Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some culture shock reflections

I think Im in a bit of culture shock. There are supposed to be two waves of culture shock (or so said my prof in uni). The first is that initial one, usually the first few months in a country, where everything is new and you don't understand much of what goes on around you. The second one is a bit more subtle, it happens a year or two into your stay in a foreign culture and it has less to do with not understanding what is happening, and m,ore to do with understanding but not feeling comfortable in what is happening. I am there. I understand fairly well chilean culture. And Im not so much homesick for another culture, because I still love it here. But I am definitely aware of how different I am. I am much more comfortable with being alone. Anyways, this week, some of those differences came out and I took some time to write down some reflections:

Tonight (Friday night) was a night of reflection. I learned some new lessons tonight, saw some realities about my life here as a foreigner, and realized how much I have changed over the past few years. It all began last night when I was coming home from work and ran into my friend Mauro and some of his friends. It was 9:30pm and they were just starting their night. Yes, just starting. A Thursday night. And yes, they DID have to work the next day. I gave them every excuse in the book about why I couldn’t go out. I said no over and over. But evidently that campaign that “no means no” never made it over here. They whined and pleaded for 30 minutes while we sat in a cafĂ©, begging me to come out with them to the bar down the street. Finally, with them literally pulling my arms, I agreed to come in a for a little. I told them that I was leaving them at 11pm to go to bed. Of course that didn’t happen. At 12am, I finally left and headed home. But before I left, we planned that we would hang out at Mauro’s apartment tonight, since it was Friday night. I told them I would invite the rest of our friends. This morning, I followed through with the plans. I invited all our friends over. To be honest, I didn’t really want to go out. I wanted to be home, trying out a recipe I found for carrot bread. So when no one seemed able to go, and the very person who had peer pressured me into this whole thing pulled out, I sighed a breath of relief and headed to the supermarket to get my much desired ingredients.
At home, I mixed and poured all the ingredients, set the dish in the oven and pulled The Mission of God by CJ Wright off my shelf. I settled in bed with my book and waited for the bread to bake. I began to think about how much I had changed. Maybe it’s because I am here in Chile where they loath being alone. Maybe it’s because this is my second year living alone. Maybe it’s just the fact that I have the most awesome apartment and why would I ever want to leave it. But I realized tonight, I would SO rather be at home baking and reading than be out. I had Taylor Swift playing in the background (don’t just me!) and I was singing along and dancing as I baked and cleaned. It was truly a perfect evening.
Just when I though the evening was about over, my phone rang. It was midnight. I know, you’re thinking, who would call at midnight? Well, here, midnight is just the beginning of a Friday night. It was my friend Mauro and his friends. They were outside my apartment building and they wanted me to go out with them. No. I laughed when the pleading began. I knew that I wasn’t going out tonight. I was already in my pajamas and I was just waiting for my bread to finish and then it was off to sleep for me. They told me they were gonna come up and say hi and that they would then convince me to go out with them. I gave them permission to come up but warned them that I would not being leaving with them. They were up in a few minutes, just in time for some fresh from the oven carrot bread, and the pleading continued. I explained to them that I was not going out. That I am a gringa, and I need more sleep than them. After an hour, they left.
I love my life here. I feel very comfortable here. I know I am where I am supposed to be, but it’s nights like tonight that remind me that I am certainly not chilena. I may think I want to be chilena, but it is an undeniable reality that I am not.
I was explaining this to my grandma. I was telling her that I was nervous about hosting things at my house since people tend to stay very late. She asked about making it clear that people have to leave at a certain hour. I explained that here it was rude to do so. She then pointed out that in the states it is rude to stay so late at someone’s house. It is not often that there is such an obvious difference in cultures, but here is a prime example. There it is rude to overstay your welcome. Here it is rude to kick people out. Come 4 or 5am, maybe you can start to hint. I will just have to be wise about how often I host these gatherings in my house.

Baking with Becka

I was randomly craving some carrot muffins, so I looked up a recipe online, it seemed easy enough, and I went at it.

Mixing all the ingredients together

Trying to keep the kitchen clean

Waiting with anticipation..... and....


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughts on grace and community

I’ve been listening to a bunch of sermons on unity in the church and they have been reminding me of a topic that Ashlee and I discussed recently. We were talking about the need to be in community in order to experience grace. If you’re a Christian, you believe that you have received the grace of God. You believe that His grace has some power in your life, and maybe you even feel at peace in your soul. This is good, and I need to be careful not to diminish the true experience of the grace of God.
But I am not writing this blog post to just affirm our supernatural experience of grace. I am writing to call us to live courageously in community. It is in the community of the Church, among those who have received the eternal grace of Jesus Christ, that you can experience grace here on earth.
There is a movement of people my age that believe that they can be Christ followers on their own. While I will agree that it is possible, I also argue that it is not normative. It is not how God wants His people to live. He has called us into a very chaotic mess that we call the Church. I know, the Church is messy and more often than not, she’s just plain ugly. And yet somehow, we are supposed to live in this body of believers that God has constructed on the chief cornerstone of Jesus Christ (Eph 2:20-22).
Our natural tendency is self protection, self preservation. But if have been hidden in Christ, if we have been crucified and it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us, we have freedom to love deeply and self sacrificially (Gal 2:20). We read in Ephesians 4 that we are supposed to grow up in Him, putting on our new selves, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. And this whole process of growing up isn’t just so we can benefit alone. The verses that immediately follow the command to grow up in Christ, tell us how to live in community. We are supposed to be little christs to each other. We are supposed to speak the truth in love. To forsake bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander (vs.31). In other words, to extend grace to each other. We have been forgiven much, so we can forgive. Remember the story of the servants who had been forgiven by the king? And one of them, who had been forgiven a huge debt, then went and demanded a small debt from his fellow servant. When the fellow servant couldn’t pay it, he was thrown into jail. When the king found out, he took the greedy servant and condemned him. We have received mercy for much, so we should extend mercy.
You might say, ok, sure, I can extend mercy. But what I have learned over the past year is that while we often think we are ready to extend mercy and grace to each other, we rarely put ourselves in situations that demand this of us. We might have one or two relationships that are close enough that demand grace on a regular basis. Family, spouses, maybe a best friend. But we keep this to a limited number so our need to exercise the spiritual disciple of grace extending is rare.
But back to the Church. Jesus calls us into community. A really messy community filled with sinners. Heck, I’m one of the worst. And you know what happens in a community of sinners? People sin against each other. A lot. When we think of sin, we usually think of “big” ones like murder and adultery. But the closer you get to someone, the more you realize that those “little” sins can really hurt too. When people cheat, lie, or steal. Sure, we know that kind of stuff can hurt. But I don’t do those really obvious sins too often (or do I?) What about selfishness and pride? Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interests of others. Have this same attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”. We don’t realize how big these “little” sins are until they are being done against us.
Last year, at my church in Seoul, our community was really tight. We were a few dozen people, living life together. And we sinned against each other a lot. I can’t even tell you how many times I put myself before others, how many times I considered myself better than others. And they did it to me too. We put our own needs before the needs of others. We were unloving, unkind, and self centered. But one of the beautiful outcomes of this situation was that we were constantly needing to extend grace to each other. Sometimes it was easier than others. But extending grace to someone who has sinned against you is usually just hard. It forces you to look back at the gospel, to the cross, to see the display of God’s grace to you. It’s only then that you can truly and freely give grace to your brother.
And so there is deep blessing in community. It’s there, in a cross centered community, that you actually experience grace here on earth. Not some abstract grace that you know is there, but you can’t see. The grace that comes from living in community is a tangible and poignant grace. It hits you like a wave. It’s hard to give, and incredible to receive. But this is the Gospel. By the blood of Jesus on the cross, we get to taste the reality of heaven now. Things like forgiveness and restoration aren’t just for some distant future. They are part of our lives today. They aren’t easy to get, living in community is hard work. It can be frustrating and discouraging. But we live in the reality that we are hidden in Jesus and that in Him we have all things.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

a Valentines Day adventure

Short version:
Yesterday was Valentines Day. I took a trip out to a little surfer beach town and spent the day wandering around by myself. I ended up spending some time with a random guy who was hoping to make me his valentine. I wasnt interested, and was grateful that God gave me the grace and wisdom not to be foolish. In the end, I found myself breathing a prayer of gratitude, thanking God that He really is enough for me. Of course a valentine would have been nice, but I don't need to make anything happen. I have all I need in Jesus, and in His timing, a valentine will come.

Long version:
Yesterday was Valentines Day. The holiday is really annoying when I live in the States, there is all this pressure to have a date, to do something with someone, or if all else fails, to have an anti Valentines Day party. In Korea, it was so outrageous that I was able to almost just laugh off the holiday (they extend the madness into three holidays stretching over 2 months!)

It's actually not that bad here in Chile. Granted, since most people live with their parents, a lot of yougn couples go to the public parks to make out and do what they can't quite do at home. This is uncomfortable, but that's year long. When it comes to V-day, there are a few more stands with red roses, and heart shaped candy boxes, but it is far from the madness that goes on in the states.

So yesterday I decided that I would venture out of Santiago. I didn't have any responsibilities and I knew that if I didn't I would just sit around my house lazily doing nothing. So I got up early and headed toward the bus terminal. I knew of a town called Pichilemu and figured that yesterday was as good as any day to head over there and check it out. Pichilemu is known for being a small hippie surfing town. It's not too far on a map from Santiago, so I figured it would be about a 3 hour bus ride. Which is would be, if the bus went directly there. But as we went along and stopped at every little town, I soon realized that it would be more like 5-6 hours on the bus. So I arrived at 2:30pm. I was thinking that I would go in the morning, spend the day there and then come back on the last bus. When I arrived, I went directly to the ticket counter to find out when the last bus would leave. Sadly, there were no more tickets left for the day. Ok.... So change of plans. I bought a ticket for 5:30am the next morning and set out to find a place to spend the night. Everything was too expensive. I knew that it was Valentines Day, and I had kinda thought to myself that maybe this was a little retreat with God... a little date. But as I walked around this town I knew nothing about, I felt anxious about my situation. What would I do if I couldn't find a reasonable place to stay? Try to find a bar that stayed open till 4am and then head over to the bus terminal? I had to force myself to chill and trust that God was going to provide. After all, this was a date.

And sure enough, God provided. I found a little hostal that would give me a bed for fairly cheap. I went upstairs in the hostal to see the room. And as I was in the hallway, I saw a guy go into another room. He paused when he saw me, and I could tell he was interested. I, on the other hand, was not interested. He was cute and all, but I was looking forward to spending the day alone on the beach. Well, with God.

So I just ignored the interested look and went on my merry way. I went to the beach for a while, laid out on my towel and enjoyed the scene of hundreds of families crowded on a small black sand beach. After an hour or so, I got up and walked along the beach to the other end of town (it's a small town) and wandered through the feria artensial. Very hippie.

I headed back to the hostal, took a quick nap, and decided to get a little more adventure. I took a bus to a surfers point a few miles down the road and watched little kids get surfing lessons. THe sun was gonna set soon, so I headed back to town, got some pollo y papas fritas, and sat on the grass to watch the sunset. I pulled out my bible and settled in for a nice time of devotion. After a while though, I noticed that everyone that walked by was staring. Maybe it was because I read sitting on the grass alone. Maybe it was because I was reading my bible. Maybe it was because my shoes were off and chileans are funny about bare feet. Probably it was a combination of all of the above.

So I packed up the rest of my chicken and french fries, which was still a lot of food, and headed back toward my hostal. I saw a homeless man and offered him my leftovers. He was really confused and started offering me money for it (granted it was like 40cents he was offering). I stopped him and explained it was a gift. That I just wanted to share it with him. He finally understood.

I headed over to the hostal, tired, but unwilling to call it a night. It was getting really cold, and I realized how glad I was that I had thought to bring my sweatshirt. I walked around the town, watched part of a concert in the plaza, and finally around 11pm, headed back for the hostal. I planned on waking up at 4ish to wash up and walk over to the bus terminal by 5ish.

I got ready and went downstairs to the lobby to wait till it was time to walk over. I felt really dirty (given been at the beach and walking around all day without a change of clothes, nor a toothbrush!) and I was ready to just be on a bus on my way home. Who then should come back to the hostal at this time, but Mr. interested.

He decided, along with the owner of the hostal, that it wasn't right for me to walk alone to the bus terminal. He asked if he could accompany me. I shrugged my shoulders. Of course it would be nice to have some company, especially guy company since it was still dark outside and who knows what kind of shenanagins are going on outside. But, I didn't want to give this guy the wrong impression. I would not be making out with him on the way over to the bus terminal. So I shrugged my shoulders. He took that as enough affirmation and we left to head to the bus terminal. Being about 5am, there were quite a few people on the street, heading home from their parties. It was nice to have a guy there just in case anyone thought it would be fun to bother me. But then, there was the problem of the guy himself. I knew he was interested in me, and while he was generally good looking, and seemingly nice, I was sure that I wasn't interested. I know that if I ever end up with a guy, it will be the Lord's doing. Not some guy that has nothing to do with the Lord. So when we arrived at the bus terminal, and he made it clear that he was gonna stay with me until my bus left, I tried to very politely but clearly let him know that I was not interested. He continued in his pursuits. At one point he told me I had beautiful eyes. Now remember that I have not had any makeup on for 2 days, I haven't showered or brushed my teeth, and it is 5am. I straight out told him no. I told him that I didnt want him to say that. Another 20 minutes of pursuit and my bus was ready to board. We hugged goodbye and I got on my bus, grateful to move on.
Once on board, I breathed a sigh of relief. I found myself gratefully thanking God that He is enough for me. That I dont have to be desperate for a man, because my soul is satisfied in Him. I felt so blessed in that moment. The past few years there have been some difficult vdays. I haven't always been grateful that the Lord is enough. So it was a nice relief to find that God has been growing me in His grace, teaching me to find my satisfaction in Him.
And that folks, is the loooong story.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valpo con las chicas (y mi hermano, que suerte!)

La Magda y yo

The group as we waited for our bus to return to Santiago

hermano mio

My brother came for the weekend. He's been travelling around South America for a month or so and decided to come pay his sister a visit. We spent Friday in Santiago and headed out to Vina and Valpo for the weekend. Here are a few photos to share with you...

La casa de Pablo Neruda.

I love Valpo, especially the colors and street art.

My brother, the photographer

We found an awesome place for some Peruvian food, which was the winner for both of us in the cuisine category.

Friday, February 04, 2011

27 going on 14

Some of you may know, that for all the maturity in my life, I have some definite moments of little girl-ness. Take my taste in music. I have some major teeny bopper music on my ipod. Also, in terms of tv, shows like One Tree Hill and Vampire Diaries are at the top of my list. And this week a new girliness has popped up. There is this cafe that I love and it was definitly part of my daydream while I was planning my return to Chile. So I have begun to come here quite a bit (I am in fact sitting at this very cafe as I write). In my multi-weekly visit to this cafe, I have become recognizable face to the waiters. I think they sense my gringaness and they haven't tried to really talk to me yet. Except one. Here is where I become a 14 year old girl. There is one waiter who I one of the most attractive guys I've ever seen. Just pure ol' eye candy. And to make matters worse, he is really nice and always smiles at me. One time, he tried to talk to me, asking me if I liked the lemonade that I was drinking. I fumbled over my words and stuttered something incoherent about liking the drink and then in pure embarrassment, I just looked down and let him walk away. I have a pretty good idea that he is gay (most of the waiters at this cafe are) but I still hold out hope. Hope that he's not. Hope that he will come back and try to talk to me again. Hope that I can rise above the girlishness and be the mature woman that I am. Ha, yeah right.