Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hanging in the airport

Aaaaah, free WiFi. Thank you random nice airport worker who gave me a coupon for free internet service! I am sitting in the Dulles International airport in Washington D.C. and am feeling thoroughly chipper. The sun is shining and in about 18 hours I will be in beautiful South Africa.

The flight between Philadelphia and D.C. was one of those small shuttles, so I sat chattered with a nice commuter throughout the flight.

The flight attendant seemed especially young to me. Every time she shut one of the overhead compartments she would run her right hand through her hair, carefully arranging a neat flip at the end. It was a quick gesture and one she seemed to do unconsciously. It made me wonder if I do this or if this is a habit relegated to the young. I will try to notice if I do this.

More interesting blogs ahead. I promise. The next two weeks will be full of adventure. I am now off to Ben and Jerry's for a big scoop of ice cream. I have this thing about "last meals" at the airport. I know it ridiculous, but before most flights I indulge myself in something sweet thinking to myself,"Well, this could be your last meal..."

Hopefully I do not die in a fiery crash, but if I do I will at least have had one last scoop of delicious chocolate goodness.

Wishing you a lovely day wherever you are.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I'm a grown up

It’s weird to me that people were born in the 1990’s. I mean, I get it. People are born every year. But I have friends on facebook that entered the world when I was entering high school. Jeeze.

Sometimes I do not mind being old. Like tonight, for example. It is the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day and the bars were packed this evening as I walked through Center City. People seemed to be having a good time as they spilled out of the doorways onto the sidewalks wearing shamrocks and green beads, but I was glad that I had other evening plans. I went to the ballet with my friend Becky and it was extraordinary. The performance was a tribute to Chopin and the choreography and costumes and lighting were outstanding. The music of Chopin is romantic, but has enough dissonance to keep things interesting. I cannot believe that ballet has the capacity to be hilarious as well as deeply moving.

I have been thinking lately that it would be nice if everyone in the world, just for one day, would wear a tee-shirt with their state-of-being printed on the front. I think the entire world should be given black tee-shirts with white block lettering. We could imagine the words and miraculously they would appear.

Think of how much compassion we might feel for another!

Cancer diagnosis today.
Pregnant. Unplanned. Sh%$.
I am so lonely.
She said yes!!
I lost my job. Terrified.
Joy. Absolute joy.
Full of regret.
I am a fraud.
I just left the church.
I just left my wife.
New boyfriend.
Just got out of jail. Scared.
Addicted. Need help.

I’m not brave enough to tell you what my tee-shirt would say today. I wonder what yours would say?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Context is everything

According to this Algerian guy I met today I look European. I, of course, pretended that this was not incredibly flattering. I generally think of Europeans as more sophisticated than I am, so I secretly loved the compliment. I wonder why I think this?

This eager young medical student was quite “hands on”—very bold for a stranger—and wanted to buy me a cup of coffee. I feigned a very busy afternoon. I tend to be more daring and interested in hanging out with strangers when I am traveling. I probably should have just had a cup of coffee with the guy.

My friends Stephanie and Elizabeth and I went to a flower show yesterday. Steph made me laugh out loud when she said, “Falling in love in Philadelphia would be like eating crème brule in the bathroom.”

Context is everything.

We laughed as we imagined a romantic walk along the polluted Schuylkill River or eating cheesesteaks at an Eagle’s game. Not my cup of tea. Philadelphia lovers would say I am being a brat right now and remind me of all the lovely things in this city, inncluding jazz on Friday nights at the art museum and a fantastic Rodin museum I have yet to see.

But tonight I will babysit for my friends Becky and Andy. No romance for me this evening.

Context is everything.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wisdom from Eggers

"I will not wait to love as best I can. We thought we were young and that there would be time to love well sometime in the future. This is a terrible way to think. It is not way to live, to wait to love."

- David Eggers (What is the What)

Monday, March 1, 2010


It is a beautiful, blue-sky day in Philadelphia. Not spring here, mind you, but the sun is shining and the temperature is well above freezing. I think most people are exhaling a big sigh of relief.

I was listening to NPR (National Public Radio) this morning and heard a program about Philadelphia that made me want to leap out of my chair. Vindication!!! I have lived in Philadelphia for 5 months now and have struggled to nestle into this city, often feeling overwhelmed by the extreme poverty and violence that plagues the area. I have thought to myself, "Are you just grouchy because moving to a new place is always challenging and this winter has been especially cold?"

I moved to Philly during the World Series and I quickly discovered that Philadelphia HATES New York City. I was turned off immediately by my new neighbors who expressed, what seemed to me, inexplicable boisterous pride in their city. As I looked around I kept thinking, "What is so great about Philadelphia? Polluted rivers, high crime rates, very few accessible green spaces and parks..."

While I have come to find all kinds of charm in this new place, the radio program I heard offered a profile that helped make sense of my strong reaction. Let me give you a brief profile of Philly:

I moved to Philadelphia, a very poor city, in what has been the greatest recession since the Great Depression and since moving here I have only heard about State and City budget cuts for the poor.
- Only 66% of our high school students graduate
- The Philly School District averages 12,000 truancies a day
- 21% of our city budget is spent on prisons
- Last year there were 303 murders and 1400 shootings
- We are the third poorest urban area in the country (Detroit and Cleveland are the first and second)

It is no wonder that I have been overwhelmed by this place. There are parts of the city that are literally burned out and represent 50 years of specific choices: the choice to abandon, the choice to ignore, the choice to turn our back on the most vulnerable. I am not sure that I will ever grow to love this city, but at least I have a better understanding of its wounds. Perhaps a compassion will continue to grow as I do my best to help bring healing, even in small ways, in my work. I'm dreaming up a literacy program and look forward to partnering with the city in some good advocacy work. We shall see what comes.

I leave for South Africa and Zambia in two weeks! Hip hip hooray for a refreshing homecoming! The world is a big, beautiful place full of beautiful people. Excited to be reminded of that in new ways this month!