We are now a world at war.

I am speechless and sad.

It is so easy to forget that it is real, this war -- that it is more than the images on our TV screens and the headlines in our newspapers. I think of the people who have died and are dying, who have fled and are fleeing, who are afraid, who are desperate. I think of the people who are courageous and outspoken in the face of real danger. I think of these people -- these people whom I don't know -- and I wonder who they are, what they are facing, what this war means for their daily lives. And as I think of these people -- these absolutely non-hypothetical people -- I pray for the courage to face the reality of war. I pray for continued awareness of how we are all connected, of how one part of the body cannot suffer without the whole body suffering.

Our world is suffering. Can we feel it? Dare we feel it? What will happen if we feel it? How will our lives change?
Cross-Cultural Coordination

Cross-cultural communication is difficult. This fact I was aware of before moving across the ocean last August. But what I never suspected to encounter was the difficulty of a little something called cross-cultural coordination! At least, that's my name for it. What is cross-cultural coordination? Let me put it this way... For those of you who were in marching band as teenagers, remember how difficult it was to walk and play your instrument at the same time? Remember how telling the difference between your right foot and left foot suddenly quadrupled in difficulty? Well, here in the Netherlands, while I'm not required to walk and play my instrument at the same time (unless I'm in the mood for it), I am often required to ride my bike and talk at the same time. This presents a few difficulties, to say the least ...

Let me explain. You see, even without the biking, talking is difficult because when I talk, I'm talking Dutch (which, although it's going quite well, is certainly not something that feels altogether natural to me as of yet). And even without the talking, riding bike is difficult because here in the NL, folks ride their bikes differently than folks in the States. You know how in the States you are taught to ride your bike single file, carefully following the person in front of you, making sure there's plenty of room for other vehicles to pass? Not so here. People ride bikes in clumps, and bikes are extensions of people's bodies. Think of a cluster of teenagers be-bopping around the mall somewhere, laughing, talking, exchanging witty anecdotes and such. Now imagine that they are on bikes -- and yet the ardor of their communication does not diminish, the fluency of their body language does not wane. That's what it's like here. I watch groups of bikers maneuvering effortlessly through narrow streets, somehow avoiding collisions with autos, busses, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and other bikers .... and cheerfully chatting with one another all along the way. I honestly don't know how they do it. When I try to speak Dutch and ride my bike at the same time, I end up in one of two sticky situations. Either 1) it takes me five minutes to utter one sentence in Dutch, because I'm so busy paying attention to all of the other people/bikes/motorcycles/cars, or 2) I speak somewhat fluently while nearly colliding with the aforementioned people or vehicles. Neither situation is ideal, to say the least. It must be quite comical for the Dutch folks who dare to go biking with me! Indeed, who knew that my inability to bike and talk at the same time would give me away as an out-of-towner? But I must say, I am slowly improving: I haven't fallen off my bike in the presence of another human being since last September.



Here in the NL, "Jackie" is not a common name. Thus, people misspell it quite often -- usually, as "Jacky." However, today someone sent me an e-mail with a misspelling I've never before encountered -- "Jaycky."

This does not bother me ... in fact, I find it rather fun.


For Those Who Want to Know More

Some lovely radish websites, for those who wish to dig up info on my most recent favorite vegetable:

radishes: a personal story
radishes: how to grow 'em
Tonight I Cooked

Dinner went well. We had exactly enough food (and I mean exactly!). Afterwards, people lingered, conversing over cups of steaming coffee and tea. It is certainly a good feeling to share a meal with friends, especially considering the fact that I've only lived on this continent for 7 months now.

I also learned something interesting about myself tonight -- I like radishes. I always thought that I was decidedly neutral about them, that they were not offensive to my tastebuds, but that (on the other hand) the thought of eating them didn't make me drool with anticipation. However, I was wrong. I am in fact fond of radishes!

All of this makes me wonder what other foods I avoid out of habit, when in actuality, I might enjoy them. Makes me wonder in what other ways (small or large) I've changed over the years, but haven't yet noticed ...
Tonight I'm Cooking

Every other Thursday we have a community meal at the Inloophuis (the drop-in center in Almere where my work is centered). Tonight my friend Rita and I are cooking. We are preparing:

cole slaw
beef patties
veggie patties
apple crisp (with ice cream)

Gotta go cook now ...


Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. Over the past few years, this day in the Christian year which signals the beginning of Lent has come to mean a lot to me. It reminds me of my own mortality ("You are dust, and to dust you shall return"). This year I wasn't able to attend an Ash Wednesday service, but in previous years, I have been deeply moved by the ritual of ashes as practiced by most liturgical Christian churches. The grit of the ash on my forehead, the smudges on the faces of my brothers and sisters who surround me, the sensation of leaving the service as one literally marked as a Christ follower... And into what do we follow Christ? Well, right now we are following Christ into 40 days of waiting, of silence, of contemplation, of expentancy. But unlike the expectancy of Advent (which results in the joy of new birth and the hope of God-with-us), the expectancy of Lent will yield suffering before it yields joy. The mystery of Lent is the mystery of Christ's suffering. The fruit of Lent is a Cross and a Tomb. And even though we know that the tomb will eventually be emptied and resurrection will eventually set us all free ... even so, Christ's suffering endures for a season. For one holy silent Saturday, God-with-us was with us no longer. That is the reality toward which Lent points, the reality that precedes resurrection.

Did you know that, in the Catholic tradition, the ashes from this year's Ash Wednesday service are made from the palm fronds used in last year's Palm Sunday service? Palm Sunday ... a time far from now, a time full of Christ's presence and the eschatalogical hope of God's Reign, a time when the atmosphere is full of hope, when people are (quite simply) caught up in the excitement of a parade in the streets. Thus there are within Ash Wednesday and within Lent seeds of real hope! But the other side of hope is waiting, and on this far-from-perfect earth, waiting often involves suffering.

This Lent let us especially remember those who suffer most in our world. Those who wait to experience war. Those who wait to wage war. Let us enter into the hope that all war (which ravages the hearts and the bodies of both the war-wagers and those whom war is waged against) will cease, that Lent 2003 will not be a time of death in our world ... but that rather, it will yield life, life which lasts, and peace which nourshes the whole of creation.


I know I'm becoming European because...

...I now prefer fizzy water to tap water! For those of you wondering how this dietary move will affect my health, according to Dr. Trisha Macnair, only my teeth are at risk. Dr. Macnair writes that fizzy water "can ... be bad for your teeth as the carbonation makes it very acidic." All things in moderation!

My personal opinion -- It's not necessarily a good idea to drink fizzy water instead of tap water. But it *is* a good idea to drink fizzy water instead of soda pop! Yes!

For more info on the healthiness of fizzy water, click here.