Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Twas the night before the night before

Twas the night before the night before Christmas and I am sitting on a chair in the bathroom next to the radiator because this is the warmest room in the house. I love to be toasty warm. A cold snap issued a snowstorm of epic proportions last week and I have tried to make time to enjoy it as much as possible. Someone built this snowman near my house and I find him absolutely charming. I thought he might brighten your day as well.

It is Advent, just two days before Christmas and strangely I do not feel deeply connected to the holiday this year. I wonder what that is all about? I put up a glorious Christmas tree downstairs, have helped lead weekly Advent services, lit plenty of candles, listened to lots of Christmas tunes (Baby it's Cold Outside and The River are two of the favorites this year). I have shared short meditations on the nearness of God, and yet, somehow if my heart had a rating it would likely be rated as ummm.... trying to find the right word here... subdued?

Subdued is not a typical "Carmen state of being."

But some seasons are like that.

I paused to notice the shape of the snowdrifts behind the church today. In the midst of the city, beneath the grand buildings, lie small mountains made up entirely of intricate flakes, blown and frozen into blankets of white, sublime and quiet.

Friends, all over the world, wishing you a good yule, a Merry Christmas, happy holidays, Frohe Weihnachten, God Jul, and all the rest. May your holiday be full of good food and good conversation, peace and joy!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bloggity Blog

Last blog posting = author feeling not-so-cheerful
Current blog posting = author feeling quite-cheerful-indeed

Hey friends. This morning I slept luxuriously late and chose to lie around in my bed (in my Cindy Lou Who striped pajamas) reading mags. Tis the season for subscription renewal and I am looking for some good recommendations.

I love the Economist, but I find a weekly magazine too intense. I would prefer a monthly subscription to something. The Atlantic Monthly is excellent (my friends Peter and Cheryl in Zambia introduced me), but I am open to other ideas. Anyone have any suggestions?

It is Saturday and I am about to go on a long walk. I am thankful for the gift of time today. Time to sleep late. Time to walk. Time to read. Time to be attentive to the world and how good it can be. Life is not without its share of challenge, but it is relentlessly good. Wishing you some goodness today.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A lengthy post

You know you need a proper date when the clerk at the corner store calls you "babe" and you think "that might have been the closest I've come to being an object of desire in a long time." Well, besides the 50 year old divorcee who asked me out at a funeral reception last week (yes, I was wearing my clerical collar at the time). Nothing against this 50 year old divorced man, but the whole thing was suspiciously fetish-tastic.

I just ate a 1/2 pint of chocolate fudge ice cream. It is like déjà vu from last spring. Life is good, but life is also hard these days.

So, why did I come to Philadelphia?

About six months ago I walked into a beautiful, old historic church in Center City, Philadelphia that seats more than 700 people and was told that 9 people attend services each week. It is a church in desperate need of imagination, love and attentiveness. And so I signed on. It felt like a good fit at the time. It gave me room to ask questions about the relevance of church in a world where its message and work has become obsolete in many parts of the world. For a minister, I am strangely suspicious of church. I am the first person to admit that church is often associated with destructive discourses characterized by shame and is known to exploit power, yet I remain curious, and open, to church as being something different, something other, something better. I remain compelled, for better or worse, by the Christian tradition, its Hebrew roots, and the notion of a God that draws near.

I came to Philadelphia to enter into conversation with people who want to reimagine church and how it can be deeply reflective on the spirit, on sacred texts, on God at work in the world and compel people to work toward a life and a world that is more meaningful and compassionate and just. That all sounds very well and good until you attempt to put this into practice. Our church sits next door to the Comcast tower, home to one of the most successful corporations in the United States and every day people line up around the block to bring their children to a 20 minute 3-D holiday show on a massive screen in their lobby. People make time for this kind of entertainment (surprisingly drab), while the building next door remains empty. This gives me pause to think. For the last two mornings I passed out invitations to the neighborhood for a midweek Advent service and today I sat in a pew amongst a dozen people. Not one new person came.

My friend Keelan said to me tonight, "Carmen, the church is a tough sell. You should have gone for knives."

He could be right.

I have not given up hope on God or hope in church, but this job has proven more challenging than I originally imagined. Friends have reminded me to take one day at a time as in all big challenges and of course they are right. But on days like this, a life of teaching and travel and romance sounds a great deal more appealing :-) For now I will crawl into bed, thankful for heat and clean drinking water, a paycheck, good friends and family and the hope that life is full of surprises.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I walked home today at the wrong time and got caught in sleet without an umbrella. My jeans were sopping and my wool coat was thoroughly drenched by the time I got to the haunted manse. I was cold and amused at the whole thing until I realized that most of my comrades on the road were homeless people with no warm home to return to. One woman stooped over a grate, trying to warm a pair of gloves in steam being released from the subway below. Homelessness racks Philadelphia.

Last week I saw a man sitting outside a barber shop surrounded by all he owned, His white head perched above bags of clothes and shoes, looking content as king of his own mountain. On the glass behind him, just above his head, the words "You are beautiful" were printed. A serendipitous place to sit.

The sleet turned into big, fat snowflakes by the time I got to a coffee shop where I met a woman who is a domestic and global AIDS activist who has lived in Philadelphia for a decade (I had trouble not choking when she generously ascribed "friendly" to this city-- I think I might get proven wrong one of these days). She was inspiring and I hope to meet her again someday.

I am off to a "Sinterklaas Party," which should be fun-- a Dutch couple is sharing this festive tradition with us tonight (wikipedia this to see just how strange--even slightly offensive-- this tradition is to our modern sensibilities). Happy Sinterklass to you!!

In honor of weird holiday traditions, I leave you with this picture I took last week on a walk in Princeton. This yard made me smile.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I dwell in poetry, a fairer house than prose…

I have been thinking about Emily Dickinson today. The recluse poet, one of the most famous poets of the English language, has a fascinating connection to the home where I live and the church where I currently serve. She wrote three beautiful letters, if not scandalous, to a man we know as “Master.” As voyeurs tiptoe across the intimate correspondence, a familiar tightness pulls across the chest and lips curl into a knowing smile. The letters are full of longing and desire and Charles Wadsworth, former minister here at Arch Street Presbyterian Church, may have been the intended recipient. This is the portrait of Wadsworth that hangs in the study outside the sanctuary. He is a fairly handsome fellow. But so serious. When looking at characters like this buttoned up minister, I struggle to imagine pure, ecstatic indulgence. Really, Emily? Maybe I need to expand my romantic imagination.

I am likely preoccupied with poetry tonight because I am well-rested after a much needed Thanksgiving vacation in Princeton with good friends. I ate too much, drank enough, played amusing games, and spent time with people who make me wiser and warmer.

This is the thing I like about poets: they notice the small things that most of us pass by without a second thought. Life is too short to live merely in prose, a landscape painted in counterfeit hues. I like the idea of drinking in the poetry of the world as it unfolds around us in magnificent, if not understated, scenes.

I bought a couple of books while I was in Princeton, one of which is a collection of poems by Billy Collins whom I will leave you with here. This is a naughty, excellent, complex little poem about Emily. The reading is a little Dickens-esque, English drippity-drab, but worth a listen.

Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes

Thursday, November 19, 2009

No Barriers

Facebook is a funny thing. It allows you to creep quietly through people's lives without being noticed. You can give as much or as little information as you like, painting your life into the landscape you want people to see. Some people offer words of advice, admonish those of an opposing political party, or simply plea for love when things are hard. I think I have probably done all of those things. The jury is still out. Not sure how I feel about Facebook. It offers the illusion of intimacy, but web connection is not real connection, is it? Ironic that I am writing this on a BLOG.

On Wednesday night I went to the "No Barriers Dinner" that gathers at our sister church Broad Street Ministry once a month and literally advertises itself as a free dinner party for the city of Philadelphia. Imagine suits and skaters and artists and homeless people all packed together to share a meal. This month we had close to 400 people and were hosted by the Ritz Carlton (the best of the best) and many of the servers who volunteered were from the NYC record label Rough Riders (think hip hop). I sat next to a homeless man named Fred, across from an Italian named Dante who recently moved from Jersey (who was sitting next to a couple of students from the University of Pennsylvania) and had a lovely conversation with a Dutch woman and her partner who met one another while studying in New Zealand. I love this dinner. It is like one big hug or a group exhale. All of us, in all of our diversity and complexity and foolery, all gathered together to share some food and some love with one another. It was pretty nice.

I am working hard in my new position. The building is falling apart, so I cling to memories from Zambia where people did amazing things together with just a little bit of money and a whole lot of ingenuity. My friend Robert Louer shared a story about an afternoon he spent teaching in Lusaka that was interrupted by a panicked visitor who was trying to find a way to pay for a proper burial for a poor woman in the community. The group gathered enough money and donated planks of wood and nails to build her a coffin. They prayed over the offering before they returned to class. Now, that is faith. I hope to muster some of that here.

Living without barriers. Living in freedom. Doesn't that sound nice? Some friends shared their experiences from the months surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall and since then I have been pondering this notion of freedom. I live in a country that talks about it a great deal, but not sure that many of us have a good working definition. Liberation from tyranny is vital to human flourishing. Yes. But liberation from the self, from the prisons we create for ourselves? Imperative.

Curious about Broad Street? Check it out here. Watch the slideshow for awhile-- I love the music.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A typical Manhattan weekend

Imagine this: Jews from Los Angeles meet conservative Christian New York Koreans for a wedding on Friday the 13th, Chelsea Pier, Manhattan. Now that is a fascinating event! I was in New York for the weekend to celebrate the wedding of Max and Millie who hosted an extraordinary party on the Hudson River-- divine food and drink, orchids and roses and an excuse to wear three-inch black heels and eat chocolate-covered everything. Lovely.

This morning, after a slow start, I went to brunch with good friends from Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. It was good to catch up with these women- bright attorneys, writers, business and entertainment-savvy women whose strength and humor inspire me. It rained all day long, so I curled up with a self-help book that proved irritatingly helpful. I am not usually a big fan of this genre (pride, I think), but this was a worthy way to spend the afternoon.

My friend Christy told me a marvelous story this week. She is a minister in New York and a 5 year-old in her church just had successful open-heart surgery. Christy called the family to see if she could stop by and visit the young patient who promptly said to her mother, "I cannot believe one of the President's of the church wants to come see me!" Upon arrival, the little girl greeted Christy with a special picture she had drawn of the two of them and shyly told her all about her time in the hospital. The girl's mother asked, "Would you like to show Reverend Lang your scar?" She sheepishly shook her head no and the visit proceeded with no scars shared. When Christy arrived back at the office she had an email waiting from the mother of the young girl. After Christy left the mother had asked her daughter, "Honey, you show everyone your scar. Why did you not want to show Reverend Lang?" The little girl sighed and said, "Mommy, wouldn't you be a little shy if someone asked you to show Barak Obama your scar?"

I am now back in Philadelphia and despite the fact that I came home to a broken heater AGAIN, I can authentically report that I like my job. Fixing boilers and toilets aside, I love that I get to be imaginative and relational as this church figures out what it means to be relevant in a city/culture/time and place that is appropriately suspicious of church.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Poem for the Season

Making the House Ready for the Lord
Mary Oliver

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
Still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice—it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

I like this poem. Yes, I do. I like this woman in the poem, whoever she is.

I have good news: Philadelphia is constantly revealing, albeit slowly, some lovely things about itself. Here is a charming factoid: O Little Town of Bethlehem, the popular Christmas song, was written by a priest at a church around the corner from where I live. I also like the fact that Emily Dickinson used to attend church here. Ain't bad to live in a place haunted by music and poetry!

I have shared before and after pics of my office at work! Looking far more legitimate, eh?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Happy Day

Happiness has a way of catching you off guard. At least, the best kinds of happiness works that way. Today I stooped down to pluck up the most marvelous leaf whose reds and purples were somewhere near indescribable. I have learned to drive a stick shift, which makes me feel strangely grown-up and being grown-up makes me feel sophisticated and world-wizened. Funny, but true. Today, out of the blue, I was reminded of how lovely it is to be so close to someone that you can feel their heartbeat. This crossed my mind and made me happy.

My friends Becky and Andy have been generous in welcoming me to Philadelphia and I love the way their 8 month-old baby Anneke nestles in close and thinks that noses are absolutely scrumptious. My nephew Tate and I had our most “grown up” conversation yet and I marvel at the boy he is becoming. I met some new girlfriends for coffee tonight and was reminded of how many good people there are in the world. All in all, it has been a day full of good things.

I still sort of hate Philadelphia, but am doing my best to expect the unexpected. And no doubt some more happiness will come my way :-)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Waiting on some inspiration

Thoughts from the last 15 minutes:

1) I want to take a photography class. That needs to be on the life agenda.

2) Do you think there is anything worse than dishonesty? I think it might be one of the worst qualities in a person.

3) Falling in love is annoying, for the record. I am certain of it. That is the conclusion on the matter, this day, November 2, 2009.

4) Flirting, on the other hand, not so bad.

5) I would like a kitten. A fluffy, puffy, meowing kitten. What shall I name him? Something French, I think. Pierre.

6) I like cappuccinos. I think I may have found a coffee shop to return to regularly. It is rustic. That is a good word for it. Rustic, yet urban-fashionable. I am drinking a cappuccino right now, so I expect my mood to improve exponentially in approximately 5 minutes.

I’ve been waiting on some inspiration before writing a blog posting, but inspiration has been hard to come by lately.

I now live on the third floor of a creaky, old brownstone at Arch and 18th Street in Philadelphia. There is a row of eight small trees that line the block, but for the most part I am surrounded by concrete and steel. I need to find myself some parks. I have come to find that Philadelphians LOVE Philadelphia. It is a surprisingly intense love affair (and slightly obnoxious to the outsider). I have offended a few people by asking, "What exactly makes this city so great?" I am a jerk.

One wonderful thing about this city? Brunch. There are lots of great places for long, luxurious brunches- good coffee, good food, good atmosphere.

I have been absorbed by work already, but have found some time for lovely excursions with friends. Went to a wedding in Princeton last weekend and got to spend time with some people that I love.

Solitude and joy are not diametrically opposed. I plan to seize a little of both this week.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sugar and spice and everything nice

I wish the candle that is burning cheerfully in my room this evening was a baked good. Its scent is "pumpkin spice" and I occasionally look up to see if it has magically turned into a plate of pumpkin muffins or scones because it smells that good. Yummy. Reasons why I want to eat pumpkin scones at this very moment:

1) All of my friends have been talking about taking their children to pumpkin patches. This is charming and very autumnal, so I have pumpkins on the brain.
2) It is rainy and cheerless and treeless in my current corner of the world and I am dying for something sweet and earthy
3) I am mildly depressed and mild depression always calls for a baked good. It has been slowly dawning on me this weekend (even though I should have been fully aware) that moving to a new city means starting over - new friends, new parks, new grocery store, new yoga studio, new rhythm of life (all of which I have failed to find thus far). Carmen, your extrovert-extrodinaire, is feeling a little sorry for herself this evening.

Philadelphia is called the "City of Brotherly Love," but so far, I haven't seen much lovin'. This isn't a particularly friendly town. In fact, my friend J.C. reminded me recently that Philadelphia famously booed and threw garbage at Santa Claus at an Eagle's game a few years ago (football, for my Euro friends that could care less about silly American sports). Booed Santa Claus!!

Living downtown Philadelphia is nothing like living downtown Manhattan. The chain stores and gritty concrete are the same, but where is a Central Park when you need one? I had planned on going to a movie tonight, but it is frigid and rainy and I don't know the Philly transit system well enough to get to the other side of the city. Sigh. It will get better. Just a bummer today. I don't have any interesting photos yet. My friend Peg suggested I take pics of the new digs, but this mission failed because it was just too fetching cold. I'll get on it eventually. Here's wishing you a delicious fall moment or two in the coming weeks!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The life of a holy roller

I like the title of this post, even if I am full of c-r-a-p. I am no holy roller, but you'd think I would be since I am a pastor.

Life in Philadelphia: I am sitting on a bed (the only clean, comfy, organized thing in my life right now), surrounded by boxes, overwhelmed by a very full inbox, swimming in WORK, curious about the strange new city I live in, and thrilled about the potential of this church. I already like the people I work with-- creative, smart, authentic-types that are all about service, compassion, and learning.

After 4 nights at here, I have decided the house where I live is not haunted. She is crumbling and falling apart in myriad charming ways, but she is ghost-less. Don't worry, I will make sure she is not lifeless!

This pic gives you a picture of where I live and work. Hopefully it will be the place that soon feels like home.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On a Plane Bound for Philly

Finally spent some time with the family. It's been a nice four days. I have been wrestling with the nephews and cuddling with my new baby niece in Canby, Oregon. Yesterday was a glorious fall day and we spent most of it chopping down trees on my sister’s mini-farm. I am not kidding. Chopping. My dad taught me how to use a chainsaw and we brought down a couple of diseased trees. Fun! Saturday afternoon was perfectly, fantastically antithetical to my urban life in Philadelphia.

I love my sister’s house.

They have a small orchard out front and yesterday my nephew Tate and I filled a bucket with rotting pears and apples to bring to the goats and cows across the road. I always love being with my sister. Just standing next to her wearing a pair of work boots and dirty old jeans soothes me. Strange. I wonder if most sisters feel this way?

I missed my cousin Jenny’s wedding, but I got to spend one evening with my Sam and Angie (and briefly reacquaint myself with their darling wee people—3 kids under the age of 3— true bravery). When I arrived Angie promptly came out on the porch holding one of the twins (Glory?) and for a second I was reminded of the Folgers coffee commercials that used to make me cry. Remember that TV commercial where the older brother comes home for Christmas, sneaks in early in the morning, and joyfully wakes up the family over a mug of instant coffee? Yes, I felt like that. I happen to love the Lai family.

I can be such a bratty cynic about the world at times and yet it is full of wonderful people. I chatted with Rochelle for over an hour and I was reminded of the luxury of laying around with a sleeping baby on a comfy couch (my niece is a rather angelic infant). As I boarded the plane this morning, I was charmed by a woman wearing a fleece covered in neatly labeled lighthouses, an old silver-haired woman who methodically prayed a bright green rosary throughout the take-off and landing, and the cheerful strangers that welcomed their aisle-mates as if they had been waiting to meet this person all their life. This is one more thing to add to the "Great Things About America" list: unabashed friendliness. Yes, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but I love that strangers are often quite cheerful with one another in this country.

This post is long, so I will stop. One of these days I will tell you about my new job and the haunted manse where I live. But I hardly feel like a Philadelphia resident yet, so give me a few days. I am sure something newsworthy and interesting will come up.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

News from Scandinavia

Did you know....

- Until 1986 the prime minister of Sweden walked around Stockholm without security, like he was a perfectly ordinary citizen (and then there was the assassination debacle)
- There is a "vodka belt" in Sweden. They also have a "Bible belt" but it is much, much smaller
- When you have a baby here you automatically get a year paid leave. Awesome.
- You can legally have sexual relations with animals in Sweden (OMG)
- The Finns created our version of the sauna (after the Turks) and it is GOOD!!!! Yesterday I traipsed around in a towel in multiple steamy rooms and felt like a new woman!
- Norway was very poor, a developing country, until they discovered oil in the 1960's (70's?) and now it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world
- Want to rile up some Scandinavians? Get one Norwegian, Dane, or Swede in a room that supports the monarchy and one that feels it is absolutely undemocratic and casually bring up the king or queen. Sparks, people. Sparks.
- Immigration is the hot topic in Scandinavia. Everyone is trying to figure out Scandinavian identity right now. Fascinating for me, one from the nation of immigrants

Bye bye vacation. I will miss you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pretty, Pretty Stockholm

I saw a man smoking a corncob pipe today. Didn’t Frosty the Snowman smoke a corncob pipe? The man looked quite content in his wool cap, vest, and pipe as he walked along Katarinavagen toward the old city here in Stockholm. I am visiting my friend Micke, a friend I met in Zambia, who has a lovely apartment in a rather sheik part of the city. He is an artist, so it is full of interesting things. It is the kind of apartment that has new details to observe in every nook and cranny. I like it.

Micke was rather blasé about the Gamla Stans, the old part of the city, but there is good reason to be impressed by the charming cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, and old homes. Last night we went to a church service in a quaint wooden church, architecturally known as “Norse romantic.” I felt quite at home in the service despite the fact that I do not speak Swedish. The service began at sunset and the church was packed with people, surprising here in Sweden where so few people consider themselves religious. The warm candlelight and simple piano music created a meditative space, but the mild-mannered priest who wore jeans and red tennis shoes under his alb and collar was especially charming.

Fall is an exquisite time of year. The leaves, all yellow and red and green, cling to their branches as they bask in the golden light of September. I am such a romantic, but I suppose it is especially easy to be romantic this time of year.

Here are a couple of observations I have made in the last week here in beautiful Scandinavia: One, tights are in right now. Green tights, black tights, brown tights. Tights are all the rage. Tights and boots. I am doing my best to fit in with my little gray, wool jacket and navy scarf, but I don’t have the sexy Scandinavian look mastered. I think I need to drop 20 pounds and pick up a smoking habit. Two, I do not feel like a freakshow here as a 31 year-old single woman. In the U.S. approximately 90% of my friends are married and while this is delightful, sometimes I feel quite abnormal. Here most people are single at 31, so I feel young and fun and very, very normal. This is refreshing.

Tonight we will go for dinner in a little cottage belonging to Micke’s girlfriend. As I write this Micke is sitting next to me writing an email while mindlessly humming a tune that is quite cheerful. We human beings are so quirky. Wishing you well, wherever this note finds you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Norway in a Nutshell

Today I rose early to catch a train from Bergen on the Western coast of Norway to a little town called Myrdal where I began a bus/train/boat tour of one of the dramatic fjords in the area. A fjord is an exceptionally long inlet from the ocean that winds its way inland (check out a map of Norway and you’ll get it). The mountains were carved up long ago and tower alongside the fjords where seals and porpoises and other sea creatures live. The boat ride was stunning—literally impossible to capture in words or in pictures just how magnificent. On the train we climbed about 3000 feet and were surrounded by desolate stone and ice and endless waterfalls. I was surprised to see homes in this land where trees cannot survive. More and more homes cluster in growing villages as you make your way toward Oslo. Eventually ski slopes (without snow now in late September) dot the hillsides while bright yellow and burnt red leaves add to the drama.

About 5 million people live in Norway, nearly the same as the population of Denmark, but Norway is a massive country in comparison to tiny Denmark. Today I traveled with a nice Swede, a teacher from a small city in the South. He and I had a long conversation about my love life, shared our mutual disdain for poorly written popular novels (we bonded in our mutual snobbery), and he told me all about life as a Jew in Sweden. These are the kinds of intimate conversations you can find yourself in with fellow travelers. A dumb Australian said to my MARRIED traveling companion, “If you play your cards right, mate, you may find yourself another wife in this girl.” What? Weird. That guy was weird.

In Bergen I stayed with the family of my friend Kristin, a woman I met in Zambia last year. For the next few days I will be in Oslo and will spend time with 5 different Norwegians I met while living in Zambia. I have been shown wonderful hospitality thus far and every day has been restorative to my soul in its own way. There is something so nourishing about knowing new people and cultures, new lands and sights and smells.

Clearly, vacation is going well.

One last thing: you can buy troll figurines and little gnomes in tourist shops all over Norway. I never really understood this before. Why the obsession with stories of goblins and trolls, Norway? Well, after traveling through the dramatic stone mountains today it makes more sense to me. If you are surrounded by all of these massive granite mountains, it seems fitting that magical creatures should live among them.

I’ll let you know if I spot one.

Monday, September 21, 2009

On the Road Again...

It is a windy, rainy night here in Bergen on the western coast of Norway. I am crawling into bed late after a long, leisurely dinner with a lovely Norwegian family who was eager to talk politics, culture, and food (as to be expected when new friends come to town). When I was living in Zambia I met a collection of Norwegian friends (pics and stories can be found in my "Ramblings from Zambia" archive) and the family of my friend Kristin is hosting me for the next couple of days.

For the last five days I have been traipsing around Copenhagen and Southern Sweden with my cousins and we have packed in as much sight-seeing as possible. My cousin Katherine is a secondary-school teacher in Denmark and I was invited to come and lecture in 4 classes, introducing the students to "Religion in America." At first I thought I was going to be a zoo animal on display (U.S. religion is bewildering to our Danish friends), but we quickly found lots to talk and laugh about as we shared our cultures with one another. I love teaching and teaching high school students is especially fantastic. I love that freshly picked apples are set out on the dining table of the teacher's lounge. I love that students call their teachers by their first name. I am fascinated by the fact that most of these students know next to nothing about religion. I love the rolling hills of rural Denmark, the canals around Copenhagen, the fresh bread and cheese and tea... but I am saying nothing unique here. Everyone loves these things about Europe.

There is lots more to share, but I am weary, so a few pictures will have to do for now.