Sunday, July 13, 2008

Concluding Thoughts

With the chill of a clammy echoing well/catacomb, the murky darkness, rank and rancid prowls in on tempestuous trials; the year I've left here raised from within the snake holes the soul both the weakest and worst I never thought I possessed. Challenged what often times felt like beyond measure, an unceasingly fragile confidence and renewed boldness collided to spark flames to unlit portions of personality, character, and work ethic. So much learning, so little time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bullies Do Exist

9 July 5:00 A.M.

Afflicted by the pungent of sunscreen-stained clothes and skin, the battle to sleep rages on - me wrestling a torturously fluffy pillow, unable to sleep despite residing in the undoubtedly most comfortable best I've run my fingers across in the past year. Reminiscent of Edmund Dantés escape from Château d'If when his servant enters to wake him one morning, the servant starts incredulously that his master would willing make his pallet on the cold and dirty floor than recline sweetly on a mattress of most expensive and elaborate repose, I find the scars I now gladly bear accost my once unadorned and overlooked peaceful sleeping habits.

A simple, cruel cackle, as that from a jealous schoolyard bully, incessantly prods my consciousness as though a sizzling cattle prod seared the painted images of Egypt inside my eyelids, leaving out what it lacked1. To capture elusive rest, I must remain awake to remind me of current circumstance. The stench of this frying flesh draws salty tears like a broken bucket from a dark, deep well. As was the case when upon our departure from Romania, when one leaves the trifecta of blood, sweat (oh how much sweat!), and tears in a single place, that one person inevitably and supernaturally joins in life with that place, whether for the good or the bad only time will tell.

As I imagine amalgamated Egypt [author secretly chuckles at the irony], a smug and seemingly content grin twist maliciously onto the Conglomerate plaque, as if to taunt my dreams in the wee small hours of the morning, uncaring of the 5000 mile chasm between here and there. A resentful insinuation of irritating awareness claws deep in these ragged hours, "If you were here now, you wouldn't have these thoughts or problems; you'd be carousing familiar, embracing streets." But isn't that the whisper of the Enemy. Those thoughts stink of Satan's deception. I will indeed treasure my time and experience of Egypt, however I will not let the Deceiver posthumously ruin the transformation our God has brought about within me.

1. lyrics from Twila Paris' song Painting Pictures of Egypt.

What will you miss about Egypt?
-In America, I often feel as though I don't measure up. I don't meet the minimum standards of masculinity. In Egypt, the treat you like a king. There is no mask. I could be whoever I wanted because they didn't care who I wasn't. They only cared for who I was. Whether it for truth or cash, the feeling remains the same.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Its not goodbye...

Separation and departure remain as a norm when you live in a highly transient community. Coming to the end of another year (years are from August to May when you work with or are in school), a couple of thoughts resurface almost daily.

Goodbyes, in this community, extend further than they should - in my opinion. As a youth staff, we began thinking about and speaking our parting words over six weeks before our official release date. As one who does not necessarily care for extended farewells, a corrupting frustration drips like acid rain on my concluding month. I much prefer to hug once speak a couple words (if that many) and go our separate ways. This is not to say we wouldn't keep in touch, however I only have a tolerance for so many sentimental moments. Even as I think these things now, it strikes me as youth and ignorance speaking.

"Every moment is precious," said one particular youth. I love this young man with every once of my capable heart, but awkwardness and blurred emotion sway our interaction.

For one who expects this as a norm, you'd think it would be easier. How did it come that I didn't know the wetness of a tear, yet now must tense with all my might to dam these salty emotions. Nostalgia and recollection poison any quiet moments that sneak past the clutter and bustle of Egyptian hours. We had a wise man of age come counsel our staff on some blah blah boring stuff that lowly interns such as myself don't care much for. Despite the assigned content of his seminars, he shared a sliver of life on a more personal basis with a select few. Perhaps the most clever words I recall are those regarding age - "Young men speak more about the future because they have more it than the past; old men speak on the past because they have more of it than they do future."

As a single man, not necessarily "on the prowl," I ponder the importance of companionship. Even as I write this now, the depth of my yearning to share life with another bears its ugly head. Plagued with furious questions speeding in from parents and peers about the ominous "future", nothing is certain. How scary that can be.

Please excuse my incoherence. Haze fogs my writing eyes. There are things I'd like to scribble out but the weight of my heart restrains me from straying too far from these leavings.

Change is rampant, swelling in my stomach. I know the man I entered as, he is but a remnant. But to be a new one, oh the fear. I knew how to manipulate that previous persona. And now discipline, and patience, and sacrifice stickle the conscience. I don't know how to do this.

And to further stone myself from these petty... emotions, I must depart this journal entry to watch a movie. That always helps; enter an alternative reality.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


We were asked to share what God was doing in us this year, with our high school group. Here is what I wrote (and read):

I wouldn't be who I am without having been raised in the educational atmosphere, lavish environment, and persistent push toward excellence that I call home. For this I am ever grateful. However, there is only so much a student can learn from a teacherless classroom. Tired from the monotonous wade through materialism and self focus, I needed a breath of fresh air. Egypt. ?.

Take me to a new place, I whined.
A crooked bend spat in The Ear.

I prayed and prayed. I talked, complained, argued, and even on one occasion spat at God to free me from the shell of monoculture. Few people understood this longing, and fatefully this familiar phrase floundered fervently like a fading fad from friends and family, "Why would you want to leave America? Its the best country in the world!" Farewell, I bid. Farsighted had I fastened my fancy.

Abundance and luxury unsatisfying,
I need more - the undesire.
A fickle tickle sickled the rhythm of my
ear drums,
Beating a path across a dry ocean floor...
A journey of Mosaic proportions,
But worry not, young pilgrim;

I had studied the scriptures from multiple perspectives, finding one common theme necessary for transformation - absence, drought, aridity. Where did Moses lead the Israelites after Egypt? Into the desert. Where was Jesus led by the Holy Spirit for his testing? Into the desert. Where did Elijah run before encountering the Lord on Mt. Horeb? Into the desert. So of course where must I go to meet my King? Into the desert. Enter Egypt.

Of course, the physical landscape seemed more of a pun and sense of God's humor than a spiritual metaphor, but before a month was down, a realization crept ever so subtly to whisper in my ear, "My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." Those are not the words of a man who needs physical hydration.

Knees dirty and bent for a release from
Hands likened themselves to the weary knees,
breaking the abrasive fall to humility. A plea,
p r o s t r a t e
from the depth of a soul,
Arid and barren as the cracked soil of a
gasping desert wilderness.
Enter a place to match the posture.

The irony runs deep. Never before in my life have I been so well fed; never have I thirsted for drink since I laid a tiny toe on this turbulent terrain. However, never since I left the safety of the womb have I ever been so scared, so vulnerable. But unlike before, I knew how to steel myself.

Feasting ferociously on the faux pas of a former facade, trust walls rose up to protect and defend a tattered heart. Yet as they say, what goes up, must come down. The hospitalities of hearts and homes, your hearts and homes, crushed divots in those defenses. Unsolicited love cannoned holes through my seemingly impervious protection. From families to freshmen to fun-loving freaks, the trust walls turned to trust falls (but only in the case of a tie).

Ease does not bring definition.
Are the river's rocks sculpted by a pebble's
time ashore?
Shall the character of a warrior be tested
in the evenings of peace?
Ease does not bring definition.

It took a trip to Romania, a Hardy, a Betty. Children waning, bodies mistaken, souls misled. It took a trip to the orphanage, a Bramsen, a story about the unremembered, neglected, overlooked and ignored, lives of beautiful souls dropped off to die - to bring purpose, to bring life to that limp lying body. And so we ask, how have I changed?

Lest there be adversity and engagement
clashing the forces,
A character shall not be tested.
Ease does not bring definition.

Now a man with insight. I am a man knelt before his King to go were he sends me. I will go where you send me. Once a floater, now a focused fighter, fierce and fearless for the future of the Kingdom. Fettered to my first love, forever.

Challenge casts composure.
Knee now sanctioned for service.

Exit this place with purpose to posture.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

500 miles

I'm Gonna Walk (500 miles) -
[to the music of I'm Gonna Be (500 miles) by The Proclaimers]

When I wake up, yeah, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who walks to do his yoga. (10 min.)
After Yoga, yeah, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who walks to go to church. (10 min.)

If I eat lunch, yes, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who walks to get his lunch. (10 min.)
And if I have a meeting, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who walks to his meeting. (10 min.)

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks all over Maadi
to have taxis honk their horns.

-Da da dun duh interlude-

When I meet kids, yeah, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man walking to their house. (10 min.)
And when they don't show, even when they said they would
I'm gonna be the man who walks right out the door. (10 min.)

If we hang out, yes, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man whose walkin all the more (10 min.)
If I lose weight, its because I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man walking everywhere.

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks all over Maadi
to have taxis honk their horns.

[Fade music]

As you may have guessed, in Cairo, we walk a lot. This is nothing new. People have always walked. But this week I grew curious; what portion of our day do we spend walking where we would normally drive? So I calculated. It is approximately 10 minutes to walk from our villa to the church or the school, about 15 minutes to certain students homes, and 20 minutes to visit some young adult friends we work and hang out with. It is another 10 minutes from the church to the school, and from any given point, between 7-10 minutes to walk to Rd 9 (its like the Strip - full of stores, groceries, banks, restaurants, etc). So on any given day I will walk at minimun 20 minutes just to get to the church and back home. An average day keeps my feet pedaling for around an hour but it is not uncommon to meet me on a day that I have walked upwards of 2+ hours, strictly for event to event transportation.

I entered this country weighing in at 180 pounds (81 kilograms). As of 9:00 am this morning, I clocked in at 164 pounds (74 kg). The moral of this story is the 80s made some great music.