Obama must be reading my blog…

“Brothers and sisters, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for peace and justice, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for opportunity and equality, we cannot walk alone

In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone.

So I ask you to walk with me, and march with me, and join your voice with mine, and together we will sing the song that tears down the walls that divide us, and lift up an America that is truly indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all.”

~~~~~

Please don’t see this post as my endorsement of Obama.  And please don’t read that last statment as a stand against Obama.  Sometimes, its not about politics, sometimes its just simply about listening to one another, standing together, working together, walking together…..

The Choice

At the end of the church service Sunday night, our pastor John told us that he had a special picture that he wanted to share with us at dinner. It was taken by a photographer who travels around China and tries to capture through his lens the Christian Church. When John explained that it was a photographer’s view of the Church in China, the typical rice paddies and weathered old woman in front of a cross came to mind. Or 20 young heads bent together in prayer and study, in a dimly lit room in an undisclosed location. I was not prepared for what I was about to see. As we all gathered in Pilgrim’s Hall for dinner there was a general sense of confusion as John held up the black and white picture. He pointed to the man, “This is her husband and their young boy. They are placing their hands on her belly. Saying goodbye. In a couple of days this wife, this mother, will be taken away to have a forced abortion. The authorities found out she was expecting her second child, and now she must deal with the consequences of breaking the Chinese law. You can see the symbol of their faith in the background, cut out in their wall.” We all wait in line to get a closer view of the picture. My turn, and I find I’m holding my breath. I blink away the mist.

It is rare that I cry, especially in public, at the sight of art. Cinematic, literary, musical or tactile – very rarely have I been know to shed a tear for something created. At most, I well up. Yet I barely made it back to the safety of my flat before the sniffling and shedding could resume. This isn’t art, it is life. It is life threatened – life treasured.

 

I talked with John after dinner about the picture. In China, one child per family is a strictly enforced law. Some women manage to hide their pregnancies until the point they can give birth. If they can get that far, they can keep the child. But they cannot register the child. A non-registered child means that child can never go to school, or have access to health care. There was a village in south China that received free polio vaccinations for every child. Two months later that village had one of the worse polio outbreaks, crippling hundreds of children. People were confused – if every child received a vaccination, why were there so many cases of polio? Turns out, only the registered children received the vaccine. All of the polio cases were second children. Now the families are faced with a life of caring for a child that the government refuses to admit exists. There can be no formal medical care, and home care is more expensive than these families can dream to afford. All because they had another child.

 

It makes our debates, our rallies and picket lines, the politics of it all – the fighting, the red tape morals and American standards – makes it all seem so…..so stupid. It angers me that while we are arguing about lower taxes, more affordable health care, even the “right to choose” – there are women with no rights. No right to bring her unborn child into the world. No right to choose to add more love into a home with a new baby. No right to choose to give her son a younger sister or brother. Please do not think that I am saying that the things we fight for in America: taxes, health care, benefits, etc – that these are not important things. They are. It just empties my heart to see this woman’s face, the somber look of her husband, the weary look of their son – and to know that she will experience a kind of mourning none of us could ever imagine. Forced mourning. I think of Stephanie and Emily L., and others who have experienced the pain of losing a child – yet who have the opportunity to try again. I think of my friend Leslie and my co-worker Uut, who are preparing for the gift of life for the first time. The excitement and anticipation that is building with each new stage of development growing inside of them. I think of Asher and Sam and Cody – three precious boys born to dear friends in the last year or so. They will always know that they are treasured gifts. They will always know that they are the pride and joy of their parents lives. And they will never know the guilt being the treasured gift, because their moms and dads will not have to choose them over a potential sibling. I look again to the picture. And I weep. I weep for a family I will never know. I weep for the child the mother will never know.

 

John let me bring the picture home. It is a copy of the original. I have to hold the picture at a distance for fear of staining it with my tears. It is a picture of the Church as I have never seen it. As I have never imagined it.

Look at this picture.  I mean, really look at it.  Capture this image in your mind.  Carry it with you awhile.  And tell me what you think.  I’ll post the story behind this photo in a couple of days – but first, when you see this, what do you think?

(I don’t have the name of the photographer yet, but as soon as I get it, I’ll post it!)

In case you ever want to go home again…

I am reading a book of essays by Barbara Kingsolver, whom I love, love, love.  She is hands down my favorite writer.  Kris gave me High Tides in Tucson for Christmas, and I’m only halfway through the first essay, but the chapter titled, “In Case You Ever Want To Go Home Again” inserted itself with perfect timing into our Dialogue Across the Pacific.  So in lieu of having anything else new and meaningful to share:

“You can fool history sometimes, but you can’t fool the memory of your intimates.  And thank heavens, because in the broad valley between real life and propriety whole herds of important truths can steal away into the underbrush.  I hold that valley to be my home territory as a writer.  Little girls wear food on their chins, school days are lit by ghostlight, and respectable men wear their undershirts at home.  Sometimes there are fits of laughter and sometimes there is despair, and neither one looks a thing like its formal portrait.”

So many good points from all of these discussions.  And what I take away is, what is home?  Is it a place?  A particular time in my life?  A gathering of people who share the same blood, or the same ideas?  Yes.  To all of the above.  Florida is my home.  Though there is not a house I can call a home, that location is where I am grounded, where my family still resides (the family with the ever-changing address).  How I look at that sense of home is different, now that I am away.  And I know that I can never go back to what it was before.  Not that I really want to.  I am thankful for where and how I was raised.  No regrets.  Plenty of lessons learned. Even when I think about calling certain cities home, really, they feel that way because of the people there.  I feel just as much at home in Stephanie and Brian’s living room as I do my own.  And I have sat in their living room in four different cities and twice as many houses.  (side note of accomplishment: I have slept in every house they have lived in with the exception of the second house in Birmingham and the current home.)  So when I talk about going home, being at home, finding a home – what I want to encompass is all of that.  Good friends, comfort, maybe a little bit of familiarity, mixed with the excitement of something new to learn.  Maybe I’m not meant to be in one place for long.  Maybe I am.  I have this picture of where I’ve been – though I’m sure it wouldn’t quite match up to pictures others may have, and its definitely nothing like the postcard.  And I also have this dream of what home will be like one day.  Something worth looking and working for.  I know that at heart, I will always be a wanderer.  No matter where or for how long I end up.  “Being a wanderer isn’t so much about being happy; rather, it’s about encountering divine things.”  (that’s Greg, not Barbara)  True.  The divine things that I seek: love, laughter, peace, grace, quiet comfort, noisy gatherings over food, beauty….these things are everywhere.  So I guess maybe that makes everywhere a bit of home?  Can home really be 5 or 6 different places, all at the same time?  You can argue if that’s true or not, but for me, there is not doubt that its true.  I will always be a Floridian, home will always smell like baking and dogs, and sound like guitars and friendly voices.  Home will always be in Stephanie’s living room – even when she gets a new couch – home will always be where I grew emotionally and spiritually in Kentucky.  Soon I will say that home will be the hard places I grew out of in Hong Kong.  Home will be the open road, the countless airplanes, the pictures of far away and very near places, and the idea of what’s next. 

“If you ask me, when something extraordinary shows up in your life in the middle of the night, you give it a name and make it the best home you can.” ~Barbara Kingsolver 

In response

In response to Aristaeus:

When I lived in Kentucky, it was the first time in my life I truly felt like I was home. And what an odd place – Kentucky. It was a beautiful time in my life – full of laughter, tears, good friends, active dogs and a little home that had my touch and a bright red door. And then, well, now here I am. And its not home. I’m glad that its not home. I am thankful for the chance to be here, but am anxious for next December. I have lived my entire life waiting for the “what’s next” that comes with being a student. In high school I counted down the days till I could move out on my own. I wanted to make new friends that weren’t connected to my family, to study what I wanted, instead of what was laid out for me by the Florida Board of Education. I was ready to get to college. Then, it seemed as though May 2003 would never make it. I longed to don that black cap and gown, to blow the tassels out of my eyes as I walked solemnly down the isle of what was supposed to be the Green but turned out to be the gym. I felt grown up and important as I moved myself to Kentucky to start Graduate school. But even there, in the joy of learning, it wasn’t long before I began longing for more than papers and books, and desired real-life experiences. I wanted to be on the other side of the book – I wanted people to read my stories – and knew that wouldn’t happen while I was still in school. Again, waiting for the May flowers, 2007 both crept up and happened upon me so suddenly. I was ecstatic to receive a job – a perfect fit it seemed. Combining a love for people, travel, the Church, and social justice. Yet how was I to know that I would be faced with yet another deadline, another point of ending? First December 2008 – the end of my international term. But even that isn’t the end. My life will pick up again and move me who knows where to live and settle and work and be, again….for 15 months. I am wanderer. Like Aristeaus – there is a wander lust in my heart that I cannot deny. There is a certain high that I get from new experiences, meeting new people, starting over. Yet. Yet, I am ready to settle for a little bit. Its hard to settle in somewhere when you know that you are leaving soon. Even if its not soon, even its four years, its still a cap. I can’t imagine what it would be like to move somewhere not knowing how long I’ll be there. Or even the possibility of never leaving that place. What does that feel like? Even growing up in the same town, we were never settled. We were always moving into another house. My cousin says my parents have House-ADD. I think that they have wander lust – but can’t make it past the town limits. That, or a really fickle hobby. By the time I was 17 and packing up to go off to college, I was a pro at packing, having done it 6 times already. Well, let’s be honest, some of those times I was too young to do much but pull the toys back out of the boxes! (*side note, my parents have moved three times since I left for college*)

 

So I have to admit that the thought of being in one place, in one home, one town, with one group of friends, for an indefinite amount of time scares me. But it also intrigues me. Its the one thing I haven’t done yet. You name the roommate stereotypes and housing situations, I’ve had ’em. Dorm rooms – check. Duplex with ultra creepy neighbors – check. “Newly renovated” apartment that shared a vent with the neighbors and whose floors vibrated with the er, music, from the church downstairs – check. Old house turned into apartments where I couldn’t afford heat – check. Cute little house with a red door and big back yard – check. Three hundred square foot flat in Hong Kong – check. I can live on my own, move halfway around the world, I can even live with boys without killing them! (not an easy task all the time!) But the thought, the very idea of living in one place without an end date, it absolutely baffles me. At the same time, I find myself beginning to CRAVE that. Long for it. Imagine what it would be like. And I wonder, will I ever find out?

A link and a contribution…

David was faithful to his word and posted a new blog – check it out.  Very thought provoking.  David also puts me to shame for being the quickest to post about something he says he is going to in a comment section.  (did you follow that?)  I have said twice in the last week, once in my own comment section, once in Aristaeus’, “I’m gonna write a blog about this…”  And they are coming, I promise – I have them all written out and waiting.  But there are few trivial things I want to get out of the way first.

The number one thing being – Its FREEZING in Hong Kong.  Ok, maybe not really.  But close – very close.  What’s worse, is that Hong Kong is not set up for close-to freezing temperatures!  No one has a heater.  It gets “chilly” here for like half a month a year.  I laughed when it hit 70 degrees and people were pulling out their fur-lined parkas.  Now I’m jealous.  Its in the 40s, super windy, and all I brought in the way of warm clothes were three long-sleeved shirts, two light sweaters and two light jackets (think, rain coat).  I don’t want to break down and buy clothes that I won’t have a need for in two weeks. (hopefully)  But the heat thing is going to get me in the end I think.  My flat is all tile – coupled with no heater – means I get home and wrap up in three blankets and am still shivering.  Oh, and please remember that I get 3 minutes of hot water a day.  Brrrrr.

Second, I may be the only one contributing to this, but I had plans to post about this before Valerie and Nick decided to host the First Annual Christmas Throw-Up Off.  Because the cold weather is actually making it feel like winter here, my contribution, Hong Kong style:

(Sometimes I need Mary’s expressiveness to really relate something.  Mary, please don’t take offense to this, because I love reading your posts.  I can hear you exclaiming the things you are writing.  So, I want to dedicate this post to you, and hope you don’t mind if I use your all caps style.)

Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui:

Pictures really cannot do justice to what you are about to witness.  Because, in pictures, everything is still.  BUT, in real actual not still life, everything in City Harbour is moving.  

 

And FLASHING. 

  

And there are no less than a BAHzillion people patiently and not so patiently waiting for big heads to move out of the way so they can get their PERFECT shot of the flashing and moving that will only come out blurred and still. 

 

BUT nevermind because they WILL have the perfect shot of the PURPLE stars and GOLD Christmas tree. 

 

Because nothing says “ITS CHRISTMAS!!!” like purple and gold and flashing and moving in Chinese.   There’s a Christmas tree that looks as though its made out of gold meat hooks. 

 

And there are large gold and silver snowmen with very scary POINTY noses that are at least two feet long.  Seriously folks, this thing could MAIM you!!

 

There is even a snowman you can walk THROUGH, in case you need to get to the escalators that will take you to the top of all the flashing and moving gold and purple and silver mayhem.  The inside of the walk-through snowman is, of course, sparkly gold and flashy purple and its not nearly as chilly as one would think for being INSIDE a snowman. 

 Ironically, the title of this FLASHING and MOVING and PURPLE and GOLD and SILVER and all things atrocious and overcrowded Christmas decorating is: