Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mardi Gras what?!?! It's called..... Carnaval. :)

Sin, party, drunk, water, fight, community, island, celebration, epic battle, home, memories.

So mid February every year on the island of Sao Miguel in the archipelago of the Acores belonging to Portugal there is mass celebration of all things gluttonous, promiscuous, drunken, weird, fancy... THE epic party scene. Also called Mardi Gras in some parts of the world (actually only in the US, specifically New Orleans, Louisiana), this is like when Vegas comes to YOU. What happens during Carnaval, stays at Carnaval. Except... If you get semi run over by a drunk university student, or it you get beat up by two clowns like we did. Not that my family participated much in the party part of Carnaval... other than the occasional sneak-out-the-window episodes my sisters and I enjoyed... But those escapades weren't limited to Carnaval. ;D BUT. Before the whole party starts, there is an island-wide opening ceremony to the festivities. And don't think Olympics' opening ceremonies. We're much too creative than that. Think water. A lot of it.

Somehow we never knew what day the battle would be on. It was more of a word-of-mouth type of thing. And, mind you, word of mouth is a completely acceptable form of mass communication when you live on an island. The night before the mass water battle some of us more dedicated Shepherd kids (there were 5 of us in total) would spend hours in the bathroom filling the tub up with water balloons getting ourselves drenched and flooding the bathroom which then ran out and molded the wood parquet in the hallway causing permanent damage and a mad momma... We would fill at least 300 balloons though I remember telling someone once 3,000 balloons... Pretty sure that can't qualify as an exaggeration.. It was a bold faced lie. But then, it's Carnaval. It's all about sinning. And everyone else always lied about how many balloons they filled so it was all part of the tradition.
One day we decided we would pre-emptively strike some unaware passerby's near our house before going down town and getting the fight on for real. So I hid behind our partially opened gate and either threw balloons or hosed down two clowns walking by holding a stick. (Do you see where this is going?) Funny how I have the suckiest aim until I do something stupid and then it hits straight on. They were soaked. AND livid. They started screaming and yelling and asking to talk to my dad. Oh, and hey walked into our drive way which is Shepherd turf and definitely pissed off my dad when he came out. They could tell he was mad and he could tell they were mad and I can only partially remember what happened next. One of the clowns jumped on my dad throwing his glasses off and they both rolled down our drive way. I blanked after this but people tell me I went over and grabbed the stick the clown had been carrying and started beating up the clown on top of my dad. Then my mom pulled me away and the other clown grabbed the stick and broke it over my dad's arm. All I remember is the clown pulling off my dad's glasses and my dad pulling off the clown's mask. And then all of a sudden I was in the entry way to our house and my parents were shaking me and asking me if I was ok. Apparently my body freaked out and they were scared my heart would explode since I have trouble with it anyways. My dad's arm welted SO HUGE and it was a deep purple and blue color for days.
I'm glad no one died and apparently when I go into shock I black out and hit clowns.

The next year it happened again but us kids ran inside the house and hid till they were gone.

But the next year was when my sister got run over down town. The battle starts around noon and goes till about 5. If we stayed out any longer I'm pretty sure we'd die of hypothermia. It may be an island but it is flipping cold in February. It was about 1 pm and we were dodging trucks and cars and people with buckets full of balloons (actually most people fill clear sacks with water which hurt like crazy hell when you're hit with them and do more car damage) when a drunk university student decided to drive on the sidewalk and ended up smacking into my sister. It was just a touch, really. She had a bruise but it wasn't bad. But it shook her up pretty bad. As terrible as this water battle sounds, it's a very family-friendly activity (one of the only family-friendly Carnaval activities) and one of the people who were throwing balloons with us flipped out and stole the keys and locked the university student in his car until the police came. For some reason I remember something about the keys getting thrown into the ocean but that might be another Carnaval lie. (Sheesh, Carnaval just brings out all the sin on this island!) I just remember seeing the dude inside his car yelling something to us but we couldn't hear it cause the windows were up so no sound was coming up. Pretty comical. They ended up going to trial and we didn't press charges cause they guy was apparently not much of a drinker and a total light weight and just messed up that day. And, like I said, what happens during Carnaval, stays in Carnaval. It's all good. Except I hate clowns now and my sister gets nervous attacks when she walks on sidewalks sometimes.

All in all I miss it SO much. Carnaval, the water battle.. And out of the 11 years I participated in the fight, only twice did this mayhem occur. We may have had a car window bashed in once or twice but that's because actually in Portuguese it's called the "Batalha das Limas" not "agua" because people tend to throw limas at cars. Limas are spherically shaped wax objects the size of a golf ball that have a few drops of water in them. Yeah, it's a battle. And I miss it.

:) When I share my memories, I relive them in my head, and they make the hurt of missing them less. So thanks, blog, and thanks to those who read this and relived it with me.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Congo. Burma. Haiti...... Phoenix

I'm applying for some volunteer positions abroad, and I'm having a really hard time.
I just don't know what I can do to help... It's hard to focus on the little I can do and be satisfied with that.
It's true that not every need is a call. There are needs in the Congo, in Burma, in Haiti.... But I'm not called to all those areas. I may be called to one of them, or I may be called to Brazil. And by "called" I mean that God works through life circumstances to get me somewhere. He closes doors to keep me from doing certain things.. For example recently getting let go of my job at the Melting Pot the day after I was hired. I'm not going to be effective if I concentrate on each of these three countries and if I tried it would be out of pride: a) Thinking that I could do all that and b) Thinking that I'm the "savior" that should be saving these three countries. That brings up another issue that is baffling me. How to get over the "white savior" idea. I hate that. And honestly, I don't want to "save" anyone. I want to empower people to save themselves.
Just giving people things... I dont know. It takes away from their humanity. If I lived in a refugee camp and all my food came from the World Food Programme and my tent came from the UN and my kid's meds came from Doctor's Without Borders... I just would feel like I was a burden on the world, when in actuality it is the institutions and the rest of the world that has put them in this position of vulnerability and choice-less-ness.

It's almost like it's not really charity- It's correcting our wrongs.

The burden of affluence is heavy and my heart is feeling it tonight.

Maybe viewing my affluence as a blessing from God that is to be shared and to be a blessing to those who don't have is the correct view. Naked we came into the world and naked we will return= our stuff and money is not our own and we are responsible to bless others with it. It's God's anyways. It makes me feel less like the "white savior" and more just like an agent. An investor who works at a bank and spends his life investing money thats not his.
In this sense, God is the only savior around.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

To heck with personal space. Community, anyone?

I'm sitting at my "desk" at Coffee Bean Tea Leaf, attacking some MCC application essays I've been putting off for ever, when these two men approach me. Well, I kind of saw it coming, they were sitting in the next table over when I sat down. And when they got up to leave they just approached me and started talking. The one guy (or should I call him a man? I think that makes it sound more creepy. He was 30ish looking.) just said he felt like he should talk to me as I passed by, and then when I went inside and settled down it just confirmed it to him.
Long story short, he's a Christian, works for coca-cola, and just... thought we should connect. And, it made my night. I'm not gonna lie, it does get lonely when all my local friends are either living an hour away or have a baby. And so, I saw these men coming to talk to me as a form of community building, of reaching out, of recognizing that we are not islands and that life is about relationships and the formation of them. We talked for like 15 minutes on life and what I was applying for and what they do and just.. encouraging life stuff. They left me with their business cards and an open invitation for either life coaching from one of them (I must look like I need a life face lift or something.. ((sheesh is it that obvious?!)) or just to connect with the other.
Ok now that I type this out, it looks creepy. But, I was totally comfortable talking to them and I think they were prolly just evangelizing or something, but regardless it took guts. And, I think I left them encouraged and I was encouraged.

Personal space is important for life. But so is invading that personal space and creating community. Risking uncomfortableness for the amazing fulfillment and satisfaction that relationship gives is a worth while sacrifice. I do wish I had community here. I wish people would be pro-active in getting to know me better. But these random men have inspired ME to be more proactive in getting to know people. So I think I'll call up my pastor's wife who is AWEsome (she's the most artsy, real, young-hearted, girl ever.) and see if she wants to get coffee. Because, reaching out yields good rewards.

The US culture frustrates me with how independent we all make ourselves, and how hard it is so reach out. To connect. Sucks. To hell with that. Seriously. (Can you tell I care about this?). LIFE IS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS AND WHEN WE MAKE OURSELVES UNTOUCHABLE WE KILL A CHANCE FOR LIFE.

Make community a priority.