Friday, March 13, 2009

New Blog

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Summary 2

A best friend told me yesterday that I have never looked happier.

It's the truth. I've never been happier. If all of my life I have been seeking the Great Reward (whatever it may be) by means of hard work in a dog-eat-dog world, I've finally achieved that reward. I generally dislike self-help, systematic advice, but this is a simpler task than it sounds:

Step 1: Fail at everything
Step 2: Achieve a state of failure
Step 3: See beauty in everything and everyone

If you want to boil these steps down into one direction, it is this: Prioritize the self last in all decisions and thinking.

I do a lot of condemning toward the middle class and American dream approach and it's just about time that instead of being bitter, I just start hurting with that particular demographic. To laugh and cry together is to experience a harmonious life.

When you think like a child (as Christ teaches), you approach everything as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn. An opportunity to experience. An opportunity to be loved.

I have less money and more debts than I have for years. Instead, I have people and journeys. I am bound to nothing and I love the liberation. I recognize my responsibilities and consider them opportunities to learn and benefit others.

I am not saying all of this to ramble or word vomit. I realized that since I have returned from the trip with Paul and Mike, I have become a person of inner tranquility. Many say the goal of life is to find inner peace and contentment. I say the goal of life is simply to live. "Living" entails not allowing anything to hold you back. If you want to go to Korea, you go to Korea. If you want to swim in the ocean, go to the ocean. If you want to marry a hot Brazilian chick, wander the rain forest and make a selection. But when all of these things are pursued, placing the good of others ahead of the good of the self will be the only way to accomplish the task.

I started playing hardcore again and I recently played my first heavy music show in 7 months. I am so glad to be in a band. I feel that everyone else in bands tries to get their band somewhere, whether it be fame or getting signed or having cool merchandise or touring. I don't want to care about any of that progress. I just want to love playing the music. Whether we tour or don't tour, I will be content. Whether we have shirts or don't, I will enjoy myself. To make the best of something simply means to enjoy it despite what is going on outside of one's self, not to change the external environment. What I do know is that plans are for the weak and those who fear. I do not fear future because earth is one giant experiment and the only boundaries are the walls we create in our minds.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Great Return

Before I mention anything else, there are many concerts and musical events in the area this month. For more information:

Cedar Rapids, Iowa was our last stop. We stayed overnight with Paul's distant relatives. It was very icy outside. We left early in the morning, for a 16 hour return trip, which felt like nothing. To me, it was no time at all. We ate at Megan's house again, and her family had whipped up delicious Cheese Tortellini and brownies and all that. We had good conversation and were thankful for a final home-cooked meal.

My mom arrived on campus to meet me at 2:30 AM. After driving all the way home, I realized I didn't have my computer with me. Knowing that I would not sleep and would experience massive anxiety in its entirety if I didn't know my Macintosh was safe, I decided, "What the heck, Messiah's only 45 minutes away" so at 3:45 AM I made a two-hour round trip to pick up my computer. I slept from 6 AM to 3:30 PM at which point I took my family out to dinner, partially because I hadn't given any Christmas gifts, but mostly because it's fun to go with them to dinner (especially Chinese buffets).

After dinner I drove to Jeremy's house so he could teach me some songs for the show Jan 24 at the Championship venue five minutes from campus. I'm so pumped to play heavy music again, in particular, music with challenging lyrics about faith.

I learned a lot while on our trip, most of which I will keep to myself. One thing I will mention is my appreciation for the east coast. Out here, all towns seem to blend together. No matter where you are, there are going to be people or houses or stores or something of the sort. Out west, there is so much distance, and now I realize our huge potential for fellowship. Not to mention, it sure makes for more convenient musical endeavors, having many places to play and not to far to travel.

Speaking of which, it's nice to have an acoustic guitar in my hands again. I can't put it down. I have ideas flowing through my fingers.

When I was in Oregon, Elise told us about one camper's experience:

The staff at Wildhorse Canyon had noticed lots of windows broken in the A-frame houses that the RajNeesh used to house the homeless people that they bussed in (see last post). They didn't know if it was a windstorm or something like that that damaged the tiny, seemingly useless buildings.

One day, the camp received a letter from a previous female camper, which in paraphrase read: "When I came to Washington Family Ranch for camp, I was at a point in my life where I had an empty cup. I needed to fill my cup, because I was hopeless and thirsty in my life. However, no one would fill it except for God, and I just didn't want to accept that from him. Anyone but God would be fine, but I certainly wanted nothing to do with him. One night I was fed up with what God was offering and my inability to be filled elsewhere. I was the one that broke the windows of the A-frames. Thank you. Here is a check for the damages."

She had hit a point in life that we all hit. A point where more often than not, we don't speak about it. We need to speak about it. We need to stop letting our pious image prioritize over the honesty of our hearts. We gotta start being real with each other, or we'll create our own downfall.

This story shows that there is nothing God can't use. When Christ was hanging up there, some dude put a crown on his head and put up a sign saying that he was the King of the Jews. Although these symbols were used to mock Him, they were instrumental in showing the guy hanging next to Jesus his way to salvation.

Some people want to know whether 2009 will be a better year, whether they will be a better person. Bekah told me that every year of her life has been progressively better, despite external circumstances. I'm in the same boat, and though it may sound self-righteous, I think that's due in part to being submissive. Not like in the way of the western version of "Karma," where good actions lead to good future blessings and bad actions create future punishment or suffering. It's more in the way of seeking God's will, which ultimately leads to happiness. Not so much the finding God's will part (though that's always spectacular), but the seeking part. Seeking truth. Even when I'm off (which is often), it's a lot of fun. It's fulfilling, ya know? The destination is fine, but if you continually are trying to reach it without looking around you, you will never find it. You have to appreciate the journey. Live in the present. Someone was explaining about a river. He or she explained that if you want to have clarity, if you want to see to the bottom of a river, you have to stop the water from moving. You have to cut off the source and dam up the end. Only then can you see the bottom crystal clear. That thing I wrote about a really long time ago, when Moses told his people to be still and let the Lord fight. But then one time a guy was relating seeking God's will to motion. To drive a car to a destination, he said, you can't receive directions until you start driving. I definitely see the value in both sides. So the point might not be to always be still or always be in motion. The point may be to always be at peace. This requires something bigger than ourselves because as individuals in humanity, we are by nature and sin, not at peace. Something bigger than ourselves....

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Days 14, 15, 16 - Oregon to Iowa

If I was still in second grade writing stories about my experiences, this story would sound something like (except with many more grammatical errors):

I went to Oregon. It was very cool. There aren't a lot of people but there are many trees at first. Then you get to the desert mountains. They are cool too.

Antelope, Oregon.
Population 37.

Young Life's Washington Family Ranch (aka "Wildhorse Canyon").
Former property inhabitants: The Rajneesh cult.

Wildhorse canyon is located about a half hour from the nearest town, which is Antelope. Most of that half hour is spent driving on the roadway owned by Young Life which leads into the camp. It isn't surprising that the roadway is so long, as the size of the property is 65,000 acres, big enough to fit every other Young Life camp inside of it twice.

As far as geography is concerned, Wildhorse Canyon is probably a few thousand feet above sea level. Everything is brown: dirt and rocks, and there are many rolling mountains. A river determines one edge of the property. Cattle are free to roam throughout the mountains. There is an artificial lake and many long dirt roads.

Before I begin explaining the Rajneesh, let me tell you that I will probably make some errors in my description. Google "Osho" or "Rajneesh" to learn more. There are also some great videos of former Rajneesh members returning to Wildhorse Canyon for a tour after Young Life took over.

Basically, there's all of this land that nobody wants in the middle of Oregon, so this one dude is like, "Hey, what a great opportunity to start a cult." So this Osho guy convinces himself that he is God and wants to start his own civilization. Somehow he convinces very smart people (i.e. lawyers, doctors, etc) to give up their lifestyles and move onto his land. Here, the quality of their housing is determined by how much they donate to the cause of this new culture. So what did Osho do with all of his income that his teachings and charisma had acquired? He set out to buy one Rolls-Royce for each day of the year. He would drive these each day to a town an hour away for a milkshake.

Wanting to really advance this new society he had cultivated, a shopping malls was created. Better facilities were made. His people, the Rajneesh, were complete self-sufficient, being so smart. They used intense irrigtaion methods and raised their own crops on less-than-convenient soil. The group found many ways to dodge government officials. For example, to avoid breaking housing laws, they built homes on bars, arguing that the homes were portable and could be lifted. Thus, they weren't real houses. Every loophole in legislation was utilized. They realized though, that if they wanted to accelerate their status as a civilization, they would have to elect their own candidate for a government position. To raise support and get more votes for their candidate, the Rajneesh drove to cities like Portland and brought back homeless people, giving them tiny A-frame homes and something to eat so that they could register. This still wasn't enough. They had to knock off a few of their opponents as well, so what did they do? Ask them politely to leave the state? No. Declare civil war? No. They cultivated salmonella. Rajneesh membrs then took this to restaurants, placing it in the food, hoping to make people sick so they would not be able to show up for elections. This is where the government caught the cult in action, and the giant property was seized.

Enter Mr. Washington, a billionaire. He decides to buy the property off of the government as a side project, hoping to create a resort for hunters. After all, there are many buildings that he could use and the land is plentiful. None of his proposed projects pass with the government, but Young Life catches on to whath e's doing and flies Mr. Washington out to some of their other camps to show him what they are about. He donates the land to them. They make a huge camp to show Christ to young people.

Here are some videos about the aforementioned:

Brian and Elise, two married interns at the camp where we stayed, explained that one day the Young Life staff had been praying about which buildings to use. Hours after praying over Osho's private residence, the house was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

Brian showed us around the camp. We saw the rec building, fully equiped with gyms, rock walls, a professional-sized skatepark (with foam pit), basketball courts, volleyball courts, etc. It's the biggest building of its kind in the US. He then showed us the many many many vacant buildings, enough to hold a few thousand people. Included in these buildings was Osho's garages for his Rolls-Royces. In one garage, there were two firetrucks (male staff are trained because if there was ever a fire, the nearest fire company would not be able to arrive for hours). More firetrucks were located in another building.

Brian and Elise were hospitable and welcoming and made wicked good food. I also got to play a guitar for the first time in too long. That was rewarding. We all wished we could've stayed longer, but we certainly didn't rush leaving.

However, we did eventually leave, beginning our trek to Iowa. I drove all day and part of the night when we left, 6.5 hours all the way through Rt 26 in Oregon. It was icy through the mountain passes, but one thing that refreshed me as I kept driving toward Idaho was the view of O'Rion (sp?) straight ahead to the east. It was a relief to reach the interstate and had the wheel to Mike. It was nice to see civilization and not-so-curvy-and-more-than-one-lane roads.

I woke up in Utah outside of the Salt Lake and saw some majestic mountains, one with a train traveling around it, a great night sighting. Wyoming was more bland than I expected, but I was mostly tired. In the early morning, I started driving again, making it to a Chick-Fil-A in Cheyanne just as breakfast was ending. I then drove more (12+ hours of driving already for me alone), through Nebraska, which has to be the most boring state thus far. At least Kansas had oil wells and windmills and stuff. The only thing Nebraska has is tumbleweed. They don't even really have towns. Just tumbleweed and occasionally animals grazing. We couldn't find the Chick-Fil-A listed online in Omaha so we ate Taco Bell.

We finally made it to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to stay with Paul's relatives, completing our longest straight shot of driving, over 30 hours. It's so good to be laying on a sofa typing this, rather than in a seat in the Audi. I'm going to try to sleep now for three hours before I have to wake up and drive home tomorrow.

I'm ready to go back to school. I'm ready to see family and friends and be comfortable. Normally I'm completely against comfort. I'm often almost bitter about comfort. But this time, I'm going to sleep and eat and hang out and breathe and do everything I want for myself. Although I would've loved to spend more time adventuring, I'm also ready to go home. I'm ready to appreciate things and people I love, and experience these things and people like before.

So....15 more hours of driving tomorrow.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Days 11, 12, 13, 14 - Western North America

I'm just going to take this opportunity to fill in all the gaps of what we've been doing and where we've been and all that.

Monday I woke up after a second night sleeping in Stockton, KS. As I turned on the shower faucet, I hear an excited pounding on the door. I knew right away what the knock meant. I quickly washed and dried myself off and walked upstairs. Paul's stuff was already loaded into the vehicle to go pick up our car, so I threw my bags in as well and we took off. The bill was more than any of us thought it would be. But whatever, we were back on the road, finally!

That day was spent driving to the Grand Canyon. We traveled through several hundred miles of southern Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, and the Texas Panhandle, all of which are relatively similar: brown, beige, tan, sand-colored dirt. Then there's the occasional group of cattle, oil pump, fence, or trailer home. Although the open plains and empty, cloudless, blue sky are both gorgeous, it was nice to see urbanization when we stopped for Chick-fil-a in Amarillo.

I drove next, and I spent the night going through New Mexico. What is sweet about driving at night in New Mexico is the lights. Since it's dark, you can't really determine the gradual slope of the land, but when you reach the peak of a "hill," you often look out onto a large lightscape signifying a town coming up. Also, Albuquerque is an enjoyable driving experience.

I slept for a few hours as Mike drove toward the Grand Canyon. At around 3:30 AM, we arrived in the McDonald's parking lot closest to Grand Canyon National Park. Paul and Mike fell asleep in the car, but I couldn't because my feet were freezing. I tried so many methods to try to get another few hours of sleep, but I was simply to cold to fall asleep. Keep in mind that the heat in Paul's car is still broken.

We hung out for a few hours at the Grand Canyon. I'm not going to describe it because if you haven't seen it, my words will simply lessen the value of its majesty.

We left that morning for San Francisco. Another 15 hours of driving, just like the day before. This is about the time that my video camera stopped turning on. Also, Paul's digital camera stopped working. Therefore, we now have nothing to document our adventures besides our memories. I kind of like it that way, to an extent.

The first legit town when travel west from the Grand Canyon is William (or is it Williams). Paul stopped in town for an oil change. While they were doing things to his car, I walked across the street to a pizza hut to order wings since I had two gift cards. A new employee, Theresa, asked is I was a traveler. I took pride in the fact that she made that assumption about me simply by looking at me (haha). Anyway, the wings were great.

The majority of the trip west was through the desert. The landscape is beautiful, but definitely redundant. I was just glad that my feet had finally thawed after several miserable hours. The towns are very interesting, though. Every 50 miles, one comes across a town of a dozen trailer homes. Many towns' economies revolve purely on the finances brought in from the interstate (such as a fast food restaurant and a gas station).

Crossing into California was not much different than the long drive through Arizona. After assuring the lady in the booth that we were not carrying any fruits or vegetables from Pennsylvania into her state, we took a long trek through the Mohave desert. It was at this point that I realized something about people and being west. We are naturally attracted to big things. Vast plains, large mountains, deep canyons, large monuments, those giant metal windmill power-generator things, cities, rivers....I think this somehow points to the fact that we're always in need of something bigger than ourselves. For some, Jesus is the perfect match. Well, by "some," I should say "everyone." But not everyone would agree.

Perhaps my favorite driving experience so far was through the mountains of 158 (I think that was the road number) in southern california. I felt like I was driving through an open pink wormhole or something. Animals grazed on the mountains, and there was actually green flora for the first time in a long while. The entire experience was so surreal, especially because a long song by This Will Destroy You came on when my iPod was on shuffle.

California, in the city areas and suburbs, is a very foggy area, especially at night. We finally made it to Morgan's house around 11 PM. Finally, time to be warm and sleep. Her family was entirely hospitable to us. The lasagna they had prepared upon our arrival was incredible. (I'm sure this is partly due to the fact that I had been munching on snack food in the car for the past two days, but it's also definitely due to the fact that it was just a wicked good lasagna). We talked for a little, then slept.

The next day we didn't really have to drive, and what a relief it was. We chose to experience San Francisco for the New Year, so Morgan, McKenzie, and Mallory drove us to the city. I've never had so much exposure to public transportation in one day.

The city was unique and great. I love urban areas, and I think San Francisco helped me discover why I like them. Some reasons are pretty obvious:

1. There are people in cities.
2. The people in cities have something to say, something to stand for, some direction and some goal for their actions.
3. The people in cities are transparent. I can't overgeneralize here, but one does not need to over-analyze the city types. You can tell who is shallow, why people panhandle, who is hurting, who is arrogant, etc. There is no reason to lie, mostly.
4. Things clash in cities.

Some things I learned about San Francisco in particular:

1. Great street music, unexpectedly.
2. Not really that homosexual. In fact, much less homosexuality than in many other areas where I've been. There is just a general acceptance of homosexuality, which, if approached correctly and cautiously, is not entirely a bad thing.
3. It actually has hills! In the city! And although I think the upper class in America is shallow, especially in the developed west coast, they sure have pretty homes and condos and stuff.
4. Trendy fashion. I like that.
5. Drunk guys trying to pay for bus tickets on a free public transportation day are hilarious, especially when they almost trip over young females
5. I want to go back for an extended period of time. Maybe be a street performer. Maybe find an active arts-based commune. Something like that.

When I was walking along Pier 39 (touristy area with shops and seals - the area featured in a Tony Hawk video game, which Mike pointed out), A guy hiding behind two tree branches he was holding popped out at us, spooking us to amuse his viewers across the street. This shocked me because the book I just finished mentioned the "Bush Man" of San Francisco, known to make his money as a homeless man by scaring passersby by popping out from his self-created hiding spot. With a crowd of at least 30 people, this brought in a lot of dough for this homeless man. I asked him if he knew that he was mentioned in a book and he said he wasn't aware. I told him that the author accreditted him with the most hilarious panhandling method he had seen out of all of the cities he had been in. Bush Man just laughed a hearty laugh and redirected his attention toward his audience, telling one guy that if he's going to take a picture, he better donate again.

We walked the Golden Gate Bridge, down and back (had a beneficial conversation with Morgan).
We had delicious Thai food for dinner.

We decided to visit the Pacific Ocean. It took awhile to get there, but I enjoyed seeing some of the unique shops on Fillmore street. I like how San Francisco not only has a nice ballpark, but also has many restaurants, shops, and small businesses in almost any part of town.

The ocean was dark, but many people had gotten together on the beach with friends to make fires in celebration of 2009. We didn't stay on the beach long because we wanted to get back to Pier 39 for the midnight fireworks. While waiting for the bus, I explored a park. "Bus!" some yelled, and a few of us went sprinting back to catch it. This run back to the bus was very unfortunate for me, however. Out of nowhere I felt very sick. I had to take a number 2 and there was no way I could make it all across town. I was sick. I was immediately uneasy and miserable. I wondered if I got food poisoning again. We got off at Van Ness and I sprinted through traffic to find a shop open so I could get a bathroom. A pizza shop was closed, and I was desperate. I ran further up the street. Finally a Mexican restaurant/bar was open and after asking a manager if I could use the bathroom, he just laughed and pointed me in the direction. I realized that he probably noticed my desperate plea and by my facial expression, he probably judged that I was completely trashed on New Year's and needed a place to vommit.

When I was finally done business, the group had waited for me and missed the bus. They decided to walk all the way across town several miles to catch the fireworks. McKenzie and I fell behind and ended up chatting, although we did miss the turn of the new year. At midnight, we heard the fireworks from about a mile or two away next to a homeless man trying to fall asleep on the steps to a church. Morgan mentioned later that night that I was walking through San Francisco streets on New Year's, everyone around me completely wasted at 2 AM. I thought it was funny because neither me or my parents would've been comfortable with that position a year ago. Well, I can't say that my parents are exactly comfortable with it now; they'll have to speak for themselves. I can't say that I am physically comfortable with it because some bus routes end around midnight and we had to walk several miles back to the parking lot where the car was. Exhausting day, but realy, I loved every minute of it. Well, except when I had to take a massive number two. That was pretty miserable. But experiencing San Francisco, at least for me, must be done more than once. I shall return. Wish I had more time that day....

This morning we woke up and said goodbyes to the Lee family that we are so grateful for! I love being blessed by people, and no, I don't think that is selfish. We drove through northern Cali all the way to Antelope, Oregon (population 37). I will write more about Oregon later when I am not tired. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe whenever I can pick up wireless again.

The main theme of this post is that I want to spend more time in certain places that I have had the opportunity to experience. In this case, a place that I definitely will return to again is San Francisco. Albuquerque is also a place where I'd also like to stop and take everything in, instead of just driving through it.

Britain asked me to take his place on bass guitar and tour with his band in April while he is away and I am pretty excited for that possibility as well. Lots of musical opportunities are being presented recently and I'm really digging it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Days 9 & 10 - Stockton, KS

On our way to the Grand Canyon, should get there before sunrise. The sun just went down in Amarillo, Texas. I'll explain more later. Here are some posts I made when we didn't have wireless connection in Stockton....sorry for lack of organization....

Day 9 - Stockton, KS 11:34 PM

Paul's friends in Kansas actually knew some people that lived around here, so we got ahold of them. They are used to putting up strangers in their home so they were kind enough to drive 45 minutes out of their way, pick up the three of us, and drive us back to their town, asking nothing in return. Finally we don't have to hang out with all of our luggage in hotel lobbies for several hours, hoping to get out of the place we're stranded in.

They drove us 45 minutes north of our hotel to an even smaller town called Stockton. It's got a nice, antique brick-road downtown area. The lanes are very wide with few cars and many independently-owned small businesses.

I don't know everyone's names in this house. I forget these things very quickly. They are all very hospitable and treat us much more as a blessing than a burden. There are about 5 adults currently residing here and two high schoolers who were adopted from Ecuador when they were young. They both wrestle and used to play drums and are quality kids. We talked about sports and stuff.

The family treated us to a home-cooked Kansas meal, much better than any restaurants in Hays could have offered. There was chicken-noodle soup, mashed potatoes, salad (with what I like to call "Kansas dressing"), bread, vegetables, etc. It was all delicious, as I had been snacking on continental breakfast leftovers for the past two days. There are also about a dozen different desserts to choose from, great Christmas leftovers. Apple pie, ice cream, smore cake things, rocky road cookies, etc.

The next thing they treated us to was bowling, the only in-town entertainment besides the once-a-week-volunteer-run movie theater. It was a nice bowling alley and when we walked in, there were some head nods, signifying that the whole town knew each other.

After two games of bowling, we returned home and watched a rented movie. Movies are good because they ask nothing of you other than to be entertained. I think they are essential to the American lifestyle in the way that they inspire and refresh us (though abused by some for laziness).

We were told that we could be driven to Wichita tomorrow to pick up the part we need (yes, they actually offered to drive us three hours out of the way, that's 6 hours round-trip). However, I was not able to get ahold of Mike, the UPS guy in Wichita. The voicemail inbox on his personal cell phone is full.

So if we can't get ahold of Mike, we'll attend North Oak Community Church tomorrow morning (the same church that we walked to for Christmas Eve service). Then, for once, we'll spend a day without thinking about how we can get out of town, and just accept the fact that we have to wait until Monday to leave. I still want to commit to our same route. I think (and hope) Paul is warming up to the idea. I think it'd be an absolute shame and crime to come out here and not see the Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountains. I could sacrifice the Redwoods and Pacific Ocean if I had to, but really, they are right on the way. It is all doable. A lot of driving, yes, but what is a road trip, anyway?

I'm going to stop here because I'm typing on my computer and playing music and Mike is trying to sleep. I also have a light on. Oh! Also wanted to mention that the lady who picked us up also has a Cross-cultural Ministries degree (like me) and actually knows one of the two main characters in the book that I just finished (the one about the two guys who chose to be homeless for awhile).

Goodnight, world.

Day 10 - Stockton/Hays Ks

Got plenty of superb sleep on a nice carpeted floor. Took a 30-second shower. Went to church at the same church that we went to on Christmas Eve. It was everything you might imagine a typical church to be. Nothing more, nothing less, much like the Christmas Eve service.

We then ate pizza for lunch and played pool with Carlos and Diego in the youth room upstairs in the church. After a stop at Wal-Mart we returned home to chill. Today was quite the Sabbath, some might say. Just resting and appreciating what has been given to you. We've been so well-fed. Every meal has been so complete, and dessert of some kind is always offered. I've experienced the meaning of church the past two days, and I love it. My original goal for this trip was to meet people and have good conversation, and that has happened.