from the previous post: I have to say that I know a few colleagues who pack themselves, who have very few people to help them in saying goodbye and hello. I may have just transferred the world’s smallest balance from one bank to another, but I tell you, I think I am the richest woman in the world.

Heartfelt thank yous to all of the following:

My lay leader, Diane: what a team we made, our great minds thinking, if not always alike, in ways that certainly ran in sync. Your goodbye was nearly my very public undoing.

The C family: laymember Betsy, who was a co-visionary of mine and her husband Tim, who has been the go-to guy to pray for me when I’m crying too hard to do it myself.

The other C family, our neighbors and dear friends. No one could have been a better gift to have sharing a back yard. We miss you so much.

Their friend who I am glad to also count as mine, Glenn. You said goodbye quite well, my friend, and I’ll hang with you and Rob any time.

Amber and Tim, who we were just getting to know and adored spending time with this past year. Keep the faith alive for the young clergy women, m’dear, and the two of you will love visiting us in Montpelier. It’s like Berkley. Except smaller. and much, much colder.

Jeff, for surprising me by arriving and being the missing link between my seminary days, my neighboring Lutherans and my blogging secret identity!

Ted, who arrived too late to move boxes, but still managed to slip  gift into one of them, to ease the unpacking process. Kitchen stuff, indeed.

Megan, Steve, and the little one(s), for being them, and for walking this journey with us. Sister-preacher, ain’t no mountain (or mountain range) high enough, nor a Conference boundary deep enough to keep us apart.

Ru, Jim, Crystal, and Jim, family and as good as family from out of town– I needed you Sunday because you were there for me without having to at the same time say goodbye to me. Thanks. And Ru, as always, the neck felt great.

Lissa. There are no goodbyes for us, and you know that. You only didn’t get lumped in with the family above because we were saying goodbye in a way. This time I’m moving away from you, but we’ve been here before. Distance, schmistnce.

Mom and Dad Clark, who we also felt that we were near for too short a time. You make all those stories about evil inlaws laughable.

Rachael and Jon, with the most open homestead/hotel in all of Vermont, for putting Benji up for a week, and all of us up on a school night.

Mama, unpacker (and work-skipper extraordinaire.

alright, now who did I miss? I mean, I miss you all, but, you know what I mean.


Home Sweet Home

Sorry for the delay– had a little trouble finding the keyboard in the move, and I wasn’t about to blog using the clicky-on-screen thing. ick.

First of all, Sunday’s farewell service was wonderful. The liturgy I found online (thank you, Mennonites!) was much better than that thing in the UM book of Worship, and then the lunch was packed with people from the church and the community. Back at the house, 18 adults (and five kids) helped us pack up the last few boxes and then laugh the night away in bittersweet time together.

I had on a pretty good game face all day and night, too. A little misty, but no tears.

Likewise in the morning, when I had a few visitors (laymember B and Lutheran colleague A) and returned stuff to a few ‘forgettful’ friends (yeah right, M and L, I know you just wanted to see me again). Misty, but kept the tears in. Mostly anyway.

I have to say that I know a few colleagues who pack themselves, who have very few people to help them in saying goodbye and hello. I may have just transferred the world’s smallest balance from one bank to another, but I tell you, I think I am the richest woman in the world.

Enough of that, or I’ll get misty again.

So all that tear-less mistiness had to go somewhere, and the drive from Albany to Montpelier (well, Warren, actually) on Monday, much later than I’d hoped, was a pretty blurry one. I was missing my buddies something awful.

Still am.

Anyway, the move in was Tuesday morning, and my Mom stayed for Tuesday and Wednesday (because she couldn’t leave me alone without a car, since my battery went kaput Tuesday night in the grocery store parking lot–love VT; about six people offered to try to jump-start the car/stay with me until my ride came. A day and a new battery later, and all is well). In that two day time, we got a lot of unpacking done, and the place already feels like a home. Another week or so, and I’ll have enough floor space that people could comes stay overnight, so make your reservations now!

I’ve met a few more members of the Montpelier church and the secretary, who I already adore (she gave me a big hug!). Ari is loving her new school (although she had to take a day off due to a fever), and Benji is working hard and loving it in his new school as well. The local family members (my mother and his sister and brother in law) are glad to have us so close.

But the best part is that, much as we miss our NY friends, we don’t miss NY. Nope, it is good to be back home in the Green Mountain State. Can’t wait to get those green plates on my car! I got in a long discussion in the grocery checkout line about whether or not one should use a bluetooth headset for one’s phone while driving; I was cheerily greeted by a friendly postal worker (going postal makes no sense in VT!), and I feel the freshness (okay and the chill) in the air. Of course, I’ve also had near misses with about 18 pedestrians– Vermonters have such faith in the law that one yield to pedestrians that they (or, uh, we) sort of stop looking for cars. Even so, it feels right. Wish I could have brought my NY buds up here with me, and all would be complete.

Between the feeling of peace and the insane manual labor of sorting through boxes, hanging shades (that was about the toughest thing ever!), and chasing an excited if off-routine toddler, I’m sleeping better than I have in… well, given how dark and quiet it is here, I’m sleeping better than I have since I last lived in Vermont, count it, eleven years ago.

The Exile has returned.

The joy of the Methodist Itineracy

Friends, as my box count feature suggests, I’m about to preach my last sermon, attend my last church luncheon, and pack my last few boxes while saying fond goodbyes to loved ones in the NY capital region.

I’ll catch up with you in a few days from my new place, and then hopefully be back into deep theological reflection. Or posting pretty pictures, whatever this blog is actually about!

Airplane over the eastern United States (8/11, 8:07 p.m.)

( transcribed journal entry from 8/11, 8:07 p.m. )

Our flight out of Miami was delayed an hour and a half, so my hopes of driving home tonight and surprising Benji are pretty much dashed.

I do want to say that this trip has been helpful in terms of perspective. First of all, I haven’t thought about or worried about my impending move to Montpelier for a week– I haven;t been preoccupied with concern about how to address their financial problems. I have a little distance (and a little reminder of what financial problems can *really* look like), and I think it might actually help me deal with it in a more non-anxious way.

Additionally, my concerns about the relative squalor of our apartment have all but evaporated [transcriber’s note: ha!]. It has running water and a bathroom–two in fact!– so the rest is icing on the cake.

And saying goodbye to my dear friends and family a hemisphere away for an unknown number of years, that has helped with the idea of saying goodbye to my friends and church family in the Albany area. At least we’ll all still be on the same continent, and with the technology and transportation to communicate and visit.

Still, I don’t want to think of this as my last trip to Guasmo. It may be my last trip for a while– a few years, perhaps, but I really want to go back now and then with members of my family and/or people from the churches I serve. In addition to seeing the people I care about here, there’s so much to be learned as well. Perhaps we could also sponsor the education of one or more kids in my family in the interim.

Thoughts for sermon fodder from this trip:

The power of a small group, a grassroots dream–meshes with the subversive mustard seeds passage/sermon from a few weeks ago. What Adopta Una Familia has done in a few years with relatively little resources.

The power of a dream, a vision, both in terms of getting it done, and in terms of César’s quote about the dreams of the poor.

The preferential option for the poor, and their lack of opportunities, especially Andres and his options–or lack thereof–for jobs in his future.

The interconnectedness of our lives, the people we meet, how one positive change in a community can spiral outward in ripples of change (i.e. roads and water).

Right now, there’s a beautiful sunset out my plane window. Below me, through the patchy clouds, small clusters of light reveal communities with stories to share, relationships to build, people to cherish. What staggering beauty!  What love there is in the world. Sometimes, the squalor of the barrio and the persistence of love in it is the most hopeful thing I know.

Plane on route, Guayaquil to Miami (8/11, 10:53 a.m.)

( transcribed journal entry from 8/11/08, 10:53 a.m. )

I’m doing okay on the plane– a few tears at take off, and I blew some kisses toward Guasmo Sur behind us. I’m even okay with the idea of not coming back for a couple of years. I think communication will be much improved between my family and I in the interim, especially with the new computers in Mi Cometa and the possibility of video conferencing, which seems to have made it to the barrio. But I definitely want to go back someday in the not-too-distant-future, maybe with my husband or with people from my churches. The great thing about coming with so many people from the reunion groups is hearing from them that even after 5 or 7 or 10 years they are welcomed back as if they never left.

President Rafael Correa (right) accepts a ceremonial staff, as Pres Hugo Chavez looks on, one day before Correa's 2007 inauguration.

President Rafael Correa (rt) accepts a ceremonial staff, as Chavez looks on, one day before Correa's 2007 inauguration.

On the plane, Paula (another participant) and I met a man named Fransisco, who is from Guayaquil, but has lived in the U.S. on a visa for about 8 years between college and working in Florida. His family is from the “good” part of Guayaquil, and is relatively wealthy–or was. His father owned a company that President Correa is shutting down.

Fransisco has a very different view of Correa his proposed new constitution. He says the constitution will legalize abortion and homosexuality, which he opposes (but sounds important to me, though). Additionally, he says it’s a communist power-grab, like Chavez in Venezuela, and that it will take money and power from the wealthy and kick out foreign businesses under the guise of helping the poor, but the money will never get to them and the promises for services will never be met. I suppose that remains to be seen, but at the very least it has sown a seed of doubt in my mind, especially given that Correa recently shut down a lot of the news going out of Ecuador. That is often a precursor to someone solidifying his (or I suppose her) own power and/or declaring himself President for life. Fransisco thinks the poor are being brainwashed and duped into voting yes on the constitution, which promises to help them but won’t. He praised our project and our efforts, but encouraged us to use our relationships with the folks in Guasmo to tell them another side of the story. It’s enough for me to at least ask Erica (program leader/founder) what she thinks, if only because Ecuador’s having essentially a communist or anti-capitalist president in the spirit of his friend and ally, Chavez, allied with Venezuela against Columbia and by extension the U.S., might effect the relative ease with which volunteers such as ourselves enter and exit the country.

[edited to add: is it bad that looking at that photo again, I want to add a new caption? Chavez: “Wow, dude, when *I* was inagurated, the staff they gave me was only *this* big.”]

Plane on tarmac, Guayaquil International Airport, Ecuador (8/11, 9:15 a.m.)

[the housing crisis nearing resolution, we return to the Ecuador journal posts]

( transcribed journal entry from 8/11/08, 9:15 a.m. )

Last night’s program was pretty good. The drama the kids put on was much improved over last year (we could even hear them most of the time!)– a cute story similar to Solomon’s, where a couple of girls are fighting over a doll and one is willing to let it go so as not to hurt it. Then, two traditional dance numbers for two different age groups.

Following the dance performances, we had the presentation of the backpacks/school supplies for the kids in the tutoring program. José, the six year old in my house, was asking when he could get his backpack. Unfortunately, there are only fifty or so kids in the tutoring program each year, and so far my family’s kids haven’t received scholarships for it. I know there’s no way to help everybody, but it always seems more unfair when it’s your kids who don’t get the backpacks.

The other thing that is breaking my heart is Andres [see sermon transcript from 8/17]. He’s sweeter than ever and such a gentle, artistic soul. He tried his hand at working this past year at the port, but it didn’t work out for him. The thought of that gentle spirit broken by such hard labor just kills me; it eats me up inside. I wish I could fix it for him, and for his family, too. I hate not being able to make everything ok.

Laughter and hugs with the elusive Cris

Anyway, after the program, we had a brief goodbye on the soccer field– not at all like last year’s despedida. A few tears, but not bad (for me in fact that’s really good!). We all went back to the house and the little ones went to bed. I stayed up late again with Andres, Carlos, Diego, Liz, Eddy and the other Carlos (Eddy’s cousin) for una ronda de los gatchos (well, that’s what it sounds like, anyway), another round of jokes. About halfway through our joke-telling, Cristian walked by on his way home and we convinced him to stay and tell jokes with us. And so I got to hang out with my best buddy from last year, if only for a little while. And boy did we get one another laughing, and once again, I was quite proud of all those Spanish classes as I translated line-for-line for Liz.

Eventually, the crowd thinned down, but I stayed up a little longer with my bros, Andres and Cris, who switched from jokes to their ‘real life’ experience with ghosts, something for which I’m glad my language barrier left me a little out of the loop!

I finally dragged myself off to bed. I did most of my crying a couple of nights ago, so I went to sleep pretty well. Fortunately, I had packed my bags yesterday afternoon, because I slept right through my watch-alarm.

Andres and his hermanita say goodbye.

Andres and his hermanita say goodbye.

A quick breakfast and some goodbyes to the sleeping ones, whom I kissed on the cheeks. Little dear José woke up and hugged me tightly, not letting go until I had to pry him off so I could leave for the bus at Mi Cometa. Andres, Carols (my ever-faithful bodyguard), Eddy and Mami Isabel accompanied me to the bus, where we all put our arms around each other and shed no small amount of tears. Andres was saying over and over, “mi hermana, mi hermana, mi sister,” in both languages.

All too soon, I was on the bus (with a bloody toe because someone stepped on me!), and we were blowing kisses to one another, waving furiously as the bus pulled away, until we turned a corner and they were gone–again–from my sight.

Can you see them waving to me through the stupid window reflection?

Can you see them waving to me through the stupid window reflection?

Upon arrival at the airport, we discovered that my traveling buddy, D, was indeed not on the bus; his family got the time wrong! He arrived at the airport about a half hour behind us, having been driven by his family– they pushed the car out of the living room, where they park it so it doesn’t get stolen, and had to push it down the road a bit to get it to start, but they managed to drive him to the airport. I felt a bit bad because I hadn’t seen him all morning and I didn’t think he’d responded to roll call, but I was so busy waving at my family, I didn’t speak up. Like me, D has a little girl to get home to, otherwise, I’d have envied him the extra time in the barrio.

Best friends, part II

I’m a pacifist, people!

I resist violence, seek a third way, turn the other cheek. I think ‘just war’ is an oxymoron (as war is neither filled with justice nor limited to ‘just’ war), and that even violence done in self defense or in defense of the powerless does harm to God’s body (which may or may not be a necessary evil in a broken world).

And yet, there is something so endearing about how many of you are prepared to ride into battle on my behalf, whether against an individual or a system. I’ve had offers for frying-pan attacks, physical assault, and two separate offers by two separate engineers (watch out for those guys; they may seem quiet and geeky, but they have access to people with nuclear devices!) for cruise missiles and/or carpet bombs unleashed over the state of Vermont, which I think might defeat the purpose of trying to move there, though I can’t be sure.

I must respectfully decline the offers of violence, but your intensions are noted!

However, I can’t risk you doing harm to my new landlord and lady, who are currently reviewing a credit check and plan to hand Husband the keys to a lead-paint-free, energy-efficient house later this week.