Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why I could live in SoCal

When I stepped out into the brightness and humidity that defines August in Los Angeles, I felt at home. Quite unexpectedly. Although I'm obviously more used to that climate than Colorado's, having grown up in the tropics, I distinctly knew that I was coming back to a home.

I say 'a' home because I don't really have just one--geographical places hold memories and nostalgia, and I feel home in Highlands Ranch, CO Springs, CO, Singapore, Rep. of Singapore, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, Taipei, Taiwan (although that hasn't been tested since 13), Dover, NH, and LA. But people really cement 'home' for me. When place and people come together, then that's pretty much my true home of the moment. Thus far, it's still defined by my immediate family.

At least that's what I've deduced so far.

But anyhow, it was interesting this visit because I felt like I really could live in Los Angeles, or Azusa, Covina, Yorba Linda, whatever. Perhaps this reaction is because I JUST got back, and am really missing my old roomies. Also, before the visit I had convinced myself that I could never go back to the traffic and smog.

I guess I just want to make a disclaimer and prevent anyone from getting their hopes up: I don't plan to move back there anytime soon. I'd be more likely to move to Taiwan or Singapore or Korea or something and teach English or music. But most of the time, I'm content to get to know Colorado Springs; I hope that this year, I can really explore the place and more involved in church.

But disclaimer aside, here are a few reasons why I really like SoCal and miss:

1. pink orange creamsicle sunsets. I know it's the smog, I don't care.

2. palm trees and bouganvillia (sp?) and millions of flowers that I can't identify. Trees smothered in purple blossoms. heavier air that holds scents and lets them linger.

3. the BEACH!!!! Oh, I miss the beach. When I was there, I was fresh from Singapore, and I missed warm, tropical beaches. But it was just marvelous to go to Venice Beach and feel the salty breeze, see the sun reflecting off endless water and play in the waves. God, please let me live somewhere where there's an ocean nearby.

4. the crazy hippies and eccentrics and street performers and things happening!! Not to mention the music scene and jazz clubs. I love walking down a busy street crowded with people--that's totally Asia, too. But for the hippies, I probably just need to spend more time in Manitou. :>

5. food. The real Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Mexican, etc. food that you can find. mmmm

6. diversity. After walking out of the airplane into LAX, it was instantly a 100x more ethnically diverse than Colorado Springs.

7. Really a sub-point of 6 (but I'm not in school for the first time in oh, 17 years, so it DOESN"T MATTER!!!), the large Asian population. It was so fun meeting people and learning where they were from, and speaking Mandarin with them if they were from Chinese or Taiwanese.
Jen's roommate is Taiwanese, so I chatted with her about Taipei and what food she misses and how absolutely gross buttery rice is.

And when I got a pedicure and manicure with Step and Alison (my first pedicure!), I talked with Kim, the lady that was painting my nails.
Actually, we began the conversation by commenting on how hard it is to find a good man. :) hehe. Steph had mentioned to her and 47 million other people that she was getting married on Sunday, and Kim said that she was very lucky. I agreed, and thus began a very interesting conversation. She looked like she was in her early 30s at the oldest, but actually she was 50. She learned Vietnamese and then French, and English (which she spoke very fluently) was her third language. When Kim was 18, she moved to Hawaii and learned to hula dance for fun; she told me where to go on Waikiki Beach to learn how to hula. It was there she met her husband, and they moved to Arkansas. She then had three boys and was raising them in Arkansas, which she said was great for parenting; there was so much for the boys to do, and it was very safe. But then she divorced four years ago and moved out here, where she's a single mom with three teenagers.

What a brave woman; it would take some guts to first move to a new country without any family, and then to move again with your kids to another new place. She seemed a bit lonely. She had visited Vietnam a few years ago, and her boys had really enjoyed seeing the country.

We talked about a lot of different things, and Kim told me that her grandfather or father lived on the land in Vietnam. He had a garden and fruit trees and chickens, so he barely needed money. He had rice fields which he farmed for cash, and did well. I told her that I thought rice fields were very beautiful. There were many in Taiwan.

She also mentioned the corruption that still exists in the government there, and we talked about Singapore's government, too.

Why am I writing all of this? Well, partly because I must be faithful to my stream-of-consciousness scatterbrained long-winded posts, but also because there are such fascinating lives in the world. And we gloss over them and categorize them and de-humanize them so very quickly. I do it all the time, and it scares me.

So I wanted to just write about her. There have been so many people like her, and it seemed that I heard more people's stories when I lived in California. But again, that's probably because I've been so horribly busy this past year.

to close 6-sub-point, I love Los Angeles and its surrounding cities because millions of cultures mingle.

Oh, and Kim also played the bamboo flute--she and a few friends would play Vietnamese music as an outreach. I think she was a Christian because she had a cross, but we never officially delved into religion.

8. Of course, my friends there!! I was so blessed to see some of them again and spend time catching up. I'm trying to lure more to Colorado Springs... we'll see, we'll see.

Well, that's it. I could probably make an equal list for Colorado, or at least close. We'll give it a year.

Friday, August 7, 2009

the Best Week

Last week was one of the best weeks of the year for me.  Probably the best week, other than this week when I'm in CA with Steph.  That sounds so sad--it's not that I don't like CO Springs.  Quite the contrary; I feel blessed to live in such a beautiful place and to be discovering what God has for me there... it's truly exciting.... but this past year has been pretty much excruciating, and something to be gotten through.

But last week I got to teach a group of MKs (missionary kids) and help them re-adjust to American culture for their year-long furlough (when their families come back to their 'home' culture and visit family and churches and raise support).  Basically, we do a Bible study/lesson and a TCK (third culture kid) activity and then go somewhere in the afternoon, with lots of games in between.

It's less teaching and more hanging out, getting to know them, and having fun together.  Madeleine L'Engle talks about giving your ontological self, or sharing your ousia... hehehe that sounds so weird.  But what she means (in a nutshell) is you can only offer the essence of who you are.  And especially in a situation like last week, it's all about being able to say, "Yeah, me too," or sharing your own cross cultural stories.  Just providing a place to share stories with people who want to listen is so important and surprisingly rare.

Getting back to ousia--whatever you say or teach doesn't communicate as clearly as who you are.  That's why mentorship is so powerful; we want the other person to rub off on us.  Like following a rabbi so closely that the dust from his sandals covers you.

And that's why it hurts so much when a person we admired trips up.  Because it wasn't just their teaching or eloquent ideas that bettered us; it was their being themselves.  
Their faithfulness and steadfast commitment to purity made us all stronger.
In more cosmic terms, and because I love L'Engle, it adds to the good in the universe (oh what a hippie am I).
And in the words of Elton John, "How wonderful life is now you're in the world."  Maybe that's taking it out on a limb, but it's a good song.  Had to throw it in somewhere. :)

I love the idea that we're all connected, and anything that reveals that connection irresistibly draws me.

That's why last week was so powerful; I was connected to the global church in a way I'd been deeply missing.  When we worshiped every morning and chatted with families during meals, I had the privilege of being directly linked to what God was doing in Vietnam, in Cambodia, in the Philippines... you name it.  
And the kids--I just loved hanging out with them.  That's the cool thing about TCKs (third culture kids); they don't have a physical home, but they feel at home as they connect with each other.  Whether they grew up in deepest darkest Africa or in a crowded Asian city, there's an automatic link between them.  
Because we're in between worlds.  Like in "The Magician's Nephew", we continually dip in and out of lands.  I feel like planes are the equivalent of the strange place with the lakes that they went to before they put on a ring and stepped into England or the creation of Narnia. 

I felt like myself.  So much so that I didn't notice it until afterwards; during the week I was exhausted and hoping that the lessons and activities went well and if we remembered the granola bars for Red Rocks and all that.  But for a few moments, I recognized that I would rather be here with these people doing this than anywhere else doing anything else.

I'm trying to catch more of those moments.  

For the past couple of months I've been more aware of those times and thanked God for them--because He is always there in them.  They've mostly been at Revival Town, a prayer meeting of New Life on Tuesday nights.  In worship.

Well I need to stop because tomorrow's going to be cramful of those moments and I don't want to miss any because I'm sleepy.  It's a paradox, I think (well pretty much everything is--safe guess):  you are truly yourself and live when you intentionally realize what a blessing people, little things, and GOD is, and also when you aren't paying attention and forget about yourself.

Ok seriously.  sleep.