Thursday, September 15, 2005

Roamin' Catholic

Hello! Wanted to draw everyone's attention to the recent photo posting from my expedition to France and Germany on my Yahoo photos site, . I'm learning to not post a million pictures at one time, and to actually label them, which might make for a more enjoyable photo-viewing experience :). For those who don't know, I spent a week in France visiting the home of Marie-Aude, my co-UCU-volunteer friend who is from Cannes (home of the Film Festival) and Paris and then met up with some Grad/YP friends from St. Paul's and hopped a train to Cologne, Germany for World Youth Day, the first one with our new holy father, Pope Benedict XVI.

It was great, but strange, to get out of Eastern Europe for that brief interval. I could tell initially how burned out I was when, while relaxing at Marie-Aude's house in Cannes, I became a combination of angry and nauseous when I read work emails asking me to help people with stuff. The first time I realized I was on vacation was in the airport in Vienna on my way to France when I ate at a restaurant and had some lovely pasta and little gnocchi in butter sauce and some exquisite chocolate cake. Marie-Aude's (mother's) house was absolutely gorgeous and peaceful and I could have stayed there quite happily for the entire two weeks. We went around Nice and Cannes and went to an island off the coast of Nice where she and her mother go quite frequently - there's a very old Cistercian monastery there and we went to Mass there. Their chant is quite Byzantine sounding. It was very cool to be in a Cistercian monastery again, it's so plain compared to the Byzantine churches (which are very beautiful in their own way...).

Paris was cool -- some of it reminds me of parts of downtown Madison, some of it like parts of Lviv, some of it like nowhere I'd been. It was cool to see the famous places, but it was such a whirlwind tour and we hardly went to any of the regular tourist places. We did go to the church of the Miraculous Medal and Our Lady of Victories (important to St. Therese), and I got to Sacre Coeur which I really wanted to go to. We stayed for free (amazing) at Marie-Aude's friend's place and got to meet some of her best friends, which was cool. She went back to Cannes and I miraculously ran into the friends I was supposed to meet ahead of when I was supposed to meet them, about a half hour after Marie-Aude left me. Basically it would be a nice city to spend more time in in a far more relaxed way, but I did feel a bit out of my league there, small-town girl that I am ;).

But thankfully all connections went well and we got to Cologne and met all the folks so we had a group of ten at the end. We got to our assigned home stay parish in a suburb of Cologne (called Stommeln) and I ended up with three others at a wonderful family's home and we got pampered and totally taken care of all week, it was so great. Basically, World Youth Day's are amazing and wonderful things -- it's really amazing, even on a totally secular level, as a political or sociological or international relations or whatever thing that they get people from practically every country on the globe together in one place for a whole week. It's an awesome experience of "the Church", the Body of Christ, and it was cool to get to know our new pope a little bit. But man, I'm too old for these things :). There's a time when huge crowds and waiting and being smushed in a tram with a hundred smelly bodies and people singing very loudly in several other languages all around you, etc, is fun, and then there's a point where it's just something to be endured, and that was about the point I was at there. It was interesting though, having been at two others, to compare them, and I would say definitely go with a priest and an organized group. It was nice having a smaller group this time, but it wasn't nearly as spiritual an experience as I had before. Okay, time to go home for the night, more later. Love to you all! :) mb....................

Friday, September 02, 2005

Village People

So I was supposed to teach two sections of an upperlevel English language elective here at UCU this fall, actually next spring, too. I was kind of excited about the prospect when I agreed to it last June. But then ESS happened and France and Germany happened, not to mention Roman happening, and by the time I came back from Germany and had exactly a week and a half to plan a class as well as pack up and move apartments I was probably more susceptible than usual to the thought that hit me: I want to go live in a village this semester.

Village life, you see, has several components: 1) No one speaks English. 2) They don't have running water. 3) They have cows and chickens. 4) It is very muddy. 5) It is very quiet. 6) Everyone speaks Ukrainian. 7) They know how to embroider and paint eggs with interesting patterns. 8) It gets very dark there at night. 9) No one speaks English.

I was reading the book, "Mountains Beyond Mountains," the story of Doctor Paul Farmer, "The man who would cure the world," by Tracy...shoot, Tracy Fedder? Dedder? Something. It's about this American doctor who goes to Haiti and falls in love with the place and has this huge huge passion to eradicate disease and fix the inequalities in health care access. He meets a doctor who has been working in Haiti for a year, while Farmer is still young and still in med school at Harvard, and the older doctor says he can't wait to go back to the States and Farmer asks him if it won't be difficult for him to ever really let go of Haiti, if it won't stick in his craw, but the doctor says heck no, "There's no electricity here. It's brutal here. I'm an American and I'm going home." (Pause for dramatic effect.) Hummm. What would happen if I left Ukraine? Would I be able to say that, "I'm an American and I'm going home."? Why did I come here? I don't think I came here to help people. I had been "helping people" at home, and was actually kind of fed up with it (I mean, I had moved on to trying to actually pay attention to myself and my own life for awhile instead of just worrying about other people's). I knew I had to come here, but did I come here to "save the world"? Jeffrey has been trying to help me understand my role here in Ukraine, to gain a sense of "missiology" -- being in another culture to do the works of God and he's given me all these mission magazines to read and the doctor book, too. When I told him I wanted to go live in a village he started trying to think of projects I could help with -- orphanages and libraries and health projects. But all I really meant was I wanted to go experience the culture, live the way "real" Ukrainians live. Now isn't that just too idealistic and romanticized for words? But I think there's something to it. Certainly a large part of it was to get myself over the hump of being afraid to speak Ukrainian. (I really have a very weak will, you see, so I tend to solve problems in my life by putting myself in situations where I am forced to do what I don't want to do and I don't have to actually make myself do it entirely on my own.) I looked ahead to another whole academic year of living in Lviv, clinging to a semblance of westernness. I had yet to decide on a new flat for the fall, and was talking to another American about finding something together so that we could pay more and get something "really nice" (aka, 24/7 water). But, really, what would the point of that be? I think, either I jump in with both feet and there's no going back (at least for three months:) or I might as well go home. Because I didn't have a desire to help people -- I mean I can work and work and work and do whatever projects you throw at me, but I wasn't about the work (and what's the point of working when you don't care about what you are doing?). I was about the "being" here. Maybe that's lazy. Maybe that's apathy. Say what you will. But now having met Roman, he's the first thing since being here that has made me feel like I might have a reason to go somewhere else (that somewhere else being England, where he's returning in a couple weeks – no, I’m not planning to hop the plane with him then). He has a strong sense of justice in him, a strong sense of wanting to do what is right, wanting to fix problems he sees in the world. It bothers him when he sees something wrong – he hasn’t trained himself to ignore it like I have. He said one thing that attracted me to him was that I was doing something significant for God with my life. He even said I seem more Ukrainian to him than actual Ukrainians, because of my sense of values and spirituality and how I live my life. I told him I hope he isn't dissapointed when he realizes I'm not actually Ukrainian :).

So now they are scrambling to try to find a replacement teacher for me and I am trying to not feel like a jackass for abandoning them so close to the school year starting (I could never do this at home and I know it and it's terrible that I would think I could do it here because things are so much more "flexible" here...) Basically I would go live with Maria's sister's family beginning in early October until I come home for Christmas. She talked to them last night. They said I am welcome but they don't think I will make it more than a few weeks. Hmm. But of course that's the thing, I can always come back if I really can't stand it. Too bad I didn’t bring my cheesehead hat…