Sunday, October 28, 2007

Homeward Bound, and letters to home

For those few of you who are interested, I'm about to embark on the first leg of my journey home. And for those even fewer of you who will ever have the opportunity to be interested, the Guayaquil airport (at least the international terminal) has free wifi! (oh, and the Tiramisu at the coffee shop next to security is fantastic, as are their "Cappuccinos Bailey" ... it's the real thing, *wink*).

Of more general interest, here are a few excerpts of letters home from the past few days, since I was too lazy to double-send/post them at the time (and now I'm sitting in an airport waiting for an 11:30 pm flight that's already 30 minutes late ... so what else do I have to do?! They're kind of long, but the good news that you don't have to read it all and I'll never know):

de Viernes (Friday):
Well, it all went well today and now I can let my hair down and relax (we're involved in several meetings tomorrow, but nothing that requires preparation on my part). The workshops went amazingly well considering that we were planning them "Latin-style" (putting the finishing touches on it as it was starting) ... there are a few people who really get it, and that's really cool. I got to know a group of young lawyers from the DR when I was there last year and they immediately became enthusiastic about peacemaking. On top of this, they were enthusiastic about it in the right way -- as a way to impact their church, and for the church to then impact society. Two of those three are here, and it's been a blast to see their pasion, their energia, and the fact that they "get it" (I've been in touch with them in the meantime, and they have a bunch of churches and other groups primed to bring the Small Group Study to them when we have it available). They were also a great balancing voice in our workshops for the few people who totally didn't get it (we were focusing on heart idols, and there was one guy in particular who just didn't get it) ... it's always better to have a dissenting voice corrected 'from the floor,' and it was exciting to see that happen throughout the day.

I felt particularly unprepared -- I decided that the multi-lingual part of my brain can only do two things at once. I can think on the fly and speak publicly in English; I can think on the fly and have a conversation in Spanish; I can read lecture notes in English and translate them to Spanish ... but I can't think of something to say, mentally organize it, translate into Spanish and then verbalize it (I can, however, chew gum, think and talk in Spanish, hmm...). So on my last teaching section, I kinda ended up reading my notes a lot, making an effort to look up and add a few "off the page" notes every now and then. I survived. The rest of the time I got to enjoy watching my colleagues bring to life what I'd come up with in the form of an outline.

Honestly, I don't know what more we could have done to prepare, given the timing of CZ's travel, etc. We had to have a certain amount of time to discuss the subjects, work out the specifics and then divide up responsibility, and we didn't have time until our trip down. So it was one of those, "Okay, God's gonna work this out for us; this teaching from a position of weakness is where God says he likes to pick up, and we have sincerely done the best we can." At least that was my prayer last night as I drifted off to sleep on top of my teaching notes and half-suspected that I'd wake up this morning with the "progresion de un idolo" backwards on my cheek in blue ink.

This is a great conference, but I wouldn't recommend this hotel to anybody, fancy though its "yacht club" billing may be. I am currently wearing ear plugs to drown out what sounds like a helicopter sitting right next to my window. It's not even close to working. I'm told that it's some sort of generator but, seriously, I can't figure out why they're using a helicopter as a generator. I used to be glad that I was on this side of the hotel; the people on the other side are plagued with the sound of peacocks at all hours of the day. If you've never been around a peacock enough to recognize its call (I hadn't), imagine a live cat being disembowled. That's pretty close to the sound of a peacock. They make a pretty display on the grounds of the hotel, but not that pretty! On top of that, our "all-inclusive package" excludes alcohol. We presbyterians were pretty disappointed to find out that the 6-8 pm happy hour didn't apply to our group. But we made do as well as we could and ponied up the money to buy our alcohol. I think maybe I should get some more, and then maybe the helicopter wouldn't bother me as much.

Despite all of that, I'm having a great time, I really am! My Spanish is good enough that I'm enjoying participating in humorous banter. They say that three ways you can tell you're fluent in a language is if you dream in it -- I don't think "progresion de un idolo" getting imprinted on one's cheek counts, if you can tell a joke and people laugh, and if you can express your love in that language ... don't really care to do the third, but I've enjoyed watching a love interest develop between a Costa Rican guy and a Dominican young lady!

del domingo (Sunday):

The rest of the night (Saturday) was filled with a talent show -- each country represented was supposed to bring some sort of talent; some of them were just plain bad, others were quite impressive ... but in the typical latino way of loving formalities, it took 1 1/2 hours of "warm up" before the first act. So the first act went on at about 10:30 pm. I would have slipped out after about an hour, but I'd been conscripted as a judge, along with 3 other people from the US. So I not only had to watch the whole thing to the bitter end (at 1:15 am), I had to pay attention! Actually, it was fun. My favorite part was the Cubans leading everybody in singing "Guantanamerra," but they didn't win because -- while enthusiastic -- they had rather bad voices and didn't come wearing any "national dress." I also enjoyed a "sing along" ("aye, aye aye aye;" you'd recognize it) from the Mexicans; at the beginning, they announced that they would have brought national dress in the form of sombreros but they wouldn't let them bring 'em on the plane. So they pulled a bunch of mini (2 inch) sombreros out and put them on and then passed them out to everybody. Finally, at 1:00, some guy grabbed the microphone to lead us in a closing song ... and he was enthusiastically launching into his 3rd song when they basically shoved him off the stage with a promise that he could sing more for us "manana." I guess since he was singing with his eyes closed he couldn't tell that most of the rest of us weren't sharing his enthusiasm.

(and he didn't get to sing today. The leadership apparently made a decision yesterday that we would end promptly at 10:45 and, amazingly, at 10:45, the Secretary closed the meeting - he even noted how proud he was of that fact! And then the very charismatic conference organizer (in every sense of the word -- he's like "Latin" on steroids) grabbed the mic and we didn't get out of the meeting room until about 11:15. It was a very theologically-correct approach; we were living in the "already" of the meeting being over, while still being in the "not yet" of it not quite being dismissed.)

Speaking of already-not yet, travel's kind of like that. I'm already en route, but I've not yet even left the ground. Anyway, that's all ... if you're still reading, I'll see you on the flip side!

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