Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Secret From Chile

I brought my students over here to be changed but it is I who is changing...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chile: Day One...

Chile Day One:

Actually not in Chile. In the Austin airport, checking in, playing cards, boarding plane, coloring in coloring books, disembarking plane, eating at TGI Fridays and ordering six appetizers and being accused of overeating (story for another time), boarding second plane, leaving Atlanta on a Jet Plane…

Day Two:

Day two still feels like day one since most of the students only slept about four hours on the plane. I probably got around six. That’s a guess though. The movies offered were lame and since I held the itinerary and knew the day we had waiting, ear plugs, an eye mask and wine with dinner helped get me the rest I needed.

Airplane food is nasty and of course doesn’t digest well, so that proved difficult, but other than that the plane ride was just fine. Over night flights rock. Especially when the plane isn’t full and you can stretch out to sleep in multiple seats.

We were retrieved at the airport by a bus company who had the names


Written on a sign. Obviously the first two names in our group alphabetically. And obviously misspelled.

We got in their bus anyway.

The first major obstacle could have been a real mess, but fortunately it was thwarted. Several men were at the bus putting our bags in the back. After we loaded, they got on with us and asked for a tip in broken English. Already? Fine. “Do you want the money for the bus now before we leave?” “Yes.” So I handed him the $65 and thought nothing of it. I almost always pay van fares before we take off. My students fished in their pockets for some dollar bills that they handed to the main man speaking and then the men got off the bus. Wait a minute, I thought…

Crap! I paid the guys “working” the airport crowds all the money I owe the bus company!

Wait! I hollered. And tried to explain that I gave him all my money. “Sixty-five dollars. I gave you the wrong thing.” Of course then the man spoke no English but his companion looked on me with pity and told him to hand over the wad again. I withdrew my sixty-five dollars (or 35,000 pecos) and thanked the man and then had to go digging for a dollar bill.

Tragedy averted, we began our drive.

On the CD speakers in the car we heard “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” in Spanish and “Shout to the Lord” in Spanish and really what more could you ask for when entering a foreign country than American praise songs from the 80s softly serenading you in Spanish?

I just threw up a little.

But the van company was Shalom and as we learned throughout our two days in Santiago, the are evangelicals and really, “why would you want anything other than a Christian driver” so spoke the van company manager. We don’t think Cathedrals are very interesting because we’re not Catholic, we’re evangelicals, but we’ll take you there if you want. The Cathedral kicked ass. We didn’t schedule you a visit to the winery because we know you’re Baptist evangelicals. Let’s remedy that immediately.

You get the picture.

Sightseeing indeed was awesome. Granted, Santiago is a smog-covered city, but it was warm and everyone gave me grief about telling them to pack winter clothes (they have since apologized – more on that later). A beautiful city with the Andes snow-capped mountains on one side and the desert hills on the other, we took a double-decker bus to view the city. We got off to see more closely the Bella Vista neighborhood and visited Pable Neruda, the nobel prize poet’s house with his mistress and eventual third wife. It was awesome and kept going up and one and up one room at a time. Apparently he loved ships (even though they made him motion sick) and all his houses resemble a ships structure.

We ate lunch in an interesting part of town (it reminded me of Austin with the Mohawks and hair dyes and band tee-shirts) that had lots of street vendors selling random stuff on the street. We also came upon two men selling rides on a llama and if you think I didn’t take them up on their offer, you’re wrong. $1.50 well spent.

Additionally we stumbled upon a phenomenon infiltrating Santiago’s streets. We first heard and eventually saw the little drummer boy, a twelve year old boy playing drums (percussion) as a one man band in the street (think Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins) and dancing. Don’t worry, I got a video of it. He’d being playing since he was four which I was skeptical of at first, but later believed when we stumbled upon a family of men one of whom couldn’t have been older than six playing their drums as a trio.


“What could be better than seeing that little boy playing the one man band percussion set?” our resident drummer Meredith asked, “Seeing three of them.”

We also saw the Chilean History Museum but it had to be the fastest museum viewing ever. I was literally spending three seconds in each room and were done in ten minutes. I did manage to take a few illegal pictures of items I spent a whopping five seconds in front of when they drew my attention.

Fortunately most of the art was of a colonial style which I hate, otherwise I’d have been very sad about rushing through a museum. But we were one a mission and had to make it back to the red bus stop.

The fastest way to this stop was straight down the road past the Presidential Mansion. Awesome! Two birds with one stone. We’d make it to the stop and still get pictures of another site on our maps.

There was a glitch though. The guards wouldn’t let us walk by it on the sidewalk. “It’s after hours,” so they told my co-sponsor Steve who stood there arguing with them in Spanish.

“But they are letting cars drive by,” I argued, perturbed. “Cars can hold bigger bombs than people do.” I guess it’s a good thing I don’t speak Spanish.

So we walked around the park in front of the President’s place and shot for another red bus stop. Having successfully caught it we foolishly thought we could hop off at one more site and then hop back on.

“Okay we’re going back a block to the subway and up on the other side of the street (divided by a fence) and we’ll visit Santa Lucia, municipal park.” It was awesome looking in the dark.

All these lights shining up a hill onto a gorgeous fortress with fountains and greenery. It was like looking at a palace. Up we ran… and ran… and ran until about half the group began to gripe loudly enough that I stopped. “We think we should go back.”

So I hollered at Esteban (Stve, the initiator of this escapade), to slow down and tried to explain to him that we’d been up for like 36 hours and were running on four hours of naptime (he had met us in Santiago after an interpreting gig in Argentina). Let’s go back. So we hopped back down the hill and headed for the subway.

“Hey… isn’t that our bus?”

Oh Lord. In the opposite direction of the subway and about two blocks ahead of us and across a street that we physically couldn’t cross until about three blocks past where we were was the LAST BUS of the night.


And we did. If we thought we had run up that hill, we had no idea what was ahead of us. I couldn’t breathe, not because I was running so fast but because I was laughing so hard. At us. At a group of Americans running down the street in the middle of a major world capitol on another continent. It is virtually impossible to run, laugh and breathe at the same time. But we made it. The bus waited while we ran in a giant horseshoe for five minutes and Esteban, who beat us all there, coerced the bus driver to wait for us.

Thank God, he did. He then drove us to the final stop of our tour, near our hotel. After walking five blocks back to Hotel Bonaparte, we agreed to meet up in thirty minutes for dinner which I promised, according to Esteban, was only four blocks away, and I’d be buying.

Dinner was amazing.

When we finally arrived.

Four blocks turned into six which turned into ten and I quickly learned that my co-sponsor and I might have communication issues.

“Dude. Seriously. Four blocks? We’ve been walking for fifteen minutes.”
“It will be worth it, I promise.”
“I’m sure it will, but I need to know if something is going to take an hour to get to and from because it affects the schedule I make for the night.”
“Look. It’s right across the street.” (and around the corner and up the block).


“Here we are,” Esteban said, kissing a woman on the cheek in a traditional Chilean greeting. “This is my friend Claudia who will be joining us for dinner.”
“Nice to meet you all, welcome to Chile, now who’s been whining?”


But dinner was good. Delicious even. Italian and expensive. Enough said.

And after another ten blocks home we were in bed. Day one was finally done.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thirty-One Is Where It's At

Oh my gosh, you guys, this was an amazing birthday week!

Despite the fact that I had to go to a deacon's meeting ON MY BIRTHDAY and despite the fact that I had to go to a strategic plan meeting at 9AM the morning after my birthday celebration, overall this was an awesome birthday.

So you already know about the boots, but why, you might ask, was i wearing heels before i threw them off to put on the boots? Excellent question. A lovely family in my church whom I have come to know well over the past year gave me two tickets to go see the Broadway touring company's performance of RENT!!!!


So after getting everything ready for Beresheth on Thursday night, I kissed my Beresheth peeps good-bye and Michelle and I headed to the theater. The two leads are played by the two men who premiered them on Broadway and while initially I found it a little creepy that such old men were acting young, grunge, nineties-ish, by the end of the play I totally bought it. What an amazing performance. I knew some of the songs and the general plotline, but I'd never seen the show and needless to say, like most musicals, i LOVED it.

Then on Friday, Pete, Joy and Baby Zoe came into town!! So, of course, we went swimming and I got to buy Zoe her first swimsuit and which of course then needed sunglasses and a swim hat and sunblock and swim diapers and ... well I love Target. Look how cute Zoe is in her suit!! (um, ps, i didn't buy that orange hat to go with the suit. the cute pink hat i bought was too big).

Friday night was awesome too because my old roommate from Waco whom I haven't seen in probably five years or so, drove down with her boyfriend from Dallas (she recently relocated from Colorado to the Dallas area). Too cool! It was amazing seeing her and she bought me the cutest pair of jammies from Vicky's Panty Land because she loves me :) Thank you, Cat!!

Saturday was rain, rain and more rain but i didn't mind because my flowers and plants (even the cacti) were singing all afternoon they were so happy.

Sunday at church a couple of my students and young adults gave me gifts like, "Looking Good for Jesus Lip Balm" (thanks Katherine) and "If it has tires or testicles there's going to be trouble" napkins and coasters. Ah... they know me so well.

Monday was my actual birthday day and I started it off with therapy at 8am. That's right people, I arose at 7AM to go see my counselor and pay her $85 to tell me I have problems on my birthday. Just kidding. About the problems part. I don't really. Just one or two issues I'm working through. i call it being self-aware...

For lunch, my roommate and my colleague and I went to OPAL's, my favorite, for lunch. I, of course, had my usual, a Bloody Mary and a tuna sandwich. YUM. I went home and found FLOWERS from Moxi in DC on my front porch. Awesome! After a nap, I packed my clothes for Chile and headed back to work for Deacon's Meeting which is actually much more tolerable on your birthday because you're having a great day and it's easy to laugh and it makes one less judgmental and antsy and irritated when people talk for too long.

Two and a half hours later (seriously people. we have long deacon mtgs.) I ate a delicious dinner prepared by Chris (and saved for me since Michelle and baby-in-belly have to eat earlier) and then he, Ben, Bethany and I all went out for a drink at Dulce Vita. (I made Chris call a bunch of restaurants to see which ones served Mudslides because I am convinced that one must have ice cream on one's birthday and combined with alcohol, it doesn't get much better). We played Spades and Ben and I won and then we retired because I was tired cause i had to wake up at 7am that morning.

And always trying to stretch out a birthday as long as i can, yesterday I got to choose where to eat for lunch with the staff (a birthday tradition) and I chose Romeo's which not only has amazing pasta but also gives you a free Sundae for birthday girls!!! Yes!!!

So, people, my birthday was awesome. Thanks to all my friends whom I hope I got to celebrate as much as I was celebrated this weekend. You are the best and I love you. Old and New. And thanks to all the people on FB who wrote on my wall. It was awesome reading, "You have 99 Notifications."

31 is for winners. I can feel it...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Don't Tell Missouri...

But I've switched teams.

People, I've got boots. Cowgirl boots.

Show me you say?


So remember when I posted my birthday wish list circa 2009? Well an old friend of mine from Waco, you know her as JenA, wrote me and said, give me your shoe size, the widest size of your foot, your favorite color and take boots off your list.

Jen was definitely the most texas girl I met when I moved to Waco (she's one of the people who told me texas could secede) and constantly fought for her State when I made fun of doormats and flags and potato chips in the shape of Texas. So it feels perfect that I would get my first pair of cowgirl boots from her. And now look at me. When I got home Thursday night and found the box on my couch, I threw off my heels and put on the boots...


So now, I'm officially a texan. I came to this state kicking and screaming in December of 2000. I shed a little tear when I traded in my Missouri driver's license and tried to smile for the camera several years later. Even after buying a house in Austin when people asked where I was from I said, Kansas City. But Thursday night I jumped up and down in my living room in front of the pregnant and a little confused Michelle and shouted, "I'm at Texan! I'm a Texan!" and I slipped into my new dancing boots.

I've been in this over-indulgent, prideful, backwoodsy, conservative, gun-toting, bible-bearing. SUV and too-big-truck driving state 8 years and five months and finally, on the cusp of turning 31, and with my official owning of cowgirl boots, I'm surrendering my pride (of Missouri?!) and requesting no more St Joe Proud bumper stickers for my car. I'm keeping Austin weird now. Texas, I'm officially yours.

And I'm wearing my boots.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser

Okay people. I let you talk me into believing that I received Rachel Ray and Handgunner's and some fat girl magazine because I accidentally got put on some listserve somewhere.


At the same time of year, one year later, I'm not buying it.

You know why?...

Because I've begun to receive mysterious gifts again and these are not from some publishing house.

"Why are you mailing boxes to yourself?" the secretary at worked asked. There were two brown paper wrapped boxes in front of my door with the return address TYPED out as my home address and the deliver to address typed as my work address.
"I didn't. It's a prank. I didn't mail this to my job from my house. That's ridiculous. Here's what I got..."
"Aw...Cute," she said.

She has no taste.

I received two plastic ceramic I-don't-know-what little 1960s nick knacks: TWO boxes, one containing a boy and girl looking adoringly at each other (gag!) and the other, a little white boy and a black girl singing from a songbook together. Fantastic. Except neither was wrapped in packing of any sort so the little black girl's songbook had broken off. Oh darn.

I've been pranked. I knew that Rachel Ray magazine was a joke. I knew it.

At home tonight when I (finally) checked my mailbox for the first time this week, I found two more boxes with the return address being from church. Typed of course and wrapped in the same brown paper. These had two more children, a boy and girl, gazing into each others' eyes (vomit) and then some lame bible think with images of a girl praying and crap like that. Here's the pic in case you need a visual...

I texted Texas In Africa who was partially responsible for this prank. "Do you want to confess before I go public?"

Of course she denied knowing what in the world I was talking about.

I have to tell you something else though. I've been finding more Paul Powell books around my house.

I know that when Texas In Africa and The Librarian pranked me two years ago they showered my house in PaPa books (ridiculous books written by my former and most un-favorite dean, Paul Powell). Truthfully I thought I had found them all, but then I've discovered several more over the past several months that makes me think there's been another infiltrator. My Halloween party maybe? I mean, one of those damn books was in my movies bookshelf and I look at that all the time to pick out which movie I want to watch so I know it hasn't been there since 2007!

I'm being pranked and I hardly even know it's happening!

You'd think the pranksters would be bored with their unresponsive host, but no. It just keeps on coming. So fess up. Whomever you are. It can't be Frank cause he's in love and planning a wedding. I doubt Cody has time what with his busy ministry schedule. Which leaves Laura and Ginger...

Or someone who's grandma recently died, cause these figurines are ridiculous.

Ugh. I got a HANDGUNNER'S magazine for my 30th birthday and an interracial children's figurine singing christmas carols from a broken off songbook for my 31st.

Help! Normal people get flowers and cards and presents and condolences! I'm getting religious figurines! Make it stop!

This is very unfair.