Friday, September 11, 2009

Back to American Life

I suppose that's the end of this here lil' blog.

Hope you've enjoyed seeing some snippets of my adventures and call me up if you want to hear some more in depth stories, ponderings, and wonderings...

Thanks for reading.

Peace.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some pictures for your viewing pleasure

I'm back home. I've been home for a few days now and have been visiting with my family and playing ping pong and such.

Here's a smattering of pictures from various places I was at. See if you can guess where they were taken...
























Thursday, August 27, 2009

And it's almost over...

Yep, I'm heading home in a few days already. I've been in a beautiful spot called Cinque Terre the past 4 days- mostly hiking and lounging on the beach. Cinque Terre is a chain of 5 little coastal villages on the west coast of Italy- mountains, ocean, hiking, delicious food, etc... And I was in Pisa for a day before that (pictures with the leaning tower to come)

I'll give a grand final update in a few day upon my return after I have some time to reflect and a chance to be at a computer where I can add some pictures and video.

See you all soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Italy

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Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm in the real Holland

Made it safe and sound to Rotterdam, Holland this afternoon. My friend Matthew and I took a ferry across this afternoon from Carwich, England- which was about a 7 1/2 hour trek. I slept most of the way in our little cabin that we purchased.

We were hoping to take the ferry leaving last night at 9pm, but it was all booked (Resulting in some unique adventures, which I'll tell you about when I come back if you ask. You should ask.), so we ended up coming this morning.

Going to stay here in Rotterdam for the day tomorrow too, hopefully head up to the north of Holland, and then tentatively going to fly to Italy. We'll see what happens though...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Spiritual Discipline of Drinking Monastic Coffee, Wales, and pubs where C.S. Lewis and his buddies used to hang out

Spent 3 days at the Franciscan Monastery at Glasshampton, and had an absolutely delightful time actually. This was a bit surprising because I'm usually a bit petrified of solitude and silence (which monasteries happen to be fairly well know for). It was myself, my friend Chris (a new friend I met at L'Abri), 2 other English folks visiting, and the 3 "Brothers"- Anselm, Nikolas, and Andrew. A nice small crew.

I enjoyed the rhythm of the place: daily prayer times (7am, noon, 5, 9), 3 dynamite meals every day (the monks make a pretty mean feast- we ate really well. Fresh fruits and veggies from their own garden and just really solid meals, even ice cream for desert. And all the meals were eaten in silence, which was unique and actually quite enjoyable- no felt need to create conversation, we just sat next to each other and ate), I read a full book in 2 days, went for some lovely walks, and just enjoyed the peacefulness of it all. And I got to have a few really neat conversations with the brothas as well.

My first morning there, I went into the kitchen and poured myself a cup of coffee and added my milk and sugar, I take a large sip and it's the worst thing I've ever tasted. I spit it out in disgust, thinking that maybe the milk was gone bad or perhaps that it was supposed to taste like it did (Maybe some bizarre spiritual discipline of drinking rancid beverages each morning...). I decide to try out the tea, only to find the exact same results- disgusting. I spit it out in the sink and decide that either the monks just don't know how to make a good warm beverage or that it is indeed the way they do things and it was intended to be repulsive. As I was about to give up, I notice that the 2 large scoops of "sugar" I put into my beverages was located on the stove by the coffee pot and after tasting it, I realize that I had added large amounts of salt to my drinks. So after this revelation, I added a few scoops of the correct white crystal sweetening substance, enjoyed my cup of non-spiritual-discipline coffee.

After the monastery, I ended up going to Wales for a few days with Chris. We stayed with a family that he had met a few years earlier- he met them when he was traveling and had gotten lost and didn't know where he was going to stay for the night. This couple saw him, took him in for the night, and they became good friends... Great story. And they were just fantastic to us- epic meals, good conversations, nice place. And it was just this absolutely georgeous area in the middle of a bunch of mountains, right beside the ocean as well, so I did a good hike each day I was there.

And now I'm in Oxford at a hostel and I'm about to walk out of the door to meet my friend Matthew at the "Eagle and Child" pub for some dinner. This place was one of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien favorite hangout spots here, so I'm excited to hang out there in that atmosphere.

I'll add some pics from the monastery and Wales soon...

Love.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And I'm off to a monastery

Here's "The Manor House"- where we all live together here at L'Abri. It's huge, old, and beautiful, and hosts about 50 people

L'Abri front door

Yeah, I think that I'm going to hang out at a monastery for the next couple days- should be a really unique experience. I'm leaving L'Abri tomorrow morning (after my 3 week stint here, which was quite fantastic. I hope to return someday for sure.) and hopping on the train to the Oxford, England area where I'll be hanging out with a new friend from here at L'Abri and some brothas at the monastery until early next week. After that, my good friend Matthew (who I know from Memphis, TN) will be joining me for the last couple weeks of my expedition, which will be just perfect for a grand finale... hopefully including France, Holland, and perhaps Italy and whatever else we can fit it.

Over the past week, I took a L'Abri break for a few days and went into London for a bit- saw a show ("Wicked"), visited some museums- National British Art gallery, National Portrait Gallery, + the Tate Modern, went out for dinner a few times, perfected the art of the underground train system (for real, I think I rode to nearly every underground station in the whole city over my few days in London), etc... Here's a few shots from my time in London \/

In front of a real cool bridge (right beside the London bridge actually) with St. Paul's cathedral in the background- we went to a service there right before the picture...

At Trafalgar Square, a real big open square in the center of London.

Here's a nice pic of the whole thing. I didn't take this one.

Ice cream with my friend Noa.



Oh, and here's me with Hans and Jacqui- the family who hosted me for a few days when I first arrived here in England. This pic was from after they dropped me off at L'Abri (which they drove almost 2 hours to do)...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just where I need to be...

So L'Abri is a pretty grand place. I've been here for 5 days now and have absolutely loved the rhythm of life here- lots of tea, reading, eating together, stimulating and intentional discussions about life and faith and creativity, volleyball, castles, listening to music, lectures, movies, and the many joys and struggles of living as a part of a community of people sharing space and life together. Messy but necesarry and beautiful. It's a fantastic place for me to be right now and I'm pretty pumped that I ended up here-

The story of how I heard of L'Abri is pretty neat. I was in class at the seminary a few months ago (as the idea of traveling through the summer was beginning to brew) and I was not really paying attention to the lecture. Instead, I was looking at the computer screen of the girl sitting in front of me (who also was obviously not too intensely focusing on the lecture)- I noticed that the website she was looking at had a nice design to it and I saw the word "L'Abri" somewhere. So when I returned home, I looked it up on my computer, discovered what L'Abri was all about and here I am...

And I'm going through a bit of a cereal withdrawl- it's a been over a week without a single taste of cereal, so I'm hoping to purchase some this afternoon and indulge in my purchase a bit later on.

I look forward to sharing stories (hearing yours as well) with you all upon returning.

Love,

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Typical English weather- rain yesterday, rain today, and rain tomorrow. I'm staying in a quaint little village...

(It's not really raining nor did it rain yesterday, the title was just for my siblings... it's a quote from a letter that my Dad's English friend sent to him about 15 years ago that for some reason we read repeatedly and have quoted since then. But I am staying in a quaint little English village..)

So I made it to England after an hour and a half delay with my flight, got picked up at the airport by Hans and his wife Jacqui (Hans is the guy that lived with my parents 26ish years ago), and I've been staying with them for the past day and a bit. They showed me around their little town of Crowborrough (which I'm told is the place where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, lived for 40 years and that provided the inspiration for his books)and a few other local spots (We walked through a few incredibly old villages- featuring a pub from 1435 that we stopped in at and a couple churches from the 12th century) and they've just been awesome to me. Some more fantastic hospitality.Here's my new home for the past few days

Friday, July 24, 2009

To England

My things are yet again packed and I'm about to walk to the bus stop to take the bus back into Belfast, where I'm flying out of on my way to Gatwick Airport in London, England.

I'm staying a couple nights with a family that my parents know (I believe that that the husband lived with my parents about 30 years ago in Canada) and then I'm going to travel to L'Abri, where I'll be for the next 3 weeks.

More soon...

-Brian

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What? I've been here for a week and a half already...?!

Here's me at this cool place about 30 min. from here called the giant's causeway (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant's_Causeway).
Another from the causeway

Yep, I've been here at "Corrymeela" for almost a week and a half now. The reason I've not done any updates is most definitely not because there has been nothing exciting happening or nothing to write about. Au contraire- It has been a whirlwind of excitement, newness, fun, and intensity.

A bit more about Corrymeela: Corrymeela is a Christian reconciliation organization here in Northern Ireland. It's in (well, next to) a tiny little town called Ballycastle directly on the northern coast. It's a really unique place- a Christian organization, but not an evangelical one (by which I mean that their primary task is not to convert folks to Christianity), A Christian organization, but not one that requires people who work/volunteer here to be Christian necessarily. They describe themselves as a Christian community who also welcome people of all faiths or of no faith... All kinds of different groups come here and Corrymeela provides them with a place to stay, activities, food, conversation, daily worship/ reflection time, etc.. Some of the groups are families who've been directly affected by the violence and conflict between protestants and catholics (who come for a small respite from the craziness), kids who are part of youth programs, families with small children, other marginalized people groups, ... It's very hard to summarize quickly here because it has so many facets and dimensions.

My role thus far has been to facilitate groups (2 thus far- 1 really fun and easy and the other incredibly challenging and rough), build relationships with the folks who come here, make meals, do dishes, lead games, play soccer in the rain with punky Irish teens, fellowship with the other volunteers, drink lots of tea, live in community, share meals, go rockclimbing with groups, etc..


Here's some videos of me talking, just explaining a bit about my time here at Corrymeela. Watch these if you're my family or you're really interested (cause they're a bit long and perhaps a tad boring unless you just love listening to my voice and watching my face).
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Here's the Croi (pronounced "cree" that I mentioned)
And here's the place where I've been living for the past while. It's brand new and just perfect...

Here's a few of my new friends-Daniel from Switzerland and Noa from Israel. They've been my closest buds here thus far...

My Swiss roomie Daniel and I

Some castle remains we climbed around on...


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ok, some catching up from last week.

Here's my hostel in Cork. My 3rd hostel. Real neat place.

So after I was in Cork (and it poured and I had my debit card stolenish), I grabbed a bus over to a little town called Caherciveen (which was a ways from my next stop, but it was as far as the bus went) - I'm getting pretty proficient with the public transportation and finding my way around by this point in time. Once in Caherciveen, I rented a bike and headed out to a place about 15 miles away called The Ballinskelligs (and to a hostel called The Skelligs Hostel)- a very remote little coastal village quite far away from any type of city. It was a pretty grand adventure as I arrived in this tiny town, hopped on a bicycle, and headed out down the (very narrow and curvy, 100km/hr speed limit- so a bit scary) road to my next destination. There were a number of moments where I just stopped and had to out loud remind myself that this was for real- here I am on a bike by myself in the absolutely georgeous countrysides of Ireland with my pack on my back, traveling right beside the ocean and through mountains... I just giggled with glee a few times (or heartily laughed, to sound a bit tougher and rugged), unable to contain the joy, beauty, freedom, and surrealness of the whole thing. Here's some videos from the adventure:
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I ended up staying around this area for 4 days (I was planning on heading further up the West coast, but it was just so fantastic here that I had to stay a bit longer). So I spent the next couple of days biking around, doing a couple hikes, and exploring the countryside.

Here's my new Swiss friends Andrew, Nadine, and their kid Gavin. I met them right away as I arrived and then they invited me to join them for some dinner- very kind folks. We spoke mostly in French cause their English was pretty weak.

And here's some other backpacking friends that I met- they were from Milwaukee.

And some other pics from my exploring...


I also went for a pretty epic hike while I was there, but I'll describe that and put up a few pictures and videos sometime soon. Gotta go...