Sunday, January 30, 2011

Trinidad and Tobado...the first of many posts

I had the opportunity to travel to Trinidad and Tobago for a travel seminar this month. I got course credit for traveling to the Caribbean. How could I turn that down?

I got back to Texas on Monday and have had some difficulty when trying to talk about the trip. It was a a very full 2 week trip and I hardly know where to begin talking about it. So, I'll be disclosing snippets for your reading pleasure.

I attended a volunteer training at the Red Cross this weekend and was pleasantly surprised to meet a woman from Trinidad. She is a fellow volunteer and has been in Texas for only a few months. I excitedly told her I just visited her country for two weeks and we had good chat about Doubles and Maracas Bay and Maxi Taxis. None of those things probably make sense to you, but I'll get back to those later.

At the beginning of our training the teacher, who was an 82 year old with two hearing aids, asked us to introduce ourselves. Latoya, my Trini friend, gave a brief intro about herself and sat down. After a brief pause, the teacher responded with: "Honey, are you speaking English?" There was some awkward laughter from the rest of us and poor Latoya was embarrassed. She then went on to explain that she does speak English, but with a dialect unique to Trinidad. For the rest of class, anytime she spoke, Latoya had to speak at an uncomfortably loud volume so the teacher could understand.

One thing our class learned about Trinis is that they are very soft-spoken. The typical volume at which an American speaks sounds like shouting in comparison. A lot of us struggled with this while we were in Trinidad. Between the quieter volume level and the thick dialect, I often felt like they were speaking a different language and would strain to understand.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Is it right to bear arms?

We're in the school cafeteria, celebrating a friend's 13th birthday when the reports came in: there was a shooting at a high school in Littleton. No details just yet, but it's bad. We're safe here in Longmont and will finish out the school day. A shooting in Colorado? That's the kind of thing you hear about happening in foreign countries, not in our own backyard. Is anywhere safe?

It's a sunny Tuesday morning in Austin. The emergency sirens start blaring at UT. Is it the tornado warning test? Nope, there's some muffled announcement about a shooting. Wait, what? I turn on the news and see a chaotic scene at UT as the reporter tries to explain what is happening. A shooting at the Perry Casteneda Library. Which one is that? I go online to look at the University map to find out that it is on the opposite side of campus. A quick glance at my email tells me UT is on lockdown and so is our Seminary. Keep checking back for updates. Should I stay or go? I don't want to be alone, but they told us not to leave whatever building we're in. I guess it's good I'm still in my apartment with access to TV and internet. Updates keep coming in. Noon comes around and we're given the all-clear. The shooter has killed himself, leaving all others unharmed.

A quick check of Facebook before I go meet a friend for coffee. "Prayers for Tucson" is the common status of friends. Tucson? What happened? A link to the NY Times reports a shooting at a grocery store, many injured including Democratic congresswoman Giffords. Some report that she's dead, others say she will recover. The scene sounds frantic. I'm not familiar with her, but I'm assuming she's one of the "good ones," working for immigration reform. She must have integrity if she earned the respect of her district and got elected in that troubled state of Arizona. I'm guessing that has something to do with the shooting. A brief perusal of the web tells me she is an advocate for health care and was one of Sarah Palin's targets to bring down. What a painfully tragic situation.

I don't personally know anyone who has been killed by a gun. But each time I hear of gun violence, my whole self is rocked to the core. My heart sinks for those killed by guns as well as thier loved ones. And my personal safety feels shattered. On average, 32 people are killed by guns each day in America. That is a ridiculously high number. Yes, it is our constitutional right to bear arms, but that right has been abused.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Like I said in my last post, I'm not making any New Years resolutions. But I am setting a few goals and lifestyle changes.

When it comes to being more intentional about time, I'm planning to fill some of that time with reading for pleasure. This might be a ridiculous goal, given the ridiculous amount of reading we're assigned in seminary, but I think this will be necessary. When I went home to Longmont for Christmas, I basically spent the first four days reading. I surfaced for air and food every once in a while, but I got hooked into some books and couldn't help myself. I'm glad my family didn't disown me for neglecting them. But as I read, I realized how much I missed it. When I was working at the library I would have at least two books going at once, usually finishing both in a week. It helps when you're surrounded by books and have loads of motivation to read.

So now I'm reading again. For fun that is. I just read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I laughed and cried a lot through this book. I was a bit disappointed in the end, which is odd because it was a happy ending. I felt like it was a bit too optimistic, too removed from the reality that most people living in poverty face. But then, I guess it is good to have inspirational stories that provide hope. Hope is a good thing.

So now I'm choosing to read a book that is only rated 2.9 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I kind of like to switch off: read a really great novel and then a piece of crap novel. I like to switch things up. Keeps it interesting.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's the New Year! Time for people to make their resolutions, start over, dream big. Lose weight, quit smoking, yadda yadda yadda.

This year I'm not making a resolution, but I am adopting a word. I read an article in the paper about a woman who chose the word "abundance" for her New Year's outlook. I liked that idea and so my word for 2011 is "intentional." I want to be more intentional whether it is with relationships, or my studies, or my space. That third one is where I'm choosing to begin this venture.

I'm in the process of reorganizing my apartment so that the space can be used more intentionally. Right now I am typing on my laptop which is sitting on my dining room table. Next to my laptop is a stack of "to-do" items and next to that are office supplies. I still eat at this table, but I usually have one eye on my food and the other eye on all the stuff I have to get done. After tonight, all that stuff will be on the desk in my bedroom. That is where I will study and work. This table, this wobbly but wonderful table from Ikea is where I will be eating. And hosting others to join me to eat. And putting together puzzles. And playing board games. With all that stuff cleared off my table, the possibilities for intentional time on intentional space will be endless!