Monthly Archives: July 2011
Today is our last night in Owasso. We’ve spent time with our good friends, Dan and Emily (as well as their families), while here. It has been great seeing friends one last time before we leave for the Peace Corps in early September. While here, we’ve been touring the city, eating lots of good food, and playing board games. I definitely have a new appreciation for air conditioning since the temps have been in the 100′s each day we have been here. We plan on leaving early tomorrow to get an early start on our 14 hour drive back to Ohio. Looking forward to seeing our families!
The stretch of country between Boise and Cheyenne is characterized by miles and miles of rolling hills that are punctuated by the occasional outcropping of rock. While this may sound somewhat bland, it proved anything but. With stunning views of distant snow capped peaks and expansive valleys, we could do little but sit in awe of creation. The brush and scrub grass that blanketed the landscape lent subtle hues of tan, blue, gray, and green. The trip was long, but we made good time and amused ourselves with the help of Toby (our cat), Gumby, and a camera (needless to say, you should check out the new video page). After a full 14 hours of driving, we came to rest 30 miles north of Denver, Colorado. Tomorrow, we make for Tulsa, and friends. Well, it’s late and I must be off again early in the morning. Til then.
5 A.M. – Initial departure time.
9A.M. – Revised departure time.
11 A.M. – Revision to the revised departure time.
1 P.M. – Actual departure time.
Unfortunately, packing everything in our car was little more than a rough theory that proved grossly incorrect. However, thanks to neighbors who will take everything (even an old hobo pie maker) and friends like the Stebnickis, Mercers, Yakels, Reinkings, and Beals (who graciously took the items we pawned off on them) we were able to distribute the vast majority of the trappings that accumulate over three years. Did I mention the Semi-truck load of boxes we shipped home (enjoy Mom and Dad)?
In the end, we put in an 11 hour day on the road that included one last glimpse of the beauty that is Oregon on the Old McKenzie highway. It’s 1:30 A.M. (gotta love losing an hour) and I’m writing from a hotel in Boise, Idaho. We’re hoping for an early start
tomorrow later today, and a trek that will end at Denver, Colorado. Judging by our experience today, I’m not holding my breath.
Three years is a long time to live somewhere. It feels even longer when I look around our apartment and see all the stuff we have accumulated while living in Eugene. Because of all of our stuff, we have divided our apartment into various sections. We have a “pack to mail home” section, a “shove in the car” section, a “donate” section, a “what is this stuff?” section and a “put on the side of the street” section. We only have today and tomorrow to sort through all of it and find a pile for all of our material possessions. Wednesday we are planning on leaving Oregon, and starting on our trek back to Ohio. Cross your fingers that all of our stuff will fit.
“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived, this is to have succeeded.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I will act as if what I do makes a difference.”
Perhaps the thing we’ve been asked most since our decision to serve has been “Why?” There is always a backstory to the question. One that undoubtedly takes more time than our short, American attention spans wish to budget. Well, too bad.
During the summer of 2007, while my wife Lori and I were juniors at Heidelberg College (now Heidelberg University), we had the opportunity to go on a “Service Learning” trip to southern Texas. There, we worked with a small nonprofit that ran a summer camp for low income families near the Mexican border (http://www.arisesotex.org/ARISEProfile.asp). Southeast Texas is the hottest place I’ve ever been. That’s probably why Philip Sheridan, the Civil War general said, “If I owned hell and Texas, I’d live in hell and rent out Texas.” But the heat paled in comparison to the poverty of the people we were helping. Many had only a small plywood “shanty” to provide shelter for them and their children. All were Hispanic. Some were legal. Without exception, everyone that we met spoke of how happy and lucky they were to be in the United States.
It was one of those rare moments when, having grown up as a middle class American, the self serving apathy that has been your birthright is pulled from beneath your feet by the reality of the world. In that instance we enter the poetic “yellow wood.” One option is to continue to follow the route we are on only briefly pausing to feel the tinge of guilt that such a situation merits. Another is to allow the event to fundamentally alter us. To add to the layers through which we process the world. To allow God to speak to us in a way that we are not accustomed…by viewing the world through our hearts. For God is love, and how can one love without acting in a way that addresses the plight of those who suffer.
As time passed, I began to think of ways in which I might use the gifts and opportunities that God has blessed me with to give back to those less fortunate. During our senior year, in between studying and planning our wedding, we began to discuss the possibility of the Peace Corps. Ultimately, we chose graduate school over the Peace Corps. Fast forward to my second year of graduate school at the University of Oregon. Lori and I were once again contemplating Peace Corps service. This time, Peace Corps won. The timing was right, we were young, no kids, no long term job prospects (thanks economy), and a dash of wanderlust.
That’s the why. Now for the what.
Lori and I have been asked to serve in the republic of Macedonia from September 11, 2011 to November 23, 2013. I will be working with the government, NGO’s and businesses as a community development volunteer. Lori will be serving as a primary school English resource teacher. It will be the adventure of a lifetime.
“Keep not standing, fixed and rooted,
Briskly venture, briskly roam.”
Beginnings are hard. Hard because they necessitate an ending, and endings are even harder than beginnings. Therefore, I think I’ll start with the ending.
It is the ending of our time in Eugene. Looking back on the decision to come here and our arrival, it all seems comical. Neither of us had ever been to Eugene let alone Oregon. In fact, the reasoning behind my application to the U of O was that a fellow guide in Wyoming had ranted and raved about how much he loved the city. I now know why. And yet, it is not the city itself that we will miss much. It’s not the mountains, the ocean, the acres upon acres of wilderness. Not the art, the music, or even the beer. No, the thing we will miss most about this place is the people. I suppose that’s common. For while we have a tendency to grow connected to places, it is often only due to the people and situations that we inherently attach to them. The people affix us to the landscapes we call home. They enrich our lives in ways we do not expect and that forever leave their marks upon us. And so it was here.
Our first summer here we didn’t know anyone. It got so bad that Lori eventually told me she needed to get away for a bit and sought refuge at the library. Fast forward three years, and our last week is characterized by the fact that we don’t have a single evening when we don’t have to be somewhere for dinner with friends we will be leaving behind.
When we set out for Oregon, I in my youthful ignorance could only think of adventure…breaking the monotony that characterizes one’s life from birth to eighteen. However, I now realize why people do not often move. Not only does it tear at the social fabric that you have so carefully woven over the months and years, but it tears at the heart. It reminds us that we are temporal. For when you leave a place where you have planted roots, you realize that you will most likely never see many of these people ever again. And yet, we cannot allow these feelings to prevent us from living. For that is what they will surely do if we focus only on the ending. Rather, we should live our lives grateful for every second that we are given. We should bask in the joy of a dinner with friends (especially when it involves 10 people in a kitchen the size of a walk-in closet), the spontaneous trips (to Portland or Bend), the late night conversations about life, the moments of jubilation, and mourning…all of these things are more valuable than anything this world attaches value to. In our zeal to live comfortably, we squander these moments.
And so, as we say goodbye to our friends in Eugene; to our family at Garden Way, know that it is not truly goodbye. For even if we never meet again in this life, you are now a part of us. You have built upon the works of those who came before you, and the foundations you have laid will be built upon by those after you. And together, you will have shaped and molded us. Somewhere, many years from now, we will look back on those times we shared together with great fondness. And in our joy, we will be together again.
We are saddened by the end…but within it lies a beginning.