A Quick Word

"In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism." -Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

28 January 2011

The world is a bizarre place.

I have a friend studying in Cairo right now. I'm worried about her, thinking about her. It's funny how world affairs get real when your not so far from them. (Pic taken from MotherJones.com)

But I'm encouraged so much by this, a tweet, quoting Al Jazeera's live news coverage: "Egyptian Christians told Egyptian Muslims 'we will protect you while you are praying.'" Powerful.

21 January 2011

My life abroad, the arrival.

A congested highway, black skies, and a glistening tarmac-- these were my first glimpses of the UK. I landed at Heathrow in the early morning on Friday, Jan. 7th, exhilarated and exhausted. I had not slept on the the plane-- which meant I hadn't slept all night-- and wouldn't get a chance to sleep again until I arrived in York that evening. My plane, a United flight overflowing with University of Evansville students, emptied rather quickly, and it wasn't long before I found myself navigating the corridors of Heathrow alone. I made my way to baggage claim, found my luggage, and then, a bit nervous, navigated the stern faces that were supposed to grant me my entry visa. With the exception of a few disagreements with the Underground ticket machine, I managed to make it through rather smoothly. And, less than an hour after departing the plane, I found myself sitting with my luggage on the tube bound for King's Cross.

This is when I started feeling American: I took up too much room, everyone else knew what they were doing,  and I had a hard time not laughing whenever the automated (yet very polite) lady's voice said that I was on the Piccadilly line bound for "Cockfosters." (Why on earth would you name a place "Cockfosters?") Upon arriving at King's Cross, I noticed that people moved quickly, mechanically. London moves fast-- much faster even than Chicago-- and I found it easy to feel like an impediment. Business people crowded around me, some conversing, many reading books or newspapers, and everyone not really minding my obtrusively gargantuan suitcases.

My first meal was a McDonald's quarter-pounder with cheese. I was already missing home. After I had severely burnt my tongue drinking cheap coffee, re-read nearly all of Sin and Syntax, and stared out at the rain for four hours, my train was finally ready to board. I got on, exhausted and hungry, sitting across the table from a clean, well-dressed business man. I dozed off a number of times once I realized the sad fact that the English countryside from London to York is actually rather ugly. It looked like a grassier version of Illinois, which did nothing to raise my spirits, and by the time we pulled into the train station at York, I felt a bit like boarding a plane headed back to O Hare.

But then through the fog of fatigue and dampened spirits came the slight whispers of excitement. I'd made it to York, and the metal and glass vaulting of the train platforms looked to my weary self like the most beautiful things I had ever seen. After queuing for a taxi, I took a black cab up to the University. If I failed now to mention how far the cab driver's disposition went to lifting my spirits, I would do the man a great disservice; he was a very kind old man, who did his best to make me feel welcome in York. As we drove along, I marveled out the window (despite the heavy rain and darkening skies) at the beauty of the ancient city walls, the quaint shops and roundabouts that took us up the hill to Heslington and the University. He waited for me while I picked up my keys and then took me to my residence off campus, making sure I got in safely before he drove away.

The first person I met was Chris, who helped me carry my luggage up the stairs to my room, and who then talked to me about York and where to find the Vodaphone store. He was a great a guy, and proved his patience over the next few days by always answering the doorbell when I rang. (They initially messed up my keys and only gave me a key to my room, not to the front door of the residence.) His kindness encouraged me. After talking for a bit, I walked down to the Sainsbury's Local for a cheap deli sandwich and then collapsed into bed. I had arrived. My time in England had begun.

20 January 2011

We interrupt this programming...

I'll take a quick break from my "What I've been doing in England" series to bring you this article from the Huffington Post.

Students can't write? They can't think critically? Sounds to me as if they could use more than just an expensive vocational degree, and-- dare I say?-- to take a bit more Humanities courses, where things like writing ability and critical analysis are crucial to success.

Then again, one could just as easily say that the framework exists for the student to obtain and demonstrate proficiency in both of these areas, no matter their major, but that society prizes earning potential and resume builders over knowledge for knowledge's sake.

There are may ways to view this article and the data it presents, and each of them ignite a passionate response from me.

Any thoughts?

19 January 2011

My life abroad, an introduction.

Anyone who knows me, and knows me well, knows that I possess somewhat of an unhealthy interest in the UK. I have, sometimes to a fault, considered England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland as some sort of romantic ideal-- pastoral landscapes, deep history, the roots of some kind of personal sublimity. And so now that I find myself here, I don't know how to react.

I've settled in. Having been here nearly two weeks, my life has started to take on a natural rhythm. I've met new people-- friends I felt like I've known for much longer than I have-- and begun to understand and adjust to the culture here in York. Through these adjustment I have noticed many differences between my experience here and my experience in the States. In some ways, my being here has lived up to the expectations I had for it, and in others it has felt somewhat underwhelming. Turns out, England is a real place, with real people who really live their lives. It's not Harry Potter or some Dickensian dream. It's not perhaps what I anticipated. But it is wonderful. And I don't think that my six months here will be enough; I won't be surprised when, come July, I don't really want to leave. Make no mistake, I love America, and have actually become prouder of my American identity as a result of being here. Yet this is a place I could be happy living for the rest of my life. It just feels... right.

In the next few posts (and those beyond), I'll provide updates of my life in York, giving my observations, thoughts, and experiences so that all of you can know what I'm up to. It will be nice for me as well, getting the opportunity to process some of my thoughts via this blog while also writing for an audience back home. It will feel like writing letters, and will give me a welcome connection to everyone back in the States. And so it begins...

13 January 2011

Big day today.

Lot's of exciting news! Part of the reason I have been absent from this blog the past few weeks is because of my work for this:

Faith Line Protestants, a blog for evangelicals and interfaith cooperation that I co-founded with Greg Damhorst.

We launched today with a co-written article for the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog! Be sure to check that out as well.

More to come later on my time in York. In the meantime, soak up FLP's current content!