webbing is. By this point in the trip we had long learned that these hills were Zaw's backyard- that he was the teacher and we were the pupils-so we waited for him to tell us. I can still hear his delighted, laughter-filled exclamation- "I already spent an entire day pulling it and it NEVER ends". 

Maybe you had to be there. Or maybe it's really not that momentous. But he totally meant it when he said he sat with a spider held delicately in his hand while he curiously pulled out the webbing. for an entire day. You could just see it, because he spoke of the crops and the flowers and the seasons and the people and the animals with the same kind of reverent knowledge. Because he walked through the land with an authority and a respect that made me wonder if maybe I'd gotten it all wrong and maybe we should leave it all and move to one of those village towns. 

And days like today, when I'm wondering how long it is we might stay in this concrete jungle, I hear the call of Zaw and those villages and all the different spiders of which I've never learned of their webs. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Prayer

Hey friends,

There’s this song I like from this band I sometimes listen to, called “I Don’t Want to Pray”.

Some of the lyrics are here:

I don't wanna pray to my maker
I just wanna be feelin' free
Not like in a book, or the leaves of trees that shook
From a word that means only not a thing
Pardon god and mom, what I'm sayin' isn't fair
See I'm looking to become, not the prayer but the prayer
And now I don't want to pray
I don't wanna pray
I don't wanna pray
Who don't wanna pray

Not much good to talk, better to walk it
Not much good to take, better to give
We are gone forgiven and forgotten of our sins
And I promise you my friend all that dies will live again
Pardon god and mom, what I'm sayin' isn't fair
See I'm looking to become, not the prayer but the prayer
now I don't want to pray

Prayer has been a tricky thing for me lately. Mostly I wonder what the point is, if I’m being honest. I think that’s why I like some of these lyrics so much- they call for action. It’s one thing to pray God’s Kingdom come (food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, a friend for the loner) and then it’s actually (in my opinion) God’s intention when we (as followers of Jesus) take action to answer that prayer, BE that prayer.
But- I think there is something flawed, something incomplete in my theology. I’m sifting through some things- I’m in the midst of figuring out (a whole lotta) things. So- bear with me and say a prayer (as a pray-er or a prayer! Ha!).
On August 8th a meeting will be convened that will decide the future of someone who has come to be family to me, Mark, and Jubes. There have been similarly life altering type meetings for this individual before, and I didn’t know what to pray. I knew what had been done was done. I remember standing in the door way of our bedroom angry and teary, scoffing at the idea of prayers cast too late, even scoffing that the only thing left to pray was reminiscent of Aladdin, with God cast as a Genie of sorts.
Well, this time I have felt compelled several times to invite you to pray with and for us and our friend. We believe that God made and knows our friend- and we believe God has a plan for his life. We would like to ask you all to pray for favor and acceptance- so that he may begin to actually live his life- a life free and safe and full of many good things- a hope finally realized. We also ask for prayer for wisdom, direction, and strength regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting. Your prayers can commence henceforth, but uh, ramp ‘em up next Tuesday, please. =)

With thanks, in intercession,


The Coops

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Summer in Europe - Part 1 - History and Culture


Our two week trip to Europe this summer afforded us the opportunity to see some truly bucket list-worthy sights.  For the sake of better preserving the memories, here are some highlights.

London

Having taught British literature for a few years, some of London's literary and artistic landmarks were at the top of my list here.


The "Treasures" collection at the British Library - complete with originally penned works by the likes of Keats, Tolstoy, Byron, Shelley, and Shakespeare.


The gallery of artwork by William Blake, one of my favorites, at the Tate Britain museum.  Some highlights were engravings from Songs of Innocence and The Ghost of a Flea.


Van Gogh's Sunflowers and the unexpected surprises of Sir John Everett Millais's Ophelia and John William Waterhouse's Lady of Shallot at the National Gallery.


The immensely famous Westminister Abbey.  I was particularly excited to see the resting places of some famous writers at "Poet's Corner."  In a single picture, you can see markers for Tennyson, T.S. Eliot, Hopkins, Wordsworth, Dylan Thomas, Lewis Carroll, and Byron.


Shakespeare's Globe - the modern reconstructed replica of the fabled playwright's performance center.


The George Pub - the oldest pub in London, frequented by the likes of Dickens and Shakespeare.


Geneva

We stayed in a small town outside of Geneva, right on the lake, with relatives of our good friend Junita.  

The market in the town Morges, about 15 minutes from our house.


The Chateaux de Chillon, a beautiful ancient castle on the shores of Lake Geneva, which I found out later is actually the most visited historic monument in all of Switzerland.  It also boasted literary intrigue for its self-carved name of Lord Byron in the dungoen, who was inspired by a prisoner of the castle to write "The Prisoner of Chillon."


The United Nations and the UNHCR in Geneva.


The Red Cross Museum, which featured both an inspiring tour of the history of the organization and some highlights global human rights efforts in general, including the original Geneva Convention and names of the millions of holocaust victims whom the IRC attempted to locate and re-connect with family members.


Paris

We spent a few packed-full days in Paris living out of a tiny AirBNB apartment in the central 1st Arrondissement.  It did not disappoint on any front.

We spent a Sunday morning popping into famous historical churches that included...

Sainte Chapelle, which contains one of the most impressive stained-glass displays I've ever seen


Notre Dame, which houses some famous Catholic relics that included Christ's purported Crown of Thorns


Some smaller, but equally impressive churches in the Latin Quarter - St. Julien le Pauvre, St. Severin Church, and Saint Germain des Pres. 


As for paintings, we skipped the Louvre and went to the Musée d'Orsay, which displayed such gems as Van Gogh's Sower with Setting Sun, Starry Night Over the Rhone, and some of Monet's Water Lilies.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer in Europe - Part 2 - Adventures in Food


Anyone who knows me knows that I get as excited about new food when I travel as I do about anything else.  Needless to say, I was super excited to eat our way across Europe.  We of course tried to have some of the iconic fare from each of the three countries we visited, along with some unexpected surprises.  There was so much good stuff, I had to write it all down!

London

 In London, we had classics like fish 'n' chips, steak and ale pie, and British ales in some local pubs.  We also tried Ian and Junita's favorite local spot for Indian food, where we ate four plates of amazing curried rack of lamb.  Alissa was also on a mission to find scones and clotted cream, which I managed to procure on our very last day.



Geneva

Some highlights here included some moules marinières (mussles) at a cafe right on Lake Geneva and lots and lots of cheese.  Real Gruyère was no joke.


The highlight, though, was Junita's uncle Edwin's offer to share a raclette of cheese with us - which he insisted is far more pure and superior in comparison to fondue.   This ridiculous cheese and method of eating cheese involved heating a huge half-wheel with a specially designed heating element and scraping off globs of melted cheese to eat with potatoes and other things.  And yes, it was as amazing as it looks.


Paris

I actually had a list of specific foods I wanted to have in Paris - most of which I'd never had before -  and I think I got to all of them.  This list included foie gras, steak tartare, escargot, duck breast.  All were amazing, and the French more than lived up to their food-glorifying reputation.   I read in a book during our time here that UNESCO has even declared French cuisine a "world intangible heritage."


And of course, we couldn't leave Paris without having lots of pastries - every morning, mind you - and baguette sandwiches.