30 November, 2006

Real Life, Part 1: Lazy Eye

This series consists of a somewhat fictionalized account of things that probably actually happened but maybe not in this order, with a few identifying and temporal details altered.

It’s a beautiful sunny day. It feels like September, but it’s almost December. I may have just gotten kicked in the face by life, but I don’t really care, I can handle it. In fact, I’m feeling better every minute, and just the experience of noticeably progressing from depressed to joyful makes me a little giddy. I almost start skipping right there on the Korzo, but don’t. That’s not really like me. When I was younger I actually believed I could skip faster than I could run, and skipping always felt like I was flying.

I get to the café and sit down at the table with my friend. The seating is a little awkward and I’m sort of on the corner.
“Have you heard the story about sitting at the corner of the table?”
“Uh, no…”
“It means you’ll never get married.”
I laugh lightly and shift my chair. Inside I think, Awesome, thanks for that.

We start talking about Christmas decorations and traveling and whether or not I’ll move here permanently. I glance down at the table and notice her keychain. There’s a little attachment, sort of transparent and jelly-like, with rhinestone eyes and a little tail… Is that a ghost? Oh. No. No, wait. Yes. That is definitely a sperm cell. I jerk my head up, afraid my distraction was noticeable. It seems it wasn’t, and conversation continues.

She shows me a picture of Josh Hartnett taped in her notebook, and earnestly sermonizes me on his finer qualities. I don’t really agree, but politely nod along. This example of the mystery of human attraction reminds me of the grocery store clerk I stalked for about 5 years. So I tell her about Hans and how to this day I consider him to probably be the most physically attractive person in existence (and he is so smart, too) - even though I think he does drugs and my family swears he has a lazy eye. But when it’s love, it’s love, right? No? You don't agree? Whatever. I don’t care what you think.

To Be Continued…

29 November, 2006

More Good Stuff

[Big sigh of relief]

Tonight we had a big event we've been working on for a while, and it went pretty well!

We were so excited to see how God provided everything we needed, including a location, technological know-how (Jason, one of the visitors here last week, helped us get everything figured out), equipment, translation, volunteers, attendees, and many other things. It was so cool to see everything come together, and about 36 students came (plus us), which was perfect for the size of the café/pub that we were in. Now we're tired, but happy.

Tomorrow we've set aside most of the day to rest and personally connect with and enjoy God, and tomorrow night we'll celebrate Allison's birthday. Good times.

The last week or so has been sort of tough, but tonight was such a cool reminder of what really matters and how great the God I serve is. I was nervous because it was my job to talk about some of my own story, and what Christ has done in my life, and how I think the gospel actually matters and relates to us today in the midst of both small personal issues and major global problems. It seemed like too much to try to tie together, but somehow God helped it to come out and it was so cool to see students get excited and share ideas and engage in conversation about real things that truly matter.

28 November, 2006

Great news!

Taylor and I got a call yesterday from Zoran who heard from MUP that we were approved for our visas! Yay! There are a few more things we have to do (of course) but we should be home free, at least until March when we're supposed to re-apply...
At any rate, we're happy for now.

Two down, four to go!

27 November, 2006

Obligatory post.

I'll be glad when November is over and I won't have any commitment to hold to when I don't feel like blogging.

A few items of note:

-Sunny has a sty in her eye.

-Our apartment is really, really dirty right now. Normally we have cleaning parties on Monday nights, but tonight we had some much needed girl time and just talked and caught up with one another. Even though we technically live together, it's hard to connect all at once when things are so busy.

-Today I got to talk to my best friend on the phone! Due to complicated phone arrangements, we haven't gotten to speak to each other in 3 months and I miss her so much. It was really wonderful to be able to encourage one another at a time when we both really need it.

-Tonight I went to an art class with one of my friends here. It was SO fun! I think Sunny might start going, too.

That's it.

26 November, 2006

Okay, more than a little bummed out…

Shortly after I posted that last entry, I had a couple of really difficult conversations that left me feeling pretty much pummeled emotionally.

I’ve heard this analogy before that we are like grapes and God ‘squeezes’ us with various challenging or painful circumstances, and when we are pressed, wine comes out. Basically the idea is that it’s all for the best and we should aim to allow good things to come out of us when we’re feeling crushed.

But that doesn’t feel true right now. Everything seems more literal to me. I feel like I’m getting squashed, but I’m not a cute, sweet little grape. I am a person. And when people get squashed, it is pretty gross. Grape juice doesn’t come out. Instead, it’s bones, bile, blood, guts, snot, tears, saliva… all kinds of unpleasant things. And not in the nice, predictable and steady stream that comes to mind when I think of wine being poured out. No. Things come out in ugly, shocking bursts and squirts, with tearing, popping and groaning.

A few weeks ago I felt like things were going pretty well overall in most areas of life, and the things that were challenging me were subtle, long-term type things. There was no real drama or distress or anything unexpected.

Now I feel plunged into the midst of some chaotic and confusing battle, and don’t quite feel ready for it. But there’s no time for feeling unprepared, because I’m here and can’t help it.

I just finished a book by G.K. Chesterton. It was beautiful and wonderful in many ways, but I'll just share two short excerpts:

1) A direct quote:
"Cold pheasant is a good thing," said Syme reflectively, "and Burgundy is a spanking good thing..."

I really love the word spank, used in various forms as an adjective or expletive. In fact, everything I feel about the last week could probably be summed up (with the right tone, posture, and facial expression, of course) by simply saying, 'Spank.'

2) There are a lot of plot twists in the story, and people you thought were good/bad turn out to be the opposite, etc. and there is a scene where the main characters are basically questioning and responding to the 'God' character after everything has been revealed.

Here are the last few responses:

Bull said, "I understand nothing, but I am happy. In fact, I am going to sleep."

"I am not happy," said the Professor with his head in his hands, "because I do not understand. You let me stray a little too near to hell."

And then Gogol said, with the absolute simplicity of a child-
"I wish I knew why I was hurt so much."

Maybe someday we will understand. Maybe we never will.

25 November, 2006

Feeling a little bummed out.

The last week or so has been pretty crazy. Thanksgiving was great, and it has been really fun to have Jason, Jesse, and Kyle here from WSU. The last few days have included much laughter, much cooking, more cleaning, and little bit of chaos, too :-).

During the last 5 days or so I have found out that two couples that I know and love were expecting babies! Then I found out that one couple lost their baby. I can't really imagine what that is like, but it breaks my heart to see people that I love go through something so painful.

We've also had some drama regarding our residency/visa situation here. On Monday it seemed like Taylor and I were the ones in jeopardy. Then on Wednesday things changed and Taylor and I were fine, but the other 4 teammates were in trouble. Now things are uncertain. There is a pretty decent possibility that John might need to leave Croatia for 3 months, and that is tough to swallow. Logically speaking, we know everything will be okay. Even if people have to leave, they'll probably get to come back, and of course God is always in control. But to be honest, this is no fun to think about and I am really hoping and praying that everyone will get to stay in Rijeka.

What I am most thankful for right now is that God is greater than sadness, death, loss, defeat, pain, loneliness, fear, separation, and uncertainty. In all of those things He has repeatedly shown Himself faithful, and has been my joy and hope. He is greater than those things, and He is Good, and He is There. Knowing that whatever comes next, He will indeed be There as He always is, even though I often forget, is enough. And I am grateful.

24 November, 2006

Dan zahvalnosti*

Well, it turned out that we had about 40 or so friends come last night, plus the 9 of us Americans. It was a really fun evening and the festivities lasted until around 1:30am. Today we've been taking it easy (sort of) and cooking some more for a low key, smaller scale repeat tonight.

*Thanks for the spelling tip, Zoran :-)

23 November, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here it's called 'Dan za Hvalnosti' and it was so nice out today!

In about an hour a bunch of students are coming over for pie and turkey, it should be fun, although we have no idea how many people will be here...

Last Week

Taylor's group at the English workshop

Sanja, Natasha, Sunny, and Maja hanging out at our girls movie night last Friday

22 November, 2006

To Be Alone With You

I'd swim across Lake Michigan
I'd sell my shoes
I'd give my body to be back again
In the rest of the room

To be alone with you
To be alone with you
To be alone with you
To be alone with you

You gave your body to the lonely
They took your clothes
You gave up a wife and a family
You gave your Ghost

To be alone with me
To be alone with me
To be alone with me
You went up on a tree

To be alone with me you went up on the tree

I've never known a man who loved me

Sufjan Stevens

The Transfiguration

When he took the three disciples
to the mountainside to pray,
his countenance was modified,
his clothing was aflame.
Two men appeared:
Moses and Elijah came;
they were at his side.
The prophecy, the legislation spoke of whenever he would die.

Then there came a word of what he should accomplish on the day.
Then Peter spoke, to make of them a tabernacle place.
A cloud appeared in glory as an accolade.
They fell on the ground.
A voice arrived, the voice of God,
the face of God, covered in a cloud.

What he said to them, the voice of God: the most beloved son.
Consider what he says to you, consider what's to come.
The prophecy was put to death, was put to death, and so will the Son.
And keep your word, disguise the vision till the time has come.

Lost in the cloud, a voice: Have no fear! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Turn your ear!
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Lamb of God! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Son of God!

Sufjan Stevens

A Trio, A Tribute

This is the first of 3 related posts on the same general subject.

So a lot of you know that I really dig Sufjan Stevens. He’s getting more trendy now, so it’s really nothing special to be a fan.

Anyway, last December, I discovered some of his Christmas music and got all excited about it. But now he’s released it all for real!

I don’t have this myself but it’s probably awesome, so check it out:

Songs For Christmas: Box Set!

21 November, 2006

Can I buy an umbrella here?

Yesterday started out mildly enough. I got up early to go pick up some documents that I needed to take to the police station. When I rang the doorbell at the translator’s apartment and nobody answered, I had no idea to what degree this foreshadowed what was to follow.

Meeting up with Zoran, who graciously offered to translate at MUP (the police station), didn’t really happen as planned. As I walked to MUP, it started raining pretty hard when I was halfway there, and I had just removed the umbrella from my purse that morning before leaving.
Oh, well, a little rain never hurt anyone.

But a little rain quickly turned into a lot of rain. After going into quite a few shops and asking, “Mogu li kupiti kišobran ovdje?” I finally found a place where I could buy a kišobran (which translates as ‘rain defender’). It was a lot more than I wanted to pay – the cheapest one was about $23, but it was kind of cool looking and I was already as soaking wet as I was willing to get, so I got it.

The day pretty much spiraled from there. Before dinner I went to MUP a total of 4 times, back to my apartment 3 times, to the health insurance bureau twice, with various other stops and missteps along the way. At one point one of the support spine/stick things on the umbrella snapped for no reason – leaving me with a cute, expensive, and on-its-way-to worthless umbrella. Zoran was most likely late getting his car back to his dad, risking getting his driving privileges revoked. Taylor got trapped in the bank when they said they could do something quick, but ended up taking her passport and other documents and disappearing for 20 minutes when she was trying desperately to come meet us at MUP.

In the midst of all this, MUP was a story in and of itself. I was informed that, even though I have attempted to officially change my address 6 or 7 times since June, and last time was told everything was in order, in fact there was some glitch along the way and I might be given a fine and misdemeanor charge for illegally failing to change my address. The lady also implied that she had the power (and possibly the intention) to deny my residence application, as well as Taylor’s (which would presumably result in deportation for us both) for failing to submit the proper paperwork.

The root cause of all of this seems to be miscommunication: the downstairs people tell us different things than the upstairs people do, BUT we can only communicate with the upstairs people upon invitation, while the downstairs people are usually available to the public. In the end, Zoran worked his civil-communication magic and we obtained the correct paper from the correct government building and turned in multiple copies and I think things are okay for now. But I have thought that before…

It’s just frustrating to feel like we’ve been bending over backwards, spending countless hours and so much money trying to get all of this sorted out, and when we’re given incorrect information and told different things most times we go in, in the end it is our fault for not complying. And it seems like our only hope is what kind of mood whoever we talk to is in whenever we happen to be talking to them.

But, I suppose, in the end everyone messes up sometimes, and none of us are as rational as we might think we are. I know the U.S. government has its own considerable set of problems and inefficiency, so it’s really not a Croatia-specific or culturally based issue.

Later in the afternoon, the lady at the umbrella shop lent me her personal umbrella while she took mine to try to fix it.

I thought that was nice.

20 November, 2006

Verbal Cartoonist?

That's right, my friend Dan alerted me to the masterful work of Dan Liebert. Unfortunately there aren't that many yet, but I hope to see more in the future.

In other news, the police almost made me cry today (more on that tomorrow), and I would highly suggest checking out the comments on the post about Sunny (aka Summer Sprinkles).

This day felt like it was 9 days packed into one, so I'm going to collapse into bed now.

19 November, 2006

The Text Master

Allison is a cuddler! She is also patient and kind and funny. So far this year she has already baked some extremely tasty banana bread 3 or 4 times. This basically makes her an angel. Allison loves to laugh, except when someone catches her off-guard and forcibly re-pierces her nose.

Allison is the other super stylin’ sorority sister on the team. And she’s a co-conspirator in the “let’s get a little cuddly-wuddly adorable widdle puppy!” campaign. She reads a lot and brought tons of movies, including, oh, a thousand or so episodes of Friends. If you ever need a shoulder or back massage, this is the woman to go to.

Other important notes:
-Allison may have an actual biological need for Diet Pepsi (I know, ew).
-It has been firmly established that Allison possesses a quintessential pair of beautiful almond eyes. I didn’t actually know what that even meant until I met her.
-Allison trapped and tickled me one time and I almost died because I couldn’t breathe. And I only narrowly avoided wetting my pants. Allison, I will never forget this.
-Allison worked for two summers at a pretty, shall we say, ‘low budget’ (but still amazing!) summer camp called Camp Gilead that I went to for 7 or 8 years straight when I was a kid.

18 November, 2006

Summer Sprinkles

Sunny and I have… issues. We have more awkward moments together than either one of us has ever experienced with any other person before. Sunny shares my love for coffee, and used to work at Starbucks, too. She also used to work at Nordstrom AND she was/is (I don’t know how this works: present tense? past tense?) in a sorority. This officially makes her the most stylish person I’ve ever met.

Sunny wants us to get a little puppy. Whenever objections are raised due to the impracticality of such a thing, she ends the argument by firmly insisting she would keep the little guy in her purse (indefinitely, I guess) if he ever caused any trouble.

She likes music, grew up in Kent, WA, has a boyfriend (but wouldn’t necessarily define herself as one of those ‘young people, so happy and in love!!!’), had a nasty German stalker on the Korzo for a while, likes to read, and is generally fairly stoic but occasionally cries or lapses into baby talk unexpectedly.

17 November, 2006

Andy Loves Lamp

Andy is a super stud. He plays the guitar, sings, builds mountain bikes, and owns a banana costume. He is perhaps most famous for the ‘bear paw’ and ‘clubbing’ moves he uses to batter his teammates.

Andy serves us in many ways: he cooks great meals, carries chairs and equipment and pretty much anything for us (he especially likes carrying purses…), helps clean, walks us girls to and from places - even when he doesn’t have to, offers to drive the crappy car when no one else wants to, fixes computers, and plenty of other things, too.

I’ve had the privilege of joining Andy in some particularly unique adventures during our trip to Budapest, as well as multiple journeys we’ve taken to the Law and Technical faculties right here in Rijeka.

He and I also like to take turns trying to shock each other by saying outlandish or disturbing things. And he just got a tattoo.

16 November, 2006

Baby Taylor

No, I don’t think Taylor is a baby. But during a 3-second bout of free association, that’s the title that came to mind. It’s a type of guitar, I think. At any rate, Taylor is the smallest person on the team and she also knows how to play the guitar, so for those reasons the title stays.

We’re in Round 2 of roommate-hood and teammate-dom, and she’s proven herself a lifesaver many times, as well as a treasured companion. Taylor is extremely passionate about ministry and truth, which is inspiring to me. She may kill me for this later, but she is also prime wife material. Besides the fact that she’s pretty set on moving to the slums of Bangladesh or an unnamed strip of savannah in Ethiopia alone as some kind of X-treme pioneering missionary, and doesn’t want kids because she’s terrified they’ll do the same kinds of crazy things her and her sister used to do when they were little, Taylor would make a good mate. She cuddles, she cooks, and jewelry may be her sole weakness. And she's h-o-t-t, hott.

I’m still discovering cool things about her, like the fact that she’s obsessed with music by The Temptations, and her truly extraordinary facility in using Excel or other computer programs. No joke, she knows all the formulas and secret codes.

Anyway, I could say more, but wouldn’t know where to stop.
So, yeah, I love her.

15 November, 2006

Johnny Hrvatski

John appears once again as fearless team leader extraordinaire. There have been a few changes, though. While he remains the most organized- and tough- person I know, this year he’s been branching out into realms traditionally led by the more estrogen-dominant crowd:
1) the expression of emotions, and 2) interior decorating.

Additionally, as foreshadowed by his hammocking forays last spring, he has demonstrated a new commitment to engaging in some form of rest or recreation at least 2.5-4 hours per week. We’re working on raising that number.

His two main objectives for the year have to do with finding a heart for his inner tin man, and soldiering on in the midst of multiple

A Preface

Last March I wrote profiles of all my teammates, so I thought I should do the same this year. Enjoy!

14 November, 2006

This is the type of post that would be much improved if a picture were included.

But...I haven't transferred them from the camera to the computer yet. And I didn't take many to begin with, anyway.

This weekend we went to Bohinj, Slovenia for a quick mid-semester break. It was great, but went too fast! No real schedule to speak of, no computer, no stress. We enjoyed spending some time in a tiny town surrounded by beautiful mountains and trees, slept in, read, watched a few movies, and generally got refreshed.

My brother Tobin was kind enough to post my pre-written entries on Saturday and Sunday so I didn't have to mess up the whole 'post every day in November' thing, so I offer a public thank you to you, good sir!

Tomorrow we're doing an English workshop on "Logic & Critical Thinking" at the Technical Faculty. Sounds tasty, I know. This one would be classified under the 'intellectual' category, I guess.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have something more interesting to offer, but no promises.

13 November, 2006

I am in love with Jayber Crow.

After 2 months of reading on and off, when I had the time, I finally finished this book.

I didn't want to. I didn't want it to end.

It is written exquisitely, and somehow perfectly communicates profound old truths in new ways. It is about life. About truth and love and faith and loss and the world as it is. It is about heaven and about hell and the parts of both that we see here on this earth.

The cover is a little bit ugly, I think. And the description will tell you it is the life story of a barber in a made-up small town in Kentucky. That sounds about as appealing as stale shredded wheat. But if you like to read, if you like books at all, please give it a chance. Because it's better than it looks.

12 November, 2006

Sign Language- part the second

This is my favorite! Take a moment and savor the details.

No swimming.

No carwashing or dramatic suicides.

All kinds of things are going on in this one.

Piggyback time in Truckland.

No comment I could come up with would really do this justice...

I have a personal history with this one. :-)

11 November, 2006

10 November, 2006

Now and Then

There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hidden, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinating because of that, all the more compelling and haunting.

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.

In the boredom and the pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

Frederick Buechner

09 November, 2006


Practicing for the balcony scene?

More Bigfoot Sightings!

Read more here!

Someone should alert the TBRC.

08 November, 2006

Good Night

Currently, half our living room furniture and a whole host of other paraphernalia is crammed in my bedroom. This is because the living room is clogged with tables and chairs marshaled from every room of ours and the boys' apartment. There are mugs with little remnants of tea and coffee, trays with cookies and crumbs, napkins, and plates of meat and cheese strewn about on nearly every available surface. There's a sheet on the wall and projector, stereo, and power strip cords wound amongst the legs of the tables and chairs. And 2/3 of the light fixtures boast decorative colored bulbs. It was a wild night. We did an event called 'Story of the Soul' and the whole thing was sort of a new concept to us. Some of our friends (Zoran, Doda, Maja, Tomislav, and Davor) emceed and translated so virtually everything was in Croatian. They did an AMAZING job, and there's no way we could have done it without them. It was fun and went pretty well, I think. But now we're all exhausted and have a busy, busy day tomorrow so I gotta go to bed. We'll clean in the morning...

07 November, 2006

Inspired by Sarah May

A while back I mentioned some links Sarah May sent about some crazy cool experiments with Diet Coke and Mentos. Well, a few weeks ago, we were inspired to try it ourselves.

Also, in response to the Sign Language post, she sent me this awesome photo:

06 November, 2006

Hard. Core.

Heck yeah. You better believe it.

05 November, 2006

Sign Language

Please, no bananas or rutabagas in the toilet.

This way, through the woods, and over the mountains, to the beach.

No small-headed men in suits permitted!

...Let your fingers do the walking?

No fun stuff allowed. Except underwear, that's okay.

04 November, 2006

Mass Production

So, November is officially National Blog Posting Month. I'm jumping on the bandwagon and will do my very best to post every day. Considering that this will perhaps be our busiest month of the year, this is a rather inconvenient commitment. But my allegiance will be more to consistency than quality, so hopefully I'll be able to manage it. I apologize to all of you in advance for any boring, crappy posts that may surface.

Viva la cantidad!

Calidad esta en la puerta de la muerte...

03 November, 2006


Yesterday we all (the team plus Zoran and Doda) piled into cars and headed towards Slovenia to get out of the city. Zoran took us to this place sort of near the border and we marched off into the woods.

Even though it's been unseasonably warm for the last month or so, as soon as November hit it got cold. So we were a little chilly but hiking warmed us up.

We kicked leaves and ate rosehips and Andy and Zoran rolled down a huge hill.

After a few hours in the wild we headed back to a village nearby for some coffee.

02 November, 2006

My Heart Belongs To Vito

I mean, how could it not? If only you could hear his amazing little deep laugh, you'd be sunk, too.

He came over for dinner tonight along with his mom and dad, and 3 hours was not enough!

Vito was definitely the life of the party as far as we were concerned, and now I'm more determined than ever to boost my language proficiency past the two-year-old level.

01 November, 2006

The Banana Strikes Again!

Last night, Taylor, Sunny, and I were busy diligently planning our student event for next week. Andy was bored and wanted to hang out, so he and Allison decided to go get ice cream while we continued working. He was taking longer than he should have to get to our apartment, and we weren't sure why.

"It is Halloween... I wonder if he'll be in costume..." someone mused.

Moments after Allison went downstairs to meet him, we heard our buzzer being pressed insistently. Recognizing the signal, we leapt to our feet and clambered out onto the balcony to be greeted by the beaming fruit.

Seeing him standing there in front of the dumpster, we all simultaneously decided that we really needed to go get ice cream, too. To heck with event planning!

As we set forth, we enjoyed the reactions of a few passers-by. People looked...surprised. Then we got to the Korzo and the fun really started. Lip-locks were severed and makeout sessions completely disrupted all over the city center by the stunning sight of the Banana Man on the Korzo.

There were great hoots of laughter, cat calls, and rounds of applause.

There were numerous probable- but unconfirmed- pairs of pants peed. Admirers requested photo ops, and the ice cream chica gladly served Andy two of the most enormous scoops of sladoled I've seen this side of the Atlantic.

At one point, BanAndy even did a short vaudeville routine for all of the patrons in a café with large windows. We laughed quite a bit, and it was probably the most fun I have ever had before on a single outing to the Korzo.

To misquote the Grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine: "Always with the freaking bananas..."