Friday, December 23, 2005

It's strange being back in a big city after just a handful of months in Juneau. I didn't think I had acclimated myself so significantly to small town perks/pains in the ass, but now I wonder if I still retain my adolescent goal of living in Manhattan for a couple years. Juneau is like an old typewriter; it's functional but more than a bit outdated, but it has a great charm to it. You feel like you're living a romantic life in a quaint setting. Seattle is like one of those gadgets I saw someone at SEATAC airport using which is some crazy hi-tech personal organizer that multitasks as a cellphone, IPOD, digital camera, DVD/radio player, Internet browser, and will probably start vacuuming your house if you set it on the carpet and don't watch it for awhile.

Today, we went for a lunch outing at 1:30p.m. and didn't return until 5. The eating itself actually didn't take hours--it was all the driving in traffic that turned a normal event into an afternoon extravaganza. In Cincinnati, if I drove longer than 45 minutes in any one direction, I could feasibly be in Dayton, interior Kentucky, or Indiana. Seattle though is one gigantic carpool lane going around in circles.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Flying to Seattle tonight for the duration of winter break. Will be back in Juneau Jan. 2nd. If I don't write anything while down south, I wish you all happy holidays and a wonderful new year!!

Friday, December 16, 2005

different Christmases

Still reading: The Sparrow

So it's almost Christmas time. Or Kwanzaa. Or Festivus, or Hannukah. Hoorah. The last time I felt this lack of festivity for the holidays was when I lived in Los Angeles, and the weather was seventy degrees, and I could still go to the beach in December and play volleyball, and nobody got crazy decorating their house so it looked like a garish nightmare. Christmas in LA is palm trees, smog, and a guy wearing shorts and a Santa hat waving at you to use his particular car wash.

Christmas in Cincinnati is lots of snow and candy cane fences and the festival of lights at the zoo across my old house. It was midnight mass and dangerously iced over streets and ham and lumpia shanghai at my mom's and coffee with my friends at Sitwell's, back when it was in a basement and not in a diner.

Christmas in Vienna was meat fondue and cheese and wine. It was O Tannenbaum and Stille Nacht and the Vienna Boys Choir in the Stefansdom. It was shoes left out for gifts, not stockings, and the Turkish kids playing out on the street and buying kebabs at 4a.m.
The Christmas of my childhood in Manila was lots of food and midnight processions on the street and wearing dresses. It was strings of sampaguita flowers, wearing them or putting them on statues of saints or bringing them to church as a prayer garland. It was firecrackers and beggars in the street and a huge lechon being roasted over a pit.

What's the holidays like for you?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

So much for miles of untouched sandy beaches or surfing or enjoying breathtaking ocean sunsets. The Yakutat trip was a whirlwind of activity; I barely had time to breathe let alone enjoy the environment. But it was really successful, and the matches are about as perfect as we could get them. My favorite part was asking this kid what type of Big he wanted, and he replied: “Unannoying, cool, has a good 4 wheeler, is good at stuff…. Believes in vampires, protects me from nightmares… and… is… 14 years old.” Can’t say the boy doesn’t know what he wants.

People are still trickling out of Juneau. Jo left yesterday, as did Laura. R-E departed today. And Seamus flew out Tuesday night when I arrived. At the airport, I was this close to leaving with him, but the ticket agent laughed at me and said it would cost $300. With another job I would have done it, but the one I got pays me in stickers and leftover bagels.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Got Big?

Today I was reminded of how much I love my position here. Interviewing all the potential volunteers and hearing their sincere motivations, their visions of youth services, their desire to truly make a much-needed impact in these communities, energizes and encourages me. I just feel so uplifted to match kids with these great people who will let them know, yes, I acknowledge you as a person and will listen to you and no matter what the rest of your life looks like, you can count on me to be here, just for you, every week. Come to think of it, I think that sounds like a good idea to have for everyone, not just children.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

wicked little town

You know, the sun is in your eyes
And hurricanes and rains
And black and cloudy skies.

You're running up and down that hill.
You turn it on and off at will.
There's nothing here to thrill
Or bring you down.
And if you've got no other choice
You know you can follow my voice
Through the dark turns and noise
Of this wicked little town.

The fates are vicious and they're cruel.
You learn too late you've used two wishes like a fool
And then you're someone you are not,
And Junction City ain't the spot,
Remember Mrs. Lot
when she turned around

~Hedwig and the Angry Inch, one of my favorite movies

Friday, December 09, 2005

our loved ones hurt us and we hurt the ones we love

if i could sling suns in time to meet you for dawn

if i could squeeze the earth so tight i could just walk into the horizon of your smile

if i could press my palms upon the space of 15,000 miles and feel your fingers pressing back

if i could ride the waves of the northern lights into your bedroom

if my kiss could span hemispheres

i would not have done what i did last night.

can we forgive each other our weaknesses?

can we help make each other stronger?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It's 8:00, and I have a headache. Why? Because I'm still at work. I suppose I could go home already, but that's the thing about not having a house-sit anymore with its cable TV, equally heated rooms, cozy couches, and cute little Pomeranians to terrorize for fun. Now, I'd go home, still have a headache, and be cold and bored witless. Maybe I'd peruse People magazine listlessly or eat some chocolate and wait for people to come home or drop by, which usually doesn't happen until past 9 anyway and then there's always the good chance they're throwing rocks at our windows scaring the living bejeezus out of us.

Anyway, I have a lot of things to do for the Yakutat trip this Sunday. Everyone's busy so I've gotten the bulk of the workload, which is great really, I love work, and I deal best under pressure. I get stressed when I have nothing to do except pick my butt and catch up on Homestar Runner emails or play Yahoo euchre. Today, I looked at my to-do list which involved a plethora of important errands in different locations but under the same time slots, and instead of panicking, I grinned broadly and set to what I do best--multitasking. I even wrote a press release on some Post-It notes while I was waiting for my Little Sister's class to return from recess. Anyone who says they're too busy to volunteer isn't that resourceful. Even the Lt. Governor of Juneau is a Big Brother.

So I'm also spearheading the planning of a reception in Yakutat. My sister says I sound like the Daughters of the American Revolution because I'm organizing this little soirée. But with me at the helm, it's more like 7-layer dip and cheese curls than canapes and cucumber finger sandwiches.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 05, 2005

On the first evening of the retreat, I left for an hour and a half to drive Seamus back downtown and run an errand for Steens. My family group co-facilitator, George, drew this and gave it to me when I got back. In case you can't read it, the kids are shouting, "We're gonna walk all over George now!" while he's shouting, "I need help!", and I'm in the car flicking him off and yelling, "I hate you for no reason!"

George is a riot. We talked about starting a morning talk show together, and during lull times, we'd play a game called, "Butt or Food?" We'd ask audience members to sniff something and figure out if the smell was from ass or something we eat. Yay!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

i'd be friends with the sparrows

Reading: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The author has degrees in Cultural Anthropology, Social Anthropology, & Biological Anthropology from 3 excellent universities. She's studied linguistics, genetics, archaeology, anatomy, and geology. Fed up with academia, she quit to write fiction. In other words, she is either my hero or an older Caucasian me caught in a weird space-time continuum.

The temperature difference between Cincinnati and Juneau has lessened from a gap of 20 degrees to a mere 8. Winter equalizes everything. I walk outside and fail to immediately distinguish my Cranberry Canner with its rusted out holes; 8 inches of snow have blanketed everything indiscriminately, as long as it's staying still. The snowfalls here surprise me. They come softly and gently without warning or much ado, as if you blinked and suddenly the world as you know it is white and perfect and serene. I guess because in Cincinnati, it's obvious when the weather drops cold enough to snow. Signs precede, there's a build-up, radio and news stations start giving traffic warnings. Whereas here, precipitation of some sort is a given, and the surprise comes when the skies are clear and sunny.

are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. the very hairs of your head are all numbered. fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. [Matthew 10:29]

Saturday, December 03, 2005

"It is impossible to walk rapidly and be unhappy."

my title's a quote from Howard Murray. New friends often comment on the speed of my walk, and Seamus says he has to gallop just to keep up with me. The past two days, I facilitated at a retreat for a high school class I'm familiar with, and I slowed my step. I walked with my group of kids--to the cabins, to the bathrooms, in the dark, in freezing weather. I kept stride with their carefree leaps or despondent shuffling but wherever they needed me to go with them, I went, and I went on whatever pace they set.

There was a sharing circle at the end of the first evening, and we gathered around in sleeping bags and pajamas, and the lights were off and 4 candles burned in the middle of the lodge. Everyone was invited to take turns and speak of anything on their mind, and on my first turn, I told them: "I know a few of you a little bit and most of you not at all. But that's okay because as we learned earlier, it takes trust to build emotional intimacy. And many of you have gone through a lot of pain and horrible things, and I'm no exception. I used to be a completely different person from the one sitting here with you today. So I just want to say that I extend a sincere, open invitation for anyone to come talk to me anytime, and I promise to listen, at the very least, and we can both work on trusting together." I meant every word of it but I was unsure if it came across too cheesy or if people had already fallen asleep or were too busy making out but then it was this kid's turn, and he acts tough and often teases me and hadn't participated much in the retreat so far, and with a shaky voice he began, "I just want to start out by saying thank you... to Valorie, for helping me with some of my problems. I know we haven't known each other that long but I've told her... some things and she's listened and helped me a lot." He continued to share a very personal, touching story, and around the circle were many more tellings of suffering and broken trust and being made to feel so, so low that everything seems so big and unreachable. I know this story by heart. I could have finished their sentences. On my second turn, I could have tried telling them what to do or how to ache less, to see the forest from the trees. But many times, what we really need more than answers are people who truly care about our problems, who are dependable, so that even when you're at that low with everything pressing down upon you, there is someone out there that makes you feel you could still stand up. My knowledge is limited, but my empathy embraced the entire room.