The other day, I tried out for Senior Speaker for my graduation. As a non traditional student, I had little in common with my fellow colleagues (other than long study nights and library hours and a bunch of student debt, you know that stuff). I wasn't sure what to speak about for my tryout, so I though about what the last three and a half years have given me, and the rest of the graduates.
I do not believe everybody has to go to college. I do not believe it makes anybody better as person, solely because they went to college. That being said, university education is a great opportunity for an individual to grow in numerous ways. It gives us experiences, knowledge, and, as I discoursed about, inspiration. I told the story of a rock star professor that gave a speech I had heard at Steph's graduation that had inspired me to pursue my college career (or at least to FINISH my undergrad :). I spoke about how a university education is much and 'to whom much is given, much is required. Then, I gave a number of guidelines that I have seen as patterns in the lives of inspirational people living inspirational lives.
I finished, listened to the other speeches (which were quite good) , said my 'good byes' and 'thank yous', and signed off. I did not get the part...
Going into the speech. I told others, and myself, that whatever the outcome I could not be upset. The words I spoke were truly mine (other than the occasional inspirational quote :), truly my feelings, my inspiration from others. I am proud of my speech, not because I think that it was a great speech, it wasn't terrible, but because I gave it. I was afraid, nervous, still am oddly, but I'll get back to that.
Portugal has, in so many ways, inspired my life. It's people, character, charm. It's beauty, fortitude, wild yet calm nature. It has given me, given us, so much. It would be tragic to not share what we have been given with others. Sadly, this blog has not contained the magic that this experience has been. However, we will, for the rest of our lives, share with others what we have garnered from our time here.
Back to the speech. It is always easy to say that something won't be a big deal, until it happens, then your brain tells you it is, or your heart, they like to pretend they are the other sometimes I think. After getting the news that I did not get it, I quickly found myself caring, wondering. People, professors, that I respect, rejected my efforts, for whatever reason (the guy who got it did give a good speech, and I have no disillusion that mine was crazy awesome). Instead of thinking, "Hey, his was just better", insecurity slipped in like a thief in the night, saying "Maybe this... maybe that. Maybe they think this... maybe they think that". Distance, mixed with culture stress/ culture shock can make the mind do crazy things. It can make you doubt yourself and many other things.
What I feared (however misguided and unfounded, I hope :) those thoughts may be) is that I had not had the respect of some of those I look up to the most. And that turned into the prospect of doubting myself, and the prospect of failing at other things upon returning to the states; jobs, grad school, etc. I have always struggled with insecurities such as this, and I won't get into reasons (not necessary for this message). I believe those were sincere in the positive critique they gave of my speech now. This is no reflection of those professors, it is, solely, me, and a part of this story. And back to it at that.
I cannot be sad, or discouraged, for long at least ( I was, surprisingly to myself, grumpy/ bummed for a day). For once, I will take my own advice. I spoke about how we need to realize, and not be discouraged at failure, or opposition. It is, as I said, the very things that create the stories that romance our souls (a little much?). The truth is, it matters little in many regards how others feel about us. This is not to say that we shut others out, or stop listening. It is just this, and little more: no matter what others think, when you feel called to do something, work hard, until it is done or until you get other orders. Surprisingly, I forget to not care as much about how others see me as much as how hard I work at what it is I should be becoming. I saw a great quote (on Facebook, but, whatever). about seeking to love more than to be loved. I forget a lot that this is what we are called to live like. As difficult as this is, it is good. It is possible, if not probable, that I will fail at a number of things in my life, as I have in the past. But how tragic to forget the people, and experiences in my life who have inspired me to be what I would have the world to become... better.
God, my wife, my friends, those very professors. They have all been a part of the grand symphony of inspiration that has taught me that no, matter what, one foot must always follow the other. As we surfed with a friend today, I am reminded, if I miss a wave, there is most assuredly no other like it to follow, they are as unique as snowflakes, they also most assuredly, there will be other waves that follow. If one pouts and drags their board to shore because they ate it hard and missed an opportunity, they will never experience what it feels like to walk on water (which btw, we shall never forget who lifted Peter when he sank).
Back to Portugal. As we near our times end here, the amount of gratitude we owe these people, this place, for what it has inspired in us, living life poetically and inspired, cannot be overstated. To ever life an inspiring life, one must be inspired, to have giants shoulders to stand on (as Issac Newton, or Bernard of Chartres said). Today, Portugal has inspired us, as we prepare to step one foot in front of the other, closer to being back in the states, and further into our future.
For there are these three things that endure: Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love.
"Today, if you become frightened, instead, become inspired."
Man, we are tired. Sore from crazy Cross-fit workouts for sure, but also tired emotionally. We continue to be active with out friends, attending parties, events, meeting new people. However, our time is dwindling here. Our dreams are oddly filled with scenes of people and places from back in the states. It will be weird not seeing small cars everywhere, people speaking Portuguese or broken English or even the many languages spoken in this Global Village. It will be weird not being able to get Pastel da Natal or Bola de Berlim. We will miss the chorizo and piri piri sauce (at least Danny will). It will be odd seeing streets that are recognizable as streets and not what we thought where cobblestone sidewalks (although they are narrow enough). We will miss the salt water breeze and the rocky shores. Even the constant holy glow of futebol on TVs in cafes and homes.
Mostly, however, it is the people. Our friends have created a home for us. They have opened theirs'. They have opened their hearts to us as well. We will miss seeing their faces, working hard with them in workouts, learning their language and culture, eating meals and drinking cafes. This country has romanced our souls, inspired our minds and hearts in the greatest ways. God has blessed us with a wonderful opportunity to be here. How could we be so blessed?
It always surprises me to hear of people who do not know that Portugal is a country, or even that the Portuguese are cognizant that people are so many people are ignorant of this historical, important, and beautiful country. Many will never be wooed by the cobble stone streets and the charming architecture. They will never be soothed by the symphonic sounds of the Atlantic and Mediterranean waters, or intoxicated by the aromas of fresh thyme and fruit trees springing from the fertile soils. Ignorance of this majestic place is tragic.
If one loves seafood, they will love the Algarve. If it swims, they eat it, with wine, and olive oil. The fruit, vegetables, and nuts not only delight the tongue, but the smells captivate the nose too. The cuisine is one of the best ways to familiarize you with the culture. The artistry and care undertaken awakens the visitor to a magical land worthy of the best novels.
We have come here, learned much, and continue to do so. We have the hope of One who sacrificed much to show us love. We have done our best to share that love and hope with those who have shared their lives with us. We have learned much from them and we pray they have seen what we love, who we love, most.
“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that have received--only what you have given.”
We are excited. The waves are picking up, fall is starting to show, and we are enjoying fall in the Algarve. We have lately been prone to homesickness and culture stress. This has been conflicting because we are enjoying or time and friends here. We have missed birthdays and celebrations back home, yet have had them out here. Living overseas has a way of making you feel two opposing emotions simultaneously.
We have been stressed at the prospect of decisions about where to go and what to do when we return, which is ever-encroaching. On top of that I have to keep up with school work. But we could not forget how blessed we are, and have been, to be here.
Now that most of the tourists have left, life has settled down for most people. People scramble to keep income coming in. The Algarvians are nothing if not diverse. The oddities of the culture, have become normalcy, sort of... We are more versed in the Portuguese language, understand more in public conversations, and are more capable than ever. However, we still struggle from time to time, or use wrong conjugations and grammer from time to time.
We are getting into more deep conversations with our friends, which is great. But we still have to understand individuals, without insulting their intelligence. They may have different presuppositions, but they are not idiots.
Getting in the water and surfing has been cathartic for me. I have been worrying a lot lately about getting into grad school and work. I must continue to remember that I need to pray and trust.
“May you live every day of your life.” ― Jonathan Swift
The sun has passed high noon on our time here in the Algarve, the moon and stars of memory are fast setting themselves in our sky. Yet, we must stay present in today as we still have plenty of sunlight left. It can be hard, being here, present, knowing the next faze in life is fast approaching. It can be hard on days that we miss family and friends back home. The comfort of a warm group of affectionate friends helps us though, it is a blanket to the cold night approaching.
Summer here is gone, and a fall much like its summer counterpart is here. Yet days can be hot with cool nights. The buzz of holy light from foteball (the real national religion)games on TV warm the night for many as they congregate in cafes and bars. I have acquired a favorite team, Sporting, as is mandatory here. Most of the tourists have gone, life, at least for the locals, has returned to a somewhat normal. It is much more quiet now, except for that garbage truck that still makes late night visits.
We have continued to hangout with our friends here, growing deeper relationships that will become increasingly harder to leave from. Their worldviews are becoming more apparent, and yet, our group has grown a synthesis with our influence. We have contributed to it, created together "fantasy themes" as they say in communication studies (not dirty!). We share common inside jokes and meanings, opinions and dialogue. We have conversed on issues of religion, theology, politics, ethics...
We continue to be active in sports. It has been the catalyst for building relationships here since the beginning. We are truly blessed by the people we have met through Cross-fit, football, surfing, etc. The culture here seems to be centered around sport life. Since the waves of tourists have left, local ideology becomes more clear. Sports carry with them more than just physical activity, more than just entertainment. They carry belonging, they carry pride. They provide history, hope, identity.
We had the chance to take part in Rota Do Petisco, a tapas style food sampling from traditional restaurants with traditional foods. As usual, we had a great time sampling the colorful flavors of the Algarvian cuisine. Never in my life did I think I would covet the taste of sardines until I moved to Portugal. The Algarve is especially known for them. We have had the best of the best, in company and food.
As time fast approaches, the reality of going back to the states does too. We struggle with the stress of what our next steps are in life. We are struggle with the insecurities that plague risks and effort. I am insecure about what jobs will be out there, what grad schools may or may not accept me, when is the right time to start having kids, and what the situation in the states is as we are returning too, what...Yosemite is closed??? But through the stress and (over?) thinking, we have hope. We have hope the we are not alone, we are being taken care of, and that this life is an opportunity to love, before it is an opportunity to succeed or be recognized. Before it is a chance to be loved, we have a chance to serve in love, to see life as beautiful, not because of what only happens to us, but because of what we can do to life, to the situation we are borne into.
Some might read this (if anyone actually does) and think "that it must be nice to type these words, in such a beautiful place as he is, enjoying life with first world problems". To an extent, they are right, my life has been incredibly blessed, I have such a wonderful experience here. There are so many people who are dying around the world and I have the audacity to have any sort of stress. But it is hoe that has brought me through darker days, through darker times, times hidden, experiences not expressed. Hope from the past that has brought me a hope into the present, and for the future. I believe that The one who has created me, also works to help me be a blessing to the 'others' in my life. That includes the Divine self, my friends, family, etc. I believe he will work with me through all situations, not abandoning me, even in difficult times.
So, we continue, blessed as we are, we experience, study, and enjoy the Algarve and her people. Portugal and all of its quirks and glories has shaped our experience and continues to teach us about life, love, and the pursuit of service.
"Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect." -Margaret Mitchell
“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Summer is leaving us now. The fall is coming rapidly. It looks a lot like its sibling summer, but a little cooler at night.
We have been able to explore a little more of the Algarve, our southern Portuguese region we call casa for now. There are so many palm trees. This place is home to many tourists and retirees. But it holds a vast. albeit dwindling population of diverse Algarvian people. We meet new people every day, some friendly, some not.
Traveling is an interesting thing. When you spend a bit of time somewhere, things become less noticeable. Sure, we still see the beautiful landscape and cultural cues, but they are less romantic and more real. We are forced to deal with them as a part of our everyday life, not just observing them as onlookers, but engaging them as we try to live, for awhile, overseas. We love getting to know the people and learning how they tick, who they are. Quirks are funny things, its hard to tell whether they are things that should change or just things. People have them, and so do cultures.
Standing in an office for almost six hours to get paperwork done seems a bit excessive, but hey, who's counting (oh that's right, me). Seeing friends dealing with local politicians is an odd position. America is no stranger to politics, but here...
We are strangers in a foreign land, even if it seems Western enough, it's not America. Sometimes, it is a struggle to think of friends and colleagues in Africa, Asia, etc. It seems as if our cross-cultural experience is not as rad as real as theirs. It's weird to admit that, but it's true. Life can so easily become a contest, watching others and comparing experiences. But we lose something in comparison. We forget to live where our feet stand, to be present where we are. Sometimes forgotten people are not poor (international standards) or starving. Sometimes they are just forgotten, right there in front of us. Different. But not radically enough to act.
We have experienced the pessimistic culture that Portugal has a reputation for. We have experienced the bureaucracy as well. We have experienced the impatience of Portuguese people trying to deal with people trying to learn Portuguese. Every culture has its dark side, or quirks, or whatever you want to call them.
To be quite honest, I miss "home" on days like today. I am worried about sick family. I see friends carrying on with life. I am worried about our future when we get back, about school, about work. I want to secure entry into grad school. I desire to be accepted and respected by my professors, people who taught me to love education. Even though my grammar may stress rhetorical function, I have become a lover of education. I desire to become a better academic. I worry about friends here and how they see me. Will we remain friends after we leave? Have we made a lasting impact on their lives?
But with all of this, I trust My Father in heaven, my redeemer. He has been here for me, accepted me, blessed me, guided me. We are blessed with great friends here. We are learning about Portugal and Portuguese life in a beautiful place with beautiful people.
Sometimes we need to stop thinking about what people think about us and live to be the people the world needs, regardless who notices or commends us for it. Inf act, there is one who deserves more attention than us, and we need to live out a life that gives Him attention.
Maybe this is just a rant for this blog, for that I apologize, I am feeling a little homesick today. But if anyone is reading this, remember to be present where your feet stand. Notice this world around you.
Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.